Friday, December 16, 2011

Punk Rock Friday - Mommy's Little Monster

From the great documentary - Another State of Mind - here is a nice video from 1983 of Social Distortion playing Mommy's Little Monster in Winnipeg, Canada.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Work Work, Zug Zug

Sorry all, I have been traveling for work - gallivanting across the US presenting my work at a conference.  Drinking free beer, being jet-lagged, and missing my family.  Previous to that, I was busting my butt to finish that work.  Then I got a nasty cold from all the dumb, germy people who go on planes right when I get back home. I will have a post up on the recent CERN results on the finding the Higgs boson later today.  EDIT: Actually, for some reason it appeared below this one... blogger has weird freaking software on the backend I guess... very confusing.

PS - I was in San Francisco when the Mythbusters shot a cannon ball into someones house on accident.  Coincidence or not - you decide????

Searching for the Higgs boson - new LHC results

Some of you may have heard that 2 of the experiments at CERN (the European particle collider built to find the Higgs boson).

So, what is the Higgs boson?  Well, in the standard model of particle physics, the Higgs boson is the particle which couples to everything else and gives those particles mass.  It is a strange notion of quantum field theory and may be difficult to understand.  Basically, the language of particle physics is quantum field theory.  Quantum field theory tells us interactions between particles are mediated by bosons.  For a more concrete example, electromagnetic interactions are mediated by photons (the interaction (or gauge) boson of quantum electrodynamics - the quantum field theory that describes electromagnetic interactions).  So, when two like charges repel each other - they two charges are exchanging a bunch of photons to accomplish that interaction.  I hope that helps in some way.

Here is a summary of particle interactions in the standard model:

There is a great video put out by Fermilab (a US particle physics lab) on searching for the Higgs and how it is done:

So, recent results by two different experiments at CERN, ATLAS and CMS, both have constrained the mass of the Higgs to a much smaller region.  CMS gives the limits of 115-127 GeV/c² and ATLAS gives the limits of 116-131 GeV/c². 

For those with a little more interest here are some plots from Sean Carrol's blog (he borrowed from others, so follow the trail down the rabbit hole if you like!).

 Here are the ATLAS preliminary results:
And the CMS preliminary results:
The way you read these plots is this: Any time the black dotted line dips below 1 on the vertical scale, these mass regions for the Higgs are excluded.  Anytime the black line dotted line rises above the yellow shaded region, there is increased confidence the Higgs may be hiding in there.

ATLAS is seeing a peak at approximately 126 GeV/c², while CMS is observes a peak at about 124 GeV/c².

Guido Tonelli, the Spokesperson for CMS said this at the CERN Higgs Seminar:
"…we observe in our data a modest excess of events between 115 and 127 GeV that appears, quite consistently, in five independent channels. The excess is most compatible with a SM Higgs hypothesis in the vicinity of 124 GeV and below, but the statistical significance (2.6 sigma local and 1.9 sigma global after correcting for the LEE in the low mass region) is not large enough to say anything conclusive."

While Fabiola Gianotti, the ATLAS Spokesperson said this (also at the CERN Higgs Seminar):
"We observe an excess of events around m_H ~ 126 GeV:   local significance of 3.6 sigma, with contributions from the  H –>2 gammas (2.8 sigma), H –> ZZ –>4l (2.1 sigma), H –> WW –> lvlv (1.4 sigma), SM Higgs expectation: 2.4 sigma local –> observed excess compatible with signal strength, the global significance (taking account Look-Elsewhere-Effect) is ~2.3 sigma"

So, the big take away is that the LHC is closing in on the Higgs, but there is still a lot of data to collect next year.  It should also be noted that the LHC just finished the 2011 runs about 6 weeks ago.  So these results are very preliminary, but also very promising!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Toys I want for Christmas

So, I was thinking about Christmas gifts last night for my kids.  Which led to thinking of stuff I want.  I really like buying my kids toys, because they are just so damn cool.  Plus, I am bigger than them and can make them share them with me.  Because, you know I am just a big kid anyways.  And I am mean.

My wife knows this, which is why she bought me a giant 2.5 foot wide Millennium Falcon as a special gift when my daughter was born.  Why would I get a gift, you ask?  Because I was such an awesome husband during her pregnancy - taking care of the house and our son, so she could be a little less miserable.  So, here is what she got me:
From Amazon
Yeah, that is right, it is over 2 and a half feet long and it is awesome!

Anyways, so what would be on my Christmas list if I was rich and awesome and didn't actually need things - cool toys of course.

Keeping in the Star Wars theme, I would go with this next:
While tactically the worst possible design for a troop transport - I dig the AT-AT.
 Then, maybe the electronic Boba Fett helmet, cause Fett is Bad (yeah, bad with a capital B):
Pew pew, then blast off with my jet pack!
To class the joint up a bit - some sweet ice cube trays:
When I am drinking my whiskey, I would pretend Han is getting drunk with me too!
Now, some weaponry to accompany my drunken self with my Boba Fett helmet on (because we all know that would happen):
It shoots 35 feet!  No one would be safe in my house!

And for when things really get out of control:
A rubber band gun shaped like an AK-47 - YES PLEASE!
So, am I missing anything?

Also, does anyone have any good board game recommendations?  The wife and I want to restock our board games (we lost a bunch in the floods).  Needs to be able to be played by 2 players - something strategic and fun is what I am thinking.  Was thinking about Dominion.. any thoughts from the interwebz people?  Thanks in advance.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving - the aftermath

12 Days 2008 - Turkey Sacrifice
Turkey Sacrifice by flikr user gusset (used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Great title, is it not?

