Saturday, September 30, 2006

A buffer

There is nothing I could write about that is anywhere close to as serious and meaningful as my last post, so this post about nothing is merely a buffer. I am still very sad about my friend, but life must go on and that is what he would want. Actually, if he were still here he would probably make some kind of joke about how absurd things turn out. Really. I think he would. None of us knows what lies ahead in our futures, and that is probably for the best.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Goodbye, Larry.

A good friend of mine has died. It happened on Monday and was sudden, which makes it all the more difficult for me to process - it seems so unreal. It had been about a month since I last talked to him, and the last time we saw him was when we had him over for dinner back in July. Larry didn't have any family here. No wife, no kids. So there hasn't been a funeral or memorial. He was cremated and the ashes were sent out of state. I think this makes it more difficult to come to terms with the loss. There is no sense of closure. He was here, and now he is just... gone. I'm hoping that writing this will help in some small way. And maybe later there will be some sort of remembrance. I hope so. He had a lot of friends here and we are all probably feeling this way.

I met Larry in 1988 when I was a graduate teaching assistant. Larry was in charge of the "quiz system" that administered the quizzes for the large sophomore physics classes that all the engineers have to take. I was assigned to work in the quiz bank under Larry's direction and we became friends. Back then, Larry's office sort of doubled as a hangout for a few of the older professors. They were interesting guys, and funny. Everything was laid back and casual, and we all had a great time getting the work done. Larry was as cool a boss as I've ever had. As long as you got your work done correctly and on time, he didn't care how or when you did it. Even though it was not part of his job, he was always willing to help students who were struggling. Larry really knew his physics and had a talent for explaining it to others. When he finally got to teach one of those classes he got the highest reviews in the department. He retired last year.

Before he went back to school (he dropped out of Tech and came back later to finish his degree), Larry was a whitewater rafting guide. He was also an expert canoe paddler and took me on many outings. He taught me everything I know about paddling and how to be safe on a river. He made whitewater canoeing so easy. All I had to do was follow his instructions (I was in the front, Larry in the back of the canoe) and everything always went according to plan. Even big, scary rapids and dropoff waterfalls were no problem to navigate with Larry as the guide. We paddled the Chattooga, the Nantahala (that was some COLD water), and the 'Hootch. I also went on a three day canoe camping trip through the Okeefenokee Swamp with Larry and some of his friends two times -- once in the spring, and once in the fall. Those times on the water are a big part of how I will remember him. Good times... The pictures I've posted are from the swamp trip in the Fall of 1992.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

White & Nerdy

Usually by the time I find this stuff, everyone else has already seen it, but if you haven't seen "White & Nerdy" yet, you should click that link. It hits entirely too close to home for us, which just adds to our enjoyment. See my list below:

*Didn't go to MIT, but did go to GIT and graduate with honor.
*Like MC Escher art.
*Also like Earl Grey tea.
*My rims never spin (and never will).
*Only have one action figure (but it’s cherry).
*Stephen Hawking's in my library.
*I know pi to a thousand places (well, just five actually).
*I'm a whiz at Minesweeper, yup.
*Do vector calculus just for fun (not really, but I don’t hate it).
*I ain't got a gat but I got a soldering gun.
*I always have 2-3 pens in my labcoat pocket, but no pocket protector.
*I edit Wikipedia (not yet, but tempting).
*I memorized "Holy Grail" really well. And the Star Wars movies. And Lord of the Rings. And Farscape, Firefly, etc.
*Bubble wrap is irresistable fun (pop pop).
*Whiter than sour cream (unfortunately, yes).
*I was in some geeky clubs, and band.
*Kirk or Picard? Yes, tough question.

Too quiet

I know I've been quiet lately. We're still in the dark about the new work schedule that theoretically starts on Monday. The uncertainty has spilled over into other areas - sucking the life out of my motivation to do, well, anything. I don't want to start anything new at work or at home. I shouldn't let it get to me like it has. I'll get over this funk sooner or later and go charging off to do good things. Or buy some shoes. [Always an option for how to handle any problem - new shoes usually help. Really. They do. Try it sometime.]

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Georgia Tech is #24 on the latest AP poll. This may not last past next weekend, when we face a tough Virginia Tech team on the road, but I'll enjoy it while it lasts!

