I am sitting here contemplating why my sister-in-law would tell me at dinner, "Russell, you really should write a blog. Lots of people would read it." As I write this, I can't believe anyone other than family and friends will ever want to read it (and it is a real stretch to believe that my family and friends would want to read it). UNLESS, it is some trick by Annie to find some new reason for Walt to make fun of me and laugh at my expense. Actually, I am fairly positive that is THE reason for the encouragement, and there is no real trick.
However, there have been several things that I have wanted to write (really scream) about for a while. The title of this blog "Minimum Publishable Unit (MPU)" is just one example. What is this MPU thing? It is the minimum level of new information in a newspaper article, magazine article, journal article, or blog entry that is allowed to be published by the organization (and this can definitely be a single person) responsible for the content of the publication. Because I will eventually be responsible for "publishing" this blog entry to the world, it is pretty clear that I will become part of the problem that you may find me complaining about here.
I know you are asking yourself, "Self, just what is this problem he is talking about?" Well, the MPU seems to be shrinking to absolutely ZERO new information in peer reviewed research journals and many other forums. While I understand that you can reach a trend toward zero that doesn't actually become zero until after the sun stops burning (or an asymptotic approach to zero for you math geeks out there like me), I have recently read some articles that made me feel like the sum of my knowledge had decreased after reading them. I actually told someone (I think it was my manager) recently, "If the trend doesn't change soon, a complete journal article will become a title and list of authors. That's it! AND, the authors, all 72 of them, will use that article in their attempt to get tenure at their universities!" Now that I think about it, it was my manager, and he mentioned that I should calm down just a bit because I probably didn't want to raise my blood pressure any more.
So, as you can see, there are things that I would like to write about. This blog-thing seems like the sort of place where I can rant and rave like a lunatic on these things. It will likely give my family and friends interesting fodder for ridicule when we see each other. And, maybe if I include enough new information in every blog entry, I can change the disturbing trend that I see in the MPU.
On the 101 Things About Me
For some reason, most of the blogs that I have seen have this linked item "101 Things About Me." It seemed like a really good idea to me when I first saw it, but I really started thinking about it. I am not real sure that there are that many (101) things about me because I am pretty basic. Even with that pessimistic outlook, I decided to give it a try. Likely, as you read this, there will be fewer than 101 things, but I will add to it until I reach 101 items sometime around June 18, 2025.
1. I have no idea how I ended up with a PhD in nuclear engineering. Growing up, I don't think I even met a single PhD until I visited colleges my senior year of high school. If you had asked me in high school what I planned to do after graduation, the response would have been something like, "Uh, I don't know. Maybe I'll be a chemical engineer like my Uncle Buck. Or, maybe I'll go to medical school to be a doctor." What I really wanted to be was a professional baseball player.
2. I really enjoy working for Sandia National Laboratories. There is almost always an interesting challenging project that I am working on. There are drawbacks though. I usually can't talk to my family or friends about whatever fun interesting project that I am working on. The "How was your day, dear?" conversation with Kristy at the end of the day is usually pretty basic. "Fine" is often about all I can allow.
3. I have an Uncle Buck. Since the John Candy movie came out in 1989, that fact usually gives people a chuckle. He is chemical engineer that specializes in petroleum products and pipelines. He also is in and out of "retirement" on a regular basis. As a side note on this item, this 101 things might be easier than I thought. In another side note, John Candy's character is Buck Russell (weird, huh).
4. I am a very avid reader. At any given time, I might have 2-4 books going so that I can change to a different subject if I feel like it. I also keep a list of the books that I have finished.
5. I have a younger sister and 2 younger brothers. Amanda is now a great stay-at-home mom who has dabbled in real estate sales and appraisals among other careers. I am pretty sure that she hated me through school because we shared lots of teachers, and she didn't like being my little sister. Of all things that could do it, NASCAR has brought us closer together. Adam is an assistant football coach/math & technology teacher (I know, that is kind of a contradiction). He has allowed me sneek peeks into the life of a high school football coach, and I can honestly say that it is a fun job for an evening. I don't think I have the personality for it as a full-time profession. He really likes to talk about whatever sport (usually associated with the Arkansas Razorbacks) that is in season. Lee is still in high school. He caused quite a stir when my mom and step-dad adopted him during my junior year of high school. After he showed up at his first basketball game at 3 days-old, there were rumors around the high school and town that he was my son instead of my brother. The speed, power, and quickness of a small town rumor mill compares favorably with Darren McFadden.
6. Everyone in my wife's family has a nickname given by her Poppy. My nickname was originally "Baby" because she is a LOT older than me. I have been upgraded to "Dr. Baby" since I finished at Texas A&M.
7. Metatarsalgia, Hypertension, Gout, GERD. No, this is a not discussion with your grandmother. It is a list of the medical problems that have surface in the discussions with my doctors over the last couple of years. I am way too young to have a list of ailments that sounds this darn old.
8. I am terrible about staying in touch with friends and family. It is not that I don't want to know what is going on. It sometimes just doesn't occur to me to call or write. My 2007 New Year's Resolution was to do much better in this. I have placed a reminder in my calendar to pop-up each Wednesday morning. So, Brad, Kevin, Robert, Lars, Nick, and Kalin (all friends from Hendrix College) usually have an email in their inbox by Wednesday afternoon each week. I feel like I know what is going on with them for the first time since I graduated in 1996. To keep in better contact with my brothers and sister, I started a NASCAR fantasy owner contest. They have to call me to give me their drivers before each race because I am the commissioner (and I rule with an iron fist).
