Two Almost Physicists With Almost Something To Say

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What We Leave Behind


Pictures of David & Ryan, within hours of their defenses. The psychological toll is evident. Photo credit (left to right): Ryan, Dave. (Posted without Dave’s permission.)

As I bragged about in the post I wrote two days after my doctoral defense, one of the things that I was proudest of was slipping a bunch of jokes past my thesis committee. Sure, it was gratifying to receive the acclimation of accomplished physicists on the culmination of 5 years of research and over a decade of scientific training. But sometimes, at a moment like that, what matters the most is getting some solid goofs preserved in perpetuity upon a dusty shelf in the corner of the esteemed library of my and Dave’s elite Rhode-Island-based university that Aitchbar refuses to mention by name for some reason.

Despite this, my dissertation, with the catchy name Quality-Selected Lensing Analysis of Galaxy Clusters in Subaru Telescope Fields hasn’t gotten the kind of internet heat I would have expected. So I felt like I ought to come up with a primer to point interested parties to the comedy gold. You, dear reader, can be assured that these things are funny, because they have been approved of by astrophysicists in terms of their scientific content. As much humor writing is.

So here’s a rundown for someone who might want to skip all the way more interesting astrophysics parts. This is the link to that dusty library’s online pdf. Here’s the rundown:

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In Which I Pretend to be a Theater Critic

Providence actors Derek Smith and Victoria Ezikovich explore space hallucinations in The Final Voyage of X Minus One. Photo by Bert Silverberg.

Providence actors Derek Smith and Victoria Ezikovich explore space hallucinations in The Final Voyage of X Minus One. Photo by Bert Silverberg.

My wife* has a pretty cool gig writing theater reviews for the website Broadway World. For doing this, she gets all sorts of free tickets to various productions around town and yours truly comes along to a good fraction of the performances. She’s gotten pretty good at it, and recently even joined the American Theater Critics Association and got to travel to New York to participate in their yearly event where she moderated a lunch talk with Susan from Friends, her new best friend!

Last weekend we went to The Final Voyage of X Minus One by Counter-Productions Theatre Company at AS220 in Providence and my lovely wife asked me to pinch-hit on the review, since the show was a sci-fi anthology and I’m a huge dork. It was easy to write since the play was really excellent and fun. It’s not a new Aitchbar post, per se, but it’s a thing I wrote on the internet, so check it out! (And if you’re in the area, go see it!)

BWW Review: THE FINAL VOYAGE OF X MINUS ONE at Counter-Productions Theatre Company

(*): Oh, by the way, since I last posted here, I got married. Hooray!

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Something About Wall Art and a Ficus

I wrote a physics PhD dissertation. I am attempting to describe the experience in any number of words, but I am failing, like a cat attempting to long-jump from a slippery surface. If the Reader is familiar with the process of long practical writing, or with feline acrobatics, then the Reader hears me. If not, then I am unsure as to what common ground there is to go from. At that point I would doff my cap, shove my hands deep in my pockets, and turn away.

The act of generating a 300-page technical document left my creative homunculus “roont,” to borrow a word that Stephen King has left seared in my head. My tale since I last rapped poetic has been not unlike that of Moses, or the guy from Dune, except without suffering or followers or purpose. I moved, and I moved well, to a place where laundry does not require human sacrifice, and the fridge grows only the mold that I explicitly tell it to grow. I purchased a couch with a giant comfortable tumor, or “chaise,” which is French for couch-tumor. I purchased a dry bar, by which I mean I bought a cheap small bookcase and my girlfriend attached a wine rack to it and loaded it up with liqueurs both fantastic and gross. Fireball and Grand Marnier live side by side, which I believe was prophesized in Revelations somewhere. I don’t know where. 5:3? That might have been the ratio of Kahlua to vodka for something which was not Bible-related.

I have Wall Art, a phrase which GS once told me made his skin crawl. I agree, vaguely, with somewhat small magnitude on my agreement vector. Something called “Wall Art” seems like a filler where something more purposeful ought to be. I have a shit-tonne of it. It accumulated when my creative rage-font ran dry, and long swaths of bare paint began to disturb my sleep. There is nothing about Wall Art that is going to trick the homunculus into spending effort on the creative writing process again. The homunculus gives me the finger when it lays its beady eyes on my four framed pictures of the Moon above a small ficus which I can only at this point describe as undead. “Nope,” says it, for we used to party when I had precisely no weird shit like that. Expunging the solid buildup that accumulated in the word-faucet is now purely an exercise in bearing down and grunting.

I also wrangled me up a Costco membership. I have mostly purchased a year’s worth of field study on barely-contained rage. It seems to pervade the store. I am not sure where this comes from, though I posit the XXL shopping carts play a role. This is the opposite of what I expected for a place constructed out of discounts and volume, two things which drive us as a people. But haters can hate; my new membership came with a free rotisserie chicken and apple pie, which makes me one of the Devoted.

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It can do about warp 9.5 downhill

NCC-1701-D Car

Virginity: the final frontier.

These are the voyages of someone’s used Subaru 4×4. It’s continuing mission: to seek out new Magic: The Gathering™ tournaments and new replica Cylon figurines, to explore strange new worlds of beard grooming, to boldly go where no one else from his high school A/V club has gone before!


