March 17, 2007

Silly Milestone

Since we humans are much enamored of base-10 counting, I suppose this is significant: according to my hit counter, EGAD had its 20,000th visitor sometime this week. At least since I put up the counter, almost exactly two years ago. 10,000 visits per year doesn't exactly put me in the big leagues, but it's nice to know someone's looking.

Perusing this week's referral logs, it would appear that a majority of my readers got here by virtue of EGAD's showing up in the first page of results when Googling for Santa Katarina. Go figure.

Posted by Milligan at 12:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 13, 2007

Note for LJ Readers

I've updated the RSS 1.0 feed template. I should probably have done this years ago, but you know how these things go. It now includes much more metadata, and in particular should correctly transmit formatting, images, and the like.

Of course, nobody accesses the RSS 1.0 feed directly. However, it is the base data source for the LiveJournal feed version of EGAD, so this actually impacts a number of readers. Feedback, particularly from these people, is appreciated.

Posted by Milligan at 08:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 31, 2006

New Years Meme

Well, I'm back in action. Back in Minnesota, too. To round out the year, here's that year-ending blog meme that always goes around. This year, I'll be using Gemma's simplified formulation:

Here are the first and last sentence (or so) of each month of 2006 on EGAD:

  • Jan 7: Tomorrow I relocate from Texas back to balmy Minnesota.
  • Jan 25: According to al-Zahar, a diplomatic-security-economic accord can be reached between the parties based on a "hudna" (truce) as part of which the Palestinians would agree to establish a state on the territory they are given.
  • Feb 1: Eesh. Every time I decide to go back to posting daily 'round here, I go and have a week like this and don't post at all.
  • Feb 26: Chicago, maybe? Feels like I haven't been back there in forever.
  • March 1: And for today's surreal moment from the news, via Majikthise, the Washington Post brings you: 55 House Democrats issued a joint statement yesterday on the central role that the Catholic faith plays in their public lives.
  • March 31: Although at the last, it was doing a good impression of the fuzzy protrusions and wakes often claimed to be photographs of the Loch Ness monster, just the crest of some large dream barely breaking the surface of the lawn.
  • April 1: Dean gave me a cool idea for visualizing the big cyclonic vortex spinning across the Great Lakes that's providing so much interesting weather and announcing rather boldly that the vernal season is upon us.
  • April 30: Should this laughable thing actually pass, I plan to endorse my check over to the DFL.
  • May 1: Happy May Day. Go protest something.
  • May 30: Although it will put a crimp in my research time, I'm rather looking forward to putting in some classroom hours again. Wouldn't want to get rusty.
  • June 1: Over the weekend there was an article at Firedoglake that begins with, There is no "War on Terror.".
  • June 30: Now we're good to go for another year of starstruck visitors.
  • July 1: Yesterday I took a field trip with one of my roommates to Wisconsin.
  • July 20: My attempts to photoblog my life in real time never pan out, mostly because I'm too picky about processing the photos I post, but I should have nice photos from the Tetons when I get back.
  • Aug 5: Hey, look! I'm back online!
  • Aug 29: I'll be taking off tomorrow (Wednesday) to hang at the State Fair with one of my roomies. If anyone wants to play hookie and join in, let me know.
  • Sept 10: The busy bit continues; I should have things nearly under control again; I shall resume regular posting when I resume; I have not abandoned EGAD.
  • Sept 29: So, wish me luck with that.
  • Oct 8: Yes, I'm still here, but the semester still hasn't let up enough to allow a return to regular posting.
  • Oct 31: Presumably it exists to exterminate all non-pumpkin pie forms.
  • Nov 2: In a bit of self-promotion by proxy, I'd point those as have an interest at this article, wherein one of my old cosmology profs lays out in reasonably straightforward terms the theory behind the experiment my group is trying to pull off.
  • Nov 23: So, you know, don't buy anything. It'll be good for the soul.
  • Dec 1: a tricky month. In general I'm quite fond of it.
  • Last sentence of December: not written yet, but very likely to be "Have a happy New Years."

2006 seems to have been marked by a gradual drop-off in posting frequency. This is partly because I've been busy, and partly because EGAD is conceived as a travel blog and I haven't really travelled anywhere new this year. And while around elections I post a good deal about politics, I have neither the time nor loquacity to actually run a political blog. But mostly it was because I've been busy pursuing other things. I'll try to keep you folks more in the loop next year.

Posted by Milligan at 02:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 06, 2006

Site Checkup

First up, I checked my traffic stats for the first time in a while. Someone from a University of Wisconsin computer became my 15,000th visitor while I was away. That's surely more eyeballs than have ever seen work I've committed to paper, even if you figure that probably around a third of that figure is accounted for by you, the dozen or so regulars.

