11.30.2007

Thanks

To everyone- going to the gym will be nicer thanks to the tiny little radio Mom and Dad got me, and Barnes & Noble will be a fun excursion thanks to Yaya and the Parents-in-law.

My feet are already enjoying these awesome SmartWool socks Susan got me! Though they got quite wet on the ride in today, my toes are still warm. The magic of wool.

11.29.2007

Many thanks...

To Ma & Pa Johnson, for bringing an extremely excellent fellow into the world 28 years ago today.

11.28.2007

Just a minute

So I've transitioned from swimming to running for the duration of the Harsh Southern California Winter™. I ended up toting around a lot of water in my ear, which started to get unpleasant, what with the gentle breeze and low daytime temperatures in the high 60s. For a couple of weeks, then, I've been running on the treadmill a bit more every day or two, and swimming less every day or two, in an effort not to foul up my knee again.

On Sunday, after doing a "normal" workout, I did a self-test: I decided to see if I could run a mile at a fair clip. In the end, I ran a mile in 6:39--just one minute slower than I did it ten years ago, when I was a bona fide athlete. Sweet!

I really enjoy the treadmill. A wealth of data.

11.26.2007

11.21.2007

Have Boo Boo. Not Yogi.

Last night I went to a Yoga class for the first time ever. I've long been familiar with Yoga, to the point of having people show me some postures so I could stretch more effectively, or whatever, but had until then never even sat on a Yoga mat.

My verdict: okay, perhaps more work than I was hoping for. Knowing and KNOWING that it is a difficult practice are, as ever, two different things.

This is all by way of saying that I've got some soreness today.

11.17.2007

What What What?

Listening to NPR the other day, they're concluding a series on "consumption." No, not TB, the wallet-related kind. A few seconds long teaser for the final piece included the following gem: "Hoover dam is the drug dealer, and Las Vegas is the crack whore."

So... Las Vegas has sex with the Hoover dam in return for electricity?

Huh?

11.14.2007

Guitar Hero

Is so much fun. Seriously. It's ridiculous.

11.12.2007

Good Lyric

Some had crawled their way into your heart
to rend your ventricles apart

10.19.2007

Home, Sweet Home


Pictured above? Grants Pass. If I am not much mistaken, this picture was taken by one Brett Hopper, with whom I was a cub- (and briefly boy-) scout. I say it is him because I recall Brett had a great desire to become a pilot, and this one works near GP as a pilot, etc. Also because I heard long ago that he'd attended LCC for a time, as has this Brett Hopper. Anyhow, there you go. A chunk of GP for your viewing pleasure. The original is here.

10.12.2007

Book Recommendation

In the sidebar you'll see that I've (we've) been reading The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. I'm about 75% of the way through it, and it is amazing. Read it.

10.11.2007

My newest endeavor

So in my short time at Lane Community I have been mostly busy working on the student newspaper, The Torch. I am particularly proud of it, too. We finally got it online, although we are still working out the kinks, but now everyone can read the things I write and such! Anyway, we still have a lot of room for improvement, but check it out. www.lcctorch.com

10.07.2007

Name That Gourmand

Question: Who would you expect to be the preparer and consumer of a hummus, catsup (ketchup?) and cheese sandwich?
    Is it

  • a) Susan, the pregnant wife with the high potential for weird pregnancy-related food cravings

  • or is it

  • b) Tom, the very un-pregnant husband

  • ?

10.05.2007

Let Us Give Thanks

Monks have given us so much... they copied ancient texts during the Dark Ages... they bred and trained giant rescue dogs... they possibly invented champagne... one invented double entry bookkeeping... we owe them for kung fu... Truly, monks are awesome.

9.29.2007

9.17.2007

Blood Type

Think Geek has these cool, pretty cheap, DIY Blood Typing Kits. Mine arrived in the mail last Friday, so I had a fun time that night, poking my figers and hand a bunch of times to get enough blood for the test. It really didn't require much blood, but my fingers sure didn't want to yield it, and nor did the meaty part of my palm.

In any event, I'm O+. What're you?

9.11.2007

Possibly a Dumb Question...

Why don't they show every (televised) play of NFL football from the Sky-cam? The sideline angle they use is almost completely useless.

