Another Tuesday blows by, and it seems like I barely had time to breathe. All three classes met today and I wasn't really prepared for the lab this morning. I arrived on campus 10 minutes before lab was supposed to begin, so I parked over by the observatory so I could let the students in while I ran over to the science building to make copies of the morning's labs.
After lab, I was working on MP and was able to knock that out before lunch. At the lunch table we talked about some surveys that students conduct on campus. 'Twas a lively conversation! I ran back to the science building in the rain and nearly forget to copy the labs for the afternoon section!
MP and FA went relatively smoothly. After my office hour (no one stopped in, surprise, surprise...) I went home for an hour, kicked back and had a bite to eat. I changed clothes and hopped into the car ready to head to the gym when I remembered the internship fair that I wanted to check out. I dropped by that and was able to meet representatives from Senator Durbin and Senator Obama's offices. They seemed interested in the possibility of the Senator attending a HFH event next term!
I voted in Bloomington for the first time since moving in '05. I had to google the location of the polling place. Bloomington handles its elections seperate from the rest of McClean county, so I had to find the Board of Election Commissioners page first. Then, I searched by my address and found the polling station. It was on the way home from school, so that was convenient, although the parking lot closest to the entrance was rather small. But, there was a free space and the voting was quick. Maybe it's not surprising that there were a lot of local seats uncontested by Democrats in this area.
One of the Cubs blogs that I read, and often disagree with, had a list of great ideas for election reform: an election holiday, 24 hour voting, open polling, electronic check-in, and paper ballots. Definitely worth a read. Any candidate that would support this would have my vote.
The physics club has been talking about having a movie night soon. I mentioned this to one of my colleagues and he suggested that they show a physics-appropriate movie. In the past, the students have just picked a random DVD off of a shelf. But, if they show something that in someway relates to physics, perhaps they could get some of the first-year students to come and be engaged with the physics club.
So, I went to Google to find movies that related to physics or science. I found a few pages of reviews of movies with bad physics in them (see the popular Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics page), but few pages reviewing good physics movies.
There were a few good articles that I found which listed movies where physics (and science, in general) were well represented in films. A list of 10 good sci-fi movies from Guardian Unlimited and and article titled "Hollywood physics" were the two of the best compilations I could find. So, I'm going to try to compile my own list of good physics movies.
Tuesday and Thursdays are my busy days this term. Lab in the morning for 2 hours, then an hour and a half before lunch. Lunch for 45 minutes or so, then two classes in the afternoon with a half hour break in between each of them. Tiring. Yesterday, I was able to blow through the modern physics class and cover a lot of material. Today, it seemed like I was going at a good clip, but didn't quite get as much covered as I thought I would. Astronomy was a lot of talking so I could get through enough material to make up some ground.
Yesterday was the first all-faculty meeting of the year. Last year, I only went to one such meeting; and the one I attended was in the Spring. (Last Fall I taught right up to the time of the meetings, and often had students after class.) I find it interesting that the others in this department do not walk over to the meeting together. Not that it's a big deal...I mean, we're all adults that can get to meetings on our own, right? It's just telling of the general atmosphere.
While the meeting was getting started, I had a chance to fill in my calendar. I'm almost up to November with my weekly schedule. Surely by then I'll have it memorized. The interesting parts of the meeting were hearing the president and provost. I suppose part of their job description is to paint rosy pictures for the faculty. It never hurts to hear it, though.
After the meeting, I needed to clear my head. I ran for 20 minutes on the treadmill. Same deal today: 20 minutes on the treadmill. Yesterday, it cleared my head. Today, I felt less energetic after the run. I may need to start going earlier, before I am hungry for supper.
Friday I invited CC down to give a talk/demo session for the division's weekly colloquium. It went off perfectly! The lecture hall was packed and everyone had a great time! C brought more than 20 demos, half of which he put out in the atrium. It took about 3 hours to set things up, but it was totally worth it. The best demos were the "magic wand", the optical illusions regarding the shadows, and all the persistance of vision demos. He only had enough time at the end to do a couple color mixing demos, but it was still really cool.
Afterwards, we (R, C and I) all went to the Central Station Cafe in downtown Bloomington. I had the special, which was the beef tenderloin. YUM!! So good. The service was great, too.
