Will and Beyond

Marathon Training


How I imagine I’ll look.

Running a marathon is one of those things I’ve always wanted to do, just so I can have done it. I don’t like running, it sucks, but maybe because that’s because I suck at it. I’ve tried to get into running a few times, but never seriously.

It is time.

And while we’re at it, let’s start out with a grueling marathon that doesn’t even try and hide it: the Bataan Death March. Really.

lots of people
Thinking about training

8/3: 1 mile (9 mi/min)
9/14: 1 mile (9.2 mi/min)
9/17: 1 mile (8.7 mi/min)
9/20: 1.5 miles (9 mi/min)
9/22: 1 mile (9.7 mi/min)
10/1: 2 miles (9.4 mi/min)
10/5: 1.5 miles (8.9 mi/min)
10/11: 2.5 miles (9.4 mi/min)
10/14: 2.5 miles (10 mi/min)
11/2: 3.5 miles (9.9 mi/min)
11/8: 3.5 miles (10.6 mi/min)
Well, I guess I can kind of run. Short distances. Slowly.


12/26:  Registered for Marathon
I actually registered. In fact, I declined the insurance, where if you back out, you can get some of your money back, that would only tempt me. Stephanie, Joe, and Diana also signed up, so I guess we’re in this together…


How I imagine I’ll feel.


12/26: 5 miles (9.7 mi/min) (at sea level)
Wow, after adapting to living at elevation (Santa Fe is at 1.5 miles), coming back and exercising I feel like a god!

12/30: 1 mile (10.1 mi/min) (hungover)
12/31: 4 miles (12.1 mi/min)
Okay, even elevation doesn’t compensate for running with a hangover, never doing that again. But did get one last run in at sea level, even if it was shorter and slower than my first one. The big difference is that my legs are becoming the limiting factor, not just becoming short of breath.


What I won’t be winning.

Back to Santa Fe

1/13: 6 miles (11.8 mi/min) (back to 1.5 mi elevation)
1/16: 3 miles (9.8 mi/min)
1/19: 2 miles (10.1 mi/min)
That was probably a longer break than I should have taken, but it was icy out, and didn’t seem worth twisting my ankle over. I discovered that running at work is fun, because I can explore some of the areas I never go to. Also, they’re a lot better at shoveling snow and de-icing.

1/30: 4 miles (10.6 mi/min)
2/10: 4 miles (10.2 mi/min)
2/11: 1 mile (9.2 mi/min) (Salida, CO, morning before snowboarding)
Another 11 day gap there. I broke my phone, (dropped it from 2 feet…) and I couldn’t get myself to run without being able to simultaneously track it with RunKeeper, and listen to music.

2/13: 4.5 miles (9.9 mi/min)
2/15: 1 mile (11.8 mi/min) (beer mile)
2/18: 12 miles (11.5 mi/min)
2/25: 3 miles (10.9 mi/min)
2/28: 5 miles (9.5 mi/min)
3/2: 17 miles (12.3 mi/min)
3/5: 1 mile (7.7 mi/min)
Things are getting serious. Did a 12 mile and a 17 mile run. Also tried to see how fast I can run a single mile. That slow 3 mile run was due to trying real running shorts (vs. basketball shorts) and freeballing. I didn’t like either of those.

This morning I’m going to do my last long run before the marathon, a 20 mile run, and then I’m just going to do a lot of short runs before the marathon. Here we go…

Government Shutdown

shutdown2In case you’ve managed to miss it, we don’t really have a government right now.

Because my last post was an update about my working experience here in New Mexico, I feel like I should follow that up with some thoughts on the couple weeks following.

Until recently, I haven’t been directly affected, we had some carryover funds to continue operations, and were just cutting back on spending and travel. However, as of next Friday, I will be out of work, on unpaid furlough, in the absence of a budget. Unfortunately, I will also be unlikely to receive retroactive pay as a federal employee, because of the structure of the national labs.

The DOE contracts out the management of the 17 national labs to private companies, so all DOE scientists at these labs are therefore contractors, and not federal employees. Generally we are treated as such, however not in the case of situations like retroactive pay.

shutdownThis shutdown is heavily affecting R&D in this country, and therefore worldwide, as has been covered by many sources, such as C&ENScientific American, Gizmodo, Huffington Post, CNNScience, and Nature. (Let me know if you want the full text of the Science or Nature articles.)