9.03.2007

This is Just Wrong

Check out this list of great books. The bolded titles are also on the most challenged and/or banned books list. See an excerpt below:
  1. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
  3. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  5. The Color Purple, Alice Walker
  6. Ulysses, James Joyce
  7. Beloved, Toni Morrison
  8. The Lord of the Flies, William Golding
  9. 1984, George Orwell
  10. The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
  11. Lolita, Vladmir Nabokov
  12. Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
  13. Charlotte's Web, EB White
  14. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
  15. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
  16. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
  17. Animal Farm, George Orwell
  18. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
  19. As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
  20. A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway

9.02.2007

Much too much

107 degrees was the high today. Down to 104 right now. I hate low-pressure systems.

8.30.2007

Take that, Mother Earth! *kick*

This ad showed up at the top of my Gmail window this morning. These people should be shot. Or strangled with their own product. Something.

8.14.2007

Firsts

So I am moving out. My first house, with Thea. It's in Eugene. I will be going to Lane and working at Blockbuster, still, but that's good news for me. I am really excited. I also bought a pretty nifty set of knives. Most things we have so far have been really cheap or free. For example, we got a free couch from the side of the road. It was in a good neighborhood so I think its probably free of bugs and such. Who knows. It WAS free, after all. Wish me many good lucks, por favor.

8.10.2007

M

We have now achieved 1kPost.

8.07.2007

List

  • Most of the flood damage has been repaired. A few things remain, but man, we really lucked out.
  • Moving office. Again.
  • We went to Oil Rig Eureka and dove under it. It was very interesting. Sea lions are funny. There were so very many tiny fish that sometimes you couldn't see!
  • We also saw a taping of Last Comic Standing, in North Hollywood. It was a long wait for two ten-minute sets. The comedians were both funny, but the taping portion made me feel vaguely dirty. Not in any kind of good way, either, Woody Allen.
  • Falafel fried chicken. 'Nuff said.
  • Some good friends of ours are expecting a baby. The expecting father says, "people don't make babies: babies make babies."

7.27.2007

Brain Scan

I participated in another fMRI experiment the other day. This one attempted to study latent memory.

The experiment comprised three parts. The first was a guided learning session, I believe, lasting 24 minutes. I held a two-button controller and a series of instructions was flashed on the screen of the goggles I wore into the MRI machine, taking me through a decision tree with images of fractals indicating the "state," and the dynamics being controlled by the left and right buttons of the controller.

In the second session, also 24 minutes long, I had to try to reach end states for a given reward ($0.25 for one, $0.10 for another, and $0.00 for another).

Lastly, some anatomical scans were taken to ensure, I guess, that I had a normal brain. This process took about 10 minutes, though it seemed to take too long.

The first stage had a single possible value, and you could make two decisions- left and right. With a certain probability, depending on which button you pushed, one of four images would come up. Then, there was a second step where the process repeated, only the tree collapsed down to three different states there, again with differing probabilities.

The second 24 minute session was the moneymaking phase. The prompt would come up and I was supposed to navigate to the final state, attempting to maximize my earnings. It was fairly simple to do so, as I had figured this was the goal coming in and paid attention mostly to the consequences of the first choice in the learning session. I noticed that one choice led overwhelmingly to outcomes one and three ($0.25 and $0.00 payouts, respectively), and the other overwhelmingly to two and three ($0.10 and $0.00, respectively). I took the first few trials on the payout round to further prune the decision tree.

In the end, I won more money than the experimenter had ever seen. Plenty of money for lunch this week!

After the experiment, I asked if I could get a picture of my brain. Well, he wouldn't give me one, but he showed me some of the anatomical scans with the 3D rendering. The cerebellum looks delightfully leafy. The major blood vessels are huge--and one of my eyes is noticeably lower than the other. My corpus callosum seemed huge, and the lobes were generally quite fluffy in appearance.

7.24.2007

SNAFU Resolution Training

After our exciting evening Saturday before last, we had several solid days of cleanup left to do...

Industrial fans were set up and directed to dry out our most important equipment. Gallons and gallons of isopropanol were used for scrubbing, wiping, and mopping the floors, walls, and crevices. Toothbrushes and canned air were used to clean off circuit boards.

Many things were voltmetered and examined with dental mirrors and bright lights.

I even went and examined the insides some of our passive air ducts. That was fun.

Current status: it appears that our SEM will work, though the computer that controls it has passed into the realm of shadows; two-thirds of our ICP-RIE/PECVD cluster tool (see below) is okay; we've got to replace a bunch of cleanroom ceiling tiles before we can 'seal' the room again, probably we'll have to change our HEPA filters out.

