Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Shopping

I finally got off my ass and decided to wrap the gifts I got for everyone for Christmas. Although I'm not entirely done shopping (I have at least one more item to get), I figured I shouldn't put off wrapping until the last minute, that can only lead to a mad rush which results in terrible wrapping.

Did I say terrible wrapping? I meant horrible-did-a-troll-wrap-that wrapping. I am admittedly a bad wrapper... I can never cut straight. So either I'm mildly retarded or I have a crooked head. But things got wrapped that's for sure! The only thing I was missing was tissue paper for gift bags, which I've decided are made for people like me; those too inept to wrap anything with wrapping paper. The best wrapping jobs that I have were not done by me... but gift wrapped by lady at the store... but my wrapping paper is better (Snoopy!).

I also ran a quick check on how much I ended up spending on gifts. I miraculously hit my target... I didn't think it was possible. And yes, that's including the gift I still have to get. I still may splurge if I find something perfect for someone, so who knows. I could be predicting a victory way to early.

Null Physics

I had, for some time, been saving a bookmark in Firefox for a subject entitled "Null Physics" created by Terrance Witt. Now I do not remember where I first heard of this, I think it was probably an ad on Facebook which already had me doubting, but I thought, hey, scientists are supposed to be open minded and look at everything with equal validity a priori. So I did. Boy was that a waste of time.

There are numerous inconsistencies with Witt's theory and observation as well as his logical deductions which have no mathematical foundation, just his rationalization. Take for instance, the neutron. By the Standard Model of particle physics it is posited that the neutron is composed of three quarks who's fractional charges sum to zero. His "theory" however states that the neutron is a proton and a "bound electron". The bound electron, he believes, is fundamentally different than a "free electron" that we are usually accustomed to. In fact, this bound electron changes from a fermion with spin 1/2 to a boson with spin 0 although he has no mathematical reasoning as to why or how this happens. He simply asserts this and assumes it's validity because it's "logical". Right... well last time I looked p + e = H. Yes, a proton and an electron is that mystical element known as Hydrogen! Wow, this is amazing. And no, you don't need the electron to change it's spin in order to get this to work out.

When confronted with this argument and various other arguments on neutron decay and other experiments verifying that indeed a neutron is made up of three quarks, Witt scoffs at the notion. With neutron decay, a n -> p+e+v where v is an (anti)neutrino. This was a theoretical prediction which remained unproven for years until the neutrino was finally discovered. Now, Witt doesn't have any theoretical framework to encompass neutrinos in his original work. But on a forum that I read through, Witt asserted that the neutrinos could be explained as "bound photons" which exist in an excited state. HUGE problem with this. If neutrinos are actually photons, this would asserts that neutrinos would be massless, since photons are massless. But in fact, there is strong experimental evidence that neutrinos have mass, it's just a very, very small amount.

So, right there, his theory falls apart. Although I never read a post that included neutrino mass as an argument against his theory, several other arguments were made and he could not successfully defend his theory against any of them. In fact, he was even audacious enough to suggest that his theory does not reduce to any currently accepted mathematical theory under limiting conditions and that it does not need to. This is because his theory is not mathematical. Now... I'd disagree along with EVERY other physicist in the world. Take classical Newtonian motion... it's a limiting case of Einstein's Special Relativity where the speed of the object is much much less than that of the speed of light in a vacuum. For a theory to be logically consistent it must agree with experiment and observation.

What is sad is that he readily urges people to read Lee Smolin's book, "The Trouble with Physics" and argues his foundational ideas on the material in this book. Now, it just so happens that I read this book, for reasons not related to Null Physics, and Smolin does indeed point out where current theory falls short and where there is room for improvement in the current state of physics. But, Smolin is also a well known theoretical physicist who has worked on both String Theory and Loop Quantum Gravity which are both highly mathematical theories which seek to unify the laws of physics into one grand theory. But using Smolin's book as a theoretical backdrop to a theory which is supposed to lead to why and how the universe was created is utterly unacceptable.

This is the kind of bad science that Smolin talks about in his book... except his deals with ACTUAL mathematical theories which have shown signs of being consistent. The worst part of all is that Witt has spent, apparently, large amounts of money to advertise his book and his idea on Facebook and in magazines like Smithsonian. I surely hope that the public is not reading his jibberish and believing for a minute that it constitutes a consistent theory. Witt refuses to publish ACTUAL journal articles or to approach the scientific community for reinforcement... mostly because he knows that he won't get it, although he sites Smolin's book as to why instead of accepting that he won't because the theory is jibberish.

So all in all... Null Physics is just that, Null... nothing, pointless and a waste of human time, effort and resources. Go Google it if you wish... read up on it, and then see for yourself. But I tell you, you are wasting your time.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


As an astronomer, there is one thing I dread... installing IRAF. The Image Reduction and Analysis Facility software package is a linux environment, essentially, that aids in the reduction of image data. For astronomers, this basically means taking raw, observational data, and converting it into a usable form by ridding the data of bad pixels and any other detector and telescope anomalies.

The thing is... it sucks to install! I've had to do it three times now, every time I update my linux system I have to reinstall it. Now this could be avoided by following their guide to placing the files in a convenient place so that an upgrade does not overwrite them... but I always do a fresh install because if anyone has ever updated linux, they know that when you upgrade your system... it will stop working. Packages on the "old" system are somehow more recent than package for the "new" system and thus the new system's packages do not get installed and it's just a mess... especially because those packages always seem to be the GCC packages... kind of essential to the ENTIRE system.

So as a result I'm always stuck reinstalling IRAF. This time is went slightly more smoothly, the packages were installed in the correct directory the firs time! Normally, they end up in a wrong directory or you're not quite sure where to put them the first time you install the packages, so they end up in a wrong directory and all hell subsequently breaks loose. As I said, I got the packages in the correct spot, this in itself was amazing. Next, all I had to do was run the installer as the IRAF user (yes it needs it's own user account on the machine, do not ask me why, I just follow instructions). Easy enough, right!? No... of course not. It keeps telling me that it won't be available to all users because it doesn't have the correct permissions so only the IRAF user and root will be able to run the software. At least it told me before it installed! I can be thankful for that. So after about 15 minutes of searching for the correct permissions to grant the files, I found it and was able to get it installed; wonderful!

The last and final step, test run the packages to make sure it all work and to great your IRAF login file. So I hopped back over to my user account to do this, ran mkiraf, which makes your login file... then I ran cl, which is the command to essentially start the program... didn't work. It said I was missing a file, "" which is a library file apparently needed by the IRAF environment. Great... this is fantastic... enter Google. I found the library rpm file on RPM Finder, there we go, problem solved. Except... the file won't install on my system, apparently it's not a REAL rpm (it is but my system didn't believe it). After some more searching (a solid 2 or 3 hours worth) on the IRAF user forum (where everyone posts their numerous issues with installing IRAF), I found the answer.

In Fedora 9 the package was succeeded by the ncurses libraries. So after making a symbolic link from to, all was happy and everything works! I'm now just waiting to see what the next devious error IRAF has in store for me!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

One Down

While my first term at Dartmouth has been at an end for a little over a week, only now, I believe can I actually consider complete. Today I received my last grade. I have to say I was nervous about how I was going to do... not that I doubted my ability to pass, but no matter what, no matter how well I did in a class during the term, I always get nervous about the final grade. Luckily, graduate school at Dartmouth does a little to ease that worry by sticking to a pass/fail system.

Now, the pass/fail system is a little different, in that they have certain levels of pass: HP - High Pass, P - Pass, LP - Low Pass, and NC - No Credit. Sounds like a grading scheme that we've seen before, A=HP, so on and so forth. Now, I would agree, to an extent, except that the Pass grade encompasses basically everything and HP is difficult to achieve. So here is how my grades broke down:

Stat. Mech. - P
Math Methods - P
Classical Mech. - HP

I must say, I'm very excited about the HP in Classical, I put a lot of effort into the class and it seems to have paid off. I probably could have put more effort into math and stat. mech., but I'm not too worried about it since it's about what you learned and not about the grade... especially when you either pass or you don't!

One term down... 19 more to go (if I get out in 5 years!).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Classical Mechanics

I have just realized that I never complete what I set out to do a couple months ago; to tell you about each one of my classes were about. Since I'm sure you are so excited about the prospect of reading about physics, I will enlighten you on yet another one of the courses, classical mechanics.

Classical mechanics is basically what people learn in the introductory physics classes, except in a new formulation. First off, some people may be wondering, well, what makes the physics "classical". The short answer is that classical physics is done on scales that render quantum effect negligible. For instance, the dynamics of planetary bodies or spinning tops are such that any quantum effects are suppressed and we can analyse the systems ignoring quantum contributions.

For this class we used two textbooks, of which, one is a classic, having been used for practically every graduate level mechanics course since it was written. The two textbooks were as follows:

1) Theoretical Mechanics of Particles and Continua - Fetter and Walecka
2) Classical Mechanics (3rd ed) - Herbert Goldstein et al. (the classic)

I must say, that we actually did not utilize Goldstein much, except as a supplement to our readings and to provide a clear understanding of material that Fetter and Walecka (FW) were brief on. FW had a good organization to it, the material was presented in good order, but they were too terse most times and their problems were ridiculously hard given their description of the material. Goldstein on the other hand, was almost too detailed, going off on numerous tangents, but it's a very complete text with problems that range from moderately easy to "wtf hard".

