My Zunivers

31 March 2007

Post 666

I just realized that in the coming years there is going to be a rise in the number of science and engineering PhD recipients who were homeschooled. I am happily positioned at the beginning of yet another educational trend involving homeschoolers. Let the world beware.

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30 March 2007


Here is an interesting article from Reuters about home forclosures. What strikes me most is this

"That giant ATM you've been living in has just shut down," said David Wyss, chief economist at S&P in New York. "Consumers are in debt and we've been living beyond our means for some time."

I've given advice on this subjetct (usually to people who don't want to hear it from me because I've never owned a home so what do I know about it?), some of it more than just armchair ranting. People insist that they need more than they do, even in terms of houses. Worse, people borrow money against their houses and buy other things, assuming that their house will just increase in value anyway, or that they aren't really old enough to worry about how wasting their home equity is going to effect their children if they exchange their house for the proverbial farm. On top of that, all this buying buying buying for investment purposes, in part due to loans that just should not be made, raises house prices even higher for everyone else who wants a house just to live in. And people are stupid enough to take such loans-- that's even worse.

It just plain annoys me.

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29 March 2007

Where I Won't Be Shopping

This is an example of patheticness beyond what I can imagine. Are the company exeutives going to take parallel cuts in their pay to reflect the amount of money saved? I doubt it.

And I get told that taxing people at a higher rate when their gross income goes up will make people not want to work (as if we don't already do that). Geesh.

Would one of my corporate whore readers please justify this company's stupidity?

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28 March 2007

I Just Have To...

How do you keep a group of SJs busy?

Ask them all to share the way to do something.


Okay, well I think it's funny anyway.

Carry on.

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27 March 2007

Random Thoughts

President Bush is championing ethanol as the fuel of the future or something. Of course, there are good reasons for him to do this. First, the source is agricultural product, which in this country is mostly controlled by a few big companies (think ADM and Con-Agra). Second, turning agrimatter into ethanol is a giant chemistry problem, the sort that oil companies are working on and will be able to solve easily. Third, unlike biodiesel or non-gas technologies, car makers need to do almost nothing to switch from gasoline to ethanol. None of these, of course, are good reasons for us to switch, and there are even a few bad ones. Ethanol isn't going to get a whole lot cheaper if it becomes more widespread. It already costs as much as or more than gasoline per unit, and on top of that it gives fewer miles per gallon. Benefits for consumer? About 0 now. Benefits for the environment? Maybe; we need to consdier the environmental effects of growing automobile fuel. Benefits for Bush and big businesses wanting to look like they're helping the environment? Tremendous. Surprising? Not a bit.

The front page of the university newspaper has an article about the business college. Form the first few paragraphs the news is clear-- some core courses up to now only open to juniors will now be open to sophomores as well. From the next few paragraphs it is clear that even some business faculty know how stupid their students and fellow faculty really are-- concern is expressed that students and faculty will think that sophomores are now required to take these courses and point out that if a student tried to add these courses to the other core courses then the students course load would be greater, requiring more work and possbly lowering the student's GPA. Um, morons? I don't know how I feel about attending a university where faculty are actually concerned that undergraduates can't think these things for themselves. Seriously.

Lacking the option to take clemastine for my allergies, I have been left to find a new source of relief. I turned back to another old-school antihitimine, one that I took 20 years ago called chlorpheniramine (found in Chlor-trimeton and some other over the counter brands). To try it out, I have the really old-school kind that you need to take every 4 to 6 hours. I tried doing that a while back, and dispite taking the pills irregularly I got some allergy relief. I was really irritable, though. I again tried this weekend, and had similar results. So I did what any nerd does and looked up chlorpheniramine for side effects. To my surprise, I found that it is a seratonin reuptake inhibitor. I don't know how strong the effect is, but I do know that my brain is sensitive to things that I've gotten into my system (caffeine, etc). I can imagine that the crankiness was coming from my brain being tickled too irregularly, even if it's a very light tickle. So now I'm taking the same pills but trying very hard to take them regularly. The crankiness has gone bye-bye. Is this a real effect or power of suggestion at work? (Aside, I learned this weekend that pregnant women do not like having this asked of them). Who knows.

My NCAA brackets suck. So does the Car of Tomorrow. So does baseball on TV.