So, I have been very far away from reading and writing blogs lately.  Sorry about that.  Busy with trying to get work finished before our Thanksgiving famication to Wisconsin.  Yep just made that word famication up.  No, it is not a vacation.  Since I spend all my time trying to relax but never getting to because I have to drive to or from some family members house every day.  I don't know why I bother flying home, I spent a total of 10 hours in cars driving to different family members' homes for a 6 day visit.

When I first got married I thought it was nice that my in-laws lived an hour from my parents.  Thank you world for clearing that misconception up.

Actually other than the usual holiday family insanity, it was a great trip.  I spent a lot of time with friends I haven't seen in a long time and got to catch up.  I also got to party like the rock star that I am.  Let me explain.

So, Thanksgiving Day I had our celebration with my in-laws at my mother-in-laws house.  My last visit with her was a disaster.  I thought I did, but I never really went into it on here like I had planned.  The quick and dirty of it is that she blew up at me about something that was not my doing (actually her daughter, my wife's fault) then proceeded to basically say she doesn't like me, never has.  In my ever mature nature, I let her know the same thing right back with a few fuck yous thrown in for good measure.  It basically ended with me conceding that I need to be more thankful to her and her conceding nothing.  Win some, lose some.  Oh well.

So, I was more than a little nervous about this visit. It went fine (from my point of view anyway).

Ain't no party like a communist party!
I don't know... it's funny. Photo by flikr user wisze (used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
After Thanksgiving Day, we drove up to my parents to celebrate my birthday.  Which was a blast!  My brother and his wife and kids came over.  The kids sang happy birthday to me, we had cake, a good time was had by all.  My parents watched the kids in the evening while Beautiful Wife and I went out for a few beers with my brother and my best friend.  The four of us met out at an Irish pub where a good friend of mine was singing and playing guitar.  We drank and were merry til 3 am... Yes, I partied like a rock star till 3 am.  3.A.M

I haven't seen 3 AM without a sick kid in 5 years. I was hurting on Saturday.  Especially when Turkey Day round 2 started at 10 am with family showing up. Ouch.

After a turkey lunch I had dinner plans.  One of my best friends from college married a girl this summer from my neck of the woods, so BW and I got to get together for dinner.  It was great seeing a great old friend.  And I got out of the house sans kidlets 2 nights in a row.  That also hasn't happened in over 4 years.  It was great.

The next morning we did Christmas for the kids with my family since they won't see them on Christmas.  We do Thanksgiving instead of Christmas these days because it is just easier.

So, for you folks keeping track at home.  Those 4 days consisted of: Thanksgiving, Birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas.

Can I just skip holidays/celebrations for a few months...  Please?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Haiku Monday - Ode to DST

Damn you DST!

Ode to DST
Daylight Savings Time
Darkness envelopes my evenings
Who needs light at 6? 

EDIT:  I spelled Haiku wrong in the title... I guess that is about as good of a ringing endorsement for the topic as any.  WOW, I need an editor.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Punk Rock Fathers - the other F word & Punk Rock Friday

A possibly really great documentary is coming out called The Other F-word:
Shamelessly stolen from their Facebook page.
It is an exploration of how men, who grew up saying fuck off to authority, are now fathers and have to deal with raising a child.  How they rectify fatherhood with their so-called punk rock beliefs.  It looks at some pretty big names in the punk rock world with interviews, from the road and home, and examines all of their different attitudes, parenting styles, and beliefs on parenting.

From their website:
"The Other F Word is a raucous, eye-opening, sad and unexpectedly wise look at veteran punk rockers as they adapt to the challenges of fatherhood. To be sure, watching foul- mouthed, colorfully inked musicians attempt to fit themselves into Ward Cleaver's smoking jacket provides for some consistently hilarious situational comedy, but the film's deeper delving into a whole generation of artists clumsily making amends for their own absentee parents could strike a resonant note with anyone (punk or not) who's stumbled headfirst into family life."

- Andrew Barker, Variety

Wow, seems right up my alley!  Being the punk rock father and scientist that I am.  I am very excited to try and see this.  I will likely have to wait a very long time as they are only screening in NYC and LA right now.  And to that I say Fuck You Hollywood.  One would think that a movie about punk rock might try and be a little more DIY with distribution.  But, alas, it is still done by non-punk people.  At least the production was done independent and that means no big movie studio trying to make it Hollywood.

So for Punk Rock Friday, I present songs by two of the father's featured in the film.

The first (actually two) is by Bad Religion, whose singer Greg Graffin is featured in the film. Graffin was originally from my home state (Wisconsin) and spent part of his youth there.  He has two kids and has been the front man for Bad Religion since 1979 (He's old!).

Here are two version of Sorrow by Bad Religion:

Live in 2009


Next up is Duane Peters, legendary punk rocker and professional skater.  Peters 20 year-old son Chess (Chelsea) Peters was killed in a car accident on July 6, 2007.  A horrible, unthinkable thing to have happen.  Duane put out a whole record of songs for his son.  We are not going to go that route, because it makes me a little misty eyed.  There is real grief in that record and it hits home for me for some reason.

So I present to you (one of) my favorite US Bombs song,  Jaks

The Painful Truth of xkcd

Nothing like a geek comic make me feel old:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Potty Training Blues

The potty
Photo by Flickr user AmberStocel (CC  BY-ND 2.0)

Poop is all over the house these days... not much has really changed since I wrote back in July about a potty misadventure.

Well at least that is the way it feels to me.  Sweet Little Hellion is two and a half now.  She has been potty training steadily these past 2 months.  Overall it is going okay.  At school she is a rock star.  At home, it is very hit or miss.  The at home part is largely parenting fail.  With Little Berserker Spawn (4 year old boy) potty training was pretty on point.  He was first born and his sister was still an infant.  I like infants.  They make funny faces, they snuggle and they don't talk back, hit, bite, scream, or whine.  At least not as much as a 2 year old does...