Second, glancing at the recent comments summary in the sidebar below and cross-referencing with the Sitemeter logs, I see that some doofus in Florida became my first troll at about the same time. I find such behavior a bit strange, given that even 15,000 visitors in just under two years still makes EGAD a pretty remote corner of cyberspace. More so since the comment in question is attached not to one of my conceivably irritating posts on politics or the Middle East, but to a nonsensical aside highlighting camels in my life. Definitely not a spam, though, as there's no hint of links or commercial keywords.

(It has occurred to me that several of the preceeding should be regarded as sentence fragments in standard English. All would be repaired were "It is" prefixed to each. Nettlers may assume that I am holding to the convention in numerous other languages whereby a tenseless and obvious existential verb may be implied. Hebrew doesn't even have such a verb!)

Third, I junked a few dozen spam comments that had built up while I was offline. Sigh.

Posted by Milligan at 10:06 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 03, 2006

Technical Difficulty [Resolved]

For a couple of weeks, the error below would appear whenever one tried to update a post or comment on my blog. Shane, the dude who operates UThink, has fixed the trouble, but I'm preserving the post for the benefit of the Googlebrain.

Can't use string ("MT::App") as a HASH ref while "strict refs" in use at /htdocs/cgi-bin/blog-ssl/lib/MT/ line 1294.

The root cause remains mysterious, but the error apparently occurred whenever MT tried to rebuild the page containing a post that used an image located on an external server. Making this image available locally negated this behavior. So if by some chance you got here by Googling for this error text, give that a try. My original post is below the fold.

Apparently, whenever somebody posts a comment here, that one will arrive at a cryptic error message generated by the blogging software here. Upon hitting the "go back" button the user shall return to the post in question, looking for all the world as if the post has not yet been submitted.

In actuality, your post has been submitted. Just his reload to see it. If you hit submit again, two copies of your post will appear, which will eventually frustrate me and cause me to delete one of them. I would like this error to go away and stop confusing people, but even though it is a straightforward Perl error and not cryptic at all to me, I do not know my way around the innards of Moveable Type, and it is thus not helpful, either. This problem is new-ish, and I suspect is related to the fact that I have not updated my site templates since the upgrade to a newer version of MT.

Oh well. Perhaps someday I shall work out the problem. In the meanwhile, please do not be confused by the strange error. For future reference, it looks like this:

Can't use string ("MT::App") as a HASH ref while "strict refs" in use at /htdocs/cgi-bin/blog-ssl/lib/MT/ line 1294.
Posted by Milligan at 12:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 14, 2006

Aaaaand ... We're Done

Okay, that should be the last proposal of the season for me. The big important ones should be at NASA HQ by now, but I had to finish off this request for time on the supercomputers. I've got non-sitting-at-a-computer stuff to catch up on now, including but not limited to sleep, so that's a wrap for the weekend I think. Not including my taxes, thank the Maker. That sort of thing I took care of a month back, for pretty much this reason.

To those so embedded, have a good Easter and/or rest of Pesach.

Posted by Milligan at 10:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 07, 2006

I'm Prolific!

As a postscriptum, that last post appears to have put me over the line to get onto the U Library's list of most-posted blogs on the UThink University blogging system.

It's not that I write so very much (I sort of do, but you get no points for lots of long posts), but the vast majority of bloggers get bored after a few months, on average. It can be a pain sometimes, but on the whole I find this blogging thing's rather fun, so I guess I'll keep on plugging away.

Posted by Milligan at 10:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 29, 2006

Tangled Bank #50

The Tangled Bank

Speaking of unusual blog traffic, hello and welcome to Tangled Bank readers. Tangled Bank #50 is out, and as usual it's got some excellent science reading. Since astronomy and physics are generally well-outnumbered by biology types, I submitted my series of WMAP posts this week.

Posted by Milligan at 12:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 20, 2006

Back, With Hyphenation

After a well-earned two-day St. Patrick's Day-weekend and a long Sunday of catching up, I'm back.

Minnesota crew, take note: it's perfect snowball-fight snow out there today. Get outside. Take advantage. This is why the lab looks to me for intra-workday time-wasting field trips.

Posted by Milligan at 11:11 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 15, 2006

Light Posting

Still here, but light posting will continue through the end of the week. Between being a bit under the weather and submitting a grant proposal, my free time has been rather constrained. I have photos from this week's snowfall to post (because this season is just transparently mocking me), and will try to provide some coverage of tomorrow's WMAP data release. Otherwise I shall be reading, drinking tea, baking, and otherwise relaxing when not in the lab. It technically is spring break, after all.

Posted by Milligan at 05:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 01, 2006

Excuses, Excuses

Apparently it's some kind of rule that to maintain a blog's readership, one has to post according to some kind of predictable schedule. That I violate this with aplomb is obvious to you folks.

I actually have one post left from Levant-week that's taking a bit longer to bang into shape, but I'll get that out. Clearly, a busy couple of days in the lab is all it takes to shut down blogging hereabouts for a bit. To those of you still here, thanks for reading despite the unpredictability.