The New York Times has an article today on avian flu. I don't know how good it is, but I saw PB2 E627K mentioned, so it might be interesting.

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Speaking Of Dumb Jokes.

What couple had the first his and her computers?

Adam and Eve, of course. She had an Apple and he had a Wang.

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24 March 2007

The Week

Thursday I went to visit Dad's house because it was my sister's happy 25th birthday. Life is happy when you have a little sister who is okay with you showing up on her birthday and saying "I need to go shopping for your present sometime." She told me what she wants for her birthday, so I know what to get for her.

Dad had birthday presents for both of us, so I now own a copy of the special edition of Dances with Wolves. I have to be honest, I thought that movie sucked until I saw the long version. It's really weird that movie producers cut things for "pacing," which is code for "keeping people from getting bored." I've never liked a short cut more than long one, and in cases like Dances With Wolves I only like the long cut. As movies go, Dances With Wolves is one of the last old-school classics before the digital revolution. One side of me looks at it and says things like digital grading would make it better. The other side of me looks at how well done the cameras and lights were and thinks that it's just good stuff. And of course, running a large herd of buffalo around just to shoot a buffalo hunt is really ballsy.

I've decided that I like my little brother and all, but that I'm going to try to visit my dad on weekdays when I can, mostly because there's no need for my brother and I to both be trying to have dad's attention. Hopefully this new idea will also let me go a little more often than I have been, especially because my weekend schedules can get weird anyway. Perhaps he and I can do a Lord of the Rings month or something, because he's still never seen those movies. We'll look into scheduling and go from there. I'll of course try to see my brother. It's just nicer to see all the different permutations of relatives rather than all the relatives.

On the way to my dad's house yesterday I drove on 143 and 662 in the Lenhertsville- Virginville- Moselem Springs- Fleetwood- Pricetown corridor. I'm a back road junkie because my dad taught me how to get everywhere from everywhere on the back roads in Berks County. There is this one place north of Virginville where there are two 90 degree bends in 143 to get around a farm or two (actually, there are about three or four palces like this). As I was driving along, hitting the occasional fog bank caused by leftover snow next to the road condensing droplets in the very humid air, I came to these turns, and suddenly, in the road, there were two cows happily grazing. I'm normally a good neighbor type who will tell farmers when their cows are loose, but nobody appeared to be home at any of the "nearby" houses, so I couldn't tell anyone. I hope the cows are okay.

Later, I was just north of Fleetwood on 662, just south of that farm with the cow crossing signs (I have had to stop there for the cows), I came over the hill and saw, for as far as I could see, white geese among the corn carcasses. That made me very happy, because I don't see white geese often at all, but yesterday I saw like 10,000 of them.

When I got into Fleetwood I got onto Main Street, and as I saw the light turn green giving an arrow for me to turn left onto Richmond Street, I thought to myself "Well that was lucky. Too bad there's train coming so I won't save time. [The tracks cross Richmond Street] Um.... Nate? How do you know there's going to be a train?" I went around the corner, and just then the gates at the railroad tracks started to go down! It was really sppoky. I think I have my dad's train instinct. He's never called one wrong that I can remember. It must be those big electric motors in the locomotives or something. I got to sit there for a few hundred train cars, looking over to my left at what had been the big tanning factory, rememebring as a kid how my mom would go to the bank back and to my left at the corner and we could smell the chemicals of leather making coming from this big building that is now a dirt lot. When the train was done, the car in front of me turned on Poplar Street, so I got to lead a long line of cars up out of town and up the hill.

The drive home was much less eventful. I went on more main roads, and drove by the closed Bojangles (it's still there, it's just not open at 12:30AM) and the mushroom houses. The only eventful part is that the car was throwing an absolute fit. She's been rough in damp weather before, but the past few days have been acsolutely terrible. I've sent some SOSs about her symptoms, but I think she just needs to have her engine reconditioned from inside out. Either that or the catalytic converter is on the blink. Poor car.

Today I didn't do much except go to school to pick up my wife. Yesterday I cracked the case of the final code bug, so I can finally produce complete results from that program. There are some ways to shorten the run times, but for now brute force takes two minutes so I'll work on speeding it up later. I need to do two more things for Le Projet Perpetuel, but I am pleased to announce that as of now I have finished everything that the project was originally set to accomplish and have the paper almost completed for those things. Now, for the add-ons... if anyone happens to know the correlation length of 8000Da PEG above the cirtical concentaration, please let me know.

