Monday, December 31, 2007


Happy New Year's Eve!

It's almost here! The time when you get to screw up checks and signatures by writing 07 instead of 08!

This really happened.

It was 9 or 10 pm on Saturday night. We are sitting in the living room reading or playing Blokus or watching TV or all 3 when we hear a knock at the door. WTF? We don't really have any "pop-in" friends and most are out of town anyway. Our neighbors recently arrived back in town but have never knocked on our door. I'm intrigued and wary of late-night doorbell ringers, but I still go take a peek. J's holiday sign is covering our peephole rendering it useless. I try to look out the kitchen window but it can only see a small corner of the porch. Ignoring most of my good sense and using some "it's the holidays!" blissful ignorance, I opened the door. Before me stood a guy. He had a scrape on his nose and also what looked like a mini black-eye beginning under each eye. He proceeds to say that he's drunk and would like a ride home so he won't get arrested. I'm speechless. So many scenarios are running through my head. Kidnapping, burglary, murder, grand theft auto, sex slave, who knows what this guy's intentions and ulterior motives are! Aaaah! I say I need to get my shoes on, close the door, lock it and go sit back down. I relay all this info to Joan and she asks if I'm really going to give him a ride. I'm not sure, but the only reason I believe him is because he reeks to high heaven of alcohol and is obviously drunk. I decide that this will be my good deed towards men for Saturday and get my pants on. J wants to come too and I'm glad she does. At least if the shit goes down, I'll have another person on my side.

We go outside to where Mr. Drunky Pants is sitting on our stoop. He offers "a few dollars" and thanks us for taking him home. J sits in the back of Focus and keeps her eyes peeled. As I'm backing out and driving, I try to keep an eye on the road and the other on this guy. Before we left I asked if he had any ID. Nope. Okay, no ID means he was at someone's house and then they kicked him out. Bingo. I ask his name and it's something like Caldy Holiday. He went to Daniel High School. He lives in Tennessee but left his wife up there. "It's a long story", he says. "I'll bet", is my reply. I feel better that nothing out of the ordinary has happened and let it remain silent in the car. My mind reels with what I would do if he pulled a gun or something. Later I learn that J is thinking the same thing. Go for the eyes was her plan, and a pretty damn good one I might add. My plan is to slam on the brakes and grab for the gun, if that happens. I'll take the bullet for J.

He slurs some directions and we wind up on Wellington Way:

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He points out his house and I stop. Thanks and off he stumbles towards the house. J and I both let out a sigh of relief and head home. We're discussing it and I still don't know why I decided to give him a ride. All the possible negative outcomes greatly outweighed the one or two positive outcomes, and yet I still did it.

Maybe I'm too trusting or maybe I saw some drunk kid who needed a lift home. I'm just glad I'm still around to talk about it. I probably shouldn't have answered the door.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007


Bush comes to his senses?

It's official. President Bush has done something that might actually help people. Not you or I, hopefully, but people nonetheless. For nearly a decade, Washington DC has had a ban on needle exchange programs. Our nation's capital has the highest AIDS rate of any major city in the US. The first leading cause of HIV transmission is unprotected sex. The second? Intravenous drug users sharing needles. They're all smacked out and don't want to spend any "heroin money" on something as stupid as a clean needle, so they borrow HIV Larry's needle and shoot up. Most larger cities have realized this is horrible and have started a needle exchange program. The junkies bring in their used needles (instead of throwing them in the trash or on the road or on your kid's playground equipment) and the Health Department furnishes them with clean needles and hopefully encourages them to get clean and into a rehab program. Some people say that this encourages drug use. Does it? Do you want to move to DC and start a serious junk habit knowing now that you can get free clean needles? It doesn't for me either. Crystal meth users, fear not. I assume this program is for any intravenous drug users not just smackheads. So whether you like to inject cocaine, ice or Frosted Flakes, you don't have to use a HIV infected needle! Hooray!

Does that mean that anyone using needles can exchange theirs? Even diabetics? I'm sure a few savvy diabetics would venture down there to save a bit of money on buying new needles. I think that would be okay.

So congratulations to all DC IV drug users! Go get some clean needles and good luck not killing yourselves with your habit.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Merry Day After Christmas!