Our lives are just too insane and we cannot give SLH all the attention for potty training she needs.  She is also so very easy going, that things like a giant turd sandwich in her Dora undies don't bother her much...

It has been bringing me increasing frustration these past 2 weeks.  There is nothing I find worse then poop-filled underwear.  I don't mind diapers or poopy diapers.  Not a big deal to me at all.  But having to clean out underwear... disgusting.  And SLH knows that it frustrates me.  She feels bad about it.  Which makes me feel awful for being such a selfish jackhole.

So as a first step in trying to get her along the road to diaper-less bliss, we are trying to get her to just tell us she has poopy pants.  And when she tells me, I force a smile and lay on the praise for telling me.  She asks me if I am happy in her little angelic voice, "Daddy happy?"  And I respond that I am happy she told me and that next time let's use the potty!

That is right, I have to tell my two and a half year old daughter that I am happy about her poopy underwear...
Potty training kids, just got easier?
Oh yeah, potty training is all stickers, smiles, bunnies and bears.  Photo credit: flicker user byte

Going along with the whole poop motif I have going on... what can I say - I am pure C-L-A-S-S!  SLH has this horrible timing issue of her bowels.  She poops every morning 2 minutes before we need to leave the house for daycare and work...  E V E R Y  M O R N I N G...  It doesn't matter when I try to leave.  It doesn't matter what day of the week.  I could try and trick her and leave for work an hour earlier... she would have the brown stinkies...

Did I mention I am the sole adult responsible for the morning (mis)adventures of getting to daycare?  BW leaves before us because she works much further away.  The kids go to daycare just down the block from my office, so I am the head honcho for mornings.  YEAH FOR ME ON MORNING TURD DUTY!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Haiku Monday - Halloween!

All hallows eve, YAR!
A pirate and a clone say
More candy please, Dad
From (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Punk Rock Friday - New Direction by the Gorilla Biscuits

By Andy McKay [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

What do you mean it's time
Time for me to grow up?
I don't want any part
It's right to follow my heart
The new kids ran
Ran out the back door fast
And the bands that came before
They had their noses in the air
Pretending that they cared about our scene
Just because our money's green
I'll tell you stage dives
Make me feel more alive
Than coded messages in slowed down songs

Now you're so ashamed
Now I'm so ashamed of you
We believed the same things
You stand to the side
Rebirth of hardcore pride
It all came true
Too bad you can't see
All the good things that I see

Back in, back in the days
when I'd wait tosee the old bands play
It didn't seem like wasted days
I was so sincere, but now I see more clearly
Music's only work to them. It's not to me
So I say, hats off to bands that change
Good luck, go your own way 
Why play for us, if your heart's not in it? 
Cause what might seem dumb to you
is pounding in my heart.

Now you're so ashamed,
Now you're so ashamed of you
We believed the same things.
You stand to the side
Rebirth of hardcore pride
It all came true
Too bad you can't see
No, you just can't fucking see it.

Now you just turn your back
You said I don't want it anymore
Old friends you attack
Our pain out of touch. You don't get it do you?
New stage, new ideas.
You don't have to make excuses for us
Sitting there looking back, I'm scared
Don't spoil memories of the way things

Monday, October 24, 2011

Haiku Monday - Wrong Age

Picture Credit: James Vaughan, CC BY-SA 2.0
Wrong Age
Simple life for me
Kids are better than adults
Gray is for the weak

Good luck deciphering this one people... well it is really not all that deep, I am just sort of mentally slow and prone to thinking much too highly of myself.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Stupid People

One of my favorite things in life is the whole notion of the Darwin AwardsThe Darwin Awards salute the improvement of the human genome by honoring those who accidentally remove themselves from it...

Taken from their website:
In the spirit of Charles Darwin, the Darwin Awards commemorate individuals who protect our gene pool by making the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives. Darwin Award winners eliminate themselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner, thereby improving our species' chances of long-term survival. 
 They were started by Wendy Northcutt and have evolved into an annual book.  There are some real gems out there - like the one where two professional racecar mechanics put methanol in a 55 gallon drum and tried to ride it like Wile E. Coyote.

But, I bring to you today someone who just missed the cut for the Darwin Awards:

Monday, October 17, 2011

Haiku Monday - No Coffee?

No Coffee?
Truly horrible event
No work coffee on Monday? 
 Brain weeps like fall leaves

Friday, October 14, 2011

Cancer and the Sword of Damocles

PreScript - buy this shirt - band back together is a great website and cause. 
Plus, Aunt Becky rules.
Let me just say, cancer is bullshit.

My wife is a cancer survivor.  You can read more about it on my first blog (re)post here: Horror Show.  The short(ish) story of it is thus: 8 months or so after we were married, my wife was diagnosed with malignant melanoma (a typically deadly form of skin cancer), the same cancer her father died of 6 months before.  Very scary. She had surgery and has been cancer free for 5 years now.  Unlike cancer, being a cancer survivor is awesome.

Sword of Damocles, 1812, oil painting on canvas. Richard Westall

But, the trauma of having cancer takes it toll.  I liken it to the parable of the Sword of Damocles.   Damocles was a bit of a brown noser back in Greece in the day, and was sucking up to his king, saying how lucky the king was to be surrounded with so much beauty, wealth, and wisdom.  His king asked him if he wanted to change places and Damocles jumped at it.  The king gave up his royal throne to Damocles.  The catch was that the wise king hung a sword above the throne, suspended point down by only a thin hair.  Damocles soon begged the king to trade back.

