Wednesday, December 31, 2008

And to You, Too

Oh, and, by the way, I'd like to wish all 7 of our regular readers---and anyone else reading this---a happy new year.

Happy Freakin' New Year to Me

Holy. Flurking. Schnit. Happy new year to me, I guess.

PR: Fight Gone Bad*

Today, I set a new PR on my version of Fight Gone Bad.*  I completed 255 repetitions/kilocalories, an improvement of 36 over my only previous score.

* Since we don't own a 20-pound medicine ball or have 10-foot ceilings, we sub thrusters with 2 20-pound dumbbells for the wall-ball shots.0

I Call it MiPhone

So far, my iPhone, is, as our leet-speaking friends would say, is teh awesome.  I plan to post more extensively---and understandably---after a another week or so of using it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Nibble, nibble, nibble...

I have started on a New Year's resolution early this year. This year I've decided to try something a little different...but first, some background.

I have played the violin since I was 2 years old. One thing that you may or may not know about playing a string instrument is that you must keep your fingernails extremely short. This is a pretty good example of how one's fingers need to be placed on the can see that if your fingernails were at all long, you wouldn't be able to press down on the string with your fingertip. So, as a kid, my nails always had to be cut short. At some point, I realized that I had my own pair of fingernail clippers built right into my mouth...yep! I am a nail-biter from wayback.

However, I stopped playing seriously sometime in high school and I haven't been a member of an orchestra for a while, so there is no reason I can't grow my nails a little bit. Thus, I have finally decided to NOT bite my nails. Even if I cut them super short again (because, frankly, after having them so short all my life, having them even a little bit long feels weird), I have resolved to try to break my nail-biting habit. Look at my progress so far!

See? I have little white bits at the ends! If I actually manage to grow them a little bit long, I'm going to treat myself to a manicure at my hair salon.

So, for anyone who knows me in real life, feel free to yell at me if you see me biting on my nails. It is something I tend to do sort of unconsciously when I'm reading or working on the computer, so having someone point out to me when I'm doing it might actually be helpful.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

iPhonizzle, as Ashley would say.

Alison bought me an iPhone 3G for my birthday.  Who has the coolest wife around?  I do, that's who.


I just realized that, though I've used this word repeatedly on the blog, I never actually defined it:
Michaelmas, noun.  The holiday honoring me, observed yearly on the anniversary of my birth.

PR: Michael

I set a new personal record on the workout that bears my name---though it wasn't named after me---tonight:  21:55, almost 2 minutes faster than my previous best.

Holidays in the ATL

Regular readers may have noted a drop in activity here on the Offical Blog of Team Grondul lately.  Alison, Newton, and I just returned from a weeklong trip to Atlanta, where we spent the both Christmas and Michaelmas.  It was a good trip, all considered:  we spent some time with both sides of my family, ate at a couple of my favorite restaurants, and tried to relax.

Friday, December 19, 2008

PR: Filthy Fifty

I set a new personal record for the god-awful workout known as The Filthy Fifty* today: 29:30, 72 seconds faster than my previous best, way back in January.

* I make a couple of substitutions for this workout due mostly to lack of equipment.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Muffy 5/15/1994 – 12/16/2008

Muffy was my family dog. We got her the summer before I went away to college from a pet store, not knowing any better. My mom had been thinking about getting a dog. Because I had allergies, she thought she wanted a Bichon, so she asked a local pet store to call her if they got any Bichons in. When they called, we went over, but the Bichon was a little boy and my mom wanted a girl pup. In the next cage over, we spotted Muffy. She looked just like the Bichon pup...a little white ball of fluff. But we were told she was a malti-poo. We played with her for half an hour in the pet store and fell in love. It was nearing closing time and they didn't take credit cards, so we gave them a deposit with the cash we had on hand and planned to come back the next day and pick her up. When we came back, she stood up in the little ex-pen she was in, wagging her back end as fast as she could and barked at us. We've always told the story that she recognized us when we came back for her...she knew we were her family. She rode home in my lap.

Muffy was a bright spot in our lives during a very hard time. My father had left our family just two years before we got her. My mom had gone back to work after he left and I was going away to college, so my sister was, for the first time, going to come home from elementary school to an empty house. Except it wasn't empty when Muffy was there. She greeted my sister with puppy kisses every day after school. It seems like such a small thing, but I will always, always be grateful that Muffy was there so Ashley didn't have to be home all alone when she was so little. In her later years, Muffy became something of a snowbird. My mom began having to travel to Florida to help her mother with some health issues, so Muffy went with her.

About a year and a half ago, Muffy was diagnosed with multiple health issues: a collapsing trachea, enlarged heart and liver, impaired kidney function and bladder stones. Lately she has been getting worse...unable to make it outside to pee, having weakness in her back legs. My mom called me today to let me know that she had taken Muffy to the vet yesterday and had her put to sleep. She had a tumor on her leg and wouldn't put weight on it and she wasn't getting up to go outside anymore. The vet thinks she had a stroke. I'm so sad for my sister who is going home soon for Christmas...she bought Muffy presents and was looking forward to seeing her again, especially because she knew it was probably for the last time.

