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!