I've felt for a few days like I've been catching a cold. That obviously means I'm having an allergy problem. Clemastine fumarate, how I miss thee! Your only problem in life was being too expensive to manufacture. (Actually, I think that the main problem was that this antihistimine, the active ingredient of Tavist, basically died because the major product was Tavist D, which dramatically lost market share when pseudoephedrine got tied down more strictly. The prevelence of Tavist D was so great that I used to have conversation the same conversation with the doctor every visit for acol-- "Are you taking a pseudoephedine decongestant?" "No." "Are you taking an antihistimine?" "Tavist." "Oh, so you are taking a decongestant." "No, I said I'm taking Tavist, not Tavist D. They make that, you know. Oh, you didn't. And I'm taking 1.34mg doses, by the way, because you probably also didn't know that the 2.68mg dose is prescription only." I could be completely wrong, but I haven't heard any other explanation for clemastine in every form basically disappearing from the market, so I had to come up with something cynical. Obviously it would be a better story if, say, the stuff had been found to make you grow a second head with a nipple for the nose and preformed dreadlocks the colors of nightmare paisley.) I've also got to either seriously wash or quarantine the maternity clothes that my wife is borrowing from a cat owner, because my nose and lungs can tell that we now have discharges of a cat in the apartment.

Saturday I will be bored. My wife and her officemate are going to New York City, aka The Bowels of Hell, for reasons I can't fathom. I keep the heck away from that dreary place. She said something about sightseeing, but I thnk she's just been away from Chicago too long and needs a fix of smog. I hope she finds New York City to be as crappy compared to Chicago as I do. Back to me being bored, my wife is taking the car to school to get on the bus, and our car will be sitting there all day (leave it alone, guys, leave it alone) instead of being here where it could be Useful for a Diversion. I'm definitely missing the the concert at the school tomorrow, which sucks because they're singing good stuff. The aparment is a total mess, so I'm not supposed to have anyone over. I might go up the street to hang out at the music store. Or maybe I'll actually get some work done. Worst, though, is that I've seen my wifey for about two hours in the past week, between our work and sleep/nap schedules being parallel (math joke-- you cross them and get 0). I did get to the groccery store tonight, so at least I can overeat if I'm depressed.

One bright note that I forgot to share-- Most of the neighborhood birds don't want ot have anything to do with the little dish of birdseed I have on our balcony, but today I caught a cardinal happily claiming it as his own. I went out to change the seed and noted that all of the sunflower seeds were gone, so he's been eating.


22 March 2007


I just need to remind everyone of this.

That said, noble and I have been going back and forth (in our usual friendly way) about something in "Stairway to Heaven." I will here quote the relevant portion. The lyrics say--

There's a feeling I get when I look to the west,
And my spirit is crying for leaving.
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees,
And the voices of those who stand looking.
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it really makes me wonder.

I insist that the middle two lines are a drug induced fit of nonsense-- the verb of the sentence is "have seen" and one of the two objects is "voices." (The other object is "rings.") The first time I heard this song, that weirded me out a little too much, sort of like junior year when I was getting chocolate milk at lunch and the starting defensive line gang-goosed me. Verily, the same shudder went through me, although I admit that Zeppelin didn't leave me thinking "Why can't this team run a 3-4?"

This comes up, by the way, because I was listening to The Polyphonic Spree's song "Suitcase Calling," itself a little of the wall. Hearing it reminded me that I promised noble I'd post about this matter again, with a link.

So, noble, why did you ask me to post this again? Were you merely objecting to my interpretation or were you saying that the words don't go like that?

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21 March 2007

Two Rants

I don't have much to say right now. No job offers, no new results, nothing interesting to rant about. I have been thinking about ranting about Christian Brandingā„¢.

I think I will.

