Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Well, sorry.  I have been away for a while.  I have been finishing up with classes and such and then writing a major proposal for the last month.

Class turned out to be pretty much a disaster.  If you don't remember, which I don't expect you too, I was teaching the balloon class.  There were three groups that were doing the project, plus me and the GSI tried to do it too.  One of the groups pretty much finished a bit behind schedule, but still while classes were officially in session.  They had issues (like, it didn't really work), but nothing unusual.  The other teams had all sorts of personality issues.  They fought with each other and basically couldn't pull it together to get the project done.  One of the teams basically threw away their design a couple of days before launch and started over (except for the computer and some other components).  They each blamed other members of the team for being lazy and not showing up to meetings and such.  Needless to say, their balloon didn't work very well.  The other team had issues too, but it was only with a couple people on the team.  Their main issue was that their computer system was VERY complicated, because they were actually using something that they are going to launch into space in a year or so.  So, they took the time to figure out how to properly use the thing.  It was a very impressive effort.  Their system worked pretty much flawlessly.  Both of these teams launched about a week after classes ended (but before the end of final exams).

The GSI and I built a system together too, since I had never done this.  It was a challenge, since I was using components that I had never used before.  I was also trying to work while doing this, so it was a little overwhelming.   Eventually we got everything done and working and launched with one of the other teams.  Everything worked flawlessly on board the system.  The only problem we had was that I forgot the ground-station at work, because I was so busy trying to get things for the class team.  Oops.  I guess I fail my checklist.

Just after this ended, I started to work on a proposal for a CubeSat - which, for us is a 10 cm x 10 cm x 30 cm box (a shoe box, basically) that we will launch into space.  It has a cool instrument on it to measure neat things in the upper atmosphere (what you might call space).  I had a lot of issues with writing the proposal.  I was under the assumption that I would be writing the science part and a colleague of mine, assisted by Master's students, would be writing the spacecraft part.  Well, this was fatally flawed.  The students, who I have been working with over the last 8 months to design the satellite, had only a real vague idea of how to write a proposal (as you might expect), and could not really answer tough questions about the satellite.  I had naively believed that they had written a final report that we could just drag and drop into the proposal.  How stupid I am.  We basically used very little of the original document, and had to do some significant work to put the proposal together.  The other bad part of the whole ordeal was that my Co-PI went on vacation a week before the proposal was due, and was extremely busy with other things the week leading up to that.  So, I basically put the thing together with a bit of help from others.  Not really what I was expecting.  It took many, many, many more hours that I had expected.  But, I guess you can say that I know a LOT more about building a satellite now (or at least proposing).  All of this work is leading up to a bigger proposal to a bigger organization coming in about 8 months.  We are basically proposing the same satellite, but 48 of them.  With 100 times as much money.

But, that was yesterday (literally).  Today we are on vacation.  We have a rough start, since both CrabMama and I worked up until the last possible minute, and so had to do a lot of stuff this morning.  Add to that that we have someone house sitting for us, so CrabMama felt that we had to do spring cleaning, and you get a wonderfully tense situation.

But, no more.

I am literally sitting by the pool while the kids are swimming around.  Here is proof:

Friday, April 16, 2010

Major Neglect

I feel like I am neglecting you blog.  I am spending so much time with my photo blog, and now I have been seduced away even more by blogging using my real identity (Clark Kent).  They actually added my blog on the home page of the department.  How can I turn my back on that blog now, old blog?  I... I think that you might want to get out a little bit more and maybe see other blogs too.  Maybe you should, you know, try your luck on some other blogs and see how it goes. Don't worry, I am not, like, abandoning you.  It's just, you know, I need some space.  I need to have a little freedom.  Hey, I have a great idea - let's be friends.  You know, we can hang out, be buds and all.  Maybe have some benefits (if you know what I mean).  But, you know, like be able to see other blogs too.  You know?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Not science, at work

While I listen to a fair bit of "modern" music (i.e., it has come out in the last 10 years), I occasionally find myself descending into an 80s trend.  I think that I am in one of those right now.  On Saturday, when I went on a bike ride, I was listening to 1984 by Van Halen.  "Hot For Teacher" has to be one of the best guitar songs ever.  I just listened to 90125 by Yes.  Now I am back to Van Halen.  On Friday I listened to The Police all day.  Don't worry, I will shake the 80s.  Maybe I'll whip out a little Genesis with Peter Gabriel (i.e., dip into the 70s) before returning to this century, though....

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Science, at home

Today we put together our new telescope.  It can do 50x, which is pretty cool.  I also downloaded a sky map on my HTC Hero phone.  It is one of these apps that you can tilt the phone up and move it around and it will show you what you are looking at in the sky.  The app is really freaking cool.

