Thursday, December 14, 2006

Christmas Lights

Now that I'm a home ownder, I figured it was time I went through the time-honored tradition of being defeated by a strand of lights. Here are the results. Posted by Picasa

Beckman Institute

The building that holds my lab is the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, which is a fabulously nice facility. My friend Ian, who works in an organic lab in one of the older chemistry buildings refers to the BI as the Beckman Plaza Hotel. You can kind of see what he's talking about looking at the lobby decorated for the holidays. Posted by Picasa

Scott Pryor House Concert

My cousin, Scott Pryor, played a house concert at my place in Urbana at the beginning of this month. If you haven't heard him, you definitely need to check him out (of course, if you're reading my blog, odds are you're familiar with Scott's music). Posted by Picasa

Quantum Final

My quantum mechanics final exam was a take-home and I spent all of last weekend working on it (literally...stopping only to sleep, eat, and go for one quick run). Here I am surrounded by my solution set in my living room. Posted by Picasa

Thanksgiving Hike

I haven't had a chance to post for a while because I've been busy finishing up the academic part of the semester, so I've got a few updates.

We went on the annual day-after-Thanksgiving hike, this year in Bath County near Cave Run Lake, partly on the Hogpen trail.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

UK - TN Football Game

Yesterday, we drove down to Knoxville to watch the Wildcats - Volunteers football game, the last of the regular season and a long-time rivalary. My brother, #99, got to do the kickoffs for UK and even ended up being the man to knock the returner out of bounds after a missed tackel on one of the kick-offs. The game was a lot of fun, although a disappointing loss for UK (17-12) since they had 3 or 4 opportunities from within the 10 yard line in which no points were scored. The good news is that UK will be going to a bowl game this year, but we still have to wait to hear where that will be. We're probably headed to Shreveport, LA, Nashville, TN, or Memphis, TN, although there's a few other possibilities as well (which would have been more likely with a win yesterday). Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Illini Basketball

Several of my friends and I bought season basketball tickets at the University of Illinois. The games are a lot of fun even though our seats are in the third row from the top of Assembly Hall. The good news is that your seats get better for every season that you buy tickets, so by the time that I have my PhD, I should be sitting on the bench. I have adopted the habit of wearing orange--like the tens of other game attendees--although if U of I were ever to play Kentucky, I don't think I could abondon my True Blue roots. Posted by Picasa

Brownsville

I went to Brownsville this weekend to visit and had a fabulous trip. I got to see lots of friends and do many of the things I loved to do while living in Brownsville like eating and going out in Matamors, Mexico, swimming at South Padre Island (while my friends in Illinois were biking home in the snow!), and mountain biking on the Rio Grande River levees. Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera with me pretty much everywhere that I went, but I did have it at Sandesh Kadur's birthday party (affectionately known to us as Kadork or Kadorkian). I also got to go to my old school and see some of my former colleagues and students. I just got this email from one of those students:

Mr. Scott,Hey sir it was SO great seeing you again man everybody misses you sir.Well I hope that you could come back again real soon.....Take Care Oh andHappy Thanksgiving Day...... Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Going to Brownsville

My day is already complete. Last night I emailed some of my former high school students to tell them that I'm flying to Brownsville to visit and that I'll be at the school next Monday during lunch if they want to stop by a classroom and visit me. One of my students wrote me back this morning:

yyaaaaahooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!! aight sir that's the best news
ever!!!!!!!yeah i'll tell every body

Monday, November 13, 2006

Research Group

Two weeks ago, I officially joined the Gruebele Group in the chemistry department at UIUC. My research for the next several years will involve optical scanning tunneling microscopy (STM). Here's a picture of part of the ultrafast laser system that I've been working on tuning for the past several days with the lid off of the Ti-Sapphire laser, which I'll hopefully be using in the future for single-molecule energy transfer experiments in the STM. My lab is in the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, which is a really nice facility, although it's a bit far from the rest of the chemistry buildings, which will only be a slight inconvenience for the next 6 months or so while I'm still heavily involved in classes. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Tone Deaf

I've always thought myself to be tone deaf, so I had to try this tone deafness test when I came across it. I scored a 72.2%, which puts me on the upper end of "Good." How tone deaf are you?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Halloween

I had an amazing 159 trick-or-treaters for Halloween this year since I live in a cookie-cutter neighborhood that is ideal for trick-or-treating. Since the major portion of midterms were over, some of my friends came over to help hand out candy. We tortured Ian by playing the game Psychiatrist, and played several rounds of Mafia. We also played I game I haven't played in years, spoons. I caught a great photo of Emily reaching way too late to grab the last spoon. Also pictured is the great Bobby Flay recipe for Fresh Mango Batidos.

