Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Illinois Bans Smoking in Public Places - washingtonpost.com

I learned in the 5th grade that when a bill passes Congress and goes to the President's desk, he has ten days to take action on it or it automatically becomes a law. I began to question my 5th grade (or whatever grade it actually was) civics memory recently because several months ago the Illinois legislature passed a statewide smoking ban, but the newspaper for months referred to it as a piece of legislation that the governor is expected to sign. I did my research, however, and confirmed that 10 days is the case with the US President, but in Illinois, the legislature has 30 days to give the passed bill to the governor after which point he has 60 days to take action on it before it becomes state law.

I was pleased that the statewide smoking ban passed, though, because of the ridiculousness here in Champaign-Urbana. Both cities passed smoking bans that went into effect this January. In May, just days after Illinois passed the statewide ban, the city of Champaign (although not Urbana) repealed their smoking ban despite knowing that they would be trumped by state law in just 7 months. Maybe they thought the governor, who has alienated just about everybody from both parties, wouldn't sign it in the infinite amount of time this state gives him. Yesterday, however, the governor signed the ban into law:

Illinois Bans Smoking in Public Places - washingtonpost.com

Thursday, July 12, 2007

USATF Championships and my Broken Camera

A few weeks ago, I went to the USATF Outdoor Track and Field National Championships in Indianapolis with my friend Jake. We sat on the second row and saw some amazing races, some pictures of which can be seen here. Unfortunately, I dropped my Canon Powershot S50 and broke the LCD. Reading around on the Internet, I discovered that it would be much cheaper to try to repair the camera myself, rather than sending it off for repair. I called Canon's New Jersey Parts center and ordered a new LCD for $49 including tax and shipping, which arrived within a couple of days. Then, I used this great website and in under an hour, had a fully-functional camera again.

Trek Bike Helmet

One of the pieces of the ZipTite (the part that helps hold the helmet snugly to your head) on my Trek Sonic bike helmet recently broke. I emailed Customer Service from Trek's webiste and asked if there was any way that I could find a replacement for the part. Not only did they email me back unbelievably quickly, but once they identified the exact part that they needed from a few emails back and forth, they asked for my address and are sending me the replacement part for free. I've had the helmet for 2.5 years and they are sending me the part no questions asked. I was really impressed.

Pictured here is my beautiful bike helmet on a ride on the Rio Grande in Brownsville (Mexico in the background) taken last spring.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Who doesn't need one of these?

This product is hilarious. But even funnier is the video.

Unclutterer: Unitasker Wednesday: The Towel-matic paper towel dispenser


My garden is thriving right now and I picked the first of my zucchini this morning while I was watering. Here's a picture of my monstrous vegetable. Delicious!
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

My friend featured by Nature

My friend Aaron Finke, who is an organic chemistry graduate student here at UIUC, has been running a chemistry blog, carbon-based curiosities. The journal Nature has a podcast and in the June edition, you can hear him starting at about 7 minutes in regarding the chemistry blogosphere.
Podcast : chemistry@nature.com

Monday, July 02, 2007

Sophisticated Science with Aluminum Foil

We finally finished the repairs on our STM and are now doing what is known as a bake out in order to get our system back to ultra-high vacuum (UHV). This involves wrapping heating tapes around the instrument and then wrapping it with multiple layers of aluminum foil to distribute and insulate the heat. The heating causes particles that have been adsorbed to the interior of the chamber walls to come free. These particles are then evacuated from the chamber by a variety of pumps, which allows us to create a pristine, low-pressure system. Pictured here are my lab mate and me along with the great mythical foil beast.
Posted by Picasa