s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: August 2005

Monday, August 29, 2005

Bloomington, IN

Saturday I went to go visit Melyngoch in Indiana. (By divine intervention, our chosen grad schools are only 170 miles apart — closer, as the crow flies.) I left later than I had planned, having had a bad night on Friday due to allergies. The drive over was fairly pleasant. Melyngoch is not a fan of Midwestern scenery in general. She misses the mountains. I’ll agree with her about certain parts of Wyoming and Nebraska, but it turns out that I find cornfields, barns and silos (especially silos) quite charming, so there is always a new delight around the bend. Mapquest suggested that I take (ooh, look! a silo!) I-74 East to Indianapolis, then make (ooh, look! a little silo!) a sharp right to go (ooh, look! three silos in a row!) to Bloomington. (See what I mean? How could you possibly get bored?)

The result of Melyngoch’s Midwestern boredom is that she has decided she would rather fly back home for Christmas instead of driving with me. (And with gas prices, it might very well be less expensive.) Optimistically, that will save me the six hours it would take to pick her up and I’ll be able to leave as soon as my finals are done, instead of waiting for her to finish. The downside is that I’ll be footing the gas and hotel bills alone. (It cost me $350 to get out here!) I may be able to spend the night with a friend in Des Moines instead of paying for a hotel and hopefully I’ll get better mileage if my car isn’t weighted down with all of my earthly possessions. But I’ll have no one to talk to during those long hours in Nebraska and Wyoming when I can’t get decent radio reception, let alone NPR. On the other hand, there’s no way I could stand a month in Provo without my car, so drive I must.

Before I say anything else about the trip to Indiana, I have to say that Bloomington lived up to its name – it was most definitely blooming when I arrived. Unfortunately, my allergy-prone immune system did not take well to the Indiana outdoors. The first thing we did was go to a drug store to buy Kleenex and I spent the entire weekend sniffling, sneezing and coughing. In fact, I came home a day early because I couldn’t really sleep at her house without the filtering due to good air conditioning. But I don’t want to dwell on that, so you can just pretend I’m sniffing and sneezing throughout the rest of this entry.

Urbana is pretty much on a grid system, like Provo. Bloomington, is not, so I got turned around pretty quickly. (Plus, no mountains, as Pa Grape pointed out.) My campus (which I like) is kind of like a little city. There’s the main quad area, but then the buildings filter out into the surrounding cities, with no clear defining border between “campus” and “Urbana/Champaign.”

Melyngoch’s campus (UIB) is like a castle in the middle of a forest. Most of the buildings are grey stone with gables and turrets and crenellated towers. In between the buildings there are rivers and fountains and little woodland paths and we even discovered a tiny little church in the middle of a grove that must seat about 40. She was in ecstasy. It seems like a good place to be a medievalist, all in all.

Going to Melyngoch’s ward (branch, technically) was much more fun than I’d expected. You know how the semester starts and you’re new and everyone makes you introduce yourself and fill out forms and swear loyalty to the ward and all that? Imagine if, every time someone threw ward paperwork in your face, you just grinned and said “no.” Of course they assumed I was new and not visiting, showing up the first week of school and all, I just took wicked delight at thwarting their bureaucratic designs.

Melyngoch gave me a CD that I listened to on the way back. (X&Y, apparently track 4 is about me.) And when I saw the exit sign for Urbana, I was surprised to find that I felt like I was home.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Quad Day

Yesterday was Quad Day. This is the day when all of the student organizations at UIUC meet out on the Main Quad and try to recruit for their organization and inform people about their mission. There were lots of churches, lots of “nationality/ethnicity X in major Y” clubs (Indians in Business, Black Engineers), and lots of martial arts organizations. Instead of pitting the various churches against each other, I decided to pit the martial arts clubs against each other. (Only philosophically, not physically, unfortunately.)

So I went up to the second or third TKD club I’d seen and asked one of the people at the booth what the difference was between his TKD club and the others. And he seemed a bit flustered (he hadn’t expected to have to defend himself verbally, I suppose) but eventually he stammered out a pretty good response. He said that the other club (with whose members he also practices, to be fair) is more concerned with learning set steps and advancing in belts, whereas their club is more concerned with actual sparring and self-defense. Fair enough.

And then I asked the other guy how TKD was different from other martial arts. And he said that it was Korean (which I already knew, but that doesn’t say anything about the fighting style) and that it was a very external, competition-based martial art (as opposed to a more internal, meditative martial art like Tai Chi), but that meditation was also important and that the other clubs didn’t “know @#%! about mediation.” Noted.

And I found the local NPR/PBS station booth and I found out why I can’t get good reception in my room. And I found an organization that I’d heard about in my GA orientation that teaches you how to use various kinds of software, which is good, because I need to learn FrontPage or DreamWeaver or both for my assistantship. And I got a free pen from some Christian organization and I accidentally wandered into the Greek section but then I ran away and I talked to a girl in Russian and my Russian sucks, for the record. And I looked for the LDS booth but I couldn’t find it – there was a sexual health awareness booth right next to where it was supposed to be, which I thought was pretty funny.