We took advantage of the disaster to correct a few problems we've had for a while. We put our vacuum pumps on elevated, wheeled, frames with drip pans below. We're getting some safety equipment we needed to install years ago...

All told, things are still broken, but progress is being made.

Woo-hoo

Sunday was my birthday!! Yay!

7.15.2007

Après le Déluge

Last night Max, Demetri, Susan and I attempted to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I say "attempted," because just before we arrived at the theater, I received a distressing call for help.

You see, very early Saturday morning, some construction at school required the shutoff of our building's chilled water. As a result, the temperature in our cleanroom climbed up to about 120F. This necessitated a shutdown of basically all our equipment. We thought we were safe.

We were decidedly not.

Sometime from 7-8pm, one of the fire sprinklers in our cleanroom, weakened by a day at fairly warm temp, went off. The amount of water it put out was epic. It flooded our cleanroom to a couple of inches, spraying a couple of million dollars worth of (thankfully powered down) equipment with nasty sprinkler water. Water flowed down the hall, getting into two of our other labs, though not as bad.

I arrived on the scene at about 8:30pm, and we worked until about 1am vacuuming and mopping and scrubbing up what must have been a few hundred gallons of water, and then setting up fans to dry our precious equipment.

The consequences of this flooding will be difficult to assess. Not least because it may be days before we can even begin to try to turn on our equipment and see what is broken, and what is not. It was a great Saturday night.

7.06.2007

Nightmares in Customer Service

Apparently, Sony doesn't take their Sony VAIO customer service very seriously. Read on to enjoy a lengthy tale of woe:
My new Sony's hard drive died last month. This is not Sony's fault; components fail, especially (weirdly) when they're new.

The service, on the other hand, is agonizing. After repeatedly explaining that there was an I/O error on the drive preventing me from booting, I was told to try reinstalling the operating system. This, of course, did not work, because . . . there was an I/O error on the disk, which did not magically disappear when I inserted the recovery CD.

Eventually, I persuaded them that the disk had indeed failed. Fine, they said; we will send you in which you can ship it back to us. The box will get there within 48 hours; it will be expressed back to us, and we'll turn it around in 7-10 business days.

Two weeks without a computer isn't insurmountable.

That was two weeks ago. Unfortunately, it took a while for the box to arrive, because they'd gotten my address wrong. For some inexplicable reason, they'd entered "Clarendon, Virginia" after the correct street address.

Now, this is not a conceivable error on my part. I have never lived in, or near, Clarendon, Virginia. I'm not even sure I knew it existed until the rep told me that that was where my box had gone.

Unfortunately, by the time the box had arrived, I was out of town, being unable to plan my travel schedule around Sony's ineffable errors. When I returned, I boxed it up per the instructions and took it to Fedex.

You can imagine my surprise when, two days later, Fedex delivered my computer to me. At least the address was right in one place: on the "To" section of the label, which was erroneously addressed to me, instead of Sony's repair centre.

That was the end of last week. So today I called to arrange for service. Sony, out of the kindness of their heart, offered to . . . send me another box.
Suffice it to say, I'm glad that I haven't landed there, yet. It is only a matter of time, though.

7.04.2007

Ninja Driving School

At the Ninja Driving School, you'll learn:
  • To disappear into the blind spots of other drivers, and reappear when least expected!
  • To strike with the deadly Toyota, Honda, and Nissan techniques!
  • To utilize darkness, light, and the Element to confuse your target!
  • To jump dozens of places in a line of autos!
  • And much more

Docters That Have Mortars

Apparently, the immigrant medical community in the UK has a bit of a problem keeping to the tradition of the Hippocratic oath.

6.26.2007

My husband is a superstar

Seriously. Go here. I dare you to disagree.

Happy Gilmore come to life

"Give me my ball, come on, pop it up, you dirty bastard. I swear I'm gonna... give the ball, alligator. Hey, you've got one eye...Chubbs! You took his hand!"

(Full article here)

6.25.2007

Remembering

I have fond memories of my dad picking me up from soccer practice. Junior high, maybe? Sometimes we'd stop at a little market just before the freeway and each get one of those 16oz glass bottles of Mountain Dew.

Similarly, I remember getting 2 Big Macs for $2, after basketball games, and riding a while with my window down to cool off after playing hard in the too-hot gym.

6.20.2007

My Temporary Office View

As "senior" student in my office, I get the window.

6.13.2007

Intriguing

Now, that's an interesting (partial) menu of services...

