My Zunivers

31 August 2007

Long Night

I sent a few e-mails that took forever to write because I'm one-handed, so I can't say much tonight.

I do have one thing to say, though. Infant parenting books are useless unless you're starting a fire, wadding a musket, holding open a door, or doing anything else that requires paper but doesn't need print. Seriously. They're almost as useless as self help books.

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27 August 2007

Random Bits

The Kid is growing, and spending some more time awake. Last night she did not cry when I changed her diaper, and she slept soundly instead of restlessly. (By this I mean that when she slept, she slept nicely. Contrary to society's emphasis on babies sleeping through the night, and the even greater doltishness of assuming it is related to parenting instead of the kid and related to healthy sleep in the future instead of just being part of the present, that's as good as it gets.)

I got an e-mail from a research group asking for recommendation letters. I sent them my CV back in the winter! Either they just decided to do some hiring or they took me seriously when I said I planed to be done in August. More likely the former, but everyone wants to pretend they matter.

My sister is now a teacher, for real, with a real job and everything. In fact, she's teaching a district or two away from where I live, and these are geographically small districts. One of the district's manuals includes a "Drug and Alcohol Administration Schedule." I'm not making this up-- that is exactly what it is called (except maybe the order of the first two nouns). I wonder how many parents, who get the manual (I think), have caught on. Also, the district saves money on ink by dropping silent "e" at the end of some words. Let's not get too cynical about education, people. They're not too dumb to spell correctly, they're saving money on ink. Or toner. Or something....

Choir rehearsals begin again tonight. Since I don't have a job, I am going back. I don't have all the details on the music, but I can tell you it is at least two Mendelssohns and two Mahlers. Yep, it's family night! Men and their women is the theme. The Tall Blonde Lady in the Shiny Green Alligator Dress will be singing in this concert as well. (For more on TBLitSGAD see here.) I'm really psyched up because we've got some German singing on tap.

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20 August 2007


I first cam across this word when I was a kid. It was the name of a really abrasive sheep on U.S. Acres, the companion to the cartoon Garfield and Friends. All I really knew was that lanolin came from sheep.

Later in life, I found out that lanolin is used in a lot of cosmetic and beauty products. Apparently skin absorbs it well. I also found out that women rub it into their sore nipples. Gross, maybe, but if rubbing mystery goop from a sheep into you nipples works for you....

Recently, with tubs of the stuff floating around my apartment, I wanted to solve the mystery of what lanolin is. It turns out that lanolin is a compound of fatty esters and cholesterol, or something like that. All fine and dandy, I thought, but what about the sheep? Where does it come from? What do sheep do with it?

It turns out, I am happy to report, that lanolin is, basically, one kind of sheep sweat. Lanolin is the oily sweat from woolly animals. And I really should have guessed as much. I once noticed that my oily pubic sweat smells a little like babies.

You know, I have a friend who knits and spins. I don't know why I never asked her about this. The sheep, not my bits.

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19 August 2007

A Break

I'm feeling really cranky, so I won't bother you all with yet another hashing of all of my rants. They're all on my mind, though-- deficient theology, scientific illiteracy, my normal loneliness at night, political patheticness, the American championing of the self over the intellect, and why marshmallow peeps have to look so cute but taste so bad.

I don't think I ever mentioned that last one before, but there isn't much more to say about it. It just bothers me.

Otherwise, we are alive, and in multiple pieces. No, that's not a problem. Three people darn well should be in three pieces, unless two of them are making hay. We are boring married parents now, with nothing to talk about except the baby and nothing to do except take care of the baby.

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16 August 2007

Massage Your Right Brain

Alysia posted a link to a wonderful little website that will send you classic literature in tiny chunks. It works, too!

This is a good way for science nerds to get their fill of the so-called classics. There are enough "basic" works to get those just learning that there is more to life than equations to read again, and a sufficient selection of more obscure stuff that can give liberal artsy scientist types fodder that their overeducated left brains still hasn't faked a paper on. (Papers with sentences ending in prepositions that still got As from an English professors, of course.)

So what are you waiting for? Go read something already!

