Friday, March 11, 2011

Misha, 1994-2011

So I haven't been posting in a long time. Yeah, yeah... I know.

It's not that there hasn't been anything to write about. Why, the headlines are just full of meaty, maddening, tragic, important stories! Not to mention, there's been plenty going in in my own family too... as the kids are growing up bit by bit, and I've been sneaking on tiptoe back into the Opera world (scroll down to the bottom and click the pic with the guy wearing the kabuki makeup and the Darth Vader helmet. That's me as The Mikado, in Gilbert & Sullivan's show of the same name. And yes, that cute little girl in the kimono--carrying the huge sword--is the Pillowfight Fairy.)

(And if anyone in the Sacramento area wants to see me singing live on stage, here's your chance: this year I'm Private Willis in G&S's show Iolanthe. Details are at the above site; shows are the first two weekends in April.)

But today I merely have some sad personal news that I know my extended family will want to know about. One of our cats, Misha, has gone to kitty heaven.

We've been knowing this was coming, and sooner rather than later; her health has been in steep decline over the last month. The vet had a full ultrasound done on Misha about a week ago and pronounced it Lymphoma, in a fairly advanced stage. She went downhill very quickly; a month ago she was happily jumping up on the furniture, and bugging me to pet her every time I sat down at the computer to goof off. And then, she wasn't...


Back in '94 I was living in a townhouse with two college buddies. Sometime during April of that year we discovered that we had an annoying feral cat that kept jumping our fence and trying to sneak through an air vent into our garage. No wonder--April is in the rainy season around these parts, and this cat wanted a nice, dry, secure place... to have her litter. Yup. One day we went to get our cars, and we discovered we had a whole litter of kittens.

And aside from two twins, they all looked completely different.

Well, we decided we'd do the responsible thing. We didn't have permission from the landlord for pets in the townhouse, so we decided to get them spayed/neutered, and get them vaccinated, and socialize them so they'd be able to function around humans, and find homes for them.

And then we made the mistake of naming them. And feeding them. And petting them.

One of the kittens ran off to join the circus before we could get to know him/her, but the other three stuck around. We couldn't find homes for them, but they were completely happy just to stay in the garage most of the time, and sneak in the back door to our townhouse when we opened it up. Yup, we had to catch them and carry them out of the house on numerous, numerous occasions, and they'd be happily purring the whole way.

Misha was the dark one of the lot. Her sister Pasha (who, as a kitten, we used to call Paranoid Gold Kitty for a while) is a tabby, and her other sister Niña is an absolutely gorgeous calico. All three of them were very, very plush longhairs; look at that feather-duster of a tail on the picture above. Tonya and I joked that we should brush them a whole lot, and then spin the fur thus collected into yarn, and use it to knit sweaters. (We could probably still do that just from the fur caught in the carpet in their room...) But Misha looked an awful lot like her mommy, except she had a prettier face.

And the three sisters each had their own personality. Niña was always very suspicious of people. She warmed up to me and my roommates; she eventually warmed up to my aunt, and later my wife; she still hasn't gotten used to all these short, loud people we have running around here. Pasha turned into an absolute lover, who demands to lick any person she takes a fancy to. She's almost dog-like. She's also dumb as a post, and has always had a clumsy side to her. I swear I've seen that cat trip. I also once watched her take a tumble off a balcony. Over the years, she has put on quite a bit of weight, earning the affectionate nickname "Lardbutt." During the time my aunt was taking care of Pasha, she had to laugh at the irony when she remembered Carl Sandburg's poem:
The fog comes
on little cat feet...


But Misha was the sneaky one of the bunch. I remember one incident back when she was a kitten, and we were having to keep them out of the townhouse. She had this way of sneaking in the back door, then bolting down the hall, around the corner, and into my bedroom--whereupon I had to go find her and extract her from among the heaps of bachelor junk I had piled up around the room. Well, one day she did this trick, and I trooped down the hallway and into my room--and then spent ten minutes tearing it apart trying to find her. Failing and scratching my head, I wandered back to the living room, and saw her happily curled up on the sofa watching TV.

How did she get past me? I wondered to myself.