6.11.2007

Run Silent, Run Deep

So... what's new?

We've been on the busy side, the last couple of weeks.

Susan is trying to get her master's thesis done. Therefore, she's been spending afternoons and evenings at work, where furry little beasts don't distract her by napping in her lap (I sure hope not, at least). There was some tricky X-acto knifery, yesterday, which, fortunately, did not result in (m)any band-aid related activities. Now she almost has a swell set of stackable cups for use in dividing her samples into different particle-sizes.

I've been trying to get an experimental setup completed at work. That took more time than I'd hoped, but it is done now. Possibly, I overdid it, aligning the optics to the extent that a whole passel of tiny reflections is being imaged. It got a little confusing. I'll see about getting a picture of that thing.

Also, I'm doing a re-write of a paper we're trying to get submitted to Applied Physics Letters. It is pretty neat. A small result that we came up with on the way to a better one, it still merits publication, I think, because it is of fairly general (as true as that ever is in academic work (meaning: in the subfield of our subfield)) use. We'd hoped to submit it at the end of May, but I dropped the ball on that.

I've got another paper that I'm supposed to go and write, too. That one is kind of a sequel to one that my colleague wrote. Should also be useful, if I can get the simulations I need to run with my limited computer-access. The problem, there, is that I need to have two objects in the simulation domain with fairly widely varying sizes, which is a pain in the rear. Also, the software I need to use runs on Linux. Ew.

Anyhow, we'll be going up to Oregon (the upper parts) at the very end of this month. That'll be nice, since I bet it'll be ridiculously hot here by then. As it is, the June gloom is not seriously living up to its potential. I'm bitterly disappointed.

5.31.2007

Move over, Disney World

Dude. If they put in a quidditch ride, I am so there.

5.25.2007

Fun with Replacement

Imagine a word or phrase which contains the word "habit." Now, replace it with the word "hobo."

  • Mickey loves it when we put used paper-towel tubes in the hobotrail with him.
  • Sorry about that; it was force of hobo.
  • The Mother Superior placed the hobo over Frances' shoulders.
&Etc. Buckets of fun!

5.24.2007

Baby Oil

In the convenience store on campus I was waiting in line next to the health-care products and noticed that there was a bunch of Johnson's baby oil. I had the unoriginal thought,

"How many babies do you have to press for a bottle?"

After that, I wondered what those Johnsons had to say for themselves, so I read the back label. You'd never know it, but apparently, using it is like searing your food: it seals the moisture in.

5.16.2007

When you pry it from my chubby, sticky hands...

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you the great state of Illinois.

5.14.2007

Mother's Day--Belated

My Mom is awesome.
She's been many things: EMT, day-care provider, student, teacher, sales-whiz, jewelry-maker, and more. She's got versatility.
A high-school dropout, she went to college and got a degree, and then went to grad school and got another! She's got gumption.
About thirty years now, she and her husband have taken care of each other, and grown four (quite) odd children to adulthood. She's got a family, and they love her.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom.
And to all you other Moms: I don't know how you do it--but I'm glad you do.

5.03.2007

By Way of Explanation

More work-related posts for you guys.

Oh-by the way, when I give "left/right" directions, I'm assuming your right. As you may recall from the bathrooms of your youths (or Enter the Dragon), when you put mirrors up to each other, you see some very strange things. If you tilt a few mirrors and form a little triangle, you see copies of things receding off into infinity (and MADNESS!!). That is an optical "resonator."

So, an optical resonator is a place where light bounces back and forth. It turns out that when you start to make these things small (like the size of light waves), only the light that fits into the resonator can rattle around in there.

Here's a picture to illustrate.



On the top left, we have a three-sided resonator, like you might form with your vantiy mirrors. We can imagine light following along the red path, coming back onto itself again and again. If we were to add more sides, and follow the arrow down, we'd see that each time the light turns, it makes a smaller turn in the seven-sided resonator than in the three-sided one. If we go farther, up the diagonal arrow, we find a twenty-sided resonator, and the light's turns are smaller still... taking the limit of that process to infinity and imagining a hollow cylinder with a mirrored inside surface, we form what's called a "Whispering Gallery Mode Resonator," (or WGM),so named for the Whispering Gallery at St. Paul's cathedral in London.

We see that the arrow from the twenty-sided resonator to the WGM resonator is wiggly, and that the WGM is full of "lobes." That sort of represents for you that we're making certain that the light has the right wavelength to "fit" inside!