Anyways, the app told us that Saturn was to the south east, so we tried to find it through the 50x zoom, which was quite hard.  You can take the doubler off the telescope, to make it 25x, which makes it much easier to find things.  I located a bright star in the field of view, then put the doubler back on.  After fiddling around for a while, Crab Girl saw rings!  I looked though and saw them too!  Then Crab Boy whacked the thing, and I had to readjust.  After that he saw Saturn's Rings too!  Crab Mama saw a blurred object, but wasn't really able to see rings.

I can appreciate how people would spend a fair bit of money on a nice telescope with a very nice tripod.  We have a $30 telescope and a $20 tripod.  Hard to see anything in focus.  But, it was UberCool!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Manning it up

Today I rode my bike to work.  It was the only day this week that I could actually ride, since I did the balloon launch on Tuesday, and tomorrow I get to go to my undergrad school and give them a talk on how I succeeded in life after getting a degree from there (what?)  Why is biking today so unusual?  Well, it is the first day of the year that I have biked while it is raining.  Now, it isn't pouring.  But, it is cold and rainy, which makes for a miserable ride.  Today I didn't feel miserable.  Today I felt like it was the only day that I could bike, and I was happy.

Just for note, it is the seventh day that I have biked in the last three weeks.

Next week, I won't be able to bike at all (well, maybe Monday I can bike a couple of miles), since I am going to be traveling.  If I am up to it, I may try to find a bike store somewhere in the area and see if I can rent a bike.  Or maybe I should do something like sit-ups or push-ups or jog or something.  Hmmmm....

Well, we shall see.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

First Balloon Launch of 2010

Today we launched a balloon.  And recovered it!

The day started off quite poorly.  For all of our launches except one, I have driven my own vehicle for all of the flights.  About a year ago, I bought a trailer so we could carry the Helium a little more safely.  I have been hauling it with our minivan, which Crab Mama was really pissed about.  Yesterday I reserved a van from the university.  They actually have vans with trailer hitches!  This morning, I went to pick up the van, and there were no seats in it!  After much hashing around and such, I actually found a Durango with a trailer hitch.  They let me rent that.  All of this took about an hour or so, which was much longer than I had anticipated.

After a slow start, we packed up and left.  We drove to the middle of BFE.  Actually, we stopped in a little itty bitty town to grab a bathroom and some food.  One of the students was talking to one of the people in the store and told her what we were doing.  When he told her we were going to another, even smaller town, she said something like "Oh, you better watch out for those people.  Don't close your eyes!"

Once we got to the launch place, we set everything up.  After a while, we launched!

We climbed back into the cars and proceeded to chase.  Everything actually went pretty well during the entire flight.  We were in constant communication with the package, so it was quite successful.  The main problem that we had was that we didn't have anyone in our car that knew how to manage the radio.  Therefore, we had to futz around with it for a long time to get it working.  It worked for the first half, and then we screwed something up, and it stopped working.

Oh, at this point, I should mention that Crab Girl and Crab Boy came with us.  So, when we couldn't get the radio to work, I got out my cell phone, hooked it up to the computer, and logged into, which is where we were broadcasting our position.  Crab Girl sat with the computer in her lap telling me where the balloon was, what altitude it was at and how fast it was going.  Constantly.  A stream of information.  It was the best navigation I have ever experienced!  She is a natural!
Finally, we turned down a dirt road, got behind a very slow moving truck, and someone yelled out "I see it!"  Then we all caught a glimpse of the balloon package falling out of the sky.  We pulled up to the field, just as it was touching the ground.  We all saw it splash down!  It was great!
Then, back to work.  Drop off the trailer.  Pick up the car, and go home!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

PD Issues

As promised, here are my issues:

PD#1: He just needs more than I can give.  It just feels like I give and I give and I give, but he just won't be satisfied.  Why can't see see MY needs?  Why is it all about HIM?

PD#2: Use the "&" to run the model in the BACKGROUND!  You don't have to sit there at your desk the whole time it is running! Emacs!  Use emacs!  Not pico!!!!  Who uses pico???  (In case you don't know, pico is the editor for pine, which I am sure enlightens a lot of you!)

PD#3: Uh....  Hmmm.... Stop fixing the model and do some science?  Uh, I guess you can't do science with a crappy broken model that your adviser made.... Uh....

Ok, that was probably unsatisfying.  It was unsatisfying for me too.  I just want to rant and rant and rant, but I don't feel like I can/should....  I am mostly frustrated with PD#1 having intense personal issues, which I don't want to deal with.

