Is falling down

We landed in SFO over an hour later than scheduled. The woman sitting next to me was ill-prepared for actually leaving the plane. When the herd thinned ahead of our row, she seemed to suddenly realize that getting her bags together was a good idea. The two mini-bottles of wine she downed during the flight probably weren’t helping, but I don’t want to say that cuz I don’t want to seem all judgy.

“The Bay Bridge is closed, you know,” my father told me on the phone just before I left Dallas.

“No, I hadn’t heard that,” I said.

“Really?” was my father’s response. He always hears something super-important that I have failed to note. This happens at least once a week and despite my hyper-connectedness, constantly reminds me that I don’t know shit.

The woman in front of me was making the newbie mistake – rolling her bag on its little wheels down the aisle, right behind her. BAM! It caught on the arm of a seat and jerked her backward. I came to a sudden stop, trying to avoid the inevitable crash. She muttered another apology, just like the one she muttered as she gathered her bags to leave the plane. I contemplated jumping aisles, scurrying through the business class to the other aisle and getting ahead of her. But I wasn’t in the mood for dick moves, and that was a serious dick move. I decided to play it cool and collect some good karma.

Others were less patient. Several people from behind me scurried through business class to the other aisle. They forgot Bernoulli’s principle, or statistical mechanics, or whatever principle it is that dictates that when you suddenly cram three or four impatient people into the same narrow passage their flow also slows. Bad karma. Their line backed up. By the time bag lady got to the airplane exit, we were three people further ahead of the aisle-jumpers.

Traffic on the San Mateo bridge was backed up halfway along the length of the bridge. This was at 7:30 at night. The SuperShuttle driver was muttering curses in something slavic. The name of his dispatcher was mixed into the curses. The lady going to Hayward sat uncomfortably in a sea of three people going to Palo Alto. Somehow, the majority found itself going to Hayward, across a jam-packed bridge.

The bearded gentleman next to me struck up conversation. “This is weird. This traffic is bad for 7:30. Must be an accident.”

“The Bay Bridge is closed,” I said.

The PA system in the airport had kept announcing this fact. How this had escaped anybody’s attention was a mystery to me. I was only a little satisfied that I wasn’t the only person who hadn’t heard this news.In contrast, I was very satisfied that a Palo Alto native was the one who heard this news later than me.

“Why is it closed?”

“Part of the repairs from the last bit of damage fell down on some cars,” I said. I didn’t know if this was objectively true. This is what I had heard. It sounded good and scary, so I just repeated it.

The man seemed even more surprised.

I stared off into the distant north of the Bay, over the dark waters to a strand of yellow lights that I pretended marked the location of the empty Bay Bridge. I didn’t know what I was actually looking at, but for the purpose of my state of mind they served nicely as the Bay Bridge. I looked at those sick yellow lights, hovering on the far edge of the dark water, and I thought to myself, “Is falling down.”

I am a positron

The past two days have been full of discussions about the B-Factories Legacy Book. This book, targeted for publication in 2012, will contain a coherent record of the work of the two B-factories: Belle and BaBar. As a member of the BaBar collaboration, I am keenly interested in seeing a digested picture of the flavor sector. I am also a co-editor of the Bottomonium section; along with my Belle colleague, we will craft and coordinate the writing of this important part of our experiments’ legacies.

bflb_photoThis meeting drew participants from across the globe, spanning all of the continents except Africa and Antarctica (at least, as far as I know based on the participants list). We’ll meet again next year, after the writing has started. It’s a long process, but we’ll all have to be vigilant as new results appear and new relationships are (potentially) revealed by the work of the LHC. The difficult part will be to distill the book into something that can be approached by a starting graduate student, while still being informative to the highest levels of interest. Of course, in achieving that balance we also must be attentive to the length of this thing; the target is 1000 pages, but it’s really unclear just how realistic that goal is right now.

After the meeting, I did some work in preparation for the coming week’s Collaboration meeting. Before dinner, I headed out for a jog. I always mean to jog when I come here but somehow never manage to do it. I’ll either forget my running shoes at the hotel, forget a towel, forget a change of clothes – you name it. Today, I managed to forget none of those things and so I set out for a nice run. I started around the loop road, then entered the accelerator area and ran the PEP road. In total, this took me just over 2 miles. Considering I am not running regularly any more, this was a pretty nice achievement for me. It gives me confidence that if I keep at it, I can work up to a good pace for a 5k run sometime in the near future.

Meanwhile, you can see my route below, thanks to gmaps-pedometer [1]!



A quiet Sunday morning

We are enjoying a quiet Sunday morning. This month has been extremely busy, and for at least a little while this weekend we can return to something resembling quiet. Jodi is making pumpkin waffles. “Car Talk” is on the Stevo (my MythTV box), to be followed by “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me”; this sequence recreates our old California Saturday morning. It’s a cool blue day outside; no storms again until tomorrow.

This lull is just ahead of a work week that, for me, leads to travel to California. I am attending a workshop on the BaBar+Belle Legacy Book, a project we’re hoping to kickoff this coming week. The idea is to compile the results of these two frontier flavor experiments into a book that serves both archival and educational purposes. I am a co-editor of one of the chapters (each one is edited by at least two people, one from each experiment). After the workshop is the BaBar collaboration meeting, where I’ll present the case for SMU membership in the collaboration. For me, this is extremely exciting. This is my first chance to become a principal investigator in an experimental collaboration. My group won’t be big, but I have some clear goals for the next 3 years on BaBar and I’m excited to become a member so we can get moving.

After this push on BaBar, I can re-focus on ATLAS again. That’s its own beast.

Let’s set all that aside, though. This is supposed to be my quiet Sunday. Blue skies. Cool air. Radio programs. Waffles. Sleep. Ah.

SMU vs. Navy

Jodi and I have been going to SMU football games. Apart from the chilly air, it’s been fun for the both of us. Last night, we were treated to quite a special array of events at the SMU vs. Navy game. The photos below tell most of the story. The pre-game show featured paratroopers delivering the game ball, a fly-over by three F-18 hornets (my bones have never rattled quite that way before), and the game coin tossed by President George W. Bush. By half-time, SMU was up 21-7 over Navy. Navy pushed back hard in the second half and SMU lost in overtime.

The other fun bit was that a bunch of students and post-docs from the physics department were just 5 rows behind us. Since staff get free tickets, they treated the students to seats at the game.  We joined then once the crowd thinned and seats freed up behind us. I’ll say this: I’ve never seen so much school spirit from physics grad students like I saw last night!