Monday, February 28, 2005

Buying Political Influence

One Raymond Brown died last year, and in his will he left a little over half a million dollars to the Lodi Valley Historical Society, provided the board resigned. The board declined to resign and give one rich man such power over their organization. They couldn't very well tell Brown to go to hell, since he'd already fixed his destination, but I presume that the thought was there. But wouldn't you know it, a group of society members with more eagerness for money than for principle got together and are trying to sue to make the board members quit.

Now I don't know all the facts of the case. It is quite possible that the board members are a bunch of moldy turnips and need to leave. But the whole point of a democratic organization is that everybody gets a say, not just the rich members. Raymond Brown demanded power disproportionate to his vote. Life's unfair like that sometimes, but whenever we can defeat such abuses we ought to try.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Beggars on State Street

We have some regular beggars down at the campus end of state street. There are about 3 business locations: in front of the drug store at the corner, in front of the electronics store on the other side of the street, and next to the benches across the street from the bus stop. I recognize about 5 guys (almost never any women) who take turns holding the empty cups. The spot by the benches is less popular--it is usually either empty or held by a fellow who uses a cheerful patter to solicit donations ("Spare some change for a politician down on his luck" or "I need some funds to buy the good booze" etc).

The rest of the beggars rotate among the other locations. On rare occasions one works the library mall by the bookstore. One woman shows up from time to time, but she stays mobile and doesn't just stand in one place. I first ran into her in University Square Mall a dozen years ago. She was stoned out of her gourd and incoherently trying to cage bus fare to Milwaukee and talking about the business degree she was working on at UW Madison.

I try to give McDonalds gift certificates. I know it is rather insulting to assume that he'd spend cash on booze or grass. It is also rather accurate, so I'd rather try to give food. Unfortunately I almost never have the time to take the guy to lunch or supper--I've only done that a couple of times. Yes, I feel obligated to try to give something somehow--the Master said so.

I know quite well that a beggar can sell certificates--it is just a little harder for him to get his money. He has to work for his cash :-) One man has approached me at night twice in the past year trying to sell bus passes. I guess he doesn't know that the University handed out year-long bus passes in lieu of pay raises . ..

A new guy worked the electronics corner Friday evening. I was fresh out of coupons, and his shtick was rather fake. He leaned on a couple of way-too-short crutches to try to look helpless.

The beggars who work the electronics corner stand about 40 feet away from the bus stop, but they never come to the bus stop itself to beg. Since we'd be a captive audience, I think we'd find a beggar more threatening and be more likely to call the cops or chase him away.

I'm not talking about the buskers--the picolo guy who drives the vendors on Library Mall wild (imagine picolo for 4 solid hours!), or the pair of guitar players, or one of the gloriously incompetent singers who imagine that aggressive guitar playing covers up a lack of rhythm. Or the drummer who beats on a 5-gallon paint bucket. They add genuine flavor to the street--maybe a little odd sometimes, but flavor. They're part of the life of the city.

Friday, February 25, 2005


Many thanks to Ann and the visitors from Althouse.

I've heard stories of people overcoming amazing personal obstacles, some far more dramatic than anything you will find in my home. I want my children to likewise overcome their obstacles and find their niches in the world. So I avoid telling funny stories about their lives or otherwise holding them up to ridicule.

Different? Yes, they're different. In The Rolling Stones Heinlein wrote "Roger, have you ever met any normal people? I never have. The so-called normal man is a figment of the imagination; every member of the human race, from Jojo the cave man right down to that final culmination of civilization, namely me, has been as eccentric as a pet coon once you caught him with his mask off." Likewise us, neurotypical and other. Of course some differences are good, some add color, and some need correction.

And problems get magnified when you have to jam in to a particular mold. Schools want you to sit down and shut up and listen. We all know how well that works for kids with ADD, for example.

What helps? Patience, of course, and lots of different points of view that help see the unconventional and keep us from getting into unhelpful ruts. And friends. We've been very blessed with friends. I pray that you are also.

GPS on the bus

Madison Metro has fitted at least some of the buses with GPS systems and automatic bus stop announcements. As the bus gets close to a stop point, a cheerful male voice gives the intersection name, and maybe a little extra info: ("East High"). I guess they did this for the blind, though I'm learning the names of a lot of streets I never bothered to learn before.

The installers got the voice and the volume right. You can hear the voice if you want to, or ignore it--it doesn't demand attention. My stop is a left turn across East Washington, so the GPS unit doesn't get close enough to make the announcement until we're already there. I don't think that matters, since the turn is dramatic enough that you can recognize it without seeing it. Or hearing it.

The voice was a bit disconcerting the first day, but now I approve. I hope it was inexpensive. (Found the announcement--display is munged up, though)

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Starless galaxies?

BBC has a report of a region that seems to be a galaxy without stars. Says here in the dictionary that the word galaxy comes from a Greek word for milk, so the phrasing might seem a bit odd. What they actually found is a huge amount of hydrogen atoms, which appears to be rotating; and rotating at a speed greater than could be accounted for by merely the mass of the hydrogen. Normal galaxies seem to have the same problem, hence one of the arguments for dark matter..

When excited by other radiation, hydrogen atoms emit photons with distinctive energies, and from the spread of relative red shifts of a cloud you could tell if a cloud of gas was rotating or not. The abstract says that they think it might be "part of a currently infalling population," but that "This observed column density is above the normally expected level for star formation to occur. The two detections with no optical counterparts have very much lower column densities than that of the rest of the sample, below the star formation threshold."

Or to translate that, they have two candidates for "galaxies that haven't quite formed yet." Or for galaxies that are formed mainly of "dark matter."

Given the fractions being bandied about for how much of the universe is supposed to be dark/non-baryonic matter, it wouldn't be crazy to expect to find some galaxies with less-than normal amounts of matter. To actually predict how low you can go in the amount of hydrogen (and thus of stars) in a galaxy I'd have to model this and run some fairly complex fluid-dynamic code; and I don't have the time for it. I'd be interested in seeing how this pans out.

Hunter Thompson

Am I the only person my age who never bothered to read Fear and Loathing? Or anything else of his? Now that I think of it, I skimmed an essay of his a couple of years ago--I think it was on Iraq or Afghanistan. He didn't know what he was talking about and his style didn't strike me as distinctively good.

I expect all the library copies of his books will have long lists of holds, so even if I wanted to figure out what the fuss was about I'd have to wait a few months. I think I'll just keep reading Blue Clay People instead. I wonder if he would have wanted it that way...

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

What Blogs Do I Read?

I've seen some very creatively categorized blogrolls, but they generally lack detail. This isn't a "blogroll" as such: there generally aren't reciprocal links, but this is the sort of things I look at regularly. I use either tabs of blogs in Mozilla, or bloglines.

Rather than rank these, I list them alphabetically. When you see "collaborative blog," you know that describing the focus and tone is generally going to be a little difficult.

