Sunday, January 30, 2011

Jack and the beanstalk

During lunch today LBS tossed out this gem.  When attempting to be the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk:

I smell the butt of an English Man,
Be he alive, or be he dead
I'll grind his bones to make my bread.

I tried to convince him it was blood not butt, but he didn't want to hear anything about it... so very funny!  Then I started to think, well, maybe he is right.  You can't smell someone's blood in their body.  Yeah, yeah I know - literary license and all that.  But, then it makes me laugh thinking about the English and their smelly butts. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Letter from a Son to his Parents

This is a letter Beautiful Wife and I received from Little Berserker Spawn yesterday:

Dear Mommy and Daddy,
I love you! I love when you guys play games and robots with me! I love when you cook carrots, Mommy! I love when you cook watermelon, Daddy.  Thank you for taking me to Target and the green grocery store! Have a great day!

This was of course transcribed by one of his teachers.  Turns out I am one heck of a watermelon cook... I just didn't know!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cold Fusion... Again... without a peer reviewed article... say it ain't so is carrying an article about a pair of Italian scientists claiming to have created a cold fusion reactor. The article can be found here: Italian scientists claim to have demonstrated cold fusion.

The pair of scientists, Andrea Rossi and Sergio Focardi of the University of Bologna, held a press conference to announce their findings.  Sound familiar?  Yep, this is just how Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons announced their cold fusion "discovery" back in 1989.  My doubts kept growing as I read through the article.

The PhysOrg article also states that Rossi and Focardi attempted to publish their results, but were rejected from peer-reviewed journals due to the lack of an explanation or even theory for the fusion claim.  So, they publish their paper in a journal run and founded by themselves... My skepticism increases.

Sure, you can argue let the experimental data speak for itself.  After reading quickly through their paper it lacks a lot of information.  The quote from the PhysOrg article sums up my feelings pretty well:
Where are the quantitative descriptions of these copper radioisotopes? What detectors were used? Have the results been replicated by independent researchers? Pardon my skepticism as I await real data. --Steven E. Jones

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Social Distortion Album

Social D live on the Conan show.  Playing a new song off their new album.  Love to see new material from old school bands like Social D.  Mike Ness is a legend.  Have to save me pennies and pick this one up.

Pure awesomeness - Silly Rhymes For Belligerent Children

Is this real?  I think it is!  This is definitely going to be a gift for my kids at some point.  What greater gift for a kid than a book full of rhymes about gross, ewwy-gooey things?  You know it will be funny with Trace Beaulieu as the author (from MST3K fame) and Len Peralta (from geek-a-week fame) illustrating.  You can check out ThinkGeek to pick the book up!

I would love to get my hands on this book.  Will just have to wait until one of the spawn is of the right age... or maybe splurge and get it for myself!

Advice to new Fathers (part one)

I am going to try and share some of the things I have learned in my short stint as a father.  In this part, I am going to discuss the birth of your spawn and what to do that first night of being a father.

I know in this day and age it is much more common and accepted for the father to be in the delivery room.  You should be there.  You should want to be there.  Something will happen there that was beyond my scope of understanding at the time.  Your child will be born.  It is actually pretty remarkable and awesome.  Yes, I know I am am not saying anything new here.  But this really should not be overlooked or understated.

A second insane thing will happen (or might happen depending on how the birth goes down for all involved).  You will see the mother of your children perform an amazing physical feat. Labor and giving birth is out of control insane.  My wife, in full on labor with our eldest, screamed out "THIS IS WHAT MILLIONS OF YEARS OF EVOLUTION CAME UP WITH?? WHAT THE F#$%!"  It was hilarious.  I digress.  You will watch your wife or girlfriend or whatever** go through the most intense, grueling physical test any person can attempt.  You will come out of it with a new appreciation for your wife (or girlfriend or whatever).  And this is important.   The power and strength your wife showed there will always be at her reserve in the future.  As her husband (I am just going to go with the traditional husband/wife thing for simplicity here) you may need to remind her of this in the future. 

To see someone you love dearly go through that is very hard.  They are in pain, but there is nothing you can do about it.  They are exhausted, but you can't do it for them or even really help.  To just sit by and have to spectate was quite humbling for me.  Maybe that says more about me than it does about the process.  I don't know.