The material presented in the course began with Central Force problems (planetary orbits, particle scattering) presented in a fashion that was note too much different than introductory physics in FW. FW's chapter 1 was Goldstein's chapter 3, but Goldstein introduced the Lagrangian formulation in chapters 1 and 2 while that was left for FW's chapter 3. So here is how the material progressed with chapter numbers indicated:

A) Central Force (FW 1, G 3)
B) Accelerating Reference Frames (FW 2, G 4)
C) Lagrangian Formulation (FW 3, G 1+2)
D) Small Oscillations (FW 4, G 6)
E) Rigid Body Dynamics (FW 5, G 5)
F) Canonical Transformations and Hamiltonian Dynamics (FW 6, G 8+9+10)
G) Canonical Perturbation Theory (G 12)

Basically, most of the course is focused, as is the undergraduate classical mechanics course, on the lagrangian formulation of classical mechanics. Whereas in intro. physics we utilize force diagrams and compare forces using the Newtonian formulation (F = m*a), we utilize the energy of the system and define what is called a Lagrangian (L = T - V) were T is the kinetic energy of the system and V is the potential. Now this can be done in any coordinate system, but we always wish to transform to generalized coordinates, so instead of an x-y-z system, it may be easier to utilize spherical polar coordinates to describe the system (r-theta-phi). It can be shown that (and I will show you if you'd like) using an equation known as the Euler-Lagrange equation that the Lagrangian leads to Newton's second law immediately with little fuss over forces. The biggest downfall is that friction becomes a bear to work with so most all examples and problems are frictionless, but the mathematics is much easier to work with than is Newton's formulation for complex systems.

Is it really that much better? Well, here is an example that would be a bear in Newtonian mechanics. This is also an easy example off of my mechanics final.
A bead of mass M is threaded on a hoop, also of mass M and is free to move about the hoop. The hoop is attached to a bearing system that allows the hoop to swing like a pendulum. If we tap the system it goes in motion. Describe the motion of the bead on the hoop.

With Newtonian mechanics this would suck. With Lagrangian formulation it's really straight forward.

We also focused on the Hamiltonian formulation, which is just another way to formulate mechanics. It actually does not really make solving the problem any easier, it's just easier to work with at times since you try and make all of your variables constant using canonical transforms. No new physics involved, just a mathematical construct.

The course was really interesting, I particularly enjoyed the Hamiltonian formulation of mechanics and the subsequent Hamilton-Jacobi theory along with action-angle variables. Might not mean much, but it was fun and interesting to me.

Winter Day

Now that I have finished my finals and have completed my first term here at Dartmouth, I find myself able to relax, for once, and enjoy my time however I wish. Over the past couple days I finished the majority of my Christmas shopping, something I normally do not complete until right before Christmas, like most. Being located near Hanover (or in it if I'm at my office) has it's advantages. It is very easy to find unique gifts for everyone from the little stores that have nestled into town. There are no chain stores in Hanover, even the Barnes and Noble bookstore is called the Dartmouth Bookstore and all ties to Barnes and Nobles are blocked out. I enjoy these little shops, though. They seem to carry products of greater quality, on average, although you will most certainly pay a higher price. That is alright, though, it's Christmas time and people are worth the few extra dollars.

I also did my shopping at the usual chain stores, including Walmart and Borders. As much as the small stores have unique gifts, some of the most practical can be found in a place like Walmart for a fraction of the price. Why would I pay more for the same product in a smaller store when I can get it in Walmart for much, much less? I mean, grocery stores around here charge $9.00 for Starbucks coffee... it is $7.00 in Walmart. I by no means need Starbucks coffee, but it is good, I have to admit.

I have also taken the time to enjoy watching the snow fall, as I am now, sitting on my couch drinking my afternoon coffee. I have always enjoyed winter, especially the snow. There is no more magically time of year where grumps and scrooges are mystically transformed into moderately less grumpy and scroogy people. I have also been able to enjoy books once again... I mean, aside from textbooks. Do not get me wrong, I enjoy my textbooks and the material is great, but it's a lot more relaxing to read whatever you want instead. A

Anyhow, I have tons more I can say, but I get sick of typing and I'm sure you're sick of reading about my monotonous life. So I'll let you escape... for now.

Friday, December 5, 2008


As a user of the Linux operating system, Fedora 9 currently, I find myself, at times, frustrated by the fact that the software for Linux is not always as solid as that for Windows or Mac. Now, this is generally expected, and it is truly amazing the software packages that Linux has considering it is all open source. I also like to rub it in the face of die hard Windows users that my system uses staggeringly less memory... and to those who use Mac... you'll find your way out of debt sometime in the next two centuries, I promise. Anyway, the real purpose of this post was to say that, finally, iTunes has come to Linux!

Well... not really. In fact, it's not even made by Apple. It is however, made by one of the best open source companies in existence, Mozilla. Yes, first it was Firefox and Thunderbird, now it's Songbird. Songbird is an open source media player and web browser combined! Yes take iTunes and a lower level Firefox, smash them together and you get Songbird, minus a few features of each that happened to fly off in either direction.

Still, Songbird 1.0 is thus far fantastic. I have yet to have any issue with it, although I'm sure bugs will occur eventually. But for a first release, the web browsing capabilities are solid, based off of the Gecko engine. Speaking of a bug... I just held my backspace key to delete one of my numerous mistypings and the player tweaked, but found it's footing again. Wow, am I good to predict a bug or what!? Not an issue I'm too concerned about... just tried to replicate it with no success.

So I say, if you are looking for a "light weight" iTunes, try Songbird, you might find that you enjoy it's layout and web capabilities and decide to go the way of Mozilla instead of Apple for your media player. Now if you like "super light weight" media players, this is not for you. It has flashy graphics, if you'd like it to, and is still very similar to iTunes... in fact, here is a screenshot with the iTunes theme installed. Very slick, I highly recommend this player, especially to those who run Linux and have found that Apple's lack of interest in releasing iTunes on Linux to be upsetting.

Thanks Mozilla!

And yes, I am using the Songbird browser to write this, as you may have guessed from the bug earlier!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

NHL All Star Voting

I've voted several times now, but here are my most recent picks:

I encourage you, if you are a fan of the NHL to go vote... it's more important than the presidency... okay, well... not that important. Still, go vote! The current standings are a little lop sided, I think the Canadians fans and the Red Wings fans set up a bot to vote for their players. The web guys have taken care of this issue and added the usual "type what's in the box" feature to prevent this from happening.

Friday, October 24, 2008

First Tests

This week I had my first two tests at graduate school, one in Classical Mechanics and then one in Statistical Thermodynamics. Now, Stat. Mech. is an undergrad course, so I suppose that it probably doesn't count in most people's minds as being a real "test" at the graduate level, but the course material can be tedious to remember. There are a lot of variables floating around and you really have to have a good understanding of the material to expect to even do remotely well. Some courses you can just memorize equations and then, bam, you have your solutions... not for this class! But having just finished it, literally just 12 minutes ago, I feel entirely confident that I aced the test. Now I do not want to jinx it, but I flew through it and only stumbled a couple times, just to pick myself up and complete every part.

As for classical mechanics... well, that's a different story. The test was hard, not to the point of not being do-able, but it was hard none the less. My derivations were solid, all except for the derivation for the reduced mass of a multi-body system; it escaped me once I sat down at the table with the test in hand despite having just had looked at it no less than 20 minutes prior to the test. I knew the definition of a reduced mass, so hopefully that will suffice seeing as we had to describe how to take a 6 dimensional system down to 1 dimension and the reduced mass kills three dimensions all on its own. I'm feeling somewhat confident... I think... which means I'm not at all, but all of the other students seemed to have gotten the same solutions as I did; we'll see how that goes. There was one question, though, that she puts on every year and no one can answer... well, she doesn't really have the answer, it's a conceptual question that the professors here can not even seem to answer - so I think that not answering that one won't count against me.

So here's the breakdown in my head:

Statistical Mechanics: Success
Classical Mechanics: Who Knows...

Well, off to do Classical Mechanics homework due this evening.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Physics Question #2

This problem has come to be known as Olber's Paradox, something familiar to those involved in astrophysics:

Suppose that the Universe is infinitely large and would then contain an infinite number of uniformly distributed stars. This would indicate, then, that the night sky should not, in fact, be dark, it should be infinitely bright! Even if the stars are at a great distance away, there would be more stars at that distance, and thus a large amount of light. So why then, does the night sky appear dark?

Now, one could easily use Google to find a solution to this apparent paradox, but try not to do that, you won't be exercising your mind if you do. Just take a few moments, think, and then post your proposed solution. If you would like, you can then Google it, but I shouldn't take as long to answer this one as I did the previous.

Stepping Back

As I sit here at my office desk, staring at my math and mechanics homework, I can't help but think to myself, gee, I should really be doing that and not writing on my blog. It just seems to make more sense that way. But after careful consideration, I realize that at times you have to step back and take a breather. While it means your work does not get done, it does allow you to refocus your mind by clearing away all of the clutter that has been building up over the weeks. I have always found that, sometimes, the best way to solve a problem that you're stuck on, is to leave it alone for at least 10 minutes. This helps clear your mind of the path that you have convinced yourself works... but in the end doesn't. It seems, though, that if you do not step away, then you just keep trying the same process over and over with the same results (usually a deep sigh and a tossing of the pencil).