  • AfricaPundit is a (very) sporadic poster. As you probably guess, he's interested in African news.
  • Ann Althouse is a law professor here at UW-Madison. She comments on Madison, law, personal stuff, and other.
  • Amy Welborn is a writer who focuses on happenings in the Catholic church.
  • A Voyage to Arcturus is essays and pointers to news on space, science, and technology.
  • The Basement Burrow is my eldest son's blog; largely humor and observations on politics.
  • Belmont Club is "Wretchard"'s comments on the war and how nations (and NGOs and the UN) work or don't work together. (Wretchard is actually his cat's name.)
  • Cerberus Blog is written by a policeman in a A Large City. Sometimes tart.
  • Chicago Boyz is a collaborative blog, with main interests being culture and political trends.
  • Chronicles of a Medical Mad House has been the "diary" of an intern. He's been getting a bit bored with that (unfortunately) and branching out into more creative writing.
  • City of Brass:/unmedia is Aziz' new blog location. He's a Shi'ite science student. I find his perspectives interesting.
  • The Cranky Professor appears to be some variety of history professor, commenting on culture and history news.
  • Dave Barry's Blog is more or less as it says: bizarre news links with a line or two of commentary. It doesn't quite have Dave's touch, naturally.
  • David Warren is a Canadian newspaper columnist.
  • EuroPundits, by Nelson Ascher, is his musings on culture, world events, and Portugese translations of poetry.
  • Ideofact is a history professor commenting on history, culture, and personal stuff. And let's not forget his unique ongoing analysis of Qutb's work.
  • Innocents Abroad is a sporadic poster writing largely on current events and foreign affairs.
  • InstaPundit.Com: everybody knows InstaPundit. His specialty is finding links to things you might be interested in, and he finds them all day long.
  • In the Agora is a collaborative blog specializing in commentary on current event, culture, faith, and college basketball.
  • Iowahawk is satirical pieces on news and culture.
  • Latif's Cavern is a sporadic poster originally from (I think) Pakistan whose current career in banking is cutting heavily into his musings on the world and culture.
  • James Lileks: The Bleat Everybody knows Lileks and his comments on family life, work, politics, film noir, and . . .
  • LittleGreenFootballs keeps up with news stories on the war abroad and at home. The comments are both popular and useless; skip them.
  • Not Even Wrong is a weblog by an Elementary Particle Physics theorist. A bit specialized, sorry.
  • One Hand Clapping is Donald Sensing's weblog. He's a minister and former Army officer, and comments on a fairly wide range of social, religous, war, and cultural topics.
  • The Policeman's Blog is by a London bobby. Did you think you knew what crime was like in Britain?
  • Rantburg is a place for finding news stories you're not likely to find in the local Times. Want to learn about the news from the MidEast, Pakistan, Indonesia? Even the comments can be well-informed. Or tart.
  • Regnum Crucis is Dan Darling's posts on the "War On Terror." He takes notes on the news stories, and figures out who is who.
  • Science Blog is pointers to interesting science news stories.
  • ScrappleFace is satirical "news stories" mocking trends in culture, politics, reporting . . .
  • SgtStryker is a collaborative blog written by former and current military personnel. I think I like Sgt. Mom best.
  • Timbuktu Chronicles is pointers to news stories about African innovation and entrepeneurship.
  • contains sporadic posts by Dr. Work, a theologian at Westmont.
  • Touchstone Magazine is a comments page for the Christian magazine Touchstone.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy is a well-known blog written by a number of law profs and students in California, with most of the topics directed at legal aspects of items in the news. No, it isn't at all boring.
  • Winds of Change.NET is a collaborative blog, with regular features of commentary, wrap-ups of recent news in "Regional Briefings" and "Winds of War", and "Good News Saturdays."

Monday, February 21, 2005

Muons to detect shielding?

The BBC has a story on a group looking to use muon detectors to detect the shielding used to hide plutonium or uranium. The idea is fairly simple: we already have a muon flux of 10,000 muons/square meter/minute and we might as well use them as probes of trucks to see if they have anything really dense aboard.

The reporter Paul Rincon says "Muons are also harmless, unlike X-rays or gamma-rays," which is hardly accurate. The point is not that muons are harmless, but that they're already part of your everyday background radiation no matter what you do.

The idea seems fine at first glance. But think a bit. They say that "The scattering of muons is very sensitive to the density and atomic number of a material. It could therefore easily detect uranium, plutonium or the shielding material that would have to surround them to make these materials undetectable by other methods." The problem is that "easy" is a rather relative term. First note that the size of the hidden fissionable and lead box is going to be rather small: on the order of 400 square cm cross section or so. So now we're talking about only 400 muons/minute. Assume that they're making a muon telescope, with several layers of strips of scintillator making a sort of garage that you drive into. The presence of dense chunks of lead or iron will make a shadow that you can readily detect using those 400 muons you get in a minute. But figuring out where that shadow is takes a few more tracks, and trying to figure out from scattering whether this is a chunk of scrap iron or a lead box full of loose uranium foil is going to take some subtle analysis. You can model this, and work out how to program it to be done automatically, but I don't see how you can determine if even an isolated sample is loose lead or dense iron with only 400 muons, and if the load is complicated (lots of chunks of stuff), I guarantee you'll need more muon tracks to untangle the structure.

That means more time. How long can you have each truck sitting inside your muon garage? One minute? 10 minutes? 20?

Muons make very nice probes, but you have to be patient.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Jazz violinist Regina Carter and her band gave a beautiful performance at Overture Center on the 16th. #1 Son loves jazz, and used to play the violin, so we went. We moved back a row at intermission to be sure he had enough elbow room to move to the music.

Carter has classical, jazz, and African music training, and her performances are a collage of styles and themes. Imagine beginning with Faure's "Pavane" on a solo violin, with percussion introducing a Latin jazz beat, then various riffs, crescendos, decrescendos, quotations of themes from other songs, all run together seamlessly.

"And when Thorin struck (the harp) the music began all at once, so sudden and sweet that Bilbo forgot everything else, and was swept away into dark lands unders strange moons, far over The Water and very far from his hobbit hole under the hill."--Tolkien

Mrs James

Friday, February 18, 2005


If Hot Topic specializes in selling to the goths, the angsty-types, does that make it a Dolor Store?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Recycling manure?

The BBC has a report on generating (souvenir) paper from kangaroo manure. The idea "was inspired by the success of the elephant dung paper industry in Africa." I concede the novelty of the product, but to call it "eco-friendly" needs a little justification. I'd always thought that dung made good fertilizer. Does the benefit of getting a little paper compensate for the loss of the fertilizer? Compare it with growing trees . . .


The Chaos and Complex Systems Colloquium speaker today was Prof. Ann Althouse speaking on blogging. She seems the same in person as she writes herself in her blog. No doubt there's a paper waiting to be written about linking and self-organization in the blogosphere--I wonder if it will be published online first?