So the next time she got through the back door, down the hallway and around the corner (it happened a lot don't you know), I listened. Her footsteps halted the moment she went around the corner; she didn't go all the way into my room! I walked to the corner in the hallway, leaned carefully around and looked down... and sure enough, there was Misha, hiding with her dark fur in a dark little shadow. That earlier incident, she had outsmarted me. She got me thinking she'd gone into my room, and I walked right past her without bothering to look down.

If I'd been a pigeon, I would have gotten et.

That was her personality. She loved people-attention, and purred so noisily that veterinarians could never tell how fast her heart was going; but she'd pull one over on you if you weren't careful.

Of course, she'd also occasionally try to jump from lofts onto the tops of ceiling fans, so she clearly got some of the same genetic material as Pasha did....


Misha hadn't been in good health this last year. After all, her seventeenth birthday would have been in April; that's getting up there for a cat, even when they are fully spayed indoor female cats. Given that we have three from the same litter, odds are that at least one of them was going to have something bad happen. She'd had to have surgery to remove that gorgeous feather-duster of a tail early last summer, as she'd developed some kind of abscess on it that couldn't be removed any other way. And there were signs at that time that she had other internal conditions starting; we had to put her on a special diet and give her steroids just to get her in shape for that surgery. Still, she recovered from the surgery well, put a good amount of weight back on, and grew enough fur on her little stump of a tail that it looked cute, like the back end of a bunny. Unfortunately, the Lymphoma must have already been in its early stages then. About a month ago she started showing signs of being unable to walk and jump properly, and then her weight started to plummet, and it became obvious the end was near.

I checked on Misha before going to work this morning, and she was weak, nothing but fur and bones, but alert. I checked on her when I got home, and she had passed away sometime during the day, in the same spot where I'd left her in the morning.

So I went out in our little "orchard" (a corner of our garden where we've planted half a dozen fruit trees) before dinner tonight and dug a hole to bury her in. The Adrenaline Junkie and the Happy Boy came out too. I suspect the Happy Boy (age four) just wanted an excuse to help dig a really big hole, but the Junkie (age six) wanted to talk about Misha with her daddy. Kids process these things differently than we do. I was thinking deep thoughts about mortality; she was thinking about how to keep the bugs from getting all over Misha, and what the word "decomposition" means, and does that mean we would eventually get to see all the bones? (not if I can help it) and why the earth never runs out of people or cats or dogs, if everyone eventually dies (not a bad question for a six-year-old, if I do say so myself).


So, we're thinking of going to the local plant nursery or home improvement store and getting a life-sized sculpture of a cat--preferably something really longhair looking, if we can find it--and painting it in a charcoal-gray/brown tortoise-shell pattern, and using that to mark the spot we laid her to rest. Yeah, we're hopelessly maudlin that way. (At least the grown-ups are. The kids like to talk about decomposition, even if they can't pronounce it properly.) On the practical side, it might scare off a few of the birds, and might briefly freak out some of the neighborhood cats around here.

None of us here is distraught; we've definitely had worse. Still, even though I was able to pet her and hear her purr not 14 hours ago, I'm already missing my cat.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Few New Pictures

I caught myself saying something odd the other day. Tonya's parents had been in town for a few weeks to help us while we had our baby, but they had just left; I was leaving a voicemail for a family member, mentioning that the grandparents were now gone...:

So, we're all alone now. It's just the six of us.

Tonya got a kick out of the irony of that statement.

Anyway, I have a few more pictures of our baby, in case anyone's interested...

...which is something I've always found a little ironic. Yeah, everyone wants to see the picture of the little one, because--after all--it's a big event when another little person comes into the world to mess up everyone's sleep schedules. But babies that are this young aren't generally very photogenic. They're cute, but generally much more so in real life than in still photos. Newborn babies in pictures just kinda... lie there.

So maybe that's why Anne Geddes dresses them like bugs and puts them in flower pots. They're just so much cuter that way.

Ok, since the only pots we have that big have chili pepper plants in them, and chiles and babies don't mix, we decided that the next cutest thing to do would be to put our newborn with a whole bunch of other kids who are still in their pajamas.

Here's one of the Happy Boy, not yet age four, who really likes his baby brother. He occasionally comes up to us and asks to hold him. But just as I took this picture, the Adrenaline Junkie, who couldn't resist, decided to count his toes.

