My Zunivers

31 January 2007

Proof This Isn't a Serious Blog

And proof that I have no shame.

My wife has always asked me questions about male pants and underwear, zippers and openings, and the practice of urinating upright. I go to the bathroom Alone, you see, so she has to ask. There will be no show for her. One of her questions is "Why the zipper and stuff rather than just opening your pants?" Good question, I think every time. Guys are lazy?

Tonight, I learned the answer. Scene: Sweapants with no zipper, full bladder in need of emptying. Events: Pulled down elastic waistband on sweatpants to level below you know who so that you know who could do my business. During the transaction, sweatpants elastic slips out of grip and rises rapidly. Elastic pushes you know who out of other hand's grip. Business ends up on wall above toilet, even hitting poster hung there. Attempts to get business under control, via returning hands to hold the appropriate things in the appropriate places, leads to business on shower door and bathroom mirror before everything is back in place.

Hazards like this, ladies, are why we use the zipper.

Thank you to all who have read my blog and are still my friends.

Labels: ,

29 January 2007

Off To The Glue Factory

Barbaro has gone off to the land of Seabiscuit. Thank goodness. Now we won't have to hear any more about the stupid horse and the wealthy duds who owned it. Good riddance, I've seen shorter obituaries for important people.

Labels: ,

The Wonderful Sunday

I missed church because I was sleeping off a nasty cold. I have no regrets this time, so kudos for my wise choice. My wife was off Visioneering, so I don't know what happened in the service.

My wife came home around 14:00 and coaxed me out of bed with lunch, a Texas Double Whopper and fries with a diet lemonade. After church she went to Burger King lunch with the regular Sunday lunch crowd. She decided to get the TDW because it has jalepenos, and at 14:00 that was about all I could taste. I ate it cool, for reheated fast food contains damp bread. That was enough calories to really jump start my day. I watched the first three episodes of Monk. My wife took a nap through that. I took a shower when the disk was finished.

After that she and I spent some time together. It eventually led to, shall we say, "spending time" together.

Throughout the episodes of Monk I started to freel much better. The fever that has been houdning me for five days went away, my sinuses opened, and my lungs got clearer.

I worked, and I'm about this close [holds fingers half an inch apart] to finishing the program for Le Projet Perpetuel. One half has been tweaked and sucessfully tested on a known system. The other half needs to be shaken a bit but will work with a little ingenuity. Among todays adventures were namelists and a new subroutine that was so totally unnecessary and totally broken and didn't do anything that I can't do with this other subroutine anyway. What I could not use has made me wiser. I sent my advieser an upbeat note explaning that I will not have the paper drafted but I do want to show him some graphs.

The snow has kept me inside. The untreated road from our building to the next street is icy due to the snow falling, melting, and then freezing. My fingers are crossed hoping that the township will bother to do something to it by dawn. The food supply here is in sort of bad shape. I had some beef and veggies for midnight dinner, but I've been terribly hungry for ice cream since yesterday.

I've been invited to a super bowl party with a bunch of young folk from Kutztown. Yes, I know an undergrad there. He and I worked at camp together last summer. Next Sunday is going to be busy, and I might be able to hang with some yokels, so we'll see.


28 January 2007

This Is Where I Whinge

I am saddened that there is pretty much no use for my degree in polar research. When I'm done with school I would love to spend some time on a ship or on some ice. Sigh.

I am also really tired of being sick all the time. I was sick however long in late November and December, and I'm sick again now. I have things to do and I can't get them done when my sinuses hurt and I can 't think straight.

Mostly it's the sitting. I can't stand sitting; it is terribly uncomfortable. I don't work well sitting. And most days I'd rather not deal with a stupid desk and chair than get work done. Being sick makes this much worse, because I'm already terribly uncomfortable just from being awake, and too uncomfortable to fall asleep in fact. I'm about one week of illness away from pulling money from savings and buying a notebook computer so that I can go sit on the sofa and still do work.

Once again I'm having a weekend where my adviser said "Do this and this by Monday" and I'm not even going to have one of them to show for it. If I could have managed to do physics three hours a day I would have been done with my PhD a year ago. Instead I'm still dragging along slowly, barely getting anything done at a time when I desperately need to get things done, and I can't do anything about it because since November 1st I've spent three quarters of my life sick.

Life sucks.

Labels: ,

25 January 2007

Well, Of Course

It's definitely true, and for me there's a good reason. My wife is asleep at 2:00AM and I am not (because I have this stupid sleep disorder; it's not her problem). Ergo, I spend time with the computer. Some of it is work time, and I'm not counting that. The rest is fun time.

But there's the problem with this article, really. With is time with the computer? Do they only mean home comptuer time? I'm guessing so, but I don't feel like looking up mote details. When I hear about people who spend lots of time with computer problems, the experience is commonly one of anger, sadness or alienation. Between my Linux computer and my Windows XP machine at home, I spend perhaps a half hour every few months fixing something. I don't understand how people get mired in compumuck, except for programmers of course. So it's depressing to hear about it.

Yesterday I found, or maybe re-found, something interesting. I use Excel to make quick and dirty graphs of my data. I took a full dataset, graphed it, and zoomed in on something relevant. I then ran the data file through a Fortran program I wrote to analyze the data. Funny, I thought, the Fortran program is giving numbers that don't match what I see in the graph. Just for fun, I took the Fortran program's results and graphed only the relevant values. The new graph of the same numbers not only looked different but also matched exactly with what the forran program would need to give me the output I got.

Anyway, I have now solved Enron's problems-- they used Microsoft software and thought that it worked. I'm not even counting this as a computer problem, for a few reasons. The most important is that it doesn't matter. The least important is that I could just use GNUplot. Between those is the suspicion that I might actually spend well over twelve hours per month solving computer problems and I don't even notice because it, along with all my research related comptuer problems, is just a fun game, and I really should cut back and shoot for normal.

Kudos to the article writer for including the part about the 95% confidence level. Most overviews of studies, especially brief ones like this, don't include such. 95% is pretty standard, but it's nice to actually see it mentioned.

Final note: The content free paper was published online on Tuesday. I can't give you a citation because it hasn't been printed. I can send a copy (for your personal use, mind you) to anyone who cares.


24 January 2007

Must. Beat. Edmonton.

You know how Euler schemes give you crap results at places where functions turn quickly? It seems to be the last roadblock impeding my progress on the second program for Le Projet Perpetuel.