So, kicking cancer's ass is great.  But that nagging feeling is always with my wife that it will come back.  That sword is always hanging over her.  Every day.  Anything that is out of the ordinary for her body results in an evening of worry and a trip to the doctor the next morning.  She is worried about leaving me to raise 2 kids alone.  Leaving her kids motherless.  It is hard on her.  Really hard on her.

For me, it is stress.  She gets worked up, I try to remain calm, try not to worry.  Just last night, she found a lump in her shoulder.  It was like a big, inflamed lymph node on top of her shoulder.  Crazy lymph nodes is a sign of cancer.  My wife was freaking out.  All last night.  I was freaking out, but I couldn't show it.  Plus I have to be the voice of reason and try and tell her not to worry, we don't know what the hell it could be.  Also, I usually need time to digest things and understand where I fall with them and how I want to deal with them.  When things are sprung on me, I typically am not very comforting.  I usually need to sleep on them, let both my conscious and subconscious minds gnaw on it for a while, before I feel at ease to talk about it and deal with it.

So, Beautiful Wife went to the doctor this morning.  Well, it turns out to be a very normal thing.  A Lipoma - a fatty, benign tumor.  About 1% of the population has them and they are typically not treated unless they start to cause problems or start growing rapidly.

So, the sword hasn't fallen, but it is sure still hanging up there...

Punk Rock Friday - Harry Bridges by Rancid

Back in my much more glamorous days of fronting a punk band, one of the main themes I wrote about was the class divide in the US.  So, in that vain I present to you Harry Bridges by Rancid:
Live Version from '94 (great concert footage, decent sound) Album version (better sound) For anyone interested here is the wiki page for Harry Bridges and Blood Thursday (referenced in the first line of the song).

You can probably guess where I fall on the political spectrum, but I respect all opinions given the person respects mine.  So, feel free to discuss.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

5 year old Lego Star Wars Movie

"You are too short to be a stormtrooper!"   (explore)
Image courtesy of flikr user The mofoJT

A great little stop action Lego Star Wars Movie.  It is filled with pew-pew awesomeness.  A great reminder of being a kid.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

6 Ton NASA Satellite Falling From the Sky

Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), credit NASA MSFC
Sometime near Friday, September 23, 2011, the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) will crash back to Earth.  UARS helped to define the role of the upper atmosphere in climate and climate variability, by measuring ozone and chemical compounds found in the ozone layer which affect ozone chemistry and processes.  UARS also helped characterize winds and temperatures in the stratosphere as well as the energy input from the Sun.  All of these helped better understand our upper atmosphere and Earth's climate.

It turns out that the this huge satellite may have some pieces which reach ground level.  Sounds exciting!  Don't touch though. ran an article about how FEMA is on alert for any issues.  You can read it: FEMA Prepared for Dead NASA Satellite's Plunge to Earth This Week.

From the article, 
Numerically speaking it comes out to a chance of 1 in 3,200 that one person anywhere in the world might be struck by a piece of debris. "So those are actually, obviously, very, very low odds that anything — anybody is going to be impacted by this debris," Johnson added.
Pretty small odds indeed... unless you are the person that gets hit... actually, I think that seems like very large odds.  Given that 2/3 of the planet is covered by water, that number seems ridiculously high... anyone else have any thoughts about it?

EDIT: Thought I would update the article with my comment below in case someone doesn't read the comment.  The 1 in 3200 is integrated over the entire world population.  The odds for any individual is 1 in 2.1E13 or 1 in 21 Trillion.  Very small odd indeed.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Those darn kids... and Punk Rock Friday

I have a few fun stories to share along with some quality punk rock to start your weekend.  Stories first:

So, Sweet Little Helion (my 2 year old daughter) loves the color yellow.  Maybe loves is an incorrect description - she is slightly obsessed with it.  She searches out yellow cars and houses when we drive, then smiles and points them out to everyone.  And you must acknowledge the yellow.  She would live in her yellow butterfly shirt every day if I didn't tear it off her body to wash it - to the tears and rage that only a toddler can produce.  So, the other night Beautiful Wife is upstairs putting SLH to bed and they were chatting a bit.  She asked SLH what color she would paint her room if she had the choice, expecting full well that she would hear 'Yellow!' in her sweet little toddler voice which sounds closer to her saying 'Lellow'.  Instead, SLH responds with 'Black.' in this deadpan, matter of fact way.  Weird little kids.

So, last night I am walking past SLH's room an hour after her bedtime and I hear her singing 'I love yellow, I love yellow' over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.  She just repeated her yellow mantra for like 5 minutes.  I think we are going to have to start a yellow cult or something...
Lalibela, Ethiopia - Man in saffron robe
All pray to the all mighty YELLOW! Photo by mexikids at Flickr

Ok maybe not... I am too light skinned to wear that much yellow anyway... SLH will be devastated.

On another note, the other morning BW was getting ready for work, SLH was playing on the floor and Little Berserker Spawn, our 4 year old son, was sitting on our bed watching some news and eating some cheerios.  BW had done something a little new with her hair that morning and I thought it looked really nice, so I said, "I really like your hair."  Now, LBS wanted to also complement her, but did not want to copy me so he said, "Mommy, I really like yourrrrr... underwear!"  I burst out laughing and BW was very kind and gracious, and said, 'Thank you, LBS.' While shooting the crazy laughing eyes at me.  HAHAHAHA!  To be fair, she was getting dressed and didn't have her pants on yet.

