Feeling sickly

Not much to say today. Woke up feeling poorly, and decided I should go to the doctor. Doctor said “might be strep throat, might be a virus. We’ll know tomorrow.” Sigh. Silly California with its strange diseases I’m not immune to ;-) Rest of the day was fairly uninteresting. Sleep now.

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Home again

Yup, see title. Back home after a day at airports and on planes. I wish I could bring California’s weather out here – it’s pouring, and projected to do so for as long as the weather forecast will tell me. There’s even flood warnings for around here! I’m feeling rather tired and a bit sickly, and really, I don’t have much to say here, except that I had the privilege of receiving a full body scan and a thorough pat down from the TSA (Transportation Security Authority) at LA this morning. It was… mildly invasive. Otherwise, I really don’t have much to say from today, and I’m heading off to bed :-) ‘Night all!

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Go to the beach!

Today was a good day, by and large. Probably because I only went to two gravity talks. One of them I couldn’t hear a word that was being said, and othe other put me to sleep, literally :-) On the other hand, the other talks I went to were really quite good – they were all invited talks, which are typically a little less stressful on the brain than contributed talks. I was very upset though that Raman Sundrum cancelled at the last moment (his flights got delayed or something); I was very much looking forward to his talk.

I bought a couple of books from one of the vendors at the conference. One of them is on Dark Energy, which I have a feeling I’ll be reading through in fine detail over the next month or so. The other is a guide to mathematics for graduate students in theoretical physics. It’s a hefty tome, and it looks like a good reference book. Most of the stuff I know already, but the section on group theory, Lie algebras and representation theory looked sufficiently good at first glance that I figured why not.

I caught up with a professor at UC Berkley this morning who had given a physics colloquium at Cornell a few months ago. We chatted at some length about how to get a postdoc position. Scary thought. He invited me to come and speak at UCB sometime, and ran through all the people in gravity/astrophsics/high energy theory that he thought were interesting. Time to get some work done to pull together a good presentation for places that I should go and visit :-)

This evening, a friend from Cornell and I rented a car and drove to the beach for the sunset. We went to Laguna beach, which was lovely. The water was really quite cold, but it was wonderful to have my feet in the sand, and seeing the sun set over the Eastern end of the Pacific ocean was great. I took a bunch of pictures on my iPhone, but I’m not sure how well they turned out. After sating our desire for beach, we went looking for a restaurant for dinner, and found a place up on a bit of a cliff overlooking the ocean, aptly called “The Cliff”. All of the seating was out on the cliffy part, with a direct drop down to the beach over the railing. It was lovely. A bit of an expensive place, but hey – it’s our last meal of the conference, and at least I’ve been pretty frugal so far. We decided to go for a bruschetta appetizer, and I swear, it was the best bruschetta I’ve ever had. It was topped with this thick, warm balsamic vinegar which was absolutely divine. We didn’t have any dessert there however; that was reserved for the frozen yoghurt place near our hotel. If ever you see a “Tutti Frutti” frozen yoghurt place, do go there. It’s awesome. I’m still eating mine now, I got so much! :)

Tomorrow is a day in transit. We need to get to Los Angeles airport (LAX) by about 9 in the morning, and we won’t arrive in Ithaca until 9 at night. Not looking forward to jetlag! (3 hour timezone shift forwards, this time… backwards is so much better!)

I’ve enjoyed my time at the conference. I realised at this conference that I’m feeling much more confident as a physicist at this point in time, by comparison to how I’ve felt at previous conferences. Furthermore, I’m once again motivated to go and do a whole bunch of awesome physics :-) So, look out world, here I come!

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Remember how tiring a conference is

So, my talk was this morning. It went well – I even had extra time at the end. Comments were complimentary, and there were some good questions afterwards that I should investigate further. The rest of the conference was enjoyable today. I went to a variety of talks, ranging from gravitational physics to neutrino physics. I’m looking forward to tomorrow – Raman Sundrum is giving one of the invited talks, which should be good.