Posted by Milligan at 02:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 16, 2006

Blog Linkage

I have no idea how I wound up on this list of science blogs, but it's kinda cool that I did. Especially since I'm sharing a screen with the likes of Quantum Diaries (inactive now, since it was a one-year project, but really neat archives to peruse) and Mike the Mad Biologist, who just today was exclaiming at his apparent metastasis through the internet.

I guess I should write more about science.

Speaking of links, while I don't normally link random news articles, this is absolutely hilarious. I'm assuming it's quicker to pronounce in Persian.

Posted by Milligan at 07:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 31, 2005

Year in Review

Map generator courtesy World66. I'm up to 56% of the states (29 of 'em, in all), but this is a lifetime accomplishment, not just this year's travels. Two points stick out: I've been remiss in overlooking Michigan all this time, and I just can't seem to make it over the Rockies. Perhaps this is the year to remedy this.

A while back there was a "year in review" meme going around, which asked one to extract the first sentence from each month's first post. Here's my take, now that the year's actually over.

For each month of 2005, post the last sentence (or so) of the first post and the first sentence (or so) of the last post. Feel free to exclude housekeeping posts.

  • Jan 2: The new and improved getaway vehicle. It has been thoroughly annotated with helpful hints ("Bride Here") and warning labels ("It's a trick! Get an axe!").
  • Jan 24: Juan Cole mentions that there is enlightenment to be had from Ella Shohat's meditation on the implications for identity in being an Iraqi Jew, and an American one at that -- and on the cognitive dissonance this produces in many Westerners.
  • Feb 2: Observing that my coat was completely soaked through by this point, I declared lack of pneumonia to be the better part of valour, and hailed a cab to take me back to the bus station. Point and match to the weather, I'm afraid.
  • Feb 27: Since some of my readers are compulsive worriers and had asked, let me reassure everyone that I was not in Tel Aviv at the time of last Friday's bombing.
  • March 1: Second? My original visa expired yesterday. As did my original return ticket. I'm now on extended time.
  • March 31: Last night while buying nuts, I was approached by one of the servers at the cafe next door. He asked if he'd seen me at the Disengagement demonstration.
  • April 1: On further investigation, it seems that the Cardinals are supposed to be assembled within nine days of the Pope's death. So perhaps haste is not altogether unseemly.
  • April 29: Minneapolis area readers, act now! This afternoon, take advantage of a rare opportunity to meet and greet with the one and only author of EGAD!
  • May 1:I'll announce where I'm crashing when I get an email confirming that I can crash there.
  • May 31: The Minnesota crew is busy this week hosting the spring meeting of the American Astronomical Society. It's a fair bet that gamma ray bursts will crash the party, but besides that I expect the usual scuttlebutt about NASA's funding adventures and where oh where is that second-year WMAP data?
  • June 1: We didn't quite make it up to the summit to watch the sun rise, but apparently it's enormously crowded up there, so I feel okay about that. Tau and I climbed off the path a bit up to this little cleft, and found a nice view for ourselves.
  • June 26: Life goes on, but for the next few days it will continue to do so without much assistance on my part. Come Wednesday, once the collaborators go back to their home states / nations, I'll endeavor to reengage with the essentials, such as blogging, or finally buying some groceries.
  • July 1: In return? I'm a kid from South Texas, who's walked through castles made of ice, who's roamed over the Jerusalem hills. My job is to investigate the beginning of time.
  • July 30: Distracting week for those of us in the space biz.
  • Aug 1: After all, we have here an important cosmologist on the radio to discuss how morality is intrinsic to the fabric of reality. The least I'd expect is a proposal to investigate, if not actually test, this hypothesis. Something more than a kind exhortation to take his word for it, on faith.
  • Aug 30: Elsewhere, the damage is done; what's gone is gone, what survived has survived. But the reports from New Orleans increasingly sound as though they are speaking of a mortally wounded patient.
  • Sept 1: So there's four days left to this year's fair. Anyone up for an expedition in the next few days?
  • Sept 29: Okay, so just as a rule of thumb, we're going to assume that weeks that involve sleeping in the lab will be light blogging weeks.
  • Oct 2: And (news not for the easily offended) further evidence that the Discovery Institute's Intelligent Designer probably isn't Pat Robertson's God.
  • Oct 31: And in other news, an IAU bulletin is making the rounds. The Hubble has detected two small objects orbiting ... Pluto!
  • Nov 1: Minneapolis thunder storm -- air-raid sirens not included.
  • Nov 28: Being the sort of grad student who will definitely not sleep in a bed seven times in the coming week, this quote really tickled me.
  • Dec 3: Or do I let the urban scavenger take charge, and simply revel in the prospect of free stuff, even if said stuff hasn't previously been discarded?
  • Dec 31: Unless I work up the ambition to post again tonight, see above.
Posted by Milligan at 11:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 06, 2005

Mid-range Outlook

There's a big Pacific air mass moving across North America in the coming week. Funny thing about that. From my perspective it's a balmy warm front; it was -6°F when I got home last night, but our weekend lows will be near 20°F. On the other hand, my folks down in Texas will see it as a strong cool front, dropping their daily highs from near 70°F into the 40s, with lows in the 20s.

