The weather today was great (and much warmer than when I came here to interview a year ago), so I went to Central Park and took some photos of the autumn colors. It's not like we didn't have deciduous trees in Berkeley, but it was nothing like this. (And this pales in comparison to what you get in the more wooded areas of New England, but those aren't half a mile from my apartment.)
The first of today's photos is here, and you can browse them in my New York City set.
There's a new section of Riverside Park South that officially opened today. It's on my usual running route, but has been fenced off, so I was pleased to see on Saturday that the fences had been taken down. In fact, it was open to pedestrians over the weekend even though it wasn't quite finished (they were doing some final landscaping yesterday morning). I was inspired to walk up the Hudson and take a few pictures, finishing up at the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument. I didn't actually take any pictures of the new park section itself, and concentrated more on the river.
(As an aside: I promise this blog will get less NYC-centric in the future! Most of my attention lately has been divided between exploring the city and starting my new job--and I can't blog about the latter, hence the focus on the city. But as I get more settled in I will have other topics to write about.)
No pictures of New York City this week since I spent the weekend in New Hampshire... but I do have a few pictures of New Hampshire, here.
There's a public art piece on display here in New York City in which artificial waterfalls have been constructed at four points along the East River, including one on the Brooklyn Bridge. On Sunday I dropped by the area and took some pictures. My favorites are here. (Best views were of the bridge and Pier 35 waterfalls; I didn't get very close to the other two.)
Also, the sidebar now shows the latest photo in the New York City photoset, rather than the Project 365 photoset. I considered just pointing it to the main photostream but I felt some thematic consistency would be good. I'm hoping to post to this set frequently (ideally once per week) but I won't be enforcing an update schedule like I did with Project 365.
While waiting for approval of my apartment application on Thursday, I took a walk around Manhattan (mostly downtown) and crossed the Brooklyn Bridge on foot. I've posted a few photos on Flickr, in my New York City photoset (which also has some recently-uploaded pictures from a trip I took in August 2006).
My route included the length of Wall Street; as the famous line says, it runs from a graveyard to a river:
I'm considering starting another photography project after I move, similar to Project 365 but with a lighter update schedule (probably one per week) and with New York City as the subject; that way I can document my exploration of the city. (It also gives me a replacement for the out-of-date Project 365 sidebar section; actually the whole sidebar of this page needs some work.)
I spotted this sign while running in Berkeley this morning, and had to go back for a photo. From the slogan it looks like they're promoting energy-efficient home design, which is commendable; thus they probably want "quantum" to indicate "technologically advanced". But of course, "quantum" also brings to mind uncertainty, which maybe isn't what a contractor wants to associate themselves with. At the very least, I would expect Quantum Construction to be able to give a precise time estimate, or a precise cost estimate, but not both.
However, I assume their creation operators are top-notch.
It's the autumnal equinox today, so the summer thread is officially outdated. Meanwhile, it is also thesis-writing season, so expect less interesting pictures as I spend much of my time in front of the computer.
I saw The Simpsons Movie today and found it quite enjoyable. Meanwhile, you may have heard that 7-11 had converted 12 of their stores into Kwik-E-Marts to coincide with the movie's release. One of them is just down the street from my parents' house in Dallas, and we stopped by on the way to the airport. I've posted a few photos here.
I looked up the tower in Wikipedia and found that it's considered ugly enough to airbrush out of travel brochures. For shame! I like it—it's like a red claw reaching into the sky. How is that not awesome? Wikipedia goes on to quote Herb Caen on the tower: “I keep waiting for it to stalk down the hill and attack the Golden Gate Bridge.” I guess that's supposed to be a criticism but I would say that as an endorsement.
Anyway, here's a new thread for Project 365 comments. Will it presage a return to regular blogging? Only time will tell.
The photos I took at Coachella are now up on Flickr. Here's the set.
Here's a fresh thread for the Project 365 comments. Above: Today's picture, a tall paper-shade floor lamp viewed from the top.
This is generating some interest on Flickr so I'm cross-posting this photo and the recipe I provided in the Flickr caption.
A streamlined recipe for quick and easy preparation (about 20 minutes total). Serves 1, but easily scaled up.
1/4 lb penne pasta
14 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 1/3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp vodka
2 tbsp heavy cream
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
chopped parsley and basil leaves
1. Boil water for the pasta. Heat the oil in a pan on medium heat. Drain the tomatoes.
2. Add the garlic to the pan and cook for about a minute. Add the vodka and allow about half to boil off, then add the tomatoes. Add salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste.