A great example of how stepping away is good for the mind, this past weekend I travelled to Oswego to visit my girlfriend for my birthday. As much as I was freaking out in my head about not studying for my test in mechanics I had on Monday, it was quite refreshing to be out shopping with her and to get to spend time with her relaxing. It was great, we went to all of our usual stops, Kohls, Walmart, Barnes and Noble, and the Great Northern Mall. We also got pizza at Enzo's which is by far the best and cheapest pizza in the world - one of the good things to come out of Oswego!

As I said, though, I visited for my birthday, so we celebrated with a dinner at Chili's (our usual restaurant, and she gave me lavish gifts. Now, by lavish I don't mean the most expensive in the world - I wouldn't want that stuff anyway - but she got me things that I've been wanting and needing: a thermos for coffee, socks, bed sheets, tons of candy, a lunch bag and slippers. May not sound interesting to the common person, but I'm thrilled with it all, especially the slippers and thermos! I like my feet warm (especially with the temperature of my apartment) and my coffee hot!

Anywho, I'm sure I have just a ton of stuff to write about and thoughts to express, but I don't care to spend that kind of time doing it right now... maybe later, or next week... or who knows when (probably whenever mechanics homework isn't that hard... so never?). And by the way, I have posted the answer to the Physics Question as a comment on that post. I should probably post another one!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Packed Day

I haven't done this in a while, but I felt that I needed to elaborate on a dilemma which has presented itself to me this morning. I thought I had my day all planned out, work on my Statistical Mechanics homework... well, mainly rewriting it in a presentable form, followed by my two hour Classical Mechanics course. Nothing out of the ordinary here, just my usual Tuesday morning. However, it's in the afternoon that things start to get crazy. At 2pm I have an NSF workshop (which I will most definitely elaborate on later) which is designed to help students present a strong application to the NSF Fellowship Committee in order to obtain outside funding for research over the next 3 years. This is a two hour workshop, thus taking up a large chunk of my afternoon which could be used for finishing up both Statistical Mechanics and Math Methods homework (both due tomorrow).

Now, there is also a public lecture tonight at 7pm by a NASA astrophysicist dealing with our Sun and it's impact on near-Earth space. Should be interesting. But, unfortunately, this is also the time allocated by my Math Methods TA for office hours which I may or may not need to attend. Hopefully not! Finally, this morning, I got my usual D2U email which is a daily Dartmouth email about the events going on everyday. Well today, General Abizaid, a retired Four Star General will be giving a talk at 4:30pm on US-Middle East relations, which should be a very interesting talk... but that's during my dinner hours! Oh Lord... I wonder if General Abizaid would mind if I ate during his talk? I don't know, we'll see. I'll let you know what my chosen course was later, as well as answer the Physics Question I posed!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Physics Question

Here we go, why not throw out an age old physics question:

Imagine, if you will, a plane sitting on a large conveyor belt which is as wide and as long as a runway. The treadmill is designed to match the speed of the wheels, moving in the opposite direction. Can the plane take off?

This question normally stirs up quite a debate, do you think you know without looking it up on the internet? Just think about it, consider the system and the particular physical interactions that are occurring. I'll post an answer to this in a week or so.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Peanuts & Thermo.

Linus seems to have a firm grasp of Thermodynamics. This was the peanuts comic strip for today, and I thought it was perfect timing.

Now I would relate this, also, to my life... I would be Linus pointing out these issues and my girlfriend would be Lucy...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Normal Approach

XKCD Comic #55... absolutely hilarious! And now for an XKCD variation which appears on a t-shirt which changes the Fourier transform to a Laplace transform. Pure genius.

Statistical Mechanics

For my first instalment of class descriptions I have chosen to write about the undergraduate course I am taking as a "filler". Now, it's deemed a filler due to the fact that I have taken Thermodynamics already, at Oswego, but have not had Statistical Mechanics (Stat. Mech.), so in order to prepare for my graduate level Stat. Mech. course in the Spring, I need to fill in the gaps.

You may be wondering, if you're not a physicist, which I'm guessing most people aren't, what is the difference between Thermodynamics and Stat. Mech.? Or, for that matter, what about them is the same; how are they related? This takes a little prior background knowledge to explain, so let me teach you a little qualitative physics which explain the two topics. Thermodyanics is the study of energy, and for that part, so is Stat. Mech. Mainly, the conversion of energy and the transformation of energy from one form to another is the primary focus of both topics. For example, heating a cup of coffee in the microwave turns electrical energy into waves which in turn vibrate the water molecules in the coffee, thus increasing the average kinetic energy of the particles. As a result, this increases the temperature of the coffee. During this whole process, though, energy is conserved in one form or another. We know that in the Universe energy can not be created or destroyed, only converted into different forms. So in manner of speaking, thermodynamics is the study of the conservation of energy.

The primary difference between Stat. Mech. and what I had, Classical Thermodynamics, is the treatment of the system which they study. In Classical Thermodynamics, the treatment of the processes are done on a macroscopic scale (large). When working in this area, we are not concerned with the physics of the individual molecules, only the system as a whole. This is great for engineering, but from the aspect of a physicist, we want to know everything that is happening with in the system. We take a look at the microscopic state (microstate) of the system and how that relates to the macroscopic state (macrostate). In order to do this, though, we can't describe each particle or molecule individually, that would be ridiculous considering that one mole of gas contains 6.023x1023 molecules! Also, since we are dealing with microstates and with molecules and particles we have to treat the system quantum mechanically. In order to circumnavigate the difficulties of the shear size of our system, we utilize statistical tools for study the molecules. Molecules and particles don't all act in the same manner, but, they do act similarly based on probabilities. Thus, we may not be able to say exactly what a particle is doing before we observe it, but we can calculate a probability for what it is doing. In this fashion we can evaluate a large number of particles very easily and thus formulate the physics of the macrostate from knowledge of the microstate.

The course, thus far, is fairly straight forward and honestly, rather easy. It helps that the textbooks we are using are very verbose and contain great descriptions of the physics, not only in terms of mathematics (quantitatively) but also in basic words (qualitatively). The two text books for the class are as follows:

"Fundamentals of Statistical and Thermal Physics" by Frederick Reif (1965)
"An Introduction to Thermal Physics" by Daniel Schroeder (2000)

Both are good books, very descriptive - but I find that Reif is the more thorough book. This is mostly because it is clearly meant for upper division undergraduate course work where Schroeder could be utilized for a Sophmore level class. Schroeder, though, is a much better writer in terms of "dumbing" the material down and creating an active reading environment, whereas Reif is a little more dull in his writing but is very thorough and intensive. I personally enjoy reading Reif more (incorporates more quantum aspects). This course is definitely a good relief from the rigor of Classical Mechanics and Mathematical Methods, both of which are intensive graduate courses.


Finally! Three weeks after having moved into my apartment in West Lebanon, NH, I was delivered a router allowing me to set up a wireless network. Now, I say finally as if I had been waiting for a delivery guy for weeks... no, that's not the case at all. In fact, I didn't have to pay for this one! I was waiting until I had a paycheck or two put away before I invested in a router. Luckily, though, I was able to obtain one for free and considerably sooner than I had anticipated. It is such a nice feeling to finally be able to unplug in my own apartment and not have to sit on the floor so that I can reach the modem with my ethernet cable! So hopefully, or so it's the plan, I'll be on my computer more often at home after the long hours in the office at Dartmouth which will in turn, lead to me blogging more often. We shall see!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Graduate Courses

So I have had my first half week as a Dartmouth Graduate student. This involved three days of classes, Wednesday-Friday. This term (yes term, we're not on the semester system) I am taking 5 courses, two of which are "seminar" classes. I'll explain in a bit. The other 3 courses that I'm enrolled in are Physics courses, the ones that deal with material that will end up on my PhD qualifying exam in a years time. These courses are as follows: Statistical Mechanics, Mathematical Methods, and Classical Mechanics.

The physics courses constitute most of the time I will spend in my office this semester... oh yeah! I have an office, not to myself, but with the other first year graduates. In total, I am one of 7 in the office, a large office with about 10 large desks and numerous filing cabinets. Needless to say, we have a lot of room around us and are quite comfortable in our own niches. This comfort, though, is great to facilitate learning; being around the other students whom you can talk things over with, it's quiet, located on the third floor of the Physics and Astronomy Building (Wilder Hall) away from the lecture halls and most of the traffic in the building, and finally, it's comfy and there is nothing else to do but do homework and read... this is good for someone like me who enjoys procrastinating.

The two seminars are courses on "Scientific Integrity" and "Teaching". Here we learn about ethics in the lab and in our work in general, including homework and then we learn how to TA, respectively. The seminars are important to our education and although they add a work load to our already immense work load, I welcome these courses.

In the future I intend to write about each class individually, describe the content and a little about the material specifically as well as the text book(s) that we are using. I think it will be a good insight into what really goes on in class and what I'm really learning.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Welcome to Dartmouth

I have tons to write about but am currently sitting in my office with the intent of studying for my "no fault" qualifying exam on Thursday, but am I? No, not really. I am going to be brief though and just inform the public that I have moved into my apartment, taken care of all my paperwork and have had my first year orientation. Now, the fun begins and I embark on a journey of hell. Off to study and try and get a little review in before my qual... and oh yes, I register for classes tomorrow. More later, I promise.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Last March of the Ents

First, there's a crack of the wood as the grain pulls apart, followed by the thud of the maul slamming into the chopping platform below the log. It's actually nothing fancy, just a larger piece of the trunk from a tree that we had cut down recently. The tree was dying and would have caused massive damage no matter what direction it fell; either on our house, our cars, the shed and everything inside, or into the moderately busy street we live on here in the woods of New Hampshire.

