This is the website of Abulsme Noibatno Itramne (also known as Sam Minter). Posts here are rare these days. For current stuff, follow me on Mastodon



December 2005

Book: The Theory of Almost Everything

imageAuthor: Robert Oerter
Started: 4 Dec 2005
Finished: 14 Dec 2005
327p / 11d
30 p/d

When I left the Jefferson Davis book in a hotel and hadn’t yet replaced it, Brandy bought me this so I would have a book on my next plane flight. It was a very kind gesture. Of course, being all the way I am and stuff, I refused to start the book, because I had started the other book, and I had to finish that one before I could start another one, and then of course there would have to be a fiction book in between because I alternate fiction and non-fiction and such. I was of course being a little bit of a nut. But in the end I did indeed get a new copy of the Davis book, read that, then Harry Potter. But I promised Brandy that this book would be next rather than waiting for all the other books in line.

Anyway… When Brandy first handed it to me I figured it would be your standard sort of pop-physics book where you had an overview of 20th century physics, and the bulk of the book would talk about some of the hot new cutting edge theories currently grabbing people’s imaginations. But that wasn’t what this book was about. It turned the normal form of these books upside down. Rather than the review of the old stuff and concentration on the new stuff, this was the reverse. Just a little of the new stuff at the end, but most of the book was a detailed review of the “Standard Model”, which is basically the unified theory of all of physics… except gravity… and except a few things it can’t explain yet which are where the newer theories come from.

This was an interesting take on things. Although of course it meant that almost all of what was there was stuff I had seen before, either in other similar books, or when I was actually studying physics in college. Of course, most of that has faded completely out of memory, so it was a good refresher. It reminded me just how ugly the standard model is though. It may well be the best explaination we have of all sorts of things, but it is ugly. Too many pieces, too many arbitrary factors. (18 I believe it is.) It just isn’t pretty. Which is of course one of the reasons the search for “more fundamental” theories continues.

Also, given that I was a physics major, there is one similar frustration I almost always feel with these sorts of pop-physics books. There is a pattern they seem to all share:

* In the beginning of the book, when they are speaking about the oldest physics, the physics that has been around the longest and is closest to what someone who hasn’t read about this kind of stuff before it does pretty good. Explains everything in lay terms and I feel OK with that, and it works for me.

* In the middle of the book, as they get into more advanced stuff, I start getting frustrated by the lack of math. I know, I know, it is a book for the general public, not for ex-physics majors, but I start getting really frustrated by the lack of the details. In many places where the author is jumping through hoops trying to explain things without being matehmatical or technical I start screaming out for the math, wanting to see THAT because to fully get it you need both the “engligh” stuff as analogy, but then you need the math to see and understand what is really happening. The english gets the general point across, but I always find myself wanting more…

* Then in the ends of these kinds of books, they move from going over things in all sorts of detail (although in English, not in Math) to suddenly soaring higher and higher and higher. Concepts which could be entire books go by in mere pages. Once again the lack of math hurts. But it is also just that there is a suden shift into higher and higher gears. Lots of times on the basics, then less and less time on the more advanced concepts. Shouldn’t it be the reverse?

But again, I think all three points are necessary common elements of pop-physics books for non-experts. You wrtie differently if you are giving a general overview for the non physics public than you do if you are writing a textbook… and lets say it was a textbook. They have that whole issue of needing to already know the prerequisites. One can’t just pick up a textbook on modern particle physics theories without having made sure you are completely familiar with quite a lot of subjects… that would take a few years of physics undergrad (at least) to get fully up to speed with.

So, I understand why it is the way it is. But being an ex-physics guy it still frustrates. I miss the physics, I miss the math. This kind of thing gives me a taste of what I’ve been missing and makes me want more. Of course, I know if I *did* go out and get an advanced level textbook I’d be lost right away. I had four years of physics undergrad, but at this point it was many years ago. I’d practically have to start at the beginnning to refresh my memory. I’m sure it would come back quickly, but I certainly couldn’t start with Lagrangians and Hamiltonians and General Relativity… I’d have a LOT of review to do!

Oh well! For now it will have the be the occational pop-physics book. :-) And this one did just fine.

And Then It Was Done

So, I gave my notice Thursday. Three weeks worth, although the last few days of it were scheduled to be vacation anyway. Friday they let me know that they would prefer I be done and just leave.

And so I did.

So I am done. I have to still submit my last expense report from my last trip, return my company laptop, that sort of thing. That will be taken care of very soon. But I am done with the work thing, and now I have essentially three weeks of vacation prior to starting the next job.

I am expecting of course to still be paid for that time since I gave the notice and have not been told otherwise. But given history, I am arranging my plans in such a way that I am not counting on it. The time between now and my first paycheck in the new place will be potentially very tight. And I’m saying that in the context of the entire last year having been very tight. But I think we can swing it one way or another.