More TVs than people

The average US household has more TVs than people. Half of US homes have three or more sets, while only 19% have one television. The article didn't even bother listing a percentage of homes with no TV at all. The "average household" (which consists of 2.55 people) has one of their 2.73 TVs on for more than 8 hours a day. Individual people are watching more than 4 hours a day. While I believe the statistics, I have to wonder -- just what the hell are all these people watching? There are a few standouts in the TV lineup, but I'd rate most of the content somewhere between banal and craptacular. Even when I want to watch TV, it is difficult finding something on that is worth watching.

We're in that small minority of people who only have one TV, and that suits us just fine. We only have the one TV, but we have four computers. You have to have your priorities straight. I think music (or silence) makes a better sonic background than some inane sitcom rerun you've seen six times before, or some vacuous airbag of a news anchor sensationalizing some insignificant tidbit of a soundbite. Instead of using the tube to lull/dull yourself to sleep every night, try opening a window and listening to the crickets sometime. You might like it.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Lackluster in Limbo

Today has been a very long, slow day. With little new work calling for my attention, I was able to get completely caught up. It has been tempting to start some new projects. I have a couple in mind, but I am unwilling to expend much effort on this kind of thing until I know what my new work assignment will be. If I go through all the trouble to start up something new, I would like to be able to keep working on it longer than one week. We're still awaiting the new work schedule and location assignments that were announced two weeks ago (without any details of who and where), and we're only one week away from the start date. Word was that we were supposed to find out by the end of this week, but it is Friday afternoon at 4pm, and we have heard nothing. I don't think I'm gonna stick around holding my breath. This day has been a total downer. I prefer to be busy at work. The only time I was busy today was during lunch when I had access to one of our accelerators and was able to get a lot of testing done. The uncertainty isn't any fun and has contributed to a weird sort of vibe around this place. We're all pretty sure we won't like the new schedule, but none of us knows how bad it will really be.

I'm about to call it a day and officially enter weekend mode. I am sure that dinner at my favorite Indian restaurant and socializing with our friends at the pub will brighten my mood. Hope the rest of you have a good weekend, too.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

GT vs. UVA Quick Summary

Overall experience = fun night out

Tailgating menu = chili cheese dogs and onion rings from The Varsity = very yummy, especially the rings!

Tailgating company = always top notch!

Score = resounding victory for Tech

Fermicat's pick for player of the game = Calvin Johnson (#21)

Halftime show = groovy

Throwback Thursday Theme = lots of laughs

Throwback uniforms = surprisingly good looking for stuff modeled after the 70s

Attendance = not quite a sellout, but big crowd for a weeknight

Greatest weakness = special teams, again. Kickoff return coverage SUCKS!

Greatest strength = our defense is rock solid

Officiating = fair (and I mean that in a good way)

TV coverage = ?? (I was there for most of the game, so I didn't see it on TV except for the last couple of minutes)

Weather = perfect night for football

Getting to leave work early to go tailgate = priceless

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Throwback Thursday

"I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an engineer!" Or medical physicist. Whatever. Our fight song was adapted from a drinking song ("Son of a Gambolier"):

I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an engineer,
A helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva, hell of an engineer,
Like all the jolly good fellows, I drink my whiskey clear,
I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an engineer.

Oh, if I had a daughter, sir, I'd dress her in White and Gold,
And put her on the campus, to cheer the brave and bold.
But if I had a son, sir, I'll tell you what he'd do.
He would yell, "To Hell with Georgia," like his daddy used to do.

Oh, I wish I had a barrel of rum and sugar three thousand pounds,
A college bell to put it in and a clapper to stir it around.
I'd drink to all good fellows who come from far and near.
I'm a ramblin', gamblin', hell of an engineer.

My dad had a daughter, and she does wear white and gold, but she also yells "To Hell With Georgia" with all the guys. And a bunch of other stuff that makes me glad there aren't any small children sitting near us at the games. Things have changed a lot since 1911!