I rather hate the idea of cutting down trees; they have a striking beauty about them as they stand towering over all the creatures and beings living below. Trees are wise, having seen many hundreds of years, these trees have witnessed more history than any other individual being. I believe that all animals, including humans, have a connection with nature, all living in harmony with one another. And though humans have seemingly lost touch with nature, the connection still exists, even if it might be the minute remnant of what it once was. We have squandered our relationship with nature, hacking, slashing and burning our way in order to be ever more "civilized"... for apparently the more you destroy and overpower nature the more civilized you become by today's standards. Why is it that we have taken such great advantage of the beings that have fostered our creation and evolution? Is it the lust for power over all that is, was and ever will be? Or maybe something more simple, a lack of understanding for just how much nature is apart of our lives, both past and present?

Plants and animals have bore disease among us, yet they also provide the solutions. Would we vanquish the man or woman who has found the cure for HIV/AIDS? What about the one who discovers a serum which causes Cancer to flee the body? We would not bring death among these people, nay, to the contrary, we would propel them to a level of glory which would be envied by the kings of old. So why then, are we reigning death among the natural world? Our fellow man may never discover the cures of our worst ailments without Her. If just one species of plant is burned into extinction before it's properties can be analyzed, we may miss out on the opportunity to triumph over these illnesses.

The unnatural death of a tree fills my heart with sorrow, as if a part of my soul has died as well. I did not agree with the decision to put an end to this tree's life. Although it was old and withering, it's leaves, hardly budding, it still had some life to live and it had the intention to do so. Just as we would not end the life of an elderly person, just because their skin is wrinkled, we should not end the life of a tree which has not gasped for it's last breath, a breath which provides us with our next, transforming CO2 into Oxygen which we inhale and expel CO2, the next breath for the tree. Harmony. Life as we know it would not exist if it were not for plant life.

So how then, can I enjoy chopping wood, knowing that a tree must have died for it to be possible. While occasionally I find myself chopping wood that has had the misfortune of being at the mercy of the human will, I have no argument against chopping wood that has past due to natural causes. Silly... maybe to you, but not to me. The time honored tradition of chopping firewood puts me at ease, relieves my stress and allows me to, even just for a moment, escape the fast paced world that we exist in.

Chopping wood is as much a honed skill as it is a measure of brute force, in fact, I would take a more accurate and intelligent chopper than the strongest brute. Finding the right fissure in the grain and exploiting the natural characteristics of the wood takes a bit of thought and planning followed by an accurate swing. If the appropriate technique is applied with some forethought, little to no effort is needed aside from the raising of the axe (or maul). It is a satisfying way to pass the time and still accomplish a needed task, a task that I would gladly perform any day - especially in the winter... there is a much greater aura surrounding chopping in the winter. It brings me great pleasure, indeed.

Once again, I have found myself rambling on about topics that I did not intend to ramble on about. My aim was to speak of the proper tools and technique involved in the chopping, yet here I am speaking of my philosophy on nature and relationship with trees. Ah well, for the next time.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I'm a Lumberjack...

Sometimes in life, you just need to get away and become a tourist, and after a day like today in the middle of a week like this one, I decided that it was best for me to get out and see the sights of Bangor, ME. It was recommended that I visit the 31ft tall Paul Bunyan - the largest Paul Bunyan in the world. It is said that Bangor, ME is the hometown of big Paul due to the large lumber industry that flooded into Bangor many years ago. So why wouldn't you build an enormously large, wooden tribute to him? No need for a large wooden badger, Paul Bunyan does the trick! This was just too great to stay away from and he looks kind of familiar...

Also, check out this song which was entirely necessary.

Monday, August 18, 2008

One Down in Maine

What would a trip to an ice rink in an unfamiliar state without getting lost? Unusual for me... of course, I got lost, but this time I can admit it wasn't due to my lack of navigational skills. I was given bad directions which led me to the opposite side of Brewer than that which I needed to be on. Luckily, I ended up finding the ice rink on accident, only recognizing the road it was on by the fact that its name is Acme (who could forget Willie E. Coyote?) and the knowledge that there is apparently a pool nearby. I saw and pool and guessed that it would be Acme Rd.; it was. Phew, crisis averted.

The camp is going to be a long one, though. Most of the kids are great and want to learn and want to work, exactly what any coach would ask for, but there is always a kid or two who don't care and do NOT want to get better - if they even want to play at all. I have two (brothers); one seemingly wants to learn and get better, but is too worried about what his younger brother is doing; whether or not he is behaving. His younger brother is exactly that, young, and has the attention span of a chipmunk on crack. It took some time for him and I to see eye-to-eye, or at least for him and I to get to know each other. For me, I have to learn how best to treat him, how to coach and how to get the material across to him without frustrating him and "insulting" his knowledge. He is very stubborn that he knows basically all there is to know, even at his age, but I think he is starting to understand that I know just a bit more than he does. It'll take time and a lot of patience.

I do believe that the highlight for these kids today was the off ice session. It may be only about an hour or so, but they worked there asses off and went through drills that are designed to challenge people of all abilities, including NHL players. That's one of the greatest things about plyometrics; they are designed so that each person is challenged based on their own body and not on external weights. I really do have a passion for dry land training; I love it. I love doing it myself and I love teaching other people and putting them through the gruelling hell that it can be.

There is so much potential for strength stored up in every person; people of all body types and sizes can get something out of it. Muscles are worked extremely well and there is an aerobic aspect to the exercises, allowing people to burn more calories than weightlifting alone. Weightlifting regiments can be designed to be similar, but I feel the natural weight of your own body is the best way to begin strength training and will produce some of the best results. There are so many exercises and variations of exercises that allow for flexibility at all skill levels. Each drill may be adjusted to be easy or extremely difficult. I have written a manual for the Oswego State Club Hockey team - just a compilation of all the drills I've done of the years. It needs to be expanded, though, with new drills included and new variations of old drills explained.

I don't know what it is... but the technique and power that is obtained and exemplified in plyometrics is amazing in my mind; I really do love it. If you want to run faster, jump higher and get a stronger stride in hockey (or whatever else) plyos can do it for you. Plyos are such a powerful tool.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Rutgers Prep Camp

Back to New Jersey... oy! Well, my second to trip to NJ went a bit better than the first... at least in Somerset I could turn left at nearly every light, but in fact, I didn't have to worry about driving hardly at all - there was a shuttle from the hotel to the rink! Excellent. Last week was the Rutgers University Collegiate Prep Camp for kids thinking of pursuing college hockey, at Rutgers or otherwise. Most of the kids were high school seniors or college freshmen, with a few kids that were younger and a few that were older.

As usual, my job is to handle the goalies and make sure they get the work and feedback they deserve, especially out of a camp that is in no way designed for goaltenders. I had two - one who is going to be a junior in high school and one who was planning on trying out for an ECHL team. The ECHL hopeful goalie had actually not played very much ice hockey but is a very good roller hockey goaltender... and his first remark did it for me... he declared that ice hockey goalie was easy and took very little effort... :-O

Right then and there I knew he was going to be crap and would turn out to be more trouble than he was good. Both goaltenders needed a lot of work on their fundamentals... but only one actually thought I was right (guess which one!). After all was said and done the ECHL hopeful left the camp after a day and a half after getting lit up by high schoolers and college kids - citing they weren't good enough.

Now, I admit, it's extremely hard as a goaltender to play down a level, let alone two or three. But there was a Junior A player and a few college players out on the ice. They lit him up... not because they were slow, I watched them and his reactions... they were just better than he was. You can tell when goalies are being forced to play down a level, their reactions are either too quick or too slow and you can see them waiting... and waiting... and growing impatient with the player. But he was seeing shots that were challenging him and his reactions were being pushed to their limits. I tried to explain things to him, but after a while he would have none of it, and walked off the ice. Good luck buddy, let me know how the EC is. Ha ha... sorry... that was mean (but true).

The rest of the week I had to dress in net and provide competition. It was fun (especially against those Rutgers punks!) and I got quite a work out from the older kids. I'll admit, I didn't play well. My reactions were slow to start out and I wasn't following the puck very well at all, but oh well, I'm retired now anyway. It was fun and the off ice workouts were tough yet a ton of fun (yes I think I'm masochistic... sp?).

So I spent a week with the enemy... big deal. I'm retired, and am a coach now. But I did get some inside information; nothing huge, but still good to know. I also picked up a lot of off ice drills and on ice drills which are used by the pros (Cam Jansen and Scott Stevens in particular). I'll put the Oswego boys through one of the off ice workouts when I'm there next week, I think. They'll find it tough enough.

Friday, August 8, 2008


It has been just under 3 months since I graduated from Oswego, which means it's only been about 2 1/2 months since I have owned a bike. The bike was a gift from my girlfriend and her whole family since I had expressed interest in one so that I might bike to Dartmouth and back from my apartment thereby saving lots of gas and therefore tons of money.

