“We have no idea what’s going on up there.”


It’s a fun story, certainly a prime example of my occasional lack of common sense, and more first-hand eyewitness reporting of the state of Oswego county and points nearby. So, because I’m here to blog it, I provide below my attempted travel to Clarkson for a department colloquium and nanoworkshop.

6:00 am – begin drive to Potsdam. Cold wind, blue skies.

6:20 am – approaching Mexico, NY. Few flakes, but nothing to stop a (er, my) VW Beetle.

6:25 am – within five minutes, blue skies had turned into white skies. The abruptness of the change from non-lake effect to lake effect should have been warning enough.

7:00 am – somewhere between 6:25 and 7:00 am, when it hadn’t been snowing THAT BAD yet, I decided it was time to do something stupid, so I pulled out the digital Elph, set it to movie mode, and recorded the little snippet above.

7:25 am – the turning point. After 1 hr, the 4-car caravan I found myself (thankfully) at the back of had made it nearly 5 miles towards the Mexico exit (34 on 81 N). By this time, the red glow of the taillights two cars in front of me were intermittently viewable due to snow obstruction. The exit itself was marked with a tractor trailer pulled to the side of the road, lights flashing. The three cars ahead of me begin the slow rightward veer to the exit. I trudge ahead beyond the exit…

7:26 am – … 13 feet. I wish now that I had had the better mind to take a picture of the view in front of me. My wagon train had been the ONLY thing on the road in at least… 20 minutes. In that 20 minutes, any pair of tire tracks were filled in, leaving nothing to follow. For all intensive purposes, 81 North WAS GONE. Literally disappeared. It looked like I had taken a hard right turn off the road and were facing the woods, the woods as they would have appeared after any other snow storm. The snow was at 7 inches where the tracks would have been, making the actual level of the snow all of 13 inches, making the path in front of me at least 3 inches higher than the clearance of the Beetle.

7:27 am – for the first time in my otherwise spotless driving career, I threw the car into reverse (which has to be some kind of no-no on a state highway) and drove back towards exit 34. Just barely making it to Route 104, I wait with the accumulated cars in the accumulation.

7:45 am – some small group of drivers begin the trip along 104 Wes, theoretically back onto 81 S. The on-ramp, invisible and sign-less, is overshot by all involved, leaving us to slip+slide along 104 W towards… nowhere in particular. With nowhere to turn around due to the height of the snow drifts, we trudge along for several miles. I knew there were houses there, as I could see the orange glow of room lights cutting through thinned snow drifts building up at house walls.

8:05 am – some spot in the road was wide enough to turn around, which we all did.

8:25 am – We reached the 81 South on-ramp just in time for the National Weather Service to declare a state of emergency in Oswego. “Far out,” I said. I hadn’t gotten near Oswego yet.

After 9:30 am – now comfortably out of the worst of the weather, I make the first calls to Cetin Cetinkaya at Clarkson and let him know I’m going to be late. About a week and a half late.

3 hr 3 min or so to get all of 35 miles. I’ve mentioned this to every Syracusan I’ve told the story to. No matter what you’ve seen on the TV, heard on the radio, or read about in the paper, we have no idea what’s going on up there.


“A Tale Of Two Circuits” Or “Deep In The Heart Of Sci-Tech”

asus tyan transplant

At some point in my first or second year as a graduate student, the Spencer Research Group made a trek to Rochester to hear a talk by Senior HP Fellow Stan Williams. After some back-and-forth about the potential of nanotechnology to radically alter the development of computer chips to attain unheard of high speeds, someone in the audience piped up “Why do we need faster computers? How much faster do I need to run Word and Excel?” And this wasn’t a witty uber/1337 poking fun at bloated Windows products. This was a serious, seemingly put-off at the prospects, 60-something-suit-and-tie with, I fear, his elbow firmly on the pulse of the technology budget for his division.

Seven years later, I’m practicing transplant surgery with motherboards too big for their cases. In case this is of use to anyone, I have been, in the last year or so, 8 for 14 on the first order for ASUS K8N-DL motherboards and 12 for 14 in total, meaning 2 sit here useless. These boards are fine once they’re made to work, but the games played with installations and store return policies are far beyond the call of duty given all other time constraints. I am hoping these problems will be remedied with the beginning of a long line of Tyan Thunder K8WE purchases, with which I’m now 2 for 2 (and discovered that now I have to worry about defective MSI video cards).

And, please, never buy computer cases that come with power supplies if you intend on doing anything substantive with them (you should be fine running Excel and Word, of course). Often, you get what you pay for. Sometimes, they don’t even give you that.


“Dangerous assumptions,” he said.

Today in the elevator of my downtown Syracuse apartment building, a fourth floor tenant noticed the newly-arrived copy of Science in my hand.

“Sciiiience,” he said. “That’s some dangerous assumptions.”

“Even fundamentalist third-world communities have overworked Red Cross tents,” I replied.

The door opened and he walked out of the elevator, Bell plastic helmet box in hand. “Dangerous assumptions,” he said.

Quite possibly the oddest conversation I’ve ever had with someone I wasn’t dating. I was reminded, after shaking off the bewilderment on the ride up to my floor, of an interview prior to an MTV 10th Anniversary Special from my distant childhood, when Aerosmith performed “Dream On” with a full string orchestra (the great Michael Kamen presiding). The MTV crew had gone to several of the string players asking “Ever heard any Aerosmith?” The general consensus was No, even after 20-some-odd years of, well, you know, movin’, groovin’, you know, doin’ it like a ah, like a sex machine. The look on Steven Tyler’s face was classic. “It kinda humbles ya,” he said.