Then you hold your kid, blah blah blah, all the usual stuff.  Yes, I just blah-blah-blahed over that part.  It is important and awesome too.  But everyone knows all that already.

On to the most important part.

The First Night
First of all, everyone is going to be exhausted.  Here is the deal new dad - you have done the least amount of work out of the 3 (or 4 or GASP... 5... just the prospect of multiples makes me all wild eyed and crazy.  Parents of multiples should get special medals of honor from the president).  You didn't push child out of your body and you weren't just thrust into a cold, bright world.  That means you should be running point on everything your wife needs or your brand new child needs.  Yes your kid is going to be small and tiny and look so fragile.  They are not.  You might be scared to do something wrong.  Don't be stupid and just do what you think is right.  Change a diaper or 20.  Most of all, LET YOUR WIFE SLEEP THAT FIRST NIGHT!

Yes, yes, she will have to nurse at night.  Yes, yes she will be up every 2-3 hours.  But let her sleep between if she wants.  Turn the lights out, grab your new kid and just sit and hold him or her.  After they eat they are usually alert for a little while.  Hang out with your new kid.  Make funny faces at him or her.  Quietly introduce to them their father.  They know their mom very well.  They know the cadence of her heart beat. They know the cadence of her walk.  They know her smell already too!  And they likely know your voice, but hold them close, let them know your smell, your heart beat, your walk.

That first night with my kids is one of my favorite memories.  Yes, I was out of control exhausted and possibly delirious the next day.  Who cares.  That first night is the best.

** Sorry, I don't mean to demean the nuances of modern relationships, but to cover all possibilities of a man's relationship with the women birthing his child seems daunting and cumbersome.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Tevatron ends 24 years of research at end of FY2011

The Department of Energy has rendered its decision regarding the career of the Tevatron: pack up your office old fella, time to call it quits.  The proton-antiproton collider is located just outside of Chicago, IL at Fermilab.  This is the machine which brought the discovery of the top quark (see Abe et al. (CDF Collaboration) and Abachi et al. (D0 Collaboration)) in 1995 which rounded out the 3rd generation of quarks.  This happened 18 years after the discovery of the bottom quark in 1977 by Lederman also at Fermilab.

In a letter dated January 6, 2011 to Melvyn Shochet, the director of the Office of Science at the Department of Energy, W. F. Brinkman writes:

Professor Melyn Shochet
Chairman, High Energy Physics Advisory Panel
Department of Physics
University of Chicago
5630 S. Ellis Ave
Chicago, IL 60637

Dear Professor Shochet:
I am writing to convey the Office of Science’s response to the recent High Energy Physics Advisory Panel (HEPAP) report on extending the operation of the Tevatron at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. As you know the Office of Science received in the summer of 2010 a widely supported proposal to extend operation of the Tevatron through FY 2014. At our request, HEPAP and its subpanel, Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel (P5), responded quickly and analzed both the physics merits of the proposal and the potential impacts on the rest of the field. HEPAP and P5 provided valuable and timely advice to the Office of Science that informed our FY 2012 budget request. I thank HEPAP and P5 for these efforts.
In summary, P5 found the proposed physics program had significant scientific value and would complement what can be accomplished at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in the same time period, but recognized that without additional funding the extension of Tevatron operations would delay progress on the development of the Intensity Frontier program by HEP. P5 therefore recommended that extension of the operation of the Tevatron be approved only if additional funds were available to HEP, and encouraged the funding agencies to find the necessary resources. Unfortunately, the current budgetary climate is very challenging and additional funding has not been identified. Therefore, based in part on the P5 recommendation, operation of the Tevatron will end in FY 2011, as originally scheduled.
The strategic plan for the US particle physics program, developed by P5, attacks the most important scientific questions in three broad areas of the field: the Energy, Intensity, and Cosmic Frontiers. The Energy Frontier has passed to the LHC, where the first year of data collection recently was completed. Accelerator performance at the LHC improved dramatically during 2010, achieving increases of several orders of magnitude in instantaneous luminosity. U.S. Scientists play a major role in the ATLAS and CMS collaborations at the LHC, with both experiments publishing early physics results that clearly demonstrate the impressive capabilities of these detectors. Given the LHC performance to date, it appears likely that experiments at the LHC either will rule out or discover a standard model Higgs boson by late 2012, addressing this pressing topic in particle physics in a timely manner. Support for activities at the LHC continues to have high priority in the HEP program.
The HEP program also calls for a world-leading program centred at FNAL to probe the Standard Model using a complementary approach of high intensity beams. This program aims to measure the fundamental properties of neutrinos and to develop a new high intensity proton source. In evaluating the proposed Tevatron extension, the P5 committee emphasized the importance of developing this Intensity Frontier program and we have made implementation of this program a cornerstone of future HEP activities.
In conclusion, I want to personally thank you and the members of HEPAP and P5 for your prompt and thoughtful response to our request for advice.

