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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Mad Andrew's LiveJournal:

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Tuesday, October 6th, 2009
9:25 pm
My life is in a box...
Or at least all of my stuff is. That stuff will be headed due south, en
route to our new home. And that seems like a pretty fitting place to end
things here. Leaving Illinois, leaving Fermilab as a base of operations,
seems suitably dramatic to end things on here.
I went back and re-read the first entry of this journal. And if you've read
all the way through, you'll note that there have been some significant
changes. I'm probably a good bit quieter now. I've probably gained in some
cunning at the cost of volume. I have a lot more responsibility, from
hard drinking carefree grad student, to a brand new professor, and father.
I've made new friends, and lost some too along the way.
Was there a whole point to this experience? Maybe. There sure as hell isn't
a moral to the story, which is good, since this was just supposed to be a
piece of my life that I shared here. Life doesn't tend to lend itself to easy
interpretation or simple missives. The world is a complicated place, and I've
gotten to see more of it than I ever imagined back in the day. I feel like it
would probably be appropriate to say something meaningful here. But that
really wouldn't be my style. The story will continue. I'll try to keep
those of you who requested to be included with the the newest parts informed.
I'll leave this up for a couple of weeks, then globally friendslock, and
then finally delete.
But for now, dear reader:
FIN

MadAndrew, Oct. 2009

PS -- To that jackhole engineering prof. back at U of H who told me that I'd
never make it in a career in physics, and in High Energy Physics specifically:
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
That seems about the right note to end on.
MA
Sunday, September 20th, 2009
9:50 pm
Breaking the rules slightly.../In defense of eating
So this, according to LJ is entry 1600. But at the same time, I feel the need to write about "Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan before a final farewell entry. So you get both, first my review of the book, and then at some point in the coming week, the swansong for this journal.

Let me introduce the review by pointing out how I came by this book. I had given it, as a NY times bestseller, as a Christmas gift, but until pressed upon me by a friend [Unknown LJ tag], I hadn't read it myself.

To start with, I'm somewhat conflicted as to what to say. I, having just completed a fairly life-changing diet, have a different relationship with food than I did about a year ago. Some of the things that Pollan advocates, like giving up the fast food (McDonalds, ah, I knew thee well), I've already done, before reading the book. I have a somewhat different perspective than most anyway, since I experience both European and American portion sizes (what a shock, American portions are HUGE).

At the same time, there's nothing I can really say that is good about Pollan's indictment of American eating. As a discussion of such things, it falls woefully short: it is clear from his prose that he's already made up his mind even though he goes through his "experimental" three meals (seriously, for the first part, he chooses McDonalds? Hardly an objective choice for the part on the nominal American food industry). That's really the least of its faults however, the particular feigned ignorance with which he questions the Polyfarms "Why does there need to be a New York City?" is stomach turning to say the least. It is unsurprising given the context, but at the same time, fuck that. If I could hear it coming, Pollan CERTAINLY could have.

Look kids, I understand that mass produced food, and industrial processes aren't as appetizing as the natural, grass fed versions (for meat, and naturally grown versions of veg). I get that "organic (goddess how my gorge rises to use such an imprecise term)" beef tastes slightly better than "regular" beef. But consider the converse, and take it to it's logical end: much as it tears at my Southern soul, we NEED New York City! We need metropolises. We're not the same humanity that contented itself with the highest rank in the small village being the chief goat-jerker-offer to the King in New-Scrotum-shire. These edifices allow the contemplation of weightier things, like arts, sciences, literature. And don't get me started on the entire antiregulation vein that runs through that section as well. I care CRAP ALL about how much sunlight the farmer uses in the slaughter of his chickens, how about some fucking Clorox?

Not to mention this industrial food is needed to sustain folks who live near the margins, which at one point included yours truly. While Pollan may sit in judgment of all those who consume the products of industrial food, the fact remains that for a large number of people, the alternative would be starvation. The simple truth is, if you've got money, you can buy all the grass-fed beef you want, but if you don't, your choices are a good deal more limited.

The first section of the book is a highly focused indictment of what we use corn for, and it is enlightening, if you can read it while stripping out the bias. The second really has more to do with the idolizing of the "sustainable" farming example, and the third...woo...the third. Let me say unequivocally, that like most writers, Pollan only has any use for science when it fits his own narrative. There's a particularly egregious example where he goes on at great length about what science doesn't understand about fungi, and then two pages later going into great depth about what it DOES know. Urgh. And there's also much stomach turning introspection about killing a wild creature, which he self-satirizes. Act of willpower required to keep reading here.