Most of her talk was driven by questions from the audience, and so covered such things as what seems to motivate bloggers, how politically oriented they can be, whether there is the risk of self-absorption, and the echo-chamber effect you sometimes find. I thought it telling that one of the audience held up Hewitt's book Blog and described him as "the enemy." How do you get yourself noticed? How do you know how many people read you? Are bloggers influential? (Write good material and let a big name know about one of the best articles; use sitemeter; and yes, sometimes: think of the success of candidate Dean's blog, and the fall of Dan Rather and Eason Jordan, of Trent Lott's remarks, etc.) I think you'll get a better feel for the talk by reading her blog than you will by any summary of mine.

Monday, February 14, 2005

"Gay outrage over penguin sex test"

I'm not sure if this BBC story is a hoax or not.

Bremerhaven's Zoo am Meer said it would introduce four extra female penguins from Sweden to the group to see if the males really were gay.

But zoo director Heike Kueck said "gay groups worldwide have been cursing us since that announcement".


Gay groups insisted that penguins had a right to form couples without human interference, she said.

Somebody tell me this a joke. Please? Tell me ScrappleFace hacked their site, or Iowahawk, or maybe the BBC's careless reporter was stoned out of his gourd. Maybe some homosexual activist groups are trying to get free publicity: Or maybe they've kissed goodbye to all connections with rationality as they cower from the chance that they might be wrong.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Non-physics notes on the shift

Just a few details that didn't have a home in the usual notes.

"Aspen East" is a dorm/housing office that was made of two buildings put together, with the central wall taken out. Floors don't quite match everywhere, the stairways are exceedingly steep, and the walls have cracks here and there. The molding is large beautiful old work, though painted to within an inch of its life. The room I was in was nice and large, with its own shower--and was exposed to the outside on three sides. It got pretty cold in there by 1am.

The CDF trailers hold offices and a kitchen, and a couple of bathrooms. The toilet stall doors open inwards, and the door is four inches from the front of the toilet. When I was young and thin it took contortions to close and open the door. Now that I'm . . . . never mind.

CDF is alive with Italians. Which is fine; the folks I'm working with are quite sharp and careful workers, and the backbone of the experiment. But it can be a little embarrassing. On evening shift you have to worry up your own supper. Though they won't say no to chips and dip or cookies, I haven't seen an Italian yet who, come supper time, didn't put together a nice meal. It might not be complicated, but it was always complete and well-presented. Me: I'd dump a can of chili into a bowl and stuff it in the microwave. Individual seasonings: none. Presentation: glop. (Yes, I'd zap some veggies to go with, and eat a couple of apples for dessert. I try to get a few vitamins in me.) So I sit down to eat with a bowl-o-red and bowl of naked veggies, and across from me my colleague spreads out napkins and sprinkles cheese to melt on his pasta and sausage, with a few red beans tucked on the side. Funny thing: he didn't spend all that much longer in the kitchen than I did. Hmm.

Don't bother telling me about all your counterexamples--I don't doubt that they're out there. I'm talking about specific people I work with.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Day 8 of a Week-long Evening Shift

There is no beam today. This is the overlap day in which I break in the new Consumer Operator. Unfortunately, there is no beam, so I couldn't walk him through a realistic checklist. But, I opened up old histogram files to show what things looked like, and we both hunted around for the documentation on how to validate the calibration runs we were just handed, and after about an hour and a half he didn't have any questions and I was fresh out of tutorial.

I'm too sleepy to head back to Wisconsin tonight, so I'll finish supper and go to bed early.

Hey, every profession has its dull moments. Evenings. Days. Whatever.

Day 7 of a Week-long Evening Shift

There is no beam, and the hall is open for supervised access. The powers-that-be thought it sensible to have the shift crew available to be buddies for people who need access, so I'm on call. I'm sitting in the Wisconsin office in the trailers, waiting for a phone call and trying to plan out a scheme for evaluating a possible extension to our muon trigger. This isn't "physicist greed," as our chief engineer describes it. The luminosity/intensity has gone up so high that the Level-1 fast tracker needs all 4 planes to reconstruct a good track instead of junk. That means the 3-layer tracking will be turned off, which cuts out the track-to-stub matching for our detector. Or in short, we lose our trigger, and so only appear as random volunteer muons in the data.

So, we have to try to use the upgraded silicon tracker (which is still in the process of being built, and for which I am obligated to write software). Naturally we have first things first, and the tracker has to work before we can spend money on additions. But--I need to make sure there's room for the additions!

Not an exciting evening. I set the "ical" scheduler to notify me every two hours. Every two hours I interrupt the coding/debugging to call the CDF control room. And I stay in the office in case somebody calls. And I got the code working, and the results make sense. . .

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The rest of a poem I referred to yesterday:

"Harlem: A Dream Deferred"

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun
Or does it fester like a sore
and then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Langston Hughes

Patience and music

God seems to value patience. Remember "wait upon the Lord" and the instructions to the disciples to wait for the Spirit and the waiting for the Messiah and our waiting for His return and Mary waiting for the birth and "Now suffer your servant to depart in peace." Children don't hurry their growth because we're impatient, nor do crops grow, nor do we learn instantly. Almost nothing important happens right away; or only seems to because we overlook the hidden time. It takes practice and perseverance to become an athlete. I think we understand the perseverance part. The patience is another matter.

Yet patience and the need for patience seem to be built into the structure of our world. Why should that be? "To every thing there is a season." I think the key word is "season." Seasons are rhythmic, and in some senses so our our lives. We have the day and night, of course. A single life doesn't repeat itself (except insofar as we often become needy again in old age), but the pattern is the same in us all--somewhat like a pattern of notes in a song.

Imagine a symphony in which everyone was in a hurry to reach the exciting bits in their parts, and didn't wait for their measure. Awful, right? Music isn't just about sounds, but about sounds at the right times. I'm told that in some schools of Japanese art the blank spaces are as important as those with ink on them. That's not crazy--the blank spaces are filled by your mind, and help give shape to the lines surrounding them. And the empty waiting times in our lives aren't really completely empty, even if we only look at them in isolation. Together, I think we are meant to live a kind of symphony: not all playing at once but each keeping his measure and coming in at the right time.

Day 6 of the evening Shifts

We inherited a store. It is the same store as yesterday. Beam Division has a more sanguine picture of the down time, and hopes to have things back up in a couple of days.

Since the luminosity is so low, control of our system was handed over for Pulsar tests and COT fixups and such things.

In the meantime all the machines logged into the daq account can no longer launch applications from the applet icons at the bottom of the screen. KLauncher could not be reached via DCOP. I tracked down some possible fixes, but I'm not keen on monkeying with the systems: too many things are interdependent for me to risk accidently restarting the wrong set of control programs.

