Wednesday, August 30, 2006

An interesting type of Energy

I was talking with Nick the other day. He and John are training for the Marine Corps Marathon and just ran the New York City Half-Marathon. We talked a little bit about what it feels like to run. He was saying how a crowd’s cheer (or even just turning a corner) can give an energy boost. Sometimes the right song and the right time can give that same effect, too. The whole concept is just really interesting to me. Real results and better performance can be derived from a small trigger.

It seems like the emotional state of our friends is contagious. We ourselves feel excited when good things happen to our friends. This is a great phenomenon, but it can work against us. When our friends experience unfortunate events, feelings of sadness are shared as well.

I can’t sleep…so I guess I’ll update my blog?

My stress level has been ‘high’ lately. Our lab group’s acronym is DISP, and we sometimes refer to the DISPerometer as an indicator of desperation. It’s high, too. The good thing is that I work REALLY WELL when “the going get’s tough.” With little sleep, I awake very refreshed and am extremely productive. It’s like an extreme version of being “in the zone” (ITZ.) The bad news is that I frequently forget to eat meals, sometimes forget to eat altogether. Combined with my inability to sleep in these situations, after an extended period of time, I’m going to get physically sick. I'm not even joking.

So, I’m awake at 3:30am, debated about going to the lab to continue writing my Master’s thesis, and decided it’s probably best for me to stay at home for now. (I feel like I need to hold myself back sometimes in order to prevent myself from actually getting sick. It has happened before.)

Why are stress levels so high?

  • Based on two projects, the research part for my master thesis is basically done. However, the write-up has been hanging over my head for literally months now. I missed my personal deadline to have it done over the summer. I’m trying to get a rough draft done this week before my trip to Las Vegas (see below).

  • Classes just started. Luckily I’m only taking one class this semester.

  • I didn’t end up going to Charlotte last week, and am going to need to go on Thursday. I’m going to miss my class’s second lecture. This is moderately annoying.

  • On Friday through Monday, (Labor Day weekend) I’m going to Las Vegas with Gregg, Tony, and Richard. Next weekend I’m visiting my grandparents (mom’s parent’s) in Florida. The following weekend is the Grad School basketball ticket Campout. (Haven’t even thought about a ticket group, yet.)

  • The Fitzpatrick Center Annual Meeting is at the end of the month, which means I need to do a poster. Also, a conference is on the radar for October, so flights and hotel need to be booked.

I’ll stop now, but the list goes on.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Slicing and Dicing

Yesterday evening I took a cooking class at A Southern Season with Kristen. We learned the proper technique for how to hold and use a knife. It was fun. Christina was also there volunteering so that was cool. The instructor was the head chef there, and he was definitely a professional chopper. I’m not at that level yet, but I am starting to get the hang of it.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

America's Best Colleges 2007

US News and World Report released their annual America’s Best Colleges 2007. Unfortunately, I think Duke dropped a ranking or two from last year. Was this related to the Lacrosse accusations? Bottom line is, when it comes to arbitrary rankings, you mine as well be thought of as one of the best.

Here are their top 20 National Universities:

1. Princeton University
2. Harvard
3. Yale University
4. California Institute of Technology
4. Stanford University
4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
7. University
of Pennsylvania
8. Duke
9. Dartmouth
9. Columbia
9. University
of Chicago
12. Cornell

12. Washington
University in St. Louis
14. Northwestern University
15. Brown University
16. Johns
Hopkins University
17. Rice
18. Vanderbilt
18. Emory
20. University
of Notre

DISP Update

IMPORTANT: I found a dollar on the ground the other day after work. If you lost it let me know, and I will return it.

I had a very busy week at the lab because I’m working on about 8 different projects. Classes start soon, which means I should figure out what courses I need to take. I probably shouldn’t talk much about research on this (public) blog, but we are working on some very exciting things.

I think I’m “going to have to go ahead and” visit Digital Optics Corporation in Charlotte tomorrow, and possibly Thursday for the thin IR camera project. Also, collaboration is starting to pickup with our friends at Rice University.