And then I found the LDS booth and I came up and gave the members a hard time about the Church being a cult and still practicing polygamy (they knew I was in the ward, just to clarify), and I saw more missionaries in one bunch than I’ve ever seen outside of the MTC. 3 sets of elders and a set of sister missionaries, too. It’s a rare day in Provo when the missionaries come to a family ward. And we had pamphlets and copies of the Book of Mormon in various languages, but no pencils or candy. I think we should have had pencils or candy.

And that was Quad Day.

Monday, August 22, 2005

We used to be Irish . . .

but we’re not anymore.

My Mom’s maiden name is S---- and someone told her dad that the S----s came from Ireland. But then my uncle discovered that our branch of S----s come from England. But my grandfather is really attached to his Irish heritage, so no one’s had the heart to tell him we’re not Irish and he still listens to Irish ballads because they remind him of the Old Country. (He was actually born in Utah.)

“We used to be Irish” is the kind of thing I like saying to people to see if they’re really listening.

Saturday, August 20, 2005


In my desk:

Provo City Library Card
I remember the library being at three locations. This one is from the most recent, as my last one had been deactivated from lack of use.

Hollywood Video Card
Used perhaps twice. Not much of a video watcher, much less renter.

Cold Stone Creamery Card
Buy 9, get the 10th one free. 2 stamps. I don’t even know if they have a Cold Stone out here. (Just checked. The nearest one is 50 miles away.)

My second, as I had a card issued in high school. This one is from my freshman year, and is proof that I was once rather chubby. This card was deactivated after I misplaced it and had to go get a new one. Later I found it in my gym bag.

Blockbuster Membership Card
Used more often. Maybe half a dozen times.

BYU Alumni Association Membership Card
No idea what it’s good for, but I do have it.

KUER Connections Card
Useful for some things in Salt Lake, but not much out here.

Good Earth Natural Foods Supplement Card
Almost full. Will probably it fill up over Christmas.

Social Security Card

DentalSelect Gold Network Card
Guess I should probably toss it, as I’ve got different insurance now.

expired Visa card

business card from a librarian I worked with
I never call. I never write.

Delta Sky Miles
Loved the in-flight movies and the convenience of the SL hub, but then they stopped serving food in coach and I had to switch to Northwest.

DC Metro Weekly Fast Pass
It’s long since expired, of course, but I keep it around for the memories.

Divine Comedy ad
With one word on the back. Frindle. Book I was supposed to read. (Sorry, Latro! Haven’t gotten around to that yet. Of course, you haven’t read my BBBC book, either. And even I lent you my copy. And I even think you’d like it.) Just checked the UIUC catalog, and we don’t have the book. Luckily, another ILCSO library has the volume. But I can’t request it right now because I’ve already requested another book from ILL, and if I get them both at the same time I might not have time to read them. So Frindle will have to wait, again.

Airport Express Shuttle Card
6 trips registered. On the 10th I get a free ride.

Library of Congress Reader Identification Card
Again, this is just a cool thing to have.

Einstein Bros Dozen Dozen Bagels Club
Buy a dozen dozen bagels, get the 13th dozen free. 8 punches.

In my wallet:

Visa card
Not expired.

County Market Max Savings Card

UT driver’s license
Proof that I am an organ donor, I wear glasses and I am not, in fact, 18.

Quiznos Sub Card

Good Earth Natural Foods Supplement Card
Hmm. This should probably be combined with the one above.

Number 4. Number 3 replaced the one above, but they confiscated it when they came out with the new color ones. It’s actually a rather nice picture. (As is my driver’s license.) Me with long hair.

Albertsons Preferred Saving Card
Probably could be taken out of my wallet now.

Einstein Bros Sandwich Club Card
Buy 8 sandwiches, get one free. One punch. (At least two other cards already redeemed.)

Company Mastercard
Hmm. I wonder if I need to give this back or if I can just cut it up.

Prepaid phone card
Pre-cell phone card.

SelectMed-SE Insurance card
Again, probably doesn’t need to be in my wallet. Or even not in my trash can.

Thrifty Car Rental Corporate ID Card
Ironically, it’s more expensive to use the corporate plan now that I’m over 25. But when I was under it was the only way to go.

Borders Gift Card
I wonder how much is on it.

Old Navy Gift Card

HBLL call number locations cheat sheet
Sweet, sweet HBLL. I never appreciated you. (Actually, I did. But you’re still lost to me.)

In my back pocket:

I-card (University of Illinois ID)
Again, a reasonably cute picture. Except that my teeth look kind of yellow. But my eyes look amazingly blue. Usually, they’re more grey.

Another post, another list.