Punk Rock Friday - the Ramones
So, in honor of my funny kids I present to you for Punk Rock Friday their favorite songs: Do You Remember Rock N Roll Radio?  and Rock N Roll High School.  They Rock N Roll Radio is LBS' favorite while SLH switches between the two.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Domestic Enemies of the Working Dad

I am a working father.  Worse even, I am a postdoc and a father.  A postdoc is like a graduate student - chained to their work, but worse - you don't get any points just for trying anymore.  You have graduated - it is time to get RESULTS!  Nothing matters but results - and journal articles.  Really, only journal articles.  Actually,  journal articles where you are first author.  Nothing else really matters.

Except, I am married with kids.  Little people who fawn over me, adore me, loving me to the bottom of their souls.  Little people who just want to play with their dad, sit in his lap, have him pay attention to them.  And you know what, I love them so much.  I adore every little drawing they make, every rock they give me, every silly story they tell me.  I love that they love me.  I love that they love to be with me.

So, in honor of them, I write this piece.  This is inspired by the hilarious women over at Rants from Mommyland who have a whole series of Domestic Enemies articles.  They are awesome, hilarious, and truthful.  You should read them!

I present to you the domestic enemies of the working dad.

Daycare Mommies
I am the primary parent who handles daycare.  I get them ready in the morning, I drop them off, I pick them up,  It is the situation our family is in.  BW works across the bridge-tunnel.  Yes you hear right - it is both a bridge and a tunnel under the water.  Yes, it gets annoying to be the one 'on call' all the time.  But I also get to be the one to get that last hug and kiss, to be the first one to see them after daycare.  But what annoys me are the Daycare Mommies.  You know, the ones who think it is just "so CUTE that Daddy is in charge of doing the daycare thing.  And oh my, you even did your daughter's hair, well isn't that just so special?"  You know what, just because I have a penis doesn't mean I am not a full-time parent.  Yes, I dress them and do their hair.  I have a daughter and that means I have to do the pigtails or braids or whatever she wants that day.  (Or what I decide is feasible with the nanoseconds left before we have to leave).  Why does it matter if it is Mom or Dad who does this?  And no, their mother is not sick or taking the day off - I do this 5 times a week, 52 weeks a year.  Just shut up already.  Please.

Daycare Parties
I love my kids and if I could, I would not send them to daycare.  Or let me rephrase that.  I would not send them to daycare everyday.**  So, when you the daycare teachers schedule a party every other week along with a freaking field trip every month - I get annoyed.  Yes my job is flexible.  But no, I don't get vacation time.  Sorry, not in the postdoc world.  So, I REALLY don't want to hear how EVERYONE else's Mom (or Dad) is going to the circus.  Why the hell am I paying you to take me and my kid to the circus?  So, no, I cannot always just drop everything and stop by in the middle of the afternoon for an hour or two for your special "Springtime Under the Sea" party.  If I had extra time at work - I would LEAVE EARLY and take my kids home to hang out with me and play hide and seek or something fun...

Oh and nevermind trying to leave after the party to go back to work.  Talk about extreme meltdown...
Car Service People
This is a big time pet peeve of mine... no, you cannot keep my car overnight.  No, it is not possible.  My wife works an hour away and I have to pick up the kids.  If you don't fix my car we are stranded.  Didn't I just tell you my wife works an HOUR AWAY.  It is already 4pm.  Nevermind traffic.  GIVE ME MY CAR BACK.

If you are going to call a meeting, at least accomplish SOMETHING. I don't have time to waste chit-chatting about your weekend.  Let's get to work.

And sorry, no, I cannot stay late EVERY day this week.  I have to pick up my kids.  No I cannot come out to dinner tonight to enjoy an adult evening with our latest guest speaker - I have to feed the kids and make sure they don't throw their whole dinner off the end of the table or spill the whole gallon of milk.  Yes, I would rather have some great chef prepare a 3 course meal than to ask my 2 year old daughter for the 20th time to please CHEW AND SWALLOW THAT BROCCOLI!.

And yes, I know you cannot even fathom having two kids and being a postdoc... because you don't have kids...  and no, I don't know how I do it either.

Well, yes I do know how I do it.  With lots of help from my wife, lots of laughter and a good sense of what matters to me, and two giggly little kids who make all the stress disappear every day.

**I think daycare is a great thing.  Firstly, kids get to hang with other kids.  BW and I don't have a ton a friends with kids the same age as our kids.  Our neighborhood is filled with old people, so the kids get their peer interactions at daycare.  That is an important thing. Second, it teaches children to take orders from someone other than their parents.  This is important also!  Kids are going to have to learn to listen to a teacher at some point so starting early is good.  Oh yeah, there is also the parental sanity point to be made.  Getting some time away from the kids is good too. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Beware Reviews of Anything

So, I have always known that you shouldn't trust anything you read on the internet.  Since I have been dinking around on the interwebs since my friend got the IP address for a direct dial blackhat site before the world wide web, I knew not to believe a word out there.  Hell, I had an email address (umm... why did it take until now to release how lame that is...) in high school which sent me 100 "grow your schlong" spam emails a day...  I remember when google first launched and making fun of all my friends who stilled used yahoo to search...

So, I am a veteran of the don't listen to the random jackhole on the internet.  But last week I found something especially disconcerting.  I received following email on my work account:

Subject: Free copies of **** **** **** ********** ***, 2nd Edition

-A free book - now that gets my attention.

blah blah blah, blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah,
more blah...
If you’d like a free copy, just reply by email and I’ll set one aside for you. I only have thirty review copies, so it’s first come first serve.

The only hitch is that the publisher is asking that anyone receiving a copy agree to provide a positive (5 star) review on Amazon. You’ll need an existing Amazon account to do this.

Best wishes, 
Blah B. Blah, Ph.D., P.E.

So here is a PhD in what I assume to be engineering (since he has a PE) who sees nothing wrong with bribing people to post good reviews (5 stars none-the-less) so he can make money.  And he sends this out on our full email distribution list...  So very sad.  And possibly illegal...