I have successfully transitioned to a new (for me) office desktop computer. With Evan’s help I am now running dual AMD Athlon MP 1700+ (1.47GHz) with 1GB RAM. Definitely fast enough for MS Office, email, and the web. However, some new students in the group have newer Dell 3.4 GHz machines. In a way this is good because it forces me to write my code twice as good in order to keep up. I manage. [Historical note: current processor technology is just starting to use ‘dual core’ 65 nm process technology. The Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 Conroe 1066Mhz FSB runs at 2.13 GHz sells for $260.]

Monday, August 14, 2006


Friday I took the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson ferry over the Long Island Sound to Connecticut. I saw my parents and sister that night as we went to the club for the team selection dinner of the weekend’s golf tournament. My dad’s team came in 3rd place, which was really nice to see. The tournament could be a post all by itself, but I won’t go into it here. Feel free to ask me for details.

I saw my sister, who is doing really well. She’s working this summer at and an industrial design company and teaching swim lessons. Classes at her college start up in a couple weeks. My mom is also doing well; she goes back to work pretty soon, too. (She’s a teacher.)

On Saturday, I ate lunch with some great friends from High School, Josh and Austin. They are both doing well, and it was good to catch up. When I go up to Rochester for the Optical Society of America conference in October, I will try to meet up with Austin, because he goes to school up there. Our conversations turned entrepreneurial soon enough. Company ideas were tossed around, and we reassured each other that someday we would start a company. Together we know some great people and it’s just a matter of time before the right idea comes along. Friends from Duke, you know who you are. Bottom line is we need to setup a dialog (weekly, bi-weekly?) for ongoing discussions. Thoughts?

Saturday night we had some people over for dinner. In addition, my dad’s parents drove down for the evening. It was good to see everyone. I don’t think I’ve been back home for a year.

In other news, our neighbor’s daughter Rachel had her 7th birthday party on Sunday. It was definitely a surprise to see how old she has gotten. I definitely remember when she was born. At the party another couple brought their 8 week old baby. It’s really incredible how small she was.

Currently there is increased security at the airports because of an attempted terrorist attack on flights headed to the US from the UK. Thanks to those authorities who foiled their plot. For me, this means I had to buy new shaving cream gel and toothpaste because no gels or liquids are allowed in carry on bags. There was a noticeable increase in security at BDL (Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport). Luckily I was able to speed through security because it wasn’t very busy.

I Love NY

Before I visited my family in Connecticut this past weekend, I stayed with my good friend Tom on Long Island for a couple days. I flew up to LGA (that’s New York’s LaGuardia Airport) and we had an incredible view of Manhattan. For future reference, the right window seat has view. The flight plan took us up the Hudson River and from my window I could see everything New York. ‘Ground Zero’ where the World Trade Centers once stood, Madison Square Garden, Central Park, the Empire State Building, and who could forget Yankee Stadium. Alas, the Yankees were on the road Wednesday, so I had to settle for a Mets game, with Tom and Phil. We watched as the silly fans cheered on their former teammate Mike Piazza (now a San Diego Padre) hit 2 home runs, and almost a third. The Mets won, 4-3.

Thursday we were on the
Island (that is, the Long one). Tom and I saw the World Trade Center movie, which I felt was a good see. That night, we played some poker, while watching the World Series of Poker. I actually ended up doing very well, although having good cards did help. Which got me to thinking: we should start up a poker night at the house here in Durham. To all local readers: what do you think?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Avocados and Bananas

Finally a new post! At least I’m starting off the month right. This post comes from this past weekend (technically Friday). I ate dinner with Katie at the Blue Corn Café on 9th Street. We were originally thinking Cosmic, but this ended up being a great setting for another Classic Portnoy adventure. Our waitress finishes the list of the day’s specials and also mentions that they are out of avocado. Searching for an appropriate sarcastic remark, I proceed to order my quesadilla as listed on the menu requesting it be served with the traditional lettuce, tomato, cheese, and extra guacamole. Her response probably included shaking her head from side to side, uttering, “sure thing”, all the while thinking, “stupid American.” Though I admit she completely caught me off guard when returning as she announced for us a basket of chips and guacamole. I definitely turned my head with excitement only to find a cup of salsa. Very impressive and well played, indeed.

Any thoughts on why I enjoy pretending to be oblivious? I’m not sure why, but this story reminds me a little of some self checkout adventures at the local supermarket…unfortunately, those will have to wait because I’m still looking for my tarjeta de Kroger. (pronounced: tar-JET-a, of course.)