Those are the kind of resonators I deal with at work. Here's a few Scanning Electron Microscope micrographs I took of one such resonator:



Along the bottom is an overview, looking down on a Silicon microdisk WGM resonator. That one is 100 micrometers in diameter-about the diameter of a human hair. Above that, you see a couple of detail pictures. The left one shows a bit closer, and the right, closer still. As you see, these disks are very thin. Around 200 nanometers.

Dealing with these is a bit of a pain. In order to get light into them, we bring a fiber optical cable quite close... so close, that the photons jump from the cable to the resonator. Here's a schematic that emphasizes a that.



In the top panel, we have a fiber optic cable running from left to right, carrying a rainbow of light. The circular thing in the middle is a top-view of a WGM resonator. As you can see, some colors of light jump off the fiber optic cable and swirl around in the WGM. I've exaggerated the degree to which the different colors are displaced, just for clarity. As you see, each of the colors is a wave, and each wave closes on itself. That's called the resonant condition-and is what I mean when I say that the light has to "fit:" at any given point, after a round trip, the electromagnetic wave has to look identical to how it looked beforehand!

Another thing we see is that after the WGM resonator, the fiber optic cable doesn't have any more "red," "green," or "blue" light. It's all stuck in the resonator. We can see that in the bottom panel, where the curve shows the transmission past the resonator as a function of wavelength. Right at "red," "green," and "blue," all of the light gets stuck in the resonator. The shapes there are called "Lorentzian curves." You see that each dip has a little width- well, that has to do with how much light gets absorbed in the resonator, or radiated out into the world, etc. The less that happens, the narrower each dip will be.

So, what does all that have to do with the crazy picture below?

Well, the shapes of the Whispering Gallery Modes are a little more complicated. It turns out that each of those is an electromagnetic wave. And there are a couple of different ways that the electric field part can be oriented. Each of those orientations gives rise to different specific properties. Moreover, a given orientation can also form more complicated mode patterns- each of which also gives rise to different properties. The picture below was made by recording the transmission versus wavelength (around 1500nm-invisible light) and then moving the fiber optic cable farther from the resonator an then recording the transmission versus wavelength and then movi.... Sorry. Pointing up is one electric field orientation, and pointing down is another.

I'm still not sure WTF was going on.

4.30.2007

WTF is Going on Here?

Generated this figure today, trying to figure out-well-what was going on.

4.28.2007

Never Heard That Before

  • Ira Flatow basically tried to browbeat a caller into bombing a fertility clinic. The subject of the evening's show was stem cell research. When a caller spoke of his strong belief that all life begins at conception, Ira asked what the fellow was doing about it... Eventually, he posed the question, "If these were your children, what would you do? Would prayer be enough? Would writing letters to your congressmen suffice? Shouldn't you be doing something?"

    It wasn't explicit, but-hoo boy-subtext.
  • Dr. Ruth was an Israeli sniper before she was-well-Dr. Ruth. Talk about a career change.
  • We went shooting for the first time in a little over a month. Susan, as usual, was amazing. I did pretty well, too. We did have one problem: on several clips, the shell casings weren't clearing for Susan. She tried firming up her grip, but it didn't help. Any idears? (This did not happen to me at all)

4.24.2007

Previously Promised Post

In this post, you'll see some of my work... don't laugh. Here is an ICP/RIE.

We use it a lot. In order to make it work, we need all of this:

You can see small shiny tubes running everywhere. The tubes carry various gases: Argon, Helium, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Octofluorocyclobutane, Sulfur Hexafluoride, Chlorine, Silane, and a couple of others. I did that. It took a while to measure and bend it all.

Occasionally, the ICP/RIE breaks. When that happens, I usually have to fix it. Recently, the part pictured below broke. (It turns out, more than one thing was probably broken, with one leading to the other) Incidentally, that thing is a RF (radio-frequency) AMU (auto-matching-unit). Basically, it connects an RF power supply to our system. In order to make sure the power goes efficiently from the generator into the system, it has to automatically adjust some doohickeys to match the impedances. Impedance is just a fancy kind of resistance, but it is fairly important. In order to replace it, I had to take it apart.

This is the RF AMU:

Here's a better look:

And now with that part on the ground, ready to really work on...