I have to say that I don't have to "deal" with many personal issues at work, though.  I would say that 90% of the students/post docs that I have worked with have brought very little personal stuff to me.  Maybe it is because I am a super-dick and they can see the "I don't give a sh*t" tattoo just under my hairline.  Just kidding.  It is really tattooed across my left buttock.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Motivation in the Crapper

After something like 4 weeks of constant work, I feel like I have broken through.  Through what?  I don't know.  Perhaps I have broken through my motivation and now I can't do any work.  I slept in this morning a bit, took some pictures on the way to work, before starting to bike, and got to work at something like 9:30.  Very lazy.  It is now 10:30, and the only thing I have done is check e-mail.  I haven't even changed out of my biking clothes.  Very sad.

Now I am blogging.

Yesterday I feel like I accomplished something (this is unusual for me).  I got my Arduino microprocessor to take measurements from my temperature, humidity, and accelerometer sensors and write the data to a USB stick.  This may sound easy, but it is NOT!  I promise!  I have to get my cameras working today (i.e., the microprocessor has to turn the cameras on, then tell them to take pictures every 10 seconds).  This is all to avoid the real problem of getting the microprocessor to talk to my radios and GPS.  That is going to be problematic.  I am afraid.  Luckily, one of the students in my class is going through the same problem, so I am working with him to solve the communication issues.  See, professors don't just profess, we learn from the students too.  Especially as the students learn.  It is all about education!

I am definitely still having issues with Post Docs.  Large issues.  But, I will probably wait until tomorrow to blog about that.  I promise.  Tomorrow.

Until then, I will will try to motivate myself to put on my pants.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Greetings from the Other Side

I am 0.5 days into recovery from Caffeine addiction.  I can't do it! The cravings!  They are killing me!

And then, I found three Diet Mt. Dews in my office as I was leaving the office today.  Holy crap!  I am back on the Caffeine!  Three more days of addiction!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

15 Years

Today is CrabMama and my (unofficial) 15 year anniversary.  It is unofficial because we got married twice - the first time for financial reasons, the second time for love.  Well, the first time was for love too, but her financial aid forms were due, so it was motivated by money.  In celebration of our big day, we went to McDonald's and ate some french fries, got Chinese food, and watched a movie at home.  "Why McDonald's?" you ask.  Well, about 18 years ago, CrabMama worked at MD's.  I drover up to where she was working and asked her if she wanted to move in with me.  Oh, so romantic!  Last night, we went to the same MD's, sat in the same booth (actually, it has been renovated, so the booth doesn't exist anymore, but, we sat close), and ate french fries, just like we did 18 years ago.  The girl who served us wasn't born yet when we had this conversation that we were celebrating.  That was depressing.  Another sad thing is that both places that we worked when we first met don't exist anymore.

After snarfing our large fry, I happened to look down as the nutritional information.  That is some scary sh*t.  500 calories for a large fry! 25 grams of fat! Wow, it is good that we split it.

We next went to the Chinese restaurant close to our house and got some food.  CrabMama got steamed vegetables (what's the point?) and I got Kung Pao Chicken.  Hopefully this is a tiny bit more healthy that MD's, since there was nothing fried.  I only ate about 1/3 of it, too, since the portions were huge.  The restaurant was clearly designed for take out only.  Subway has more tables in it.  They decorated it with while wall paper.  No pictures.  No words.  No nothing.  Just white wallpaper.  Extremely uninviting.  (Just think about all of the valuable information that you are learning from this blog post!)

We watched "Amelia", which I thought was a pretty good movie, even though you knew the ending.  I didn't know much about her at all, except for the obvious things, so it was an educational experience.

Our official anniversary is in August, so we will probably do something more adventurous then.  We are actually planning on traveling out west for the month of August.  Since we are "discouraged" from paying ourselves for all three months of the summer, I have pretty much (notice the subtle qualifier) decided to take a month-long vacation.  One of the problems with this idea is that there are probably going to be all sorts of meetings and crap during August.  But, I will just miss them.  I can do that, right?

This week is spring break for the students (not for me!)  I am hoping that I can hole up and write some reports.  I have a bunch of them that all due right about now (just got an official overdue notice this morning!)  I think that there are three grant reports that all due right now.  Then I have a third revision of a review that I have to do (I told them that I didn't want to see it again, but they sent it anyways).  And I got two proposals to review from NSF this week (you get an e-mail from the program manager, not asking if you want to review it, but with instructions on how to download it and the review criteria.  Nice.)  So, more crap to do.

