Thursday, April 27, 2006


I hereby consider this thing dead until further notice. As I suspected, I don't care much about telling everyone my opinions on things. At least, not if I'm not present at the time to see the tears. That's the best part.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Fall Update

At some people's insistence I'm posting a brief update. I don't know if I mentioned this in the previous lab-related post, but our paper on using x-ray fluorescence to reveal the writing on ancient inscriptions was published. Is being published. Something like that. It was accepted, anyway. In case you think that's really neat, I mention the caveat that we haven't really tested it with something that you can't read visually yet -- it's just the foundation work we've got going. That said, it did receive some level of coverage in online science news sites and in the French "Science et Vie" and the German "Spektrum der Wissenschaft", both similar to our own "Scientific American". The original press release is the most accurate to date.

Many advancement have been made in the previously-mentioned games. Plus, I'm playing World of Warcraft from time to time, and so is Megan. Not so much the Guild Wars any more, though the new expansion (Grenth's Footprint) is appealing.

I should also mention, since I haven't adequately covered "background" even, that the aforementioned "Megan" is my fiancee, with whom I could not be happier. Wedding plans are going well, as well. No, I'm not telling you when. You already know where I live.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

At the Lab : Jul 27-28

I can't really talk much about what I do publicly. However, I do study Greek and Roman inscriptions, and I do so using synchrotron x-ray radiation.

The lab I'm working at right now -- from July 27th to August 2nd -- is the Cornell High-Energy Synchrotron Source, or CHESS. It's really a quite nice facility, particularly because the staff are very helpful.

The preliminary investigations were done about a year ago, also at CHESS and also by me (principally). I essentially cobbled together some equipment for moving the inscriptions around in front of the x-ray beam (which is fixed in position) from old equipment available. Since then, some of that has been salvaged, much to my chagrin. Fortunately, since then, a staff scientist here has been studying using x-rays to look at paintings. To this end, he built a three-dimensional translation stage (one more dimension than I need) that turns out to hold way more weight than is necessary. It's quite capable of holding the largest inscription I have here. It's very, very nice, so I immediately replaced my sort-of-working equipment with that. He also put together a nice frame grabber for the video camera inside the x-ray hutch (separated from the user by a heavy lead door), making recording where you're looking at all the easier. I also have some help from a fellow graduate student. This is good, because you're supposed to more or less use 100% of the available beam time, which is 24 hours for roughly 6 days. That's hard to do singlehandedly. A lot of the control software is automated, and some of our scans take some 4-8 hours to run, but that still is really packing sleep in there as an afterthought.

My current plans after this entertaining run at CHESS are to visit the barn up on Martha's Vineyard for some rest and relaxation. Delicious!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Background Part 2 : Gaming

What can I say, I like the video games. I prefer mostly RPGs: pen and paper, MMO, console, what have you.

My game of choice is and has been Dungeons and Dragons, for its flexibility and pure class. Particularly now that 3rd Edition (well, 3.5) is standard, it's a very tactical game, which I enjoy. I don't follow published worlds (Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms) much, but I do enjoy Greyhawk, the original D&D setting, and Arcanis, a 3rd party product. I primarily play Living games through the RPGA: Living Greyhawk in particular. In past times I played Living Arcanis and some of the others, but this is not as much the case today. I've also played a few of the classic Greyhawk moudles, most notably the Temple of Elemental Evil, and will hopefully experience more. The history is quite impressive and devious. I've also played a variant of Vampire: the Masquerade, Exalter, and Star Wars (the WotC RPG). Other games I've played, but not enough to really understand them. I've also picked up a number of systems (Ars Magic, In Nomine) that I haven't played but provide a useful background of knowledge and a greater understanding of system design.

Two MMORPGs I play quite a bit. One is Final Fantasy 11. I am Brodrik, on the Caitsith server. I'm a Hume from Bastok (rank 10). I'm primarily a Dark Knight (lv 73), but I've dabbled in thievery (55), black magic (41), and the ways of many other jobs. I took up crafting heavily for a while and am an accomplished alchemist (81) as well as skilled in the ways of woodworking (60), smithing (57) and clothcraft (53). I know a bit of cooking (30), leathercraft (?) and bonecraft (?). I hate fishing. I hate farming, too. Notorious monster camping I don't like. Most of my money must've come by accident. I made some of up levelling up crafting (weird, huh), crafting for specific goals, or doing fun stuff like ENMs. My social linkshells are AltanasWrath and HNMilf. AW was born out of KnightsOfTheRoundXI, which I joined back in the mid-50s with my static's Red Mage, Siege. He has since then left. HNMilf I joined rather recently due to people in AW. My HNM shell is a joint project between these two linkshells and two additional ones: BaronsRedWings and Banditos. I have to say, BRW had a reputation for quality far, far back in my memory. I once had a Dynamis shell, but that is no more. I also have a static (with its own linkshell) of some lower-level folks that know how to experience the game well: Alcedea. This is where my thievery is practiced.