You can see some cylindrical bodies there in the box. Those are tunable vacuum capacitors. The top one seemed to be stuck in one position, so I replaced it. No dice. I could tell that the capacitor could move, now, but looking closely, I found that the machine didn't know it was moving. Eventually, I traced the problem to one of the bits hanging off the side (there are two motors and gearboxes and whatnot)-one of the gearboxes was bad. When I replaced that, everything was peachy.

4.17.2007

First Second Baseman

Here is an actual screenshot of my junkmail folder. I noticed that the purported sender had the good sense to phish with the name "Fifth Third Bank." It reminds me of the "38th Church of Christ, Scientist," I saw in Simi Valley some time ago.

Minor Update

What's going on these days?
  • Running 2 1/2 to 3 miles, every other day. No recurrence of knee problem, as yet.
  • Playing The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind quite a bit. Getting near to completing it.
  • Looking forward to reading the new Harry Potter book, which we've got pre-ordered.
  • Not going shooting. What with a variety of things, it has been weeks. I need to lay off the diet coke before we go, though: it makes me kinda jittery.
  • Enjoying the Pasadena weather. Not quite a proper spring, but it'll do in a pinch
  • Listening to a bunch of music I haven't heard in a goodly while (my iPod has been largely battery-less for a long time, now, and I just reloaded onto computer several gigs of old tunes)
  • Hungry (lunch in about an hour).
  • Had to fix the ICP/RIE, which was a pain in the ass. I'll dig up some pictures of the things I had to deal with.
  • Finally, after months, getting a working fiber aligner from New Focus (they sent a bad one, then returned it unfixed, the first time I sent it to be serviced).

3.31.2007

Coming to Oregon

We'll be going home briefly next weekend, for the worst of reasons. My very dear friend Luther died in an accident this week. Friday night will be spent flying up for a memorial in his honor. He was a kind friend, and one of my "chosen" family: not by cause of birth, but by deed.

3.23.2007

Cacophany

When I was a kid, there was usually a lot going on at home. With four children and their assorted friends, many pets, different activities, parents with less than perfect hearing, etc., the audio background level was often pretty high.

Upon leaving home, I often found myself in the position to enjoy some quiet. It got to the point that I could no longer abide the simultaneous use of music playing devices and the television (an old standby at home). Eventually, though, I discovered the internets.

Now, when I'm at my desk, I tend to listen to the news and music simultaneously. A reversion to olden times? Maybe. What I want to know, though, is if there's a way to send one to the left ear, and one to the right. I think I could get higher information transfer that way.

3.06.2007

2.19.2007

What Have We Been Up To?

Well, mostly the normal stuff:

1.30.2007

Cool Stencil Technique

When we were on our honeymoon, we saw some spray paint artists using a nifty stenciling technique. In order to paint objects with interesting details, they used manila file-folders with the large object cut into one side, and the detail cut into the other. This way, they lined up very neatly, and it was simple business to paint elaborate tropical fishes, things with stylized shadings, etc.

Very fine!

Six things...finally

-Everytime I drive past a semi-truck I have to look and see that someone is actually driving it, thanks to the movie "Maximum Overdrive." -I can only read magazines from back to front. -When I laugh too hard, my eye twitches. On occassion, I snort. -When I go to resteraunts I have to organize the sugar packets by color, size and alphabetically. -If one of my hands or feet gets a drop of water on them I have to get a drop of water on the same spot on the other hand immediately. Same thing if one hand gets completely submersed, I must to the same to it's opposite. -Meat is my favorite food. I am practically a carnivore. Nay, I am a carnivore.

It Might Work.

During various waits in the cleanroom or at my desk during simulations, I've been reading in the final draft of FM3-24, the Army's and Marines' new counterinsurgency manual.

It would seem that General Petraeus and his other authors have a strong sense of the history of insurgent and counterinsurgent operations. There are many historical insurgencies discussed with what reads to be great facility.

The claim (and a reasonable one it is) is that one of the keys to defeating an insurgency is providing security for those who are not participants; the butcher, baker, and candlestick maker need to be able to go about their business and provide for their families.

Clearly, the bombs and murders in Iraq indicate that despite our troops being in Iraq, they may be located in the wrong places. We read in the papers and magazines and hear on CSPAN that most of the troops are currently located in either forward operating bases (FOBs) , or in other secured locations, and they sally forth to conduct tactical operations.

Strangely, this is probably both the safest and the least safe organization for our guys and ladies, depending on the time horizon. They (authors of FM3-24) say that in the short run, the situation is security punctuated by periods of danger, and in the long run, the situation is indefinite exposure to these periodic vulnerable moments--because we can't effectively provide security to the mass of people who are afraid of being exploded at the market or abducted at work and murdered in an alley, and without that security, the population won't turn out their assailants.