The little routine I made this weekend is, I found out this evening, working too well, and that even after my adviser said it wouldn't work that way (something about the equations that is true if I would be solving analytically, but it is not a problem numerically).

If I get this fixed up soon, I might just get a PhD this year.

I'm wandering around my living room happy. I'd go for a happy hike if it weren't dark outside.

Kudos if you get the joke in the title.


23 January 2007

Global Warming

I'm here to ruffle feathers.

Go ahead, naysayers, tell me why you don't think it's happening and/or why you don't think humans are doing/not doing it. Don't be intimidated by the number of scientsts who frequent this place. They may heckle, but I want you to enlighten me, not them. We'll ignore that when wound up I'm more stubborn and aggressive than most humans, mostly because I'm not yet wound up and only will be if you make me.

Go on. Give any reason you want, including "I just don't believe it," but please follow one rule-- reasons along the lines of "I don't think there is enough evidence" cannot be given without qualification. If that is your reason, please explain what evidence you find unconvincing and why, and please include an explanation of what evidence, if found, would convince you.

The reason I've brought this up, by the way, is that in the past month I've talked to three people, none scientists, who think there isn't enough evidence that humans are ruining climate. All of them told me that they know that the changes are not caused by humans because there isn't enough evidence that the changes are caused by humans. Besides the faulty logic ("Assume A or B to oversimplify the matter, and we don't know if A is true or false, therefore B is true"), not one of them could tell me what evidence is failing to convince them or what evidence would convince them. All of them were well versed in the local rhetoric, a still surer sign they are just parroting. One of them was polite enough to ask me my opinion, but I couldn't express it without big words about climate models and intuitive understanding of how models relate to reality, so I don't think I got anything across to the person.

But that's the point here, really. This is part of my deeper search for the answer to my big sociophilosophical question-- why are people not smart enough to know what they don't know? Why do people cite "evidence" when they don't even know what the evidence is or how to evaluate it?

I'm not adding this to prove you wrong before the fact, but to make a point that most people I know are talking nonsense on the matter and don't know it. If there really are good reasons not to accept a human cause for global warming, I would like to hear them.

Labels: ,

21 January 2007


This afternoon on the way to a birthday party we stopped at Wal-Mart to pick up some stuff. I had to get some oil into the car because for afew days she hss been starting to make her "oil me" tick, so I wanted to park in a nice quiet place. On the way into the parking lot I saw a huge flock of seagulls in one rather open area, so I decided to park about a hundred feet away in a place where I could see the birdies. This involved making a pregnant woman walk an extra couple of hundred feet in blustering wind to get to Wal-Mart, but she knows how much I like birds.

Topping off the oil was fine, and the seagulls made for quite a show. A pattern emerged. A few of them would be in the air, fighting their way back to the flock on the ground. When the wind died down the flock decided to take off. Each time, about a third of them would get into the air before the wind would gust again. Some would take evasive action and end up back on the ground quickly, hunkered down. A few were inevitably blown about and had to work their way back to the flock. One or two were smart enough to land on the ground and walk back. Once they were together again, as soon as the wind died.... And so it continued. Hilarious! Whiel i was filling the oil one of the stragglers (strugglers?) gave me an aerial thrice over. Later a male and female landed near the car and walked over to check me out before walking back to the flock.

This was my only real experience with wildlife this week, but I did get to spend some time in the great outdoors on Friday. I have been itching to hike in forever. Having only one car and no good way of doing one-ways, I am sort of limited. Wintery weather limits things more. My late sleeping limits things even more. Friday I got up bright and early at 11:00 to go for a romp.

Thursday I had chosen a route from my maps, Delps Trail to the Appalachian Trail to an un-named, south facing lookout. Delps Trail goes from the game lands parking lot in Delps to the top of the ridge, picking up the AT there. The parking lot was hard to find, but that's mostly because I had read in a number of places how hard it is to find. I tried various odd looking dirt road thingies only to find that they were driveways. Finally I took the rather large dirt road, the one named Gameland Rd, at the stop sign. Behold, it went to my destination! Anyone who says this place is hard to find deserves a beatdown. Getting there is tougher, though. My car would not have been able to do it without the frozen ground, and even so I banged up her bottom on a nice big rock as I was leaving.

The huge parking lot ends the drivable portion of the road, which continues, as the map promises, to a large spring. Off to the left corner of the lot the blue blazed Delps Trail heads into the woods. The trail is steep, not terrible as climbs in this part of the country come but, with portions as steep as 45 degrees, definitely not a nice family hike. The steepest sections have helpful rock stairs but after the initial bit a lot of the trail is more like a dried creek bed than a trail. Also, the trail is probably kind of brushy in the summer.

Halfway up the mountain is the Delps Spring, and on the way up I lost the trail here for a few hundred feet (no worries, mom; the AT is well marked all along the ridge, so just keep going up). On the way down, following the marked trail, I saw why I had lost it-- the tree next to the spring that was blazed to mark the turn has fallen over, my head didnt' get high enough to see the top of that log, and the blazes on the trail beyond are faint. I'm pretty sure, looking at my map, that the way I went used to be the trail anyway. I had to cross the stream from the spiring, as the trail map does, rather than making a hard right then a hard left to do a big switchback above the spring, as the marked trail goes now.

The Appalachian Trail is well maintained up here, and my hat goes off to the Appalachian Mountain Club (Delaware Valley) for their good work up top. It was a nice walk to the un-named overlook, although the view would be much better if about three trees were taken down (I should ask the AMC people; they probably have a good reason for keeping them up). From up there I could see the sparse snow flurries blowing all over the north central Lehigh Valley, glowing yellow from teh sidelighting form the sun. Lit from the side? Yeah, that means "I hope I get back to the car before it's dark."

The walk back was uneventful.

Near the top of Delps Trail, (or was it near the spring?) I saw my first of the day's bear tracks. They were fresh enough, probably from Thursday. I also saw a nice pile of bear poop on the trail. It was right on the trail, and I hadn't seen it on the walk out, but on the walk back it wasn't steaming so I figured I was, for all practical purposes, alone. I didn't see any bears. I didn't see anything living up there except the plants. No deer or turkeys or birds of prey of any kind. I did hear some birds when I was getting back to the car at the end, but I couldn't spot them. There are grassy areas up there because the trees are a bit thin (this is true everywhere on the ridge downwind of Palmerton; it's not as dramatic as above Palmerton, where the mountian is barren, but when you're up there you can see that the forest isn't dense). I'm sure that some birds not too common on mountains might make those grassy areas home in the summer.