J had to work today and I decided to not do so much of that. But tomorrow will be a full day at the office. You might even be lucky enough to get a longer post.

I heard from my brother over in Africa. He seems to be doing okay. I'm sure it's a bit dull with no class and students but I'm sure he's found something to do to keep himself busy.

Friday, December 21, 2007


Merry Christmas Eve Weekend!

Yup, I'm still at work. 1/4 of our grad students are here today so I'm rocking out by my 25% self. I actually don't mind work by myself. I can play whatever I want on the radio. It's "quiet". (The drone of the hoods is always there) Um, I guess that's it. J has threatened me with violence if I go home early today. Since she has to work a full day, I do as well. I did sleep in a bit though (8 am) and didn't make it out of the house until 9:45ish what with showering, playing with the cats, scooping their litter boxes and washing the dishes. Tonight we'll be packing and cleaning the house. J loves coming home to a clean house and it's hard to argue with. Nothing is worse after a long road trip than coming home and cleaning for an hour or two to get the house liveable again.

I snagged the department laptop, and since the office is closed next week, it's mine for almost 2 weeks! Hooray! Yes, we might be getting J a laptop for Christmas, but this will keep us typing until then. Laptops are just easier and more convenient for traveling, obviously. In fact I had(have) a bad habit of pointing out or stating the obvious and therefore garnered the nickname of Captain Obvious. That was in high school if memory serves.

I finished Hans Jurgen Massaquoi's book, Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany. For some reason I expected a first hand account of the Holocaust, but instead was greeted with a much larger story about Hans and how he was raised in Germany, watched it slowly morph into Nazi Germany, surviving WWII, surviving the horrible food shortages after WWII and then following him on his harrowing adventures across the globe, from Germany to Liberia to Nigeria to the USA and eventually back to Germany. I recall one passage from the book where a co-worker at a factory in the States was warning him about the Jews and that Hitler had the right idea. Needless to say it completely shocked Hans, who barely escaped Nazi Germany alive, and destroyed his idyllic image of America being the land of the free and equality. He's a big proponent of accepting and learning about other cultures because if you don't, it really isn't much of a stretch to go from "those damn Jews" to the Holocaust. It only took Germany 12 years.

I don't really know why I expected a first hand account of the Holocaust. He mentions seeing trucks full of emaciated people and then later, those same trucks completely empty. He also shared a story of him taking a stroll toward a mountain whose name escapes me and being stopped at the gate. But really, if you were committing genocide would you let some teenager stroll through your operation? Yeah, neither would Hitler.

A big thanks to Hans Jurgen Massaquoi for sharing his stories and maybe one day I'll return the favor.

Hans is married and has 2 sons, a doctor and a lawyer.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007



I'm so glad that J and I picked up a Wii this summer. I literally can't go into a gaming store without overhearing someone ask for a Wii. I would sell mine right now for $400. Did you hear? Mario Kart Wii is coming out in sometime in Spring 2008 and it will be online! Finally I can battle to my hearts content! Nintendo is also claiming that first timers will be able to keep up with veterans. We shall see Nintendo. And it comes with a wheel too! Check the video from E3 here.

I'm also very excited about Wii Fitness. That one will be packaged with a board that can tell where your center of gravity is and will involve games that have you heading soccer balls away, yoga, and push-ups. They say it will have 4 genres of games for a total of 40 or so games. Sounds like a great way to exercise on those chilly Sat. mornings.

This was brought on by noting the 2 people standing in front of the local GameStop at 9 am when the store opens at 10 am. I hope they had a couple Wiis in stock. The other Wii was at the mall GameStop (which wouldn't let me play any of their demo games because there were "too many people" in the store during the holidays, there were 8 people in there including the 2 workers, whatever Bud) where a trio of friends waited in front of Target to get a Wii and they were 67th in line. Guess how many Wiis Target had? Right, 66. Doh! So they were giving their friend a hard time because he wanted to stop for a breakfast sandwich instead of going straight to Target (which sells food by the way). I hope he learned his lesson.

J and I opted to donate money in people's names for Christmas this year. We adopted a sea turtle, a sea otter, a snow leopard and an elephant for our family this year. We're not sure how this is going to go over, but I think it will be okay once or twice. Next year real tangible presents will be purchased. We adopted these animals through the non-profit Defenders of Wildlife.