Sincerely yours,
W.F. Brinkman
Director, Office of Science
U.S. Department of Energy
This really is too bad.  But science must push on and money is tight all over these days.  Budgets are being cut, science is dwindling.  Someone needs to make the tough decisions I suppose.

The story apparently unfolded in a series of tweets by Lisa Randall, Chip Brock (among others) and the official Fermilab Tevatron twitter account.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Medical Research Fraud? - Autism and Vaccines

Released yesterday by the British Medical Journal: Secrets of the MMR scare: How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed.  In this article Brian Deer details how the "facts" in the seminal paper linking Autism to MMR vaccinations do not match up with reality. Mr. Deer discovered that all 11 cases presented in the paper were altered from the available evidence.  The evidence was largely the medical records of the 11 children of the study, but also included interviews with the parents of the these children.  The article seems to point to deliberate fraud on the part of Andrew Wakefield (first author of the original study).

It is all about money.

Are we really surprised? The article points out Wakefield was on the payroll of some lawyers in the US who were putting together a case against the MMR vaccine manufacturer.  He was on the payroll before he started the study. 


In this day and age of medical research funded by drug companies (don't even get me started) and research fraud in all branches of science it is scary.  Fraud not withstanding, how does a medical doctor discern the validity of these studies?  Most medical doctors are not researchers.  How do they evaluate the validity of a study? I suppose most doctors simply follow the official medical guidelines. But what about drugs?  They have to trust the journal and trust the FDA to catch things before they get to the population.  But how does the FDA regulate things like the GlaxoSmithKline debacle where drugs were being mixed together?

It sure is scary out there.  I don't worry about me so much, but my kids... they are small and little problems in a drug can have big effects on their little, developing bodies.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Barak Obama is Luke Skywalker

John Stewart with some epic commentary. All full of geeky, Star Wars goodness! Why yes, Barak Obama IS the New Hope. And yes Biden is a Wookiee.  And the most obvious reference of all, Sarah Palin is a Wampa from the icy planet Hoth

May the force be with you!

Hair Color

Scene: Sunday night dinner.  Around the dining room table.
Players: The whole clan is in attendance.
Background: Berserk Father and Beautiful Wife are chatting with Little Berserker Spawn about colors.  When LBS was first learning colors, myself and BW would talk about our eye colors a lot.  LBS has green eyes just like me.

Berserk Father: Little Berserker Spawn, what color are Mommy's eyes?
Little Berserker Spawn: Blue! (emphatically)
Beautiful Wife: What color are Daddy's eyes?
LBS: Green!
BF: What color are LBS's eyes?
LBS: Green!  Like Daddy's.
BF: What color are Sweet Little Hellion's eyes?
LBS: Blue, like Mommy's!
**Now I decide to switch it up on him and ask him something completely new**
BF: What color is Mommy's hair?
LBS: I don't know...
BF: Is it black?
LBS: Black??? Noooooooo!
BF: Is it brown?
LBS: (Thinking) No?...?
BF: Is it red?
LBS: (thinking)... Yes.
**Lots of praise from proud parents** (we are so lame, I practically force fed him the answer... ah parental affection)
BW: What color is Daddy's hair?
without missing a beat he turns, looks at me and says emphatically:
Sweet Little Hellion: (who has been smearing potatoes all over her face and in her hair, not wanting to miss out on a good laugh decides to join in on the fun) HAHAHAHHA! (a forced little laugh in her evil little voice).