I had NO doubt that C would give a great talk. I'm just really glad that the students showed up. I knew they would enjoy it. I'm definitely glad everything worked out in the end.
Today I started trying something new. To a few select emails, I replied by top-posting. Top posting goes against every instinct in my fingers when I go to type the message. I don't get the arguments in support of top posting, either. The only argument that seems to be out there is "this is common practice in the business world." I don't get it. I'll keep trying, though.
We're almost through the first week of class now. I'm not as far ahead as I wanted to be, but I'm not as far behind as I feared I'd be.
Last week (before classes began) was interesting to compare to last year. Last year, the week before school started I buried myself in my office and hardly came out during the day. This year, I was still really busy last week, but I got out and walked around campus during the daylight more. I totally missed the first-year students (and their parents!) that arrive on campus 3-4 days before the rest of the students! I must have given directions to a building almost every day last week. I slept through the faculty/staff breakfast, which bummed me out, but I did make it to the faculty conference on Friday.
Today, I was again nearly killed by the treadmill at Shirk. It powered off five minutes into my run and the belt just froze. I told the person running the desk and happened to run into the Wellness director and also told her. Funny how something like that can zap my desire to work out.
I worked from home today, and after a frustrating morning on travelocity, I actually acomplished a lot of work.
First, the good news: I've been making steady progress working on the Modern Physics course I'll be teaching in the Fall. Steady, but still slow. I've been hacking away at relativity for what seems like an eternity now. But, the end of that fight is coming; I can feel it.
What held me up this morning was trying to book the flight and hotel for the conference that I'm attending the week after Thanksgiving.This morning I checked my email and saw that there were airfare specials from Bloomington that I could use for the trip. I went to travelocity (travesty) and found that they had a promo for $150 off the package if you book for 5 nights. No problem. I find the flights we want and the hotel R. picked and even chose the seats for this flight. When I went to confirm the reservation, I was greeted with a message that said I had to use a different credit card than the one I was using. I checked the promo page and NO WHERE did it say anything about using a specific card. However, the page linking to the promo codes had a Mastercard logo on it, but also didn't specify that Mastercard had to be used. I called customer service to ask about the promo, and the guy who answered the phone had no idea what I was talking about. Huh. Funny, as it pops up on the homepage about every fourth time it loads! By this time, my session had expired and I had to start over.
When I redid the exact same search, I found that flights from Bloomington were suddenly about $300/person more expensive. So, I quickly abandoned that idea. I searched on orbitz, southwest airlines, delta and united before giving up for the morning. Everything was coming up about $300-600 more expensive than it had on the first search of the morning and every search I had done in the last 3 weeks.
I have my suspicions that the more times you search on travelocity, the higher the average price gets until you are scared enough to pay an elevated price.
The pricing of airfare and vacation packages in general is rediculous much in the same way our cable company's pricing scheme is out to screw the customer (i.e. me).
I cannot call the cable company any more, because my phone number is tied to my account and they will look up my account whenever I call to see what deals are available. Over the weekend R. saw that Our cable bill had jumped by 50% to $120. Instead of calling them on Monday, I walked into their office with my bill in my pocket. When I asked how much digital cable and broadband internet costs per month I was told "it depends. Are you already a subscriber?" WHAT??? How hard is the question, "How much does your service cost?" I grudgingly admitted I was a subscriber and the agent immediately wanted to look up my account! Cripes! I know how much I'm getting charged. I want to know what everyone else is getting charged! Why is this so hard??
When we signed up for cable, about a year ago, I was told that I could get digital cable and broadband internet for $70/month and they had a special promo going on where you would get 9 Showtime channels for free. The $70/month was $5 off the regular price, I was told. Sweet!! Sign me up! Three months ago, our bill went up by $15, and I called to ask why that was and was told that the free Showtime package had expired. Oh, okay. I explained that no one had bothered to mention there was a limitted time on that deal, but no biggie I thought. It was canceled and we were happy. This time, when I went in I was told that our free "premium broadband" trial had expired and the "promo basic cable rate" had expired. Huh?? This was news to me. I never knew that I had "premium broadband" whatever that was. And I was told that our digital cable box rental was a special promo rate that was set to expire "any month now". WHAT THE HECK?!? Why was I not told that all this stuff was only good for a year? Why they can get away with bait and switch tactics by not letting new subscribers know the full extent of the promotion details is beyond me. Surely they were not losing money on me when my bill was "only" $80.
