On Statistics

The statistics in this article make me sad.

One-third of college graduates believe the Biblical account of creation is fact. Almost half of the citizens of our country reject the science of evolution.

If we can have a war on terror, can the next president please declare a war on ignorance? It is getting depressing around here.


On a Sad Day for the Class of 1938

In the early days of this blog, I was interested in the old domes at Penn State. I was surprised that they were left standing in the middle of two tall buildings. At the time I said, "Presumably, one does not tear down class gifts."

Unfortunately, my assumption was incorrect. It appears that the old domes are gone. Torn down unceremoniously during the construction of the additional new building being built just south of the Career Services Building (formerly called the MBNA building, now the Bank of America building -- this building gets my vote for the building most likely to change names 10 more times in the next decade).

I was hoping to some day actually get inside them, but I guess that opportunity is now gone.


On a big sigh

Courtney Brown got cut by the Broncos.

How long before he gets added to the "biggest busts" lists with Ki-Jana? I will always remember both of those guys as absolutely outstanding players for Penn State and I feel badly for both of them. Hopefully Courtney gets another shot somewhere.


On Abominations

So Dennis pointed out that an intolerant idiot managed to get his condemnation of Meech printed in a local paper.

I hesitated to link to this, because it is giving this guy a platform, but at the same time, I suppose we should shine a light on his words so that we can point out how wrong he is.

I won't post a well reasoned, amazingly eloquent response (I'll leave that to Meech), but instead I'll point out that I hope this guy is also spreading the word about the abomination that is shrimp. Because remember everyone, the Bible says: God hates shrimp.


On the Free Market

For everyone that believes that the free market is the best way to solve all of our society's ills, I give you a case study. It seems that Cory's experience after going from Adelphia to Time Warner is worse than mine going from Adelphia to Comcast.

Cable service costs have gone crazy and the last two cable companies in this part of the Galaxy both suck. Can't we have some insanely great startup company figure out how to deliver just the channels we want and just the internet we want for a reasonable price with decent customer service?

Why is that too much to ask?

On Pizza

I'm from New Jersey. My whole family is of italian descent. A lot of families in the neighborhood I grew up in are of italian descent. I grew up eating the "gravy" (aka marinara sauce) my grandmother would make every Sunday. Within 30 miles of our house you could get any manner of italian specialty food.

Now that I'm a pennsylvanian, if there's anything I miss it is the easy availability of good italian food. I've found pizza that approximates what is found in NJ, but nothing in town is really like the pizza I grew up eating. I'm not saying that there isn't good pizza in town, but none of it is what I know as pizza.

Well, I have to give credit to the new CDT blog, "Lost and Found in State College", by Michele Marchetti. She just moved to State College from NYC, and has been writing about the transition. It's an interesting read, but more importantly, in the post above she did something in less than a month that I haven't been able to do in six years. She found good NYC / NJ pizza!

I went to Margarita's and got two slices for dinner tonight, and I was in pizza heaven. It is almost exactly like the Finelli's pizza I remember from Cedar Knolls, NJ. I'm done ordering from the impostors, I'm a loyal Margarita's guy from now on.

For anyone who is local, you have to help me -- we must give this place enough business that they stay forever. No more disappearing good restaurants. If you want their number, it is 235-3060.


On college basketball

Just a quick note -- my bracket is mostly busted.

I picked a final four of Kansas, Oregon, Texas, and Virginia. For those of you not keeping score at home, Texas and Virginia both lost today, failing to reach the Sweet Sixteen.


I did pick Kansas to win it all, though, so I suppose I technically still have a shot at winning our group.

On Mikey beating me to the punch

It is getting downright scary.

Even though I doubt we will ever vote for the same candidate in any election ever, Mikey's keeps posting thoughts that are identical to mine. For example, on Plame. I intended to write essentially the same thing, but didn't get to it. What I will add (that he didn't mention) is that every story I read said the same thing -- she was even tempered and stated very matter of factly exactly what happened. I think her testimony will be held up for a long time as a milestone in the unraveling of the current administration. The thing that amazes me is that she was working covertly to gather intelligence on WMD when they blew her cover. I forget, wasn't that supposed to be important for some reason?

Of course, Mikey's thesis (that the pundits would not own up to the fact that they were wrong) has already been proven true, as this story about Hume accusing her of lying under oath makes plain.


I suppose as long as I am driving my 1-2 visitors to Mikey's blog, I should also point out that I agree with this, too. I wonder if anyone on the right is paying attention that this was not written by me, or by a HuffPo blogger or by Bill Maher or by any of the other people that they have already written off as potential voters for their candidates, but by someone who hopefully *used* to vote for their candidates.


