Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A New Game To Play

Today's trip to the store was an exercise in aggravation. First, there was the typical idiots on the road, including the little girl in some trendy looking little car who was busy talking on her phone, running her hand through her hair, and tail-gating me.

Then there were the unhelpful people at the store. I was looking for something specific and couldn't. I had to go find someone to ask, and when I did locate a couple a ladies, they were annoyed at me for interrupting their conversation to ask my question. "I'm sorry, I know it's an imposition, but considering it's my money which helps keep you employed, I think you can take 20 second to listen to my question and give me an answer. And if you want to be really nice, you can hold you eye rolls until after I've walked away.

The next challenge was the other customers. Apparently, today was "walk around slowly and completely ignore the fact that there are other shoppers" day. I can understand that you're looking for something, but you really don't need to be weaving down the middle of the aisle at a pace that a snail in molasses in winter could beat.

And then there was the woman at checkout. She was in such a hurry, despite the fact there was no one in line behind me, that she managed to shred three different bags throwing stuff in them, and then was annoyed when I asked for bags without tears. Yes, I know it's a pain to rebag things, but it's an even bigger pain for me when the torn bags finish tearing and spill my groceries down the steps of our apartment.

To all of you who contributed to all of this 'fun,' I have a new game to play. It's called "Stab You in the Face."

I'll go first.

Monday, September 29, 2008

New Link

I have added a new link to the right. As we get close to Election Day, it's important that we make sure we're educated on what's going on, and to that end, I have added a link to Electoral-Vote.com. This site keeps track of a bunch of polls across the country, both on the Presidential race and Congressional races. I tend to trust it as it usually pretty even-handed in their analysis and (relatively) up-to-date on their numbers.

My New Favorite Book

I noticed this title in the list of "Other Works By" page in a Conn Iggulden book I read recently. The title alone was enough to get me interested and I looked it up online. I read off the description to Journey and it was decided that we needed to own this book.

Made to look like an old 1950s text book (it was actually published in 2007), this is a great book - I haven't done more than flip through it so far and I already know this for a fact! It includes everything from how to tie knots, to the Navajo code-talkers dictionary; coin tricks to famous battles; star maps to interacting with girls. Before you get too 'excited' about this last, it's things like "When you are older, flowers really do work - women love them. When you are young, however, there is a ghastly sense of being awkward rather than romantic - and she will guess that your mother bought them."

And with the economy the way it is, some of the things in here may be of more immediate use than simply a good laugh.

Although, I do have to agree with a question Journey had about the book. After reading the description, she asked "Why is just for boys? Those are the kind of things I wanted to know too!" Well, now we'll both know!

Friday, September 26, 2008

It's a New Record

It took McCain 10 whole minutes before he started telling war stories!

Arizona Proposition 105 - A Really Bad Idea

Okay, so here's the first of those political rants I mentioned in my post earlier today. It's specific to Arizona, but I think everyone needs to know that this kind of thing is out there.

One of the Propositions on the ballot this election is Prop 105, the 'Majority Rule' proposition (you can get both the text of the bill and the public pamphlet at the AZ Secretary of State ballot measures page). Essentially, this bill says that any initiative which will increase taxes has to be approved by a majority of registered voters.

Let emphasize this last point: "a majority of registered voters." NOT just a majority of those who voted, but of those who are registered to vote. This means that people who are registered but do not vote on an issue are effectively marked down as a "no." Given that registered voter turn out in the 2004 election was 88.4% (and that was the highest level since 1996), the "no's" already have a 12% advantage over the "yes" votes. The numbers get even worse when you look at non-presidential election years. In 2006, that number drops to 70%. Remember, these are the percent of registered voters who voted, not the percentage of eligible voters (those number are even worse). [See the Census Bureau numbers]

You can see the problem here. This measure would make it nearly impossible to get any initiative which raises taxes in any form (even if it's just to pay for something in the bill) passed.