Takes a fair amount of thermal inertia in an airmass to render an entire continent isothermal.

I think I need to resign myself to the fact that this blog won't be terribly interesting until sometime in January. Between our collaboration meeting just before Christmas, spending the holidays with my family, and prepping for my oral prelims in mid-January, I don't have the time I'd like to keep up with the world in particular detail.

If I get a spare moment now and then, though, I've got a tremendous backlog of photos to post.

Posted by Milligan at 12:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 03, 2005

Christmas: The Commercial

The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the state can celebrate Christmas all it wants, provided it's celebrating the economic, seasonal holiday, and not some particular religious observance. Hence the National Christmas Tree, but no National Nativity. Holiday parades full of Santa and snowflakes are altogether encouraged, notionally as a mechanism for bringing tourists into downtown commercial districts during the great National December Shopping Spree, whereas e.g. San Antonio's Las Posadas pagent is operated by a private society. Thus the state-sanctioned holiday season pretty much comes down to saying "Look, it's dark and cold and wintery! But hey -- snow is kind of pretty! Let's brighten things up, so string up the lights and remind people that we like them by spending money on each other." (Alternately, you could blame Santa and his Black-Ops Elves.)

You could do worse. And for evidence that the alternative really is terrifying, invest some time in imagining how the current administration would probably like to commemorate the season.

I've been universally labeled as difficult to shop for, which might be related to my ascetic tendencies that make me rather stuff-averse. Thus, I've been asked to provide some guidance to those for whatever reason still inclined to spend money on me. Read on for general suggestions:

  • Time is money. More personal, too. Use your imagination.
  • Books are tricky. Books which are carefully selected, highly appropriate to myself and my collection, and unlikely to appear in the (public/university) library are acceptable. But I've already got two walls of bookshelves in my bedroom and as many books on my office shelf as the rest of the lab combined, so exercise restraint.
  • Travel is fun. This is a recent discovery on my part, chronicled in large part in the archives of this blog. Small items of cultural or personal significance from continents other than North America are enjoyed.
  • Technology is hard. Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to acquire items of high technology for me, except for objects I have specifically requested. I speak from experience. You may consider anything fusion-powered to be automatically approved.
  • Philanthropy. Memberships in / donations to Doctors without Borders, the EFF, Habitat for Humanity will earn high praise. Memberships in the NRA will earn being set on fire.
  • Absolute power / world domination. Because I'm pretty sure I could do a better job than the current bunch of jerks. And at the very least, nobody could say that I'm in it for the money.
  • Books! No, don't give me books; we've been over that. If you were thinking of giving me a book, try this instead: make me a reading list. Suggest a handful of things for me to read in the coming year that you think I'd enjoy, but which would never occur to me on their own.

And some specific items, mostly for the benefit of my parents, who are by long experience the most leery of buying me anything unrequested:

  • One of these dual-band laser pointers. Just cool in general, not to mention terribly useful for pointing at stuff on the sky, which for some reason is a trick that people often request from astronomers found in the wild.
  • Winter clothes from those fancy catalog houses, because that's the sort of stuff I'm frankly just too cheap to spring for myself. A set of Land's End's Fleece clogs in size 12/grey would be handy for long nights in the lab. L.L. Bean imports some very nice wool hiking socks (midweight/large) that do wonders for winter bike trips. As do their fleece-lined jeans (40/30).
  • Kitchen appliances: my year abroad without an oven reminded me of the mind-boggling utility of a good toaster oven. Also, I have realized that for the forseeable future I'm just not going to regularly have time for long cooking projects, and am therefore grudgingly desirous of a breadmaker machine.

And that should keep anybody well-stocked with gift ideas. Which brings up the following dilemma. Do I, as an anticonsumerist (I could really use a nice punchy, positive word for "devotee of long-term sustainable civilization") get to feel like a complete tool for basically telling my friends and relatives to spend money on me? Or do I let the urban scavenger take charge, and simply revel in the prospect of free stuff, even if said stuff hasn't previously been discarded?

Posted by Milligan at 11:48 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 18, 2005

What the ... ?

Hold up a sec. Thanksgiving is next week!?

I have got to get out of the lab more often. I seem to have missed a semester somewhere in there.

Posted by Milligan at 12:23 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 25, 2005

A Circuitous Year

As I mentioned, EGAD hit the 1-year mark this weekend, during which time it appears to have been read about 6,000 times. Slightly less than half of that by the eight or ten regular readers. That's around 300 visits apiece ... don't you people have anything better to be doing?

In the past year, I've really gotten around. A quick tally of my itineraries adds up to 67,800 kilometers crossed in the air (42,400 miles), plus almost another 5,000 km in buses, cars, and trains. That's over 1 1/2 times the circumference of the Earth.

I visited my kid sister in New York.

I got exported to Israel, by way of Madrid.

