Thursday, October 30, 2014


Right. So now the task of posting to the blog falls to me.

Initially, I planned on writing a little introductory blurb about who I am, but most of the people reading this already know me. Those who don't have possibly looked at the group website recently and noticed some strange kid with a d_z^2 orbital on his left arm and a bunch of holes in his ears. It's really a shame you can't see the rest of my arm in that picture. Ehrenfest's theorem is on it! Kieron has asked me a few times to upload a full picture of the entire thing. I gotta jump on that. Also yes; my username/pseudonym for this blog is a quantum mechanics joke. Get used to it. The puns will only get worse from here on out.

 Being in the Burke Group is a pretty surreal thing. I'm only four months into graduate school and my name is already on a manuscript with Kieron's. As a scrappy theoretical chemist who started out his academic life on the mean streets of Piscataway, NJ (which, incidentally, aren't so mean), I have to pinch myself at times to remind myself I'm working with the guy who has that functional named after him in Gaussian.

Anyway, after just submitting an NSF proposal only hours ago, I'm not really in the mood for waxing poetically about the existential questions one runs into in graduate school. I'll save that for another entry. Maybe I'll do a debrief of my experiences NSFing next post.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Last Blog Post

Dear Diary,

And so it is.  That was my blogging adventure. 

Looking back, I'm not entirely sure what I was trying to write about on this one.  Now someone else gets to try and figure out what exactly should be going on here.  To my successor, I give you this commemorative photograph since I've never actually shown myself on this blog:

Now I have a whole bunch of time to devote to my various duties.  ITensor needs a documenting and papers need writing.  I'll miss you, Diary.  Tah-tah.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Nine Deadly Attributes

Dear Diary,

Today we all got evaluated based on the latest new evaluation system:
  1. reliability
  2. conceptual
  3. little calculations
  4. big calculations
  5. analytics
  6. reading
  7. presentation
  8. writing
  9. social functions
These are Kieron's points for success and are graded based out of one point (half credit allowed).  Six points and you're respectable.  Go backward in any year and you might consider new employment.

I did not come out so favorably in this one.   Kieron delivered my utterly contemptable score (perhaps a group low...which was about the number of people asking me for things divided by 3) and then said, "You're doing fine."  In between trying to explain my side of the story...ok, well, I abandoned that fairly quickly.  Maybe I'll just resign myself to taking the advice or being a terrible student.

Coincidentally, NPR ran a story today saying that employee evaluations were bad for working productivity and morale.  That has been my big problem recently but things like this seem to keep finding me.  The lessons I took away from today were to focus more on the things I should be doing.  Perhaps I should relinquish more administrative control, stop saying yes to endless administrative tasks, and give up this pesky blog.   Find more solitary time.

But that would only get me 4.5 points--yikes.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Swan Song

Dear Diary,

I just got back from a conference held by the Far West division of the American Physical Society.  I had a blast!  There were tons of cool talks!   The casino we stayed in was really neat!

Reno was a nice place.  Apparently they get a lot of UC students who are looking for more education.  They have a lot of nice faculty at the University of Nevada, Reno.

My talk went well.  It was the last time that I'll be able to speak on my Master's degree stuff.   Now I can put my full effort into new things.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Not Obvious

Dear Diary,

For months now, I've been hoping to figure out what exactly Lucas did to derive the exchange functional.  Well, as fate would have it, I just did.

The trick involved taking a double integral in one dimension and noting that the integrand only contained the difference of the two coordinates.  The replacement is obvious if you wave your hands!  I get the feeling that this is a common trick in the ABCs but it must've flown completely over my head!  Li recognized the switch as from a particular class of problems (the Hooke's atom) but man...the math step was not obvious!

In my defense, I did ask Lucas several times for how he did this and nowhere in the notes was this trick.  I kept getting an exponential integral.  Playing Devil's advocate, however, I should have learned it during the now fifth ABC class I'm in!  Again in my defense, somehow this should have been exposed, you'd think.  Again playing Devil's advocate:  go and do your work!  Stop blogging!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Jury Summoned Again

Dear Diary,

I got a second jury summons since April in the mail.  It's just the sort of response I'd expect from Orange County for following the rules (aka 'You did exactly what we told you, now let's see if it can be done again!'). It's exactly the same response I've come to expect from pollsters!