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13 August 2007

Calling All Scientists

Okay, physics fans. What do you think of this?

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10 August 2007

Typing With One Hand

My wife is off in bed getting her first decent chance to sleep in a couple of days, and I'm sitting at the computer keeping the kid happy (which means asleep) and honing my skills with one-handed typing. There isn't much else to do.

My only real observation-- this baby has enough gas to make me proud.

Once my wife catches up on sleep (this is a relative catching up I'm talking about), I'll get around to posting about something other than the baby.

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A Few Thoughts

Most babies are kind of ugly. The rest are almost ugly. Estrogen renormalizes the cuteness scale. To facilitate procreation, this also applies to grown men.

There isn't anything disgusting about babies being born. This is true even when the genus of the mother nearly appears to have changed. Placentas are cool, too. I must know a lot of wusses.

Umbilical cords are made of calamari. Give one a snip if you don't believe me. They smell different, though.

When a mother has an epidural during labor, the baby comes out, shrivels up, and re-spawns as a chihuahua. Because the mother hasn't bonded to the child through pain of childbirth, she will be ashamed and give away her new dog. I guess all those women at my church were Right After All. Someone modify the sex-ed curriculum before the animal shelters overfill.

A good anesthesiologist will teach you a bunch of random facts while he is working. You can put these facts away to tell people at parties later. Apparently they are as boring as physics. I know this because I've shared some with people already.

Babies cry when they are hungry. Then they eat. Then they get gas and cry about that until they sleep. They wake up when they are hungry. This is actually a lot like the fundamental structure of all of our lives. We've just had a few years to add in other activities. Women have an extra gene that makes them stop farting but cry more.

Good cameras take good pictures once you use them properly. It's hard to use them properly when you're colorblind.

I can't say our baby is the cutest in the world, because I don't know how cuteness is measured. I can say that if looks were all that mattered, she would still be worth keeping.

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09 August 2007

And Other Ways to Wake Up

When I went to bed last night, I said to myself "You're done with your defense. Tomorrow afternoon you're going in to see your adviser about corrections, and then you'll get everything turned in and finished."


This afternoon around 1:00, my wife woke me up and said soemthing like "Honey, I felt a little pop and a bunch of liquid sort of ran down my leg."

My grumpy waking-up response: "Come and tell me when something important happens."

About a half hour later, my wife came in again. "Honey, I'm waiting to hear back from my doctor, but we're probably going to have to go in, because I'm having painful contractions."

I climbed of the bed with the comforter and hid my head under there.

Wifey: "Honey, you have to be a big boy."

Me: "Mmmmmmmmm!!!!."

Wifey: "Ow! I'm having a contraction."


Wifey: "Honey, can you tell me how do you feel?"

Me: "Dusty. It's really dusty down here."

And with that, I got dressed, my wife heard back from her doctor, who said to go to the hospital, and off we went. Being me and having Deadlines, I dropped my wife off at the front door of the hospital and then went to school to discuss dissertation corrections with my adviser. My sister was in town for a job interview, and she was planning to meet me at my office after my appointment.

Well, one thing lead to another, Sara and Judy came to the hospital to help out, and my sister stayed around to help too, even comign to our place to pack the things we didn't have time to get together. Mike and Rich also came over and stayed for a while. In brief (and my wife will give you all the details you want and don't want sometime later), this happened. Three and a half weeks early. Geesh. She's cute and all, but geesh.

To think, last night I thanked God for humoring me. Humor indeed!

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07 August 2007

Busy Day

I had my dissertation defense today, and in the end I came home with all of the papers signed. I need to add a couple of references (apparently my middle-aged committee of physicists hasn't taken a modern high school biology class; no worries, though, because citing a couple of textbooks can't hurt anything), and make a few changes to the notation in my final chapter, where the equations got a but dicey. I also have some typos to fix. Most of this will get done tomorrow and Thursday.

Public service announcement-- if you call me doctor I'll punch you in the mouth. We now return to our regular programming.

After my defense, we had lots of food, compliments of my family. All ate merrily, and I'm glad that they were nice enough to gather all these things.

