Friday, December 30, 2005

Back from Georgia!

Sorry for not updating for so long. Courtney, her brother Eric and I drove down to Saint Simon's Island in Georgia to spend Christmas with her family. Her grandparents live there. Christmas was excellent. I got a new tool set and an electric toothbrush. We also got a chance to see King Kong and The Family Stone. I thought the former was terrific. The latter...
I have a few more days before I head back to astronomy work, and a ton of stuff to do before then. Wish me luck.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Friends at the Fruit Stand

Funny thing happened at the fruit stand yesterday. I heard a voice and thought it was an Arkansas accent. I looked, and thought I knew the person asking another employee about the Pod. I took a closer look and asked "Are you from Arkansas?" The woman said yes, and I then said "Senator Lincoln?" And she said yes. My senator from Arkansas was at my fruit stand! I have met her before a couple of times when I was in Arkansas, and when I worked in Rep. Vic Snyder's office. We had a nice little chat and I answered all the questions she had about a Pod. She told me that I should give her office a call to talk about science fellowships that come through her office. I thought that was really cool.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Worried about our Wedding?

Are you worried that Courtney won't have the wedding of her dreams? Well, now you can do something to help! Just donate some money to us and we will put it towards our wedding on the 15 July next year! Donate enough and we might even invite you along, complete stranger!
Just click the button on the right of the page! Go ahead, everyone is doing it!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Is popularity so bad?

There is an article in the NYTimes today about a Pixar exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. Though the writer generally praises the exhibit and Pixar, he seems to have a snobbishness that I find annoying:
Such transformations, enhanced by unexpected shifts in scale, are momentarily delightful, but they can also cloy because the drawings are so conventional.

The Pixar movies are not just popular art, they are people-pleasing popular art that recycles fairly familiar conventions...Their urge toward conformity stands out starkly if you put them beside such subversive television cartoons as "South Park" or the venerable "Simpsons."

Is it really so bad when so many people like something? Is that a reason to ridicule it or degrade its worth? I think the art world (and its bitchy sister the fashion world) probably does have a forced distaste for the popular. Maybe there is a reason more people watch Pixar movies than buy modern art.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Christmas gift?

Well, for Christmas I would like a 30 inch LCD television. I would like it to be high definition, though it doesn't have to be good. I wouldn't mind one from Wal-Mart, but you can get a nicer one for me if you want. Alternatively, you can just paypal me some money, and I can buy one myself.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

I don't feel so bad

A couple of years ago I fell just a little short of 50,000 miles on American Airlines, so at the end of the year I flew to Kentucky through Dallas to meet a friend of mine just before New Years. That one trip of about $200 upgraded me to platinum status on American Airlines, which gave me extra frequent flyer miles and access to all their lounges when flying internationally, which I did often since I was living abroad. However, I was pretty embarrassed about it, because it seemed like I was just greedy or showy to fly when I didn't exactly need to. However, apparently this is a common thing to do, as reported in this NYTimes article. It even references a website, FlyerTalk, that has a forum just about end-of-year milage runs. The author of the article was considering a $703 run to Guam to rack up 21,000 miles in about three days. Wow. I thought that was pretty cool. However, he decided in the end that it wasn't worth it. How funny.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Cookie Party

Courtney and I just had our annual cookie party. Well, it will be annual from now on. It was terrific fun. A bunch of our friends from DC came, and they all brought delicious concoctions. Courtney really outdid herself. She made chocolate-dipped, homemade marshmallows. Wow. Who knew you could even make marshmallows from scratch? We also had chai, a hot chocolate bar and punch to complement the cookies. I ate a ginger bread cookie that was unfortunately covered with food coloring gel, which made me look like I had eaten a smurf. We listened to the O.C. Chrismakkah album and a good time was had by all.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

McCain. Wow.

I can't say enough good things about John McCain. I wish he were leading the country right now. He would make me consider being a republican. In this article in the NYTimes, it basically says that Bush is bending over backwards for McCain, since McCain's legislation to outlaw torture is going to become law, whether the White House likes it or not. You would think that Bush wouldn't defend torture. Oh well.

Monday, December 05, 2005

It's Snowing!

Right now it is snowing outside my window. Washington is being covered by a beautiful blanket of frostiness. I like snow. Hopefully I will like it just as much on my walk home today.

Cookie Party!

So, it was another long weekend at the fruit stand. I had some disagreements with some of my colleagues, but much fruit was still sold. However, next weekend shouldn't be nearly so stressful, because I have asked off on Saturday and Sunday for two parties. On Saturday Courtney's boss and a friend from work are each having parties, and I think we will stop by both of them. And on Sunday Courtney and I are having our annual cookie party. At least it will be annual from now on. It is at 3 pm and everyone will bring about 2 dozen of their own cookies, and we will eat some and then we will send some home with everyone. It should be great fun. Everyone in the area (or out of the area if you want to travel) is more than welcome to come. Just let Courtney and I know so that we can make more punch.

Couple of webpages

Mobile Phones getting connected.
Another helpful mobile phone site.
Dr. Bott VGA to DVI product.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Tired and Sick

Courtney and I went out last night with Mary Denyer, our Marshall scholarship administrator from London. It was terrific fun and excellent Thai food, but it meant that we had a later night than I had wanted, and then I woke up a little earlier than desired. Now I am taking some medicine, because I am not feeling very good. Thank goodness it is Friday. I can't take much more (though I am working fourteen hours at the fruit stand this weekend, but that is easy work.)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

More fruit sold and need some money

Last night at the fruit stand I sold two more pieces of fruit. It is really nice on weekdays, since not many people come in, and I can take about half an hour to talk to them about what they specifically need. It is very satisfying. In other news, Zach Steadman is looking at tickets to come up and visit us in DC (note to everyone else, there are good prices on US Airways from LIT to BWI) in January. Before he comes up, I need to come up with a winning idea to make us millionaires. Submit your ideas via the comments. It would be nice to be a millionaire before I am thirty, by the way.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

so. much. work.