Having said that, the extra unexpected free time is very very welcome. There are a lot of things around home and around my computer that I am very very far behind on because of how schedules have been this last year. Maybe I’ll be able to catch up on some of that.

Amy will be home from school too of course. So maybe we’ll finish that game of chess we started several months ago or something.

DVD: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: 2nd Season: Disk 2

imageHaving finished off Disk 1 on a plane, I started Disk 2. It took a couple plane flights to finish off the whole disk. But it was worth it.

You see, for some reason I had in my head that I’d seen every Buffy episode, or at least almost every Buffy episode. But as I worked my way through this disk, I found that I apperantly had a significant hole in my Buffy watching. There were four episodes on this disk, and I could not remember having seen ANY of them!!!

Reptile Boy: Buffy goes to a frat party with a big snake. Not super exciting, but a few good lines, and I was just happy because I hadn’t seen it before!

Halloween: Everybody turns into their costomes. This was a lot of fun. And finially I know where Xander gets the soldier stuff from! And a hint of Gile’s dark side!

Lie to Me: They get better and better. Theres a whole cult of vampire wannabes. One of them a friend of Buffy’s. And there are lies.

The Dark Age: Giles’s past. The kind of stuff I love. Backstory kinds of things.

All in all, these four episodes got better and better as far as I was concerned, and I had never seen any of them! That was a very pleasant surprise!

Goodbye Haunted Hunted Happy Thing


This face has greeted me on the way to my desk for 21 months. It will only do so for a couple more weeks. Thursday I officially submitted my resignation from the place where I have been working since before I moved to Florida. The place for which I moved to Florida. The place which never lived up to expectations, but at which the first year was still OK. The place where most of the second year was a steady decent into a worse and worse place, punctuated by only occational moments of satisfaction.

I will resist the very strong temptation to go into extreme detail on all the reasons why this engagement has not worked out for me and the difficulties I have had with this company. Suffice it to say that, at least in my perception (I am sure they would describe it differently) there was never any serious attempt to use me in the way which matched the job description I signed on for (in fact the company was simply not in a position where it could effectively utilize such a role), and instead as time progressed I was given tasks further and further away from my core skills and interests, to the point that in the last few months it was made clear that my function was to be primarily SALES, that I would be “graded” only on new revenue generated for the firm and that part of my salary would be converted to being based on commission. Needless to say, I had absolutely no interest in any of this. Add this to a series of of other things I won’t go into in public, and it was absolutely clear that a change was needed.

I started looking in a non-serious sort of way all the way back in April. Brandy thought I should have been serious about it way back then, and she was right. But I wanted to give it another shot, and a few changes going on at work gave me some false hope. But by September, it was no longer possible for even I to deny that the situation was hopeless. I began searching seriously. It quickly became apperant that local options were not viable. The most serious inquiry I had was an unsolicited inquiry from out of state. I hadn’t been looking outside the Florida area, I wanted somewhere I could commute to from our current home, but they called me. After some discussion, I decided to not exclude the option and I went through the whole process with them. Once I interviewed in person with them, I decided I might as well look nationwide at other companies as well. I started sending out resumes to places I had not considered previously.

By the last couple of weeks I had two good offers from two major companies. I turned one down, I said yes to the other, and I resigned from my current position.

It is about time. Some of my coworkers are great. I truly will miss working with them. But for the most part I have been unhappy there for around 9 months, doing what I needed to do, but getting no joy out of it. I am very glad to be moving on. The new position has me very excited.

More about “what is next” in a later post. Not sure when I’ll get to it, but soon.

DVD: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: 2nd Season: Disk 1

imageI started this DVD like 8 times. Then I’d forget where I was and start over. So I think I’ve seen “When She Was Bad” the first episode on this disk just way too many times. Actually, I think that is true of all four on this disk. That would be “When She Was Bad”, “Some Assembly Required”, “School Hard” and “Inca Mummy Girl”.

The latest time through was when I was making some recent plane flights back and forth to Seattle a few weeks back. I started out watching another DVD I had with me… The Last Temptation of Christ… which was on my NetFlix list because many years ago somebody once mentioned that I should see it. So I started watching it. Just a few minutes in they are nailing some guy to a cross. (Not the main character, that comes later I guess.) And it is all bloody and violent and stuff. At that point I realized there were two under 10 types in the seats next to me looking over and wondering what I was watching. So I stopped and put in Buffy.

Over the course of a couple of flights I finished off the disk. School Hard is one of those episodes that survives multiple reviewings. What with the Spike and all. When She Was Bad is OK too. Inca Mummy Girl starts wearing thin after being watched a few times. And I dreaded watching Some Assembly Required for the umpteenth time. But I did, because I had to watcht he whole disk in order, and remember I had done so for it to count!