Fortunately, I saved the 'get out of jury duty free' card they gave me which is good up to one year.  See, last we left the story, I wrote in asking them not to send me to jury duty because I can't really get to the court house (I plead the 5th on how I actually got there!).  There aren't any buses that run that early and I don't have a car.  In order to actually get there, I'd have to camp like a Star Wars fan waiting for front row tickets...and I'd probably get a ticket for doing so!  So, I sent in a letter, heard nothing back, went to court all fancy and dressed up, and then I came back and found that they'd send me a letter three days later saying I could postpone until December.

For the first few months, I thought they were joking.  But the law never chuckles and here comes December.  Now I'm worried that if I contest it, they'll just postpone the service again for next June and September 2016 (that'll teach me!).  But if they keep postponing, maybe there is a way out.  I could jury dodge to Canada!  See, down here I stick out like a sore thumb for actually doing things I'm told to do.  Up there, everyone is so nice I'd actually fit in.  Yukon, ho!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Second reception

Dear Diary,

I went to another lovely ARCS reception and had a blast. The members were so nice. One even commented that it's like having 50 more moms! Such nice people.

One area that I messed up in was introducing my work. I followed some advice and kept it short so I would not be condescending or confusing. But at the behest for more information, I introduced it like I wanted to, and it went over much better. I think I will follow my instincts more going forward. I really enjoy getting to know these people and the other winners.

I also need to remember that casual means dressed I normally do it! All the women got the message but the guys were not so keen. I must trust myself!

Interesting people!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Special Cup

Dear Diary,

Justin loaned me a cup some time ago as I am eco-conscious with our tea consumption.  I didn't want to use paper disposables from the coffee place anymore.

Well, I lost that cup.  Then I found it again today when I walked into Li and Raphael's office.  Huzzah!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wasn't me

Dear Diary,

For once, it wasn't me.  I did not crash the cluster's head nodes.  For once.

Picture this:  I've been submitting a ton jobs recently, getting a lot of work done.  Steve and Kieron seemed to be real pleased that I'm getting all this done.  How could I remember not to crash any computers?  How about running less jobs so I make it wasn't me.

Ok, but there was some trouble around lunch.  I figured it has to me.  It's been me so many times that I'm now the guy  who is known as the guy who crashes the cluster.  To be a true player, you got to learn how to play.  But it wasn't me!

Nate was really nice to me this time and everything seems to be going my way.  Further, Miles and I are honing on the exact LDA that we've been trying to get for a long time now.  I mean, I have two numbers instead of zero now.

And with the whole cluster at my command, nothing can stop us!  (Unless I submit too many jobs and crash it.)  I was extremely nervous before I found out it wasn't me; now I need to go tell everyone and celebrate at the pub!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Fancy pants

Dear Diary,

I have had the pleasure of attending a reception by the ARCS foundation.  Boy was it lovely!  I got to chat with a whole bunch of people and hear about all the cool stuff going on.  I have to admit, after hearing the speaker speak and chatting with a few other people, I'm super motivated to do good science.  In fact, it made me question whether my science was any good in the face of such powerful and life altering work!  I have to do better!

In addition to meeting some lovely people, my sartorial choices were a hit.  I went plain with a white shirt and skinny black tie in my new dress shoes.  I would have given myself "best dressed," but there were a lot of other well dressed people there, I must say.  I did get the obligatory, "You clean up nicely" which made me rethink my daily attire.  I'll have to make sure to get fancier on a daily basis!

I also got to meet other winners from last year and this year.  What a treat!  Some great people to meet!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Insult to Living

Dear Diary,

Not one day after my roommate leaves (lucky guy), the fire drill occurs.  I think my last roommate also pulled the same trick.  Now, recall last year that I simply packed my bags and walked into work.  No so this year, there is a new $500 fine for doing that.  I even woke up at a comfortable 8am and wanted to take the morning slow (because I work so hard for this university on a daily basis; I need my free time to relax--there, I said it--sue me).