**I have this dumbfounded, disbelieving look on my face.  My mouth is hanging open, as I look at my first born son**

LBS: You have gray hair Daddy (he says all matter-of-fact-ly)
BF: LBS, I do not.  I have dark blond hair.  Almost brown.
BW: (Still laughing, probably about to pee herself)
LBS: Blond, whats blond? No Daddy, you have gray hair.
BF: (under breath) OH MY ******* GOD!

Scene ends with BW coming out of her laughing fit to help explain blond hair to the traitor son of mine.  GRAY HAIR?!?!?!?! Are you kidding me?  I don't have a gray hair on my head.  WHAT THE HELL?  He doesn't even know the color gray.  Anything that is gray he calls black.  I am still not pleased with this whole episode.  But I know it is quite funny.  All I have to say is: BERSERKER RAGE!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Looking Back

After posting the old blogs from what seems like a different life I am amazed at how much has changed in the 4 years or so.  The biggest difference - we have kids now.  But there are subtler differences too, I think.  Both Beautiful Wife and I are so different after the whole cancer thing.  She is more of a worrier now - both about her health and the kids health.  She doesn't like to be in the sun.  For my part, I worry about her and her worrying.  Sounds dumb when I write it out.  I wish she could just relax outside without having to slather on sunscreen.  I never used to worry about her.  She was the sane one.  I was the crazy physicist punk rocker who could lose himself for days in video games or work.  Only coming out into the light of day when Beautiful Wife could drag me out for something to eat.

I never thought I would change much.  I don't think I have changed much, but I think I have changed enough to make me wonder about it.

I won't wonder for too long, though.  I am too overtired for that much introspection!

More Old Blogs

Here a few more of the old blogs.

Old Blog 2:


Well... My wife is home and doing very well. She is not in a lot of pain and is in very good spirits. We have to wait about a week for the pathology to come back on the lesion. Now we wait... and hope.
Old Blog 3:
24 hours later
It has been 24 hours since my wife came out of surgery. She is doing well- not in a lot of main and in high spirits. She is still very, very scared that the cancer has spread and she would have to go through chemotherapy. Unfortunately, unlike my wife, I cannot get sick leave from graduate school. So, if she has to go through chemo, I don't know what we will do. She will be very ill for a long time and I will have to be the caretaker, house keeper, cook, student and husband. Our lives have already changed so much. Atleast we have the next couple days to adjust to this new phase, before we find out if our lives will become more chaotic. We are both very excited to go home this weekend to Wisconsin. We are going to see our brand new neice. She was born Thursday, April 13th. I should say something sly and prophetic about the circle of life... but it is a cruel notion and my heart aches too much as it is. I hope all of you who read this are well and that you take the time each day to do something that makes you truly happy. This has made the world of difference to me in the past couple of weeks. Regards.
Old Blog 4:
Well on top of the saga of my wife's illness and her recovery from surgery, my Ph.D. advisor recently left the institution that I am at. I originally moved to Massachusetts last year to follow him when he decided to take a job here, out of the blue as far as he told any of his students. It was follow or find a new research area since there were no other particle physicists at my old university. So I asked my wife to leave her high paying job (she took a major pay cut coming out here) and leave her family and dying father. She did for the betterment of my carreer and our family. Then, after living here in Massachusetts for 6 months, my advisor decided to leave his job, since the institution here would not give his wife a job- a prerequisete for him taking the job in the first place. So I woke up this morning to find an email from one of the graduate commitee members saying that they were screwing me over for the upcoming year. Let me elaborate: When I came to this institution, I had just received a NASA fellowship. The deal I was given was, since the fellowship is not enough to cover my tuition and gave any money left to live on, the school was going to cover whatever was left between what a Research Assistant was paid and what would be left after my tuition was paid out of my fellowship. Now that my advisor is gone (he was the Physics Department Head), they have decided that I have to teach to cover what the school is not getting from me for my tuition. So, since I have no patron to watch over me, they have decided that I am fair game. On top of it, all TAs will have to take 2 mandatory teaching courses. My plan was to graduation in about a year. My research is going very well. I am publishing a couple papers. Once I reach the credits needed (about a year) I should be in a position to graduate. By forcing me to teach and take these crappy classes, they will be essentially doubling the time it takes me to graduate since these classes and teaching will take about 20-30 hours a week of my time. I am furious. I feel emotionally thin. My wife is very ill, my school has decided to **** with me. I have considered leaving with my Masters, which I can get at anytime since I have met all the requirements, but my wife is the one with the insurance and I really want to finish my Ph.D. quickly. In order to finish my Ph.D. I would have to move and she would lose her insurance and we would not be able to afford her healthcare. All I have to say is: Something has just got to give.