I spent an exciting couple of weeks dashing from Tel Aviv to Atlanta, New York, and San Antonio, and back again.

I spent the spring tromping about Israel: explored Jerusalem, got within sight of Gaza City, walked to Bethlehem, and ventured as far as the Sinai desert. There were many camels.

Then I returned to the Midwest to visit Minneapolis and do Scavhunt in Chicago.

Eventually the Israelis had had enough of me and sent me back. A couple of days later they did the same for my luggage.

I saw family in San Antonio, a wedding in Zanesville, Ohio, and went camping in Yellowstone.

And I'm back where I started: a house in Minneapolis, in the midst of a rainy gray autumn.

Posted by Milligan at 04:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 22, 2005


Happy birthday to me. To the folks who sent various types of electronic card, you're all terribly sweet. My parents sent a box of pistachios and Texas pecans, which will be put to some tasty use over the weekend.

There are creationists to pester tonight. Since we're having movie night on the same floor at the same time, I might just post a sign in the hallway. "Right: mind-rotting movie. Left: mind-rotting sermon." I resolve to be entertained, not annoyed.

Recalling a long habit of embarking on new adventures near my birthday (this yields easy-to-remember anniversaries), EGAD is one year old tomorrow. It's been a very interesting year.

Posted by Milligan at 05:47 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 29, 2005

LiveJournal Puree

Sigh. LiveJournal makes things tricky for those of us out here in the rest of the world.

Okay, that's pretty close to blatantly false, but feels true. To wit: back in the day, if I wanted to hear the latest gossip I'd just have to see that I showed up for lunch or water cooler break or what have you. Then people started posting their gossip on the internet. And eventually the realization came to pass that maybe this wasn't such a great idea, which in LJ terms means that everybody restricted their posts to their Friends. But in the meanwhile, folks like me who tend to get holed up in a lab for days at a time got used to not being totally cut off from the doings of one's associates. So now I have to get my (virtual) self back to the (equally nonexistent) water cooler.

To which end, I have created a LiveJournal account. Apparently you have to befriend MilliganHasEars if you want me to be included. No sweat if you don't; if you're not one of the people who's been bugging me to make one of these, then I probably don't care about your gossip anyway (but notice that I didn't say iff).

That account will receive no posting. I do my talking here, for the whole internet to see. And it is completely separate from MilligansEGAD, which echoes EGAD for the convenience of the LiveJournal crowd but does no listening.

LiveJournal's like a big can of soup, that way. You need one hole to let the hot air in, the other to pour soup out.

P.S. I'm not actually sure how I'd know who's befriended this account. So email me or leave a comment on EGAD when you have, if you want to be certain that I notice. Thanks.

Posted by Milligan at 10:54 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

August 02, 2005


So I asked myself, do I know anyone perverse enough to leave comments over in the LJ feed after I suggested that they not do that? Why yes, actually, I do believe most of my friends fit that particular bill. Better check. Oh, ha, ha.

Even better, I can't directly respond, since only actual LJ users can leave comments on a feed. Ah, well, let the games begin.

Anyhow, as a heads-up, I'll be in Zanesville all Friday afternoon (through Sunday). Sending out a general announcement here seems the most efficient way of discovering who else will be there on Friday, so if you're also getting in early, drop me a line.

Posted by Milligan at 10:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 30, 2005

LiveJournal Feed

For those of you who've been complaining that you have to leave LiveJournal to read this blog, I have prodded John into providing a solution. Using the amazing powers that a postdoc's salary affords him, he has created a LJ feed from the EGAD site syndication.

It is named, appropriately enough, milligansEGAD. Go forth and do whatever it is you LJ folks do with these things. A suggestion -- it looks like you can post comments directly on posts in the feed inside LJ. Don't do that; I'll probably never see them.

Posted by Milligan at 02:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 27, 2005

Tangled Bank #33

The Tangled Bank

Tangled Bank #33 is up at evolgen. An abundance of interesting science writing, as usual, which skews much further towards the life sciences than my usual daily reading. I feel so well-rounded.

In fact, with my post on the Deep Impact impact I have the Astronomy segment all to myself today. And this blog isn't even primarily about astronomy. Someone should make Bad-Astronomy Phil submit to the Tangled Bank to round things out.

Speaking of astronomers, check out Dean's first-hand account of the PEPCON perchlorate explosion that I mentioned the other day. The surface of the Earth has seen very few explosions of that size since the end of above-ground nuclear weapons testing.

Posted by Milligan at 07:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 19, 2005


So, looks like we're going with option two, then. San Antonio was even busier than usual for me, what with Dad running an academic conference that weekend. That, and I was attacked by wonderful little book shop down the road, and came back with an armload of Roman history. However, I should actually be in Minneapolis for the entire remainder of the month. Shocking, I know.

On a related note (of limited interest to the Minnesotan readers), if anyone out there is making the trip to Zanesville in a couple of weeks and has tips for getting to or staying in said locale, do drop me a line. If you're interested in splitting a room/car/teleporter, even better.