I went to one of the grad student events today – “lunch with an expert”. Two years ago, I remember feeling rather young at this event, feeling like I didn’t know anything. Today, I felt like I was an old hat there, contributing to the discussion and noticing how awkward the younger students were looking.

Otherwise, I’ve enjoyed meeting new people, catching up with some old acquaintances, and otherwise getting my brain fried by thinking about too much physics. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy conferences, as well as how mentally exhausting it can be.

Sleepy time now. Tomorrow evening, one of my colleagues and I plan to rent a car and drive to the beach to catch the sunset across the Pacific ocean, before we fly home on Tuesday morning. Sounds good to me.

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Conference it up

Today was spent on all sorts of physics. I do enjoy a good conference! I think I’ve become inured to having no idea what’s going on in a presentation at this type of conference. I remember at my first big conference, I felt so overwhelmed. Now I just don’t mind anymore ;-)

There was nothing that really jumped out at me today. The fact that there doesn’t seem to be any major announcements occuring this conference probably didn’t help. The highlight of the day was Steven Weinberg’s opening keynote address, where he covered 100 years of subatomic physics. (Weinberg is a well respected Nobel laureate, for those of you who weren’t aware!). I heard a number of talks today, most of them on General Relativity. Most of the bigger stuff, I was already of, which surprised me a little. Stuff on numerical relativity, dark matter, gravitational wave detection and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was mostly old news to me, for the most part. Individual contributed talks on specialized research was more random, but that’s the way it goes. I guess I’m starting to feel like more of a member of the community. There were a number of presentations on a new way of visualising the dynamics of general relativity (Kip Thorne’s tidal tendexes and vortexes [sic]), which was interesting and cute, but I didn’t see it as something that was ultimately particularly special. I’ve met a bunch of people that I meet at this conference every year, which I have enjoyed.

This evening, I’ve just worked on pulling together my presentation for tomorrow morning. I had worried that I didn’t have enough to say, but now that it’s basically written, I’m feeling much better. Indeed, I’m going to have to speak quickly to get through everything. However, I am satisfied that I’m not falling into any of the typical presentation traps – none of my slides have too many words on them, and I’m not trying to explain anything in detail, so it should be understandable to a large audience. Talks that are just pages of text on the wall are so annoying…

The other highlight of my day? My colleague and I found a frozen yoghurt self-serve place that charges by weight. Soooooo good!

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Remember to blog!

Yeah, yeah, so April wasn’t a good month for this blog… Really though, I only have a couple of things to say about April. Firstly, I’ve been pretty busy with uninteresting stuff, and that really gets tedious to write about here, so I’m just not going to do so. Secondly, the interesting stuff that has occupied me of late has been of a personal nature and I’ll decline to write about it here also. Ergo, you get nothing from me. Works well that way, huh? ;-)

Anyway, I’m currently in a hotel room in Anaheim, Los Angeles, California (or cali cali as one friend fondly put it in an email from a loooong time ago). I’m here for the American Physical Society (APS) April Meeting, one of the largest annual physics conferences in the USA. I have my ten minutes of fame on Sunday morning in a little section on modified gravity theories, and to be honest, I’ma little nervous about it. It doesn’t help that I _still_ haven’t finished writing my talk. Tomorrow evening will be busy. What can I say?

As we were flying into LA, one of the first things I noticed was a beautiful view of a mountain peak through the mists from the window of the plane. About ten minutes later as we came into LA proper, I realised that it wasn’t mists that were forming about the mountain, but the city smog. Ugh. Makes you appreciate Ithaca! It was quite nice to see the sun set low on the horizon in the West though. I’m thinking on Monday evening I’ll try to make it down to the beach to see the sun set over the Pacific, before flying away again on Tuesday.

Oh, random fact. Disneyland is 2 blocks up the road from this hotel. No kidding. However, I couldn’t justify the ~$250 it would cost me to go there (entry + hotel for another night), especially since I’d be going by myself.

Anyway, I’ll try to blog a little more now… When your grandmother tells you that you haven’t been writing, you know that you’ve been lax! I figure you can all read about the awesome things I see at the conference for the next few days, and we’ll go from there. I do have an exciting announcement to make (at least, it’s exciting to me), so stay tuned ;-)

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Do your taxes!