Ok, so here's one with the Adrenaline Junkie in it too.
The Happy Boy looks like he's about to pluck somebody's nose or something. Little babies have lots of cute little body parts after all, that all need to be inspected!

And here's the one with all four of our little ones together. The middle two are just in love with their little brother. The Pillowfight Fairy, on the right, is generally more aloof. She's also been through the drill a time or three before; and after all, the Chunk looks an awful lot like the Happy Boy did at this age.

Except for all that black hair, and the dimpled chin, and the extremely red/ruddy complexion (which isn't just the reflected glow from his orange pajamas)....

Sigh.... :-)

Friday, October 29, 2010

What we've been doing for the last nine months

All right, it's actually been closer to eleven months since I last posted. However, we've been doing something extra special for the last nine of those eleven months.

Namely, one of us has been waddling around like some kind of penguin/walrus crossbreed.

She was so cute. :)

Anyway, today was the day.

What this picture doesn't capture very well is the fact that he's moving at least as much on the outside as he did on the inside for the last few months. He's big, strong, and active, and kept trying to wiggle in such a way as to get all that unpleasant light off his face.

Now, for the sake of privacy it's been our policy not to reveal the names of our little ones online, so we won't be sharing the rather manly-sounding Irish name we gave this little cub. We need an online pseudonym for him!

The trouble is, we haven't had him around long enough to come up with a good name based on his personality. Even with the Happy Boy, where he got his online pseudonym when still less than a year old, we still had some personality clues--he was usually quite happy and playful, even in unfamiliar settings and around complete strangers.

But we have no such clues about this new little guy, aside from the fact that he was somersaulting like a gymnast inside mommy for the last several months. The only other clues we have are from his vital statistics:
  • Born at 1:04 am.
  • Weighing 9 lbs, 10 oz...
  • 21 inches long...
  • Had a "strong, lusty cry" before even making it all the way out of mommy. His APGAR score was 10 within ten minutes or so after birth, so he's healthy as a horse...
  • And apparently, mommy tells me he feeds like one too.
So I'm open to pseudonym suggestions in the comments (assuming I have any readers left after 11 months), based on what little we know about him. But to open up the bidding, until I get a better suggestion, I'm referring to him as "The Chunk".

Have at it. :-)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Boom The Cannon!

It's been a while since I've posted a sample of my eldest daughter's literary attainments online.

(Heck, it's been a while since I've posted anything online.)

But one never quite knows what one is going to get with the Pillowfight Fairy. In years past we've seen diagrams for schemes of airborne sheep rustling, to pictures of dungeons ("Warning: bad people only") to some surprisingly dark bus-stop nocturnes.

One of the fun parts of being a home-school daddy is seeing the progress that your kids make. I look at those earlier efforts, which were done over two years ago, and I marvel at how much progress she's made since then.

But she's still my daughter of course. And naturally, that means her poems involve artillery.

Yup. She was assigned today to write a poem, of her own composition, in cursive. Here's what this little second-grade daddy's girl came up with:
Behold! Ye launch a cannonball! For freedom! And messes!

That. Is. My. Daughter.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Quartet of Fun Videos

Ok, so I haven't been blogging much lately--and I haven't been blogging as many of those long, wordy, overly-sincere disquisitions on What's Wrong With the World And How To Solve It.

I suppose you could look at it like this... it is, after all, that time of year when we're supposed to give thanks for the blessings in our life, right? Well then, perhaps my readership should Give Thanks that they don't have to sit through another of my 5000-word manifestos today. :)

And I'm thankful that I don't have to write them just yet.

Instead, I've been collecting some fun videos I've been seeing online lately, and thought I'd pass them on. No doubt you've seen some of them already, but perhaps you haven't seen all four.

So, we'll start with one that's hit the internet lately in a really, really big way. It's shown up on a lot of people's blogs, including that of my sister-in-law (although that's not actually where I first saw it). Behold: the Muppets do Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.

And, as usual, Animal steals the show. But Beaker (who, along with the Swedish Chef, is my favorite Muppet) puts in a pretty good showing, too.

(Oh, and my sister-in-law has some wonderful Thanksgiving-day pictures of my three kids, and their two cousins, playing in a pile of leaves. Take a look here.)