The news from home isn't all good. The plumber called about an estimate came on the wrong day, and then charged an hour's time for an estimate. This being the second time the firm's management has landed on my fecal roster, I think we'll give them no more chances.

Nobody needs the consumers right now, and since they can't get their test apparatus to run (they could this morning, though) we're not accumulating information about the detector, so I'm idle.

I forgot an important detail about the control room. We have about 13 high-backed 5-splay rolling chairs in here. They're quite comfortable, which is a big deal when you're standing 8 hour shifts in front of computer screens. And they've all been full from time to time this evening, with standing room only.

And most of their grief came from a flaky cable. Murphy says this has to happen on the day when they have their review meeting.

One group has drifted off. Another guy went to help somebody jump start his car (has cables but no experience--that'll change). I remember one year we loaned a neighbor a set of cables, and he melted them.

I learn quite a bit from listening in on the tests. Not a lot that's useful, granted, but quite a bit. They're trying to debug by running the old machine, the new one, both together with the old one driving, both together with the new one driving; all the time looking for the changes in trigger rates that indicate that the new one is doing the better job it is supposed to. Unfortunately for them, the luminosity is 10x smaller than the intensity where the old machine starts to fail--at this luminosity it works just fine.

Eventually the relief shows up. We won't find out until tomorrow if shifts are canceled or not. For now, the accelerator people are playing with the beam: they call it beam studies. It isn't as obvious as it sounds how to tune and manage the beam. For one thing, the models don't always quite work, and for another the apparatus ages somewhat, so a maneuver that worked fine last year won't necessarily work fine this year.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Meanwhile, back in Wisconsin, #3 daughter and I are reviewing the history of the discovery of atoms; Democritus to Lavoisier. #3 Daughter wants to go off on a study of the French Revolution. No, dear; we have to finish the Renaissance and Reformation.

Because of her Asperger's Syndrome, she has trouble getting the big picture. Yesterday she was obsessing about the Protestant reformer's destruction of the church art. Could not focus on the reasons why the reformers hated it: veneration of saints=idolatry, cost of church art that could have gone to the poor, building frustration--attack the church building itself because the crooked prelates are out of reach. When she asked today why the Revolutionaries killed Lavoisier, how do I summarize that? Same reason the reformers attacked the church art: reform suppressed and people repressed equals rage, and the longer the rage builds, the bigger the explosion.

"What happens to a dream deferred?"--Langston Hughes

Mrs James

Day 5 of the evening Shifts

We inherited a store. Unfortunately we are plagued with DAQ errors, and we just got the bird-chirp that signaled a CMX trip: probably the same wedges that have been giving trouble all this week. The expert hinted that it would probably be OK to turn those off and run without them. Did I mention that our trigger inhibit turns on whenever one of our detectors trips? It makes utter scramble of analysis to have different detectors on and off during the same run.

One of the more startling things about standing shifts of this type, as opposed to the offline shifts I had been doing, is that you meet more people that you know--and discover the amazing amount of grey hair that seems to have magically appeared. Bob is our Operations Manager (seated in the far curved table): I don't remember that ring of grey.

We keep getting that ugly "Chung!" with the synthetic voice interrupting the run. The same process also pops up an alarm window on the Ace's monitor: the same garish yellow color that you find on illuminated signs in the cruddier sections of town.

Chasing silicon problems: the Monitoring Ace's instructions say that when one of the silicon monitoring displays turns pink, he should ask the CO to correlate this with a status map. Nothing shows, none of the histograms look all that different from their neighbors. I'm puzzled, and a silicon expert has been paged. We're having crate readout problems, so we're not taking data.

Think of it like a hospital. Doctors arrive, poke the patient here and there, confer gravely in a corner for a while, poke the patient some more, then go off for mysterious activity. And maybe their diagnosis fixes things, and maybe not. The hardware event builder has been coughing up a lung all evening.

An event builder is hardware and software that coordinates the collection of data from all the different readout systems and organizes it into the single block of bits we call an event. Everything had better come from the same beam crossing: it makes no sense to have muons from one interaction and calorimetry from another.

Switched the consumers to a different partition, trying to save the SVMon info. No, I don't know why we had to switch; that's Ace magic as they try to get the readout to work.

People watching: the Monitoring Ace was talking to a young Italian lady. When she was turned sideways to him, she kept her eyes on his face. When she turned to face him, she looked down, up, at him, away, down . ..

Snow coming! About an inch, they say, starting at about 11. There's a big red blotch on the radar map that's been heading north-east, so they may be right.

I'm trying to clean up the CO's environment a little bit, trying to make it easier to find the things we're supposed to do. I can't get at the instructions, though--and the instructions need a little work.

Somehow DAQErrMon lost connection with the world, and our main control system got worried. Restarted everything. Again. This is kind of annoying, since I'm supposed to be doing system checks and it takes time to accumulate enough statistics to spot subtle problems.

More little problems: an silicon channel that is going out of tolerance, the plug electron shower maximum detector has more hits above than below (??), and some events turned up without all their data banks!

The silicon detector is made of giant chips of silicon wafer--the same sort of thing computer chips are made of--subdivided into thin strips. When a charged particle goes through a strip it leaves a trail of ions behind, and before they recombine a current flows from the positive to the negative side, and we can detect the result, reading it out rather like a region of memory in a computer. The detector is delicate, needs careful alignment, and needs a great deal of cooling! If it is hit with too many charged particles, the minor damage caused by a single one accumulates to the point where the boundary between the two doped regions becomes blurred, just as it would if you got the thing too hot. And if the particles hit when the voltage is on, the current flow causes it to heat up and blur the boundary even more. The difference between the two regions (you did look at the URL, didn't you?) is that each region contains small amounts of a contaminant (the dopant) which gives the regions different properties. But atoms in a solid can move around, and defects appear, and the boundary between the two regions lose its character--and that region of the chip will fail.

Ack. A man from the Main Control Room came by to give us the bad news in person. One of the quadrapole power supplies for the Main Injector blew up. That's the second such power supply in a month; it isn't an off-the-shelf item, and they need every one. The one that blew up last time wasn't on a quadrapole (and they could run without it), but it blew its door 90 feet away. I remember the old hazard training films. Radiation areas were one of the hazardous zones, but so was the region around the ring power supplies. Two explosions in a month is probably going to bring on a safety review, which may add still more time before we get beam again. I gather the best case is that we might get beam in another week.

We'll see what develops. If there's no beam, there may not be any need for a CO, and the powers-that-be sometimes let the CO go home.

Little things are constantly drifting in an out of tolerance. It isn't that things are built carelessly, but that they were built for use near the bleeding edge, and some of the most critical pieces of apparatus are sitting in a radiation environment with (at the moment) high humidity. And everything is being run 24/7. A lot of "wonderful" "cheap" hardware--commodity PC's come to mind--just isn't made to run 24 hours a day with dust and vibration and the other hazards of life.