Sometime after DST starts and I have more time (because the sun sets later) I might visit the same spot via Little Gap (out and back about 7 miles). I heard that the game commission has blcoked off most of the parking in Little Gap, so I need to check on that first. Anyone who doesn't mind being bear bait is welcome to come.


19 January 2007

Le jour d'acomplissement

I got things done today!

At school, for hours, with nobody bothering me, I sat at my desk, paced the halls, played with demos in the prep room, all while thinking about the problem at hand. The problem at hand was a programming problem from a few months back. I remember finding a solution and reporting it to Fede, who agreed that it was ugly without even hearing it completely. It was so ugly I didn't want to try it until now, because I need it now, because last weekend I finally got the right functions to generate the numbers with which this ugly process was to work.

This ugly process turned out not only to be ugly but well neigh uncontrollable-- think two arrays and having to root around in them using about ten indices at once, swapping indices as needed without going back at all but making sure you adjust all the indices as they need to go. Did I mention the cascade of IF statments needed to decide what to do? And the part about how loops would need to be broken and swapped and such? Bugger all, I thought, there must be an easier way. Less efficient, probably, but easier.

Actually, there was, and I figured it out in the demo room while playing with a steel bar in an inhomogeneous magnetic field. I had abandoned curve fiting for reasons of complication, but I realized that linear curve fits to two points could give me exactly what I wanted. Linear curve fits to two points at a time are Very Easy, and getting what I want out of them is even easier.

Hooray for me I got something done and I did it At School. I think this is the first time in two or three years. It must have had something to do with being Alone.

Afterwards, I had to go shopping. My wife sent me to the drug store for a few things. Store 1 had one item. I moved on. Store 2 had two of the items. I bought those. Store 3, which happened to be a giant chain store that dumps money out of the Americas, had the third item, as well as two other things I wanted to buy, one of them Very Cheap (synthetic pants for hiking), and a new supply of my favorite toothbrush style (which is a cheap kids model that costs under $1 but isn't easy to find).

That third item my wife sent me for was Very Important because it is supposed to make her Quesiness mostly Go Away. I bought three bottles. I mean, I went shopping all over the Lehigh Valley for it, so why not end up with a bottle per store? And if the stuff is going to be so difficult to get at, of all places, large drug stores, then I want a serious cache of it.

My final accomplishment was forgetting the applesauce. Sorry, honey.


16 January 2007

He Thinks...

When I hear a sentence start this way, masculine or feminine, I am cautious. Does the speaker really know what someone else is thinking?

"He thinks" is often a shorthand for "He has told me" or "He has said," and in those cases I have less of a problem. I have gotten along well in life taking the naive approach that what people say they are thinking or have concluded is actually what they are thinking or have concluded. There are people who say things they don't think just to get reactions or stimulate conversation, and I know who among my friends do that. If I have any doubts, I ask.

Unfortunatley, "He thinks" usually means something more along the lines of "I think that he thinks." Rocket scienists would do well to consult an English major about who is really the subject in that statement, the speaker or the one of whom the speaker speaks. Shortening "I think that he thinks" to "He thinks" changes the subject from the speaker to the person of whom the speaker speaks. It turns an opinion into an absolute.

This is not necessarily wrong, of course. You can think that someone thinks something and be correct about what they think. Most people are notoriously bad at this, though. The most usual problem is that deciding what someone else thinks, short of them actually telling you and avoiding this whole discussion anyway, is based on some bits of evidence in their behavior or on other things that they say. Most people assign a thought to a behavior or another thought but fail to seek alternative explanations. Aside from what I've chosen to assign to the inside of someone's head, what other things in that person's head could lead him to have the same idea or exhibit the same behavior that is making me come to my conclusion? If there are other options, how do I sort them to find the correct one?

Anyway, this has really been bothering me lately as a part of a greater rant that I probably won't post, and it was exacerbated by an incident over the weekend. On Sunday at church I worked with the young guy who I have been teaching how to run the sound equipment. I've been staying with him instead of leaving because if I go someone else will join him, but I've been letting him do everything without my intervention. He's coming along nicely, but he makes mistakes. When our fearless leader questioned me about something the kid had done wrong I explained how it happened-- I saw all along that this and that was going to go wrong but I let it go so that the kid would have to fix it. I mentioned that this kid learns by doing things. "Good," our fearless leader said, "He should do things. He thinks that all you do up here is sit down and everything takes care of itself."

I was too pissed off to even try to fix that misconception. I've sat up there with the kid for hours, and he isn't lazy at all. He's involved. It took time on my part, but underneath the facade that makes the fearless leader think the kid is lazy, I found a kid who comes across that way for other reasons. If I had simply taken the "kids are lazy, oh look here's another" route then I would have missed not only a teaching experience but also making a friend. Yeah, it's a little weird to be an adult and be friends with a kid, but give it a few years and we'll both be adults and nobody will think it's odd anymore.

How does the saying go? "Assumption is the mother of all $&#@ups?" I think it's true in more ways than one. People aren't a science, but you can do more than make blind assumptions about what people think and then take the dangerous track of building on those assumptions like they are true.


If The Rain Would Stay...

the cross country skiing would be great. Oh, sure, there wouldn't be snow, but the mud would actually be thin enough.

15 January 2007

Random Caffeine Rambling

I must share a note on a movie I saw recently. It's called A Prairie Home Companion, written by Garrison Keillor and directed by one of the last of the old-fashioned directors, Robert Altman. I'll say straight out that I thought it was an excellent film, but for reasons that most of you who read wouldn't care about ina movie. Those of you who thrive on complex plots like 24 and The Apprentice (by "thrive" I do not mean "enjoy" but rather "don't like anything except things such as," a major difference) but hate country and bluegrass music are likely to think this movie absolutely sucks. There's lots of bluegrass and a shallow plot. It's a film version of an old time radio variety show, after all, and that's hardly the stuff of gripping plot and backstage intrigue. But it was amusing and entertaining in a way that few movies are, probably because so few movies are like old time radio variety shows.

Garrison Keillor ranks with Woody Allen as the pinnacle of what I call high comedy. We're talking deep humor, people. Deep humor. Nuns in a bathtub humor. (Thanks, Peter, for reminding me of that classic.) Good humor. Well, mostly. They both (mind you that's GK and WA, not the nuns) tend to go off at times and make jokes that normal people can understand. The song "Bad Jokes" sung by Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly, and the respone backstage, was a such a highlight in A Prairie Home Companion. Lindsay Lohan singing something akin to "Frankie and Johnny" was just good entertainment. At one point GK goes off on midwesterners in a way that you can probably only appreciate if you're from elsewhere and lived among them (and I mean among them; Wheaton College had enough outsiders that a reality check is in order before you assume that you had the midwestern experience).