One of the problems that I am struggling with right now is how to keep track of all of the projects/stuff that I am working on right now.  I have been taking notes on some paper, but it doesn't feel very modern to do that.  I was going to get a lab folder, which I think would be good too, but I have so many things going on, that I should get one for each project.  A guy that I work with does it with a three-ring binder, paper, and tabs for the different projects.  This is probably the best idea that I have heard.  I was trying to think of something a bit more high tech, though.  I have EverNote, which seems to be pretty cool, but I have to play with it a bit more.  The main issue I have with computer note taking is that it seems sort of offensive to do this, since people automatically assume that you are checking e-mail or working on other things instead of taking notes.  It also feels more natural to take notes on paper.  So, I am considering taking notes on paper, then scanning them in with my fancy scanner and putting them into EverNote.  One cool thing about this idea is that I can scan images that my students/PostDocs bring me to look at.  Well, this is definitely a continuing adventure.

Short updates:

1. Children taking ice skating lessons at Veterans Park.  Highly recommend.  Very professional.  Very.

2. Still learning guitar.  Don't have much time for practice.  But learning.

3. Didn't work out at all last week.  Fail.  Fat.  Blob.  Sad.

4. Cold.  Snow.

5. Sleeping badly.

6. Twitchy eye due to stress.  I have been wearing glasses for the last few days because I can't see right.  I guess that is bad.

7. CrabGirl made us a cake for breakfast.  Marble cake with pudding frosting with brownies sprinkled on top.  Wow!

8. Pictures are mostly of trees and snow and things lacking in color.  We have about another month of this weather.  And then another month after that until it is actually "nice" outside.

9. I am going to give up Mt. Dew.  This is it.  Once the supply that I have right now runs out, I am done.  Bring on the Excedrin!

10. I think that I am going to make a doctor's appointment too.  It has been about seven years.

Enough for today.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


I must apologize for not posting in 2 weeks.  Things are getting a little crazy again.

It seems like we have shifted our schedule a bit.  I am getting to work later and staying later.  This means that when I get home, we eat pretty much right away, I read to the kids, and then we either practice guitar or we get ready for bed, depending on the time.  Most of the time, the kids are not ready for bed until 8:30 or 9:00, which sounds early, but it is rather late.  It seems like we have very little time at all to "relax" at night.

One of the issue that I am having is that I got a new camera, which is great, but it taking a while to learn all of the subtleties of downloading pictures and uploading them to the web.  I pretty much have given up on iPhoto, due to the fact that you can't "see" the pictures outside of iPhoto anymore (if you open up a finder window, the iPhoto Library no longer appears as a folder - it appears as a file, which means you can't walk through the pictures outside of iPhoto).  I started using the software that came with the camera, which allows you to download them into custom directories (I store mine in subdirectories of years then months, then year_month_day), which makes it very easy to find the pictures.  I then use Picasa to look at the pictures and upload them.  I don't like the way Picasa doesn't allow you to view all of the pictures as one library (which I never thought I would want to do... except when you take 5-6 pictures every day for a couple of weeks and you want to browse through them all.)  The camera software crashes all of the time, which means some nights it takes 30 minutes to upload pictures, which is problematic.  A lot of my relaxation time lately has been taken up by fighting with camera software.

If you want to see my photoblog, which is where I have been spending most of my time, it is at  While I would rather spend some time writing and such, the photoblog is somewhat easier to maintain, because there is little thought in the posting process, and I can do this when sitting on my *ss watching TV.

Another thing that I have been doing lately which has been taking a chunk of my time is working out.  We have a rowing machine, which I have been using pretty much every day for the last two weeks.  The sad thing is that I don't really think that it is helping at all.  I am pretty sure that I have gained five pounds in the last two weeks, and my stomach feels a little strange.  I could convince myself that this might mean that I am getting muscles in places that I have never had muscles before, but this would be a glass-half-full viewpoint, which is outside of my abilities.  I interpret as my body telling me that I shouldn't be working out and eating pizza is really the answer.  Mmmm, more pizza.

Anyways - that takes like 30 or so minutes in the morning.  So, I am down about 60 minutes total each day, due to the working out and the camera crap.  This makes it feel like I have less free time, which isn't really true, since I am just using my free time to do things.  It is funny how that works.

At work, things are absolutely freaking crazy.  Here are the proposals that I am currently working on:

1. A Major Research Instrumentation proposal for NSF.  Only three proposal from each university are allowed to be submitted, so I have written a proposal to the university to try to allow me to write a full proposal to NSF.  I just submitted this yesterday, and my associate dean just e-mailed saying that he thinks that I am asking for way too much money from NSF.  I am not sure that I understand this, since the maximum amount awarded will be $5M, while I am asking for $3.5M.  This seems quite reasonable to me, but he seems to thing $0.5M is the level we should be seeking.  I have to call NSF and ask some opinions about this.  Something I crossed off my todo list gets back on.  Crap.