And so I did.

Three in One Shot!

Monday afternoon I suddenly started having worse and worse pain in my abdomen. I tried to convince myself it was probably something I ate, and that’s what I said when I wrote the rushed note saying I had to go home sick from work, but I had a strong suspicion as to what it really was. Yup, for those of you who have been reading this blog for more than just a few months, you’ll know. It had all the classic kidney stone features.

I drove home as fast as I could, with it getting worse by the second. About a mile from home there was a sudden very sharp pain, then it got a bit better, but still hurt a lot. As soon as I got home I took a pain pill and lay down. When that kicked in about an hour later, I felt much better.

Except for the massive cold/flu that had been threatening me for over a week but choose this moment to suddenly flare up to full intensity as well.

So, while doing bits of work from home both Tuesday and Wednesday, for the most part I was in pain, drugged up and on top of it a massive cold. It was fun and exciting.

But Wednesday morning my suspicions were confirmed and indeed… three kidney stones.

Since that moment the pain and such has gotten much better. (Usually takes a couple days to fully recover.)

Even the cold is on the upswing. I’d say I’m back up to about 80% capacity.

Oh, and there are no pictures this time because Brandy tends to complain when I post the pictures of these things, even though I think it is quite interesting. :-)

Book: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

imageAuthor: J. K. Rowling
Started: 22 Nov 2005
Finished: 4 Dec 2005
870p / 13d
67 p/d

I started reading Book 5 a couple of weeks before we got to see the movie of Book 4. By the time we got out of the movie I only had 150 pages left or some such. So, silly me, what did I do? I stayed up all night finishing it. Only had about an hours sleep before I had to get up to go to work. But you get to that sort of point in that kind of book, and you just can’t stop, it would be wrong!

Anyway, I can’t actually remember the last Harry Potter book before this (as mentioned when I talked about its movie) but I enjoyed this one. You can tell by my average rate of 67 pages a day. That is a lot for me! That is partially because it is the kind of book that makes you want to pick it up and read it rather than watching some TV or doing something else. And of course it is partially because it is relatively lareg print at probably a 5th grade reading level or so. Not all that many dense hard to understand sentences that you have to go back and read several times to get the point. Like the Jefferson Davis book. :-)

Anyway, if you like any of the HP books, you will of course like this one. They get a bit darker and more serious as they go on, and the transition as the kids get older seems to be done pretty well.

Well, I have to run to lunch. Meeting Brandy and joining Amy for lunch at the school. But not eating the school lunches ourselves. That would be crazy!

Ch Ch Ch Changes…

A big decision was reached today. It will be a few days probably before I can really say anything publicly here on this blog. But the decision has been made. And I am quite happy about it. If you want to know prior to me officially posting here, call or email me privately. I’ll be happy to share.

Cinema: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

imageWe waited a couple weeks after it came out for various reasons, but last weekend we managed to get it in before I had to leave town again for work. This is of course the latest Harry Potter movie. Big hit. Everybody knows about it I would imagine. Checking my records I read the book from 25 Feb 2001 to 14 Mar 2001. So I remembered parts of it, but really not all that much. At least not coming in. Walking into the theater if someone had asked me about the plot, I probably could have remembered close to zero. I did remember bits as the movie progressed, but not enough that I was comparing it to the book in my head or anything.

Anyway, I definately walked out of this one thinking it was the best fo the four so far. A little less “kiddie”. Had some humor, but a lot of stuff going on as well. And it was fun and kept my attention. It had the usual sort of Harry Potter thing where everything gets wrapped up right at the end and tied up in a bow, but that is just what these are. And that is OK.

Harry does look more and more like Frodo as he ages though.

Oh, and it kinda annoys me that his scar isn’t a little more visible.

But other than that… excellent Harry Potter movie.

Darkflash: All Or Nothing At All

image I was reminded a bit ago about this incident from the days before I had a blog. And I thought it might be worthy of a darkflash. If any of you remember other amusing emails I sent out years ago, suggest them. Perhaps I will put them in a Darkflash too.

In any case, the following is an email I sent out to some of my friends on 2 Mar 2002 at 20:20:33 UTC. Enjoy. And keep in mind: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!!! (I certainly never will again!)

OK, it took me a lot longer than I had planned because I took a couple detours.

But a few seconds ago I hit the following reading on my scale:

3/2/2002 17:43 GMT — Weight 170.0 (BMI 24.4) — % Body Fat 22.2%

This means on BMI I am down 10.5 pounds (1.5 BMI points) , or 5.8% from my worst of the year.