Of course some things have been made--let's not say sloppily, but rather with an eye to the bench. Years ago we bought DEC Alpha computer chips and tried to use them in specialized processor boards as part of our readout system. One of the little gotchas was that the timing and level shapes had to be just so for the chip to work reliably. Apparently we didn't throw enough engineering talent into designing every millimeter of the boards, and it took quite a while to debug them. Signals supplied by our bleeding edge electronics didn't always match the specs demanded by the chip.

More and more hardware is being made to high standards. Experiments are lasting longer, tolerances are tighter, and beam time is more expensive. Some of the stuff I've seen pictures of for CMS looks like works of art, and was made robust and easy to pluck in and out of position. It is a bit embarrassing to remember some of our old scintillator boxes--if we didn't get the higher ones tightened just so, we had to use a sledgehammer to force in the bottom ones. (No, we didn't damage the scintillator, or the electronics.) And plywood played an important role in the construction of some of the old drift chambers.

During a lull, our Monitoring Ace was showing the Ace how to use online ticket sites to get lower air fairs back to Korea. Something wasn't working quite right there either. (Maybe dumbness in the site that demanded that you use Internet Explorer--I've seen that a lot.)

Now the weather report says 1-3 inches. Not much headed for us on the weather map right now, though.

Done. Now post this and go to sleep.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Day 4 of the evening Shifts

The day started oddly: the power went out. I took my razor to the trailers to shave, arrived at the busiest time of the day: the parking lot was absolutely full, except for the slot by the front door that a fellow was just vacating.

Some monitors, such as the one above me that displays 11 Xterm windows for the Consumers, have had the same configuration so long that the monitor is suffering screen burn.

The accelerator suffered a quench earlier today. "Tev Plan: next shot setup around 18:00-19:00." In the meantime we're doing what's called "L2 torture testing," which shakes down our Level-2 trigger system. And we're doing more Pulsar testing.

Did I explain that the Pulsar board is a VME card that has room for several "mezzanine cards" (plug-ons) that give it more memory or provide different kinds of I/O protocols. It carries a pretty standard FPGA, which is like a program-it-yourself computer: You get to specify what happens with every bit at each clock cycle, how big the word size(s) are, and so on. They have pretty obvious application in triggering; where you want to rapidly process a haystack of hits to find a needle or a hundred of tracks, or to organize silicon data, which is read out from the silicon system with an eye to speed rather than ease of use. You can learn more than you ever wanted to at this site.

There may be a ground fault in the accelerator. They may find it soon, or may need to turn off the main injector and go look (which takes quite a while).

I understand the Superbowl was played last night. I wonder who won. No, we didn't tune any TV to the game. That's a problem with cable and TV monitors. Years ago somebody unplugged one of the ubiquitous accelerator info TV's and watched fuzzy images of some game or another, but that's a bit harder when the TV is just a monitor. I'll live, I think.

I gather that the network decided not to stage a simulated sexual assault this year.

I'm calculating and typing and from time to time checking the Wall Hadronic Calorimeter histograms. One two channels are hot, but their hotness comes and goes. What am I typing? Stuff like "m^{\prime\prime} e^m + {m^{\prime}}^2 e^m" Why type this sort of gibberish (LaTeX)? Because it is way easier to do than work with Microsoft Word or OpenOffice. OpenOffice even borrowed the LaTeX syntax for creating equations, and it is still more awkward than using straight LaTeX. MS Word is a joke.

Duh. One of the hot channels is due to a TDC problem. We're running cosmics, so TDC problems dominate. In a real run, stray energy forms the background.

TrigMon errors filled up the disk. About a dozen worthless files, from 1 to 3 GB each. Hmm. Deleted one too many: one looked like it might have been useful. Actually, now that I think about it, I could have whipped up an awk script to parse out the crud. The expert we called suggested we call a different expert next time.

The Ace (a new one) is about to start some calibrations. I've not done verification before. . .

Before he could finish the calibrations, the job ran out of space. Some InhibitGUIxxx file was growing beyond all bounds. It is gone now: Ah, Bill killed it.

Slowly figured out how to use DBANA for the calibrations. The documentation is not very uniform. Some things were simple, others tricky.

No beam tonight. They're still looking for their ground fault...

Monday, February 07, 2005

James wrestles daily with muons and beams and signal-to-noise ratios and other arcana that I, who got a courtesy D- in high school chemistry, cannot comprehend. My scientific talents are observing and enjoying nature, and I can perform very simple experiments. James's parents blessed us with a good microscope, and we put it to use again recently, making and observing crystals.

It helps to read the directions before starting. I'd forgotten that today's experiment in water density required a turkey baster to deliver the salt water with red food coloring to the bottom of the container full of blue ice water. A soda straw worked ok, but boy! does water saturated with pickling salt taste bad.

I tend to save the experiments for when #2 son is home to observe along with #3 daughter, who's our only home schooler this year.#2 son is our inventor. He doesn't care much for plants and animals, but he can hardly wait for me to start teaching electricity. I also like having one of the older daughters around when I'm explaining science. They enjoy chemistry, and can explain concepts when I get lost. They both benefitted from a year of "Doc", the premier science teacher at our high school.

The best science unit we ever had in home school was light, which the older girls and I did with the neighbor kids. James got a set of old chipped prisms that the physics dept discarded--a dozen different shapes to play with--and some old mirrors from a dismantled bubble chamber. We blocked up the basement windows and had light shows, scattering light with the prisms, covering the flashlights with colored cellophane, scrounging every mirror we could to bounce light all over the room.

We also did motion and acceleration experiments in the front yard, again with the neighbor kids. The Chief Buttinski across the street kept peering out her window at us, wondering why we were running up and down the hill, running balloon rockets on a string between the trees, and running little cars down ramps in the middle of the afternoon.

I know just enough about nature to really enjoy it. Much of this comes courtesy of my dad, who can tell you the natural history of the rock you stand on, what macro- and microscopic life live in it, and what will and will not grow in the soil. He taught me to pick up snakes safely when I was a kid. I remember catching a corn snake at camp one year. We also got up one Easter morning at dawn and went out onto somebody else's property to dig up pink violets, otherwise doomed to be bulldozed the next morning.

Several of my cousins tell me how much they learned to appreciate Dad's dragging them o'er ditches and mires to look at wildlife in creeks now culverted and farms long since bulldozed. One of my cousins earns his living as one of the world's leading experts on water hyacinths as pollution control devices.

Dad's enthusiasm for nature carries over to our kids. #1 Son loves birds, so his grandfather favored him with a long list of bird sighting stories. When Aspergers people get a new fad, they go at it wholeheartedly. We have three bird feeders in a small yard, and the fattest and most vociferous chickadees in Wisconsin. I've learned a lot from #1 son's enthusiasms, and I get just as excited about a new bird as he does, to the great annoyance of #2 daughter, who is kibitzing on this writing. I found myself enthusiastically calling a friend to tell her that she had a huge bird of prey of some kind in her tree, white like a snowy owl but enormous.