2. A CyberPhysical proposal for NSF.  I am not the PI of this one, but am a Co-PI.  This is an interesting program - it is aimed at making computers work more autonomously.  Sort of.  Basically working on feedback algorithms that allow for the dynamic readjustment of things given the sensor readings.  It incorporates all sorts of things, such as brain surgery and brakes on cars.  Basically anything in which a computer and a system are involved.  We are proposing to develop an orbital prediction system that will work with many, many cubesats to better specify the upper atmospheric density allowing for more accurate collision avoidance.  It will be a big proposal involving a bunch of Co-PIs.

3. A CubeSat proposal for NSF.  This is due in May.  We are going to use RAX as a base-line mission, but measure the thermospheric density, like we are proposing in #2.  The NSF budget will be enough to build and launch a single CubeSat, which we will use to investigate the density structure in the thermosphere.  Which is a perfect lead in for...

4. An Explorer mission for NASA launching ~100 CubeSats, all of which will measure the thermospheric density.  We will then have global coverage of the thermosphere, which has never been done before.  It is taking NASA to a new level.  This proposal will be about $200M, and is due around a year from now.  It is super-scary.  I have never done anything like this before, and I am a bit intimidated by it.

5. I should mention that I am involved in at least one other NASA Explorer mission.

I am working with a student team who is helping me with mission concepts for #4.  They are also interested in helping write the proposal for the NSF CubeSat program.  At this point it is difficult to tell whether their assistance will be a help or a hindrance.  They have interesting ideas and are willing to do a lot of leg-work, but they don't have much experience doing this type of thing (i.e., blind leading the blind).  The meeting we had yesterday was the most interesting we have had, and I think that they are starting to go above the cost-benefit line.  I am hoping that this is a very positive sign.

I should also mention that this is the season for letters of support/recommendation.  I hate this aspect of my job.  Absolutely hate it.  There are some people that I can write extremely positive letters for in minutes, but the vast majority of letters take a good hour or two to write.  And most of the time, I am not really happy with them.  Considering how important the letters are, they really need to be perfect.  These letters really shape the person's life.  The vast majority of the students that we accept into graduate school are accepted because their letters are glowing.  Without those letters, they are simply a GPA - line them up in order and start taking people off the top.  This is not the best strategy for getting the best students.

Last week I got handed four papers to read.  Two from Post Doc #1, one from Post Doc #3 and one from Grad Student #1.  These require time also.  Some of them are fantastic and don't require any major changes, but at least one required doing some more simulations and changing things around a lot.  Which is the second time that we have majorly changed the paper.  It was quite disappointing for everyone involved.

Then Post Doc #2 has been making significant progress on the solver that she is working on.  But she has been having issues which she doesn't understand.  Last week I spent a couple of days working with her on the code, which is good because the code progress is accelerated significantly, but bad because I am so freaking busy.  But the results are so beautiful!  She is working on the only big issue left with my main code that I work with.  Once this aspect works, it will be on par or better than all of the models like it in the world.   I hired her specifically for this purpose, and it is paying off.

Then I have a lot of year end reports to write.  I have realized that I haven't gotten much of the science done, so I am scrambling to get SOMETHING to show.  So, over the last couple of days, I started some simulations to compare with data from systems like I am proposing to use in #1.  After two days of solid work on this, I have some pretty sweet results.  It is not much at this point, but they are really cool.  What they point to is that the atmosphere is significantly out of hydrostatic equilibrium almost all of the time.  Our model is the only one that doesn't assume hydrostatic equilibrium.  When we compare results, we have to multiply our vertical winds by a factor of 50 in order to match the measured winds.  This doesn't sound like good news at all - but it is!  It says that the atmosphere is MUCH further away from equilibrium than we have EVER thought.  It is amazing how badly we do, even using the most sophisticated techniques available.  We just don't understand this stuff at all!

Ok.  I should go.  This post is way too long already.

I guess this is the long answer to the question "where have you been?"

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Last Week or So

Well, a while has passed since I last posted, so I am behind, yet again.  Therefore, I will go a few mini-blog-posts that summarize what I have been up to.  These are in a random order.

Brother's Car Dies - Money to the Rescue

Well, the title pretty much tells the whole story.  My brother's car died - the timing belt broke.  In fact, the timing belt was due to be changed in 15,000 miles, so it broke very early.  Ah, Chrysler, what a wonderful (i.e., total sh*t) company.  It ended up costing about $50 to tow and $750 for the repair.  He didn't have the money, so I "loaned" it to him.  This was sort of sad, since we just paid off all of our credit cards about 2 days before this.  We were just talking about how we could save a little money and get ahead, and then we had to find some money for this.  It sort of depressed us for a bit.