Therefore, it seems the plan that is being implemented is to put more troops in more immediate danger, with the idea that by allowing our troops to stay in the areas they secure, making connections with the populace, and building trust and incremental other improvements, the insurgents will lose the power of terror over the populace--the people will be free to collaborate with our forces in achieving their security.

The upshot of this plan is that in the short term, things are likely to get worse for our troops. More injuries and deaths. However, it may work. I don't know--it may be too late for a change tactics to achieve the goal of stability and safety in Iraq. I don't like the idea of more young men (and women; support troops will not be any safer than they have been) being asked to give the "final measure of devotion," but we've started another civil war that may lead to another Rwanda... I worry that with the current civilian leadership in the White House, we can never expect better results. If someone else were there, I might be able to advocate the extra troops and more time... but I can't trust our current Executive; they've been wrong on too many occasions.

1.29.2007

A Couple of Things

  1. Thing the first
    1. Megan, you should do the "six things." Dad, Mom, Sis, anyone else, please also join in in comments.
  2. Thing the second
When she was perhaps 6 years old, Megan did a really funnny thing. One summer day, Melissa and Matt were not, for whatever reason, home. Mom and Dad went off early to hit the yard sales, leaving Megan and me at home. I was a teenager and usually spent a goodly portion of Saturday and Sunday sleeping (making up for the lateness of my weekday reading). Megan, not realizing I was home, got a bit worried... and called 911.

I woke up when I sherrif's deputy stuck his head in my bedroom door (hand on gun), and asked if I lived there, and if my parents were around... I explained things, got out of bed, and gave Megan a bit of a hard time for it. I figured that now she's all grown, I should bring it up again, and supply a bit of perspective.

Note: This is not an invitation for any parents to spill stories of my own foibles, many though they be.

1.24.2007

6 Weird Things About Me

Susan has "invited" me to participate in this "meme." (I think it's a misuse of the word, but whatevs). Here you go:
  • Clean Messes: I don't mind a certain amount of messiness... so long as edges of objects in the mess are parallel and not askew.
  • Stubbornly Refuse Recommendations: Basically, if more than one person (or the same person more than once) recommends something to me forcefully, I will refuse it. I don't know why, but it seems like badgering, and I hate badgers.
  • Afraid of Heights But Love to Fly, Ride Rollercoasters, Climb Things: Go figure. I'm terrified when I look over high edges, or drive near ravines, cliffs, etc.
  • Life Sized Cardboard Cutouts and People in Animal Suits Disturb Me: I just get the willies!
  • Tremor: I have one. Have had for years.
  • Periodic Teeth-clenching Whilst In Transit: I clench my teeth (gently) whenever I pass between dots on a dotted-line road.
Weird, I know.

1.23.2007

We need legislation to stop illegal immigration

Thus read a letter to the editor in Saturday's Daily Courier. Pardon me, but isn't legistlation implied in the fact that it is illegal? This guy just hates Mexicans. Speaking of letters to the editor hating Mexicans-we got a funny one for The Byline. Apparantly there is this crazy man who hangs around the campus in Medford and he wrote a letter regarding the Mexican Cartel in Medford and how they are dealing ''. I am guessing he meant 'pathenogens', but that still doesn't make sense.

1.18.2007

Donnie Darko

Susan seemed to like the movie quite a bit--at least that is what she claims--but I did not really care that much for it. I couldn't really say why...

We can explore my reaction to Susan's points.
  1. Beautifully shot: First off, I do agree that it was beautifully shot. The visuals were quite striking. I didn't really notice the score at all, but then I rarely do. Unless it is like one of those movies from the "Golden Age of Cinema," full of orchestral music recorded at much, much too high a level.
  2. Paranoid schitzophrenic: This may well have been the thing that made me not like the movie. It was disturbing. Note that I won't say that it was a bad movie. Just that I didn't like it.
  3. The pseudoreality concept: I'm not generally against pseudoreality in film or print. I didn't like Owl Creek, either, though.
I don't know... de gustibus, I guess.

