The Olympics is not about the heartwarming stories
Not about the ratings any television station gets
Not about the amount of money advertisers rake in
Not about who watches and how much they know

The Olympics is not about being a fan
Not about having to cheer your country on
Not about beating the other countries down
Not about the extravagance of the opening ceremonies

The Olympics is not about the deals in the IOC
Not about how much money they spend
Not about how much they whine about it
Not about the viewers

The Olympics is about the athletes
They want to compete
They want to win
They just want to see who is the best

They don’t need your money
They don’t need your fanatic loyalty
They don’t need you to hate the other countries’ competitiors

They couldn’t care less if you ‘feel involved’
They couldn’t care less if you get to vote on them
They couldn’t care less about how you, as a fan, feel

These are not your games, fans
They don’t belong to you, and they never will
You didn’t put in the time
You don’t have the talent
You would cry if you had the guts to do what athletes do

You damn well have no business dictating how athletes compete.

Classroom etiquette

I don’t claim to know the right thing to do all the time, but at least I try. Most of the time. The times I go against the grain are the times that matter, at least to me.

In a classroom situation, what is the proper etiquette? Is it set by the teacher (professor), or by the students? We (at least in the US) are taught at a young age to raise our hands and wait politely to be called on, not to have side conversations while class is in session (interesting to think of class as either a court or congress, isn’t it?), and to look like we are paying attention. These are not bad standards to go by, at least in a formal lecture.

I think of “formal lectures” as those classes that are taught in large lecture halls and covering basic material. While having a great discussion of the topic is difficult under these conditions, I have seen it done in the past. The common denominator was that it was one of those rare semesters where a) the students all enjoy the subject (difficult at the intro level) or b) there was a very energetic teacher. In these cases, it is very possible for the rules of formality to be relaxed and those students who wish to be engaged in discussion allowed to speak without raising their hands, refer to topics outside the range of the course material, and occasionally curse at the professor. These exceptional courses aside, I think I will stick to general lower-level class etiquette.

The main drawback to having a large intro class is that the teacher has no feedback, generally, during lecture. In intro courses this is counter to the idea that you want to make sure everyone understands the material being presented–few underclass students feel comfortable asking what they feel are dumb questions in a crowded hall, so the professor has only his/her past experience to draw upon when deciding how quickly to move through material. Granted that this is outlined well before the class enters the room for the first time and printed in black and white on the syllabus, but going ahead (as long as everyone understands) is usually beneficial, as it accords more time for review between the end of a section and the next examination. As a student, I also have to say that those professors who stick to the syllabus tend to let class out early more frequently than those who do not.

So what is there to do? The professor, having no immediate direct feedback as to whether his/her teaching is effective, has to go slow enough (and repeat things enough) so that even the “slowest” learners in the class can at least have time to copy down what is written on the board (a pet peeve of mine, that very few people in my classes can take notes from pure lecture, but then again, I am a graduate student taking freshman courses, so I think I have little say in the matter).

What does this have to do with classroom etiquette? There is more than one way to skin a cat, as the old saying goes, but I, having never attempted to skin such feline, couldn’t tell you what the various methods are. The general feeling of each class is initiated by the instructor, and amplified by the students. I have had courses where we sat around for half the time and talked about life, before learning about stratigraphy. My current physics class is dry as a bone, since the professor tends to be very chalkboard oriented and sticks to his notes and his syllabus like glue. The point is, there are some classes in which you cna chat it up, and some in which you can’t. As a note to the girls who sit behind me in chemistry, it seems to me (and this is only my personal opinion) that you should stop talking once the professor has started, and not destroy my eardrums with your constant loud whining about how you can’t see the board to copy down exactly what he said only seconds ago.

climate change

THE question of the place of science in human life is not a scientific question.
It is a philosophical question. Scientism, the view that science can explain all
human conditions and expressions, mental as well as physical, is a superstition,
one of the dominant superstitions of our day; and it is not an insult to science
to say so.

–Leon Wieseltier, The New York Times, 19 February 2006



I was reading (as I seem often to do) Rob Helpychalk’s blog, when it occurred to me the differences in design. His is white, with nicely arranged photographs to the right, simple text, many links on the right side. Mine, in contrast, is dark, with a messy background, and probably poorly-chosen coloring. Which is the better blog? Which is the more professional?

This is a question that has been nagging at me for some time now, simply because I am getting to the point where I will have to worry about what people will learn of me on the internet. Not that I particularly care, as I am a rather forgiving person, but there seems to be a large and larger problem with the seperation of one’s personal life and one’s professional life, due to the ease of which a potential or current employer can access what you blog. While I may not be ashamed of being in a band of sorts, will I be passed over in the future because someone is afraid I will sing at work?

Granted, this sort of thing in my field, as far as I believe, is not much of a problem. I’ve yet to meet a geologist who won’t pretty much accept you as you are.

In general though, I would like to think about the differences in design philosophy. What makes one site more ‘professional’ than another? Content is number one. No matter how polished your layout, I doubt that many people will casually overlook your stories about being a neonazi or having questionable relationships with farm animals*.