I spent this evening doing my US Federal and State taxes. It took me about three hours. Done now. Enough said :-)

This weekend was busy and enjoyable, but not particularly productive. On Saturday, I played in the Ithaca Bridge Tournament. I had a good partner, and even though we’d only ever played 24 boards together previously, we came in second overall. We didn’t do anything particularly stunning, but our defense was decent, we didn’t have any bidding misunderstandings, and we played well consistently (at least, I think). In the pair that came in first, one of the players was an ex-professional player, so I was satisfied ;-) There were some interesting hands and auctions, and after I’ve gone through and dissected them, I might post a couple here. We played two sessions of 27 hands in a 10 pair Howell movement, which is just a fancy way of saying we played every other pair for six hands. In the second session, we defended 19 of the 27 hands, which was incredibly tiring. Six of the hands we declared were in the last 9 boards, and by that time, we were both flagging. I got to declare the very last hand, and stretching for a 4S bid, I misdeclared a relatively straightforward hand to go down one (and of course, kicked myself afterwards) :( Regardless, an enjoyable competition.

Last night, I slept well. What can I say? ;-)

Today I went to a foxtrot lesson with the ballroom club, where I learnt that I know nothing about international foxtrot. After that, I ran off to my swing lesson, where the pace was much, much slower. I prefer somewhere in between, just personally ;-) I did a spot of shopping afterwards, and followed that up with some singing practise for choir. Then, dinner, laundry, and taxes. Now, it’s bedtime :-) Goodnight all!

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Finish grading

The past week or so has been really rather busy for me, and I haven’t found the time to blog, alas. Here’s a few of the highlights from the week gone by:

Grad Ball! On Friday night, I took Aris to the grad ball at Cornell, where we had a lovely evening. Most of the photos didn’t turn out well, but here is a gorgeous picture of Ekaterin:

I have this photo printed out and sitting on my desk in a nice frame :-)

In other news, on Thursday evenings, I’ve been playing in a bridge tournament. We’ve been doing well so far, although tonight’s victory was what is known as a “matchpoing victory” (effectively a draw). We’re coming in second on the leaderboard currently, just behind the team we played this evening. I like our chances though. Two silly errors by me tonight were expensive, one by a teammate. Ah well.

This week, I spent an inordinate amount of time grading. I finally finished it all this morning, and can now sit down and do some serious work. Yay!

The Expanding Your Horizons conference is only a week and a bit away. The organising committee has about thirty people in it, and I’m the volunteer coordinator. That means that I’m about to have almost a thousand emails go through my inbox in the next week or so. I’m not looking forward to it. Tomorrow will be mostly spent doing organisational stuff for it. Why did I say I’d do this? I can’t remember… but I do remember thinking at the end of last year’s conference that it was a really valuable experience for all involved, and wanted to play a larger role in organising it this year.

It’s finally getting warmer, and I can ride my bike around campus once again. This weekend, I’ve got the Ithaca Bridge Tournament on Saturday, followed by a quickstep lesson courtesy of the Cornell Ballroom Dancing Club. On Sunday I’ve got my usual swing dance class, where we’ll be working on West Coast Swing, which I’m rather enjoying. Sometime this weekend, I need to do my US taxes… Not looking forward to it (although really, it’s not all that bad).

Ok, bedtime now. I’ll try and post more regularly, promise!

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Remember to post!

Ah, so I haven’t posted in a bit. Let’s see what’s happened…

On Saturday night (rather late), I finally finished up a calculation that I’d been hacking at since January. This pleased me somewhat, and I decided to take Sunday off. On Sunday, I went skiing, and read the book “The Golden Compass”. Monday was mostly uneventful, although I got to bed early, which is actually quite rare for me. Today, Tuesday, was similarly uneventful, although I now have to grade homeworks (which I’m not worried about) and write the solution set (which I am worried about). I went dancing this evening, and rather enjoyed dancing with a pair of girls from Ithaca College, as well as my usual parter for Tuesday evenings, Ekaterin.