I could go on, but I'll share this final thought. If you like movies as theater and music as music and humor as humor, watch this movie sometime.

There was something else I was going to say.... Well, I forgot. I've got to get back to work. I've done more tonight, in an hour after 15 hours awake after four hours of sleep, than in days. Perhaps it was the tea? Yes, I hit the hard stuff for a friend's party today. A 12 ounce glass of iced green tea. Or maybe it was the carrot cake? Or a wacthman on the hights? Sorry, major Bach moment....

Oh, I remember. Choral Union reconvenes tomorrow evening! I get to drop a few bucks for music and we get to sing the night away. We've already done part of Stravinsky's "Symphony of Psalms." Also on tap for April is Faure's "Requiem." Dear Lord, please help the sopranos to keep their voices under control for that one. Otherwise it's going to be a long, long evening every Monday. But on an higher note, a fellow physicist has expressed his intentions to join the ranks in the much needed position of tenor.

14 January 2007

On Care and Feeding of Dish Sponges

These lousy little rascals cause more trouble between me and my wife than just about anything else in our house. Why? Because my wife and I have very different opinions about them. We use the kind that is a medium density sponge, about 2 1/2 by 4 1/2 by 5/8 inches (the package has the exact dimensions; I'm too lazy to find them), and has a moderately tight, lightweight fiber plastic wool scrubbing pad on one side. My wife treats them like a drain stopper and thinks antibacterial soap is the key to making them last. I insit that treated properly they live a long life, longer than the two weeks my mom prescribes, and I've started buying them in bulk so I can have a new one every time another dies.

Here, for you, is my guide to caring for dish sponges.

Dish sponges are not cheap, but they provide a good service for the price and caring for them costs only a little time. They are fragile, needing specific maintainenece that is unlike most other things in the house. In our throwaway culture of paper towels and Showtime Rotisseries, we lose track of this. Paper towels need no care. Showtime Rotisseries are set it and forget it. Sponges are neither.

A new dish sponge needs to be wet before its first use. New sponges should never be used on a dirty surface without a thorough soaking and wringing.

The previous rule also applies to any dry sponge, even a used one, and to both the sponge itself and the scrubbing surface.

After use, sponges must be cleaned. To do this, soak with clean water and wring until the water coming out is clear and without chunks. All particulate crap should be gone from the outside surfaces (as measured by any reasonbable human, Dr. Mandelbrot). This includes any scrubbers, and those trap a lot of crap.

Sponges must be stored in as dry a state as possible. Wring the cleaned sponges before allowing them to air dry.

Sponges must be stored in a dry place with as little surface area as possible touching other things, so that air drying can happen rapidly. Do not place sponge in a puddle of dishwater. Do not place a sponge on any kind of filth. Do not place a sponge with its largest face down. Given those three, the sink is definitely not a storage place for a dish sponge. Leaned against a dry backsplash is the preferred storage position.

Dish Sponge FAQs:

"Why pre-rinse the sponge before using?" If you do not, bits of crap get embedded deeply into the fresh sponge and just don't come out.

"Why clean a sponge after use?" Because removing the crud from the sponge keeps the sponge cleaner than the dirty dishes. You are, after all, using it to clean the dirty dishes, so this is perfectly reasonable. Washing out the nasty stuff keeps the sponge from getting fungal and bacterial infections as it sits around not getting exercise, and this keeps the sponges, and the dishes you wash, alive longer and smelling better.

"Why wring a dish sponge before storing?" Becuase this gets the bulk of the water out from the sponge. See also the next quesiton.

"Why store a sponge dry?" Excess water keeps the sponge "inflated" and leads to premature dissociation of the spongicles, or watever the spongy stuff around the air/liquid pockets is called. Dry storage also prevents the crap you couldn't get out from feeding the smells and flavors you don't want to have.

"What will happen if a sponge is not cared for according to these directions?" Well, let me tell you all about that....

In a few hours of wet storage, especially in unclean water or without wringing, the sponge takes on a smell unlike anything a kitchen should have. Some sort of something is growing and giving off something else, and ingesting any of it would probably be dangerous. This smell is faint at first but within a couple of days can permiate the residence. Also, once it starts, there is no stopping it. Drying the sponge will halt the smell, but wetting it will bring the smell right back. Consider that I have a weak sense of smell. I'm often the last in a group to sniff out an olfactory problem, and even I am bothered by the sponge. It must be awful.

A few days in the sink, neglected under a pile of dishes, will have the same effect on the sponge. Even if it dries, it will eventually get soaked with dirty dishwater, and the process will start unnoticed. This has happend in the last 48 hours in our kitchen. A visitor used the sponge and tossed it into the sink, an acceptable but not perfect move in places where the sink will be emptied and cleaned within an hour or two, but completley wrong in a sink like ours that sometimes goes a day or two. Of course, this one could have already been dead and I just didn't notice. I only check when I use them, because a properly kept sponge is not worse off when you use it than when you put it down, and there's no reason to go sponge patrolling before I need the sponge if a new sponge could get ruined before I use it anyway.

When a sponge gets old and stinky but you use it without gloves, a bad move because I'm sure it's a bioharazdous material in that state, your hands can be permiated by the smell for days. I do mean days. I once on a Friday afternoon washed a few pans with the sticky remains of a long dead sponge, only because I had no new one to use instead. The following Sunday at church, an environment devoid of the background oder of sponge, I was picking my nose and I could smell the sponge on my hand. That's absolutely gross. In 36 hours I had washed that finger with soap a good number of times, I had eaten with it, touched my wee-wee with it, touched her woo-woo with it, and still it smelled of dish sponge! I've been less grossed out from gaping wounds being cleaned by maggots.