Posted by Milligan at 06:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 13, 2005

Heading Out

It has been alledged in some circles that I don't give enough warning before up and leaving town and/or country. Now I seem to recall telegraphing my return to the States by a week or more, which ought to be plenty for anyone. Here, I confess, I might be doing slightly less well.

Anyway, I've got a flight to San Antonio in about twelve hours. Be back in Minneapolis next week.

As far as blogging is concerned, I see two basic and divergent contingencies. One is that I productively use the time away from work to get my thoughts in order, write a bit, and generally regain my missing blogger-stride. The other is that my family will be so generally entertaining as to prove far superior company to ye olde monitor glow. But, I sleep much less than most of them do, so I could conceivably manage both.

Posted by Milligan at 01:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 06, 2005


You don't realize how quickly fireworks move in midair until you try to photograph them against a stationary skyline. Especially when they're practically on top of you. A selection from the downtown Minneapolis July 4 fireworks show. 1/4 sec at 2005:07:04 22:08:34

There's a danger in pausing the blog to, say, cross the planet, do important work stuff, and generally get one's life back in order. Namely that it takes time to develop a good rhythm, time that may have to be put in all over again once interrupted. In short, bear with me as I regain my footing.

It's risky for a writer to radically change his environment and associations. Deprived of a familiar context, observational writing is complicated by not quite knowing how to look at things anymore, nor what is deserving of focus. Now I find that America is no longer entirely familiar. Risk being central to creative endeavor, let's see how well I do with the delightful grist provided.

In Israel, I commented at some length on what might be termed public affairs. I still read a couple of Israeli newspapers online, and have extensive notes and observations to wade through, so more of that will necessarily be forthcoming. But unless I wanted to make a full-time endeavor of it (I don't), it will not be possible to replicate the immediacy of living there. The retrospectives will have to use breadth of scope to supplement the lost temporal and topical focus.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to try and figure out what's interesting and essential about where I find myself now. Fireworks might be a start.

Posted by Milligan at 10:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 21, 2005


As an aside, given my recent relocation, starting today entry times are figured according to Central Time. Up til now, you may have noticed, the convention was Israeli Standard Time.

As a general rule, I use entry times to reflect time at my present location when posting. Seems reasonable to me.

Posted by Milligan at 11:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 20, 2005

Last Post

From Israel, anyway. Unless I have more down-time tonight than I'm expecting.

Shutting down the computers, cleaning off the desk, it's time to go. Wheels up in 15 hours, and I've got a bit to do before that.

It's been interesting. In the coming weeks, I'll endeavor to elaborate on that.

Posted by Milligan at 02:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 15, 2005

Tangled Bank #30

The Tangled Bank

Tangled Bank #30 is now up at The Geomblog. Thanks to the proliferation of good bloggy science writing, it goes weekly this month. I should just give up on ever getting work done again.

This week's compilation includes my recent post on BLAST, which last I heard has cleared Greenland and is floating towards recovery in Canada in about two days. Which is exciting, not least because we've gotten to waste the first ten minutes of each conference call gossiping about it.

Posted by Milligan at 02:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 01, 2005

Tangled Bank #29

The Tangled Bank

Tangled Bank #29 is now up at Organic Matter. It's up to forty articles now, including one of mine. But go read some of the others, too.

For those not familiar with it, the Tangled Bank is a bimonthly, self-nominated compendium of science writing from the blogosphere. There is a nominal focus on biology and natural history, but they're kind enough to humor astronomy types like myself as well.

Posted by Milligan at 01:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 13, 2005

UThink Stats

I am informed that yesterday was the first anniversary of the UThink blogging site at this here university. Shane, who appears to run the place, celebrates by geeking out on the relevant statistics.

Despite my subatomic status in the larger blogoverse, I'll have you know that I appear to be the 41st most prolific poster on UThink. Then again, EGAD ranks 26th by number of comments, which proves once again that you all are far cooler than me.

Found while clicking around to get those numbers: try this experiment sometime.

Posted by Milligan at 08:54 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 28, 2005

Statistics Project

Exactly one month ago I installed one of these free web traffic monitoring gizmos on EGAD. What can I say, even I take some minimal pride in my work, and I was curious to know a little bit about who (if anyone) was reading.

Since I'm a fan of public data releases, you're all welcome to take a look at the stats here, or by clicking on the little multicolored box under "About the Author" in the sidebar. The information it collects is pretty general, but some interesting nuggets can be discerned nonetheless.

Cutting to the chase, it would appear that I do have something of a readership, although I don't yet need any toes to tally you up. At an average of 16 visits per day, less the 60% that come in from search engines, there's about seven of you, plus a handful of occasionals. Thanks for sticking around.

Overall the traffic here at EGAD is pretty spikey; I've had as few as two and as many as 21 visitors in a day. The surges don't fall on any particular day of the week, and if there's a pattern to be found, it's that I tend to get more visitors after I've posted two or more days in a row. Go figure.