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Allerton Trail Race

Last Sunday, I ran the 5.5 mile Allerton Trail Race. I finished 2nd overall in a time of 30:53 (roughly 5:37/mile), which I was pretty pleased with considering that it was a tough course and that I've only been running 20-30 miles a week recently. It was also the first time in 3 years that I've worn spikes while racing, so my calves paid dearly for a full four days after the race, but the course was slippery from some recent rain, so I was glad that I wore them. The winner was fairly far in front, but I had to do battle for over 3 miles in order to hold my second place position, which I claimed by 8 seconds against a man 14 years my elder. It was a perfect day at a sunny 50 degrees, the event was really well run, and the race was followed by a big brunch. I'm pictured here with Sanda, who broke her goal of 45:00 by just under two seconds. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Quantum Mechanics

Our take home quantum mechanics midterm was due Monday night at 8pm, so a large group from the class (including our professor) went out to Murphy's for dinner and to celebrate the end of our exam. When we came in and were ordering, Aaron told the bartender that we'd just finished our quantum mechanics exam, to which she replied "Wow, I didn't know we had that here." Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 23, 2006

Do you use "the Google?"

The President uses "the Google."

Just because I'm probably losing my hair, does it mean I'm getting that old...?

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Chicago Marathon

I haven't posted for a week because I've been working hard at my take-home quantum mechanics midterm that is due tonight at 8. I wrapped it up this morning after working really hard Tue-Sat in order to be able to go up to the Chicago marathon to see my friends. Sandra and I got up at 4:30 Sunday morning and made the 2 hour drive up to Chicago. My college roommate and running buddy, Ben, was running the marathon as well as several of my friends from the Brownsville Marathoners. It was exciting to be at such a huge marathon even though it was cold and windy (at least it didn't rain as predicted!). Unfortunately, in the poor lighting (and the fact that I bumped my camera into the wrong mode), I don't have very good pictures from the race, but we managed a blurry one of Ben coming around the corner around 12.5 miles. What happened at the finish of the marathon was pretty terrible. Winner Robert Cheruiyot slipped and hit his head as he was crossing the finish line. What they don't tell you in any of the articles about it that I've found that you could see on TV in Chicago was that he slipped on Chicago Marathon logos that we on the street at the finish line. Before the 4th finisher had crossed, those logos were already peeled off of the street.Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 16, 2006

Canoeing

On Saturday, Sandra and I went canoeing at Kickapoo State Park about 30 miles east of Urbana near the IN border. It's really nice there with some decent hills. The water was really low, but we managed to navigate a short stretch of the Middle Fork River. Sandra's PhD makes her an expert in zooplankton, so our trip down the river gave me ample opportunity to learn about the itty-bitty animalsPosted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Ironman comes to KY

The newest in the Ironman series has been announced as the Ironman Louisville, my home state. When I first read the news, I thought about replacing it's August date with my July half Ironman and my October marathon for next year, but decided that probably wasn't advisable for two reasons: 1) I should probably do a half Ironman before an Ironman. 2) I probably won't have time to train for a full length Ironman while I'm a grad student. If #2 turns out to be true, then perhaps I'll take some time off after graduating to train for one. I'll probably pick a different Ironman than Louisville to make an exotic vacation out of it, but I can't say that I'd be very excited about swimming in the Ohio River anyway. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The #1 thing missing in south Texas

Autumn. This morning, I went out to preview the course for the Allerton Trail Race. The park is really nice, running through some rolling hills (yes, even here in IL, although small) and along a beautiful river. And there couldn't be a more beautiful time to run either. I'd be hard pressed to find a more perfect morning than a 65 degree F run through woods full of bright leaves and running streams. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 07, 2006

New Look

My half-dozen regular readers have no doubt noticed that the blog has a new look. That's because I've switched over to the new Blogger Beta. The new layout settings make it really easy to add syndicated feeds to the sidebar, so I'm toying with a few new things. Of particular note is the new feed for my training log. Starting today, I'm going to upload my runs from my Garmin Forerunner 301 to Motionbased, the 5 most recent of which will show up on the side of the blog. If you click on the link, it will show you lots of data about my run, including a Google Map, so you can even see satellite imagery of the course.

Speaking of new looks, I bought new running shoes today. New running shoes isn't usually big news since I get new shoes every 400-500 miles. The differences is that while the last two dozen or so pairs have been Nike Air Structure Triax, this time I bought different shoes. I wasn't very pleased with the new fit after the upgrade from version 8 to version 9. I tried on at least 8 pairs of shoes hoping that I would find something else that felt as perfect as the pair that I ultimately ended up buying. I bought the Asics Gel Kayano, which were hands down the most comfortable shoes I tried on, but they're unfortunately about as expensive as running shoes get. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Music

My brother sent me this piece of artwork this piece of artwork.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Quantum Mechanics

Apratim and Lindsay came over tonight to finish up our Quantum homework. (Warning: nerd joke ahead.) Lindsay asked Apartim where his hats were (the ^ that you put above a quantum mechanical operator) in one of his problems, to which Apratim replied that he doesn't use hats. So we decided that he needed one to wear while he worked. In the second picture, you can see Lindsay contributing to the land of lost integrals.
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Storytelling