The situation in Libya continues to be incredibly uneasy, and it seems that what can really be described as a civil war may drag on for a long time to come. Similarly, Japan’s nuclear situation continues to be bad, although thankfully, it doesn’t seem to be getting worse, if the reports I’ve read are to be believed. I also read an article this evening of an Australian woman working in the UAE who was drugged and raped, and upon reporting this incident to the authorities, was charged with adultery and jailed. It is comforting to know that I live in a part of the world where that just doesn’t happen, but at the same time, it’s a sad reminder that the world is a scary, scary place.

In the short term, I have solution sets to write and grading to do, although my research work is suddenly so much more interesting (now that I’m not bogged down, as I had been for months). Tomorrow afternoon, I’m meeting with Ekaterin and then going iceskating. Thursday evening is the bridge tournament once again, and Friday evening is the annual Grad Ball at Cornell, which I’m rather looking forward to (I’m taking Aris :-)). So, a bit of a busy week. It’s nice to have people back though; last week (Spring Break) was a little lonely.

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Be a busy worker

So, it seems that I’ve forgotten to blog for the past couple of days. Well, that’s for good reason, generally speaking – I’ve been a busy little bee and working hard :-)

Ok, maybe not too hard, but you can make up your own mind. On Thursday, we’d had 6″ of snow in the previous 24 hours, so I decided that it was time to enjoy skiing one last time. (Then again, tomorrow also looks like prime weather for skiing!) The slopes were lovely, the place was almost empty, and it was a really nice day for skiing. Zeus was… choppy. Steep, banked powder on an ice base. Wasn’t too pleasant, and I was a little out of control going down there. Hercules, my old nemesis, was even worse – it just had less powder, and more ice. Regardless, I conquered both :)

Thursday evening was the start of a 7 week bridge tournament between various US universities. I’m representing Cornell :-) We started by playing University of Michigan, and had a pleasant victory. I didn’t think I did anything special, but our teammates played well. The final score (over 18 boards) was 67-24 imps, our way. That is… rather swingy ;-) This was the second time I’d played with the partner I was with, so I was fairly satisfied that we didn’t have anything more than minor defensive misunderstandings. The rest of Thursday evening was devoted to work.

Friday, I had a meeting on campus, and then I spent the afternoon working. I finished a calculation that gave me a pretty result. Prettier than I was expecting, but not pretty enough to be beautiful. In particular, there were three terms that just looked suspicious. Regardless, I was pleased at having completed the calculation, but noted that I should do it again as a cross-check. In the evening, I did a quick spot of shopping and picked up some parcels, and began doing that calculation again. I ended up with a similar result. At least, 4 terms were identical, one of the suspicious terms became pretty, and two of the suspicious terms turned into different suspicious terms. Now, I’m fairly sure I did a better job of it this second time, but now I need to run through it a third time to convince myself absolutely that this is correct :-) But that’s a job for the weekend. I’m fairly happy with my progress this week; it looks like I’ll finish the calculation that had been bogging me down for a month this weekend! Yay progress!

Today (Saturday) is my brother Jarrah’s birthday. My family was having a birthday lunch at home, and wanted me to drop in on skype to join them. My sister, who is in Brisbane at the moment, also joined in via skype. The two of us agreed that it’s not very nice to make a big lunch and then sit there and eat it while we watch ;-)

The rest of Friday night, Ifni and I had fun playing with MapTools (a program for, funnily enough, making maps :)).

This weekend, there’s a dance downtown tonight that I thought I’d go to. I also want to finish up this long calculation that I’ve been doing, and call it done. Depending on the weather, I might go skiing tomorrow, or I might go to yoga, which I haven’t been to in a long time. But first, lunch!

Oh, one last thing. There’s been a lot of talk of the nuclear issues that Japan is currently facing. As a response to this, a lot of people are shying away from nuclear power altogether, which I argue strongly is the wrong reaction. I found a nice laymens discussion on the dangers of nuclear power on the BBC news today. Go and read it :-)

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