Ok, here's the next one, which has been all over the TV lately, so most people have already seen it. But if there be any more Luddites out there like Tonya and me who don't watch TV, then you might not have seen it yet, in which case you are welcome to treat this post as a public service. With a hat tip to The Anchoress (where I first saw it myself), I give you Cop vs. Kitty:

You know, I'm glad that this wasn't my cat Pasha doing that. What's cute with a three-lb kitten would, with my arthitic yet lovable 15-lb lardbutt, be downright tragic.

Ok, here's the shortest video of the bunch. I had been web-surfing a few nights ago, when the Pillowfight Fairy came over to the computer and saw some random link about albatrosses (the seabirds with the 7-foot wingspans). So we clicked it, and watched some video on them.... and then clicked on some more, and some more... and eventually we were watching all kinds of nature videos. (By the way, the ones of albatrosses landing on ground, as opposed to on the water, are good fodder for seven-year-old humor. Apparently, albatross stall-speed is faster than albatross running speed, so their landings tend to involve plenty of unintentional mayhem. Especially when they land on a beach crowded with other albatrosses.) Well, we went from albatrosses to frogs, to insects to... this one that was temptingly captioned, "Frog vs. Dragonfly". What we expected was another of those videos showing nature in all its gory glory, red in tooth and claw (or whatever it is that frogs have). What we got gave everyone an unexpected and surprisingly hearty laugh.

Geez. That's not much better than what Pasha could have done.

Ok, here's the fourth one, which is the longest video of the bunch. I was reading along on the Wired website, on a story entitled Thanks a Lot: Pop Culture's Finest Moments of 2009. Now, I'm never one much to put the phrases "fine" and "pop culture" in the same sentence, unless the sentence is something like, "That's a fine load of pop culture you've managed to land us in this time." Nevertheless, I was bored, and there was a cool picture of Superman next to it, so I thought, "meh..." and clicked. (I was actually more intrigued by the picture of Dr. Horrible next to the story immediately underneath it. Apparently, there's going to be a sequel to Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog! Huzzah! I say.)

There's actually some interesting stuff on that list of pop culture. But the one that caught my eye was for an episode of the latest Batman animated TV series, Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Now, the title itself does nothing for me, sounding too much like that of a soap opera. But the Wired write-up of this particular episode made me cock my Spock-brow:
After decades of taking the animated Dark Knight deeper into the shadows, Warner Bros. lightened things up with this bright series, which is resiliently clever. Nowhere is its broad, demographic-crushing appeal more brilliant than in this musical episode, which features the vocal acrobatics of the resurgent Neil Patrick Harris as the Music Meister, a villain who can send humanity into a trance by singing (mostly about himself). Ranging from outright cheese to subversive comedy, “Mayhem of the Music Meister” found Batman hitting the high notes, literally, while beating back a horde of ballet-dancing supervillains and superheroes, all while sampling iconography from Milos Forman’s Amadeus to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Best animated hero worship of the year, hands-down. —Scott Thill

O.M.G. An episode of Batman... done as a musical? All the superheros and supervillains singing and dancing? Subversive cheesiness? I. Am. So. There. So I clicked on it, and had a big dopey grin on my face for the next twenty-three minutes or so.

View More Free Videos Online at

I especially liked Batman's deadpanned line at the end of the "Death Trap" song about halfway through.

I remember, as a kid, that occasionally the powers-that-be would do something weird like this in one of the cartoons that I watched at the time, and I always found it hokey to the point of being totally embarrassing. Why do they do stuff like this? Don't they know how dorky it is? And then I grew up, and discovered that these were often the only episodes of the cartoons in question with anything like a long-term redeeming quality. By the way, this includes the "Kill the Wabbit" Bugs Bunny/Elmer Fudd episode, which in hindsight (and a bit more immersion in the lore of Wagner) becomes freakin' brilliant.

Anyway, this is the kind of episode that I once would have totally embarrassed me by its sublime dorkiness. So I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. :)

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Sign That Our Daughter's Moral Training Is Not Complete...

From the Adrenaline Junkie (Age 4.9):

"Sometimes I feel like... like... like I don't have enough things."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Where the Heck do They Learn These T hings?

So the Happy Boy, still aged two, just ran up to me.

And, of course, being two, he made absolutely no attempt to stop.