This weekend was the 8th Annual Cave Run Storytelling Festival in my hometown of Morehead, KY. It was, as it always is, an amazing weekend. Some of my favorite tellers (and some new favorites) were there, as well as lots of family and old friends. Lori flew into IL from Atlanta and drove down to the festival with me, which was a lot of fun. I started going to storytelling festivals when I was about 8 years with Ben Franzini and family and several years later, several people in Morehead decided to put on their own, which is, in my opinion, better than the National Storytelling Festival. While it may be smaller, it's got the same quality of tellers and the smaller atmosphere allows you to be closer to the tellers and have a more intimate storytelling environment. Plus, you can't beat the beauty of Cave Run Lake. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Play-Doh Cologne

Got a hot date tonight? Might I suggest the eau de play-doh from Demeter Fragrance? If that fails, you could always go with "Laundromat," "Poison Ivy," or the old standby, "Vinyl." Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Boilerman Triathlon

Last night I drove to Lafayette, IN and stayed with my good buddy and former teammate Jonathan, which was fantastic. Then, this morning, I competed in my first Olympic-distance (1.5K swim, 40K bike, 10K run), the Boilerman Triathlon hosted by the Purdue tri club. Unfortunately, the organizers were not particularly organized, but the race ended up going very smoothly. I finished the race in 2:23:17 after roughly 25 minutes in the water, 70 minutes on the bike, and 35 minutes running Those are very rough estimates; I didn't hit the lap button on my watch during the race and the post-swim diziness didn't help orient me very well either (I'm getting ear plugs for the next one!). I had a lot of fun and was pleased with my race and, as expected, I toasted a lot of people on the run. It's funny that the more I do triathlon, the more addicted I get to it, but the more I realize how much I really love running.




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Friday, September 22, 2006

CNN.com - U.S. science education lags, study finds - Sep 21, 2006

This article points out a lot of what I think are obvious findings.
CNN.com - U.S. science education lags, study finds - Sep 21, 2006

Take for instance, this statement: "Part of the problem is that state and national learning standards for students in elementary and middle schools require children to memorize often-disconnected scientific facts, the report said." I was always struck by how in the chemistry TEKS (Texas' learning standards), the following TEK (10B) was given such high importance: " demonstrate and document the effects of a corrosion process and evaluate the importance of electroplating metals" when the word equilibrium--a huge idea in chemistry--doesn't even get a mention in the standards.

I'm not sure if the Reuters article is being sarcastic when they put this quote from this teacher right after talking about failing to prepare teachers:

"The report also criticized teacher training, saying undergraduate courses required for teachers were not substantial enough and schools need to support their teachers in learning more about their subject.

"Any grown-up who can read can teach middle school general sciences," said Mara Cohen, an eighth grade science teacher in New York who was certified to instruct chemistry but also teaches life and general sciences."

I would argue that it's really important that the science teachers in our schools have a solid understanding of science. Sure, if you can read and reason, you can teach curriculum straight from a textbook, but can you answer the crazy and exciting questions that are what excite children about science in the first place? I think that's incredibly valuable, and if we're going to bolster the number of science graduates that we produce in this country, we have to excite young minds about science. But don't take my word for it:

The following was an ACS commentary in Chemical & Engineering News (2006, 84, 28), in which the author makes reference to a University of Virgina Study (Science 2006, 312, 1143).

"The authors note: "An average mathematics achiever with a science-related career expectation has a higher probability of earning a baccalaureate degree in the physical sciences or engineering than a high mathematics achiever with a nonscience career expectation, 34% vs. 19%." Perhaps it's a little scary to know that career decisions can be that solidly in place in a child's mind by the eighth grade."

Of course, if you do have a solid background in science, what's the incentive in this country to be involved in primary or secondary education? After all, I'm making almost as much money to be a graduate student as I did teaching high school. If our country is serious about being competitive in science--or even just cares about generating a well-rounded, educated populus--we have to start paying competitive wages to teachers to attract the best.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

25th Birthday

A group of friends and I went out to the Mexican restaurant El Toro 2 in Champaign for my 25th birthday last week. For the last three years in college, we always went to Zapata's for my birthday and the past two years I've practically lived in Mexico, so it's become somewhat of a tradition for my birthday. My good pchem buddy (read: the person without whom I would not be surviving quantum mechanics and thermodynamics classes), Lindsay, made a delicious strawberry pound cake that we ate for my birthday, which you can see me slicing (read: chopping) in this picture. Speaking of birthdays, I got a sweet birthday present in the mail from State Farm, a check for over $100 for the discount in my premium that I get just for turning 25. I could have gotten cheaper car insurance earlier by getting married, but I opted to hold out for 25 instead :).Posted by Picasa