Although the bike was meant for graduate school, I am very impatient when it comes to having new things... I like to put them to use right away. The bike was no different. I wanted to hop right on and start riding. It wasn't very long before I made my first trek out onto the roads behind my house. The trip is only about 4 miles round trip, but the hills killed me. Having just gotten done watching Le Tour I found myself in awe at how great of athletes those guys truly are; I always knew they were good, but I discovered they are pretty much not human.

Anyway, to get myself back into shape I started riding more (weather permitting) while on my breaks from hockey school. This meant I wasn't riding a whole lot. The other day, though, I went for a ride down a road I hadn't ever been down before and quickly found myself in the next town over (West Henniker) so I turned around and pedalled back to the house and googled the distance (thanks to google maps). A total of just under 7 miles, I thought that was a good distance, especially considering the hills that plague the roads of NH. I noticed, though, that there was a loop that would lead back to Hillsborough off of that same route. Today I tried that loop.

Turns out, the road that leads back to Hillsborough is closed (well the bridge at least) so I couldn't get across the river. Thus I was forced to ride up to Henniker (well maybe not forced, but I decided to go that way) and came back 202/9, a main highway between Hillsborough and Henniker. I found out this totalled about 12 miles, give or take, and adding to that my adventure to find air for my tires, I travelled a total of 14.7 miles (thanks again to google maps). I'm proud of this ride. The hills are long and steep and the distance (at least for me) is quite long. And only taking about an hour to ride, that's a good pace in my mind. I've taken a liking to bike riding, it's refreshing and a fantastic leg and cardio workout. All this makes the trip from an apartment to Dartmouth seem simple. So thanks again to those who helped contribute to the bike, it's well worth it and I've found a new hobby!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Fedora 9

Are you sick of the sluggish performance of Windows or its ability to throw a blue screen at you in a moments notice? What about the software for Windows; it will almost always cost you a good deal to install software that not only does what you want it to but does it well? You use a Mac you say? Again, expensive software... but even before you spend all your disposable cash on Mac apps. you have to actually purchase the computer. Macs are about twice as expensive as PCs on the average and the computing power you receive is often inferior to that of a run of the mill PC. Yeah, I know, Macs are pretty and have fun graphical effects that make the computing experience all the better, but you still have to pay an arm and a leg for it.

Now, I used to be your basic computer lay person, only checking email and surfing the web with a game of solitare mixed in for good measure. About two years ago, though, while doing summer research at Oswego State, I decided to take my computing experience to the next level, ditching Windows in favor of a superior OS in the minds of all my scientific colleagues. Mac, right!? No, I'm a poor college student and have no way of affording a machine like that. Instead, I made the switch to Linux, a Unix based OS. Why in the world did I switch? The OS was more stable, more efficient with resources (thus much faster) and best of all, it's FREE! I needed an OS that was ideal for scientific research (which means lots and lots of programming and data analysis) and Linux provides the correct environment for science.

Two years later, I'm still using Linux and love it more than ever. While I have had my fair share of problems arising from hardware incompatabilities and missing drivers, the experience of troubleshooting all of the errors I have encountered has been a wonderful learning experience. Choosing my flavor of Linux was difficult, but I eventually settled on what was then Fedora Core 6. Now, I still use Fedora, but have upgraded to release 9 of Fedora (which is no longer Fedora Core).

Fedora 9 (codename Sulphur) is a wonerful OS which I feel has made huge leaps since the days of Fedora 6. I have used every release of Fedora since release 6 and have noted the changes in each new release, but I feel that release 9 has the most notable changes and the greatest improvement of all the releases. With Gnome 2.22.3 and KDE4 as the GUIs Fedora supports wonderful features and a brilliant GUI experience. Graphical effects, similar to those of Mac have been available for a while with Linux, but have never been brilliant and use a lot of graphics power causing the computer to work sluggishly. But with the introduction of Compiz Fusion in Fedora 9 the graphics are smooth and have no effect on the computer's speed. Granted I'm running a better graphics card on my new-ish notebook, even in release 8 of Fedora on my notebook the graphics processing wasn't as smooth as it is in 9. I truely feel that the grahpics enabled by Compiz Fusion rival those of Mac, but for thousands of dollars less.

Hardware compatability has always been an issue for me with Fedora, as I have had to endlessly search for the correct drivers for both my graphics card (nVidia GeForce) and my wireless card (Intel). With release 9, though, these issues have been resolved and the hardware drivers were installed right during the OS installation. In conjunction with the wireless drivers, the new Network Manager for 9 is wonderfully easy to grasp. Just plug in the ethernet cord and the Manager finds it instantly and enables the LAN connection. Wireless as well, it automatically lists all of the available wireless connections and connects to the strongest signal, a far cry from Fedora 8 where if it could not locate an appropriate wireless signal during boot up you had to manually enable the device without knowing what signals were available unless you knew the iwlist command. Fedora 9 also found my webcam, built-in to my notebook's screen, Fedora has never recognized it and rendered it useless, but 9 takes care of those issues and I have now been able to take advantage of the webcam I received with my computer.

Boot up and shutdown have also been greatly improved, both occur with great speed, much faster than previous releases, mostly because the OS does not worry about enabling the wireless device and ethernet card until the user logs into the system. This was always a stall point on boot ups in the past, especially if the wireless signal could not be located.

Fedora also resolved a long standing issue with Java. You used to have to install it manually and then configure it to work properly, at least for web applets. The inclusion of IcedTea in Fedora 8 I found to be a miserable failure; it actually caused my computer to freeze when a web applet was accessed. With 9, they included a JRE package and it works flawlessly for both Desktop apps and web apps.

With other notable changes, including a change to the Yum repository manager (which I'm not the biggest fan of), and the inclusion of Firefox 3, I find that Fedora 9 is a far superior OS to that of Windows (especially Vista). I have access to all of my music and with the appropriate downloads one can play mp3s with no problem.

I highly reccommend Fedora 9 to anyone thinking about switching from Windows or Mac to Linux. It's very "newbie friendly", partitioning is easy as pie and is quite easy to install. Yes, I leave Vista on my computer just in case, but use it as little as possible. With a 2GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of RAM, and a 160GB hard disk I have plenty of resources to run off of and is in most cases overkill when running Linux. I used to run it on my 512MB RAM, Pentium 4 desktop with no issue aside from an inferior graphics card. Great for lightweight machines, I encourage people to switch to Linux, though people should make an informed decision before they switch, but when they do, they'll find that Fedora 9 is extremely user friendly and far superior to Windows or Mac. I could go on forever about Fedora 9 and my reccommendation for people to switch, but I am not an expert and want to warn everyone that I am not an authority on Linux (though I do know more than the average user, I believe).

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Where's the Train?

I'm still looking for the train that smacked into me last night, at some point. I woke up this morning feeling like I had been decimated by a freight train. I'm not sure if it was the bike ride yesterday or the fact that I slept on the couch so that my old fart of a dog didn't have to climb the stairs to go to bed (I'm sticking with the latter of the two).

The Old Fart Guarding the Door

The ride yesterday was nothing special, as with all my rides. It was about a 7 mile trek and it turns out that I ended up in the next town over, which I was proud of. 7 miles may not be all that far for most bike riders or even non-bike riders may be snuffing their nose at me, but I tell ya, the New Hampshire terrain is rough. With nearly no flat points on the ride, it's a constant battle to make the climb to the top of the hill. I have no idea of the grades of the steeper hills, but I do know that you really have to give your car the gas to make it up. Needless to say, I am proud of my ride yesterday... despite having to take a break going up the steepest and longest hill, but oh well, I'm new to the sport and am just trying to get in shape, not ride in the next Tour.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Sandal Woes

Have you ever bought something, liked it so much that when it came time to replace it you bought basically the same thing again? That's what I did with my Mossimo sandals from Target. My pair I bought a couple or three years ago were phenomenal. Best pair I've ever owned. Well I wore the crap out of them and needed a new pair. So, I bought another pair from Target - same type and brand - for $11.88, a sale price that locked me into buying them.

Well, now, I'm not so sure of that decision. They're comfortable like the last pair, but they make me sound like Chucky from the Rugrats cartoon. Every step I take air is forced out like a whoopie cushion on my foot. And when they get even a little wet, all the water squirts out when I walk... making an even more annoying squeaking sound. I sure hope they smarten up and stop squeaking, or else I'm going to banish them to my closet for all eternity... or the dump, either way.


So today was the start of my second Boston-area hockey camp for Rick Heinz. After registration was complete my assistant and I gave our introductions then proceeded to get ready to go on the ice in order to start the camp. Everything was going well until the Zamboni guy informed me that I had to go to the main office and speak with the Board of Health. "Oh great," I thought, "They're going to make me put on a helmet and throw a hissy fit about how the head coaches aren't wearing helmets." So at 10:20, at the point of our ice cut, I went into the main office prepping myself for the intended "helmet lecture" and how I might possibly fall and crack open my head bleeding everywhere before slowly falling into a coma and dying... well... maybe just hitting my head, but that version isn't as entertaining and wouldn't make headlines. Anyway, the "No Helmet = Death lecture" was about to begin when the lady, Nancy, said to me, "Are you the director?"