Rest in peace, Muffy. We all loved you very much. You were my first dog, and the smartest dog I've ever known. May doggie heaven be full of soft pillows, warm laps, and bowls full of popcorn that you don't have to share.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Crate

It's important to train your dog to think of his crate as a safe, comfortable, pleasant place to be.  That way, you can confine him to it when necessary without him feeling imprisoned.  Fortunately, crate training is made easier because dogs have a denning instint.  It's that instint that leads Newton to loiter under our coffee table or Alison's desks.  Unfortunately, as new dog owners, we did a poor job of making Newton's crate his happy place.  We recently met with some success on this front when we noticed how much Newton loves to curl up on one of our blankets.  This blanket is stuffed with goose down, which may be a strong factor in Newton's affinity for it.  After we folded the blanket and placed it in his crate, Newton suddently began going into the crate on his own, even lounging in there for for long periods.

In the above photo, you can see Newton relaxing in the crate.  The down blanket is the blue one.  The green one is actually a baby blanket we bought soon after we first brought our little puppy home.


For the record, even before Barack Obama was elected, I predicted that he would appoint Hillary Clinton his Secretaty of State.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tapered Fibers

I don't usually post about my work, partially because it's not very accessible to the lay reader but mostly because I'm the kind of person who leaves work at the workplace. However, I'd like to share some pretty micrographs---photographs taken through a microscope---that Michael D., Brian R. and I took on Friday.

As part of this project, we are learning how to taper an optical fiber, which start out with a diameter of 125 um, down to 5 um or narrower. At this diameter, and at our intended operating wavelength of 1000 or 1550 nm, the evanescent field of the guided optical mode extends beyond the surface of the glass and carries a significant fraction of the optical power. In other words, the fiber still guides light, but much of that light is carried along outside the fiber, in the air or whatever happens to be around the fiber.

Our plan is to take advantage of the properties of this kind of fiber and incorporate one into a passively mode-locked fiber laser. But that's not important for understanding these pics, so I won't elaborate. (Also, I'd rather not disclose our---read, Michael D.'s---clever plans.)

This is an untapered section of the fiber. Note that its diameter is 125 um.

Here you can see the beginning of the taper.

More of the tapered region.

This is the waist, or narrowest part, of the taper.

This is a much higher-magnification image of the waist. Note that the fiber is about 5 um in diameter here. The depth of focus at this magnification is only a few microns, so it's impossible to get a single image in which both the upper surface of glass, closest to the camera, and the edges are in focus. Additionally, becuase the fiber is mounted with a bit of a slope, with the right end of the fiber closer to the camera than the left, we can't get both ends of this image in focus.

Recipe: Chili Dog Casserole

Alison posts most---to date, all---of our recipes, so I thought it was time for me to post one of my own. What follows is a "recipe" for the chili dog casserole I make---assemble, really---sometimes when I'm feeling lazy, espcially when Alison isn't around. This dish is well within the bounds of what I call "bachelor food." What I mean by that phrase will be obvious when you read the recipe, if it isn't clear from the dish's title.

  • 4 hot dogs. I use uncured chicken dogs, but you can use something more traditional, if you like.
  • 1/2 can chili. I use low-fat vegetarian chili, but again you can certainly use "regular" chili.
  • 2 hamburger buns. I use whole wheat buns, but...
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion.
Cut the hot dogs to whatever length you desire, mix with the chili. Heat in the mircowave to desired temperature. Pull the buns into smaller pieces. Add the buns and onion to the heated mixture. Stir, then eat with a spork.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Dog Christmas Comes Early

Yesterday, we got together with Newton's dog friends in the neighborhood and they exchanged Christmas presents. Newton got two great new toys that he really loves. Be advised that total scruffiness follows. Newton needs a grooming in the worst way, but we haven't been able to bathe him since his surgery...he's scheduled to get all handsome-ified next week. Speaking of his surgery, the biopsy results came back as yay! Another Christmas present...a clean bill of health!

Check out his Frosty the Snowman toy from Sam and Jack, the pugs!

And he got this cool toy from Quinn. What's in there, Newton?

Santa balls! Good boy!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Superpowers

I am, in general, an incompetent boob. However, I do have a few distinctive talents, which I like to think of as my mutant superpowers. Here are the first couple that spring to mind:
  • I'm uncannily good at picking the smallest possible Tupperware---or Rubbermaid, sure---container that will hold the leftovers in questions. Apparently, I've internalized the concept of conservation of volume.
  • I can pick out celebrities from their voice-over work in cartoons, documentaries, and advertisements. Jeff Goldblum and Mike Rowe, you can't hide from me.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Memristors: Nobel Material

Mark my words:  Memristors will win the Nobel Prize in Physics someday.  These devices are interesting from a scientific perspective because they represent a fourth circuit element (in addition to resistors, capacitors, and inductors) that was predicted 37 years ago. From a practical standpoint, they may make it possible to replace some of the transistors in computer chips in a several-to-one ratio, resulting in smaller chips for a given functionality or more functionality for a given chip size. This is a Huge Deal. Additionally, since synapses behave a bit like memristors, memristors may be used to implement neural networks.

PR: Annie

7:13, with tuck jumps substituted for double unders.  That's 63 seconds faster than my previous best.

Monday, December 08, 2008


I had a dream last night wherein I conversed with General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner about his plans for the company post-bailout.  I guess it's fair to say the automotive apocalypse, or carpocalypse, is weighing on my mind.


The most thorough car review ever on British television.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Lessons Newton Taught Us: Furniture Exceptions

One of our rules proscribing Newton's behavior:
The dog is allowed on all furniture except the DDR mats.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Intrepid Ibex

I just installed Ubuntu 8.10, Intrepid Ibex, onto my laptop last night. The new OS seems to be working well. It's even fixed a sound problem I had with 8.4, so I'm quite pleased with it.