The utter mystery is that less than a week ago, they had a planned fire alarm that doesn't satisfy some state law to have an anonymous one.  So, I naturally spent more time away from home to avoid that first one.  Maybe these are good for the undergraduates who seem to set off their fire alarms about every ten minutes around dinner and lunch times by (I assume) leaving their stoves on.

There is something noisy that occurs every morning from garbage pickup to lawn mowing (you know, the lawns they over water during this drought) to people playing basketball until midnight...

...oh!  The alarms are going off again!  Are they playing a joke?!  Is their system faulty??

Once you're unceremoniously ushered from your apartment with threats of fines and more loud noise, you sign in (and if you're feeling sassy, act sassy to the poor people signing you in), and then you are given a donut.  Yes, a donut!  The healthiest of the American breakfast!  I declined.

I'm going swimming.

I will remember you

Dear Diary,

My roommate has moved out today.  I'm distraught.  Corey was one of the best roommates I've ever had.  Up there with the three guys I roomed with my first year at Long Beach before the landlord showed up unannounced and used a leaf blower to blow dust off the outside of the house.  Funny what having kids can do to some people.  Angry, formal letters by yours truly were sent to make sure we got our full security deposits (we did), and we all went our separate ways.  Happy times.

But Corey!  Now who will I come home to?  I can't keep doing this.  Going through roommates is tough.  You did your dishes!* That's like roommate gold! Two roommates in a row who did their dishes?  There must some regression back to the mean at some point.  And you always bought the toilet paper.  Remember the time we left the compost inside too long and got flies? 

My guess is that they won't fill the room for about a year.  It was awkward timing to do a fish project in Vietnam for housing contracts.  But seize the opportunity, Corey!

Who will I awkwardly negotiate bathroom time with?  Now it's just me and the bathroom.  I suppose my last, also very great roommate Ben moved out under similar circumstances.  He did get married, but maybe it was me.  Sometimes you have to look in the mirror and realize that you've got the whole place here to yourself and that's super awesome.  No, Corey and our third roommate (his significant other) loved spending time here because they basically had full control over the apartment.  With no furniture and a full work schedule, I'm a veritable non-factor!

He did leave a table.  Maybe I should have a party where I invite everyone and sit in my one chair.  That's enough, right?  I am slowly collecting furniture discarded from former roommates.  The first year I was here, I slept on the floor.  Not after Ben moved out.  Thank you!  A few more roommates and I could get to enjoying time at home!

*-The next one better too! 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

More than you can chew

Dear Diary,

Aha!  So this fellowship I won does have strings!  I was foolish to think otherwise!  But truly, this is exactly the type of thing I needed.

These are the strings you hope for.  Would Pinocchio be such a goodie two-shoes if he wasn't controlled by Geppeto maniacally for the first third of the movie?  Never!  It turns out here that the money I receive must be used for "things that help get me my Ph.D."  That's it!  The possibilities are endless because I have a long leash on this one!

Some brief examples that were told to me by my excellent contact were that I should put the money towards conferences and publication fees among other things.  Secretly, it costs a lot of money to put articles in journals, but this means I won't need to beg for money to do it!  I even have a few side projects with good friends who are probably jumping up in the air right now that I'll be footing the bill.  I accidentally made the mistake of telling one of them not to work too fast on one project--how will I tell them we need to publish while I still have funds?!  In fairness, I also need to do a few things on that and others.

The real winner here are Kieron, Steve, and the grants they have.  They won't have to pay as much for me; I will!  They just don't know it yet!  I think its exactly the kind of news Kieron and Steve are waiting for from me:  I'm cheap!

In other news, I should get to work on other news that Kieron and Steve will definitely enjoy.  I need to produce a paper!

...and what's this?  Miles and Kieron have sent me conferences to apply to?!  Wowie!  Heartfelt thanks ARCS!!