Do I recommend this book? Maybe. If you can keep something resembling an open mind, and at the same time remember not to buy in completely to the entire text, sure. Otherwise, save your time and money. Just because meat can be made plentiful and cheap doesn't mean you need to eat pounds of it, and at the same time, doesn't make it Satan's own flesh.
Saturday, August 29th, 2009
6:16 pm
A still (vaguely) alive post.
I am back at this point. If you weren't in the know, I spent a little over a week in Russia, in the great big city of Moscow. I had net access at the conference, but not otherwise, and thus you hear nothing. I've also been simultaneously scrambling to get my first grant proposal together, which is a completely different note.
They say, among other things, that travel broadens one. Which is true, to the extent it goes. But at the same time, when you travel, you pick up your self, your professional apparatus, and are dropped into strange places, with strange people, and strange languages. And the one constant in all of this is that you're still the same, at least at first. And you're stuck with yourself, even if you go halfway around the world.
More later. I also still owe some sort of coherent review of "Omnivore's Dilemma" though I very much enjoyed Paula Poundstone schooling Michael Pollan on the radio this morning.
Friday, August 14th, 2009
8:03 pm
Again, about my daughter...
My daughter is, by all accounts, a very cute child. And, from the people at daycare, a child with a very pleasant manner. One might wonder then, if indeed, this can possibly be my offspring. I have no doubt, and let me let you in on why.
My daughter is indeed of very pleasant countenance. She's very quick with a smile, and a laugh, even though she's only six months old (as of yesterday in fact). But there's this one look that she'll get at times, a little feral look, a fey expression if you will, that she will get at times. Like she's 15 pounds of trouble in a 10 pound sack waiting to break loose. That's what lets me know she's mine, because the crazy, ladies and gentlemen, is hereditary.
That is all for now.
Saturday, August 8th, 2009
11:41 am
Weight updates, a bit of a post-mortem
For the record, my weight has stabilized at about 182 lbs. Which means that I lost almost 60 lbs. I've had to buy new jeans already, and I may need to get some smaller ones. At any rate, our realtor, on learning this had the following comment: "That's a new wardrobe, that kind of weight loss." Which proved to be true, as I learned today.
I went to the Men's Wearhouse to attempt to find some new slacks, and have my suit and sportcoat taken in, if possible. It turns out, that this amount of weight loss means...not possible. I don't know what the waist size of my suit pants was (I guess I could look), but basically everyone working in the store got a pretty good laugh at how they failed to fit currently. Massively failed to fit. The jackets weren't any better, whereas what I had was a 48, what I am now is a 42. That kind of shift you can't just tailor away (I had no idea it was that large a change). So I had to buy a LOT of new stuff. The nice thing is that apparently I'm a pretty good off-the-rack 42, since the two new sportcoats I bought didn't need tailoring.
Saturday, August 1st, 2009
7:48 pm
Tired now.
Just off of 8-day roadtrip to Florida and back. Though I'm utterly exhausted, things went REMARKABLY well, and I think we hit all the goals. The new car behaved like a champ, though now it needs an oil change (it's very first. Awwwww.).
We have a contract on a new house. That's really good. We have a closing date. That's also really good. Which means largely things are taking shape for this fall, and the move. The real concern now rests with the actual move, the date, and trying to sell our current place.
I gets one day off before back to the grind.
I have completed reading "The Omnivore's Dilemma". I owe all of you a review that is not simply "fuck" printed 1k times.
Tuesday, July 7th, 2009
9:41 pm
A baby post...
Next week she'll be five months.
She's actively trying out her voice in different ways these days. I tend to think of it as a parody of the way we sound to her. Which is interesting. She gets ahold of different syllables and tries them at great length. Oh, and she loves to blow raspberries, which I think she picked up in daycare.
And textures. She's obsessed with feeling different cloth, whether it's hers or ours.
Thursday, July 2nd, 2009
6:18 pm
Improving home...
Took the day off today to devote to some home improvements. If we're going to sell our place in Aurora, we need to at least paint SOME spots, and repair the damage that the plastic sealants (which apparently Yankees put up in the winter, due to it being ungodly cold), and in the case of the Danger Room, paint one of the walls, and scrub the carpets (the oil that leaked out of the exercise machine is no surprise. The amount of blood DOES surprise me a bit). The only reason that I'd do this today, rather than one of the days this weekend (yay three day weekend!) is that the baby was at daycare, rather than around inhaling paint fumes. Which seemed like a pretty good option.
Saturday, June 27th, 2009
6:45 pm
Meh.
As per usual, the pains of Linux system admin. come with gradual enlightenment. There is knowledge given, and knowledge earned, which I expect to be two themes that will recur as I become one of those ivory tower professor types. However, my work laptop (upon which I write this) is decently stable, and will remain so until the backup is rebuilt, which is fully underway now.
The climb up from complete borkage has begun. If reality ever gets out of beta, I'll never know how.
Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009
10:02 am
Linux borkage...
I really am getting to old for this.
A while back, I bought a new laptop, while my old one was still working. As some of you know, it's a good deal easier to install Linux if you've got a working machine next to you. So anyway, I've done it several times in the past, and this time went pretty smoothly, though of course there was the standard iteration of kernel parameters, etc.
So I moved my work area and operations to the new laptop, but time to time made sure the old laptop was updated, in case I needed a backup at some point. However, there was a fairly disruptive change in gentoo portage structure which borked kde. A sleepless night later, I fixed it on my work laptop, but the old one resisted my efforts. And since it wasn't a very high priority, it remained borked.
Fast forward to this weekend, I do system updates on my work computer every week, generally on Friday so that I can work out the kinks prior to work on Monday. But this time I had to do updates on Saturday and didn't get a chance to work on it Sunday, the combination resulting in: a non-working laptop Monday morning. Part of this owes to my adoption of KDE-4.2, a decision in the light of day I cannot fathom. I'm going to guess temporary insanity, or ocean-madness, or possibly swine-flu. Anyway, yesterday, which was already replete with a doctor's office visit for my daughter, was complicated by a non-working laptop complete with cryptic errors, the whole shebang. And of COURSE a presentation due for today.
Obviously, since I'm typing this, my skillz are sufficient to make it work, and it works sufficiently for me to do videoconferencing from home, and finish my presentation, and restore some measure of order. And since I'm videoconferencing, I can in parallel attempt to de-bork my old laptop as well (I'm basically giving it a miss and completely reinstalling).
But this is really not sustainable. In fact, for these and other reasons, I'm thinking I may get a Mac for work. Absurd, and conventional, isn't it? But for something for work, I can't really afford to indulge mixing in my hobbies, and I know I'll need access to true MS products.

