December 2006


I just finished a cannonball run across the US. 3000 miles in 48 hours +/- 10 minutes. From ocean to ocean with rugged mountains, gentle plains, cities, farms, national parks, wolves, rivers, and bad coffee in between.
Starting in Seattle with clear weather we got to experience the cascades in the winter with all its beauty, without having to write up a last will and testament before hitting the passes.
It was dark by the time we got to the Rockies, which only makes things more exciting. The passes in Montana make those of the cascades look like a kid’s game. I don’t know what Montana’s budget looks like but I’d suggest investing in some salt and snowplows. We’d climb up a 60 degree incline only to have an ice-covered, hairpin-riddled descent waiting on the other side. Surprisingly I only saw one overturned SUV.
Once you get past the Rockies, it’s time to insert the caffeine IV. Unless you enjoy monotony and consistent deja vu. Rest stop, wheat field, wind farm, abandoned farm, repeat. But really I did quite enjoy the gentle landscape. It had an old-timey feel that us city-slickers just can’t get in populous areas. The setting sun hit the landscape just right.
The Badlands are something to behold. See it if you ever get the chance. But hurry up because acid rain is actually washing away all of the formations, and the park with be completely gone, nonexistent, in the near future.
More of the same until you hit Ohio where, surprisingly enough, more signs of civilization start to show up. Factories, billboards, housing developments and increased travelers were tell-tale signs that we were getting close to the east coast. At this point I found myself wishing I were back in South Dakota, since it was nice and desolate. As soon as we hit Pennsylvania I saw my first police car clocking people. Traffic volume doubled, but still didn’t slow things down. Crossing the Allegheny and Appalachian mountains was great. I’ll always have an affinity for the rolling hills and dense deciduous forests of the Appalachians. We crossed the AT and I remembered that section from my 2003 hike. It is the flattest, longest section of the whole trail. So we didn’t stop to climb a mountain since there weren’t any. As we bore down on Philly, the traffic doubled and as soon as we got on the Schuylkill Expressway it stopped. Dead cold stopped. Welcome home. I’ve written about NJ traffic before, but it never ceases to amaze me how insane it is. I was passed on the right (a.k.a. the shoulder since I was in the rightmost lane) because I was only going 15 mph over the speed limit. Cars come at you from every imaginable angle at incredible speeds, and no one cares about anyone but themselves. I’ll take rocky mountain passes any day.
But I made it to the AC Expressway alive, and here I am back in NJ once again. I’d like to do it again with M. and a few more days to really see what’s out there. But when your copilot is a bronchitis infested mouth-breather who hasn’t bathed or changed clothes in several days, you go as fast as you can.
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M. saved my life. I received an email a few days ago notifiying me of an electrical shutdown in buildings A, B, and C on the 14th and 18th of december. This would be fine if I wasn’t a month and a half into ANOTHER set of calculations. And if I wasn’t leaving for the holidays on the 17th, rendering me as helpless as a newborn sea turtle in a raccoon’s nest. Needless to say I was incredulous, unable to fully express the cosmic injustice. Just as my face was reddening, my blood pressure skyrocketted, and that stroke nearly reared its ugly head, M. reminded me that I am in building D, diverting all disasters.

If you have to ask, then this doesn’t apply to you.

The stars seem to be aligning. I never trusted this guy or his hippie lip.

Finished deriving the new equations of motion for our vibrational wave packets. And get this, they almost all fit on one page. Granted it is an 11×17 piece of ledger paper, but they almost fit. They should also be much easier to code, which I should start doing next week. No worries about a vector potential, perturbative expressions for vibrational eigenfunctions, or unitary transformations. I’m excited.

Have to finish grading today while M. studies for tomorrow’s concurrent exam and fights the temptation to watch Grey’s Anatomy all day.

On a more political note: I thought the official take was that the US doesn’t partake in nation building. Well Stephen J. Hadley’s recently leaked memo regarding Maliki’s abilites would suggest otherwise. In it it he outlines several things that Maliki must do to appear to be a strong leader and prevent complete and utter failure. It says, “If it is Maliki’s assessment that he does not have the capability — politically or militarily — to take the steps outlined above, we will need to work with him to augment his capabilities. We could do so in two ways. First, we could help him form a new political base among moderate politicians from Sunni, Shia, Kurdish and other communities. Ideally, this base would constitute a new parliamentary bloc that would free Maliki from his current narrow reliance on Shia actors. (This bloc would not require a new election, but would rather involve a realignment of political actors within the Parliament).”

Did you catch that. Particularly the parenthetical remark. Rebuilding parliament would not require new elections. Sounds like we brought them US style democracy alright.