Tuesday, November 01, 2005


I haven't posted since I was a citizen of the great state of North Carolina. For those of you who are out of the loop, I'm now living in the beautiful confines of Brookhaven National Lab about 75 miles east of New York City on Long Island. So, I'm pretty much living in a scientific monastery. Vows of silence are unnecessary here because you are unlikely to have to opportunity to speak to anyone in the normal course of a day. As anticipated, the move up here has been taxing on a personal level--leaving all my friends in Raleigh behind--but has been incredibly productive on a PhD-progression level.

I have been heading into NYC whenever I get a chance. I have several close friends living there, so visiting the city is sort of me time of interpersonal relations recharging. I haven't really made much of an effort to get to know people at the lab, partially because people don't seem to be particularly friendly--not that people are mean, they just have their own thing going on--and partially because I really want to keep my focus on writing my dissertation until I defend in December.

Well that's enough procrastinating for now.

Monday, August 01, 2005

I'm published!

I received an email from the journal "Nuclear Instruments and Methods" today, and they have (finally) published my article. You can read the abstract if you would like. So yeah, I'm published. I am somebody.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Beamline life (part 2)

Well, I'm still up on Long Island. Things are going relatively well. We are still waiting to receive the detector that was supposed to be here by the beginning of June. I feel pretty bad for Chris because he has a bunch of data that he needs to get before graduating and he sort of needs the new detector to get it. Because the detector isn't here yet, things are pretty laid back. We are doing what we can, but mostly are just twiddling our thumbs. I think we are going to make a video that we will use for our PhD presentations. Most of the members of our committees have never been here to Long Island so they don't really know what the research facility is like. Plus I think it would be nice to show to any friends or family members that are interested in where I spend my time when I'm up here.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Beamline life

So I've made it up to Long Island now. It has actually been a much nicer trip than usual. Having a coworker (Chris) up here has made things much more bearable, even enjoyable. Research has been coming along slowly, but I'm making some progress on my paper (which is a lot better than the zero progress I had been making lately).

I was playing around on Google Maps the other day and stumbled upon a restaurant about 10 minutes from the lab that looked intriguing. It's a bar/restaurant/art gallery that is in this old building. I'm not exactly sure what the building was originally--it sort looks like a club house at a country club that has been redecorated by artists. It is a great place. The food was excellent and the atmosphere was great. They have pool tables and several very comfortable looking couches. Chris and I will probably head over there again sometime soon to utilize their free wifi and comfortable couches. See this kind of a find may not seem like too big of a deal, but in a land of strip malls and Applebees, this place is a godsend.

Monday, June 06, 2005


I am about to embark on my longest trip to Long Island to date. 22 days. For those of you who have yet to have the opportunity to visit that fine island, let me tell you how exciting a place it is. The good is that Brooklyn is on one side and the Hamptons are on the other. The southern side is all beach with barrier islands. The north side is full of pretty, rocky shores. Everything that is enclosed within these boundaries is a large strip mall. When I travel to Long Island it's to do research at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL). This is about 75 miles east of New York City. It sort of marks the boundary between the far reaches of New York City urban sprawl and the farmland that used to take up the majority of Long Island. Most of the old farm land has been converted to vineyards or summer houses for the non-uber-rich New Yorkers.

The lab itself is an interesting place. The portion of the lab I use, the National Synchrotron Light Source, has multiple experimental facilities each of which has a group of users that will come in and take data for some period of time (a couple days, a week, 22 days). This makes the lab an interesting place because you get people that are incredibly focused on their work--the data they are taking might be the only data they get for 6 months, so they have to be meticulous in everything. What this adds up to is a whole lot of people working at the same time while completely ignoring each other. It's fun. You can walk around the facility and walk past 10 people before someone acknowledges your existance.

This trip should actually be exciting though. We have improved our experimental facilities, so I should be able to get much better images than I've been able to get in the past. Plus Chris from my research group will be up there and we always have good times and we're productive when we work together.