EDIT: And the Gentoo borkage of my current laptop wasn't my fault? GAWDAMMIT!
Thursday, June 11th, 2009
2:20 pm
Not Yogi, but close...
The thing about leading order is that it's TOO probable. Which means it almost never happens.
Tuesday, June 9th, 2009
9:12 pm
1588.
According to my journal information, this should be entry number 1,588. A strange number.
I've been thinking recently, about how long it's been since I started this journal, how many things have changed, how I've changed, and what the next year is going to be like. And I think I've come to the conclusion that I'm going to have to give this up. For what it's worth, I've needed this place, needed someplace to write my thoughts down, and occasionally hear what others think about them (1,488 comments). But recently, I've had to censor what I write here more and more. And that's a trend that is going to have to continue. Somewhere along the line, I started getting somewhat elderly. I no longer can breathe the fire I used to. I have responsibilities. I have a wife, and now a daughter. I'm starting a new job this fall, and there will be much scrutiny.
So let's say on entry 1600, that's it. That'll be the farewell, and after a suitable period after that entry, I'll delete this journal in its entirety.
Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009
7:12 pm
Bizarre...
"..wanna talk about pubs like I ain't got none...what, you think I sold 'em all?"
Sunday, May 24th, 2009
11:05 am
Once more with feeling...
Working the 0400 shift again, for today, and two more days. Yes, working through the three day weekend, which may result in Friday becoming the "Feast of Maximum Occupancy" again. What doesn't suck: if things go as planned, this is it for shifts on D0.
In other news, being up at 0400 is still somewhat hilariously like being drunk. Y'know, Funny drunk. Not Angry drunk. Which if you do know me, you probably DO know.
Saturday, May 16th, 2009
3:55 pm
RAV4: Still the right choice.
I am not one to go on at length once a purchase has been made.
But it's SOOoooo good. The entire vehicle exudes an almost tactile solidity. Not that it's a great lummox of a car, it's just obviously superbly engineered, so much so that I get the definite feeling that should something go wrong, it must have to do with the guy behind the wheel, not this beauty. Part of this must be that I'm still reassuring myself that I made the right choice. But part of it is the undeniable excellence of the product.