That goes back to the weekend I spent with the church youf a month ago. We had returned to my old church for an overnight. Two of the things that the "speakers" (for lack of a better word) talked about were helping with AIDS in Africa and helping homeless people. I was sort of taken off-kilter by all this, becuase when I was a youf, in that very same room, I was told that homeless people are lazy and deserve their lot and AIDS was an STD so anyone who gets it deserves it. I found all of this most amusing at the time, consdiering Jesus having dinner with whores and stuff, and then acting like the apostles were in a pact with the devil for wondering why he'd do such a thing. I was nearly refreshed to hear some sensible things.

My refreshment was burned, though, when I realized why these things have gone from "So what?" to "We need to do something!"-- the church denomination now has its own people now working on these things. Take anything people should do but don't, throw the chuch's brand name on it, and suddenly people will support it. That really bugs me. My wife and I send money to Africa all the time. We've bought goats, replaced roofs, and the whole lot. People are alive beause we gave up what amounts to nothing lost. Most satisfying, however, is that we did this without Chruch Brand X. In fact, I still prefer doing it without Church Brand X, because Church Brand X could save a lot of people's money by working with establiushed logistics and infrastructure rather than insisting on making their own everywhere they go. But no, heaven save us if someone who has a slightly different eschatology tries to help those people instead of the Warriors of Truth and All That Is Holy (a registered chapter of Chruch Brand X). It's the job of the local church to do things, not the job of the local church to help others get things done. Where's my barf smiley?


Sometime soon I'll rant about why I think people who object to HPV vaccinations on religious groundsneed to get their heads out of the sand. (Ahem-- "religious grounds"; I don't wnat comments about mercury or such because I'm not talking about that. You can open your own soapboxes for that.)

I will put it quite frankly-- as much as you can pay lip service to promiscuity and so on, you can't ignore unpleasant ideas like your daughter someday being raped. I know you don't want to think about that, but you can't just put unpleasant cards back in the deck before you examine your hand. I don't think I'm annoyed as much at the conclusion of not using such a vaccine as I am about this unpleasantry being ignored simply because it's unpleasant. Life sucks, people. Live it the best you can from there, not from some imaginary la-la land where dirty men never think to screw random twenty year old virgins. You don't need to be comfortable with those thoughts, but you do need to consider them.

Hmmm.... I guess I got that one out, too.


20 March 2007

I Know I'm Thiking Too Hard...

but I need to ask.

If a Bald is a mountain that's bald on top, what's a Butte look like?


19 March 2007

From the Absurdity Files

Triply linked lists have been patented. Open yer wallets, peoples!

It takes a really special programmer to come up with an idea like that.


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18 March 2007

How Sad Is This?

I started a Facebook group called "Street Sweepers Are Pimp."

Once we get some members, I'm thining of having a photoshopping contest called "Pimp That Sweeper." I'd probably pimp out a later model, although some of the newer Tymcos are totally sweet.

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16 March 2007

As I Tweak

I found this to be absolutely hilarious.

Scroll down for a link to the page for Assembler.

Actually, they're all kind of funny. If you agree, then we need to get together so we can have a nerd party.

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15 March 2007


Thunderstorms. In March. At night. After the temperature was 75 during the afternoon.

I figured out one reason my program was not working. Drat. I worked on that problem because I didn't want to work on the other problem. I proved again, though, that when I put something down for afew days I can suddenly get a lot done with it once I pick it up.

Oil coming from car, not from the filter, and not from valve covers that I can see. The drip to the ground is coming from the transmisison on the left, close to the wheel. Where the heck could it leave the engine and get there? Nowhere that would be good news, unless one of the valve covers is spraying oil or the rear one is doign something back wher eI can't see. That did happen once. In fact, the oil spot under the car was at the same place. The gaskets are overdue for a change. I need daylight to investigate. I also need to buy some 5W30 blend.

Speaking of oil, I hate my gall bladder. I had wings and nachos for dinner tongiht, and my right side was intermittently screaming at me for eight hours. I'd like to throw more bile and venom it's way, but it makes my bile and I don't make any venom. Sigh. It's better now, though.

The Celtic Woman concert was on PBS again tonight, twice. They're good. As much as I hate female vocals in most music (Alison Krauss and Amy Grant being exceptions), these ladies are all clasically trained. They are never nasal and they, I can't say it without stealing form my choir director's language, sing the consonants on the pitch (even the unvoiced ones). On top of that, they don't do that lyric soprano in a huge dress bobbing thing where the entire boy moves except the feet and arms. That always creeps me out, the shoulders and torso moving but the arms just hanging there stationary while the lyric soprano in a huge dress gives her lungs enough room for Hulk Hogan. Unfortunately, this concert has been on about 39 times in the past week and a half. It's time to get back to Frontline and Secrets of the Dead.