I went to the gym tonight to get back on the horse that threw me two days ago. Tuesday, I was running on my favorite treadmill, and the belt slipped about 3 minutes into the run. No big deal, because I felt like my leg had come down weird anyway. I thought nothing of it and continued my run. A few minutes later, I was cruising along and thinking how great the run was going when....WHAM! The treadmill....stopped. The belt did not slow. It stopped. I stopped.
Thankfully, I stopped.
Try running at full tilt and then stop on a dime. I did it on the treadmill and did not hurt myself. So I finished the run on the other treadmill, which was the machine I used tonight.
After walking back to my office to gather some stuff, I walked home. My route takes me right by (or through) Franklin Park, where a band was starting to play. Earlier this summer (while I was still driving) I had passed by the park while a band was getting ready to play, but as I did not see any signs for it, I had no idea what was going on. Turns out, the city sponsors a concert in Franklin Park every Thursday in June and July. I don't know where this is advertised, since they only leave the signs up during the concert. Seems like a more effective advertising strategy would be to leave signs up before the concert. But now I know. (And knowing is ____ ___ ______.)
Other news...the lone triops (triop?) died this morning. Will hatch more soon!
Today, at about 5:00, after I had packed up all of my stuff to go home, I decided to clean up the home directory of my office computer. Yes, that was my big accomplishment for the day. :P
I do like how it turned out, however. I created a folder called "Research and Projects". In that folder are subfolders for each research project I have going on and the side projects that I eventually want to put up on the web. I know it is not a radical implementation of a fancy taxonomy, but I think this will help with getting the projects moving from ideas in my head to a completed and tangible result.
We burned up a coil that I had wrapped a few weeks ago, so most of the research time today was spent trying to find replacement bobbins that would make for a good solenoid. I'm not sure what we have is going to work, but I can't really seem to find the coil I used in grad school, either. Hopefully, we'll get a working coil and be on to better things sooner rather than later.
Recently, I downloaded picasa for linux. I wanted to test out the blog posting function. Here's Renae outside of Spike O'dells coffee cup museum in Door County. It's a tourist trap for WGN radio groupies (like Renae, ha ha). The weather was great that day, and the Door County Bakery had nice outdoor seating for us to enjoy our breakfast.
So, a guy killed his wife, decapitated her, then took her head out for a drive. Then, he gets in a car wreck and kills 2 other people in the crash! If this does not end up on CSI in the fall, I will be shocked. Shocked!
I just downloaded Google Earth for linux, and it turns out the center of the world is Lawrence, Kansas. At least, when I first started the program, that is what it was centered on. Also, this weekend I downloaded Picasa for linux, although I was not able to get it to work on my laptop.
Tonight we (myself and some students) grabbed a 10 minute exposure of M82:
I can't wait to get the big mirror recoated and try taking photos on main scope.
I ran 1.7 miles today in 20 minutes at Shirk today. Someday I'm going to get to the 10-minute mile mark... Lifted weights for a bit, but had no food in me, so the lifting was really short.
I started looking at the syllabus for the May term course. My current plan is to do 8 chapters (of The Science of Sound) in the first 9 days, then take the last 4 (maybe 5) chapters over the last 7 days. Obviously, the acoustics of musical instruments is my favorite part. I've also tentatively set the lab schedule. I'll need to get cracking and try out all the labs in the next two weeks.
Today some of the profs in the department tackled our storeroom's clutter problem. One large cartload of electronics junk took about 15 minutes to load. Most of it was stuff had been donated by G.E. before they closed their local facility. We discovered some treasures, but mostly I'm just interested in recovering the space.
Tonight at the observatory we were shooting through clouds the whole time. First, I think I messed up the sidereal time clock, because when I pointed the scope at Saturn, we were off in RA by an hour. I'll check that out when I go to fix the light on the RA scale. Before the clouds completely shut us down, I tried to hunt down M81. We took a photo and saw:
which is actually M82. But, M81 is close by, so we got a photo of it as well:
We didn't have time to take an exposure longer than 45 seconds before the clouds rolled in. Also, I'm not sure how to properly take flat field images. Hopefully when I get that figured out, the image quality will improve.
