Recently in Mpls '05 - Part 3: Holiday Shuffle Category

Orally Examined


I passed. It is done.

There is much to be done that has been left undone for the last month, last semester. I declare today my new year. It's time to get to work.

But first I shall get some sleep. And leave y'all with a picture or two.

On New Years Eve we went out to watch the fireworks display. It was a big deal, since the state of Texas was under a total fire ban. There was some surprise when, after not having seen a single cloud for days on end, a luxuriantly opaque fog came sighing in for the night. 2006:01:01 00:44:27
Not that we couldn't experience the fireworks. The horizon would glow pale red, green from one end of the sky to the other, and cottony booms reached us through the shroud. And the neighborhood kids, flaunting the burn bans, launched pyrotechnics of their own. We found this way that the fog became entirely opaque at a distance of about four blocks. 2006:01:01 01:04:29

Hamas does Mr. Rogers + Checking In

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Oral exam tomorrow. My practice talk went well enough, but I've got some work to do before I'm ready for tomorrow.

Turned up during the present web break: Hamas does Mr. Rogers. Friendly guy hangs out with kids and oversized stuffed animals, plays fun games, and teaches important lessons like cooperation. And that Jerusalem is the Palestinians' birthright and must someday be retaken. Important life lessons like that. And now I have had my recommended daily allowance of postmodernism.

In completely unrelated news, the conventional wisdom holds that Democrats lost any chance to beat the Scalito nomination when they made his wife cry, because now they're just big meanies. Naturally I suspected at the time that the boo-hooing just might have a whiff of stagecraft about it. Cold comfort, though, to see that I was probably right on that count.

In keeping with the pattern of these things, I leave you with another installment of Impromteau Photojournalism.

The Cathedral of San Fernando began as a parish church in 1738 by settlers from the Canary Islands sent by the Spanish government as a bulwark against possible French incursion. The present facade, seen here, dates to the 1870s, when the church was recommissioned as a cathedral. Not so long ago, the plaster walls were black with soot, and oozed the scent of frankincense. Since then renovations have restored the walls to a more historically and structurally appropriate finish, but the pervading aroma of incense will take a century or so to return.

NYT evinces sense of humor

Taking a short web-surfing break, and the funniest thing I find is an article in the Times. The accompanying graphic, anyway, ripped from the headlines of the Journal of Imaginary Genomics.

Fun with author lists and bristlecone pines. Actually, many things about the Times would improve if they stopped taking themselves so seriously.

Given that today is today, a good roundup of MLK linkage can be found at Six Impossible Things. The moral of which is: celebrating Dr. King's birthday is a poor substitute for honoring his legacy.

I leave you with another photo.

The Tower Life Building the day after Christmas, seen through the spans of the Arsenal Street bridge over the San Antonio River, and through the diffuse nebular emission common to every nocturnal cityscape. Not tallest nor most massive, its unique shape and lighting cause it to nevertheless define downtown San Antonio's skyline. The aggressively central location and gargoyles help in this respect. Yes, gargoyles. 2005:12:26 22:50:21

Because, you know, I can. I've got like, fifteen major photo-essays just waiting to be written. Someday.

In Minneapolis, my house's little plastic tree. We had a fun night of making ornaments out of beads and paper and string. It's bright outside because the ground is covered in snow. 2005:12:17 15:47:19
In San Antonio, my family's Christmas tree. It's bigger, which is good, since it's got to fit several decades worth of accumulated ornaments on it. Thankfully it's been many years since we've had indoor cats spry enough to have much interest in climbing adventures. It's bright outside because it's about 90° in Texas. 2005:12:25 09:58:09

So I present a comparison of Christmas trees. We actually had a grand plan to drive out to wherever it is people drive to, and cut down a tree of our own. Preferably finding one on a Charlie Brown sort of scale. But sadly, even that turned out to be overly ambitious for my housemates, because we are busy people. So once again, green plastic carried the day.

The San Antonio tree, on the other hand, was gloriously real, if curiously green given the heatwave and 10% humidity.

Another Checkpoint

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Another post, the primary function of which is to reassure the world that I'm still alive in here. My oral exam is Wednesday, after which I can get on with having a more structured season. Which will be kicked off with a 30 hour sci-fi marathon. In Cleveland. I'll be roadtripping there with DrSpiff on Friday early, back Sunday.