Saturday, May 14, 2005


Now all of my teaching stuff is officially, officially over. Which is nice. The excitement of finishing up that chapter was sort of cut down by the news that the article that I submitted about a month ago was rejected by the journal. Those jerks. It's one of those things I guess you have to get used to in research, but that doesn't make it suck any less. I was pretty much pissed for the next couple days.

This research world is an interesting one. I can work hard designing a good experiment. I can carefully perform the experiment. I can carefully process the data. I can sift through the processed data to determine its significance. I can write up a well thought out--and much revised--paper summarizing my finding. Then I submit the paper only to hope that someone who really has no interest in me or the progression of my career or research will deem my paper worthy of his/her journal.

But, not all is lost. I will find another journal to send my paper off to. I will get to send it to some other anonymous reviewer to determine my experiment's worth.

The upside of this is that these anonymous reviewers themselves get to be reviewed by other anonymous reviewers whenever they submit a paper. Maybe I will get to return the favor one day :)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

i've got class

So I'm about to finish up my first full semester of teaching. I'm sort of deciding to go out with a bang--stayed up until 3am last night finishing up the exam so a student could take it a day early. And of course I had to be in before 8am to give the exam. So tomorrow I give the real exam then I get to spend two full days grading them and preparing final grades. Exhausting, but then I'll be done and will have lots and lots of free time to do research in. There's that whole PhD thing I would mind wrapping up.

Overall I feel pretty positive about the teaching thing, which is nice because I have several friends that got education degrees then decided to give up on it after their student teaching. College teaching is nice because the kids are pretty mature. And you can always kick people out and/or fail them. Just kidding. But really you can.

The main thing I didn't like about teaching this semester was that I was teaching if for the first time. My overall view for the semester and its goals seemed pretty solid, but goals with individual lectures and how I plan reaching those goals needs a lot of developing. I was spending a fair amount of time--probably too much--preparing for each lecture, but I still feel that I can do a lot better. Teachers that have taught the course before have a pretty big advantage in that respect.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Accident

So I get home at lunch time and look out on my back "porch" and this is what I see just outside the sliding door.

I'm thinking now that some poor little bird has fallen out of its nest and now it has been abandoned. It is always odd to me that we can all of the sudden really care about something that we don't know and may never see again.

My mom was driving down Telegraph Rd. We were probably heading back from skating but I don't recall. The area was still somewhat new as we had moved there only about six months before. The tricky thing is that all of the street lights hang from wires suspended above the intersections here, not on posts in the middle of the intersection like in Wisconsin. So she made a simple mistake. We were all ok, but the other car was different. There was blood. My mom lost it. Here we are--the oldest of us in middle school--having to comfort my mom, having to take control.

The bird was just fine. It was actually an older bird that had puffed its feathers out to stay warm. It flew away as soon as I opened the door.

Friday, April 15, 2005


"Wesley has said that he married the most beautiful woman he ever saw and learned the irrelevance of beauty." from Three Popes Walk into a Bar by Amy Hempel

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Man in Bogota

The police and emergency service people fail to make a dent. The voice of the pleading spouse does not have the hoped-for effect. The woman remains on the ledge—though not, she threatens, for long.

I imagine that I am the one who must talk the woman down. I see it, and it happens like this.

I tell the woman about a man in Bogota. He was a wealthy man, an industrialist who was kidnapped and held for ransom. It was not a TV drama; his wife could not call the bank and, in twenty-four hours, have one million dollars. It took months. The man had a heart condition, and the kidnappers had to keep the man alive.

Listen to this, I tell the woman on the ledge. His captors made him quit smoking. They changed his diet and made him exercise every day. They held him that way for three months.

When the ransom was paid and the man was released, his doctor looked him over. He found the man to be in excellent health. I tell the woman what the doctor said then—that the kidnap was the best thing to happen to that man.

Maybe this is not a come-down-from-the-ledge story. But I tell it with the thought that the woman on the ledge will ask herself a questions, the questions that occurred to that man in Bogota. He wondered how we know that what happens to us isn’t good.

from reasons to live by Amy Hempel