3. Start boiling the pasta. Allow the sauce to simmer while the pasta is cooking.
4. When the pasta is al dente, drain and add to pan. Add the cream and stir over high heat for about two minutes. Add the parsley and basil, and toss. Serve with grated parmesan.
This is the thread for comments on my photos if you don't want to log into Flickr to do so. I'll put a static link to it on the sidebar.
Above: yesterday's photo, taken after a rainstorm that happened to coincide with my walk home.
This was my Project 365 photo for Tuesday, but I wanted to do a blog post on it as well.
The attic of Berkeley's main physics building resembles nothing so much as an inert and dusty version of the Jawa caravan in Star Wars. Filled with vintage '70s/'80s (and older) electronics and cryogenic equipment, it contains the history of decades of cutting-edge research, now consigned to storage. Also, annoyingly elusive items that have to be accounted for in the annual lab inventory.
I was up here Tuesday afternoon looking for a particular frequency synthesizer that LBL's records say we own. It turns out there is a frequency sythesizer up here, in among our group's poorly-delineated junk pile, but it is a slightly different model (presumably with a bad motivator). I didn't find the instrument I was looking for, but did take a few pictures, which all turned out blurry since there was hardly any light and the camera couldn't acquire focus.
Perhaps the most unusual instrument is the one that's musical rather than scientific: an old organ sitting in the corner, presumably for aspiring Phantoms of the Opera.
While posting frequency is at a historical low, as of today this blog has reached the four-year mark. Some of you will recall from previous posts that this blog shares a start date with Dinosaur Comics, which you should all be reading. (The recent strip about the standard kilogram was brilliant.)
Also, happy birthday to commenter JSpur!
Despite not posting here, I continue to post one photo per day over at my Flickr page; the Project 365 set now contains a month's worth of photos, and I've geotagged them all so you can look at a map of where they were taken. (Right now the map is fairly uninteresting except perhaps zoomed in on Berkeley.)
Observers of my Flickr page will have already noticed that I started Project 365 on schedule three days ago. This is where I take (at least) one photo every day for a year and post the series online. I'm putting these photos in my Project 365 photoset (and also tagging them project365). I think this URL will produce an RSS feed of just these photos (there's also one for all of my photos). Finally, a thumbnail of the latest one will appear on the sidebar of this blog's main page.
A few photos from my vacation should also go up at some point (grouped separately).
Here's the Starbucks decoration I blogged about yesterday. The photo quality is a little poor because I apparently broke the LCD screen of my camera a couple days ago, and have to take pictures in automatic mode without knowing what the flash or focus settings are. This is exceptionally bad timing since I'll be starting the photo-a-day project on Monday.
I'm intrigued by this idea (via Lifehacker) of taking a photo every day for a year to compile a year-long photographic record. I'm thinking of doing this (starting either on 22 November or 1 January); the challenges would be remembering to take a photo every day, and finding sufficiently interesting subjects for the photos. (Similar to the challenges of blogging regularly, which I don't quite achieve as often as daily.)
Naturally I would post the photos on my Flickr page; I could also post them here, but it might get annoying for those who come for the text (one photo post per day would become more than 50% of the content). So it might be better to put them on a separate page, and only post highlights here.
Both UCB Chancellor Birgeneau and and UC President Dynes are members of the physics department. This is perhaps good for departmental prestige but also draws protestors. Yesterday a rally for higher custodial wages made a stop at Birge Hall. (In fact, neither Dynes or Birgeneau are typically in the physics buildings--the only time I've seen Birgeneau in the department was the day Smoot won the Nobel.)
Not pictured: my office window, which is two windows to the right of the frame. I was down in the lab at the time, and missed it.
I went to Flickr looking for photos of last night's show. I'm in the bottom right corner of this one.
This is what Chad Orzel refers to as a True Lab Story:
Condensed matter labs such as ours receive frequent deliveries of liquid nitrogen in one- or two-hundred liter dewars. Unfortunately, most of the Berkeley cond-mat labs are in Birge Hall, which has no loading dock, so that the LN2 dewars arrive on the first floor of neighboring LeConte where they must be wheeled over to their destination by some low-seniority student. Since the Berkeley campus is on a hill, the loading dock at the back of the building is one floor higher than the other entrances to LeConte and all the entrances to Birge. One can push the dewar around the outside of LeConte, but a shorter route is to take the elevator down one floor and go out the side door.
Yesterday the LeConte elevator was out of order, which for most of us would have meant taking the long way around. However, one undergrad, tasked with transporting a full 230L dewar, simply decided to take the stairs.