I can dream, right Mike?


On a Snow Day in Happy Land

I got a lot of grief during my six year stint in CVille for my fondness of both Penn State and State College. For those of you who don't know, our town's nickname is "Happy Valley". Of course, the Big Enchilada would always (purposefully?) call University Park or State College by the name of one of those other school towns (College Park, College Station) or he would refer to it as "Happy Land". To this day, every time I try to think "Happy Valley" it always comes out "Happy Land". Oh well.

Anyway -- it is snowing here today, boys and girls. It is also the last day of Spring Break (anyone sense any irony there?). I had planned to take yesterday and today off from work, but wound up only taking today off. I have not left my pajamas all day (although I did shower). I didn't lounge around, though, my big plan was to get a bunch of chores done. I didn't get everything done (my office is still full of unpacked boxes that have moved from CVille to Pleasant Gap to State College), but I did make a major discovery today -- I can officially replace a light switch.

Many of the light switches in our house have dimmers on them, but dimmers and CF bulbs do not go together. One of the dimmers in the basement also was making a buzzing sound when it was on, which I took to be a sign of its impending failure. So on this pajama / snow day, I busted out my tools and two spare switches and replaced two dimmers, including the bad one. Here's the amazing thing -- they even work!

So in the past year or so, I've changed out a faucet, operated a wet saw without losing any appendages, and I have now successfully done some incredibly minor electrical work without electrocuting myself. This officially serves as me patting myself on the back.

On New Pearl Jam!

Just found (and bought) the Love, Reign O'er Me cover by Pearl Jam.

For those keeping score at home, I can now listen to my 463 Pearl Jam tracks for 1.4 days straight in iTunes.

I think it is safe to assume that they are my favorite band.


On my professional society

I'm a member of the American Astronomical Society. Today, I spent a few minutes reading our latest newsletter.

In just a few pages, the newsletter managed to shock me, surprise me, and annoy me.

First, the shock. The President of the AAS said that he directly asked the new NASA Administrator why he seemed to have a negative opinion of astronomers, and Griffin told him that he had been receiving rude and profane emails from astronomers. Now I will admit that over the years I have met some astronomers with little in the way of social skills, but really, who thinks that sending email to the NASA Administrator littered with profanity would do any good? Even if you didn't think it would do any good and just wanted to vent, still, why would you email a senior federal gov't employee an obnoxious email like that? Given that our country is slowly turning into a bad parody of the USSR, I would expect after such an email a visit from agents from some agency with a TLA and to wake up the next day somewhere in Eastern Europe in a solitary confinement cell.

Now on to my surprise and annoyance.

I'm in the vast minority - I actually *like* to attend AAS meetings (at least AAS *winter* meetings -- I've been to one summer meeting and was ready to gouge my own eyes out after a few days).

The last time the meeting was in Seattle I had a fantastic time. I was very happy to go back this year. I was really looking forward to the meeting and the visit to the Pacific Southwest (as Canadian Dr. D refers to Seattle). For the most part, I did have another very good time -- I went back to a little hole in the wall bakery Shan and I found four years ago, I ate at "Steak Disneyland", and saw some of my friends I always hope to see at AAS meetings. I can't believe I didn't write anything about this after the meeting, but one of the highlights was that I saw one of my classmates from my summer REU in 1994 -- we hadn't seen each other in 12.5 years!

Well, then, the last day of the meeting happened. The posters were supposed to stay up in the exhibit hall until 4pm. At about 11am, rumors started to go around that the convention center was going to close down the exhibit hall at noon. If this doesn't seem like a big deal, remember, many students spent a lot of effort to put together a poster of their work. A poster can be an opportunity to show off your research to faculty from a grad school you've applied to or someone with a postdoc position in your field, for example. So people (including the student that has worked with me) were being told to take their posters down. When people didn't move fast enough for the staff, they started *ripping* down posters and throwing people's stuff in the corner. I know someone that went into the exhibit hall to try and ask them to stop, and was told by a guy in a forklift that if she got run over it was too bad, because she was in the way. In the end, they moved the posterboards into the hall so that people could filter through and see what was left of the posters.

This *really* brought the meeting to a pretty unfortunate end. People were walking around wondering out loud what went wrong. The security folks were being very rude, and everyone was cranky. It really felt like we got tossed out on our ear from a meeting we paid $285 to attend (not counting airfare, lodging, and meals).