Thursday is the "Monday Night Football" of College Football. Yes, the ESPN Thursday night game this week is Georgia Tech vs. Virginia, and PDM and I will be there at the game. I'm leaving work early to join the tailgate party. You gotta have your priorities straight. This week we're planning on sending the guys over to The Greasy V to pick up some glorified steaks and heavyweight dogs all the way, ring one and strings, and maybe even an F.O. or two. Tech has dubbed the game "Throwback Thursday". The team will be wearing uniforms similar to what they had in the late 60s and early 70s. Lets hope they play better than they did in that era, because with the exception of one very good year in 1970 when they went 9-3, they were pretty mediocre back then. I would say look for us on TV, but (a)you don't know what we look like, and (b)they never film people in our section.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pimp My Camry

I drive a 2006 Camry LE that I bought last fall. It is by far the nicest car I've ever owned (not that there was serious competition from any of my previous cars). It is roomy and comfortable, powerful enough for anything I have to do on the road, gets good mileage, looks good, and drives like a dream. From past experience with four other high-mileage Toyotas I know that it is unlikely to have any serious mechanical problems until I've driven it at least 100K miles. I've only got one problem with it: there are a metric crapload of dark gray metallic Camrys on the road that look just like it. It looks great, but isn't exactly special. I haven't done anything significant to personalize it. (Besides bonk the back bumper on a concrete support post last month, making a vertical dent in it, dang it. And I'm still planning on having that fixed.) My drive to work is only nine miles, so I almost never leave stuff in the car. It doesn't have that "lived in" look or feel. I keep a few CDs tucked away out of sight, and am forced to have a parking permit hang tag that precludes hanging anything else from the rear view mirror. I'm not a bumper sticker person, and have just a small Georgia Tech logo on the rear window above the brake light. Sometimes I feel like I'm driving a rental car. For a car that I've been driving almost a year now, it still lacks any meaningful marks of ownership (again, I am not counting the bumper damage). Any tasteful suggestions on how to make this car feel like it is mine?

I took it in for service a few weeks ago. Why is it that my owner's manual recommends an oil change every 5000 miles, but when I take it to the dealer for service they will invariably put a sticker on the inside window that says I need another one in 3000 miles? Don't they read their own manuals? The last time I brought the car in, they didn't even add the 3000 miles correctly. 10,089 + 3000 does not equal the "11,389" they put on the sticker. I don't think I'll be bringing it in that soon guys... sorry. Oh, and another thing - they put the sticker on extremely crooked which led to me having a "Monk Moment" about it. I was going to fix it, but since they got the mileage wrong I tossed it instead. On the way out, they told me that I would be contacted with (yet another) customer survey, and sort of coached me on how their managers interpret the results. Grade inflation is not limited to schools, people. It applies to customer service surveys as well. Which means I will be sure to ignore it, since the results are meaningless as a true measure of performance. They all want to be like Lake Wobegon, where everyone is above average. That drives me crazy! I'm not giving out an A+ for B- work, even if your manager regards anything less than perfect to be a failure.

Monday, September 18, 2006

I Passed!!!

Got the letter from the ABR today. I passed the Clinical and General Physics exams. I felt pretty good about the tests right after taking them, but it is nice to have confirmation. Hooray!!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Saddest Tailgate Party, Ever.

Saw this on game day and felt sorry for the poor bastard. What a sad and lonely sight amidst all the revelry.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Elvis Isn't Dead

He's at our tailgate party every week. He likes Georgia Tech, except when they play Carolina.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Cheap Cat Toys

Friday CatBlogging edition:

You don't have to spend a lot of money to get a toy your cats will love. Moxy is in and out of this box about a thousand times a day. It makes an excellent lair.

Here is an earlier model of the toy, with both cats getting in on the action. Moxy later chewed the edges of this box until it slowly disintegrated and we had to get her a thicker one (pictured above). It was a tough job drinking all those Coronas for her, but we managed to empty the new box in a surprisingly short amount of time.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Rain, Funny Headlines, and Monk Moments.

A gentle rain fell all night long. It was the first time in months that we got a nighttime rain that didn't involve thunder and lightning. Listening to it (ahhhh!) got me into a good mood. I didn't even mind (much) the heavier-than-normal traffic this morning that resulted from the rain.

A day of work has turned my good mood into a goofy mood. Example? This headline sounds vaguely naughty: Scientists Remove Hunley’s Rear Hatch. If your brain interprets "Hunley" as a person's name, and not the name of a sunken Civil War submarine, this statement is kind of funny. Or is it just my warped sense of humor at play here?

I had a "Monk moment" today at work. I was putting a label into the clear pocket on the spine of a binder, and couldn't get it in there straight. It nearly drove me crazy... a little askew, overcorrect, overcorrect the opposite direction, overcorrect again, oh no - it is just a tiny little bit crooked now. Must fix. Argh! Overcorrected! And so on. A normal human being would have left well enough alone the first time. PDM has his share of "Monk moments" as well. Actually, we both have a lot of "Monk moments". Enough to dedicate an entire post to. Look for it as a coming attraction!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

When it rains, they let us water.