"Ow", I explained, somewhat annoyed. "Why did you just do that?"

And my two-year-old boy, who's not yet speaking in complete sentences, looked straight up into my eyes, and sweetly explained:

"Torture Daddy."

Where the heck do they pick these things up? He's two, and he already has a firm grasp of the term torture.

And although he can't pronounce it yet, it appears he also has down the concept of "mortification of the flesh", as we just caught him intentionally (and happily) running headfirst into the cabinets....

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Tale of Time Travel

Saw something recently that tickled my funny bone, in an intellectual sort of way, and thought I'd share it with y'all.

Background: My wife has somewhat unusual tastes in entertainment fare, when compared with most of female-kind in this country. She's one of those types highly-sought-after by us geeks, who actually enjoys science fiction. She once went to a Star Trek convention, and was mistaken for being in costume. Yup, she had just dressed in what for her was normal street-clothes, which happened to consist of a very 80's-style red jumpsuit with black turtleneck and black boots, and she just happened to be mistaken for one of the women in Khan's posse....

Okay, she enjoys more than just science fiction; she has enough girlyness in her that she occasionally watches the 5-hour BBC Pride & Prejudice miniseries that we have on DVD. Still, she doesn't usually go for the really weepy stuff. She likes explosions.

And big muscles.

(Hmm. Makes me wonder... How'd she wind up with me? Must be the potential for explosions....)


Ahem. Anyway, her favorite sci-fi sub-genre is Time Travel. Yup, she loves stories where people go back in time and accidentally cause themselves not to be born. Or they become their own parents or something. Pretty much, the more convoluted the story, the more it makes your mind bend just thinking about how they got themselves into this mess, or how they're going to get out of it by the end of the hour, and she's there. She was a big fan of the time travel stories on Star Trek; she was a big fan of Dr. Who; and she loved Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (a judgment with which I heartily concur).

So of course, I had to share the following news with her when I saw it online the last few days. It gave her a bit of a smile. Hopefully it'll do the same for you.


But first, I have to pose a time-travel thought experiment.

Suppose someone builds a time machine, and uses it to go back into the past. What would happen?

Well, there are two schools of thought. One is that the timeline doesn't change, because everything the time traveler does when he gets to the past already happened. If the time traveler loses his wedding ring in the past, his contemporaries from his home year will be able to find it exactly where he lost it. In fact, someone may have found it already, in the intervening years between when the time traveler lost it in the past, and when he started out on that journey in the future. Under this school of thought, the time traveller can't do anything that wasn't already done before.

A good movie that appears to take this approach is Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. ("Trash can... remember a trash can!")

The other school of thought is that the time traveler can in fact change the past, and by doing so will change the future. This is the school of thought on display in the Back to the Future movies. Marty has to fix the past before he goes home to the future; otherwise, since he accidentally broke up his parents, he would cease to exist.


Well, just for kicks and giggles, let's assume that the latter of these scenarios is true--that a time traveler from the future can change the past to something different from what happened in the time traveler's history. What then?

Since I'm a geek, allow me to go to the diagram.
Let's say the above diagram represents a time-line. Now, let's say that a time travel experiment is started up that makes changes in the past.

So far, so good. The trouble is, since the past has changed, that means that the timeline diverges; from the moment in the past that the time travel experiment makes something different happen than what went before, the time line has changed--and the remainder of the original timeline, the one on top in these diagrams, never happened.

So really, only the bottom timeline exists anymore. And it is identical to the first timeline, up until the point where the time traveling object appears (seemingly out of nowhere, as observed by people in the past). From that point on, the timelines start to diverge.