(On %BF I am down 2.3 points, or a 9.2% improvement from my worst of the year.)

In any case, the specifics don’t matter. What matters is that I had promised that when I hit 170.0 I would eat an entire package of Oreo Double Stuffs and report on what happened. I bought the pack of Oreo Double Stuffs over a month ago and have kept it unopened. I have also been keeping stocked on milk (whole milk of course, I don’t like the watered down kind) waiting for this moment. I’ve had to throw away 2 gallons of milk as they went bad before they were needed, but I have a fresh gallon waiting. (Almost, I actually opened the gallon and made some hot cocoa a couple times, so I have a little less than a gallon.)

Anyway, here are the stats. The package of Double Stuffs has 15 ounces of cookies, or 425 g. That is 0.93 pounds of cookies. So just under a pound. I will also count how many cups of milk I drink. I will be using a measuring cup to determine how much milk I drink with the cookies.

I will give nutritional stats on what I eat (both milk and cookies) when I am done.

Anyway, here goes:

Before: 3/2/2002 17:43 GMT — 170 lb (24.4 BMI) — 22.2% BF

Time to eat the cookies…

OK… I have now eaten half the pack of Oreo Double Stuffs… (that’s 15 cookies) and have drunk 3 cups (0.7 liters) of whole milk.

I am definitely starting to feel a bit sick. And it is harder to eat these. But I must finish of course! So here I go for the second half…

I have now eaten 21 cookies… And drunk 4 cups of milk. Each cookie now is a major effort, and I’m having to wait several minutes between each cookie, and am definitely getting queasy. I only have 9 cookies left to go. I know I can do it. I just have to take my time. And use my willpower. This is rather crazy, but hey, a promise is a promise…

OK… 22 cookies… And another half cup of milk. I am missing my haircut appointment. I’m also feeling pretty sick now. That last cookie was really difficult. So I am going to lie down a few minutes before I regroup and attack the last 8 cookies…

OK, took about a 15-20 minute break, time to try again… Did 3 more cookies… Time for an other pause. 5 more cookies to go, but I need to wait a few minutes…

Did one, waited five more minutes… Four to go… I’m now on my 7th cup of milk… Lets see if I can crunch through these last 4…

I did 2… One more five minute break, then I’ll finish up… I’m feeling less sick going slowly.

OK… Here goes… The last push… OK, one more cookie down…

One to go… Ahh!!!

Done!!! 30 Oreo Double Stuff Cookies, and 8 cups of whole milk (that is 1.9 liters).

Here is the before reading again:

Before: 3/2/2002 17:43 GMT — 170.0 lb (24.4 BMI) — 22.2% BF

OK, time for the after reading:

After: 3/2/2002 19:56 GMT — 175.0 lb (25.1 BMI) — 25.2% BF

OK, this means that in one “meal” I ate 0.9 pounds of cookies, and drank 4.1 pounds of milk. My weight and BMI increased by 3.5% in one meal, and my %BF increased by 13.5%. Ouch! I also note that at 25.2% BF, this completely wipes out all gains I’ve made for the entire year, and for that matter sets a new “worst” for the year on Percent Body Fat. My previous worst %BF was 25.0% which I last hit on January 13th.

OK, adding up both the 30 cookies and the 1.9 liters of whole milk, here are my nutrition stats for this “meal”:

First of all, including time to write the intro on this email and my pauses, this “meal” took me 2 hours and 13 minutes. That is one cookie every 4 minutes and 26 seconds, and one cup of milk every 16 minutes and 38 seconds. I went much faster for the first half of the cookies, but then I had to slow down.

Calories: 3300
Calories from Fat: 1460
Total Fat: 169 grams (251% of recommended daily amount)
Saturated Fat: 62.5 grams (320% of recommended daily amount)
Cholesterol: 280 milligrams (96% of RDA)
Sodium: 3170 milligrams (130% RDA)
Total Carb.: 388 grams (137% RDA)
Fiber: 15 grams (45% RDA)
Sugar: 283 grams
Protein: 79 grams
Vitamin A: 48% RDA
Vitamin C: 48% RDA
Iron: 90% RDA
Vitamin D: 208% RDA

OK. That’s it for now. I missed my haircut, I will have to call and reschedule. But I think I will reschedule for next weekend rather than trying to go in later today or tomorrow. I don’t feel as sick any more, but I am now very tired and wiped out. I need to just relax, watch TV, and sleep.

I’ve eaten enough for a couple days. We’ll see how long it takes me to drop the five pounds from the cookies and milk. I may try to just fast until I get back to 170.0, but if I get really hungry I’ll probably snack. If I just fast it off I should be back to 170.0 by Monday. We’ll see.

OK, I am going to go lie down. I need to lie down.

Later all.