No more waiting up ‘til midnight to turn on the hoses. No more collecting rainwater. No more getting up an hour early (after staying up until midnight) to water the rest of the plants in the pre-dawn darkness. Why, you ask? Because my county finally decided to drop their absurdly tight watering restrictions. We’ve gotten a bit more rain in the last month so the trees are not dropping leaves anymore and we have to mow the grass again. Now we will follow the statewide Stage I Drought schedule, which allows watering three days a week, any time of day except 10am-4pm. Hooray! I’ll be able to water stuff in the evening after work if I need to. Hopefully we will continue to get some rain and I won’t need to do too much watering. My wallet can breathe easier as well – one negative consequence of the previous watering restrictions was a higher water bill (because I ended up leaving the water running all night). Yes, the previous restrictions resulted in doubling our water use, at least for my household.

Now my nosy neighbors can finally stop fretting about my water collecting and find something else to worry about.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Real life intrudes, a blowout, and a very bad cat.

I'm not worried about work anymore, because now I'm worried about Big Daddy (my grandfather). He has been in the hospital this weekend with stroke-like symptoms, but they haven't figured out what is going on with him. Everybody think good thoughts, please. I'll let you know what happens.

After spending a few hours with Big Daddy at the hospital on Saturday, we headed over to Tech for the game against Samford. It was a very different atmosphere than last week. We joined our fellow tailgaters late, scarfed down some sandwiches (but no beer, because we didn't bring our own and didn't want to be leeches), then went to the game. The team had a shaky start, going 3-and-out. But things quickly turned and the game went about like everyone expected. We pulled our starters after halftime and played a total of 69 different guys! Four quarterbacks, four tailbacks... pretty much anyone on the bench who was wearing pads got a chance to play. I started to wonder if they would start grabbing kids from the stands. We left a bit early since neither of us got much sleep the night before. Unlike the hell we encountered trying to away from campus last week, getting home was a breeze and we caught the end of the game on the radio.

Now it's Sunday afternoon and I'm still sitting around in my PJs. A nap might be in order later on. Or shopping. I haven't decided. For the past two nights, Moxy has gone on a tear and kept us awake for hours starting at around 2am. I hope this is just a phase. Please, someone tell me it is just a phase! Otherwise, it means that we have adopted Satan's spawn instead of the adorable kitten that we thought we were bringing home, and we will never get more than 1-2 hours of continuous sleep again.

So how was YOUR weekend?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Impending Doom?

I'm learning to reflexively dread staff meetings. Every time we have one, our schedules and clinic assignments get shuffled around. Usually just as everyone has adjusted to the last batch of changes.

Today we had a staff meeting and guess what? Our schedules and clinical assignments are going to get changed as of October 1. Only they didn't tell us who was going where. Nice. The only change they did tell us about leaves an opening at the satellite location that I usually cover when their physicist is only there part time. I have a bad feeling that I'll end up getting assigned there full time. The people there are nice and everything, but there isn't enough to do and it is very dull. Plus the types of procedures they perform are limited in scope, so I will get zero opportunity to learn anything new. Since I am a junior physicist, training opportunities are extremely important.

Sure, I haven't heard anything official about it, and maybe I am getting upset for nothing. I hope so. But my gut says differently. I have that awful feeling of impending doom.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Healthcare Ain't Like Engineering

I've been working in my new career just over a year now. I like it most days. It can take a lot out of you. It can be heartbreaking some days, and wryly humorous the next. One thing is for sure: it isn't like my old career of being an engineer toiling away in a cube farm. For one thing, some of the things you overhear are funny, especially when taken out of context. Want an example? "That is the biggest rectum I've ever seen!" If you hear that on an engineering job, it would most likely be referring to someone's dominant personality trait, but in healthcare it would literally mean someone was, um, "full" when they were scanned. I used to pore over blueprints, but now I gaze at CT scans. Let me tell you, nobody looks good on a CT scan! Not even people who look darned cute on the outside.