Fine, so "more structured" was probably a misnomer.

Tentatively, there will be a side trip to Michigan on the way back, so I can cross that off the 'ol list. I'd be obliged if Connor would offer some suggestions for a couple-of-hours sidetrip to lower MI.

The wider world is successfully being uninteresting of late, as present newsworthies are largely the foreseen playing-out of the set scene. Still, a most pleasant morning was had sitting around listening to the radio. This was probably an influence of the bread-maker that arrived on my porch the other day. While some readers may recall my "tool of the Devil" rants about the contraptions, I was pleasantly won over by the experience of having freshly baked bread for breakfast, courtesy of this wonderful contraption called a "timer."

Say, who's up for doing a sandwich day sometime for lunch? You bring the fillings, I'll supply the loaf.

Check In

Tomorrow I relocate from Texas back to balmy Minnesota. Pardon the relative silence of late, but your blogger has been busy. Principally with preparations for my oral exam, a week from Wednesday. I might get in some photoblogging, but no posts of substance until after that.

Which is unfortunate, as the world is interesting of late. I suggest Ha'aretz to observe the continuing fallout from Sharon's abrupt departure from the world stage. Josh Marshall has been doing excellent Abramoff coverage for some time now. Bird flu's still out there, some miners suffocated, and Russia "accidentally" turned off half of Europe's natural gas for a spell, so go take your pick.

The destruction of Pilgrim Baptist in Chicago, on the other hand, is a noteworthy and significant loss.

Year in Review

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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.


Yes, it's photoblogging time once again.

There was much singing of Christmas carols upon my arrival in Texas. Most immediately, the day after I landed featured my family's annual Posada / Feast / Christmas Party. Pictured here, the expeditionary force. 2005:12:22 20:55:22

Christmas Sonnet

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A while back I promised GoodGuysEatPie a sonnet for Christmas. Since I've been offline I'm a smidge tardy posting this, but better late than never.

"I'm late, I'm late!" he exclaims, from the Mad Hatter's tea house. I kid not.

The Tree

by Michael Milligan

That eve had come with needles fragrant green
Crisp winter day to raise the yule-tide branch
Shine bright the lights below that greyish thing
In tinsel canopy where baubles dance.

Gay carols waft from children in the snow
On air though chill not cold enough to mar
The shiver in my spine from words I know
Sound from where most such trees would hold a star.

Be-ribboned gifts in merry wraps abound
This Christmas Santa woke a dreadful doom
Fell shape that fills my head with mad'ning sound
Though 'top my tree it somehow fills the room.

I'd warn the world but solless pierce me through
The ageless pits for eyes of Cthulhu!

Back in the World


Merry Christmas and a joyous solstice to you all.

No, not happy holidays, because I said hagg same'ach in October and "Good Ramadan" in November, and all the Jews I know are sick of having Chanukah blown up into their own parallel-Christmas, anyway. Plus Kwanzaa's made up. Wish people a happy/peaceful/whatever holiday on the days that actually mean something to them, people. That it'll make Bill O'Reilly stop fuming is admittedly a downside. We'll just have to find other ways to make his head explode.

Anyhow, I'm back online and catching up on stuff. I've already fielded one call to my parents' house from my advisor, but he doesn't seem too inclined to make a habit of it. I have about a bajillion photos to post, but first I've got to remember to get them off the camera, which I can't do now that I'm at the cafe and the camera's at home. But soon.

Christmas Lull

The winter EBEX collaborators meeting 2005 is now history, and the big news is that we appear to be roughly on schedule. And now we're all back from the East Coast, I'm home in Texas for the holidays, and my Grinchier labmates are in the physics building, sending me emails. Thankfully there is a moderately hip cafe down the street from my house featuring good tea and fast wireless internet -- in a place like San Antonio, this is more unusual than you'd think -- from which to extinguish fires remotely. However, I will blessedly not be available for teleconferences until after Christmas at least. Because that would just be wrong.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Mpls '05 - Part 3: Holiday Shuffle category.

Mpls '05 - Part 2: Context is the previous category.

Mpls '06: Narrative is the next category.

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