1.17.2007

I am the Picture of Health

Contra my recent post, eh? Leaving aside my many sicknesses of late, I've recently had (most of) a "guerrilla physical.*"

My heart and lungs are in good health: bp 110/75, resting heart rate 68, no untoward lung-sounds, total cholesterol level 128mg/dL, with approximately equal HDL and LDL levels. My kidneys and liver are functioning just fine: kidney and liver enzyme levels nominal. My blood is healthy: electrolyte levels are nominal, hematocrit, hemoglobin, red- and white-blood cell count and volume all fine. My ears, nose, throat, and eyeballs are all okay: all normal and healthy, though I'm now getting a very minor astigmatism (for which I'll be getting some glasses).

* The student health center at school doesn't give physicals, so I had to make several visits and request a variety of examinations to make up my "guerrilla physical."

1.16.2007

She says...

We watched Donnie Darko last night (first time for me, second time for Tom). I am not going to deny that it is an exceedingly strange and messed up movie. It is most definitely that. Disturbing, too. However, I liked it. I liked it for the following reasons:
1) It was beautifully shot.
I have to say that this was one of the prettier films I've seen in a while. In the opening sequence, we're swept along a mountain road, panning out over the valley as the sun rises. The musical score was affecting without being overbearing, I think, which added some level of intensity to the images.

2) I haven't seen too many movies that tell the story from the point of view of a paranoid schizophrenic.
And A Beautiful Mind this ain't. Not that I have any first-hand experience with schizophrenia, so I cannot attest to the validity of this portrayal, but it was interesting to watch "reality" unfold as the main character perceives it. At times he even knows what he is seeing and interacting with isn't real, but you can understand how he gets sucked into believing it anyway.

3) It seems that I dig the whole "pseudoreality" concept.
I enjoyed Ambrose Bierce's short story Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge when I read it in high school. This movie was very similar in its basic structure. It may not be the most meaningful or intellectually stimulating of plot types, but whatever. I like it, even if that makes me some kind of dolt. ;)
Perhaps now Tom might weigh in on why he didn't/doesn't like this movie...

1.15.2007

Honeybooks

Books read over the honeymoon:

1.12.2007

A Fun Idea

For some time, I've liked the idea of a "network" based on "syndicating" TV shows that were canceled before their times. For example, they might run Freeks and Geeks, Firefly, Undeclared, Sports Night, Arrested Development, and My So Called Life . Unfortunately, it would seem that most cancelled shows are quite terrible.

1.11.2007

Sick Tour

Since about New Year's Eve, I've been, one way or another, ill. A list of symptoms I have experienced
  • GI distress
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Aches
  • Sensitive skin
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion
  • Fatigue
I think I even had a little bit of hysterical pregnancy yesterday.

It's interesting because I generally only have one or two symptoms, not all in a row. Oh- did I fail to mention that these were kind of all "lined-up," and not simultaneous?

1.10.2007

Life, Art, Etc.

There are too many monkeyfarmin' scorpions on this monkeyfarmin' plane!

1.09.2007

Sublime and Not

First, the sublime: I heart the iPhone. Just look at it! It's like a space-ship! That you use as a phone!

Now, the not: At CES, Bill Gates had a very important announcement.
Our ambition is to give you connected experiences 24 hours a day.... And in thinking about that broadly, one area that comes up that clearly demand [sic] special work, and that is thinking about connecting to the car...

But the car is special. You've got to have things that are simple. (like a computer)

And so we've been investing in this, and we've had a very key partner who's been willing to pioneer this with us, and we're just making a significant announcement in that overall vision today. And so to help me with that, I'd like to welcome Mark Fields, the president of the Americas for Ford Motor Company, to join me on stage. (Applause.)

MARK FIELDS: Hi, Bill.

BILL GATES: Welcome, Mark.

...

MARK FIELDS: The new thing is a fully integrated, voice activated, in-car communications and entertainment system for mobile phones and digital music players...

So what Synch does is it totally integrates like never before all of your electronic devices, like your cell phones, Zunes, iPods, all the things that are in your pockets when you get in your car, right into the vehicle, and seamlessly...

Yes, what a good idea. We should let Microsoft get its tentacles into our cars. It won't be long before the following joke doesn't make the software guy look bad:

Four engineers were driving a car. There was a chemical engineer, a mechanical engineer, an electrical engineer, and a software engineer. Suddenly, the engine died and it coasted to a stop on the shoulder.

"Must be vapor lock", said the chemical engineer.

"The distributor's probably shot", said the electrical engineer.

"The timing belt broke", opined the mechanical engineer.

Then the software engineer spoke up. "Look, everyone calm down. Let's just get out of the car, then get back in and start it back up."