40% of you come from the central time zone in the US, and another 20% from the eastern zone (but a chunk of that is probably my sister obsessively checking for updates to make sure I'm still alive ... hi, sis!). I don't know what to make of the almost 20% coming from Israeli/Eastern European time. Almost 80% use some form of Windows, which is a cryin' shame. But with barely 60% using Internet Explorer, I suppose there's hope.

Like I said, the referral statistics indicate that around 60% of the visitors here got here from a search engine, the vast majority of those from Google. Some small number of those are actually the regulars, since why else would you search for Milligan+EGAD? But I browsed through and noticed a few other categories as well:

Fully a fifth of the searchers are looking for information about Jerusalem or the Old City. Another, partially overlapping, fifth searched for a map of some kind (lower Manhattan gets a noticable number of hits, for instance).

About 5% were looking for information about the salinity or other physical properties of the Red Sea. Roughly the same number as were looking for fables about bugs. I'm not sure which of those is odder.

What takes the cake, though, is that almost 10% of the search engine visitors were looking for, and I quote, "signs of the apocalypse." Sigh.

Posted by Milligan at 09:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 08, 2005

Lightly Wounding Time

Dashing as my here-chronicled exploits must sound to the casual observer, the sad truth is that I spend most of the hours on most days1 in a subterranean office, fiddling with simulations or tweaking design parameters. Of course, there's some web browsing involved as well2. Since I like this week's posting tempo but don't have time to work up a full post, here's a selection of what's amused me in the past few days.

Sonoluminescence turns out to be a nifty way to make your very own miniature star in a simple beaker of, well, concentrated sulphuric acid. But for sheer phonological merriment I have to give this week's science cake to the discovery of shrimpoluminescence.

My weakness for the monocle-and-persian-kitty set was tickled when I belatedly ran across the lamest shadowy conspiracy ever.

For a more serious example of messing with the grand levers of power that still managed to crack me up, here's one way the Democrats could retake the House in one fell swoop.

Finally, I'm pleased to announce that they're still starting the revolutionaries out young3 in my old home town. Plus, my Dad once taught at one of the schools involved.

Later, dudes.

1 More than 12, anyway. But I boldly defy Israeli convention and take a two-day weekend like a civilized person.

2 And four or five multi-hour conference calls per week, but I try to block those out.

3 Warning, that link can be pretty slow. San Antonio's not exactly the hub of the cyberverse, after all. I mean, it's only the world headquarters of Verizon!4

4 Also, footnotes amuse me today.

Posted by Milligan at 08:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 24, 2005


Thanks to the insane masochists at Wampum, this year's Koufax award winners have been announced. Pop on over when you've got a spare moment (or afternoon) to find out what was judged best and most worthwhile in the bustling left end of Blogistan in 2004. I all but guarantee you'll find something good to read.

I won't spoil the ending my letting on who won, and for that matter I'm not really familiar enough with a number of the nominees to comment on the awards in several categories. Being, you know, a grad student and not actually a full-time blogger. But I still feel entitled to distribute some props of my own, just to mark the occasion.

For the category of Best Group Blog, I was rooting for Crooked Timber. Not having the patience for all-politics, all-the-time, I like eclectic.

The competition for Most Humourous Post was fierce, as the world has fairly oozed snark this year. I'm sad to say that my favorite nominee didn't even make it to the finals.

Now call me biased, but I thought Blue Skies Falling was Deserving of Wider Recognition this year. Connor's still too small fry to be nominated for this sort of thing, I'm afraid. It's probably normal that I don't know much about any of the nominees in same category.

Finally, if you find yourself particularly wanting to spend an enjoyable and unproductive afternoon, I am happy to direct you to the finalists for Best Post of 2004. Iraq loomed large, as you might imagine, both in the one I voted for and in the eventual winner. My recommendation: browse all the finalist posts before reading who won.

P.S. You can safely assume that EGAD was not nominated for anything. For one thing, I don't post often enough. But the bigger obstacle is that there's probably some requirement that you have more than two consistent readers (Hi Mom, Sis!).

[Late Update, 1 March '05 -- Okay, okay. To be perfectly fair, if I judge by the people who comment here, it would appear that I have more like five or six loyal readers. Many thanks, dudes and dudettes.]

Posted by Milligan at 04:56 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 02, 2005

More Begging

It's just past midnight here, which means it's just past 5 pm EST, which means there's officially nothing more I can do for this latest fellowship application. Ah, the joy of begging NASA for money. At least the NSF is pretty competent about doing things electronically. While I was able to fill out basic information and upload my proposal online, the process of -- essentially -- getting permission to apply was truly an adventure. NASA and the University of Minnesota are both institutions with pretty hefty bureaurocracies, both of which have been ordered from on high to go paperless.