Upon hearing about the sneaky move of House Resolution 367, passed on 9/30/13, the day before the shutdown, which only allows the House Majority Leader to put forth a vote, I decided to read the text myself. I decided to read the text of Resoultion 59, which gives continuing appropriations to keep the government running in absence of a budget for FY14.

Obviously I’m not entirely fluent in legalese, but my reading doesn’t interpret it in that we can even be furloughed. I decided to email my congressmen:

“Dear Congressmen,

I am an employee of Los Alamos National Laboratory, who will be furloughed as of close of business on 10/18/13, unless a budget is passed to continue funding. While there are many terrible things about this shutdown, I am particularly concerned about the lack of retroactive pay in the case of a furlough for government contractors, such as me and all of the personnel in the DOE National Lab system. For this, I’m very grateful for your support in the 10/5/13 letter to secretary Moniz.

Upon reading the text of House Resolution 59, section 112, I question the validity of these furloughs at all:

“Sec. 112.  Amounts made available under section 101 for civilian personnel compensation and benefits in each department and agency may be apportioned up to the rate for operations necessary to avoid furloughs within such department or agency, consistent with the applicable appropriations Act for fiscal year 2013, except that such authority provided under this section shall not be used until after the department or agency has taken all necessary actions to reduce or defer non-personnel-related administrative expenses.”

Am I misinterpreting this, or does this not imply that the DOE may appropriate funds to contractors running the National Labs, such as LANS, which would enable them to continue working, only with less funding for administrative expenses?

Thank you for your assistance and representation during this awful situation.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t think that through, and when I submitted it to Senator Udall, I was greeted with the following response:

“Thank you for contacting me.

Due to unfortunate brinksmanship in Congress, the federal government has shut down, and federal law requires that my offices close as well. During this time, we will be unable to check and respond to any messages through my website or by e-mail or phone. I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience, but I will respond as soon as I can once the government reopens. In the meantime, please know that I will continue to work with my colleagues to find a solution to this senseless shutdown.”


Six Months in New Mexico: The Lab


It’s actually been about seven now, but that doesn’t sound as good. I’ve posted a few times since I moved here and grad school and my post-grad school vacation ended, but nothing substantial, or really about being here. So where to start, there’s the lab, Santa Fe, and the commute between.

In short, the lab is really excellent, but very different. It’s one of the biggest labs in the world, with some history that you’ve probably heard of. I ended up in a materials science group, which has some chemists, but many other engineers, etc, and definitely a different feel than a normal chemistry group. It’s been a fun and interesting adjustment, getting to work a lot of different things, but also has moments of “What do you mean there’s no pH paper around, this is no chemistry lab! Oh… right.”

Definitely a great change, being exposed to all sorts of new areas of science, and seemingly no end to new projects. Being a postdoc gives you tons of freedom to more or less research whatever you want.

lanlThe size of the lab is different in terms of both number of groups, scientists, and facilities, but also size. There’s almost every possible imaginable resource, if you can figure out who has what. In terms of size, given the origin of the lab, there are a lot of things spread out, so you do a lot of driving just within the lab. There are government vehicles available for use most of the time, so you don’t end up racking up tons of miles of your own gas, which is nice. (Unlike the commute…) My horrendous sense of direction has been getting a good workout; finally starting to not get lost every other day.

Comparing academia to government is interesting. I don’t have any current aspirations of professorship, so the national lab system seems pretty perfect for me right now, giving you lots of research freedom, without the teaching aspects. I could see going to academia someday down the road, but not in the near future. That isn’t to say the research experience is the same as in academia, there’s definitely a significant amount of things which go a lot slower.

safetySafety culture is huge. If you are not trained and authorized to do it, you’re not doing it. There’s no “oh, I can figure it out”, “oh, he can just show me how then I’ll be fine”, no. This has its ups and downs, in theory being safety/proficiency and slower progress/unnecessary(?) bureaucracy, but overall I can’t argue with it. I’m not without my fair share of grad school accidents, so when I have to sit through hours of training, there’s definitely some moments of, “yeah, I did that, ouch”.

You probably spend your first three weeks doing nothing but various forms of training, and lots of reading. If you weren’t warned about this, you’d probably be really frustrated. I was, so I just pushed through it. It’s really mostly in the beginning, so you just sit through it all once. There’s lots of refreshers along the way, keeping different types of training active, but it seems to be spaced out enough that it’s not bad.