So I have always assumed, the only people who bother posting reviews to places are the ones who had really extreme experiences - with people who have extremely bad experiences being more likely to post a review.  So, I tend to discard the worst and the best and take a look in the middle.
The one caveat I always had was amazon book reviews.  I buy 90% of my books from Amazon because I have a Amazon Prime account which means I get free 2 day shipping and free release day shipping on everything.  So, that means when I buy Christmas presents for all my family and ship it back home, shipping is free!  Well worth it!  So, why the special circumstances for Amazon reviews?  Well, because you only have to post a few sentences and it all gets averaged.  If there are not that many reviews to create a good average, then I can read them quickly.  

And what could possibly be someone's reason for padding book reviews... I have received more than a few 'review versions' of books for teaching, none that had a stipulation of good reviews to receive the book.

So, how many of those reviews on Amazon are just padded... probably them all.  That makes me sad.  And makes me feel like a dupe.  Which annoys me.  That is what I get for thinking anything on the interwebs is not fully of douchebaggery...

Haiku Monday (Late) - Labor

No life no savings
10 years of school Ph. D.
Laboring always

--Meant to post this yesterday, but it just seemed like too much work.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

NASA names new fellowship after prominent female astrophysicist

Yesterday, I received the following announcement in my inbox:

ROSES-11 Amendment 23: New proposal opportunity: Appendix D.9,  The Nancy Grace Roman Technology Fellowship (RTF) Program in  Astrophysics

A new NASA program, The Nancy Grace Roman Technology Fellowship Program in Astrophysics, is named after a very a very distinguished American astronomer. Nancy Grace Roman's celebrated career included multiple scientific and technical achievements at NASA and her important contributions to the design of the Hubble Space Telescope.

From the announcement:

The goals of the Nancy Grace Roman Technology Fellowship (RTF) program in Astrophysics are to give early career researchers the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to lead astrophysics flight instruments/projects and become principal investigators (PIs) of future astrophysics missions; to develop innovative technologies that have the potential to enable major scientific breakthroughs; and to foster new talent by putting early-career instrument builders on a trajectory towards long-term positions.
This is a 5 year fellowship, which is the most substantial NASA astrophysics fellowship to date, compared to the typical 2-3 year awards that have previously existed.

This is really great news for Astrophysics.  Why?  First it is a new early career fellowship - these are very important to those of us just starting out in our careers.  Second, it is named after a woman.  This matters.  Celebrating brilliant women in physics helps future female physicists know that they are welcome to the field.  Physics is truly lacking in equal participation by women and we are missing a key source of intelligence, brilliance, and creativity in our field by not having equal participation by women.  So, thank you NASA!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


So, I have been sort of in a rut lately.  From a work standpoint and a personal standpoint. For work, I am a physicist, but I rarely get to sit down and do any physics.  My days are taken up by writing papers (not research), fixing other people's problems (not research), reporting my lack of progress on my research, and editing papers for other people (not research).  It can sometimes really annoy me.

On top of this all, I constantly am feeling quite guilty about living 1000 miles from both my family and my wife's family.  My kids only get to see my parents about 2 times a year and they get to see my wife's mother about 4 times a year.  Not all that often.  And it is all because of me.  I chose to be a physicist and I chose to take a postdoc 1000 miles from my family.  Now, to be honest, it was the only job offer I had.  Though, it was my dream offer, so I still feel guilty because I would have picked it no matter what I was offered (most likely).

This guilt has left me feeling like where I have lived for 3 years is not home.  I have never taken an interest in my neighborhood, the town or the region.  I really don't have any close friends outside of work and have never really felt the need to have them.  Why?  Because I don't view this as home yet. 

So, sometimes things just start to pile up on my emotionally.  I don't have a lot of outlets to get away to - everything I do is with my wife and kids.  No close friends - no hang outs - no nothing really.  Don't get me wrong - my wife and kids are great.  But even just once a month - to be able to get out and away - would be priceless.  It is my fault really - I don't ever make the effort to meet people or connect with the people I do happen to meet.

This all starts to add up and affect me in ways I don't always see.  For the last month or so, and especially the last week, I have been incredibly irritable.  Snapping at the kids and wife.  Don't get me wrong, I have never been a person who really thinks before responding.  I say things without thinking all the time. I wear my heart on my sleeve and you can quickly and correctly ascertain my mental state simply by the look on my face.  I don't really have an inner firewall that stops me from saying stupid and hurtful shit.  It just comes out. 

It is usually not a problem because I am usually a very easy going, laid-back person.  In general, I am very happy and so that cruelness that I have had lately is so very surprising to me.  So, I have spent the last few days - since Thursday really - trying to pin it down - where is it coming from?  I think it is that I just don't have any releases anymore.  I don't have any outlets other than talking with my wife. 

And, really, one person can only take so much bitching and moaning.  On top of that, I am not a talk it out kinda guy.  I am a let it process and work it out on my own type.  I am also the kind of person who always looks for solutions which - I find out from my wife - is not what people usually want to hear when they have problems.  They just want someone to listen.  I have been working on that also... but I digress.

So, this lack of an outlet and feelings of guilt are sort of culminating into a nasty little rut.  What I really want to do is spend a night out drinking with my wife and friends, then spend the next day really hung over.  But all my good friends are 1000 miles away. Then I need to remind myself that I really love my job - I usually look forward to work (other then my kids not being here with me) - and that I have a pretty great life.  Sometimes, though, I just cannot see the forest for the trees.