"I'm the head instructor," I replied. Then came the big blow... "Where's your paperwork?" This began her onslaught of questions I had no answer to. "What paperwork?" She barked back, "Your CORI and SORI, do you have them? Who's trained in CPR, more importantly, do you have a physician on hand? Where are the kids health forms?" So I calmly answered her, "Well, I honeslty don't take care of any of the paperwork, I'll go call the main office and let them know about this and then you should call and speak with them to get a more sufficient answer." So I left, called the office, gave them a heads up and then proceeded back on the ice for the second ice session.

The second session also went great, the kids worked extremely hard and had an absolute blast, as did I. 11:50 rolled around, time for us to get off the ice. So we picked up the pucks and began to leave the ice surface - then all hell broke loose. My dearest friend Nancy was there with her friend from the department of health in Marlboro. The lady looked at me and said she needed to speak with me. "Okay", I though, this may or may not be good. It wasn't. She informed me that the state of Massachussets was cancelling the camp and that I was not be anywhere near the children anymore. I didn't have a CORI on file, so she indicated that I might be a child molestor and no one would know it, or possibly even one of my staff might be. Then she proceeded to cite some ordinance or regulation that we violated - literally by the reg. number. I looked at her and said, "That means nothing to me." So she gave me the gist and basically said, once again, that the camp was cancelled. Then came a barrell of laughs for me, "Are the kids all three feet apart," she asked. I just gave her that look, you know, the "how dumb are you look?" They're all crammed into a tiny locker room, what do you think the correct answer that one is? So she ordered that I keep them three feet apart just in case someone sent their plague ridden child into the world with a highly communicable disease that might kill us all in one foul swoop. So I went into the locker room, told the kids to go eat lunch and that they'd have to sit three feet apart... but mind you, I can't enforce it because I am no longer responsible for them, how did she expect all this to get done? I might moleste them while trying to tell them to sit three feet apart.

To make a long story marginally shorter, the camp was finally cancelled when the Massachussetts board of health denied our request to hold a four day camp instead of a school. Why does five days matter more than four? This is the kicker. A school is only considered a "camp" if kids spend 5 days or more with the same group during a time span of two consecutive weeks. If we had run a four day camp, the board wouldn't have been able to touch us. So you got it, if you want to moleste children in Massachussetts, just hold a four day camp, because only on the fifth day, apparently, will you get around to molesting them, but your camp will be over! Now, it probably still wouldn't have mattered for us, and here's why. Our brochure says that it is a hockey school, and the goaltending brochure never says the word "camp", which is good. But in the player brochure, on page whatever in the middle of the brochure the words, "A Day at Camp" appear to describe what the school is like on an average day. Thus we would be considered a camp anyway because the brochure has the word camp in it once to describe the daily routine. So instead of running a background check on my partner and I to see that we have never molested kids and are not registered sex offenders, we had to cancel the camp.

I think one of the fathers said it best, "When adults and the government get involved, the kids always lose." Amen. Most of the people had nothing good to say about the Commonwealth of Massholes, and neither do I. It's a shame that these kids, who all said they had a blast at their one day of hockey school won't get to have a second, a third, fourth or fifth skate. It really is a shame. I guess it's for their safety.

Excellent News

Good news from the hockey camp front, I have two more weeks of work! I'll be coaching at a college prep camp in NJ - God I have to go back to NJ!!!??? - and then I acquired another Rick Heinz school in Brewerton, ME. There aren't that many kids at the Maine camp, but from what I understand after talking with Rick today is that we don't have to pay for ice as long as the camp has under 15 or so kids - great news! Also, I need to try and find a hockey instructor for that week, most likely one of my college teammates (one of the more responsible ones - if I can use that word while referring to them). Should be a lot of fun.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sudden Changes

Just yesterday I found that I only have one more camp to go for the summer. I was supposed to have 6 (including this week) at the start of the summer. Now, due to low enrolment at 5 of the next 6 camps, my summer work ends after only what will be 4 weeks of work. I have officially lost 3/5 of my summer salary. Major bummer... especially since most of my earnings was to be put towards my security deposit and first months rent for the apartment I will be leasing for graduate school. So if anyone needs labor until September, my schedule is basically wide open.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bridgewater Day 3

Wednesday means that it is the third day of this weeks camp, so here I am on day 3 wondering what happened to my good group of students. They have been excellent this week, they have been kids, so a little wild, but today it was at a new level. It must have been because they were tired and their muscles were sore, but they were very irritable with each other and more out of control than they have been for the past couple days. Normally, just asking them to calm down or to be quiet works fairly well, but today it did not. We pushed through lunch and then the video session with moderate ease after a great time on the ice.

After lunch, though, we go outside for dry land training. They were a little whiny after we went for a warm up run and began to stretch. Many were complaining about the heat and the humidity which I can't completely blame them for; it was terribly hot and humid, but they were starting to push and get unruly. A few quick exercises after stretching calmed them down a bit but then the complaining started soon again... "my legs hurt", "I'm tired", "I want to stay in the shade," so on and so forth. Now it may sound cruel to keep them in the sun, but I always make sure to give them plenty of water breaks and unfortunately there is only one tree which amounts to very little shade on the grass and I'm certainly not having them do their exercises in the parking lot on the hot black top. They finally got through it all and were up for playing a game for the last 45 minutes which is typical of the camp - work for a half hour then play a game for however much time remains.

Lately, we've been playing blocker baseball, a form of baseball which instead of a bat you use a goalie blocker and in place of a hard ball a tennis ball is used. Today, though, the kids brought a whiffle ball and bat which they all wanted to do, but once the game got under way a few decided they were going to sit down and not play simply because their team wasn't winning so they were making excuses, "I'm bored," etc. I said we'd play capture the flag if they played 5 more minutes of whiffle ball... but one of them wouldn't relent. He was adiment that he was done playing and was going to whine about the game for the rest of the time. Well, kids may be able to get what they want at home by whining and complaining and acting stubborn, but this is not their house and I'm not their parent or babysitter. Instead, they ran until everyone was giving a solid effort in the running drills... actually, all gave a great effort except the one stubborn one, he slacked on the first running drill... but once he realized that we were going to run until he gave an effort, he decided to care more on the second and longer drill. I have found that some kids, despite their constant stubborness and complaining, respond the best to authority, especially when the other kids are punished for something they didn't do; that's how a team works and the kids at this camp are a team and will act like a team. Every camp so far has had the kids that disrespect eitehr myself of another coach and expect to get away with it... but they don't and it's rather interesting to watch the transformation that occurs during the week, most of them correct their behavior, if just for the rest of the week. Whether it be the pressure of not letting down their teamates or a realization that they can't treat their coach like their parents, I'm not sure, but either way, they learn respect for their coach - and I truly hope for their parents, but I'm not so sure of that.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bridgewater, MA

Yes, you read that correctly, and no, I didn't accidentally put MA instead of NJ. This week I'm in Bridgewater again, but this time I'm visiting Massachusetts. I must say that so far I haven't seen much of either Bridgewater or Middleborough (where my hotel is located) but I can say that I have enjoyed traveling around the area much more than I did NJ; I can actually turn left and get onto a road in the right direction with ease! There also isn't a ton of traffic, well, comparitively to NJ. I'm thinking that NJ should take notes from MA on how to keep traffic moving without comprimising the ability to turn and get to the other side of the road.

The camp is an odd one, I have 10 skaters and 2 goalies... 2 goalies! Luckily, I have an instructor who attends UMass Boston (NCAA DIII) to coach the skaters. I'm confident that I know the skills skaters need and the details that need to be focused on, but it would be tremendously difficult to teach both players and goalies at the same time. As a result, I only have to instruct the goalies. It would seem that 2 goalies would be a piece of cake and that there would be no difficulties, but I must say that can't be further from the truth. The difficulty lies in the ability level of each goalie. I have one 14 year old kid who is entering into high school and is enrolled in the Elite program which is designed to be fast paced and less focused on fundamentals with more of an emphasis on details and the explosive nature of the position. On the other hand, I have an 8 year old girl who is just beginning. Enrolled in the regular program this is her first exposure to formal training.

Thus far, I have made it work fairly well, but I'm a little upset that my two original shooters decided not to show up on Monday, leaving me without a shooter for about a half hour. Thankfully the local coordinator found another kid to fill in. Unfortuantely, this is all I have now, one shooter. This makes teaching both goalies increasingly difficult since I have to shoot as well as teach and oversee operations. I have found that I can snipe with a goalie stick, though. I knew I had a good shot and fairly accurate, but I believe both my power and my accuracy has increased while working these camps, soley because I have to shoot in many different scenarios. I guess teaching is still the best way to improve, along with practice.

I do have all 12 kids for dry land training where I've been putting them through some pretty tough drills, reducing the number of sets for plyometrics, which they have reacted positively to. Most young kids don't want to work hard at dry land and just want to goof around, but these kids were excited today, when they woke up with sore muscles... in fact, the parents were excited! That to me says they were working and want to get better, even if they do goof off at times, they still put in the effort that they need to in order to get better. The past couple of weeks I have been participating in dry land training as well, working out with the kids (mostly to show that I'm not just making them do it and that I can and will do it). One of the perks of the job, I suppose; I get to work out as well as coach... I'm not going to argue with getting into shape! I've also worked up a nice tan the past few weeks. It started in VT and I've seemed to be able to keep it up; one of the first times in my life I've been tan! Normally, I burn... instant lobster.