Now, I'm all for fiscal responsibility in government. And, as should be fairly clear by now, I am a very strong believer in citizen participation in politics and government. This bill, however, is just fuckin' insane! I've people who support dismiss the concerns of low voter-turn out by saying that it will actually encourage people to educate themselves on the initiative and then vote. This is a bull-shit argument. Let's fact it - "people" are lazy idiots. They are NOT going to read up on a issue in depth and then vote on it. Some will, but many will not.

This entire bill is predicated on the Libertarian idea that government needs to be reduced as far as possible, mainly be doing away with as many taxes as possible. Get a clue people! We NEED taxes! Yes, April 15th sucks every single goddamn year. But it IS necessary. Know what taxes are used for? Roads, fire and police, schools, basic infrastructure. Taxes go away, so do all of these things!

And that is exactly what Prop 105 would result in.

But, given my previous statement about people being idiots, I have a real free that this will pass anyway.

Some Respect for Chris Rock

I was just scanning some of the transcript from Chris Rock's appearance on Larry King yesterday. I don't watch Larry King (mostly because our TV is on rabbit-ears), but I do occasionally hear or read something from his show which interests me. This is one of those times. Here's the particular exchange:
KING: You must be ... proud that at this stage in our history a black man is running for president on a major ticket.

ROCK: Um, you know what? I'm proud Barack Obama's running for president. You know? If it was Flavor Flav, would I be proud? No. I don't support Barack Obama because he's black.
This emphasizes the point that it's not a person's race which should be considered, but rather their character.

Oh, and by way of fair warning, I will posting some political rants over the next few weeks as we get closer to the election. And I'm sure I will probably end up offending someone at some point.

And if you aren't registered to vote, REGISTER! As long as you've thought out your reasoning, I really couldn't give a damn who/what you vote for. I may disagree with you, but I will respect your choice to have done so. But you can be the smartest person in the world and if you can't be bothered to take a few minutes to register, educate yourself on the people and issues, and then actually vote . . . well, then, I'll just have to remind you that I have a cricket bat and then I'll remind you just how easily the human kneecap can be shattered!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Still Alive

Well, we all still seem to be alive this morning.

And no, this is not going to be some 9/11 anniversary post. There will be plenty of others writing those if you want to go find them.

No, this is post is actually about the fact that we all woke up yesterday. Yesterday, the giant particle accelerator at CERN in Geneva was powered up and run for its first experiment. Yes, I am a geek, and yes, I find this cool!

Without making any claims at being fully knowledgeable about CERN and particle accelerators, in basic terms, as I understand it, they use a bunch of very strong magnets to send atoms flying around a giant underground circular tube, 27 kilometers long. And then they smash these atoms together to see what happens. They measure the results with uber-powerful lasers. They're hoping to find out more about the way gravity works, what the universe looked like one-trillionth of a second after the Big Bang (the cosmic one, not the Annabel Cong one - no, I'm not going to tell you more about that, you're going to have go look it up yourself!), how time works, and other physicsy type things.

While all of this is certainly very interesting and worthy of pursuit, what I find fascinating is the CERN project itself. For example, did you know the lasers they're using have enough energy to punch though a ton of concrete? True. The most interesting, however, is what they expect to happen - they have NO idea! That's right, when they fired this thing up, they didn't have any idea of what was actually going to happen! Hence, my statement about us still being alive.

If you want to check out more, here are some links:
The CERN website
The CERN Wikipedia page
A recent TimesOnline article

And for a more humorous take, PhD Comics is running series on CERN, based on artist's tour of the facility. Start here. This is a five part series, which started on Tuesday.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Today's Quote

"There are countless religions in the world that are happy to judge you. Why do you need one on your computer?"

"Simple . . . this god actually gets periodic updates."

From this Something Positive by R.K. Milholland

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


So, yesterday after I finished my oral boards, I made a quick stop by one of the libraries on campus to drop off some books. I opened the big metal door - and in the process somehow managed to crush my hand between the door handle and something on the wall - I think it might have been one of the those handicap buttons, but I'm not sure, didn't really look.

Hurt like hell!

Now, I'm hoping that I didn't do something stupid like break anything in my hand. Even almost a full day later there's still some significant swelling and pain, especially when I curl my fingers. At least if I did break something, it's not stopping me from using that hand. And at least it's my left hand and not my right. I would be really fucked if it were my right.