I enjoyed #1 son's bird fad a little more when he was concentrating on penguins; then, I didn't have to listen to bird call CDs. #1 daughter, who now speaks the patois of role playing games, says that penguins, along with fuzzy slippers, add +1 humor to every situatuation. Penguins are proof that God has a sense of humor. So are walruses, platypuses, and children.--mrs james

Day 3 of the evening shifts

Trouble in River City again. The SVT05 crate has problems, which seem not to be fixed yet. Luminosity is low (18E30) so there's a 2 hour Level 2 Pulsar test in progress. Beam Division is going to dump the beam sometime this evening and try a new shot setup: I hope with more success than the feeble one last night.

The term SVT stands for Silicon Vertex Trigger. With tens of thousands of channels in the silicon system we need a rather complicated system for trying to figure out which hits line up into (curved!) tracks. It requires boards for gulping in raw hits and sorting them out, for trying to figure out if there are hits lining up in coarse roads, for trying to fit tracks for candidate collections, and for weeding out duplicates. We're in the process of upgrading this system to use narrower search roads, and everything needs to be tested: not just on the bench but also as part of the full system. And we want to make incremental tests: the Big Bang approach of wiring it all together and crossing your fingers is a wonderful recipe for chaos and confusion. You drown in error messages with no notion which system is the real culprit.

The weather map has massive blue claws reaching up around Aurora. Yes, weather does effect the detector. Pressure changes can change the drift speed of electrons in some of our drift chambers if the pressure is too extreme, and too much humidity encourages arcing and high voltage trips for some of the muon systems. In fact, we sometimes even have troubles with condensation. You'd think the massive air handling system would help, but apparently it isn't enough.

I live in an alphabet soup here. The Pulsar experts throw around obscure channel numbers and error flags in their conversations, but that's just the start. Et = Transverse energy, Pt = Transverse momentum (transverse means the vector component at right angles to the beam line), IMU = Intermediate MUon system, COT = Central Open Tracker, ed = Event Display, DAQ = Data AcQuisition, and on and on for pages. Somebody should update the CDF acronym table one of these days.

Eldest son would love the low voltage alarm. It starts with some kind of bird chirping. I'm not sure if it is real or synthetic, but he'd know. Not all of the alarms are real, of course: some are due to a failure to communicate with the crates in the collision hall.

The CMX (Central Muon eXtension) keeps tripping off its high voltage in miniskirt wedge number 30 in the NorthEast. The miniskirt got the name because this was the slightly below main floor level section; built later and with a different shape than the rest. When you look at drawings of the shape it is vaguely reminiscent of a miniskirt. A 6-foot long miniskirt.

One of the fairly annoying things about working here is that the Ace and/or experts will be muttering together facing away from the rest of us, make some decision or another to start/stop a run or reconfigure something, and neglect to notify the rest of us. The fans don't help, nor does the fact that most of the Ace/expert conversation is rather arcane.

The Pulsar testers are gone now, and we've about 2 hours before the beam store is dumped. No point in starting a checklist now, there's not been enough data accumulated in the histograms yet.

Checklist done. About a third of the items didn't have enough statistics to use, and something hung B0DAP56's window manager. Killing processes remotely didn't help, they were hung talking to the window manager. CTRL-ALT-BACKSPACE restarts the window w/o rebooting.

Beam dumped, but they're still tuning up for the new shot. We ran a calibration, but forgot it wasn't quiet time so it wasn't much use.

21:53, and still they're tuning the beam. I'd gone downstairs for a quick dinner (soup and beans and apples) and . .. still tuning. Belay that: "injecting final protons." ?? What are "final" protons? It didn't look like they had any bunches populated yet. (The particles race round the accelerator in 36 well-defined bunches.) 15 minutes later they've got 12 bunches loaded, but something seems to have gotten in the way. BTW, the BD has some cute sound effects: when they inject a proton bunch, they play a T-CH-SSSSSS sound over the monitors.

"pbar transfer. unstacking pbars" Followed by a transfer into the other beam line. Unfortunately they weren't able to fetch from the recycler, so this isn't going to be a record store.

Collider state: accelerating to flattop.

Collider state: flattop.

Collider state: squeezing.

"Event TimeOut: Partition 0, Content crate" The Ace has been on the phone to the experts for the past ten minutes. "The last hope is to start a new run!"

Tevatron scraping. Tevatron collimators moving to initial position.

Tevatron collimators: retracting proton collimators

Tevatron collimators: retracting ppar collimators

The shift only has another half an hour. Looks like we get beam, but the COT crates are giving us fits.

Collider state: high energy physics.

Luminosity is 70 E30. We're ramping the silicon--conditions must look clean. Getting an SVX alarm, though--maybe because it hasn't reached full voltage.

The run is going, no alarms; I collect more data in 10 minutes than the past three hours. And, of course, it is time to go.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

One minor correction to James's description of the collision hall: BO means B Zero.--mrs james
Suffering Servant

We sometimes call Jesus the Suffering Servant (Philippians 2), and so He clearly is. It was a new revelation, and yet we should have known it before. The scripture says that all things hold together through Jesus, but the fact that God maintains everything is something even pagan philosophers should have seen.

And that means that every detail exists because God provides the power for it to exist--even our sins. And the Jews knew already that God hated sin, so if He endures our wickedness, keeps giving us the power for the next moment, "for the sake of the elect" then He was already a suffering servant of us all.

Day 2 of a week of evening shifts

Maybe I should describe the building, so my readers (are there any out there?) know the context of jargon.

The building sits next to the B0 collision region at Fermilab's Tevatron; a 10 minute walk from the highrise. The collision point is, of course, underground and buried under a large berm to boot. The building exists to maintain the detector around the collision point. It is 3 stories tall and looks like a large warehouse from the outside. Inside there's a ground floor with a 3 story-deep pit in the middle of it, and 3 stories of rooms along the side next to the berm.

The pit is where we assemble the detector pieces. When the 100 ton door (actually a wall in the side of the pit) is moved out of the way (can you say "musical chairs?") we can move the central detectors to and from the collision hall. There's a 30-ton door as well, which allows people to move Genies and other small hardware in and out, and a baffle-passage which lets people go in when the other doors are closed. Needless to say all this stuff is interlocked with the beam seven ways from Sunday so you can't get in while the beam is on.

The first floor rooms contain a machine shop, a long room full of relay racks that hold our readout system, a small kitchen, a large room full of very noisy pumps, and a small office for the building manager.