I've also been playing Guild Wars. I have a Mesmer/Elementalist (level 20 + quite a bit, far into the game) and a Warrior/Monk (level 10, not far at all). I play with some folks I know through my former roommate at Clemson, Dan. Most of them are West Coasters, but they're okay nonetheless. Guild Wars has some interesting design choices and is great as a game you don't want to spend too much time on. Far too many people take it too seriously, though, and PvP play is a big thing.

In the console / single-player world, I've greatly enjoyed much of the Final Fantasy series, as well as some other notable games, like Rachet and Clank and Disgaea. Still, the best game, in my opinion, is Final Fantasy Tactics. I've also played and enjoyed America's Army and Neverwinter Nights for a while. America's Army was an odd game. I normally don't like first-person shooters, but the necessary teamwork and realistic touches in the game make it good. I've since stopped though. Neverwinter Nights is good, but it's basically D&D for people that don't have some friends and a table to sit around.

Final Fantasy 11:

Dark Knight, with Artifact helm and a greatsword

Dark Knight, with Optical hat and a scythe


Guild Wars:


Mesmer, in town (no creepy mask)

You can see I prefer effectiveness (good stats) over style. Also, the screenshot functions in this games are not my friends. I do like the Dark Knight look though, even though the hats are kind of silly. I used to have one that made me look like Robocop, but it was replaced by the two I have now. Guild Wars lets you dye your armor various colors. With the already-weird armor I had for Mesmer, I thought a reddish-purple leisure suit look would make things as uncomfortable as possible. Brodrik the Leisure Suit Dominator! Ugh. (Mesmers do use a skill called Domination magic, and yes, the evil mask does make you a better Dominator.)

Background Part 1 : Ithaca

Perhaps some background. I am a graduate student at Cornell University, in the Department of Physics. My present research involves examining ancient inscriptions using x-ray techniques available at the Cornell High-Energy Synchrotron Source to uncover writing that has been worn away. I have to say that the idea is quite clever and that I really enjoy working down at CHESS. For those that don't know, Cornell is in Ithaca, New York. For those not familiar with the Frozen North, Ithaca is cold and rainy. The cold means that "rainy" should actually be interpreted as "snowy". In the bad part of the year (early January), going for a few days without temperatures above zero is not unheard-of. In snowy or rainy weeks, it's not uncommon to have mini-blizzards or heavy thunderstorms for 5 out of 7 days of the week. This means that travelling by foot or bicycle, the most reasonable options for many students, are a proposition only a madman would accept. A madman such as myself. The weather also makes skiing interesting. The courses here tend to be fairly natural (little synthetic snow, if possible), so you if you want a good course, you have to accept the frostbite that comes with it. A nice thing about Ithaca is that while places like New York city are a little abrasive, this is a very friendly little town with low crime and a very eclectic mix of people. Most of the people are crazy, but they're nice crazy, not scary crazy. In case you think that Ithaca is the liberal haven that it is, recall that we are surrounded (and infiltrated by) the gun-toting right-wingers that occupy the rural portions of much of the country. These people barely differ from one state to the next (having lived in rural South Carolina and New York) except in accent and style of dress. Also, despite their fairly liberal leanings on things like social policy (and our high taxes), New Yorkers are quick to give government agencies the finger when possible.

This was originally going to be "background in general", but that's too varied a topic to do all at once. Plus, some things need some more work put into them. Suffice it to say for now I like online and pen and paper gaming, have friends in a variety of neat (and no so neat) places, and have an awesome fiancee who I love very much.

I attach for your perusal some photos of sunny Ithaca.

This is of Beebe Lake, which is right by Cornell's Campus. It's probably actually part of the plantations or something. This spot is down on the trail, which is sort of northeast of the bridge that connects main campus to the residential North Campus. This bridge has a neat waterfall with a ruined stone building set into the cliff. Clearly I don't have a picture of the bridge or waterfall, so this'll have to do.


This is typical scenery in one of the local state parks (Treman, specifically). All of the parks here are very nice and include complimentary waterfalls.


This is a picture of an apartment in my complex. The Varna Fire Department is investigating something. I have no idea what it is: they got all geared up like it was some great conflagration, then went into an apartment where the woman who lived there had been going in and our for the past 15 minutes. I can only assume it was nothing serious. So, I'm a bit confused. The Varna guys have apparently caught onto this trend of using bright yellow vehicles. Downtown Ithaca still uses red, as far as I can tell.