The moral of the story? Slamming your hand with a big metal door really fuckin' hurts - try not to do it!

And Now Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Program

And Now Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Program

Well, after a hiatus of about 3 1/2 months, I'm back. Sorry for the long absence, but there were other things which required nearly all of my attention. And as much as I enjoy blogging, and I do (I mean, where else can I go off on random, anger-inspired rants about shit no one else really cares about but want to listen to any way . . . besides the Republican National Convention), there are times when you simply have to make priorities and stick to them.

In my case, the biggest and most immediate priority since my last post was that whole getting married 'thing.' Yes, Journey and I have finally married! And we couldn't be happier. There were a few little glitches during the ceremony, but nothing we couldn't deal with and nothing BIG went wrong. That's about the best one can ask for, really. So, a few little snags aside, everything was great. Even the weather worked with us, which was good because we got married and had the reception outside. Tucson is normally in the mid- to high-80s by mid-May (we got married on May 17), which is livable, was still warm. The day of the ceremony it actually topped out in low-80s, and since we had the ceremony early evening, things were absolutely perfect. Not too warm, not too cool, and only a slight breeze. Everyone had a good time, and there weren't any wedding crashers or anything like that (given that this was same weekend as the University of Arizona's graduation, this was actually a bit of a concern).

After the wedding, Journey and I were off on out honeymoon for two weeks. We started with a couple of days in Vancouver, BC (yes, yes, that is in Canada) before getting on a cruise ship and heading up the Inside Passage of Alaska. Journey and her family had done this a couple of years earlier for a family reunion. I wanted to go, but couldn't secure the time off until after the cruise was already all booked. This did NOT make either of us real happy. So, when it came time to plan out honeymoon, she really wanted to go on the cruise again so we could both do it. And that's what we did. We had a great time and saw a ton of cool shit and even had some time to relax, which after the previous few months, we really needed. The cruise ended in Anchorage, where we hand another couple days to just kind of relax and check out the town.

Since we got back, I've been spending most of my time either looking for jobs or preparing for qualifying exams. On the job front, I've had several interviews, even a couple where they've flown me out for a face-to-face. But I haven't been offered anything yet, and it's starting to piss me off. I know times are tough - I did decide to try to enter the job market right as the economy went to to shit, after all - but that still doesn't help much. I know I'll land something eventually, but in the meantime, it sucks.

And then there were my qualifying exams - "quals". These are the final exams of the PhD program before they let start working on your dissertation, taken after you've finished all of your course-work. For my program, the way they work is you are emailed a list of 6 questions. You then have exactly one week to write your responses to 4 of the questions and email them back. Each response is to be 10-12 pages in length, for a total of 40-50 pages. Basically, this is intended to test your ability to speak knowledgeably about your field based on the reading which you've done over the last few years. This is your opportunity to prove that you can pull everything you've learned together and show that you have a broader understanding of everything that going on in the field. This actually harder than you might think. It's entirely doable - you just have to carefully plan it all out and be able to access the information quickly and accurately. After you've finished the writing and emailed it back, you have to wait a couple days to see if you've passed. If you haven't passed one or more of the questions, you have a chance to retake the question, but if you fail again . . . well, let's just say you've effectively wasted a couple years of your life and money. Thankfully, I passed all four questions on the first try. This didn't mean I was done, however. Oh no, not quite. There is also an oral component to quals. You have to sit down in front of your evaluating committee and and talk about what you wrote. Basically, it's intended to make sure you can also present your knowledge when you're put on the spot. The questioning takes about 30-45 minutes, and then you have wait out in the hall while they discuss you.

The waiting sucks far beyond the questioning. Believe me.

I made it, though! So, now I get to start working on my dissertation (more or less - there are still a few hoops jump through, but they're not as bad as the quals).

You can see why I haven't exactly been around to blog in past few months. Like I said, little busy. But now that thing's are going to settle down a little, I hope be able to get back to writing on a more regular basis. And on that note - let the insanity resume!