So, I started working at the fruit stand on Saturday. I worked for eight hours on Saturday, then eight hours on Sunday. Then I worked four hours last night. I have two more days of four hours each day. That is a lot of work for me, who has never worked. I am still doing eight hours of research at Carnegie, which makes for long days. However, it is hella cool. I really am enjoying myself. I miss Courtney, though. I don't get to see her as much. I hope to do something like 16-20 hours a week, which will be a little better than this 28 hours a week.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Awesome day at the store

I went in this morning for some training at the computer store. I started getting really antsy by the afternoon, so they let me out on the floor. Man, it was a lot of fun. I sold two computers! I learned a whole bunch today. What a fun job. And they are paying me!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

We finished!

Courtney and I just finished the Trot for Hunger this morning. It was a beautiful, but cold, morning. I was reminded of the road races I ran with Clint O'Neal back when we were in junior high and high school, driving to Hot Springs for the Mountain Valley Spring Water 10 K or Hope for the Watermelon days fun run. This run seemed easier than those, maybe because I didn't worry so much about competition. Courtney finished in 30 minutes 35 seconds, and I finished in 26 minutes 45 seconds. We ran the first half of the run together, then split up. Then we walked along the mall to the Smithsonian metro station. What a great start to Thanksgiving! I hope everyone is enjoying being with their families right now.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Courtney and I are off to the Trot for Hunger! Wish us luck.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Starting at the Computer Store!

Yesterday I went in and completed all the paper work at my part time job: tax forms, NDA, etc. So now, I am officially a worker at the computer store downstairs from my apartment. I have to train from 9-6 on Saturday and Sunday, but I don't think that will be all that bad. I am sort of bummed that I can't start on Friday, which should be the craziest shopping day of the year. Oh well. Courtney and I are thinking about heading to Target at 6 am on Friday, though. We don't really have much to buy, but we want to see the spectacle of it all. We are gluttons for punishment.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Trot for Hunger

Courtney and I have decided to do something new for Thanksgiving this year, since we won't be heading home due to cost. We are participating in the Trot for Hunger to raise money for helping the homeless. It is sponsored by SOME. Should be a great time on Thanksgiving morning. We are looking for a soup kitchen or other facility at which we can volunteer in the afternoon, but it seems that a lot of them already have all the volunteers they need. I think we might just have a small dinner at home. It would be a little weird to run for hungry homeless people and then cook an eight pound turkey just for Courtney.

Sunday, November 20, 2005


Courtney and I did some shopping today. We bought some stain to color the furniture that I brought from Arkansas. We got American walnut stain, but I think maybe we should get something called mahogany. Sounds better to me, even if the color was the same. Oh well. We will stain it and see how it comes out. It will be lots of work, I think, if anyone wants to help us this weekend.

Friday, November 18, 2005

New Stuff

We have the living room set up now with new stuff. A new couch, a new chair, and all the old stuff from Arkansas. Now, no one has an excuse to not come by and see our place. Oh, and our DVR from Comcast is acting funny. There are little pauses every six seconds or so on the recordings. Anybody have that problem?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Wow. Mom and I have been driving from Little Rock to Nashville. From about halfway from Little Rock to Memphis, we had tremendous rain, lightning and thunder. We started to get worried when Margaret called us and said that there were tornados in the area we were driving. She also found that there was hail and 70 mph winds from the thunderstorms. When she told us that a tornado would be going through Old Hickory at 7:01 and we were driving through it at 7:00 we decided that we should get off the road. We headed to a McDonalds and sat for about 10 minutes before the electricity blinked off. A generator came on and the staff ushered us to the interior wall, near the bathrooms. We would have gone into the bathrooms if the wind or a tornado had blown out the window. However, there were high winds, but nothing happened. After waiting for the winds to die down (about 30 minutes), we headed to Outback Steakhouse. We ate a little something and then headed to a Holiday Inn Express. That is where we are now, enjoying the free internet access.

On the Road Again

Well, tomorrow Mom and I will head up to DC with a UHaul trailer in tow. We have all my furniture packed up (nearly), and will leave about nine in the morning. It has been a really hectic weekend, but really terrific fun seeing all my great friends and family. My friend Michael Bragg took a beautiful picture of Trulie and Ryan as they were leaving their wedding reception. I will tell more about the wedding when I get back in DC, or if we stay at a Ho-Jo tomorrow with free internet.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

In Arkansas

Well, I haven't been so good about posting in the last couple of days. I am right now down in Arkansas, helping set up for my sister's wedding. She is having the reception at our house, so there is a lot of decorating to do. In the wedding plans for DC, it is getting increasingly more difficult to find a reasonable place that we can afford (with food) around the DC area. We have a raft of requirements, which makes it more difficult: have to have alcohol, must be on Saturday, must be sit down dinner, etc. I know Courtney is getting a bit frazzled because of it. However, last night, to celebrate a great interview for a job at the retail store in my apartment complex, we went out to eat at the Cheesecake Factory. If anything can de-frazzle a person, the Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake can. Man, that was good.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

American Consumer

Our weekend was filled with consumerism. In the first instance, we spent much of the weekend looking at wedding ceremony and reception sites. It seems like weddings are the ultimate consummation. We visited the Thomas Birkby House and Whitehall, but the real winner was Oatlands Plantation, a plantation near Leesburg, VA that has beautiful gardens surrounding a Greek revival mansion. Some of the history of mansion centers on the Civil War, and I joked with Courtney that we could reenact a battle on the site, with my family as the South and her family as the North. No doubt the South could win this time, if only because numbers are for us.
To continue on our consumerism, we spent much of the weekend shopping. We visited an outlet mall out in Virginia, and I picked up a coat for the winter. Courtney bought a dress for Trulie's wedding. Later, I bought some new shoes to replace the ones with holes I wear now. We also stopped by Old Navy to return some stuff, and found a button-down shirt for $6. Score! Finally, we looked at a couple of sofa sets at Value City Furniture, but didn't find anything that was cheap enough and perfect enough for us. We will keep looking.