Now here's where the fun begins. The timeline is now proceeding differently than it did before. This may in fact cause changes to the circumstances of the time travel experiment itself! What happens then? Well, that experiment will then be run at a slightly different time, and send its payload to a slightly different time in the past, causing yet another timeline to form (and voiding the remainder of the timeline we just constructed, too). And then this timeline will cause changes to the circumstances of the time travel experiment, causing yet more changes in the past....
Now, it seems to me that these alterations to the past timeline would accumulate; they wouldn't necessarily void each other. If the first experiment puts a bowling ball back through time, that changes the timeline; then the next iteration puts a nectarine through instead, what then? Well, since the timelines are identical up until the point in time that the time travel causes them to diverge, it means all the old alterations would still be there as well--including the bowling ball. (Though I'm certainly open to the idea that someone with greater powers of logic than me will come along and contradict this point. If I'm really lucky, maybe he'll come from the future!)
So what's left? Well here's the catch. Ever heard of the "Butterfly Effect"? Any change to a chaotic system, no matter how minor, causes little changes... which cause bigger changes... which eventually cause the system to look completely different than it would otherwise have been. This has long been a bugaboo in the world of weather forecasting. The problem is that weather systems are so sensitive to initial conditions, that missing the tiniest cause--like the flap of a butterfly's wings--will eventually cause the predictive model to yield wildly inaccurate results. The addition of that butterfly's wing flap could result in a hurricane showing up at a different time and place than it otherwise would have, for instance.

But don't we have the same thing in time travel? One minor change sends out eddies and ripples into the timeline, which grow--uncorrected--until the future looks nothing at all like it would otherwise have been. And this huge loop of time-travel changes, with each iteration changing the past, and in turn changing itself, would be dumping an awful lot of unpredictable, disruptive factors into the past.

Eventually, something is going to break. Rather, one of these changes will--through random chance--cause a tornado to hit the time travel research lab. Or will cause the wrong congressman to win the election, who decides to cut the research funding. Or will cause a giant fire-breathing turtle to appear and devour the lead scientist.

After all, this time-travel cycle can happen an arbitrary number of times, and is guaranteed to go on until the cycle is broken--by some sequence of events that stops the experiments. Then, you have a stable timeline, with no more loops.
Now, this timeline will have a lot of seemingly-odd, highly coincidental events in it, that to an objective observer just seem to conspire to shut down the experiment. Like that out of season tornado, followed by that crooked election, followed by that fire-breathing turtle. The observer might be tempted to think that God doesn't actually want us to discover time travel, right?

Either that, or God has an absolutely wicked sense of humor. And He's into slapstick.


So what would these "highly coincidental" events look like in real life, that would prevent time travel from happening?

Well, it might look a little like this.
Baguette Dropped From Bird's Beak Shuts Down The Large Hadron Collider (Really)

The Large Hadron Collider, the world's most powerful particle accelerator, just cannot catch a break. First, a coolant leak destroyed some of the magnets that guide the energy beam. Then LHC officials postponed the restart of the machine to add additional safety features. Now, a bird dropping a piece of bread on a section of the accelerator has, according to the Register, shut down the whole operation.


With freak accident after freak accident piling up over at CERN, the idea of time traveling particles returning from the future to prevent their own discovery is beginning to seem less and less far fetched.

Incidentally, I loved the comments on this article. I got a particularly good laugh from this one by HyMinded:

The bird's briefing:

The approach will not be easy. You are required to maneuver straight down this trench and skim the surface to this point. The target area is only two meters wide. It's a small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port. The shaft leads directly to the reactor system. A precise hit will start a chain reaction which should destroy the station.


But what's really funny to me--partly in a "ha-ha" kind of way, and partly in the Spock-eyebrow-amused kind of way, is just how many serious scientists are taking this kind of reasoning seriously. After all, my little exposition up above seems pretty tongue-in-cheek to me, but apparently no one can find the logical flaw in the thing that can break the whole argument down. Take a look at this article from Time describing the same incident, and tell me if that isn't the case.
While most scientists would write off the event as a freak accident, two esteemed physicists have formulated a theory that suggests an alternative explanation: perhaps a time-traveling bird was sent from the future to sabotage the experiment. Bech Nielsen of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen and Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyoto, Japan, have published several papers over the past year arguing that the CERN experiment may be the latest in a series of physics research projects whose purposes are so unacceptable to the universe that they are doomed to fail, subverted by the future.

...But ever since the British physicist Peter Higgs first postulated the existence of the [Higgs Boson] in 1964, attempts to capture the particle have failed, and often for unexpected, seemingly inexplicable reasons...