So that is a bit of our old clan saga laid bare.  Things worked out in graduate school.  I didn't have to leave, I finished with my PhD.  I got a job, well kinda.  I got a postdoc.

Horror Show [Old Blog]

My first blogging attempt was during the scariest time in my life.  My wife was in surgery to have her cancer removed and I was very anxiously waiting to hear from her doctors.  I think to understand either Beautiful Wife or me (mainly me), you have to read this (quoted below from a previous blog I kept):

Horror show
So I decided I had to vent a little about the things life has decided to throw at me recently. I am currently sitting in the atrium of a hospital as my wife is going through a surgery to remove cancer (melanoma) from her body and I need to get some things off my chest. Since no one on this site really knows who I am, I feel a lot more secure ranting a bit. I am 26 years old and my wife has cancer- I am angry, scared and very uncertain about life. But I have to be a rock for my wife, show her that nothing can harm her as long as I am vigilant. Just so she can have a little stability and shelter from the this horror show.
To start the story out, let me give you a little background. In January of 2005, my soon to be father-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma. My then fiance and I were in the midst of planning our wedding for the upcoming June. We struggled daily with trying to plan our future lives and all the happiness that is supposed to surround a day as important in ones life as the wedding day. When in the background, like a sickening green backlight, my wife's father was slowly dying. The cancer had spread to almost every system in his body by the time the diagnosed it. To make matters worse, the cancer should have been caught 6 months earlier. When the initial cancer spot showed up on his neck, his dermatologist misdiagnosed it as basil cell cancer. Basil cell cancer is a very slow moving, usually non-life threatening condition, that when removed, usually poses no more risk. 5 months after seeing his dermatologist, he began to have back aches and went to see his usual doctor. This doctor surmised that he was getting some arthritis and assigned him a prescription of pain meds. When the back got worse and worse, they decided to x-ray it. They found a tumor that had completely destroyed his vertebrae and he would live (for as long as he had) with a broken back in constant pain. After many second opinions- it was determined that it was melanoma and it was very advanced. During the months leading up to our wedding, we watch him become more and more ill.
He eventually decided not to try to treat the cancer- in order to be able to function and enjoy our wedding. By the time our wedding had come, the cancer had started to spread to his brain and you could see tumor protruding through his clothes. We went on our honeymoon to Ireland dreading the call that we would have to hurry back home, to try and be there before he passed. Then 3 weeks later, we moved from Wisconsin to Massachusetts. My Ph.D. advisor had started a new job as a department head out here, and we decided, before everything happened, that we would follow after our wedding.
So my wife left a very good job in Wisconsin, left her family, left her dying father to follow her husband 1500 miles East to a place where we knew no one. Her father died 3 weeks after we moved, on my wifes birthday. She made it back that night, to hold him as he died. 8 months after her father died, my wife got a call from her dermatologist saying a routine biopsy came back malignant.
She had cancer.
After 10 days of trying to get her scheduled for surgery and complete insanity, I sit her in a very nice, sun lit atrium hoping that the doctor calls and says everything went well. That it has not spread. That I won't lose my wife before we even have children together. That I won't have to be that pitiful man who has to bury his wife before he even gets out of (expletive) college- before he can show her that he can earn a decent wage- before he can buy her a new car- a house- a home.
I am angry and sad and hopefull and scared.
I just got the call that the surgery went well. (it is 4:37pm on Tuesday, April 18th) Amazing Grace is playing on the speakers in the atrium. The surgeon said they removed two lymphnodes and the lesion completely. I have to wait for the pathology to come back on the lymphnodes to be get my hopes back. Now there is crappy elevator music playing on the speakers... I now await the call to go and see my wife... I am still uncertain, but I am less scared. I really wish I didn't have to deal with all of this so early in my life... At least it is not worse, the horror show still has a chance for a second act with the pathology.
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