Friday, November 04, 2005


I went by the store yesterday where I want to work, and they were very understanding about the bounced e-mail from the former manager. I filled out an application, and gave them a copy of my resume, and they said they were "Very interested." I say, if I can't get a part time job in retail, selling computers (which I have been selling officially and unofficially for about seven years), with a degree in computer engineering, then I am going to just give up completely on working. I will be a stay at home person. And I will be happy about it.

Visitin' Weddin' Sites

Well, we have a full weekend of visiting wedding sites. Tomorrow we are going out to Prince William County to see the Ben Lomond Historical Site and Old Manassas Courthouse. Also out there is Rippon Lodge. Then on Sunday at noon we are visiting White Hall Manor. I think it should be good fun. Maybe if we search hard enough we can actually find a place we can afford.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A new desk?

Well, I played hooky today from work (actually, Sara said that I should unpack, since she is away today), and I am thinking about a few things that I might need. I need a desk, I think, and I am considering this one from Target. The price is right, and I like the way it looks, but I want to make sure I really need it, because Courtney has done such a good job scaling back our spending, I don't want to buy something that I don't really need.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

I am Here!

I have finally arrived! I am still working on my Ph.D. work, but I will be working in Washington DC with Sara Seager. Last night I flew in on British Airways into Dulles, and it was a wonderful flight. The spinach risotto was excellent, and it had cheese on it. I love Courtney and my new apartment. It is going to be so much fun here. Well, back to the stars.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Cute Nephew

Wow. Andrea just sent me the cutest picture of my nephew at the pumpkin patch. He is adorable. I can't wait to see them in their costumes tomorrow! I also can hardly wait until tomorrow, when I will be back in the States, so much closer to them, though still a few states away. Oh, and my apologies if you guys don't like pictures. Halloween just seems to require them.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Halloween Party

So, last night I went to a Halloween party at Gil's house. It was great fun, and I ate enough to feed a smallish family for a week. I didn't have a costume, because I have packed up nearly everything in my flat. I originally thought about going as a sleep walker, and just putting on my pajamas, but then I had a better idea. Can anyone guess what I went as? By the way, I am the one on the left. James, my best friend from over here, is in the middle, and Ciera (spelling?), another friend, is on the right.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Ah guys!

What a swell group of people I work with. I went to coffee today, and they had put together some stuff for me to send me off. It was really nice. They bought me Scotland: The Wild Places by Colin Prior. Also, they got me a really nice water color print of St. Andrews from Largo Road, and a $50 gift certificate to Amazon. Man, what a great day. We got some cool stuff, and with the $50 we can buy some stuff we need for the kitchen or the apartment.

I'm leaving!

Today is my last day at work here in Scotland. On Monday I will be flying out to Washington DC to work with Sara Seager at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism. And, I get to live with Courtney! Woo-hoo! I am packing up my office right now, and then I have a little bit more packing to do at home, and then I am set. I am really excited about eating dinner with John and Bethan tomorrow night, and saying good bye (or more appropriately, "See you later") to all my friends around St. Andrews. Best thing about today: Lee helped me rent a car that I can use to drive to Edinburgh airport on Monday, so I don't have to pay for a taxi! Saving money is great!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Harriet Miers Done

I could have guessed that Miers would want to withdraw, but I am a little surprised that Bush let her. I think he was wanting to fight it out. Perhaps smarter people (read: anyone) at the White House decided that a fight was no good.

David Pogue is awesome

So, I read an article the other day by John Dvorak, claiming that there is a media bias in favor of Apple because most technology writers use Macintoshes. I though this was somewhat simplistic, but I thought I would write David Pogue, the technology writer at the New York Times, and ask him what he thought about it. I was really stoked that he actually responded! Here was what he said, which was awesome:
He’s right, but he’s got it backward! Smart people use Macs because they ARE better (a point he mentions, but does not dispute in his column). He makes it sound as though we’re Mac fans by some genetic lottery, rather than having tried both systems and made a choice.
What a guy!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Oh jeez

Well, this is interesting. I had a place in DC where I was going to interview to have a part time job. I had talked to the manager a couple of weeks ago, and we were going to set up an interview for next week. However, I just found out that the manager I talked to is no longer at that position. So, now I am not sure what I should do. Surely I will still get to interview for the position, right? I hope so. Maybe now I can interview for the manager's position.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Another "Walled"-Mart article

Well, would you look at that: Wal-Mart wants to increase its fuel efficiency in its truck fleet, minimize the packaging that goes into products and design a new store that is 25% more efficient. And how do some people react to this initiative of the largest retailer in the world?
"Critics responded to Wal-Mart's environmental initiative by saying that, while admirable, it is intended to divert attention from the chain's image problems."

Sometimes it is just impossible to make some people happy.

Monday, October 24, 2005


I think some people will actually never be happy with Wal-Mart. The NYTimes is reporting that Wal-Mart has come out with a health-care plan that is 40-60% cheaper for its employees than anything they had before, and in some cases is as low as $11 per month. However, Tracy Sefl of Wal-Mart Watch thought (I guess) that it was not enough:
Ms. Sefl said the introduction of health savings accounts, which allow workers to make tax-deductible payments to a health care fund, was largely impractical for the chain's employees.