In a series of audacious papers, Nielsen and Ninomiya have suggested that setbacks to the LHC occur because of "reverse chronological causation," which is to say, sabotage from the future. The papers suggest that the Higgs boson may be "abhorrent to nature" and the LHC's creation of the Higgs sometime in the future sends ripples backward through time to scupper its own creation. Each time scientists are on the verge of capturing the Higgs, the theory holds, the future intercedes. The theory as to why the universe rejects the creation of Higgs bosons is based on complex mathematics, but, Nielsen tells TIME, "you could explain it [simply] by saying that God, in inverted commas, or nature, hates the Higgs and tries to avoid them."
Yeah. That and the fire-breathing turtles.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What I've Been Doing All Summer

Don't have a whole lot of time to post now, but I know that there are a whole bunch of people out there who've been wanting to see this. I might update this post a little later with more details about my little girl's Wood Elf outfit...

Behold, the Adrenaline Junkie's Halloween costume:

Friday, October 2, 2009

Assume a Perfectly Spherical Woman

No, that wouldn't actually be anyone I know. It's a little like that Perfectly Frictionless Ice that they keep asking you about in physics class--it doesn't exist in the real world, but assuming it does actually allows you to solve the math problem.

Well, I'm not sure this counts as an end to my months-long blogging hiatus, but I thought I'd pass along a bit of a Public Service Announcement:

The 2009 Ig Nobel awards have been announced! This is usually the scientific highlight of my year, and this year has some good ones. Perhaps not as good as last years study of how the analysis of archaeology sites--and our reconstruction of ancient history--can be scrambled by the actions of a live armadillo, but pretty good nonetheless:

PEACE PRIZE: Stephan Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael Thali and Beat Kneubuehl of the University of Bern, Switzerland, for determining — by experiment — whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full bottle of beer or with an empty bottle.
REFERENCE: "Are Full or Empty Beer Bottles Sturdier and Does Their Fracture-Threshold Suffice to Break the Human Skull?" Stephan A. Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael J. Thali and Beat P. Kneubuehl, Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine...

CHEMISTRY PRIZE: Javier Morales, Miguel Apátiga, and Victor M. Castaño of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, for creating diamonds from liquid — specifically from tequila.
REFERENCE: "Growth of Diamond Films from Tequila," Javier Morales, Miguel Apatiga and Victor M. Castano...

MEDICINE PRIZE: Donald L. Unger, of Thousand Oaks, California, USA, for investigating a possible cause of arthritis of the fingers, by diligently cracking the knuckles of his left hand — but never cracking the knuckles of his right hand — every day for more than sixty (60) years.
REFERENCE: "Does Knuckle Cracking Lead to Arthritis of the Fingers?", Donald L. Unger, Arthritis and Rheumatism...
And here is the one that inspired the title of this post:
PHYSICS PRIZE: Katherine K. Whitcome of the University of Cincinnati, USA, Daniel E. Lieberman of Harvard University, USA, and Liza J. Shapiro of the University of Texas, USA, for analytically determining why pregnant women don't tip over.
REFERENCE: "Fetal Load and the Evolution of Lumbar Lordosis in Bipedal Hominins," Katherine K. Whitcome, Liza J. Shapiro & Daniel E. Lieberman, Nature...
You know, I've always kinda wondered about that myself. I suppose I'd just assumed their physics resembled those of those old Weebles toys from way back when I was a kid.

For obvious reasons, there are some fun pictures at the Ig Nobel site (and elsewhere, all over the 'net) of this last one being demonstrated:
PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE: Elena N. Bodnar, Raphael C. Lee, and Sandra Marijan of Chicago, Illinois, USA, for inventing a brassiere that, in an emergency, can be quickly converted into a pair of face masks, one for the brassiere wearer and one to be given to some needy bystander.
REFERENCE: U.S. patent # 7255627, granted August 14, 2007 for a “Garment Device Convertible to One or More Facemasks.”
Well, of course you need two. After all, only half the population is female...


As I said, I'm not sure this post heralds the end of my blogging hiatus. I actually like having that extra time in the evenings to do stuff. And I am doing stuff! Some time, of course, is spent doing the chainmaille that will become the Adrenaline Junkie's Halloween costume (which is shaping up to be totally awesome); but I also started up an exercise routine about last May or so, that has knocked about 10% off my weight. And it has just been plain nice to be able to sit around and not worry about whether I needed to get online to feed the beast tonight.

But I'll eventually get around to that post on Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems I've been meaning to do for aeons.