Once you get going, everything picks up with whatever speed you want it to. There will be things which get in the way and take a while to get approval, etc, but remember, you have lots of projects at once, so if you’re without things to do, it’s probably your own fault.

Like I said in the beginning, super fun so far.

That ended up being a lot more than I thought, so I’m breaking this up into a couple parts, next up, New Mexico itself.


2013-07-05 12.08.22

Combining a raspberry pi with XBMC yields raspBMC. A super cheap and convenient media center, with the feeling of accomplishment since you built it yourself. (Even though it’s absurdly easy, I mostly just followed the Howtogeek walkthrough.)

Hooked up to an external hard drive and wired to the internet (sadly no Netflix because of Silverlight licensing), controlled with your phone (via Yatse, although the latest raspMBC update has broken it temporarily), easy stuff.


R.I.P. Reader, Long Live Reader

I should get back into the habit of posting again. I’ll start light.

bacon reader

Apparently, along with Google Reader’s demise, so goes the RSS support of Google Alerts. Damn, no more automatic ego-surfing.

Feedly is serving me well. I tried out Netvibes and The Old Reader, which had their perks, but were too buggy.


Curse you, RRoD

Most people out there are familiar with the BSoD, the blue screen of death. It haunts Windows users, inciting fist shaking in Microsoft’s direction. For Xbox 360 players, an even sadder sight is the red ring of death:

2013-04-28 13.31.46

The RRoD tells you what type of error it is, depending on the number of lights. Three is the number you never want to see, which indicates hardware failure. I could return it to Microsoft, but since I’ve owned this for about 5 years now, it’s well out of its 1 year warranty, and would cost $119 to fix otherwise.

There is an alternative, unorthodox method to fixing the 360; wrapping the machine in towels and praying:

2013-04-28 13.53.16

This actually works sometimes. Essentially, there is a part in the machine which will come loose from overheating. By wrapping it with towels, and leaving it on, you’re forcing overheating, which can reform the connections.

I did it, and it actually worked… for a week. Now it red ringed again, and I need to try it more legitimately, by opening it up and using some thermal paste. Buying a new 360 wouldn’t be ideal, especially since the 720 isn’t far off.


A full 3 months after my arrival in LA, I’m actually getting around to posting this, and maybe finishing off the Dr. Will’s Transcontinental Victory Tour series.

LA was an excellent visit, which was made even more amazing by Andrew’s expert itinerary making skills. This was seriously ridiculously detailed. Amazing.

I started the day wandering around Chinatown, and then explored Exposition Park, including the Rose Garden. The only thing is the Rose Garden was apparently closed, and I only ended up wandering in there by first going through a film shoot, and had trouble escaping. Entertaining. This was mostly killing time until the California Science Center opened, which was filled with tons of cool stuff, most notably, the Endeavor:


After wandering there for a few hours, headed to the Grove and had Umami Burger, mmm. Next up was LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; fun stuff.


Went over to Beverly Hills and wandered around, and finally met up with Andrew for Korean BBQ, and crashed at his place. In the morning I rented a bike and biked around Venice Beach:


After a few hours of biking around, went up to the Getty Center, which had some great art, but the center itself was amazing, in terms of architecture and the view of LA.


Headed down toward Hollywood to wander around, and wow, that is not the glamorous, glitzy neighborhood I was imagining, rather think Times Square before it got cleaned up. Met up with Andrew and we went to Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles with Sangwoo. Finally went to the Griffith Observatory. They had a periodic table with samples of each element:


Definitely a fun trip; I can’t see myself living in LA, but a fun city to visit. The tour is almost complete (well, the documentation), only Portland left to go.

Scientific Knowledge

“Scientific knowledge grows like the accumulation of bric-a-brac in a vast and disorderly closet in a house kept by a sloven. Few are the attempts at ridding the closet of rusty or obsolete gear, at throwing out redundant equipment, at putting things in order. For example, spurious distinctions are still made between reflection, refraction, scattering, interference, and diffraction despite centuries of accumulated knowledge about the nature of light and matter.”

Craig F. Bohren, Penn State
Handbook of Optics, Vol. 1: Fundamentals, Techniques, & Design, 2nd edition: 1995.

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