Layout must a be a close second. If only I had a copy of those studies I remember which talked about first impressions and overall opinion at a later date (in reference to web sites–I’m sure we all know how people react to first-impression data). Now the question is, is there a perfect layout? Can I be the best to everyone? Admittedly not. Actually, please comment on the fixed background image. Should it scroll along with everything else? Should it be lighter, in order to make it appear like there is more ‘space’ on the page to move around? I think that, although much darker than I would prefer (it was a quick photoshop effort), it expresses me well. In fact, when I actually do view the site, I am always surprised at how good it looks, as if I had expected it to grow horns in my absence.

I’d like to take an opportunity to say a word or two about personal information. There seem to be three or four types of sites that can be officially described as ‘blogs’: 1) the personal life blog. What I did today and here are some photographs of my pet sheep. 2) the personal emotional blog. I’ve been feeling like this, but it’s up to you to actually know me in person in order to understand everything. 3) the professional blog. I do this at my job, and the problems we worked out today were x, y and z. 4) the opinion blog. You don’t need to know who I am, just what I have to say.

This blog is in transition, at least it feels like it could be, from type 2 to type 4. This is for a combination of reasons including quasi-professionalism in the jungle and simply the fact that it doesn’t seem important to expose every aspect of myself to the world.

Excuse me, as I have run out of steam.

*This may, in fact, gather you more sympathy than you may be looking for. It all depends on how you swing I suppose.

things i learned today

Complete Article, courtesy USGS.

Forensic, Art, and History Studies – Calcareous nannofossils have been used to help police solve criminal cases. For example, clay scraped from the shoes of a murder suspect in England contained calcareous nannofossil species that were unique enough to lead the police to the scene of the crime. Calcareous nannofossils have been used to determine the origin of building stones for Medieval churches in Denmark and to check authenticity of paintings. In Norway, which has no native chalk, calcareous nannofossils were used to determine the origin of white chalk that was used to prepare the surfaces of Medieval wooden sculptures and panels before painting. The pattern and changes through time of the chalk trading routes probably can be used to interpret general trading patterns in northern Europe at the same time.

Source of interest: SCHULTE, P., R. SPEIJER, H. MAI, AND A. KONTNY. 2006. The Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-P) boundary at Brazos, Texas: sequence stratigraphy, depositional events and the Chicxulub impact. Sedimentary Geology, 184:77-109.

Palm squeal/whine/noise repair

[EDIT: As cool as I think it is that all you people are coming to my site for solutions to your Palm problems, it would be really great if you could leave a comment as to whether any of these worked for you, or to let me know about something I did not mention previously. Also, there is the rest of the site to browse, which would be nice.]

Per request, I’m going to add a little more detail on how I fixed my Palm E2 yesterday.

The problem I was dealing with was this: When I turned the Palm on, it would emit a high-pitched squealing noise, sort of like the one you get when you have an old television that needs to warm up a little bit before you can see what is on the screen. It was highly directional, and seemed to be coming directly out of the screen. If you tilted the screen away from you slightly, the noise lessened. Tapping the screen to enter data modified the intensity of the noise, but not necessarily the tone, and ‘flexing’ the entire device did approximately the same thing.

Similar problems do exist, as outlined at Just-blog
, which may or may not be caused by the same thing, such as a similar noise coming from only one part of the device. I’m not prepared to offer advice in terms of other problems at this time.


Just-blog presents as a solution overclocking the Palm processor in order to change the frequency of the internal clock and therefore of the screen, which could be the source of the squeal. While this did not work for me, a software fix for this problem is usually preferable for people who do not want to take their device apart. Multiple overclocking programs exist for various Palm devices, but for the E2 all I was able to find were Warpspeed and PXA Clocker.

If you are looking to overclock another advice, I suggest using the ‘search’ feature on your browser to check out Just-blog
and searching for your model number.


Do not despair if overclocking your Palm does not work! There is another solution, posted by junglemike at Brighthand that fixed my Palm E2 in about 15 minutes. Apparently, the problem is due to some odd proximity effect of the digitizer on the screen itself. The steps are the same as illustrated, but I have some additional suggestions:

* Be not afraid of the star-fangled screws holding it together. A small flathead screwdriver will work on them, or a very small allen wrench.

* When pulling the case apart, you are going to need to pop it really hard, so don’t be afraid of it. The two things I did do were disconnect the battery initially (the plug pops off and on easily) and lose the power button for a couple minutes because it flew off when I finally got the case apart.

* The digitizer is on top if the screen, and note that there is a connection between the two that you should NOT mess with inadvertently while you are prying them apart.

* For the material between the screen and the digitizer, I used a full sheet of thick clear plastic (from a box some window blinds came in), but it is possible to use overhead transparencies or even a couple layers of foil or regular paper around the edges. You don’t need to block the whole screen, you just need to get the digitizer away from it by a little bit. I suggest plugging everything in and testing it while you have the Palm apart in order to see how much of an effect you are having on the noise.

I hope this was of help to someone, but it’s really those sites mentioned above that fixed my problem for me. If there are any more questions, I am glad to be of service.