At about 80% the density of water, 230 liters of liquid nitrogen weighs about 400 pounds, not counting the additional weight of the steel vessel containing it. When rolled onto the stairs, the dewar promptly tipped over and plummeted downward on its side, knocking deep gouges in the marble steps and dragging along the unfortunate student, who inexplicably held on as his cargo began to tumble. Miraculously both student and dewar arrived at the landing without rupturing, but the dewar was still on its side and pressure was building up.
This was the situation when we got the frantic call from the building manager; once enough of us arrived at the scene we were able to pull the dewar upright and release the pressure. This averted any imminent explosion, but now we had a different problem: 400 pounds of liquid nitrogen stranded on a landing between the ground and first floors. Suggestions were floated including emptying the nitrogen out the nearby window, but ultimately we found another dewar which was wheeled to the top of the stairs on the first floor, and the nitrogen was transferred there through a long hose. The empty dewar was then carried up the stairs, a task requiring four men and gouging new (but shallower) grooves in the staircase.
Recalling what happens when a LN2 cylinder does rupture, it's the general consensus that this student is lucky to have survived and LeConte Hall is lucky to still have a staircase.
Photos below the fold [updated with photo of wall damage]:Continue reading "Measurements of gravity using cryogens [Updated]"
At least, this was posted live on the old site, because I forgot to change my Flickr settings.
It's really hot today, but the ferry ride was nice.
I posted a handful of photos over at Flickr from Saturday's festivities. The occasion was
Pi Approximation Day Jonathan and Frances getting married, so many of my friends from my Caltech days were in town, including some I hadn't seen in years. The wedding was held in Menlo Park, at the height of what passes for a heat wave in the Bay Area. (Attention Catholic Church: please use some of your enormous wealth to air-condition your buildings.) For some reason this blog was a frequent topic of conversation at the reception.
Following the reception a general consensus emerged that salsa dancing was called for. We initially looked for a suitable club in San Francisco, but having a party member under 21 limited our options. Luckily, it turns out that Lemming's parents (being dance instructors) have a dance floor at their house in a converted two-car garage. This was commandeered for our use as an exclusive, invite-only salsa club, and after a brief lesson for the uninitiated we proceeded to dance the night away.
Only a small number of pictures from Saturday were any good; here's one from the salsa after-party.
Discussion topic for the comments: suggest an appropriately nightclubish name for our private dance hall. Also, here's Lemming's take on the day's events.
I said I didn't get any pictures of Omen when he came by on Sunday, but one of my attempts actually sort of turned out, albeit a bit unfocused. I haven't seen Omen since, mainly due to not being at home myself. Next week is equally busy, and then I go to New York, so it may be a while until the next Friday Catblogging. Meanwhile: here is Omen doing the please give me treats look.
Safety is a major concern in any lab, and in this group we are very dedicated to maintaining a safe environment. We are so dedicated that our last safety warden left to become a Buddhist monk. We'll see how long the next one lasts.
Some processes, such as silvering glass dewars, are sufficiently hazardous to alarm even the most reckless among us, and so we have assembled an appropriate set of gear, modeled below by Iskander:
The stylish yellow lab coat, with detachable hood for the emo hoodie look, is flame- and acid-retardant, perfect for handling the fulminate byproducts of the silvering process. The face shield adds that edgy "riot gear" touch, but since a face shield only qualifies as secondary eye protection it is complemented by an elegant pair of safety goggles. Heavy gloves complete the outfit, removing any possibility that one might handle something delicately and thereby avoid the inevitable explosion.
Chemists in the audience are welcome to mock our misplaced concern and/or one-up us with stories of yet more elaborate lab outfits.
A few photos from my Cabo San Lucas trip are up. Uncharacteristically for my photos, there are some people in some of these. (They would be my relatives.) The full photoset is here.
I meant to post these earlier but I had to give a talk yesterday, after which I finally collapsed from exhaustion. However, they are now up on my Flickr page.
The Coachella photoset is here.
Got up close for an excellent show by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. Now I'm going to find some shade.
Coachella: awesome. Today we are starting with Mates of State, then Ted Leo, at the Outdoor Theater. Hopefully I can post this before the network gets flaky--the cell phone infrastructure here isn't quite equipped for this many people.
Greetings from Coachella, currently the ironic t-shirt capital of the world. After spending two hours between the freeway and the gates, I have arrived in time to catch The Duke Spirit on the main stage.
I was walking down 4th Ave in San Francisco today, just south of Golden Gate Park, when I saw these ads:
(Low quality because taken with my phone camera.) I should eat there sometime. Hey, does anyone know if those Chinese characters say "gazebo" or some approximation thereof?