Friday, August 19, 2011

13 year old uses Fibonocci sequence to increase solar array efficiency

So, every year the American Museum of Natural History has an award called the Young Naturalist Awards which "is a research-based science competition for students in grades 7-12 to promote participation and communication in science."

The spiral on trees showing the Fibonacci Sequence.
One of this years winners, Aidan, 13 year old from New York, investigated how high latitude trees used the Fibonocci sequence to boost solar collecting efficiency and applied this to the problem of solar array efficiency.  The Fibonocci sequence is 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,... you start with 0 and 1, then add the previous 2 numbers to obtain the next number in the sequence.  Fibonocci initially used it to describe the breeding habits of rabbits.

His essay, The Secret of the Fibonacci Sequence in Trees, is actually a really great read.  I found it extremely inspiring.  Here is this 13 year old kid, just letting his curiosity guide him, investigating how nature has solved a problem and applying it to the problems on mankind.  Brilliant! 
Diagram of tree model that Aidan made with his computer.

It also makes me feel much less worried about the future of the world.  Maybe as adults, we should listen to the kids more often, instead of shooing them off to play video games.  Something to remember as a parent and as a scientist.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Haiku Monday - Air Conditioning

Air Conditioning
Stagnant air dripping
Air conditioning has failed
Stinky physicist

Friday, August 12, 2011

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

All the cool kids are doing it

So, as is typical of the Berserker Clan, the weekend was spent all together.  Since both of the grownups are so busy with work during the week, we try to spend every possible minute together as a family on the weekends.  We all go to the grocery store, we all go to Target, all go to Home Depot.  It is sort of a production, but it is what we are about.  Yes, I know, I could get it done in about 1/10th of the time alone.  But I miss my kids.

So, Sunday, Beautiful Wife and I brought the kids out to soccer practice.  We both play so we thought why not bring the kids.  We are trying to start a new adult club here, so we both really wanted to be there.  Well, one of the wives of the players volunteered to watch the kids as we all practiced... SAWEET!  An hour in or so, she asked to take them to the bathroom in the church next door.  We said sure, and THANK YOU SO MUCH!

So, a while later, we are wrapping up practice and we realize they are not back yet.  I brush it off - they probably found something fun to do in the church.  I see them all holding hands walking back through the parking lot 10 minutes or so later.  Well it turns out that Little Berserker Spawn had to go poop, not just pee.  So, this person who I have met a total of 2 times was kind enough to wipe my 4 year old's butt.  Now that is a good person to know!**

The funny part is this:  We are sitting at lunch after practice at the dining table and LBS says to Beautiful Wife, "I have two underwears on."  BW and I just look at each other, skeptically."Just kidding," he says quickly afterward.  We just brush it off.  It turns out 4 year olds have weird things running through their heads and they like to say them out loud a lot.  We completely discount it. 

That night, getting the kids ready for bed, it turns, yes, in fact he is wearing 2 pairs of underwear.  The outer one is on backwards too!  Great!  That must be comfortable...

So, our 'friend' (I only put it in quotes because I hardly know the women - she is actually very nice and kind and we both really like her, but we are not really friend yet) must think we are really on the ball parents.  Little boy running around with 2 sets of undies, one on backwards...  Parenting fail.  PARENTS 0 - Berserker Spawn 1. 

Well played son, well played.

**The real test is next week - will she watch them again? DUN DUN DA DUN.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Earth's Antimatter Radiation Belt

A great paper came out on the arXiv last week: O. Adriani et al., The discovery of geomagnetically trapped cosmic ray antiprotons, arXiv:1107.4882v1. Here is the abstract:

The existence of a significant flux of antiprotons confined to Earth's magnetosphere has been considered in several theoretical works. These antiparticles are produced in nuclear interactions of energetic cosmic rays with the terrestrial atmosphere and accumulate in the geomagnetic field at altitudes of several hundred kilometers. A contribution from the decay of albedo antineutrons has been hypothesized in analogy to proton production by neutron decay, which constitutes the main source of trapped protons at energies above some tens of MeV. This Letter reports the discovery of an antiproton radiation belt around the Earth. The trapped antiproton energy spectrum in the South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA) region has been measured by the PAMELA experiment for the kinetic energy range 60--750 MeV. A measurement of the atmospheric sub-cutoff antiproton spectrum outside the radiation belts is also reported. PAMELA data show that the magnetospheric antiproton flux in the SAA exceeds the cosmic-ray antiproton flux by three orders of magnitude at the present solar minimum, and exceeds the sub-cutoff antiproton flux outside radiation belts by four orders of magnitude, constituting the most abundant source of antiprotons near the Earth.
The red data points are the measured antiproton flux in the South Atlantic Anomaly region.
 So, most people have heard of the Van Allen radiation belts.  These are composed protons and electrons trapped by the Earth's magnetic field at a certain distance above the Earth's surface.  The proton component is thought to be due to the decay of neutrons produced by galactic cosmic ray interactions with the Earth's atmosphere.  The cartoon description is as follows: A galactic cosmic ray (fully ionized, highly energetic heavy ion) and an atmospheric molecule experience a nuclear interaction.  A neutron is produced which decays into a proton (and an electron and an antineutrino).  In addition, there will be a contribution from direct proton production from the nuclear interaction - that is ion + neutral nucleus --> protons + lots of other stuff.  These are the basic process which produce the protons that are trapped in the Van Allen belts. 

The production of the antiprotons is not from decay, but only from the direct interaction.  With enough energy (which cosmic rays have - there are particles in the cosmic ray spectrum with energies orders of magnitude above that CERN uses), antiprotons will be produced in the nuclear interactions.  Some of these will escape the atmosphere and should become trapped in the Earth's geomagnetic field.  Now the PAMELA experiment, as reported in this article, have confirmed this experimentally!