I accomplished next to nothing today. Okay, so I made it to the gym and managed to run 1.5 miles, but was too pooped to lift more than a single set after that. Also, I started grading exams that my class took last Friday while I was at ISU giving a talk, but didn't make much headway on that, either. Mostly, I was dealing with the surveys I had my class look at last week and do over this weekend.
This semester's class is interesting, because although it is dominated by seniors, there are a lot of juniors and at least one sophomore in the class as well. Senioritis is rampant and seems to be rubbing off onto the juniors. Maybe Spring semesters should be cancelled. :)
What's really got me worried is how little development I've done of the course this term. At least, compared to what I had planned to do, it seems very weak. I hope it is because I am comfortable (to a degree) with the content, and not just that I am being lazy.
One thing I did accomplish was getting a dental appointment for tomorrow to look at a loose filling. Guess I'll have to go dig out a dental card from somewhere now...
Several students came to the observatory tonight to make required observations. We looked at the Moon, M42 and Saturn. That was after a failed attempt at hunting for M81 (or M82). We were able to get a decent shot of M42.
20 sec. exposure, level adjusted
We also took a picture of Saturn. It actually turned out all right, but ended up being much smaller than I expected it would be. Next time, I may have to try without a star diagonal.
These last few weeks have been quite busy. R and I were in CF over Spring Break. I gave a talk to the Physics Department there. It was great to be back on campus; it brought back many memories. The department had just moved out of the Physics Building as part of a long anticipated renovation. The faculty is currently spread all over campus, but I did get to see some research labs. Prof. B. gave me a tour of his lab and some good advice for new faculty. He said I should keep a journal of my experiences as a new professor.
R and I have been watching a lot of DVDs, since she has the Blockbuster Online subscription. In the past few weeks, I've seen "Gosford Park", "Goodfellas", "Fever Pitch" and the first 8 episodes (2 discs) of "Lost". I was surprised at how good "Fever Pitch" was as a baseball movie. I expected Jimmy Fallon to be more like the Red Sox fan that he played on SNL than what he actually did. The best line was when he tells the boyfriends/husbands of Lindsay's friends that he has season tickets to the Sox and one of the guys says: "If Lindsay breaks up with you, I'll never forgive her." Classic. "Goodfellas" was a great movie. "Gosford Park" started slow and I was half expecting it to turn into a variation of Agatha Christie's "Mousetrap," which it did not. I fell asleep during the second half of the movie for about 15 minutes, but woke up and had not missed anything. The film could stand some editting, but all together it was a good rent. "Lost" is pretty good, although it hasn't completely hooked me.
Gosford Park - worth renting Goodfellas - wish I had seen in the theatre Fever Pitch - worth renting (especially for baseball fans) Lost - worth renting (so far)
I spent about an hour this morning working with one of the astronomy professors taking apart the telescope so that we could clean the mirror. When we got the tube off and could actually look at the primary mirror, it became obvious that cleaning dust off of the mirror was not really going to help. The mirror coating has degraded down to about less than 50% reflectivity. Staring at the mirror was like seeing your reflection in a cookie sheet. Yeah, there was a reflection, but it was really faint. I'm suprised that the scope works at all.
We finally had clears skies at the observatory tonight. Too bad it was a full moon. Six visitors tonight: three students from class, three guests of one of the students. We looked at M42, Saturn and the Moon. Seeing was exceptionally good. I tried taking a long exposure of the Flame Nebula, but I'm not sure it turned out as well as I had hoped.
The bright overexposed star on the left is the leftmost star of Orion's belt. The Flame Nebula is the dark nebula on the lower right of the photo. Processing in the GIMP did not seem to help. This was a 35 second exposure. I accidentally closed the 160 second exposure without saving.
I was done at the rec center at about 7:00pm tonight and decided to run over to my office before going home. The idea was that I'd come in, find some stuff I needed and LEAVE. Three phone calls later and I'm almost ready to go now.
I did rediscover fitday, and updated my log for the first time in half a year. Hopefully that will last.