What did you get for people?

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007



You thought I wasn't coming back, that I had already checked out for Christmas but you would be wrong! Myself and labmates, much like Santa's elves, are furiously toiling away while nary a creature is stirring on Clemson's campus. We ate lunch outside in the "finally back to normal" 47 degree weather. It was very nice. The 75 degree weather last week was incredible but just felt wrong.

I'll be around this week and then I'll probably be out until after Christmas, but you might get lucky.

Small detail from a future post: I had to Febreze the inside of Focus.


Friday, December 14, 2007


Merry Festivus to All!

J and I are at a friend's super early Christmas party. J is tired and wants to go. We're playing Wii and eating lots of food. J is by my side as I'm typing this. I'm red and drunk, J says.

Enough drunken party posting. I'll catch you tomorrow.

Thursday, December 13, 2007



- Amy Wang, Futurama

I had a good meeting with the boss, and that coupled with me giving him my first chapter next week should propel me well into the new semester and get me the hell out of here by May. J scared the shit out of me yesterday when she mentioned that I needed to find a job and somewhere for our family to live in the coming year. I've been saying the job search starts in December for so long I had quite forgotten that it was, in fact, December.

So where to look? We had a speaker last week from the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research. It was a very good talk and I was made aware of the existence of that particular Max Planck Institute. I don't believe I have yet regaled you with stories from Seth's EuroTrip '99 but I worked at a different Max Planck Institute during that summer. Gorgeous facilities and a nearly limitless budget courtesy of the German government, it's THE place to do research in Germany if not all of Western Europe. So obviously I will be applying there. Hopefully my particular areas of research will catch the eye of the advisor I would like to work for over there. Then we would just have to start learning German and looking into what it would take for us to take the cats with us.

Back on this side of the pond, I'll probably look around Orlando, Birmingham, the Pacific Northwest and maybe even the Northeast some too. We have ties to the first two cities and the other areas, neither one of us have lived there before and it would be an exciting adventure. Sorry Midwest, we're not really considering you, well, Colorado is on the list and maybe Montana but those aren't really Midwestern states. Of course, you will be the first to know when something goes down and I still see myself blogging in the future, so no worries there.

Everyone knows that 3rd world countries aren't the greatest. But J found a particular aspect of that knowledge particularly troubling recently. J just assumed that mail would arrive to any part of the world expeditiously but little did she know, that is not always the case. Once while living in the Dominican Republic, our family was astounded when we received a letter through the Dominican Postal Service from a friend in NYC that arrived in 3 days time. Un-freakin'-believable. Normally we didn't rely on the local postal service at all, instead paying for a mail service based out of Ft. Lauderdale that flew mail to a couple different places in the Caribbean.

We asked my parents if we could send them some Christmas presents through the mail and my father informed us that it usually takes 2 weeks to 3 months and that they might have to pay some taxes to customs to actually receive it. They suggested donating a toy to Toys for Tots, or keeping them when they come back in May for my graduation.

I'll start Seth's EuroTrip saga in the next few days. It'll be nice to write for pleasure instead of science writing for work. Hitler just invaded Poland in "Destined to Witness."

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007



It saddens me to learn that a majority of Americans don't read books anymore. They occasionally read magazines and newspapers but books even less frequently.

Currently I'm reading Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany by Hans Jurgen Massaquoi. It was brought to my attention by Cynical Chris. I'm only 80 pages in or so but I'm really looking forward to this book. First I like hearing about historical events from different perspectives and according to Hans, there weren't many black people in 1930s Germany, which by his account helped him survive the Holocaust, which targeted not only Jews but all "non-Aryans". Second I don't have many black friends and the ones I do have didn't grow up in Nazi Germany and then travel to Africa and then to the States. Hans is the grandson of the first Liberian ambassador to Germany after WWI and his mother was a German nurse who opted to stay in Deutschland when Hans' father and grandfather fled to Liberia during the run-up to the Holocaust.

And to you wacko nutjob Holocaust deniers, yes, it's another first hand account of the Holocaust. To the wacko nutjob white supremacist Holocaust deniers, a first hand account of the Holocaust by a black man, so suck it.