Speaking of medical images, did anyone else notice that during tonight's episode of House there was a weird imaging mixup? They used an endoscope to check out the patient's stomach and you see the nice color video image of the esophagus and then the stomach, then all of a sudden we're looking at an ultrasound image of something unidentifiable. The scope is still down his throat and there wasn't an ultrasound probe anywhere in sight. Strange. But interesting episode. I'm not sure I like the "new and improved" House, but from the looks of it the old House is going to be back sooner rather than later.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


I have never seen so many people on the Georgia Tech campus, ever. Not even at a Tech-Georgia game. It was, as Jeff Foxworthy would say, pandelerium. PDM and I spent all day tailgating and then watching the game. We tailgate next to Yellow Jacket Alley, not even a block from the north stands of the stadium. It is prime real estate. There were 3-4 times as many people in this area than on a normal game day. People were setting up tables in areas (like the mudholes) that normally go untouched. You could't walk two steps without running into someone.

High points of the day:

- The incredible sense of excitement on campus as all of those thousands of fans partied all afternoon.
- Getting to soak up all that college football atmosphere for the first time this season.
- Terrific food and company.
- Fireworks and a flyover during the pregame show. The flyover was very cool, but blink and you'd miss it!
- Tech going up 10-0 in the first half.
- Staying in the game until the end. We ain't no pushovers, y'hear. ND never took their starters out, and they didn't beat the spread either.
- The sea of gold in the stadium warmed my heart. I was worried our beloved stadium might be full of ND fans, but the Yellow Jacket faithful were out in force, and LOUD!
- We enjoyed the funny guy in the stands behind us. He was a riot! I hope he's still there next week.
- The Notre Dame fans were the nicest crowd we've ever hosted for a game. There were a metric crapload of them on campus, and they were generally very polite and well-behaved before AND after the game. A real class act. I still don't like your team and never will, but you've earned my respect.

Low points:

- The final score, obviously.
- The incredibly bad call by the refs that led to ND's final touchdown. Their guy was inbounds when he was hit, and our guy didn't hit him with his head. Pathetic. It was a legitimate tackle and they should have had to kick a field goal. Thanks, refs. /sarcasm
- Port-a-potties. Suck. So does the long walk over the hill to the student center to use a real restroom.
- It was hot, but that's just part of college football in the south. We got over it. Beer helps.
- Crowds. Heavy foot traffic. No one left early, so getting out of the stadium and back to the car was challenging.
- Regular automotive traffic. It took us 30 minutes to get out of the parking deck from level 3. [Hey Tech! perhaps hiring a few extra cops to direct traffic out of a sold-out game might have been a decent idea. It's not like you didn't make any money yesterday.] Another 30 minutes were spent getting to the interstate, which is right next to campus. Spit out of a dorm room and you'd hit it. We got home at 1:15am.
- Did I mention The Score?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Overly Hyped

I'm dismayed at all the hype about today's Georgia Tech vs. Notre Dame game. Yes, ND is ranked #2 (preseason, so it is just speculation). Yes, it is on national TV (ABC 8pm). Yes, it is a big game. But it is NOT the be-all, end-all of Georgia Tech football. Get a grip, people. I care a lot more about the Georgia game than this one.

Tech is unranked this year. We're playing #2. We basically have nothing to lose. If we can just manage to stay in the game, it will be a moral victory. An upset would be sweet, but too many people have been talking about this possibility and I fear they have jinxed us. I'm just going to enjoy the tailgating parties and soak up the college football atmosphere and drink a lot of beer. It's a great day for some football - mostly sunny and not nearly as searingly hot as it has been lately.

And just for the record, the last time Georgia Tech played Notre Dame was January 1, 1999 in the Gator Bowl. Tech won 35-28.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Are you a Shatnerd?

Take the test and find out. I'm Shat-tastic!

Hunter, Prey.

Friday CatBlogging edition: Moxy has developed quite the appetite for chasing/eating buglike critters of all shapes and sizes. I don't have a problem with her hunting and killing creepy crawly things in the house. Last week she dismembered and then squashed a daddy longlegs. There wasn't much left of it to eat, but she did play with the severed legs until they stopped moving.

She had a lot of fun playing with this cricket yesterday.

I checked on her a few minutes later and all I found was one lone cricket leg. It wasn't moving.

I've got to get a decent digital camera. There is no reason for the cricket to be that out of focus. Also my camera has a very long delay betwen my pressing the button and the shutter actually opening for the picture. It is difficult to get an action photo this way. I was trying to be patient until Christmas, but I think I might be buying myself a present in the near future. I need more pixels, better optics, zoom capability, and it should all come in a smaller package than the dinosaur digital camera I am using now. Anyone have any recommendations?