Enough commercials for Toyota. theAngela and I have the dubious task of attempting to clean up our condo so that we can sell it, hopefully either for what we bought it for, or only a minimal loss (c'mon, making a profit in today's real estate market seems unlikely in the extreme.). The nice thing is we'll be buying again, and moreover, buying in a market that's some factor of two cheaper. That's nice. But for now, back to work.
Saturday, May 9th, 2009
10:24 am
Saw Star Trek...
Let me preface these remarks with a little backstory. I USED to be a Trek fan. I think I enjoyed this film a lot because I'm NOT particularly anymore.
It's not that I left Trek fandom because I thought the series had gotten stale, or had a couple of lackluster series in a row (hell, I never even watched Voyager, and thus have no opinion on it at all). It's just that...over the last decade other things have grown to consume the time I used to spend thinking about minutiae and these days I find my time consumed with other things. In short, I grew up.
So I went into this film without any particular expectations (despite liking J. J. Abrams' work). I went with some of my friends to see it on IMAX, theAngela who doesn't get along with the ear-busting IMAX, stayed with the child, and one presumes will eventually see it. And I was pleasantly surprised. It was a lot of fun, with enough action to satisfy, without complete and undying faith to the original. Frankly, I think that if everything had been constrained to follow the original, the result would have been lackluster.
However, spoilers go beneath the cut...
Dare you go beneath?Collapse )
Friday, May 1st, 2009
11:29 am
An odd observation from the car shopping...
What I heard multiple times, which really confuses me, is that people tend to have A brand of vehicle that they purchase, and then they stay within that brand. Which is somewhat odd, if you think about it. The Honda dealership salesperson said as much to us, they get some crossover sales from folks who own Toyota, or Nissan, but not many from Ford owners. Likewise, for when other dealers asked what I was test driving, I always got some surprises when I mentioned the Ford Escape. Maybe I don't understand humans that well. If I was say, buying carrots, I don't particularly look at the brand. I will note that I tend to buy certain brands of say, milk, but that's mainly convenience. To scale things up, people don't always select the same homebuilder, do they?
Which brings us to the subject of bias: to the very end in this process, the Escape was a real contender for purchase. Is it because I previously owned a Ford? I like to think the numbers included the Ford in the same range as the Toyota, et. al, but is that my bias? Is there some additional comfort that comes from buying within a given company? How is basic economics failing here, because the few data points I have seem to indicate that it does? What's special about car shopping?
Wednesday, April 29th, 2009
8:08 pm
I has a new car!
The Winner: Toyota RAV4.
Despite the slightly higher cost, superior handling and brake performance, as well as lines which just can't be beat, combined with the best in class fuel economy, the RAV4 won out. Though I point out, mine IS the base model with the smaller engine and 2-wheel drive, so more appropriate would be RAV2. But whatever.
Sunday, April 26th, 2009
8:03 pm
More test drives...
Again, more auto related news.
Test drove the Honda CR-V yesterday. While not as bad as anticipated, still, I don't think it makes for a real contender, except that it's cargo area (passenger fold up) was pretty awesome, and explains the additional cargo room. Handling was nice, but even really leaning on the gas, the pickup was pretty subpar. "0 to 60...eventually."
Also, the last of the test drives, the Toyota RAV-4 was done. I'm trying to be clinical...but I love this vehicle. I do. I like the way it looks, I like driving it. I think if I say anything more, I'd probably start raving. The one quote: "I actually ENJOY sitting in this car".
So we're down to two contenders, the Ford Escape and the Toyota RAV4. I have to say, on purely superficial external appearances, I like the RAV4 more. Interior...the RAV4 is more comfortable, but the Ford's control layout is better, and feels more spacious. The Ford's back seat folds completely flat, but the Toyota has a mechanism that takes the seats down with an auto release (it's awesome).
So we're...pondering. None of the numerical facts are sufficiently different to provide a definitive answer.
Thursday, April 23rd, 2009
8:38 pm
Been a while...
Meant to make an entry this morning, but it just didn't work out that way.
Item the First: Noises have been made about my little girl being advanced. Particularly because she apparently attempts to talk back to the daycare ladies. I have a different theory. Early on in being a father, I decided that I'd skip babbling in nonsense syllables at my daughter, and talk to her exactly as if she could understand me. I've MOSTLY kept to this (I indulge that stupid babbling instinct on occasion). Therefore my theory is that she is learning to talk quickly because it's the only way she can get her Daddy to shut up.
Item the Second: I had a moment this morning at the Post Office. A few years ago (hell, more than a few at this point), I was still working toward my PhD, and to fulfill my teaching requirement to Rice, I was grading for a class on remote. They'd DHL the papers to me, and I'd work hard to quickly grade them and express mail them back.
Fast forward to today: I'm express-mailing the letters that I've signed for the job offer as a professor of physics at Florida State.
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