I've been hoping the AAS might, among one of their 3 dozen emails since then, decide to explain what happened, apologize to the members, and say it won't happen again. When I opened the newsletter, I thought there would be something in there. To my surprise, there was an article about the meeting, to my annoyance it mentioned *nothing* about the fiasco in Seattle.

I'm not saying I blame the AAS -- I blame the Seattle Convention Center. However, it seems to me that simple etiquette requires the AAS to acknowledge the problem and promise to make sure it doesn't happen again. Instead, they seem to be pretending it never happened.


On knees

By gaining aches and pains, I have begun to learn about how the human body works. For example, I made a recent trip to my favorite physical therapist (again, let me say, if you *EVER* need a physical therapist, let me know and I will give you a recommendation), and I found that several apparently unrelated problems were related to one particular problem.

I had a pretty severely pulled groin, and when I went to the doctor and let him put me through the motions, I discovered that I had some hip pain, too. The night before I was supposed to visit the physical therapist, I tweaked my back and it was *so* sore that I had to stand in the shower with the hot water pounding on it just to loosen it up enough to walk without too much discomfort.

The therapist that I work with (and who did wonders for my shoulder tendonitis) uses a combination of stretching, strengthening exercises, and massage to treat an injury. I was amazed when he worked on my shoulder -- I would come in with something like 50% of the range of motion in my right shoulder compared to my left, and he would press on the muscles with a continuous pressure, and I could feel it loosen. Before I left, I would usually make significant gains in my range of motion.

He did the same for my hip and groin. He showed me some exercises, but when he started working on my left leg with some massage, I felt something that felt like a bungie cord running down the outside of my leg get pushed from the left to the right. He pointed out that the reason I could feel it like that was because of how tight it was. The part in question was my iliotibial band. He did the same massage on my right leg, and I didn't feel that same motion of my ITB at all. He convinced me to buy one of those foam rollers that get used in yoga / pilates classes, and I could do a good approximation of the massage myself.

My hip and groin pain are completely gone. Also, that tweaking of my back was also affected by the left ITB. My back hasn't hurt even a tiny bit since then.

Still, though, my knees are the source of most of my pain. In this case, though, I don't think that I have any particular condition that can be treated, instead, the cause is just overuse (in my completely untrained medical opinion). Volleyball is rough on the knees. Icing, NSAIDs, and glucosamine and chondroitin all help. However, I think I have learned something about my knees that has helped me avoid some of the pain. I always thought that all of the pain came from jumping and landing. However, I started to notice when I was on the ground that when I moved laterally and stopped short, my knees would hurt. Try the following experiment -- run to your left or right, stop short, and reverse directions. You should notice a lot of stress on your knees when you stop. I found that when I wore neoprene ankle wraps, that when I move laterally and stop, I'm able to change directions with less stress on my knees -- I assume that the wraps are absorbing some of the impact. I stopped wearing them when I bought new shoes, because the new shoes weren't broken in and my ankle wraps didn't fit well. I noticed my knees have been hurting more, and I thought I would give the ankle wraps another try. I wore them tonight, and my knees are doing pretty well. My feet are a bit sore from the tight wraps, but my knees are a lot better.

So -- all you folks with knee soreness from volleyball -- wrap your ankles!


On Seedy tea

So our local paper had to admit in a front page article that the paper almost didn't happen one day because many of their computers were brought down by a virus.

Can someone explain to me again why Apple computers don't have more of a market share in corporate environments?

Anyone have their Mac brought down by a virus lately?


On Regatta de Blanc

I have waited, I don't know -- 20 years or so to say the following words.

I'm going to see the Police in concert.

Sting, Stewart, and Andy.

Don't ask how much it cost.


On Mikey

For those of you who come here hoping that I will answer your homework question about what the Earth would be like if it were tilted 35 degrees vs. 23.5 degrees, I think I need to add some history. I spent 4 years or so sitting about 18" away from Mikey. We both had the same advisor, worked on similar science, and like to watch sports. Our views on many things, though, are close to orthogonal.

However, I agree on this one. If you live in TX, you might want to check in on him and make sure he didn't just have a heart attack.

This story he links to, though, is pretty ridiculous. So let me get this straight -- we have now resorted to doing a calculation of which side of the political spectrum cusses more than the other? Well, I guess that means the conservative blogs must not have covered the story about Dick Cheney "expressing his dissatisfaction" with Patrick Leahy. Is the PMRC still around? Maybe Tipper Gore can get Arianna to put a sticker on HuffPo.