Thanks to my wife's thinking and the donations she solicited from others, I am now the proud owner of this fine graduation present with the pictured image stabilizing zoom nose hanging off the front of it. I've got a UV filter here as well. Rumor has it that there is a memory card on the way, and then I can get to the business of taking pictures. So, my thanks to everyone involved in this little conspiracy. Also, my sister bought me a CD I've been wanting. Music I like is always welcome. My thanks go to her for that.

So, on to another topic.... What do people who aren't in school do exactly? Is it related to that "job" thing people have been talking to me about?

You know, seminary is sounding good right about now.

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06 August 2007

So I Went to Musikfest....

After five years of living up here, we finally dragged our butts to Musikfest. We were only there for an hour and a half or so, but I was drawn by the thoughts of octogenarians with beer jiggling around under a big tent to the music of Jimmy Sturr and His Orchestra. And when I say jiggle, I mean jiggle! Besides the amusement of the horny old guys getting a new hot girl every dance, I was stirred by the way that the fallen breasts of the old ladies just could not hold their own against the man-boobs on the dance floor. Stirred ill enough that I didn't watch too much.

About the only scarier event I can think of is next Thursday's performance by "The Mayor and His Cabinet featuring Don Cunningham." I believe that we're talking about this guy?


Someone told me the man has some talent. I will definitely miss making my own observation because my wife is working that day. Even if I could make it, I would be over seeing Seamus Kennedy. I'll also be missing Jolly Joe & the Bavarians, due to a certain event involving my dissertation. And my sister might be visiting on Wednesday, an evening without polka!

Crap. Why can't they work the good bands around my schedule?

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04 August 2007

Musical Atrocities

The Lawrence Welk Show is on right now, and I was reminded of something that I thought a while ago but that I'm not sure I ever posted.

I enjoy the music from these old Lawrence Welk reruns, some of it quite a bit. I'm a sucker for big bands, accordions, cabaret music, and polkas. The Lawrence Welk Show is a place to get all of that. You also get to hear Welk's outrageous North Dakota German accent. Like him or not for how he treated his talent, you can like his voice. Also, it's a good show to watch, because you get to watch some great dancing, giggle at the sets, make fun of their hair, mock the way they dress, and ponder the irony that,
thirty years after the taping, there is a Geritol ad hanging over a band old people were watching back then.

One thing about watching, however, is just not funny at all. Anyone making music, sometimes even the ones with something in their mouths, have these awful candy-ass grins on their faces. ("Candy-ass grin" is the most precise term I have for it; hats off to my officemate for using it frequently enough to give me this precision.) It gives me bad memories of Christmas musicals when I was in early elementary school, and we were constantly told to smile bigger while we were singing. I hated being told that. I hated it. You know why? Because even when I was eight I wanted the music to have some focus. I was surrounded by off key kids who had no dynamics or timing, and the only advice was to smile bigger!?!? We don't need to kill art for the sake of Lawrence Welk's obsession with upturned lips and exposed teeth. It might take more muscles to frown than to smile, but the muscles to smile are bigger, it takes no muscles to let your face just hang, and singing is about sound.

Twenty years alter, I'm still not digging singing with choirs that don't sound good. And now I know that you are supposed to make a big deal out of kids singing because it's kids singing and it is Cute, no matter how much they don't want to do it or, worse, want to and just can't. Good thing for me that I have a few years to figure out how to tell my kid I'm proud of her even if she sucked. And if anyone tells her to smile bigger when she's singing, she'll know where to tell them to stick it. In a polite way that doesn't involve using the word "stick," of course.

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Best News I've Heard for a Long Time

One of my internet friends passed along this article that makes me absolutely and astoundingly happy.

Brian May, the guitarist for Queen, turned in his dissertation on the same day that I did!

Yeah, they do have a slightly different system over there, but one can argue that my giving the thing to my committee was some approximation to his turning one in to the college. He and I are apparently order-of-magnitude types anyway.

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02 August 2007

Well, Well...

Bush is happy to talk of help to rebuild the fallen bridge in Minneapolis. What I would really like, though, is an overhaul of our transportation infrastructure. You know, so that we can have a system that works?

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