At various points in the article the author also criticized the $25,000 cap on payments (only in the first year) and the $1000 co-payment that a person is required to pay after getting three doctor visits with no payment. I think perhaps some people will always be upset with Wal-Mart, even if they through a party ever weekend with free health care for everyone in the country. I can see the teaser line now:
"In an effort to boost share prices, it is widely believed the retailing behemoth has spiked the party punch with caffeine to increase productivity. Further, the free health care is seen as marketing ploy purely for wall street."

My apologies

Some of you might have come yesterday to find several of the same posts over and over again. Sorry about that. There was some problem in that the posts were not updated, and they said that they were not being published. Apparently they were published, though a little later than I thought.
As for today, I am getting pretty excited about my flight this weekend (or next Monday, to be exact) to DC. I can hardly wait to be back in the states. I called the University Travel Service to see if I could move up the ticket to this Thursday or Friday, and they said that it wasn't possible because there isn't availability. Woe is me.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


Reported in an article in the NYTimes, the FBI is asking all US universities to reengineer their internet access so that tapping into the communications of suspected criminals and terrorists is automatic. The Universities estimate that this upgrade will cost about seven billion dollars. That is billion with a "b". Apparently last year the FBI only asked 12 times to tap into a computer network. 12 times. So, if they need next year to tap into a computer network 14 times, then each of those cases would cost roughly $500 million. I wonder how many criminal acts are worth $500 million. Of course, the FBI can say that writing on the wall suggests that in the future computer technology will be utilized more for communications, but then why are they mandating the upgrade by 2007? How about giving the universities enough time that they can fold the surveillance upgrade into their normal upgrade cycles. I guess the other thing that I am sort of troubled with is this: if it becomes significantly cheaper and easier for government agencies to monitor us, then will they cross the lines and begin to monitor the citizenry in inappropriate ways? Such as Hoover did in the 50s and 60s. Or the CIA did in opening all mail destined for Russia during the cold war. Sometimes not have the ability to do something is the only thing stopping some people.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Maybe a cell phone?

I don't know if this link will work, but it is the reason I am thinking that I might possibly get a cell phone. There is a pay-as-you-go plan from Cingular that would charge me $1 per day on days that I use the phone. Then it would cost 10¢ a minute if the call were to/from a land line, but free from a mobile. So, if I only get calls from mobile phones (because I only give the number out to Courtney and my family with explanation), and I use it every day, then we have only spent $30, the same we would have spent on the family plan that I don't think I would really utilize. And on the days I don't use my cell phone at all, for instance when I am traveling abroad, etc., I won't get charged anything. This seems like a good deal to me. Anybody else have experience with this?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Teacher Tenure?

In California Schwarzenegger is pushing proposition 74, which would make it easier for school administrators to fire bad teachers and would increase for teachers the probationary time for tenure to five years from two. Is it too much to think that no school teacher should have tenure? That teachers who are good at what they do should keep their jobs and that ones who aren't should lose theirs? I don't really know the numbers, but teachers often say that administrators would indiscriminately fire older teachers (who cost more) if there weren't tenure. That would be a travesty. However, I know (and probably everyone has a story) of poor teachers who were teaching when they shouldn't have been. Teachers who should have been fired long ago. Some of those teachers are the most vocal ones when defending tenure.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

More new stuff?

Apple has just released some more new stuff. This time, it was new Powerbooks, Power Macs(Quad processor, that rocks!), and a professional photography application called Aperture. Now I have to go learn about them.

Infinite Sadness

It was with sadness that I read a NYTimes article about the intelligent design trial in Pennsylvania. It was with sadness because there are many people who really do trust the Intelligent Design crowd. The school board member mentioned at the end of the article in particular. How is he to know who to trust, when two academics start to argue. It is not enough for scientists to just say "Trust us, we are right." Science has to be more fundamental on all levels. School children need to learn science instead of science history or nomenclature. Then, perhaps a battle can be fought against non-science.

Broadband in the US

There is an alright article about the state of broadband in the US over at I don't agree with a lot of what the author says. He makes the case that the US is way behind in broadband deployment, and I think he is just wrong. He casually dismisses the argument that the US is intrinsically a more rural country (more people living farther from one another) by pointing to Canada, without any mention of how most people in Canada are clustered near the border. He also picks out specific cities and says the geography argument "Cannot explain why densely populated cities such as San Francisco do not have access to the same types of high-speed connections found in Seoul, South Korea, or Tokyo." Well, it can in fact explain it if you look at all cities in the US versus all cities in South Korea. I would imagine that you will have a preponderance of large US cities having great broadband (like the options we can get in Arlington, VA of 15 Mbps DSL from Verizon), even compared to the excellent service I am sure they must enjoy in Seoul. Also, he uses metrics that don't really mean much to customers, saying that 384 kbps is abysmally slow for high speed internet, without revealing that for most people (in all countries) that is a great speed, because people don't host websites from their homes. People use their home connections to download primarily, and not upload, and I would argue that creating a system that is synchronous would be wildly wasteful, when most people are happy with asynchronous connections. However, I do support the assertions about the cable companies and the phone companies needing to get up off their hides instead of trying to introduce legislation to restrict municipal internet connections. That was spot on. Over all, a good read if you take it with a critical eye.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Whine, whine, whine

In an article in the Wall Street Journal, ABC affiliates whine about Disney selling television shows on the iTunes Music Store. My goodness, is it possible for any business to not whine when they have to work a little harder to make their profits? It seems to me that the music industry, the phone companies, and the television affiliates all need to wake up and realize that their industries will be revolutionized by technology, and if they aren't willing to go along for the ride, then they will be broke.

My girlfriend pumpkin-rocks!

So, Courtney carved a pumpkin yesterday for Halloween. As you can see, she is super talented at that. It reminds me of the American Flag we tried last year to carve. Actually, that one didn't turn out exactly like we thought it would (who would have thought pumpkin could burn so well?). Oh well. I will actually be flying on Halloween, but I should be in DC by 6 pm or so, so maybe I can still see some of the festivities. Unfortunately, my Superman and Star Trek costumes are back in Arkansas.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Weddings are Expensive

Just got off iChat with Courtney. Man, are weddings expensive. I don't know how we will be able to pull this all together. I am sure it will all work out in the end, but boy, weddings are expensive. I hope most of my friends don't drink. But then again, if they will be dancing, then they should probably be drinking.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


Man, what a great time last night. James and I went by Tim's place and we all three went to Tesco and bought stuff for fajitas. Then we proceeded to Alex's house and ate dinner with his roommate Katie and watched four episodes of the West Wing. What a brilliant show. I had just watched the end of the fourth season (which Courtney's Dad bought me), and it was huge excitement to get to see the fifth season. The food was also excellent. A good time was had by all.

Privitization of Public Universities

There is a good article in the NYTimes today about the privatization of public schools through long, slow reduction of the amount of public funds they are given. I was astonished to find that the University of Virginia only receives 8% of a student's funding through public funds. I wonder then how much public funding private schools have (through federal loans, etc.) and wonder what it exactly means to be a public school.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Another brother as Gov'ner?

They like us, they really like us! Seems that the job for governor (of Arkansas) is getting more popular all the time. Now it looks like Bill Halter would like the job also. He served under Bill Clinton in the OMB on Social Security. I think his entrance will make a pretty interesting race. For years the Good Ol' Boy system in Arkansas has restricted the people who could run for statewide office to those who had put their time in (like Beebe). However, now it looks like with enough money, smarts and experience, you can play on a level playing field with the Good Ol' Boy network. One interesting thing about his website: it says in his bio that he is a Marshall Scholar and a Rhodes Scholar. That is pretty neat. Since it can't be true. Oh well.


My friend Mathias, who lives down in Austria, put up a blog. He was a student at the University of Saint Andrews with Courtney and I until he got a job down there, and he is in a relationship with Lauren Mayros, who is one of our best friends from Saint Andrews. I have added a link to his blog over on the right, so that you can always get to it from here.


Kenny and I headed over to Ziggy's last night after work, and man was it good. I had the vegetable platter, which was really more like the "everything fried" platter, and it was excellent. Fried onion rings, fried potato skins, fried mushrooms, Mmmm. Then I had a Chocolate Thunder for dessert. I have been going home pretty late since Courtney is back in the states, and usually just eat a PB&J when I get home, so this was a rare treat.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Oh jeez. This is so awesome.

Apple store is down!

The Apple Store is down right now. No technical problems, of course. Steve Jobs is out in California right now releasing some new products. I can hardly wait! How exciting!

.mac Groups

I don't really know much about it, but there is a new facility in .mac to make a group. So, of course I have made a group for my family. I don't know if they will use it much, but I hope they will. We can upload pictures, set up a calendar, everything. This will go along nicely with the .mac family pack that we just purchased.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Kin is away

Well, after a hell of a long weekend and about 6 gallons of alcohol, Kin is finished with Scotland and heading back over to the US. He is taking the Glasgow to Newark Continental flight and should be home in Shreveport by this afternoon. We had a great time, playing the Strath twice and Eden once. We played poker for hours last night, and in the end, Kin walked away with £30, for which he had no use (since they don't use such funny money in the US). I am really glad he got a chance to come over before I left. I hell of a good time.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Long time

Sorry I haven't been writing too many posts, but I have been really busy with Kin. We have played the Strathtyrum and Eden golf courses, and have been seeing a lot of Saint Andrews. I have also been introducing Kin to Firefly. We watched the movie Serenity on Friday night, and tonight we are watching the television series. It was created by Joss Whedon, who is a brilliant series creator. Anyway, I am having a great time. We also headed down to the driving range today. Kin should have come long ago.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Kin is here

Kin just arrived in St. Andrews. He is taking some pictures right now. We are meeting around 5:30. I think we might head to dinner somewhere, maybe the Doll's House. Don't really know right now. Golf is on tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Kick ass idea

My fiance just came up with a kick-ass idea. I think it is really terrific. I am not going to tell about it now, because we haven't fleshed it all out completely, but it is going to be really great. Check this space for more information. I will give you one hint: blitz.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

No cell phone?

Right now I have a mobile phone. Only because my friend left it to me, and I figured I would try to use it a bit. I haven't given the number out to anyone, so I don't use it really except for emergencies. Now, Courtney and I are looking into what kind of phone service we need in Washington DC. She mentioned that perhaps we could not get home phone service, and just use our cell phones. I think that would work, but I am not sure I really want a cell phone. Are there any pay-as-you-go cell phone plans in the US? Or do I have to have a monthly contract for everything. I would have guessed monthly contract. I am not sure I want to spend that much, and I am not sure I really want to be reachable at all times. Is that stupid?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Teach for America?

I have been thinking about my options after I finish my Ph.D. in astronomy. I will be in Washington DC, and I might love astronomy so much by that point that I will want to get a post-doc. However, another option that I think sounds intriguing if not attractive is Teach for America. The NYTimes just had a good article about it, and it was generally positive. I am especially interested in teaching in the Arkansas delta, but it seems that DC is probably more likely in my time frame. I think I would love to teach physics to a high school class.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

B&Q Vouchers

I am selling some more stuff on eBay. This time it is some B&Q vouchers. They are worth £46 pounds. I need to unload them since I am headed back to the states.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Courtney has gone home

It is hard to be sad for Courtney when she is going home to the states with a huge grin on her face (but I can be sad that she isn't here with me). I am really happy that she is getting to go back, and especially that she has turned in a final version of her dissertation to her advisor. By the end of the day she will be in the land of plenty, with strip malls and Starbucks enough to satisfy her deepest desires. I am sad that I am still over here, but this is how things are working out. I will be in Washington DC soon enough—Halloween—and then all will be right with the world.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Busy Day

Sorry I didn't get around to posting yesterday. It was extremely busy. I was working on fractals in the morning, and around three I started helping Courtney with her dissertation. She printed out her three copies to hand in to her examiners, and I printed out her color pages. Then at five o'clock we headed over the our Polish friends, Voltec and Sylvia, for an early snack, which turned out to be two suppers. At seven we headed down to Bell rock house for dinner with Jen and Jamey, who will be heading to DC in a couple of months time like us. We ate again, this time with Jamey at the helm. We topped off an excellent day with an episode of the Office. Man, what a good time.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Hell just froze over

And maybe that is a good thing, since it might reverse global warming. It must be a snowy day down there for GW to suggest that people conserve gasoline, while for years he said that exploiting the ANWR will cure our energy needs.

Monday, September 26, 2005

It never gets old

I am really glad that there are tremendous numbers of scientists out there whose job it is to dispel myths and fight for fact. Because they will always be hammered by people with exceptionally small minds. If the scientists were not as adamant and resolute in their convictions, then I am sure the battle would become tiresome, and seem impossible to win. I salute those scientists, and the ACLU for fighting for facts.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Doctor Tool

I am sitting here watching Doctor Who. My god, what a crappy show. Poor dialogue and crappy acting. Special effects that seem like they could have been done on a home computer and a complete lack of sophistication. I can see this passing for science fiction in 1960, but today? This is just another example of British media being infinitely inferior to US. It isn't universally true, but in general it is.

Greedy? Sounds right.

In this article, comments from Warner Music Group CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. certainly make him sound pretty greedy to me. He first says that online music distribution should raise its prices (and complicate the distribution) to charge more for certain songs, but then he also mentions that he wants to share in iPod revenue streams. What the hell is that about? Did the music industry get a cut from CD equipment manufacturers? Or tape players? That is a bit ridiculous. Then he says that he wants to get out of contracts with satellite radio and to charge them more for music. Sounds greedy to me.

"Bring out your dead (stuff)!"

Courtney is flying away on Friday morning, and Bernie and Diar are moving in tonight. I will be here until the end of October, but Courtney and I are trying to get rid of all our stuff before we leave. Courtney has paid MailBoxes Etc. to ship some of her stuff home, and she will fly with some stuff, but over all we still have loads of stuff we will leave here. Tim just picked up a box of paper, printer, books, etc. that we didn't need. And we have an ad up at Tesco for some of our furniture. Man, it is not easy to declutter.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Slow Saturday

Not much going today. Courtney just left for her second shift at work. Maybe I should feel bad that I send my girlfriend off to work as I stay at home for a life of leisure. Oh well. Might as well get used to it. Went to the gym and not much else.

Friday, September 23, 2005


Courtney and I just went to Leuchars and picked up Tim, the new Marshall Scholar at St. Andrews. He seems pretty nice. We got him into his flat at Angus House, and tonight we are having him and Garry over for dinner. That should be fun. Both of them probably will be here for the next three years, so it will be good for them to meet.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Mike Huckabee for President?

There is a nice article in the Arkansas Times about the possibility of Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee running for president. I for one would like to see him do it. I think I prefer Huckabee to many republicans (though not John McCain). He seems like he really is compassionate, as opposed to some other republicans.

New Website!

OK. I have put some more stuff on my website Ben Hood. Take a look at it.

Feeling sick

Well, when I woke up this morning I felt pretty bad. Sore throat and headache, etc. So, I have decided to work from home today. Courtney went to Boots and bought me a bunch of medicine, so hopefully I will be feeling better by noon.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

.mac Family Pack

I just ordered the .mac family pack from Amazon. It is only $150, about $30 cheaper than at Apple. With this, I can give four other people in my family online space to put up pictures and movies of my nieces and nephews. I am super excited about it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Margaret and Mattie away!

I just drove Margaret and Mattie to the airport this morning. I have driving that road to Glasgow about six times in the last week. I think I could do it in my sleep, which at times this morning, I did. Well, M&M are away now, in the air flying towards Chicago. Mattie was happy when I left, so if she starts crying it is Margaret's fault. Oh, and Garry is going to take my fiance Courtney to a Ceilidh. I think he is trying to move in on my girl.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Where are you guys?

Well, I have reworked my astronomy report a little bit that I have to send to Sara Seager, and I haven't gotten any comments back from anybody! Is that because all of you are too lazy to e-mail me? Or, well, I guess this could be the case: is there no one out there reading my blog? I am now crying a single tear (like the Indian in that commercial)…

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Long Time

Sorry for such a long time since my last post. I just got back into town last night after taking my parents and sister and niece up to Ullapool for a few days. We stayed at a cabin on Little Loch Broom and the family went onto Skye one day. I will update a little bit more later, but I am beat. We had to take my parents to the airport this morning at 7 am, and we have to do that again on Tuesday with Margaret. Baby Mattie is so cute.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Mom and Dad are here

Courtney and I headed over to Glasgow Airport this morning at 7 am with Kallie. We got her checked in and then we met my parents, who were getting off the flight Kallie was getting on. We all sat and had some coffee, and then sent Kallie on her way. We picked up our rental car (hella cheap rental car, only £92 for seven days on a full-size!) and then drove back here to Saint Andrews. Now, they are napping, as old people are want to do.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Baby Mattie is sick

Baby Mattie has a 103° temperature. She is probably going to be just fine, but since Margaret was supposed to fly with her tonight here to Glasgow, her temperature was enough to ground her. So, we have rebooked Margaret and Mattie on a flight on Tuesday night. Mom and Dad will be here tomorrow morning, however, and they don't know this yet, but they will be staying here a couple of nights, while we wait for Margaret and Mattie. She is such a smiling baby. I hope she isn't too upset about the fever.


No time to write yesterday. David and his friend Paul came up from London to get David's stuff. Now Kallie is nearly packed up also. We are keeping some boxes for a friend named Molly for the next week, and when those are out, the apartment will be pretty clean. I am packing stuff up for my parents to take home. They will be on a flight tonight and in Glasgow by tomorrow morning. Man, I won't know what to do with all this space.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Home early

I know a fire is (nearly) never a cause for celebration, but some fire in Dundee cut off our network connection, which means I get to come home early and work from home. Yay! It really means that I will pack up some trunks for my folks to take home to the US when they get here next week.


I am an enormous dork but I think this High Definition footage of the shuttle lifting off is a beautiful sight. Anyone who has a quick internet connection, and a reasonably fast computer can take a look at the stunning quality of HD (just download QuickTime 7, now in final form on Windows). And NASA particularly shows it off well.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

t-mobile sucks

Yesterday I started getting texts on my t-mobile telephone about news stories. I didn't sign up for these, so I didn't understand why they were coming. Well, apparently, you can sign up for news texts pretty easily (and I guess this happened when the phone was jostled around in my bag), but to stop the texts (I hope), you have to send a text to 3030 with a code word and the word stop. So, "stop UK news" to 3030. Of course, you can't just select a menu item in your phone, like you can to sign up for the service. No, that would be easy. Bastards. I don't know how much they have just charged me for that crappy service.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

eBay Listing

Courtney and I have put up an eBay listing of one of my pictures of Jack Nicklaus on his final round at the British Open this year. We have framed it in a mahogany-ish frame and included are two rare 5 pound bank notes featuring the Royal and Ancient Golf Club and Jack Nicklaus. You can see some more pictures of the photograph and notes.

iPod Nano

Apple has just released a new iPod, the iPod Nano. It is flash based and comes in 2GB or 4GB versions. It looks super cool.

40 year-old virgin

As a 40 year-old virgin, I have nothing but heaps of praise to foist upon this movie of the same name. It was funny but not rude, romantic but not mushy, and the main protagonist was a dynamic character with very likeable traits. He was also spot on, I think, for a 40 year-old virgin, from the choice of sheets to the shelf of action figures still in box. Well written, well acted. This is a tremendously funny movie, and well worth the £4 my girlfriend paid for me to see it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Yay! I found a plane ticket home for £252! That is pretty good, I think. It is about $450, and I can spare that to get home. That will take me to Washington DC, and then I will need to find a flight to Arkansas the next week for Trulie's Wedding. I get to go home!

Stupidest little things

Sometimes I let the stupidest little things upset me. And it doesn't really matter at all. Oh well. Who cares if we use leap seconds or not? Apparently me.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Kaiser Chiefs

Just downloaded a great album from iTunes, Employment from Kaiser Chiefs. I like it. Nothing too hard. Very catchy.

Veneer of Civilisation

"How quickly the thin veneer of civilisation can be stripped away."
—The Daily Mail in London


I just iChatted with my brother, who is a doctor in Shreveport, Louisiana. He is afraid that when it is all said and done, there will be tens of thousands of people dead in New Orleans. Gods. I hope he is overestimating, but I guess it is not an outlandish number. What a tragedy.

Casino Party!

We did a kick-ass casino party back in February for my birthday, and we are thinking about doing another one this Saturday. It will be a combination party for Courtney and I getting engaged, and a send-off bash for Kallie and David, who will be leaving for good this weekend. Fun will be had by all.

Fine Monday morning

Well, it is back to the grind. Courtney came back yesterday, and we had a nice tea with Ms. Anna Roth and Ms. Lorna Walker. We are talking about putting up an engagement webpage. I will probabaly check out GoDaddy for some good names. Then we can put all our pictures and registry information in one place. WooHoo! Anything to not do astronomy.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Bush and Science

There is a great article in the NYTimes today about Bush and Science, and specifically his science advisor. Take a look at it. I think it shows that scientists are somewhat naive about science in society. They think that there is always a right and wrong answer, and that since they are smartest, they know the right answer, and others don't. At least that is how I think about the world.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Courtney is back tomorrow!

Yay! However, have I done enough astronomy yet? No. So, I will go into the office tomorrow morning, and try to get some stuff finished, or at least started.

$100 Billion

A insurance company recently suggested that the devastation of Hurricane Katrina would cost around $100 Billion dollars. That is a nearly unfathomable number. It is more than twice the gross domestic product of Costa Rica. I wonder how much prevention would have cost, perhaps rebuilding the levees to better handle hurricanes, or better yet, creating a system which would work with nature instead of trying to dominate it.

Friday, September 02, 2005


Well, I have been doing a shed-load of work lately. I made a new movie, which shows a variation over incident angle and the value of flux at all emergent angles and phis. I hope that makes sense to someone. Hopefully that someone includes me.

Revamped website

For everyone out there (hey, Ben, maybe Rivers if he gets bored) who is checking this space, I put up a new webpage. It is pretty bare, but it links to most of the information that I have up on the web. I might play with it a little bit more later. Right now I am worried about learning about Fortran code, but there will come a time when I can learn about CSS.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

New Report!

If anyone is interested in Monte Carlo radiative transfer modeling in extrasolar planets, then have I got a webpage for you! Really, if anyone knows anything about this stuff, then feel free to leave a comment and I will contact you. It is good to hear from people with similar interests. Um. Yeah.

New graph!

Well, I just finished up a program to tile a fractal cloud model onto the surface of a planet. You can check out some of the output on this webpage. It still needs a lot of work before I am convinced I didn't do anything wrong.

That explains it!