A few months back we had some company over from out of state, and they were nice enough to do some dishes. Our sponge, however, was booby trapped. It was a few months old and throughout that life it had been constantly left in the sink for stretches days in puddles with rotting bits of food and liquid from or formerly food. It smelled like that time the poisoned mouse decided to die in the condensation tray under my parents fridge, only stronger. It was falling apart. Our friend was not accustomed to a sponge in this state and made a mistake that even I make at times when using one-- things washed with a sponge in that shape need not only a good rinse but also need to be soaked in hot water for hours to get the rancid smell off. The smell, of course, settles down to hide when the dish dries, and you often can't smell it on the dish because the smell is so much stronger on the sponge and your hands. Anyway, a few days later I began to use a pan that had been washed by our friend, and the kitchen was permiated with the re-emerging smell of dead dish sponge/mouse. I can't tell you about the flavor, because I simply dumped the pan into the trash, set about cleaning the pan by boiling water in it, and restarted the meal in a different pan. The next day the pan, boiled clean, was okay. This inconvenience is, of course, not the fault of the friend who washed, but the fault of those who had not cared for the dish sponge.

"How long will my sponge last?" On the outside, if you take care of it then it will last for up to six weeks (less in higher humidity). If you abuse it you have hours to a week before I would throw it away, depending on the type and level of abuse. If I had to use it ans it smelled, goodbye sponge! Even after a few weeks it won't be smelly if you take care of it, and it won't start breaking up until it is used vigorously for five or six weeks.

"Can a dish sponge be safely used for anything beside dishes?" With one detailed exception, no. If the sponge is cleaner than a surface and the surface is not filthy as dirt, then a sponge can be used to take wet spills off that surface. Examples of acceptable surfaces are countertops, range tops, or tables that are cleaner than floors. Dish sponges should never be used on floors! No dry materials, this includes dry materials on the surface before a wet spill, should be cleaned from surfaces with a dish sponge. If used in this manner, a sponge must be cleaned and rinsed immediately and placed for regular drying. Even this sort of spill clean-up should avoided. Unless the spill presents a wet hazard and use of the sponge is the only cleaning option that will prevent a disaster, a cloth, rag, or towel of some kind should be used.

Note that this cloth, rag, or towel used for a spill should not be be used for drying dishes at any time after picking up crumbs or a spill. Kitchens should be stocked with clean towels in case a mistake is made. For more on this, see the Kitchen Towel FAQ or contact your local anal retentive kitchen sanitarian.

"What do I feed my sponge?" Nothing. It doesn't eat.


11 January 2007

We Barely Have Money To Feed The Pony!:

or, Stupid Is As Stupid Does

What do you do when you run out of money because you lose $96,000 a year from your $246,000 a year income? Apparently you make your own coffee instead of going to Starbucks, keep all your silly expensive pets and rental properties, and whinge about how you've cut back so much but you don't have enough money. Choosing between ballet lessons and a pony is absurd if you can't afford either. Holding onto assets that can't win is dumb.

So here, for you, is what they need to hear.

Budgeting is individual. We have individual lives. We also make individual mistakes, and individual exscuses to cover them. But there are a few general principles I've seen beyond "spend what you have" or "save for a rainy day." When people I know are making a budget, I tell them three very important things that I think most budgeting misses.

First, planning must be intensive. Track your expenses for six months to see where your money is going. By track, I mean Track. If you can't track every last dollar, and I mean down to less than 0.2% of your income, you don't have the correct picture of your spending and you need to do it again, working harder to find out where your money really goes. How often have you had money trouble and sat down, added up your six regular bills and some estimates for incidentals, and at the end of the month wondered where the other half of your money went? Most people make this mistake quite a bit, and you're no better off if you make the same mistake in retrospect after haphazardly watching your spending than if you do it making a poor prediction.

I say to do it for six months because that in the end gives you time to see how utilities fluctuate and so on. In the meantime, after the first month, you can start adapting towards the general trends. But beware coarse-graining your system too far. I know so many people who track their expenses for a month, budget, and then wonder why they're short on the same budget three months later. Perhaps it was that car insurance payment you didn't save for? Or that triple sized summer electric bill from running the AC? Or vet bills for the pony? If you have several years of detailed tracking then you can do even better.

Second, what you need isn't what you need. I need a cell phone. I need cable. I need high speed internet. I need a new computer to surf that internet. I need a car like this one. You know what? I don't. If it's not going into my mouth to keep me from starving or covering me up to keep me alive, I don't need it. Lucky for us, we live in an economy where we have room to have not only high quality things that we need but also all kids of things that we don't need. I live in a nicer place than where any of my grandparents grew up. I am able to overeat on top of that. I have more toys than generations of my family put together, and I enjoy them. If you're budgeting and you need to cut, though, everything you don't absolutely without any question need to be a living human should go on the list of things to cut back or remove. That's everything you actually don't need to stay alive.

Do you save money over a regular phone by having a cell phone? Okay, you do get convenience from th ecell phone. How much is that worth? How much of the convenience that you're paying for in having it is just an excuse not to do things like carefully plan your social activities ahead of time? Old fashioned, isn't it? Yes, and it's cheap. But what if your car breaks down and you need to call someone? Consider the $1633.57 you'll pay for that phone between now and when your car breaks down in three and a half years, and then you tell me if that's worth not walking six miles.

Perspective, people. Perspective.

Need a new minivan because you just had a second kid? My parents had two kids strapped into a Dodge Aries, and there was, this surprises some people, even room for groceries... in that thing called a trunk. I knew another family with three kids in a slightly larger car, but booster seat laws didn't demand as much back then so maybe three is an excuse now. Need a new car because you want reliability? Why not one that's two years old instead? You're already dropping that $1633.57 for the cell phone you need becuase you trust the car just that much. No need to make it $2744.33 on top of the higher car payments.

Cable costing you? Library books are a lot cheaper. Getting a good deal on your cable because it's bundled with your high speed internet? Does "I need to eat the caviar becuase it came with the champange?" mean anything to you? You need to keep it because the contract has you locked in for another eight months? It might be cheaper to buy out, and if you can't do that then at least take the time to make a note not to renew in seven months.

I could go on and on about eating expensive restaurant food instead of cooking, buying computers that are more powerful than you need, that good deal on the 47 inch LCD TV to repalce your perfectly fine 21 inch CRT TV, and so on.

I'm not advocating depriving yourself. Want a new car? Good for you, and get it if you can afford it or it's the only way to go. Want a cell phone? If you've got money, go ahead and save yoruself the mini-agony being out of touch for a few hours. If you can afford things, by all means get them. But spend wisely.