I managed to upload a batch of pictures while they were still current. These are from my D.C. visit last week and are mostly from the National Mall (particularly the WWII Memorial, which I hadn't seen before). The other photos are here.
I don't know if this will show up, but it's the T. Rex skeleton at the National Museum of Natural History. I spent the day in Washington DC, and possibly saw Rick Santorum. (I inadvertently walked into one of his campaign events.) Better pictures (of the city, not the senator) to follow when I'm on a connection better than my phone.
This made my day yesterday: the Mario question blocks distributed around the UC Berkeley campus.
This one is at Sather Gate. There was another hanging from a tree by Wheeler Hall, but it either fell or was taken (or somebody jumped and hit it with his head, and then took the item).
Despite the best attempts of American Airlines to stop me with delays and mechanical failures, I have returned to Berkeley. Luckily there was no new flooding, but the rain continues. Meanwhile, in Connecticut I saw actual snow. Here are a couple of pictures I took while I was there:
This one is of a reservoir in New Canaan, which was partially iced over. It had been above freezing for several days and the ice was melting away.
New Year's Eve was
on the last night of during Hannukah, and the party I attended (at Shellock's house) celebrated both. The full display of eight menorahs was quite impressive:
I finally uploaded the photos from that roadtrip back in September.
Mostly it's Painted Desert and Grand Canyon shots, with some of the meteor crater. Photoset is here.
Here's the part where I explain some of the more cryptic statements in Sunday's posts.
The Window: We rented two minivans on Friday to shuttle the runners around. Friday evening we loaded them up with various supplies. Sometime during Friday night, someone broke into Van 2 by smashing the front passenger side window, and stole Gatorade, Red Bull, and bananas. Fortunately they left most of our other supplies, so the biggest annoyance was driving around without a window, especially after sunset once it started to get cold. So we got some saran wrap from the restaurant where we ate dinner, and rigged the above window using the duct tape that we (of course) had on hand. This picture is from after crossing the Golden Gate, hence the big patch in the lower left corner where we repaired a hull breach.
Roadkill Tally: I meant to get a picture of this as well. It's apparently a meme among relayers to tally the number of teams passed on the side of the van as "roadkill". We ended up with about fifty I think (although we didn't place particularly high), of which I could claim a few by the end.
Leg 11: This was my first leg, which started out in residential Petaluma (very suburban), moved into commercial Petaluma, and then suddenly became cow pastures with all the associated aromas. This was the least interesting leg of the three I ran, and I didn't see any other runners except one guy who was way ahead of me. [map]
Leg 23: This was the nighttime leg, along Skyline Blvd near the intersection of highway 92 and I-280. The sky was clear and the full moon really beautiful; there was a lake or reservoir along the route that reflected the moonlight. Even better, the course was relatively short (3.7 miles) and had a nice downhill slope the whole way that made running very easy. [map]
Leg 35: I was dreading the hill at the start of my final leg, which rose 300 feet in one mile. What I didn't know was that I'd be running through a dry, dusty quarry under a hot sun. I took the baton (actually a wristband) simultaneously with another runner, who sprinted out ahead of me... for about 200 yards, until he hit the hill. At that point I passed him easily, then another guy, and the desire to maintain my lead kept me going up the slope. All that hill training in Berkeley paid off! After one mile the terrain changed into a really nice redwood forest, and after two it started sloping downhill into Santa Cruz. This was a really steep downhill, and at one point the distinction between running and falling was not terribly clear. I remained upright somehow and was rewarded with a great view of Santa Cruz and the ocean once I came out of the forest. [map]
UPDATE: I had the Leg 35 stuff here earlier but a typo in the HTML prevented it from showing up.
Another big hole in the ground...
We drove a long way to see a big hole in the ground...
We are in the Petrified Forest National Park, overlooking Arizona's Painted Desert, taking pictures every few steps...
Be talkin' amongst yerselves, me hearties. We be raisin' anchor fer our voyage, yo ho!
I am in Dallas! Here's a picture of... a parking lot.
Note the billboard advertising the "305 HP Texas Titan". There's also a church steeple in the background.
Anyway, I figured there should be a photo of the starting city. Hopefully we'll see something more scenic along the way.
Since I'm in Dallas I'm going to do some petblogging even though it's not Friday.
This is Merlin, the family dog. He's a cranky old dog at 13 years who lays around the house all day and barks at you if he wants your attention. However, he did manage to summon enough energy to steal clothes out of my suitcase last night.