NASA Meeting

Right now I am in Florida at a NASA meeting.  This is an interesting meeting, since we meet for about 8 hours a day, but we spread it out from 8-12 and then from 5-8, so we had a break from 12-5.  Because I am a workaholic, I thought that is was a great opportunity to get caught up on some work.  Well, that didn't turn out very well, because there were so many other meetings that I had to do while here.  And then, we had to get lunch each day.  The days end up being pretty long.  I will admit that it was 70-75 degrees each day, which is much better than the 10-15 degrees at home.  I will also admit that the meeting was much better than I expected it to be.  I found that I couldn't do very much work during the meeting because I was paying attention, which is a good sign for the meeting.

Last weekend I got to spend a bit of time with my sister down in Miami, which was very nice.  She took me to a country music festival, which was adventurous.  There were a ton of people there, and it was in a very casual setting - basically in a park, where you could plop down anywhere you wanted to.  I would say that 1 out of every 1 person was drunk.  Ok, maybe 1.9 out of 2 people were drunk.  All I am saying was that there was probably a mega-gallon of beer drunk.  Which makes it fun to watch people.  Here is one of the most interesting people I saw.  I don't think that I have ever seen a big dude with cut-off shorts and cowboy boots (well, maybe they were cowgirl boots...)  After the festival, I had a nice debate with my brother-in-law about college basketball vs. college football playoffs, and health care.

CrabBoy Hits 1/2 Puberty

One of the things we noticed when CrabGirl hit 7-8 years old, she started testing limits and became more emotional.  CrabBoy seems to be in that stage now.  The other night, as he was breaking down into tears, he exclaimed "You just don't understand!"  We tried our best not to laugh.  We are trying to figure out how to get through this little bump in the road.  I am sure it will pass soon.

iPod Causes Rift

CrabBoy is extremely jealous of CrabGirl, who saved enough money and got some help with Christmas to get an iPod touch.  I had the naive impression that she would use this to listen to music or audio books, but she ends up playing computer games on it almost exclusively.  This make CrabBoy nuts, because he wants a hand-held gaming system also.  CrabGirl is unwilling to share, which makes sense, but is "unfair" to him.  We'll been dealing with this issue a lot in the two weeks.

The USA Today

It is shocking to me that a newspaper that is distributed to people all of the United States of America could make very, very stupid mistakes.  Although it is pretty clear what is wrong with this chart, can you see it?  By my estimate, 112% of the people believe that the worst decade was the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s or 2000s.  That is a LOT of people.  Way more than half!  Indeed, of the 1,504 surveyed, 1684.5 of them answered the survey!  This seems more like an Afghanistan election than a survey!  I guess this shows the problem with the USA educational system.  Right on the front page.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Things That I Enjoy

I have noticed that a fair number of my blogs have a slightly negative ring to them. Some may say that I, perhaps, have a negative view on life. Others may claim that my glass has never been close to half empty. Well, for all of those who look upon me with sadness in their eyes for my sad, sad, state, let me just say that I am actually a relatively happy person (except for when I am not).  I do enjoy things.  I just don't enjoy blathering about them to people who would rather hear me bitch and complain (really, wouldn't you?)

But, I have come realize that I should be doing things more for me.  I should be out there on the front lawn, dancing my white *ss off to Katy Perry.  I shouldn't hide my head in shame, drowning in sorrow, listening to The Cure.  So, that is what I am going to do.  It is a new day!  Let us proceed!

Things that I enjoy:

1. Sex.  Enough on that subject, since my mother reads this blog.  Moving on.

2. Music.  I tend to be on the safe side with music.  I don't do a lot of buying music that I have never heard before, just to try it out.  That is because I am a cheap *ss bastard.  Just ask my wife.  Luckily, one of the benefits of being a Professor (besides being able to profess!) is having graduate students who listen to music that was made after 1983 (read, The Police, Synchronicity).  I now listen to such groups as The Fray and all of that depressing crap.  My daughter loves (LOVES) Katy Perry.  It is literally the only thing on her iPod Touch.  I have to say that the sh*t really make me want to shake some tail when played at higher decibels.  I would like to start listening to the Blues more.  Any recommendations?

3. Playing with technology crap.  I love my new HTC Hero phone (Google Inside!).  I love figuring out how to build robots and program them.  I love coding.  I love teaching my class about balloons and my other class about rockets.  I am an Uber-Geek.

4. I enjoy saying the word "Uber".  I guess this word means "Super" in Latin.  (The internets whispered this in my ear.  If you read it on one site, it must be true.  Uber-Smart.)