I applaud my friends who move from places the like or find roommates to save money on rent while keeping their cell phone and cable. That's making reasonable choices. On the other hand, If you're heading to the poorhouse, or on the brink and over the edge if disaster were to strike, because you can't direct your intelligence away from making your own money problems, and believe me I've heard some complex and zany rationalizations (aka excuses) for wasting money, you need to do a reality check. Things you don't absolutely at the bare minimum need compete for your budget. Obviously you're allowed to spend your money. But unless you have no spending limits, not every option can win. If you're in a money rut, you're probably not a fool but you're over the realistic line. Beat yourself with the hard truth that what you say you have or claim to need might not really be what you need. After that good ol' reality beating, make choices from all the options. If you're choosing between ballet lessons and a pony, never thinking that you could live without either, beat yourself again.

Third, remember that big can be small. Most people realize small can be big, but they forget that big can be small (and they wonder when small isn't big; it isn't always). Back in the olden days when computer storage space was expensive, after PCs invaded or homes but before the glut of cheap hard drives, there was one easy way to tell the people who understood computers from people who couldn't. (This is related, so hang on.) I knew a lot of people back then who would run out of room on the hard drive, decide to do something about it, spend two hours traking down word processor files that they didn't use often and putting them in a floppy disk, and still not having enough room. They didn't get it. They thought small would be big, and got nowhere when it wasn't. What they needed to do, and the computer savvy people knew this, was delete entire programs from their hard drives to get rid of big files and directories that really take up space. If they used all the programs then they needed another drive. If the choice was to lose a program or spend a lot of money for a drive then it might not be an easy choice but, as I hinted earlier, it must be made.
(Okay, this was not as good as the tried and true "out of memory" test, still in use today, but it was useful.)

Similarly with budgets, people often miss cutting big costs. The big costs are often small, hiding so you don't see them right under your nose. I think this is why people miss cable as an option to cut. It's a monthly bill. People treat it like, some even call it, a utility. It goes under regular bills without a thought. If trips to Starbucks were billed monthly at a flat rate then people might miss that as a possible cutback too. You can agonize for days over your fast food versus grocery budget, whether to have an unlisted phone number, how long you'll need to save at your current rate to be able to buy a new TV, and yet, in the process, completely miss significantly bigger things like living without a second car, selling the house and buying a cheaper one, or dumping that timeshare at the beach. You can whine all you want about how some things have up-front costs, and you're right, but borrowing to pay those up-front costs, even on a credit card, might be good if you can easily pay it back when you get onto the new, improved financial plane. If you borrow $2500 to save $700 a month, even with a high interest you're ahead in four months. Do what you have to do, not what is easy. Sell your stupid rental proerpties, especially if they're a money sink. Cut your losses, financial and material, and move on.

And that is Nate on money.


10 January 2007

Hamster_grrl Is My Friend

I mean, I don't see her very often at all. But she told me that there is a newish Dairy Queen close to home! Lo, a beaming light has shined upon me! Within two hours I had an M&M Blizzard! I probably would have found out sooner or later, but I wouldn't have seen it myself becuase I never go over there. Others at the table were aware that it existed. So I give Hamster_grrl the credit for giving me this most excellent news, and a kudo to everyone else around who knew and assured me she wan't totally kidding.

09 January 2007

Coolest Book Ever!

I'm almost certain that the pregnancy and parenting book people are in cahoots with the self help people, the diet book people, and the Christian bookstores. But I've found a new book, out today, that is definitly worth your time.

For an excerpt, see here. For more of the author, see here. These are both links to Salon. Watch the silly ad, or use my browser and plug-ins that automatically skip the ad script, and then read. Note that the second article addresses, in a round about sort of way, why my wife is unsuccessful at telling the Nate banging his head into the wall (which I do very gently when I'm frustrated) to use his words.

[edit: Way back I had a post that absolutely refused to allow comments to be turned on. I merrily turned on and off the comments in the posts around it and everything went fine, but that particular post would not show the link for comments. No, it wasn't a broswer cache problem, it just didn't work. Hopefully this post isn't a repeat.]

[edit2: Seems okay here.]

07 January 2007



No, I'm not raising my voice. I'm screaming your ears off.


Cost of Living

I need to make a PSA about this important topic. I've been applying for jobs all over the country, and I'm getting sick of the way that the people here think that everywhere is cheaper than here except New England.

It's not true at all.

I've been poking around looking at relative costs for people renting in various places where I am applying. I'm looking at surrounding areas so that I can get a better view, especially because towns with large universities get major population skews from the number of university students. I'm looking at renting because, although real estate is a major expense, it's not going to be one for me. I'm applying for jobs that will last for at most three years.

The results? In the places I am considering, it will cost about 95% to 105% the amount of money to live as it does where we are now.

This is probably interesting to some people. Isn't, for example, the south supposed to be cheap? Well, average salaries are lower there, but it doesn't cost much less to live in civilized areas there than it does here. In the middle of nowhere life is cheaper, but transportation is expensive enough to make up for a lot of that. Remember, I'm not Blue Collar Joe looking for a steady work of any kind to feed the family. I'm doing physics, and they just don't pay you to do that in the sticks. The middle of nowhere is an option, but not a cheaper one.

95% to 105% isn't a good deal. At the next job I will make approximatley as much as my wife and I make together now. But I'll probably need to pay FICA taxes. There goes any gain from moving, if there even was one, and then some. There will be more mouths to feed, so there goes more money. My wife doesn't want to work once there is a kid, and I couldn't convince her to work a higher paying job when there wasn't a kid so there's little chance of convincing her once there is one. (Honey, everything I said here is true and nothing here is an implying that you're wrong, so please don't complain.)

I bring this up because I'm tired of people telling me "You're going to make alot of money once you graduate" and then telling people "No, we make $X a year now and I will be lucky to get $X when we move" only to have them say "Well, you're all set then. For half that you could live like a prince in [southern or western state]." I'm not trying to say you're thinking in the wrong direction in terms of cost of living (I will be the first to tell you you're dead wrong about the income itself). It is a bit cheaper down south. What I am saying is that it is minimally cheaper, such that maybe we could, if we were careful and stopped saving money, work it out so that we could live as we do now with 85% of $X. That is a far cry from being royalty with $X/2. And for one or two of the jobs, $2X/3 as the top offer isn't out of the question.


Homeschooler Discovers The Simpsons

Welcome to my college experience.

(For those of you who are not in the know, Lark News is like The Onion, but actually funny, for Christians anyway.)


05 January 2007

Global Warming

For those of you who have made fun of me in recent winters when the weather was absurdly cold and I mentioned global warming, and for those of you who are pointing at the absurdly mild weather in Pennsylvania this winter and wondering, let me assure you, you're all wrong.