The second floor rooms contain a large video conference room, a small conference room, another smaller video conference room, and then a long room divided into a section with relay racks surrounding desks and then the control room. After that you find the offices for silicon detector experts, and then a set of electronics testing labs (right over those noisy pumps. Well, there used to be a conference room over the pumps!). That section with the relay racks contains a lot of our triggering system, in particular the parts that try to reconstruct tracks online and associate primitives with tracks. By primitives I mean things like energy in the ElectroMagnetic energy calorimeter with no energy in the Hadronic energy calorimeter behind it, or pairs of hits in aligned muon chambers that might indicate a muon stub.

The third floor contains offices, a long hall for computers (including our Level-3 Trigger computers, which try to reconstruct those events that have filtered through the lower-level triggering systems to see if there's anything we want in them), and some more offices and electronics labs.

I forgot--there's another way to get into the collision hall if you're a Rhesus monkey who is smart enough to pull out bags of lead shot blocking what little openings remain in the cable penetrations. Even that would be a tight squeeze.

Right now I'm sitting waiting for the beams division people to figure out where the quench was this morning so they can put another shot of anti-protons in the machine. I'm pondering my jaw and wondering if I dinged it without noticing or if I've a toothache starting (but the dentist didn't see anything three weeks ago). The room is crowded with silicon experts working on something I don't understand, and experts on other things (like the Time Of Flight counters) whose calibrations didn't slide into the database the way they were supposed to this afternoon.

They've injected a few protons into the line, and are going to try the squeeze sequence again to duplicate the morning's failure. Waiting.

Still waiting. I sent off a few math drill problems for the youngest daughter to chew on. And I'm trying a minimization problem for a metric space question I've been working on. The silicon crew is trying all sorts of tests: they want the Consumer Monitors in cosmic mode for them. It looks like they're getting a few events.

Beam division has some new messages: "Linac quad problem holding off beam. Experts enroute."

OK, so I've gotten it reduced to {q^2 + {q^'}^2 = \alpha h^2}, where {q \equiv 1/r} and {\alpha \gt 0}. If {h \equiv 1} that reduces to a nice straight line as desired; so I haven't made too many mistakes. I presume this is nicely indexed someplace, but it takes longer to find the result than rederive it. For the h(r) I'm playing with that isn't strictly fair, since its derivative has a singularity, but . ..

Grabbed some soup and peas. They estimate shot setup in half an hour. We'll have to move quickly when they do: the silicon testers are hanging on to RunControl for as long as they can. Can't say as I blame them. They're trying to get the new Pulsar board working as a replacement for the slower Alpha. Long ago the Alpha was blindingly fast, but DEC got sold, twice, and Alpha chip development went by the wayside. We've faster chips now, and we need them. As the luminosity goes up, so does the number of hits in the silicon, and so does the processing time to piece out the tracks.

OK, they promise us beam in about 10 minutes. Time to get the consumers set up properly. That was about 10 minutes ago, now. . . (22:17).

23:03 and they've gone back from "porch" to "tuneup." I think "porch" means they've got beam in position for injection. I think this shift isn't going to get anything to tape tonight. Even if they inject quickly, it takes a while to stablize the beam, and we don't turn on HV until the beam is stable. There's no point: high losses mean high current draw and the chambers trip their power supplies.

Now that I think of it, it's kind of funny: we use these deep heavy relay racks to hold the PCs and the deep heavy computer monitors (mostly Trinitrons). But we've added more computer monitors (and TV monitors); mostly flat panel, hanging easily in whatever blank space was handy. The big old Trinitrons are still going strong, and they have the significant advantage that the glass screen will stand up to physicists jabbing fingers to illustrate problematic parts of the displays. I remember when these were all VAXes.

Chung! "L2 duhcision Tim-out" I wish they'd use a more intelligent voice program. Given how many non-native English speakers we have (and how many of them have extreme accents), you'd expect that we'd try to make our own English as clear as possible.

Running cosmics again. 23:47 I think this is it for the night.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Day 1 of a Week of Evening Shifts

The first thing that strikes me in the CDF control room is the fan noise. Everything hums. The second thing that strikes me is the screens. As Consumer Operator (aka peon) I stare at 10 monitors (5-dual screen PC's) and a couple of TVs. One TV shows the radar map for northern Illinois, and the other is the beam conditions monitor (store 3962, stack 24 E10, B0Lum 34.43 E30, etc). The message at the bottom reads "Today has been declared an air pollution action day." I'm not sure exactly what that means: do we stay indoors because of ozone levels or clobber a smoker?

The Ace faces 10 more screens (and the same two TVs). His monitors display and govern details of the data acquisition system. As I type this the Ace is arguing in Italian with one of our Japanese collaborators about the difference between something on the monitor and something on his laptop.

The SciCo (pronounced like Bates Motel) sits nested in an 8 foot long curved desk staring at a display of the beam loss monitors. He keeps the e-log, answers the phone, and is the team's interface to the outside world. Need experts? He pages them. So far things are very quiet . .. Ring binders of instructions, reference plots, and manuals line the long desk. The E-log contains such exciting entries as

Halo Counter Work: The above figure shows the effect of the new voltages on C:B0PAGC(yellow), C:B0PBSM(cyan) and B0PHSM(green). The largest effect occurs with the return of the top counter. All work on the halo counters is now complete and any features should be considered real.

Next to the Ace is another bank of monitors. These include TVs showing what cameras in the collision hall see, fire monitoring displays, oxygen monitors, ACNET (accelerator information) displays, solenoid current and other arcana. Think safety. And, of course, that ubiquitous acclerator TV display, with the iniquitous fonts. Over the years, many pixels in the collision hall cameras have gone west, so the images look pretty ratty.

The control room is longer than deep, with the CO on the left, Ace center left, safety center right, and on the right a pair of ACNET relay racks and the array of monitors for the silicon detector and high voltage. The ACNET relay racks are stuffed with NIM and CAMAC crates, which are stuffed with scalers and timers and special-purpose triggering gear and beam loss monitoring. The silicon detector is quite sensitive, and if the beam gets out of control it can be badly damaged even if the power is off, and toasted if the power is on. So we have some fancy gear to shut things down fast if the accelerator has problems.

Oh, and there's another curly desk in the center on the other side of the SciCo. When we have an access to the collision hall that's where the safety officer lives.

Urp. Chung! An absolutely stinking text-to-voice goes "DAQ HRR in error" over and over again. If I hadn't gone over to the desk to see what that was meant I'd be living in ignorance. Oh well, it is better than the situation 3 years ago, when every single alarm system had its own voice and signal (toot! beep! burp! dong! pop!).

Time to run through the checklist again. SVXMon is giving grief: Can't find any root files for it. (Root is a CERN package for I/O, histogramming, and general data management.) OK, that took about 50 minutes. I'll get faster at this, no doubt. The trick is that little line about "new dead channels." You have to crosscheck with the FixList web page to find out which are known already.

The wall not covered with monitors is covered with white boards and cork boards and windows into the assembly hall. Through the near window I can see out the side of the assembly hall onto the road, and see each car going by. There are quite a few for 19:00 hours.