Introduction and Brief History of Particle Physics

There is a really great article over at Physics Today written by Steven Weinberg on particle physics entitled Particle physics, from Rutherford to the LHC. 

From the article:
It is clearly necessary to go beyond the standard model. There is a mysterious spectrum of quark and lepton masses and mixing angles that we have been staring at for decades, as if they were symbols in an unknown language, without our being able to interpret them. Also, something beyond the standard model is needed to account for cosmological dark matter. 
It is now widely understood that the standard model is just an effective field theory (see the box above), the low-energy limit of some more fundamental theory involving a scale of mass much larger than the masses with which we are familiar. That means we should expect the standard model to be supplemented with interactions that are not renormalizable in the usual sense—in fact, with all interactions allowed by symmetry principles—but suppressed by denominators proportional to powers of the large new mass. Infinities are still absorbed in a redefinition of the constants of the theory, but the number of constants that need to be redefined is no longer finite.
 The box he is talking about is here:
There is a great layman's introduction to effective field theories - which I find very interesting and did part of my dissertation on.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Haiku Monday - Frustration

Tense frustration builds
"I love you" is my mantra
Sometimes the kids win

Friday, July 29, 2011

Punk Rock Friday - $wingin' utter$ - I Got Your Number

In what I view as an homage of bad band names, the ever lasting, poets of punk, The $wingin' Utter$ are covering I Got You Number by the classic British band, Cock Sparrer.  The Utter$ were one of the first punk albums I bought way back in '96 or so.  I have always loved there music and lyrics.  The lyrics tend to be both extremely straightforward but also very poetic - not just your archetypal typical punk rock tunes.  At least to me anyway.  But this is a cover... so what I am talking about lyrics for?

I chose this song today to reflect my thoughts on the current state of American politics.  Assholes in Washington playing with real peoples futures so they can toe the party line.  On both sides of the aisle.  Typical millionaires having no idea what is going on with real people.  If all the annual percentage rates on my loans and credit cards go up, I really don't know what I will have to do... kind of scary.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ant induced rage and potty training disaster

Ant Party
Your party ends now you bastards!  Photo credit: flickr user tarotastic

I have a new goal in life - the utter obliteration of all ants!  I declare war on you bastards and I will have my revenge!  I swear it on all things I hold holy (punk rock, German beer, Irish whiskey, Lagrangian mechanics, Feynman diagrams and the Badger State)... there will be a reckoning.

So, as you may have figured out, we have an ant problem at my house.  I believe we have what is known as a super colony living under our house.  From April until October I battle the bastards.  I am like the Father from A Christmas Story - I am one of the most feared ant fighters in southern Virginia and in the heat of battle I have woven more than one tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan (or the Atlantic...).

His nemesis: furnace.  My nemesis: Ants!
Let me start at the beginning.  So after a great day at work, I pick up the Berserker brood from daycare.  Everyone had a great day at school and they were both in good moods.  I walk into the house and begin making dinner.  The toaster oven trips the circuit breaker and I notice and MASSIVE infestation of ants crawling out of my pantry.  I hustle the kids out of the kitchen, restart the toaster oven, and begin my extermination campaign.  I realize they are everywhere!  I am so annoyed.  The whole time Little Berserker Spawn is sitting right on the edge of the kitchen whining for a toy car that is in there.  I try to ignore him.

But I get to work, cleaning and killing.  I feel no pity for them.  I squish them.  I spray them with cleaner.  It is about 80 degrees in the house, because I turn off the A/C while we are at work, so I am sweating my ass off.  LBS is still whining for his toy - I tell him [well growl is probably closer to the truth] to find a different car - you have 80 of them - and go play for 5 minutes.  Then I check the toast - I burned it... RAWR!  So annoyed.  I put some new bread in and start it.

I then decide to check on the kids... Oh.My.God...  I find Sweet Little Hellion in the living room sitting on the potty - no pullup on.  OK.  That seems ok - odd, since she hasn't used the little potty in a month - but fine.  She pops up off the potty saying "I did it!"  I clap. [wait for the cosmic bitch-slap back]  She turns around, and she has diarrhea all down her backside...
Potty training kids, just got easier?
Oh yeah, potty training is all stickers, smiles, bunnies and bears.  Photo credit: flicker user byte
I scream, "WHERE IS YOUR PULLUP??????"

She points at the couch.  I see a diarrhea laden pullup sitting on our cream couch. [I know... brilliant.  We bought it before we were even married... idiot no kids couple we were.]  LBS, the whole time is saying "Good job SLH, good job" and "She had to poop Dad" over and over.  I yell at him to go in the man cave and leave me alone for a bit.  [aren't I nice... UGH... really great parent sometimes... poor little guy - I made it up to him later and apologized...]

So, then I realize the SLH has poop all over her shorts.  So, she must have pulled the diarrhea pullup off, placed it on the couch, then waddled with her shorts around her ankles across the room to sit on the potty... GREAT... naked diarrhea butt hanging out walking over the living room carpet... JUST GREAT!

So I clean her up and get a pullup on her.  I check the toast... BURNT AGAIN!  At this point my head is really about to explode.  So, before I unleash my berserker rage, I decide to let the kids play in the living room (I checked the floor - no obvious poop trail... luckily) while I change out of my work clothes into shorts and a tshirt.

I come down stairs and, luckily, Beautiful Wife has arrived home.  She looks at me and I say "I need you take over with the kids."  She takes the kids upstairs away from me. I make peanut butter sandwiches for dinner with oranges and peas [I sure know how to pair food, don't I?].  Then I finish murdering the ants, cleaning, sanitizing and chemically defending my home.  After which, I drank a beer in silence in the kitchen by myself.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...