The best time of the year: Adopt a Physicist!

Twice a year, the SPS (society of physics students, a branch of the American Physics Society) hosts a forum which matches physicists (like me) with high school classes with students studying physics. They ask questions and we respond.

I have done this regularly since 2009, and it is the highlight of my year. Each physicist who volunteers gets “adopted” by three high school classes, and then the discussion begins.

There are some predictable questions, like “How was it studying in college?” “What was your favorite subject” and a lot of questions about being a product manager, working in industry, and how physics helps me there.

But the real fun is the tangents that the discussions go down. In one of my classes, one of the students is planning on studying cognitive language recognition, one is planning on studying physics in a foreign country (can’t help you there), and it turns out that one of them plays guitar, so we have talked about music as well as physics.

I am glad to participate, and I hope that the students get what they expected out of it. But, guilty admission, it is a LOT of fun.

When being a nice guy backfires: Traffic edition

I have an easy commute. A hair over 7.5 miles straight up a surface street, never too bad traffic. I am never in a hurry (well, very rarely), so I am often willing to let someone in who is leaving a driveway.

But today I goofed. I waved some lady who was trying to get out of a gas station. I figured she wanted to just merge into traffic. BZZT

She took my opening, then proceeded in slowly obstructing ALL traffic to get to the left turn lane. Sigh.

So I, and several other (justifiably pissed off) people missed the green light while this tool stopped traffic to get to the left turn lane.

When I am in a similar situation, I :

  • Take a deep breath. Really, it isn’t the end of the world.
  • Merge into traffic, but look for the next convenient (and safe) place to make a U turn.
  • And get to where I want to go a minute or two later.

What I don’t do is obstruct 3 lanes of traffic, hanging in limbo, just to “make” that next left turn. Sheesh.

Punishment – Going caffeine free

Every couple of years I give up the evil bean. I usually get to a point where my tolerance is huge, and I find my self caffeinating throughout the day. Then my sleeping get disrupted, and I get cranky and irritable (ok, crankier and more irritable than usual).

Then I go off caffeine for a few months, and all is better. But the transition is hell. Headaches, missing the taste of coffee (my preferred dosing mechanism), and sleeping more than usual. Some people think I am crazy for knocking it out, but it really does help, even if it is for a limited time (I think the longest I lasted before was 9 months.)

Today is day 4, and the worst of the withdrawal symptoms are abating. Headaches are almost gone. The desire to rush out to the coffee maker is much lower. I am already sleeping better (or perhaps that is just my wishful thinking).

One thing is for certain, the blood pressure medication I take has greatly reduced the headaches. They were/are much less severe than in the past. One thing to be thankful for.

I know that it is just a matter of time. Perhaps I will have a 6:00AM flight, or need a lift before a customer presentation. I will be back on the bean, but for now, I will learn to live without it.

(* Of course I will not go completely caffeine free. That would mean giving up chocolate. Not gonna do that man.)

A bad day – Health edition

Well, I have been struggling with my hand for a while. I thought I had jammed my thumb,and it wasn’t healing properly. After 6 weeks or so, I realized that it wasn’t getting better.

About a month ago I finally went to my GP and after some X-Rays it looked like it wasn’t a damaged tendon, or “jam”. The X-Ray showed some bone spurs and what looked like it might be the start of arthritis. Gulp.

Today I met with a specialist. It is far worse than I originally thought. I have no cartilage left in my left thumb, there is severe arthritis, several bone spurs, and it is pretty much as good as it will ever be.

Next week I will get a special splint to hold it motionless at night. 6 weeks of that to see if the pain is reduced. If not, then we move on to cortisone shots.

At this point there is no cure. I am considered too young for surgery (don’t ask, it is a bad option), and eventually it will all wear in and hurt less.

One thing is for certain, today was not a good day. I can’t deny that I am getting old. Sigh.