Physics has taught me one very important thing about physical systems-- they have fluctuations. I do statistical physics in part because I think this is important.

I'm pretty sure that if the global average temperature increases then on a local level you will not see a uniform increase by the same amount. Locally there is nothing to expect from knowing only the earth's average temperature*. Local temperatures could be higher or lower, as they are affected by spatial and time correlations that could be amplified or damped by energy increases.

When the total temperature of the atmosphere increases the total energy in the atmosphere increases. When the energy goes up I expect that the fluctuations will go up, not always becoming larger but more frequently being larger. I'm not sure exactly how this would play out in terms of time and space, but I think it can affect both. Sadly, I don't have a statistical ensemble of atmospheres and oceans and surface objects so that I can develop a fluctuation dissipation theorm and find the correlation functions (or, actually, probably the other way around).

Because I think the fluctuations will increase, I'm not bothered by hot and okay with cold. I'm bothered by hot and cold mixed. I'm bothered by any overall weirdness in the weather. Moderation of climate, decreased flcutuations, would be just as bad as larger extremes, especialy if around the world both are appearing. Sure, I enjoy the cold spells like most of you enjoy the warm ones, but having them go back and forth more wildly, like here, really worries me. So would reports of modertion, like the decrease of tropical rainy seasons.

Yes, this is a plot to depress you about the weather. I hate to pop your bubbles, but the weather is about more than what you can do outside this weekend. It can tell you some pretty deep things, and I think you should pay attention.

(* I really am here to talk about fluctuations generally, not your own favorite local cases. For those of you who are itching to comment about, say, ocean currents affecting overland climate, like this year's El Nino and the weather here, I really mean, for the sake of helping the reader understnad fluctuations, knowing nothing but global average temerature. Please don't muck that up.)


03 January 2007

This is a long one, and if you wnat to skip it that's fine.

For those of you who have followed the saga of my social life, which is really more my saga than a social one, you'll know that there are about five people on this planet who have never bothered me, and there are a whole lot more who I dearly like but who bother me from time to time, and then about 6 billion who I can't stand. Anyway, I've made various attempts over the years at trying to figure out what it is about most people that I find annoying. I think I finally found a solution. It's closely related to the last time I talked about this, but I am now much more confident.

Let me walk you through some experiences I've had that illustrate particular situations. It was in thinking about particular situations that I found my answers.

For New Year's Eve my younger siblings in law were invited to a party at a friend's house. A bunch of their fellow youf groop friends were there, as well as some other friends of the kids who lived at the house. There was also a small assortment of parents (it was an overnight party for the kids, so most of the parents were not there), me and my in-laws, and of course the family who lived in the house. I adore the people who owned the house. They were very cool to haev us over without knowing us at all, and they and their kids were totally friendly.

One of the pairs of parents, though, annoyed me before the second sentence we exchanged, and it didn't get better.

The guy was an idiot.

he: "What kind of physics do you do?"

I explain.

he: "Oh. That's not physics, that's chemistry. Don't you need to do physics?"

I explain, including that physics is often interdisciplinary and that what I do is essentailly physcs.

he: "But that's chemistry, not physics. Physics is things like forces and relativity and stuff."

what I wanted to say: "Yahoo! I'm glad you're so smart and that I found you! Thanks for informing me that a whole university has been duped! Can you put that in writing so I can show them on your great authority that we've been wrong all along and insist that we do something about it right away? Maybe you can recommend some approaches to expidite my switching programs? Boy, if I'd met you after I finished my PhD it would have been so much messier, having to return my diploma and come back to school and all. What can I ever do to thank you?"

what I should have said: "I just explained why what I do is physics."

what I said :

Mom said to keep quiet if I can't say anything nice. I went to another room for a while.

His wife wasn't any better. I don't need to share the particulars of my interactions with her, but she was one of those people who 1) Always repeats back what you said even if it wasn't addressed to her and 2) does it in the negative with words that imply she's saying it right and you we saying something wrong. An example would be like this:

father in law: "How much does this pitcher hold?"

me to him: "I've seen pitchers just like this before. It holds two quarts."

she to us: "No, that pitcher looks like it holds half a gallon. So, no, it holds two quarts."

what I wanted to say every time: "Duuuuh! Glad they let you out of skhoouul!"

what I should have said: "I just said that."

what I said:

Mom said to keep quiet if I can't say anything nice. After about five of these in a row I gave up and left that room (which was the original room, to which I had returned for some reason). She had nothing original to contribute and her tone throughout was too snotty for me.

Anyway, I had 150 nitro snaps in my pocket and they had a pyro son who wasn't suposed to play with fire or fireworks. When his parents weren't around I let him totally go to town. Poor kid. Later while a number of us (including the son but not the parents) were outside having a campfire type thing, I had a long chat with the son about how to be safe with imflammables, and I'm not talking how to prevent them from burning. Actually, I consider that a good service on my part. The kid will probably play with fire no matter what, so it's best if he knows what not to do.

The party was fun.

These people are, in my experience, not exceptions to the rule but instead rather common. I find them everywhere. There are people like this at my church that I just never talk to because I know they'll annoy me. Same for at school, although there are a lot fewer there (almost none, and no students). I do, however, end up in group conversations with these people. For example, one woman at my church was talking last spring about a great ministry opportunity she found that she wanted the church to consider: an area orchestra had lost the church that they usually used for their fall performance of Handel's Messiah and we could offer ours!

Everyone else in that conversation was like "Hmmmm, interesting idea! Great opportunity if there is enough interest."

me: "A good idea, but this place is too small."

she: "Well, the church they were couldn't be much smaller than ours." (She was wrong; it's actually ginormouser.)

me: "Our main sanctuary can hold a full sized orchestra if we take out most of the pews."

she: "Well, I know it's a full sized orchestra. But orchestras aren't that big."

me: "Where would you put the orchestra?"

she: "On the stage. We do have externders. Haven't you seen them." (Um... I've walked on them, climbed under them, acted on them. The largest we can make it is about what, 25 by 9? That might be off, but, really, there is no need to quibble about a few square feet if it's at most 15% of what you need.)

what I wanted to say: "You're pretty dumb about orchestras. Ready for music school? I think you could learn a lot. Heck, I have picture books with orchestras at home, if you want to learn abotu how big andorchestra is more cheaply and skip all the theory and practice stuff the music school would add on for you."

what I should have said: "Why not talk to _____ who knows more about it?"

what I said:

Mom said to keep quiet if I can't say anything nice.