Monday, July 14, 2008

NJ Wrap-Up

Finally, I made it out of NJ in one piece, unscathed... though I think some people wanted to kill me for doing 60mph in a 55 zone; how dare I!? I really do feel that NJ is just a terrible state, I didn't like it at all. Life there is too fast, people are in too much of a hurry to get nowhere. I am quite content coming back to a great family in a house nestled in the woods with peace and quite and FRESH AIR! The weather in Jersey was nice - we had sun every day, at least through dry land training, which is all I can ask for. But, the humidity was atrocious! I really think there was about 500% humidity... whether that was natural or smog related (I'm leaning towards smog) is beyond me, but the humidity sucked big time.

The camp itself was great. As it was my first time as a head instructor I was on my own and was feeling the pressure. I not only had kids who were just beginning or who needed work mostly on their fundamentals, but I had elite goaltenders who were looking to attend prep showcase tournaments. I wasn't sure how that was going to work out, I know the game and know the details they need to know, but kids in that position need a lot of attention and a lot of quality shots. I think I accomplished this, the kid was quite pleased with what he learned and the practice that he received. More than just him, though, the other kids loved it and were excited about the material that they learned. There are always a kid or two that doesn't like you, mainly because you're a tough coach, you demand hard work, so they don't like you... and I had a couple of them. For the most part, though, they were satisfied, and they had a lot of fun, I really couldn't ask for much more than that - after all, it is just a sport, it's meant to be fun.

The parents were also satisfied, which is one of the greatest compliments I could have received. The kids see a lot behind the scenes and are listening to what you have to say, so they know if you're a good coach or not, but the parents are basing it on off ice relations, what their kid reports, and how the on ice session is run. I had a few parents tell me it was the best camp by this program they've seen yet (and most of the kids had been there before or they had a sibling there before). That tells me I'm doing my job and I'm doing it well. I must say that working with 18 goalies is a lot easier than working with 18 players and goalies. I have more freedom and can tailor the drills to the goaltenders and not have to worry about a fusion session where both the players and goalies are doing drills together. I have to say, by someone saying that, it not only tells me I'm doing my job well, but doing better than previous coaches - in their mind. If I an have a few more performances like that, I'll be ecstatic.

No pictures from Jersey... it was ugly.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bridgewater, NJ

So here I sit, at a Days Inn, in a shitty state. I'm not going to lie... New Jersey is a shit hole, well, at least central NJ. I did get a chance to view Western NJ thanks to Google. Their wonderful directions led me exactly where I didn't need to go, in fact, I was on the other side of the state. This wouldn't be the first time Google Maps has failed me. In fact, just last week in Vermont Google led me to the other side of Manchester in search of the hotel... exactly where we didn't need to go. As you can imagine, I have elected to not use Google Maps for directions anymore.

Once I found Bridgewater, which only took an extra hour (thanks Google!) I came across the worst road in US history. Route 22, a main road cutting through Bridgewater and most the rest of New Jersey has very strict rules... no turning left... ever! To get to the other side, you need to find a U-turn area. This wouldn't be too bad... except that the rink I go to is on the other side of Route 22 than me which means I have to go 4 miles out of my way (one direction) to get almost directly across the street. Great idea NJ, keep traffic moving and force people to use more gas, fantastic! And since there are only maybe three traffic lights on the entire road... it's packed and turning onto the road takes forever. It might be alright if Rt. 22 was the only road like this, but it turns out that most every major road follows these rules... some don't even let you turn right at a light... you have to exit the highway at a designated area where it takes you to the crossroad at which point you can choose your direction. Sounds like a great idea in theory... but in practice... it sucks, it sucks horribly. I hate driving in NJ. The road system is not aided by NJ driving either. NJ drivers are some of the worst. I knew this before coming here, but it has been reenforced.

Dear NJ - You Suck.

Vermont Wrap-Up

Directly above is a picture from our hotel room's back door. In the rear you will see the tennis court where the Canadian swept the tennis match, 3 sets to none. I did my country no justice and couldn't even win one set! Anyway, I have also supplied a picture or two of the hotel lobby, which was very rustic (aside from the baby toys - Sal has three daughters) and quite relaxing - until all the horse people showed up on Thursday night. They were loud and filled the rest of the hotel. We had peace and quiet nestled in the woods... but those damn horse people... apparently a horse show equals lots of drinking and major partying. Who knew!? Other than that, Sal, the owner, was great, as was Tom (his father-in-law) and Jake (Tom's 2 year old Golden Retriever) who always had at least two tennis balls in his mouth.

To sum up the camp, it went great. The kids started to finally get into the whole "learning" and "improving" aspect instead of the "I'm a tough guy/comedian" act. Once they started to put a little effort in things went more smoothly and they got a lot more out of it, of course. The first few days was a little more rough then I led on. They were wild and out of control. They lacked respect and discipline, but my colleague and I whipped them into shape.

There isn't much more to say about the camp, my colleague helped get me ready for what I am up against this week, being the head instructor at a camp, but luckily, this one would have only goalies - no players.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Canada - 2 : NH - 0

Damn Canadian got me again. He went up 3 games to 1 rather quickly, but I turned it around and came back to take the lead 5 games to 3... yet still, he won out, turning up the heat and taking the set 7 games to 5. This is why I'm not a tennis player. He says he's not that good and rarely plays, but I tell ya, he has a powerful shot that is accurate and his serve has a massive curve. We'll see, maybe he'll be up for a couple more sets before we leave on Friday night. I need to show I'm not so much of an embarrassment for my country! Oh yeah, he did have today on his side though - it's Canada Day in Canada, I'm convinced this had something to do with it.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Canada - 1: NH - 0

Following the camp my fellow instructor and myself went to the gym, got a good workout in and then game back and decided on a friendly game of tennis here at the hotel (yes, they have their own tennis court - though I don't think anyone has played on it in a while before us). He won the set, 6-3. He may be up 1 set to none, but I'll get him tomorrow, I have age on my side!

Manchester, VT: Day I

Turns out, the other instructor came in late Saturday night, well after I had gone to bed, and ended up getting a hotel. I was able to pick him up there and we took off for Manchester, VT after a little breakfast. He's a great guy, very laid back and personable and knows the sport so well. He's a middle aged guy from Calgary, Alberta, Canada who played several years of professional hockey and has even coached a professional team - a farm team for Montreal - for a couple years. The car ride was enjoyable and quick, mostly due to the stories I heard from his days on the pro circuit and other hockey stories that are insightful and just interesting. Outside of the car ride, yesterday just consisted of meeting the local coordinator for the camp and then exploring the town to see what was there. It was good to get out of the hotel room to keep my mind off the camp I was about to run.

That brings me to my next topic - the first day of camp! There wasn't much to say about Monday's camp. I was head instructor of the goalies and had to run that end of the camp, while my fellow instructor was running the player camp. I only had 6 goalies, this made my job much easier for the day in terms of keeping track of kids, but that meant I only needed two stations to rotate them through. Unfortunately, only having two stations means that I have to stop after every drill and explain the next drill. Thankfully the shooters understood the drill and were extremely willing to help - this is key to a successful camp - so when one goalie didn't understand I didn't have to hold all of the others back. This also allowed me to roam more openly and watch every kid. We did the "Fusion" style camp, this week, which means that the players and goalies will do drills together for an hour or so, allowing both goalies and players to see "game situation" style shots. Most of the camp was mostly skating, for both groups, so technique on saves wasn't great, but that will be resolved tomorrow.

Following the two on ice sessions (skills and fusion), it was time for lunch and then dry land conditioning, finishing off with video analysis of the kids performance at the "video" station. Here we record them performing a couple of drills so that we can then bring the video off the ice and pause the video, allowing the kids to see their own performance and mistakes so they can correct it in the future. This has to be one of the greatest teaching tools in any camp. Dry land was interesting... the kids were wild (they'll need to skate harder tomorrow) and only wanted to play games. They said all of the previous years they played tons of games... but that's why my fellow instructor was called in - he comes when things are bad... he's the one man cleanup crew. It'll be a long week, but we got through to a lot of kids today - tomorrow is a new day; we'll see how it goes.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

First Day

Today was finally my first day on the job for Rick Heinz. Although my first camp doesn't start until Monday, I had to pick up a fellow instructor from the airport in Albany, NY. About 1pm I left my girlfriends house near Syracuse, NY (where I had arrived at 11pm last night) and hopped on good old I-90. I must say I hated the thought of leaving her... we have spent nearly everyday since our college graduation together... well over a month... it seemed like that was how it was supposed to be. Sadly, though, I had to do this trip alone. I'll get to see parts of Vermont, Connecticut, and New Jersey (woo hoo for Jersey) without her... something I would truly rather do with her. I'd much like to see America with her, and not on my own.

Anyway, 2 1/2 hours after leaving Syracuse I arrived in Albany to find that the instructors plane was delayed, which I half expected due to the weather. So I hung out at Starbucks, drinking tea and reading a play required for Dartmouth - for orientation that is - on research ethics. It's actually an interesting play, in fact I normally do not enjoy reading plays, but obviously I can relate to this one and it is interesting how everything transpires. It's called "A Stampede of Zebras", by Robert C. Martin, if you're ever in the mood for a story on ethics. Yeah, no worries, I know you're not.