Steve (the one from my research group) had a near death experience in his aprartment involving people with guns and ski masks. They were nice enough to give back his ATM card, which he wisely gave them to start the conversation, and to apologize when they realized they were in the wrong apartment. But geesh! I'm glad Steve is okay, and I'm also glad that he's nonagressive and can think and talk his way into a better spot.

Tomorrow my adviser wants to meet with me to specificaly talk about my job search. Groan, in a way, because I have some prospects but I'm playing a waiting game, and we're starting to get into "Write a dozen research proposals for a dozen different peer reviewed awards" territory. Okay, so some of those awards are prestigous and all. One is a teaching postdoc in the aplied math wing of a very highly ranked engineering department-- I didn't call them, they called me. Could I even teach in that department? Sure, I'm basically a computer monkey, but I'm a physicist first. A few others are national lab type things funded by organizations that look good on a resume. Do I want to work at a national lab? All of these are a lot of work for a good chance of no return.

In my brackets, I have Florida, Pitt, UNC, near the top with Texas A&M taking the brisket. Why? Because I have no money on it so I can do that sort of thing, that's why! I hate basketball anyway. The whole bracket fill-out thing was to waste some time inestigating things like how the bracket would autoupdate after changing a result in a lower round.

I really want to sit at a campfire right now and make some smores.

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14 March 2007

Squirrels Gone Wild

This one's for Alysia.

Actually, it's for everyone.

I found it amusing.

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13 March 2007


I totally hacked my wife's blog :)

Actually, I didn't. I just accidently stumbled on her account already logged in. Of course, wheile I was there I couldn't resist the urge to post something.

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I finally got a decent darft of Le Papier Perpetuel to my adviser. Of course, it is lacking one or two results due to some technical difficulties, and a few sketchy simulation points are being checked on the beowulf cluster as we speak. But to make up for that, I had the option of pulling the best possible card one has with an adviser, the "but despite that, I have an explanation for this thing we've been wondering about" card. It's a genuinely new "AH-HA!" moment, too, fresh from tonight. After all, it's poor form to think of something and save it away-- someone else could publish it, making you feel sad about yourself, or, even worse, your adviser might come up with it "first" and then you feel as silly as you're made to look for missing such a simple thing.

I was looking up a figure in a paper, to make sure I had the correct citation for the experimental data, and my eye wandered down to the paragraph below the figure. I saw just the right few words together to make me realize that I had found something. Basically, what I now know says that what we did was "wrong." I say "wrong" instead of wrong because what we did is perfectly correct, but the model we chose isn't quite right for comparing to the experiment with which we wanted to compare. An experimentalist could design an experiment to match the model we used (okay, even I could), and we could modify the model slightly to to match the experiment (with results that will definitely be closer to the experiment than the current model). We now get to pick one, or, even better, do both. Anything to pad the CV and dissertation.

Speaking of unpublished results, there is a non-linear system that about three or four people in the world have studied, me and three people who couldn't care less anymore. One of these days I need to get around to actually doing something with that....

Oh, and I forgot to mention that I had a fabulous birthday dispite having to spend some of it working my butt off. After being Mr. Audio Guy at church (I told the kid I've been helping "Birthday boy gets the board") and taking a nap to amek up for the four hours of sleep before church, I got up to have fun for a few hours before working. We went for birthday dinner. I was totally torn between Mexican and Steak. My wife, not even knowing that, said "We could go to Jack Creek?" It is, of course, the perfect solution. I had steak, a taco, an enchilada, a potato, a salad, and a big bowl of homemade tortilla chips and slasa. My wife made carrot cake for my birthday, so I had some of that once we got home.

I also, adding up the Birthday Take, have a heap of extra money to stash away for something cool, as well as a new book from my sister, whcih has been highly entertaining, a new CD, a still unclaimed present at my Dad's house, and a new pizza pan that isn't my gift as much as a peace treaty between my wife and I on the matter of airbake cookie sheets and proper cooking of pizza crusts. This weekend I also got to spend some of my Christmas money, in the form of a Home Depot gift card, on rat poison (Operation Dead Mouse is underway) and a new houseplant. I fear that one or two of my older houseplants did not survive the winter-- they had a nice three years-- so this new rubber fig will be a nice addition.