[In case it isn’t clear, we are both fairly rabid ST fans. Take no offense bearded Trekkers, you and I are of a kind. In different reality, I could have called you to talk about how JJ Abrams is ruining everything]

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Happy Franksgiving!

Eleanor, pass me the cranberru sauce. And don't be such a bitch about it.

Not to be confused with Frankensteingiving.

Tonight, on the eve of our most greatest holiday (an evening where millions of Americans are blindly wandering the aisles of package stores to guess at what type of wine most effectively combines cheapness with not looking cheap, to bring to their family dinners tomorrow), I am taking a moment to flashback to 2007, on the way to flashing back to the 1930s. I somehow became aware of the historical footnote that was FDR’s unsuccessful attempt to change the date of Thanksgiving, and wrote about it on my previous blog. This year, I am thankful that I wrote a bunch of stuff no one really bothered reading, so that I can just repost it:

Some of the best holidays are the kind that you make up yourself. I certainly know this, and commemorate Kneecap Day annually in honor of my connective joints. FDR knew it too, and between 1939 and 1941 tried to get everyone to celebrate Thanksgiving a week earlier to boost retail sales. Had he succeeded, Turkey Day would be this Thursday. Unlike Social Security or fancy cigarette holders though, this is one of his ideas that didn’t quite catch on. Everyone made fun of it, derisively referring to the usurped holiday as ‘Franksgiving’ and sending him tons of hate mail. Evidentially, at the time, the date of Thanksgiving wasn’t fixed on the calendars, and a Presidential proclamation was needed to make it official as a public holiday. Roosevelt was asked by some retailers to move it up a week on the logic that people would shop more if there was more time between then and Christmas, and he agreed with this idea. Chaos ensued. Schools that had already scheduled vacations or football games all independently decided whether to keep or alter their plans. Businesses which had based their Novembers around a November 30th Thanksgiving had to reorganize everything. Calendar makers wet their pants. Furthermore, by the time November came around that year a bunch of states had decided to go against the President and celebrate the last Thursday as Thanksgiving, so someone traveling to another state to see their family might have the wrong week off. This national freak-out went on for 2 more years before New England, which gave our nation the holiday, threatened to take it away and the traditional date was reestablished formally by an act of Congress.


Zombs On The Tee-Vee

I am going to stick my neck out, or extend my arm outside of the moving vehicle, or avail myself of the glory hole, or whatever your preferred metaphor for risky behavior may be. I am going to make the statement that I enjoy watching The Walking Dead mostly because of the outrageous violence. Feel free to pontificate on character development, well-maintained evolving story lines, and great camera work. Agreed that those are all positives. But if you are a hardcore subscriber to those things, try tuning in to any other AMC production, because they do it much better. This show is made great by unrepentant head trauma infliction. I refuse to carry on bloviated discussions that dance around this core facet any longer. Along that line of thought, Talking Dead is a truly stupid thing, and Chris Hardwick irritates me to no end. Between that guy and the entire Ghost Hunters team, I have spent a lot of time recently praying for people to be reincarnated as toilets.

Edit: spolier alert, season 2 mid-season finale, next sentence.

Yes, the girl was in the barn the whole time and they had to put her down, that’s whatever. Consider that point as read. I tune in for the facial perforations. I do acknowledge that the folks doing makeup deserve all of their awards and nominations. Were I to be completely candid, however, this is just icing. The walkers could look like they just staggered out of an 8-bit video game, and I would not particularly mind. In fact, that might be preferable, vis-a-vis escapism. My entire life is a constantly evolving character-driven narrative, and I see people who look like they’re dead every time I leave the apartment. The only thing in that show that doesn’t resemble my daily routine is the use of a katana in anger.

I realize that claiming enjoyment of that sort of thing calls into question my entire moral character. To quote Biggie: fuck ’em, I didn’t want to go to Heaven anyway.

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To a Lone Traffic Cone in the Breakdown Lane

You're my cone, bro

Keeping it cool. Keeping it orange.

I see you there, cone. Repping it in the breakdown on the I-195 bridge. They say to pick one thing you love and do that as much as you can, and you are living that right now. How did you get there, all alone in a 2 foot wide shoulder? No one knows. But I do know this, you are doing what you were put on this Earth to do: keep drivers out of a narrow trash-filled corridor.

If it weren’t for you, I’d be scraping the concrete wall. You heard me—I push myself to the limits of advisable driving technique whenever possible, and that means testing the bulkheads of highway bridges. Is my ‘97 Honda Civic winning any beauty contests because I have made this bold and reckless choice? Of course not, but that’s just the cost of living outside of society’s false conventions. Does my choice to employ a non-traditional facial hair pattern offend you? Of course it does, if you are living a box, provided for you by the mainstream barber community…but I digress. Cone, you are my kind of cone, making a stand while thoughtless minions speed through life, barely looking where they’re going. Is grinding a beige sedan against a stone barrier at 65mph the reason my so-called “friends” and “relatives” refuse to travel with me? Maybe. It sure generates a lot of sparks. Does all the junk on the shoulder result in almost constant flat tires and damage to the undercarriage? Why wouldn’t it? Does hitting the seams in the wall every 9 feet, constitute a painful, frame-stressing impact? You bet it does. That’s what makes it all worth it. I ride bridges hard. It’s what I’m about. And in that same way, I know what you’re about, cone. Stopping people like me. And I respect you for it.