On the long narrow counter that marks the "wall" of the control room and the start of the hall sits a large pink Everyready bunny, whose drum has the CDF logo on the membranes. Fitting: we've been running and running and running off and on since what, 1985? OK, 1987, an engineering run doesn't count. The cork boards have newspaper clippings, detector maps, a 9-page list of experts and their phone numbers and the occasional notice "DO NOT USE FIB or Si VRB EVER unless svx expert says you can!" I don't know what that means either. Also on the counter is a pencil sharpener, a 3-hole paper punch, a manual of CDF plans, a box of teabags, and a large box used for depositing supervised access keys.

We used raised floors here, and every 2-foot square floor tile has an address. If there's a relay rack instead where the tile was, that relay rack gets that address. 2RR18I is the rack on my right, containing a computer (b0dap50) and the CDF ED (event display) showing a new event every 6 or 7 seconds. That's our eyecatcher for visitors: see physics happening! Actually, it is occasionally useful for spotting problems, though most problems are subtle enough to require histograms of tens of thousands of events.

And the CMP has an oscillating channel which the expert wasn't able to fix. This didn't show up in the Fixlist, but it shows up bright and clear in YMon and TrigMon and ObjectMon. I added it to the Fixlist.

A slight digression about names: The suffix Mon is obviously short for Monitoring Program, right? And the prefixes Trig, Lum, Sili, Beam etc are also pretty obvious: Trigger, Luminosity, Silicon Detector, Beam Properties. But why Y?

Years ago CERN had a histogramming package called ZBOOK. After some rewriting they married a variant of this with a memory management package called ZEBRA, and gave the world HBOOK. Meanwhile another group put together a memory management package called BOS. (Recall that all this is in FORTRAN, and some tinkering was needed to request and release chunks of memory for our data structures.) Fermilab decided that wasn't quite good enough and expanded it to a package they called YBOS. And of course, the wheel needs to be reinvented, so they wrote a histogramming package to go with it, and called it YBOOK. Naturally CDF went along with Fermilab software, and when Larry wrote his detector occupancy monitoring program, it used YBOOK, and was called YMON. And the pun was probably intentional. After a short time we ditched YBOOK and rewrote in HBOOK (it took too long to process the histograms at the end of a run), and these days most things are in ROOT, but we've not felt any pressing need to rename the monitoring package (even though it has no code left from the original).

FWIW, HBOOK, YBOOK, and YBOS all suffered from a lack of tutorials. YBOS and YBOOK had every routine rigourously explained, but there was no simple "here's how you do a simple job" explanation. I eventually wrote one for YBOS, just shortly before we ditched YBOS forever. I checked the CDF code, and found that we used fewer than 15 subroutines out of over 60 user-callable subroutines in YBOS. Most of the stuff was just not useful.

Another checklist done. 35 minutes this time. More orange juice, some rye bread, and some low-fat corned beef hash. The latter tasted a bit dry; I don't think I'll make a habit of it.

The newspaper clippings mentioned above are local stories about Fermilab (including myths about the place), a Fermilab News article about a celebration, and the lyrics to "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request." I wonder what they'll post next year.

Oh, and you'll find menus from various food delivery joints in the neighborhood. I don't think I've seen an experimental area at Fermilab without pizza/chinese delivery menus. I don't know how much delivery they do these days, what with tighter security. Now that I think of it, I don't recall seeing menus posted like that at CERN. Whether that's because security was tighter at CERN then, or because fast food delivery wasn't a big industry in Geneva, or because they took food too seriously to order fast food like that I don't know.

The Japanese gentleman is back, and I'm hearing human voices again. I can't say it was quiet before, but it is livelier now. Almost time for another checklist runthrough. We're on the same run we started the shift with. It isn't a high luminosity run by recent standards. And it is funny to see a plot with the D0 mass being used for online validation. The online consumers only get a tiny fraction of all events, but still get enough events to use for 'calibration' something we used to design experiments to discover.

Dang that text-to-voice program. It sounds like a woman with a very bad sinus condition and a speech impediment.

Every two seconds the solenoid current monitor gives a gentle "fweep."

One of the crates upstairs did a midrun reboot, and the Ace is talking over the options to the SciCo. We don't really like to end a run and restart, since there's a certain amount of time spent in resetting everything, which means beam time is lost. On the other hand, things seem to be well and truly hung. He can't even reset, so he's trotting upstairs to see if he can do a hardware reset on the event builder.

Don't you love the phrase "it's a known problem"? Restart. The expert calls back in time for the Ace to recite what he had done so far up until the OK, it works now.

Stage0 works OK, but then hangs. Restart it with SciCo looking over my shoulder (he had the Consumer pager for a while, and has a professional interest). Figure out that the bit mismatch for the XTRD checking is a simulation bug. On to another checklist! It is 23:11, and I'm getting a little cross-eyed.

Only a quarter of an hour to go. Checklist is done, though some items are flagged "Not Yet" rather than OK or Bad.

The electronic sign reads

Solenoid CHILLN

And relief arrives. There's a lost horizon; where the sound of fans doesn't throb in your ears anymore

Friday, February 04, 2005

Sue! Sue! Sue!

The Denver Post has a story about two girls who were successfully sued for dropping off cookies for their neighbors. In brief, Taylor and Lindsey baked cookies and dropped them off at 9 rural neighbors' homes. Wanita Young (49) was visited at 10:30 by the knock and run teenagers, and "she ended up in the hospital emergency room the next day after suffering a severe anxiety attack she thought might be a heart attack."

A Durango judge Thursday awarded Young almost $900 to recoup her medical bills. She received nothing for pain and suffering.

OK, the kids showed bad judgment. But they showed no malice, wrote letters of apology, and their families offered to pay Young's medical bills. Young lost every bit of sympathy I might have mustered for her when she tried to grab for pain and suffering on top of her medical bill. The picture I get is of a hypersensitive and vengeful harpy. Now I grant that the newspaper may have gotten the facts wrong--they often do. Maybe the law automatically appends pain and suffering damage questions on this kind of suit. But on the basis of the facts as given, were I the judge, I'd have awarded her the $900 as already agreed by the families, and then charged her for all court costs and demanded that she reimburse all defense costs; and then invited her to stop abusing the court system.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Leopold II statue re-erected in the Congo

"Listen to the yell of Leopold's ghost
Burning in Hell for his hand-maimed host
Hear how the demons chuckle and yell
Cutting his hands off, down in Hell."

They want to remember their history, and Leopold is part of that. That seems good, though I hope that the statue's positioning doesn't suggest that his contribution was honorable.

The Madison School Board decided to allow teachers to have classroom pets. Many, many children, parents, and teachers spoke out at the board meeting on Monday night; and the newspaper quoted one of the board members as saying, "The children have spoken."