Happy Birthday to me!

[PS Someone has pointed out that I have a third blog on blogger. Not so except as a technicality. I did have a place that I used as a test site for "new blogger," but don't bother checking it because I have no plans to post there in the near future.]

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11 March 2007

Stupid Weekend

I have some things to say about my productivity tonight, but nobody would understand it so I just won't.

I'm still very tired from being sick, of course, and because of the time change tomorrow will be even worse than a usual extra tired from being sick Sunday. In fact, tomorrow will suck. I'm going to need to sleep for at least a few hours. Anyone who says "You should have gone to bed earlier" gets beaten. I didn't sign up for a sleep disorder that keeps makes me tired all day and then keeps me awake until who knows when.

Tomorrow I need to debug a program too-- you know, that one that was finally working? I need to finish the paper on the subject, which isn't going to be as long as my adviser wants, which is bad enough news. But, of course, I can't finish the paper until the program is working. There is one more place where I might be able to find a problem. If I can't find something wrong there, then the program is working and the physics just isn't.

I'm sick of not being able to breathe at night and having the inside of my upper lip break open every two hours during the night. I'm tired of having to choose between breathing even worse in my sleep or getting up every hour to go to the bathroom. I'd like my immune system from 2004 through 2005 back, thank you. One or two colds that whole time, and one norovirus? I'll take that. In the past three months I've been sick for five or six weeks. This particular cold is getting better, but every day the fatigue is worse, and it will keep going that way until I'm completely well and then have a few days to catch up on sleep.

Happy birthday to me.

I did get a pile of money to put away for one of those expensive things that I've never been able to afford like a digital piano or a digital SLR. I also got the second Polyphonic Spree album from my wife (Borders didn't have the first album; I'm looking for a copy of that bundled with the Pods Unite disk). So life isn't terribly bad, but it could be much more normal.

John, stay out of the lab and have yourself a good birthday, okay?

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09 March 2007

In the news...

Scientists opressed--Don't Discuss Polar Bears. Honestly, the article is a bit vague. It mentions, but does not emphasize, what kinds of scientists and meetings the government memos were talking about. As far as I can tell, it is talking about political type meetings where countries send their diplomats to hash over things, and some scientists get sent along to help with technical details or even in place of the diplomats.

If that's the case, then all the whingey scientists involved can go pound sand. This isn't "Creationist Bush is opressing science again," this is international politics. Junior Diplomat X doesn't get to go say whatever he wants about other governments just becuase he has a PhD in Political Science, and likewise a scientist can't just go say whatever they wants abotu science just because he has a PhD in a science. These meetings are about governments' positions on science, not the science itself. If you're too dumb to know that, maybe we should reconsider your PhD. You can't expect a forum that exists for one purpose to be open to being used for another. Welcome to the real world. Nobody outside of science thinks this kind of international meeting is a free-for-all where everyone shares their personal ideas, so scientists shouldn't either.

Of course, some of you are going to say "But Bush has opressed science" and you're right (that whole NASA creationism thing, for example). This case, because the scientists are being treated like any other diplomat, just isn't one of them. Of course, if the memos get applied to scientists who are representing themselves, in other words scientists as citizen Americans going to a regular non-political meetings instead of going to some place on "U.S. government business," then it certainly would be unfair censorship.

In other news, the D.C. gun ban has been overturned by 2-1 in appeals court. For those who don't know it, the D.C. gun ban is a set of laws and unwritten interpretations that minimally allow on paper but ban in practice posession or ownership of a handgun in the District of Columbia. Quite frankly, it's a silly set of rules.

But here's the part that made me giggle:

Judge Karen Henderson dissented, writing that the Second Amendment does not apply to the District of Columbia because it is not a state.

The humor in that is broad and deep.