5. I love biking.  But it is hard to bike when you are fat and lazy.  My bike is sitting in my office, because I vowed I would take time at lunch to go riding.  That worked for 2 days.  So, if you are keeping score, it is Fat and Lazy 97 days and Biking 2 days.  I seem to be doing almost as well as Michigan's Football team.

6. I love eating.  Hmmm.  This is direct conflict with #5.  No wonder I hate myself.  Too much inner turmoil.  What do I enjoy eating, you ask?  Well, that is a good question.  I am an amazingly picky eater ( I wonder where Crab Girl gets this?), but my list of foods that I will eat is expanding.  Obviously, ice cream is up there at number 1.  Candy bars come in there pretty high too. (Now you are seeing where the fat and lazy come from, eh?)  On the good food side, I like.... uh... ketchup?  Oh, here, I got one - oatmeal!  That has to be good for you, right?  Bananas!  Another one! (Although Crab Mama would like to outlaw Bananas because they have travelled something like 15 times around the globe to reach us and are only a nickel a pound.  Something is not right there, and she doesn't like it.  Besides, any fruit that can NOT be grown locally has got to be evil.)  I could go on all day about food, but, you get the idea.

7. I love making lists.  It makes me feel like I am doing something productive, but really I am not.  Like right now.

8. I like watching movies and TV.  I like watching the first season of a TV show, when you are totally naive about how sh*tty the show really is.  I could name a few shows like this, but I won't embarrass myself by admitting that I watch (as my step-father so aptly put it) crap TV.  With movies, I made the mistake of letting Crab Mama control our Netflix Queue.  We just got Thirty Something Season 1, Disk 3.  Ok, if this isn't crap TV, WTF is?  Come on, can't we at least get some BSG?  But, there really is GOOD TV out there (and I am not talking about educational TV).  For example, 30 Rock has to be one of the funniest shows ever made.  The one where they do a parody of Amadeus is just unbeilable.  Arrested Development is also insanely funny.  

9.  I love traveling.  (That is a lie.  Everyone says that they love traveling, so I put it there just to fit in.)

10.  I like reading to my kids.  I sometimes complain about this vehemently, especially when I am super busy.  But, I really enjoy doing it.

11. Just because I can't end on a sappy note, and #9 didn't really count, I will include another love of mine for your reading pleasure.  I love sleeping.  And, I have to say, I am good at it too.  I spend a good 1/3 of my life sleeping, and I love every single second of it.  I would do it more if it wasn't for work.  And everything on this list.  The only bad thing about sleep now, is that I am getting old, and when I get out of bed, my bones crack.  I get stiff in bed (not that kind stiff, you sick perverts), and can't stay in bed for more than about 8 hours without my back aching.  How sad is that???

So, in summary, I am old, fat, lazy, like to sleep, listen to chick dance music, rot my brain with bad TV, and I am an Uber-Nerd.  It is amazing that #1 is even an option.

It is great to be alive!


I finished one of my proposals and the four letters of recommendation.  Starting on the next proposal, that my boss wants by today.  Hmmm....  Maybe not.

While I don't feel like I can breathe yet, I feel like I can see the surface.  Is there light up there?

Maybe I can spend five minutes to throw away some of the crap that has accumulated in my office over the last couple of weeks.  Oh, and fill out my travel reimbursement for the meeting I attended last month.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

On Ice

The sun was out yesterday!  Today the sun is also out!  It is amazing.  It was so bright yesterday that we were motivated to DO thing.  Well, not really important things, but things.

We had decided that the kids should take an ice skating class that started yesterday.  Crab Mama called the ice skating rink and asked them about the class including whether there was space.  They responded that they thought there was space.  We went to the rink and it turns out that the class was way overfull.  There was no way that they could take the class.  Nice.

We returned home and decided to skate on the pond, which meant that we have to move a bunch of snow.  I did that for a long time.  There are a few very flat spots on the pond, but the majority of it has lots of bumps in the ice.  There are even some sticks and bits of grass sticking up out of the ice.  Makes for adventurous ice skating!  Today we are going to try to hose off the area a bit to see if we can level it out a bit.  We shall see what a disaster that brings.

At work, all hell is breaking loose.  I have a huge amount of crap to do.  I have four reports that are due at NASA and NSF.  I have two letters of recommendation to write for students who I don't really know.  I also have a proposal due this week and two proposals that are due in a couple of weeks that I am not the PI of, but the people who are the PI are obsessive and want input on them 24 hours a day.  We have meetings to talk about them, then drafts ever couple of days that we are expected to read.  I don't think that I am actually going to see a nickle of the money, so my motivation to help is in the toilet.  I have to teach my class.  And, finally, looking at the reports that are due, and the severe lack of progress on anything that I am actually supposed to do, I should be doing some science.