More recently, there was the interaction with the volunteer fireman. We came home and found the only way in and out of our street blocked by a fire truck. We stopped to talk to the fireman directing traffic.

us: "How long do you think it might take?"

he: "There is parking down here and you can walk down to your apartment. Or you can turn aroudn and park on the street over here. That's the only thing I can tell you to do right now."

what I wanted to say: "No wonder you didn't make college."

what we should have said: "But we asked how long do you think it will take. You don't have to know, we're just curious."

what we said: "Thank you."

My wife was talking, and she's willing to say think you even when her questions aren't answered. This particular encounter had me quite peeved. Unfair quesiton? Maybe. Good answer? Nowhere near.

Of course, I was visiting some friends one time and one of them was getting a job. He said the only catch was that there was a clause in the contract that would affect some side work he had been doing and would no longer be able to do. that conversation went liek this.

me: "You have a job, friend 1?"

friend 2: "He found a job, but doesn't have it yet."

friend 1: "Yeah. There's this cease and disisst clause in the contract. I'd like to have them buy my contracts with my private clients. I would prefer to keep the clients, but if I need to get rid of them then I might as well get something for it."

me: "Did you ask them if there is you could remove the clause, or that you could put a time limit so you could work everything out?"

friend 1: "Well, with that clause I'm not allowed to hold any other contracts. If I sign I'm saying that I'll only work for them and not hold business of this nature with any one else." (silence)

me: "And...?"

friend 1: "What?"

me: (I was having a particularly good day, so I gave it another shot.) "You said you would prefer to keep the clients. Couldn't you talk to the new employer about removing or modifying the clause that says you can't have other clients? Your salary is in the contract and you negotiated that. It's not like you can't at least ask for changes."

friend 1: "No, I have to get rid of my other contracts because that clause means I'm not allowed to have other work of this type."

friend 2 (who had been listening): "Right. If he signs the new contract he has to break the old ones. But he doesn't want to do that."

what I wanted to say: "Gee, did somebody stuff osmium in your skulls? The density is awfully high today! Just answer my stinking question you morons!"

what I should have said: "You're not answering my question. [Elaborate]."

what I said:

Mom said to keep quiet if I can't say anything nice.

Recently I was invoved in a bit of a fray over at Alysia's blog about the trappings of great literature. (Note: If you want to argue about that, go over there, not here. I know a number of you who were invovled read here, but I consider it done. I'm bringing it up as an example, not as something I want to hash out again.) What was going on there that annoyed me? It had everything to do with my making a critique of a thought and asking questions, and instead of having the critique critiqued and the questions answered, what I got was the same thought explained again in more words, with one question passingly answered as "Sure, but [repeat something from the same old set of thoughts again, as if I would have asked my quesiton with the answer already sitting right there]." This got me fired up mostly because of the unanswered questions, what was not said, rather than what was said.

Some of the same people involved there at the blog might remember a particularly nasty e-mail exchange after one of my housemates was married in western Pennsylvania. It was the same thing in that case. I asked a question, and most of my frustration, which came out that time when a second of my triggers was set off, was from that question not being answered. My friends at school sat me down and explained to me in great detail why I was a total jerk. Actually, there was no detail involved. They just kind of kept telling me over and over until my brain got numb and I caved. I eventually agreeed and apologized to the person who I had personally attacked (who was not the one who didn't answer my question, she just pushed one of my other buttons and got the sum of my frustration for it). My local friends also wanted me to apologize to everyone involved for my killing of the conversation and everyone's fun, but my figuring was that it was clearly two threads of conversation, I only dogpiled one, and anyone who didn't notice that didn't deserve to continue. My question was, by the way, answered soon after, and I will admit that it was only then that I felt better.

So, what is it that triggers my inner rampage? I've taken incidents like the above, and number of others, and I've concluded that I knwo what the number one and number two thigns are that bother me.

Thing 1: A general lack of respect for statments I make. I don't talk a lot, at least not compared to how much I think. What comes out is only my golden nuggets, choice stuff. It's stuff I need others to tear apart because I don't understand it, stuff that I have concluded is correct and want to have applied, stuff of humor or wit, stuff that is usually not original but that I got to without simply being told and would like to share. People who make me repeat things are an annoyance. People who have no respect for the words and go on like I haven't said them are a pain. If I tell you why what I do for a living is physics then you'd better have some really good reasons for continuing to think otherwise. If I tell you an orchestra can't fit on a pigeon perch and you insist one can, I'd like reasons. And if you don't actually think otherwise, or dont' actually think the silly thoughts yoru words represent, then maybe you should close your mouth and use your brain more between syllables.

Thing 2: Not answering my questions. I ask questions because I am after answers. The answers are very valuable to me, and you can make me very happy with you if you always answer questions. My best friends in life, my family and those people who never annoy me, always, always, answer my questions. And for the rest of you. it's really easy. Choose from yes, no, I don't know, and I don't understand, and choose correctly. The last two are just as good as the first to me. I won't think you're stupid, I'll reword the question. Even if I do eventually give up, I'll have more respect for you than if you'd just hidden. Failing to know your limits is stupider than admitting you have them. I tell myself "I don't know" a million times a day.

So, there you have it. Two of the three and a quarter things that bother me about people, fully identified and certified. You know, though, that this all really only proves one thing. I fit the INTP bin better than many of you might imagine.

02 January 2007

Vacation Notes

Vacation is coming to a close. I need to do things like ask professors to send letters, call one guy who already got some letters and wants me to call (and figure out exactly what to tell him), finish that danged program I've been pecking at for months, write Le Papier Perpetuel, and rest because I'm tired from not sleeping well on my vacation (because I can't). Bugger all. I wish I could be free all the time to just enjoy life. Life seems too short to have these stupid ideas like work and deadlines.

I watched a movie tonight, Take the Money and Run by and starring Woody Allen. It was an absolute riot. Thank you, Comcast, for free movies on demand, even if only a few of us are entertained by the sadly limited offerings. And thank you, in-laws, for going to bed early and giving me free run on your TV for like seven hours.

In other news, I had to diffuse a message board argument about whether nuclear reactions were creating something out of nothing (I did it via private messages, as it would have been totally inappropriate to wreck the thread). Among the more interesting points I had to make were that matter is not only mass and that energy is a something, not a nothing. Mock them for being dumb if you want, but I think most of you were there at some time or another.

As you can see, I have little so say about vacation.