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08 March 2007

A Note For Chrysler Reviewers

I've been reading reviews in different places of various new Chrysler vehicles, and I have a complaint about the reviews. Could we have a little less of this Mercedes bashing? I mean, yes, those PUCs suck. But if you want to complain about how this or that natty feature or bit of poor ergonomics is from Mercedes, you might want to check, say, a 1995 Acclaim, or for that matter any other Chrysler from before the Daimler-Benz takeover. You could be shocked by what you find. I've seen Mercedes blamed for headlight controls, seat controls, windshield wiper controls, warning chime sequences, glove compartment cubbies, and a host of other little things that I can find in my very own pre-German Plymouth. Are the people writing these reviews all under the age of 20, or are they just all as dumb as sway bars?



Everyone here in the Lehigh Valley-- look carefully at the snow on the ground tomorrow, especially if you are out really early or find some in a sheltered, shady place.

This afternon while I was cleaning the car I noticed that the snow on the car had a strange property. It looked "chunky" almost, but it was very light and fluffy. I didn't think much of it until I was walking to the car form the physics building tonight around 9:00. The snow on the ground was sparkling in the streetlights, but it was sparkling in a "chunky" way. Normally when snow sparkles you kind of move your head back and forth a little and you see tiny pricks of light, so tiny they are easy to lose but lots and lots of them. This snow had fewer pricks of light but allowed a lot of motion before a sparkle would of light disappear. Picking up the snow and looking at it carefully confirmed my suspicion-- big snow.

A lot of the snow was random white powdery stuff, but the very top layer, which hadn't been crushed by anything, was made of randomly oriented snow plates three to five milimeters across. Carefully digging through the white stuff, a lot of that seemed to be broken pieces of slightly stellar plates. They were very thin-- I could see through them when I held them up to the light-- but because they were so large and smooth the let your eye cover a relatively large distance while still seeing a reflection. On the snowflake morphology diagram, these flakes occur in temperatures consistent with this morning's air aloft at slightly supersaturated humidity.

This is the most exciting snowflake experience I've had since the needle cluster flakes and capped hollow columns I saw a year or two ago. I've never seen plates and stellar plates this large before. Do check them out if you get a chance. Like I said, we have them at my place and over at the school, and they seemed to be and inch or more deep, so they are probably widespread throughout the area.

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07 March 2007


So, I'm sick again. It was nice to have a month off. My wife bought me some nice expectorant this morning. Sleeping without that last night was miserable.

Interesting things I've been up to recently include:

American Scientist back issues. I payed my '06-'07 Sigma Xi dues in December, so I got a few issues of the magazine all at once. One of them that got lost today in my wife's cleaning up had this article about how the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic thermohaline current might be doing very little to warm Europe.

Reading. I finished The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Speculating. Congress finally decided to fund the NSF at the proposed FY '07 level. I might be able to get a job after all.

TV. None. TV Sucks.

Doctors. We went to visit the obstetrician's office today to meet the good doctor and have oodles of tests. More specifically, I read a magazine while leaning on a windowsill (the window, to my dismay, did not open to allow escape, should I have needed it) while my wife had oodles of tests, and then she and I met the doctor. My wife grumped about him for some reason afterwards. Something about everyone talking too fast and asking the same stupid questions like "How are you feeling?" I guess I would be cranky too if people tried to act all cool about sticking things up my woo-woo, even friendly people. I thought the doctor was a jolly chap, though, and it's too bad that we'll probably have to move away before the baby is born. He reminded me of a small, skinny version of an optometrist that I had as a teenager.

Quick story about that-- one night I was leaving vision therapy around 7:20, the last one out because I had started late. They treated me like a 16 year old and let me find my own way to the waiting room. On my way to the waiting room that night I spotted shoes on the floor. Then I found socks. Then a belt. Then a dress shirt! Then around a corner I found my optometrist walking down the hall barefoot in his untucked undershirt and pants, taking some files from his office to the file room. He started singing loudly about how great it was to be done with work on a Friday!

So, yeah, this new doctor reminds me of that optometrist from ten years ago. We also got to go around the hospital to find Vampire Central for my wife's bloodwork. I've liked that hospital since the first time I was there. It's the only hospital I've ever been to that doesn't have a hospital smell. I would have had a better afternoon If I hadn't been sick.

Pets. I've been thinking that I really want a pet. I can't have one here, though. Maybe the next place.

Expectorants make me thirsty.

