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.