December 30, 2008

Holiday Time

In celebration of New Year's Eve Eve, I give you my list of holidays in order of expectation/payoff ratio:

  1. New Year's
  2. Valentine's Day
  3. Christmas
  4. Halloween
  5. Birthday
  6. St. Patrick's Day
  7. 4th of July
  8. Thanksgiving

As thousands of sad, lonely people have already observed, it is basically impossible to have a good time on New Year's Eve, because all you can think about the whole night is why you're not having a more fantastic time. That is why it comes in first. Valentine's Day is ranked above Christmas for the simple reason that most of the non-male population have romantic-comedy level expectations for it, and all the single people expect to not be totally miserable on that day. Neither of the expectations have any chance of being met. Christmas, though usually not as good as all the trappings indicate, is still possible to enjoy to a reasonable extent as long as you like eggnog and have grown used to the idea that you are getting socks again.

On the other end of the spectrum, no one who wants to eat a gigantic meal and fall asleep watching football can be disappointed by Thanksgiving. All we expect is food, and familial strife is considered a cliche at this point, so that makes it tough to ruin the expectation balance. Similarly, all you have to do on the 4th of July is have some hotdogs and fireworks; St. Patrick's Day some beer and corned beef.

December 9, 2008

There Are Better Sources of Riboflavin

An annoying girl in my morning math class was drinking out of a pint-sized half-and-half carton today. One of the types with the plastic screw top.

There are two possibilities here, and I don't know which is worse. Either she was drinking cream, as advertised (at least having the good sense to cut it with milk). Or she finished using the container and said to herself "Now this thing would be perfect for storing liquids in! I should wash it out, refill it with a commonly accepted beverage, and take it with me to use in public."

This is only the latest in the string of extremely weird dietary choices my friend and I have spotted among students of this class. Last week a different girl was consuming what appeared to be individually wrapped balls of dough with jelly on the inside. We spent much of class debating the meaning of this item. Before that, there was someone chowing down on gray, pencil-sized sticks of something out of a crinkly wrapper. There is only one class left, and I'm hoping to see a candy apple or a gigantic turkey drumstick.

December 6, 2008

Criminal Code Duello

I was perusing the website that lists R.I. criminal offenses some time ago (who doesn't) and came across this anachronistic gem:

§ 11-12-2 Challenging or accepting challenge to duel. – Every person who shall challenge another to fight a duel with any dangerous weapon, to the hazard of life, and every person who shall accept a challenge to fight such duel, although no duel be fought, shall be imprisoned not exceeding seven (7) years nor less than one year.

Here is what I must know about this:
a) When was the last time someone was prosecuted under this law?
b) How hard would it be to get locked up for it? Not actually engaging in one, but simply invoking the challenge? If stood within earshot of a police officer and said to a friend, loudly and clearly and without laughing, "I hereby challenge you to a duel of honor! Pistols at dawn upon the Statehouse lawn, with hazard of life. I demand satisfaction!" and the friend said "I accept!"...would we be arrested?

(This is comprehensive and fascinating by the way: Wikipedia - List of Duels. Who doesn't love a good list?)

Galileo Galileo!

It is well known among astronomers that Brian May, the guitarist from Queen has a PhD in astrophysics. The interesting part is that he was a graduate student at the time Queen took off, nearly finished with his dissertation, only to return a few years ago and complete his degree. He had published in Nature, and MNRAS on topics of interplanetary dust, but the lure of worldwide rock & roll fame overtook him, as it does many a prospective astronomer.

Sure, they may spend 30 years touring the world, earning millions of dollars and adoring fans, but they always come back for the radial velocities of dust clouds. That's where the real action is. (Fewer groupies though...)

NPR's Day to Day - Queen's Brian May Rocks an Astrophysics Rhapsody