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05 March 2007

Business Majors Run The World

Every time I have used the computer for the past week this has been staring me in the face, so I just need to share it. FYI, we found that one of our credit card numbers was used by someone besides us to pay for, get this, cell phone and cable bills. Ha! So, anyway, the new cards came, and the instructions that came with the new cards are driving me absolutely crazy. If I were kind, I'd leave off the name of the bank, but I'm not kind enough to do that.

We're pleased to enclose your new CitiĀ® card. To help protect your security, please follow these easy steps before you using your card:

1) Activate your card immediately. Call the number on your sticker from your home phone, then remove the sticker from the front of your card.

2) Sign the back of your card.

3) Use your credit card for all your purchases. It is welcomed at millions of locations and nearly 1 million ATMs worldwide.

Kudos to them for steps 1 and 2. Step 3, however, annoys me. How am I supposed to follow step 3 before using my card?

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03 March 2007

From My Brother

On the subject of whether he would be having a neice or a nephew, my kid brother (he's seven) told me that he knows exactly where babies come from. In fact, according to him, there is something important that I should learn from the gender of his upcoming new kin. Poking at my hip, rather close to my you-know-what for emphasis, he told me "If it was a boy cell, it'll be a boy. If it was a girl cell, You Messed Up."

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01 March 2007

Bumpers, Again

Since forever, I've been complaining about car bumpers, which really is a complaint about the lack of a practical bumper. I've had lots of issues already with this sort of thing, but I won't elaborate in public, mostly because they involve parked cars and me not wanting our car insurace company to pay $1000 a shot to repaint other people's car's bodies in places where there should be a five mile per hour bumper (and where there is a five mile per hour bumper, under the body, apparently covered in half mile per hour paint).

This comes up because the recent low speed crash results are out. After talking about which cars come in at over $4000 for one of the collisions and which come out under $1500 in all directions, we see how little of a bargain this actually is.

On the 1981 Ford Escort:

The front corner and rear corner crashes produced no damage, and the cost to repair the front accident was only $86, while the rear collision repair bill came to $383.

That is $383 now, folks, rom a test done now. It is not $383 1981 from a test done in 1981. The reason why, of course, is that the '81 Escort actually has bumpers. Five or ten miles per hour isn't crumpling half the body, bending the radiator, ruining half the suspension, and then those parts were all free at a salvage yard. Nope. It's just car, real car, designed to be a little more durable than my PDA screen, and maybe even as durable as, horrible strength of simple materials!, a lowly piece of plywood.

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Weird Day

I've had a lot of interesting things cross my mind tonight.

I was thinking about some old friends, and how much I wish I could spend some time with them, friends who used to be like brothers and sisters but who I haven't seen for years.

For some strange reason, I remembered sitting as a kid watching the news, June 12, 1987. I was my brother's age, and I was a news junkie. Ronald Reagan had made quite a stir earlier that day, and we all know the line. Of course, it wans't just the line. Go find an MP3 of the speech, and listen to the whole "paragraph."

There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev -- Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

It's a mystery why our soundbyte cluture only gives us the tail end of that.

Looking over the speech, there is one thing that I don't remember making the news when I was a kid, but I do remember it from later.

In a word, I would submit that what keeps you in Berlin -- is "love." Love both profound and abiding. Perhaps this gets to the root of the matter, to the most fundamental distinction of all between East and West. The totalitarian world produces backwardness because it does such violence to the spirit, thwarting the human impulse to create, to enjoy, to worship. The totalitarian world finds even symbols of love and of worship an affront. Years ago, before the East Germans began rebuilding their churches, they erected a secular structure: the television tower at Alexander Platz. Virtually ever since, the authorities have been working to correct what they view as the tower's one major flaw: treating the glass sphere at the top with paints and chemicals of every kind. Yet even today when the sun strikes that sphere, that sphere that towers over all Berlin, the light makes the sign of the cross. There in Berlin, like the city itself, symbols of love, symbols of worship, cannot be suppressed.

Why this is on my mind today, I don't really know.

Last night I was up really late. I got lost in music, listening to sing after song until about 6AM. I love music. tomorrow I might go to the sheet music store up the street and buy a few things I've been looking for. Sometime this weekend I hope to go for a hike.

I didn't solve my computer problem. I do hope that I can sometime. Tomorrow, though is a paper writing day.

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