Finally, the time came to pick up the other instructor. I went to the airport and found his flight had arrived, so I waited by the luggage carousel for a man of his description wearing a Rick Heinz shirt. After about a half hour of waiting I saw no one that looked anything like his description. Still, I waited longer, until the lights identifying carousel 3 as the one for his flight dimmed and began to read "Welcome to Albany International Airport". The sign saying Chicago never reappeared - he was not going to show up today. I went to the United counter to see if I could trace him; maybe he missed a connection? No, it turns out he had to be rerouted and was not arriving until tomorrow morning. What was I to do? I was expected to arrive with him at our hotel in Vermont this night! I got a hold of the hotel and informed them of the change and found refuge with family friends near Saratoga Springs. I shall return tomorrow to find him - if he's there.

100 Mile View

Yesterday, my girlfriend and I returned to NY after a brief stay in NH. She worked from "home" and I did a whole lot of nothing... well, I stacked wood for 5 hours two days before we left, but that was all. It was a relaxing time in which we accomplished barely anything and had time to spend together and enjoy each others company. I did get her to watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy though, which was quite a feat; she even liked it! The girl who was once bored by such tales found the story suspenseful and interesting. Next trilogy to get her to watch: the original Star Wars; but that is for another time.

The ride back to NY was the same trip as usual. We started out talking about this and that until she grew tired and dozed off. It's always near the end of the road, just outside of Bennington, VT that she gets sleepy. So for an hour or so she dozes off and I have time to think on my now solitary journey - until we get to the first rest station on I-90. This time I thought about something that was spurred by my watching of Lord of the Rings. Now, it is by no means meant to be taken as deep philosophical thought - but I contemplated Tolkien's view of technology; that it is evil. Now it may seem like the thought of a radical hippie, but technology might lead to the fall of Man. The progression of technology invades nature and steals its wonder from us. I could go on and on about my thoughts that I was having at that point, but I won't... I need to further think everything through and decide how I really feel on the issue.

We did get to see a most wonderful view, a 100 miles view (though the fog may be hindering that full view) from atop Hogback Mountain along Route 9 in Vermont.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Holy eBay!

Well, so much for hockey today. My usual M-W-F pick up hockey was apparently canceled, or at least the one of the women in the office didn't care to answer my call. I could have just went, and not called ahead to reserve my spot, but I would hate to drive 40 minutes only to find that they had enough goalies and that I wouldn't be able to play. So instead, I'm up early trying to keep myself occupied. I would go back to bed to get some more sleep, but I've already had my cup of morning coffee - which reminds me, I need a refill!

As an alternative to hockey this morning, I have decided to check up on my first sale item on eBay. Yes, my first one. I know many of you have sold tons of items, or have at least tried it before, but I have only bought a few things, but have never sold anything. My father is a big eBay guy, so I normally just leave it to him. The other day, though, I was going through my old toys from when I was a kid and found my old Might Morphin Power Rangers toys. Thinking I would keep them for my kids, I never really thought of the fact that my kids probably won't be interested in the original Power Rangers, so why am I keeping this stuff? I brought out the toys, got them all organized and collected the pieces to each figure and started taking pictures (with my new digital camera!) Before I listed, though, I did the smart thing and research Power Rangers toys on eBay to decide what was selling and what wasn't. To my surprise I found two of the toys that I had were selling between $50-$100! For items that cost $10 in 1993 I'm not sure if this is a great increase in price, but these items really are hot. There is a major bidding war of the original toy morpher and power gun. Luckily, mine are in great shape and are catching a lot of attention. I have already had a couple of offers for people to buy it and forgo the auction, but I think I'm going to let the auction take it's course for a little while. I also have the original Deluxe Megazord listed which has fetched a price over $100 when complete, even outside of the box! I'm missing one tiny piece, which is frustrating the crap out of me, because I know I have it somewhere! So if you're interested in Power Rangers toys, check it out. I should be posting more items soon.

So long for now.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Goodnight Birds

I have found, recently, that I am failing at this whole "sleeping" thing. You see, I tend to go to bed late, for example, last night, at approximately 4:30am I was saying goodnight to the birds that were saying good morning to me. My shades were beautifully lit by the early morning sun and the birds were singing a very pleasant good morning song, had I not been trying to sleep I might have enjoyed it, but instead I was contemplating a way to either tell them to go back to sleep for 5 more minutes (actually more like 5 hours) or reverse the Earth's rotational spin so that the sun would go back down. Neither worked. I guess tonight I'll try the whole going to bed early tactic people rave about. I don't have high hopes for that one.

Ode to the Windshield Wiper

The 5 hour journey from NY to NH is a trip that I have come to enjoy, despite having driven the route countless times. It's a simple route: I-90 to I-87 until you hit route 7. This turns into route 9 in Vermont which is followed all the way to NH. See, simple.

On this trip my girlfriend joined in the fun, taking a ride to NH where she'll stay for a while, right up until before I have to travel to my first goalie camp - which actually involves returning to NY in order to pick up a fellow instructor in Albany. I always enjoy her presence on the trip. She keeps the mood light and helps to keep me awake while on 90. Aside from the great conversations, she's always singing no matter what song is on the radio... and she always seems to know the song on the radio... it's really quite amazing. Unfortunately, as we travel East, every radio station seems to only last for a few minutes and with no way of knowing what stations lie ahead, most of her time is spent searching for clear signals. In fact, we actually found that John Tesh (or however you might spell his name) is on all the time... and each station, as we moved out East, was slightly behind the other. Hence, we heard the same segments of his show over and over. Quite funny if you ask me, but really annoying! Several trips ago we decided that we should create a list of every radio station, or as many as we could find, in each area along 90 and the subsequent roads that we encounter. We believe every rest area should contain a list of the stations along 90 so no one needs to search the radio, every station would be listed with musical genre, easing the frustration of that annoying static.

The trip, otherwise, was fairly monotonous, filled with the usual twists and turns. There was a lot of rain, though, particularly in Vermont. Seeing as my wipers are in perfect shape they left wonderful smears right in my line of sight... no where else on my side of the windshield except right in my line of sight! Why is it that wipers always know where you're looking? They know right where you need to see so that they can distort the image you're trying to develop in your mind as best as possible. I'm pretty sure wiper blades hate people, plain and simple. Could I get new blades you might be asking? Yes... mine are quite old, nearly a year old in fact. Still... new blades would last, what, two weeks? and then proceed to laugh at you as they smear rain water and dead bugs right in the middle of the windshield.

There isn't much else that happened today or this evening. Just settling in at home and relaxing, enjoying the presence of my lady and my puppy (who just turned 14).

P.S. ~ To my windshield wipers... beware!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Further Introduction

For those readers who may not know me, I feel that I should take some time and give a brief introduction... well, it may not turn out to be brief. The first and most obvious question, would concern the title of the blog itself, "Adventures of a Northeastern Man". Yes I am really from the Northeast, a small town in New Hampshire, in fact. I can not, though, claim to have spent my entire life in the town which barely represents a dot on a map of the state. I began my existence in Saratoga Springs, New York. This is where I lived over half my life, thus far.

Following New York I had a stint in the Midwest, 6 years in small town Illinois, actually. Fate finally drew me back to the Northeast, a location where I feel I truly belong. My parents moved to New Hampshire when I was 16, and although I spent time in Illinois for one more year to finish high school, I returned to New York for college.

I attended a medium sized university in Central New York... and now, not the City. And no, it isn't Upstate New York as much as those city folk like to think... Upstate New York, in my mind, is the North Country by Canada. I won't get into my feelings on those from the City or their thoughts on us cow milkin' folk (though I have never actually milked a cow... I'm such a bad redneck apparently.) Oh, in my rambles I forgot to mention the University; it was SUNY Oswego, in Oswego, NY... you know... near Syracuse? Yeah, that normally does the trick, if not, Google Maps does wonders!

So here I am, 21 years since birth, getting ready for an exciting summer of goalie camps and preparation for graduate school where I will be returning to New Hampshire to attend Dartmouth College. I suppose I should take some time aside to explain my educational background... and don't worry, I'll start with Oswego.

At Oswego I met my wonderful girlfriend while tutoring her in Calculus. This was, I believe, the best thing Oswego had to offer me. I'd like to take this time now to thank the tax payers of New York for my scholarships which payed for me to meet the most wonderful girl anyone could have imagined. I was a physics major with an astronomy minor... and I actually earned a mathematics degree but didn't declare it, oh well! I also did a bunch of research at Oswego and the University of Rochester with almost the entire extent of my research focusing on astronomy with brief stints in Wind Power, Vibrational Characteristics of Tennis Rackets, and Nuclear Physics. The details of all my research would take too long and put too many people to sleep, so I will resist the temptation to ramble at this point - but I will continue if I ever feel inclined, no worries!

Anyway, 4 years of Oswego and 2 and a half of my wonderful girlfriend culminated in my acceptance into Dartmouth College for graduate school! Unfortunately, my girlfriend will be attending Oswego for graduate school, so we won't be close until she finishes her masters program at which point she can join me in NH as I finish my PhD program - very exciting!

I really have no idea what I was going to write at this point... I found that I went off on far too many tangents and lost my train of thought. Oh! How could I forget! I play hockey... have since I was 8... and I'm a goalie... hence the goalie instruction job. I can get into that on a later date. Maybe tomorrow? I need to write a lot and often at this point while I still have motivation to keep up on this thing!

Hope I didn't lose too many of you... for I think I lost myself.