9. I have to travel a lot now that I am a telecommuter. However, I typically don't actually sleep in hotel rooms. There is just something about a small room with just me in it that prevents me from going to sleep. I usually stare at the ESPN SportCenter repeat thinking, "I really should be asleep now, and if I fall asleep NOW! I will get 4 hours of sleep." After a week on the road, I return home as a zombie. The average good night sleep in a hotel room for me is about 5 hours.
10. I love the smell that fills the house when Kristy is making fajitas. I think that smell should be bottled and sold as perfumes and air fresheners. That's a million dollar idea right there!
11. I have one of the coolest jobs in the world. Basically, I get to intentionally do things with reactors that the Navy says that you should NEVER do even accidently (take them super prompt critical). I work for weeks/months to prepare for experiments that lasts around 10 milliseconds, and it looks like this. That is a picture of the Annular Core Research Reactor at Sandia at some significant power level. I couldn't find any open source videos of the reactor going from 1 kilowatt to 35,000 megawatts in 7 milliseconds. If I find one on the internet, I will post it.
12. Did you know that there is more than one way to get a separated shoulder? I learned this the hard way playing football during my senior year of high school. The first way is to suffer a blunt force directly to the shoulder forcing the ligaments that hold the shoulder together to stretch or separate. That lesson was courtesy of a defensive tackle's helmet from Nashville. The second, and more painful way, involves landing from a fall in such a way that the humerus bone is driven into the socket with enough force to stretch those ligaments. I have a middle linebacker from Ozark to thank for that educational moment. I am sure that there are "real doctors" (as Sophie calls them) out there who will know more ways to accomplish an AC separation. If there are more ways, I want to learn them from a textbook.
13. I THINK I really like teaching. My experience with this is limited to tutoring some math & science, mentoring summer student interns, and conducting training sessions on a computer code that I help develop, but I don't think I am terrible at it. I think I will get a chance to teach a college course in the next year. That experience should let me know whether I really like it or not.
14. I am just slightly afraid of heights. Actually being high above things (like inside a building with regular windows) doesn't bother me. It is when I am high above things in an area that has a small rail or fence to prevent falls that really scares me. I am sure that I embarrassed my dad and sister when I didn't want to stay on the observation tower in Six Flags. All that separates you from death on that the thing is a chain link fence, and I wanted down on the elevator off the tower as fast as possible. I don't remember crying, but I think I wanted to.
15. I have always been a horrible loser. You can ask Joey Emerson about it. Joey was a couple of years older and lived down the street from us when I was between 4 and 9. He would play baseball, whiffleball, and football against me while Dad was "all-time pitcher" or "all-time QB." In the younger years (4-6) of this time span, I would have a crying fit when he would beat me which was almost every time. At some point, Joey and Dad got together and agreed that Joey would let me win to save these scenes that I would create after every loss. Before we ended up moving, Joey and I would compete pretty evenly and I could lose without the fits, but I always (and still do) hated to lose.
16. I watched the original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" movie at Joey Emerson's house when I was about 8 years old. It was the first scary movie that I had ever seen. Afterwards, I didn't sleep for about 5 straight days. Every time I would start to dose off, I would remember that I was going to turn into one of the pod people. That has to be the scariest movie ever made.
17. I believe that I have a solid claim to having the worst college roommate ever during my freshman year at Hendrix College. The first night (actually it was about 3 am) in the dorm, Josh hurled from his bunk that was 6 feet up in the air. Apparently, it was too much effort to climb out of bed and make it to the bathroom, so he just let 'er launch. Things went downhill from there.
18. On the other hand, the next year I had one of the best college roommates ever. Rob was easy to get along with, we had similar schedules, and we watched women's bowling every Sunday night (it was the only thing on ESPN). After Josh, I think that anyone would have been an upgrade, but it would have been very hard to find a better roommate than Rob.
19. I have basically memorized every episode of Seinfeld. I believe that it was Rob, Brad, Kevin, and Lars that got me hooked on the show, so I blame them for the fact that I can recognize an episode from about the second line of dialogue. With that said, I probably haven't watched a full episode in about 2 years.
20. I have donated plasma hundreds of times in my life with a total money made in the thousands. Through this process I found out that I have a high titer of RSV antibodies in my plasma (I have special blood) and that you get a "fat" bonus if you weigh more than 175 pounds.
21. I absolutely HATE the feeling of dirty socks. If I worn a pair of socks for at least 2 seconds and take them off, then I have to get a clean pair. I don't know if this is hereditary or if I just have really sweaty feet. However, I do know that I pack a lot of socks when I go on a trip (at least double the number that most people need).
22. You might think this is contradictory to what my profession implies (engineers are assumed to be linear thinkers), but as it turns out, I have lots of random thoughts. You will probably see evidence of this on this blog.
23. As a little kid I had lots of ideas for inventions. I would tell my mom about them and she would say something like, "That's a good idea. Go back outside and play." I should have spent more time with a patent lawyer and less time with Joey because I have seen several of my ideas being sold by Ron Popeil late at night.
24. At one time in my life, I was deathly afraid of public speaking. I had to speak at my high school graduation. My really good friend suggested we do the speech together and it made the experience much better. During the ceremony, she sounded like the regular valedictorian while I sounded like the "special" valedictorian. Luckily, I no longer break out into cold sweats and almost faint before I speak to large crowds.
25. If I could get paid well for recommending which books should get published or whether other people should buy them, that would be a pretty good gig. So, if there any publishing firms or newspapers looking for book reviewers, we should probably talk.
26. I have moderate-to-severe sleep apnea, and Kristy makes up some story about me snoring loudly. So, I now have to sleep with a CPAP machine. By the way, it takes a lot of effort getting accustomed to sleeping with a CPAP machine.
27. I told you that this list would be less than 101.
Sunday, March 9, 2008