The interaction of the two was somewhat hilarious. That NASA insists that you get an institutional sign-off on the cover sheet of an otherwise electronic proposal for a lowly graduate fellowship is somewhat puzzling to me. So I filled out the please-sign-my-piece-of-paper form, which is obviously one of those things that used to be a triplicate carbon paper affair. Now it's paperless, and it goes from office to office by email. Cool, actually. Still, the volume of forms (some online, some by faxing things around) I've handled to actually submit this propsal, I'm fairly sure, exceeds my actual proposal in length.

And now, to distract you from any suspicion that I'm just whining about paperwork, allow me to point you to the nominees for Most Humorous Blog Post for the Koufax Awards.

This post, courtesy of the above, should make at least one of my readers happy.

Posted by Milligan at 12:21 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 20, 2005

Hail to the King

Four more years for everyone's favorite despotic buffon with delusions of apotheosis, starting ... now. You may now applaud, because that scares the terrorists.

Curious that this man, of all people, should choose to wax grandieloquent about freedom for his inaugural canned remarks. I have a hunch that his notion of liberty, if one caught him at an unheard-of moment of perfect candidness, would sound something like "People should be free. Me most of all, 'cause I'm in charge."

Browse the text of his speech. Could he not have saved quite a few words and simply announced that "War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength." and gotten it over with?

But this struck me as particularly rich:

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

How typical, that he would get this entirely and precisely backwards. The best hope for peace, or even just a modicum of sanity in the world, lies in taking back our own country. How unfortunate, that the present generation has not been gifted with a King of its own. Heck, I'd settle for a Zhao.

Posted by Milligan at 09:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 01, 2004

Money. Gah.

Yes, no posts for a few days, despite interesting things happening. I will relate. But not just now, for it is time to go home.

Why, you ask? Because I just submitted a fellowship application to the NSF, basically saying that I'm God's gift to astrophysics and a nice guy to boot, so they should really do us all a favor and pay me and my expenses for a few years. As some readers here would tell you, this particular application has been an annual soul-sucking ritual for me for a few years now. Which, of course, I was going to get a three-week jump on. But, as typically happens to me in November, I was really busy for a week, then sick for a week, then really busy again. And again, it mostly got done in the past two days. But I think I actually put in a quality attempt this year, which is more than I can say for some of my past efforts, and my CV's gotten a lot longer. So we'll see.

I wound up saying some very nice things about education and the importance of outreach in my personal statements. I might post and expand on those bits sometime, if I have a slow week. Which there won't be for a little while yet.

Posted by Milligan at 02:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 25, 2004


Here's hoping everyone has an enjoyable Thanksgiving. It's just work as usual here, of course, although I'll be having dinner with a Czech-American-(something slavic) family this evening after my Hebrew class gets out.

Me, I'm thankful that nobody seems to have gotten hurt yet in the Ukrainian election crisis. Although I'd have been exceedingly tickled if anyone had managed to instigate a general strike to protest the American electoral shenanigans. Oh well.

In other news, it would seem that pumpkin pie just gets no love from some quarters. Personally, I like the stuff, although it's no match for a good slice of pecan pie. But I'm not really up on my pie scholarship.


Late update:

There seems to be some disagreement in Blogistan over the relative merits of pumpkin pie. But, since pumpkins are not to be found in this region of the world, perhaps I'll give Kabocha squash pie a whirl. Or yam pie. We've got those in spades.

Posted by Milligan at 01:58 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 28, 2004

Three Disjointed Paragraphs

So the Red Sox overcame their curse. Or (as one banner-waver in the stands suggests), Ruth has forgiven them. Either way, cool, baseball-historically speaking. Although I wonder how long it will take Bostonians to adapt their mentality to being metaphysically victimized fans no longer.

The lunar eclipse was pretty, incidentally, but we can discuss eclipses in some other post, so as to avoid further encouraging the tired astronomy/astrology yuk-yuks.

I've got a couple of real posts drafted and almost ready to go, but since the Series ended around 6 am local time, I'm probably not going to finish any of them today. I'll be in Tel Aviv for some or all of the weekend, so hopefully we'll have more photos next week, but maybe not much posting before then. So in the meanwhile, go admire John's photos of astronomers carving pumpkins. My department at its finest. And slimiest. Too bad we don't have Halloween over here.

Posted by Milligan at 06:20 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 21, 2004

Red Sox: Sweeeeeeeet

As a Cubs fan and thus fellow member of the league of cursed ball clubs, chalk one up for the good guys.

It's 6 am here; I'm going to bed.

Posted by Milligan at 06:07 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 23, 2004


So, the abbreviated version goes something like this: My advisor says, "You're coming with me to Israel for six months." And I say, "Er, um, okay. That sounds interesting."

And then umpteen dozen people (which is to say, at least five or six) announced that they wanted regular updates. It occurred to me that there might even be people who would find such dispatches interesting, who had not said anything to me. More likely, the resulting barrage of "look at me, I'm standing on a rock!" emails would make some of the outspoken regret their pluck.

Hence I turn to that lovely genre of the new millenium, the travel blog. Which you are reading. Good for you.

Posted by Milligan at 02:13 AM | Comments (2)
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