I read my activity report from last year on one of my grants and thought - wow, I did some cool things last year.  Hmmmm..... not so much this year.

This leads me back to the thoughts on what my expectations are for the Post Docs that work for me.  In theory, I should be accomplishing three times as much as I did last year, since I have three "Post Docs" working for me right now.  This is sadly not the case at all.  I think that my productivity actually went down this last year.

My post from a few weeks ago about giving up and letting others do the science implies that they will actually get the science done and publish papers and such.  I am probably impatient about this stuff, but it seems like progress is extremely slow, and not much is actually being accomplished.  This is very frustrating to me, since I have the ultimate responsibility for the projects that we are working on.

Ok, I am going to StFU about this subject now.

I am out.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

More Palindrome Days

Thinking about this last night after posting, I realized how fortunate I am to think about yesterday being a palindrome, because they are quite rare.  We are actually in a time of almost unprecedented palindrome dates!  What a great time to be alive!

I imagine that you are saying to yourself, who gives a rats *ss.  Well, my friends, you would be foolish to say something like that - especially in the presence of children!  Let me tell you why.

In this century, there are only 11 palindrome days:

October 2, 2001  (20011002)
January 2, 2010  (20100102)
November 2, 2011 (etc)
February 2, 2020
December 2, 2021
March 2, 2030
April 2, 2040
May 2, 2050
September 2, 2090

This same series of days happens in 21xx, except the date is the 12th day of the month, and in 22xx, with the 22nd day of the month.  After these three groups, we have to wait until 30011003 (October 3rd, 3001) for another date!  That is 700+ years!

If we go backwards, we don't find a palindrome day until August 31, 1380!  That means it was 621 years since the last palindrome day before the one in 2001.  We live in a pretty unique time!

The best palindrome day was obviously November 11th, 1111.  Did anyone notice this date at the time?  How about the one in 111?  There won't be another single digit one until November 11th, 11111.  The next coolest will be November 12, 2111.  If medicine improves dramatically, some of us could actually be there for it.  Well, probably not - 141 years is a pretty long life, by any stretch of the imagination.  So, in my life, I will be luck to see seven palindrome days.  Most people see zero.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Today's date is a palindrome!  20100102!  Funky!

Mid-Life Something

I woke up at 4 AM a few mornings, and nearly had a panic attack.  I was thinking about death.  I know that this won't come as a shock to most of you, but I don't believe that there is an afterlife.  That means that when you die, you are dead.  Like, there is nothing after death.  That fact is really, really, depressing.  In N years, I will cease to exist.  We all will.

To me, this is sort of horrifying for the following reasons:

1.  What is going to happen?  What will my children be like?  What about my grandchildren?  What will cars be like?  Will we ever get back to the moon?  To Mars?  Beyond?  What is the world going to be like in 100 years?  In 1000 years?  I want to know.  And I won't.  Some of these I might know, but most of them, I won't.  That is sad to me.

2. What is the point?  If you are going to die anyways, what is the point to everything that we are doing?  If you take a short view, it makes no real sense.  If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, would you go to work today?  I think not.  What if it was next year?  How long would you work for?  At what point do you say screw it to work and go out and enjoy life?  In many ways this isn't practical, because you have to eat; but it really says that you should do something that you love.  Or, maybe take it a little less seriously.  This is very hard to do, though.

3.  You could take the selfish attitude and basically do all self-fulfilling stuff.  Why not?  If you are going to die anyways, why not just enjoy life to the fullest?  On the other hand, by doing some work, we can make life more pleasant for people around us and for our children and their children.  How do you balance your own happiness with the happiness of the people around you and your offspring?

I have been thinking about memories of people too.  How long will I be remembered?  I have not really done anything of substance in my life.  My students will remember me for a while.  My kids will obviously remember me for a long time.  I publish papers.  The oldest paper that I have ever referenced is probably from the 1960s, implying that papers before this are not really read very much, and that 30-40 years is the lifespan of even the most read papers.  If grandchildren will be the longest lasting memory of me, then perhaps they will remember me about 30-40 years after I die.  After that, who will ever even know that I existed?  So, from birth to death, to the end of remembrance, a life-time is perhaps 100-130 years.  Even with a headstone in a graveyard, the oldest ones are only 150-200 years old.  After that, they are even too weathered to read.  The people are completely gone.  Once again, sad.

These are the thoughts that kept me awake.  Actually, it was mostly that I am going to cease to exist.  That scares the sh*t out of me.

Happy New Year!