Well, the controversy about evolution in the US makes so much more sense when you view it through the eyes of morons. Or, scientifically illiterate citizens. Jon Miller seems to know a lot about scientific literacy in the US, or the lack thereof.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Wow, so boring

We just had a computer users meeting. Wow. I wanted to shoot myself in the head. Most of the entire meeting was conversations between two people, while 20 people in the room sat. The conversations were not even relevant to anyone else, and there was a huge problem of never actually concluding anything. It is a meeting full of talking and devoid of action.

Mr. Jobs will accept the position of God

What a great article about Apple's domination over the online music market. I love Apple, and that will never change, so you have to take my comments with a grain of salt. But I think the myopia of the music industry is astounding. Any loss in sales to online piracy (and I haven't seen convincing data that it does decrease sales) is their fault for not responding to consumer needs. There is a convincing argument that the slump in CD sales is fueled not by online piracy, but by the corresponding increase in video games, DVD sales, and in general better things to do, like use a TiVo.
My favorite quote from the article:
"I think if they're [the music industry] throwing down for a street fight," he said, "they may have picked somebody who's as good or better at it than they are."

Those Clever Writers

In an article in the New York Times, the writer wrote:
Intelligent design, a descendant of creationism, is the belief that life is so intricate that only a supreme being could have designed it.

I love that line. The only way it could have been better is if he had said: "ID, which evolved from creationism…" Well, maybe his way is better, more subtle. Article is good. The information within it is alarming.

Dear God

I can't begin to imagine the devastation that is happening in Louisiana and Mississippi right now. I recently read an article suggesting that Arkansas' governor was grandstanding when he said that Arkansas would be ready to help its neighbors after hurricane Katrina came through. I think Governor Huckabee has been vindicated, as the communities destroyed by this natural disaster need all the help they can get. I hope anyone with the means to do so will help in some way.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Happy Birthday, Alex

A friend of mine just turned 22 today. Alex Yabroff is this year the student's association president at St. Andrews. All the best to him.

Dukes of Hazzard

I just got back from seeing The Dukes of Hazzard with Garry. Not exactly the smartest movie I have ever seen. However, what it lacked in subpar acting it made up for with poor writing. Maybe this is just me, but the car was the real star of the movie. The best parts of the entire flick were watching the General Lee manuver through the dirt racing track and through Atlanta. The stunt outtakes at the end of the movie were worth the price of admission alone. Well, I almost forgot. Jessica Simpson was not so bad as Daisy Duke either.

Science under attack

My friend Prachi just pointed me towards this article, which is an excellent portrayal of the problems of Intelligent Design. I think that it is vitally important for all scientists to watch this political controversy unfold and to lend critical judgment against Intelligent Design. Obviously, evolutionary biology is at stake right now, but it would be woefully inept of us to think that religious fundamentalists will stop if they win the battle against evolution. They will then start to attack the foundations of geology, and its ancient origins. They will fight against nuclear chemistry and its carbon dating methodology. They will try to bring down astronomy and our understanding of the vast magnitude of space and age of the universe. In short, the battle of Intelligent Design against evolutionary biology is the first battle in the war of science versus ideology. Critical thinking cannot afford to lose that war.

Courtney off to Cyprus

Well, it is a guys week at 3A College Street. I just put Courtney and Kallie on the bus to Glasgow, and tomorrow morning they will head to Cyprus for the next four days. Open the beers and get out the steaks! (Well, I am still a tee-totaling vegetarian, so let's not go crazy.)

Peeping Tom

I know most people won't be able to read this article, so I will summarize. A guy set up a video recorder in a girl's bathroom to spy on them showering. Now, I guess that is wrong and he was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison (which does seem a little excessive for peeping, but I digress). However, what worries me is that he was convicted because he told his therapist that he was spying on the girls, and the therapist told the police. Maybe I don't understand patient confidentiality. I don't see the immediate "danger to others" that should be requisite to forego confidentiality. I don't understand. Oh well, it won't be the last thing I don't understand.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Happy note

I asked Courtney to marry me. It was a great little thing. I put up a website detailing what we did on Sunday. You can
read all about the entire ordeal, which turned out to be very funny and great.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Tim is a phallus

Well, everybody probably has a computer support person who doesn't really like the support part of the job. The first answer out of their mouths is always no. I have seen a bit more of this since coming to the UK to study. It seems like all around the University, anyone in a position to help has a natural inclination to say no to any request. Now, not everyone is like this, and when you find a great person willing to help you, it seems like you have just met Mother Theresa, but by and large people are not as helpful here as they are back the US.
Well, Tim is one of these people. He isn't officially our computer support person anymore, but he was previously, and he can't quite give up the position. So, he still has root password on all the machines, and he periodically checks on people's disks and processes to make sure people aren't doing what he doesn't want them to. So, it was not unreasonable to ask him to help get IDL on a machine, and his knee jerk reaction is "No." What a prat.

Still working

Well, I still haven't been able to figure out how to find phi. But, I think I should be able to do it using the law of cosines for spherical trigonometry.
In an unrelated note, I got a package from FedEx this morning. It is a really good package. Now I will be able to do something on Sunday. Very exciting.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Phinding Phi

I don't understand how to find Phi. I am reading Sudarsky's paper from January, and in it he says how to find phi from alpha, mu and mu0, but phi only goes from zero to pi. My reflections aren't symetrical, so I need to know how to find if phi is positive or negative. This might be incomprehensible. I know it is incomprehensible to me. But, if someone can help, get in touch.

The earth is _really_ old

There is a great article on NYTimes about people feeling more comfortable dismissing evolution because we don't really understand the time scale involved:
Check it out. I hope some people from the old town do also.

Welcome to here

Well, let's see how this works. I will go ahead and put up some blogs, just to see what happens. I suppose I will wait a little while to tell anyone about this, to see if it turns out sucky. Hello to everyone out there that might see this.