Turn off the TV every once in a while. Read a book. Take a walk outside. Play cards or a board game with your family and/or friends.

Writing my dissertation is still a daunting task.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007


Find, destroy Atlantis.

2nd item on Homer's "Things to Do Before Summer Is Over" list, from "The Monkey Suit" episode which is the Creationism vs. Evolution Simpsons episode.

I think Atlantis existed. In fact, it might still be a bustling city underneath the water that is so far advanced they want nothing to do with us. Or it could be a creepy city just like the one in Bioshock. That's a Xbox 360 game and is pretty amazing and very suspenseful. It's being played in a college dorm and/or parent's basement near you.

Please keep the families in Nebraska who have been affected by the recent mall shootings in your thoughts and prayers.

A note to media outlets, I know this type of thing is what you live for, but when the killer's suicide note says that "now he will be famous", maybe you shouldn't plaster his name and face over every newscast and website you can think of. Ugh, fine, I'll explain why. What you're doing is exactly what he expected; you're glorifying his actions. You're almost encouraging other disturbed individuals to take similar actions all over the country. "Hey, that numnuts in Nebraska did it and look at the media circus! That could be my media circus!", is what they'll say. So before the blame game starts, here is who the blame lies upon: the lion's share of the blame goes to the disturbed individual, a sprinkle on the parents and friends, and a decent chunk on the media for giving him the coverage that he wanted.

How do you have your cake and eat it too? Don't release the killers name and DEFINITELY don't put his picture up on the main page of your website

I helped a labmate jump his car this morning. His battery cable was pretty corroded (like mine was before last weekend) and he said it had been at least 5 years since he had bought a battery. I think we found the problem!

J's 5K is rapidly approaching. I think she'll do okay. I need to find our last 5K times for comparison even though the course is different.

J's workplace just hired a new person who also went to Samford, my alma mater. I guess it is a small world after all.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007


It's the simple fact that I'm a rider

Blindness was a good book. I need to do a bit of research to see what other people thought about it and what underlying messages there were. Right now I think it was a story about how people act when most modern conveniences are taken away. It went from scary to anarchy in the blink of an eye.

My plan would be to get away from people as fast as possible. Stock up on cans of food, jugs of water, tp, get the cats and head for the mountains. I'm sure we would find a decent deserted cabin somewhere. Start a garden and use my Survivorman knowledge to live off the earth. It would be tough, nearly impossible but I think we would make it. Beyond that I'm not really sure.

Today is the last day of lab! Hooray! I've been grading the mountain of papers turned into me and it will all be over in a couple days. Then I can refocus my efforts on my dissertation and getting some papers out.

What should I read next? I think PoP had some suggestions. I might try to find those.

Monday, December 03, 2007


Final Portfolio

Those are what I have to grade by Wed. Ugh. I really don't mind grading but when it's a report and there are a stack of 50-60, it's a daunting task. Not dissertation daunting, but still daunting. I plan to get home and grade furiously until they're done then I can get back into my book. It took me about 15-20 pages to get hooked but I really can't put it down. Blindness by Nobel Laureate Jose Saramago. There is an epidemic that causes white blindness. They know hardly anything about it but know it is contagious but are not sure exactly how. All the blind are quarantined in abandoned buildings and they're at max capacity. Something big is about to happen. I'll let you know how it ends, unless you want to read it for yourself.

I did some routine maintenance on the cars this weekend. I used "Sea Foam" in both cars to help with carbon build-up. Both received new wipers, 3 for Focus, 2 for Tercel. Tercel had a new headlight installed. I also cleaned up Focus' battery which had some corrosion, bluish snow stuff that I can only assume is copper (II) sulfate formed from the copper of the wires and the sulfate from the batteries' sulfuric acid.

All that's left is a coolant flush for Tercel and replace a turn signal in Focus. I'll probably finish that up this week or next weekend. J is running a 5K next weekend too.

Oh! We also picked up a Carolina (Blue) Sapphire that is really pretty and smells amazing! We put it up last night and got the lights on. J went a bit crazy and successfully jammed it full of 800 clear lights. Pictures will be posted.

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