Friday, August 19, 2005

At MY school

I bit my tongue all through the library tour to stop myself from saying “Well, at my school, they didn’t do it that way” because that’s pretty much the most annoying thing a new student can ever do. But I think I’m going to miss BYU’s library enormously. In fairness, UIUC’s library is the largest public university library in the country, the third largest academic library (after Harvard and Yale) and the fifth largest library overall (after the Library of Congress, Harvard, Yale and . . . someone else, I guess). HOWEVER,

1. The main library is not air conditioned.

I do love the architecture on campus here – the buildings are, on average, much older than BYU’s buildings, and even the new ones have been built to match the older style. (Do you hear that BYU? You didn’t have to build the gosh-awful JKHB and SFLS. You could have made more Grant and Maeser buildings.) This makes campus navigation a bit tricky for the new student, as every building is a tasteful Georgian brownstone manor, but I find the pleasing presentation to the eye well worth the difficulty in orientation. Another, rather unforeseen consequence of a relatively old infrastructure is that most of the buildings were built without air conditioning, and the retrofitting of central air has not always been terribly successful. Which leaves the main stacks essentially without air in a hot, humid Illinois summer. I have no care for my own comfort, of course. My only concern is for the books themselves. (Seriously, such dramatic changes in temperature and humidity over the course of days or weeks can’t be good for them. Air conditioning was invented to prevent paper from warping and stretching.)

2. Lack of centralization.

The university’s “Departmental Libraries” page lists 62 separate institutions. Granted some of these are library-related auxiliaries (such as ILL and the bindery), but at least 40 of these are genuinely independent units. I suppose that there are some advantages to this system, especially on such a large campus, but the centralization of BYU’s HBLL has been very convenient for diverse interests and tastes. (And I remember being distinctly annoyed the one time when I had to trot over to the law library to find a book.)

3. Confusing layout.

See, in the HBLL there are six floors on the south side, but only five on the north. But that doesn’t matter because the sixth floor is closed to the public, anyway. And the floors in the atrium are taller than the floors in the older part of the library, so they don’t quite match up when you go from one to the other. And the CID is in the same building as the library, but you can’t get there from here. (Unless you have special permission. But you don’t.)

That’s nothing.

At UIUC, the main part of the library has five floors plus a sub-basement. The first five parts of the stacks have ten floors. The 1st floor of the East stacks connects to the 1st floor of the main library. (That part is fine.) The 3rd floor of the East stacks connects to the 2nd floor of the main library. The 5th floor of the East stacks connects to the 3rd floor, and the 7th and 9th East stacks floors connect to the 4th and 5th main library floors, respectively. The 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th and 10th floors of the East stacks do not connect to any floors of the main library. The West stacks connect to the East stacks at a ratio of 3:2. Every other floor in the West stacks connects to a floor in the East stacks, happily with the same floor number. The floors that do not connect have numbers such as “floor 3.5” and “floor 8.5” – they connect to other floors via stairwells and, of course, the floors in the East stacks only connect to the West stacks on every third level.

And you know those high-density shelves in the older periodicals section? The ones that you think might accidentally squish someone? (But they can’t. Because that would be a ridiculous safety issue.) They have those in the West stacks. Only you have to be careful, because they’re older than the ones in the HBLL periodicals, and they don’t have automatic safeties. So you really could squish someone. (An ironic death for any librarian.)

4. They’re still on Dewey.

OK. I’ll be honest. I know, with every fiber of my being, that LC is superior to Dewey. I just can’t remember why, right now. From a more personal standpoint, Dewey was all I’d known up through and including high school, so LC was a bit of a shock when I came to BYU. But once I got used to it, LC came to represent the academic sophistication not to be found at my Dewey-based public and high school libraries. So having to go back to Dewey for grad school seems a bit like arriving and being told I have to have a hall pass to get out of class and I can’t go off campus for lunch. It’s patronizing.

As a matter of practicality, I find it much easier to remember LC’s [AA ####] system than Dewey’s [###.####]. Maybe I just have more of a head for letters than for numbers, or maybe it’s that the two LC letters can represent over 600 Dewey numbers, so there’s less to memorize. Either way, I would very much prefer a reclass.

5. Familiarity.

It’s true. I like BYU because it was BYU and I’m cranky with UIUC because it’s UIUC. I miss the bright and airy periodicals reading room with the overstuffed chairs. I miss the random Asian furniture. I miss the Pei-trium. I miss those sexy library security guards and I miss knowing where everything is. And I object, morally, to having a coffee shop in the middle of a library! I don’t care how tired you are.

Love the HBLL while you’ve got it, folks.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Things they don't have in Utah

Things they don’t have in Utah:

beards (see Mormons, below)
cicadas (see plants and trees)
corn (see rain)
grain silos (see corn)
a horizon (see mountains, below)
humidity (see rain)
moss (see rain)
(lots of green) plants and trees (see rain)
rabbits (see plants and trees)
rain (see mountains, below)
really curly hair on Katya (see humidity)
rivers (see rain)
road kill (see wildlife)
smoking sections in restaurants (see Mormons, below)
squirrels (see plants and trees)
tornado shelters (see tornadoes)
tornadoes (see mountains)
water towers (see mountains)
wildlife (see plants and trees)

Things they don’t have in Illinois: