s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: September 2005

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A Surprise Wedding

He had proposed the wedding through the children. How about a cake? he had suggested. How about new clothes? How about a party that you can each invite three friends to? How about throwing rice and everybody getting to walk down the aisle? How about, exclaimed the children, getting immediately into the spirit, the boys giving away Mommy and the girls giving away Dad? How about champagne? How about as many strawberries as anybody wants to eat, and how about dipping them in chocolate sauce? How about, said the third, mixing the wedding up in his mind with a birthday party, keeping the whole thing a secret from Mommy, and then jumping out and yelling, “Surprise, surprise!”

– Jane Smiley, Moo

[background on the quote: the parents were hippies who never got around to getting married]

What I really want is a surprise wedding. Not an elopement, where the wedding is a surprise to everyone else. I want it to be a surprise to me.

The engagement itself should probably not be a surprise. If it’s awkward enough to say no to a proposal (especially a public one) how much more awkward would it be to say no at a surprise wedding? (And would you wait until the actual vows to do so?)

Also, the fact that the wedding itself is to take place should probably also not be a surprise – if you think it’s hard to find the perfect ring without your lady being any the wiser, try finding the perfect dress and having her fitted without raising any suspicions! That said, why couldn’t the date be a surprise? Sort of like the reverse of a surprise birthday party – instead of knowing it was your birthday (but not knowing there was to be a party), you’d know that the wedding was approaching (but not know the exact date).

I can think of the following advantages to a surprise wedding:
  • I don’t have to make any of the plans. (I can’t really give the caterers details about my own surprise wedding, can I?)

  • I don’t have to be as nervous/sick/jittery, since I don’t have a specific date on which to pin the nerves(/sickness/jitters).

  • Um, OK, I can’t think of any more. But those two are huge, I promise.

Really, I want to marry someone who would actually throw me a surprise wedding. Or at least play along with the idea. ;)

Friday, September 23, 2005

Raunchy Jokes

“It’s not the length of the vector that matters, it’s how you apply the force.” [seen on a pink T-shirt sported by a female freshling in the ISR cafeteria]

I was highly offended by this. Not because it’s raunchy in the first place, nor because it combines physics and sexual innuendo, but because the physics involved is totally inaccurate!

How you apply the force directly determines the length of the vector! The two are not separable! Unless she’s trying to say something about how the angle at which the force is applied is more important than the magnitude of the vector . . . but that’s just getting into rather odd territory . . .

Suffice it to say that the next time I make a dirty physics joke, it will be clever, it will be funny and you had damn well better believe that the physics will be CORRECT!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


The story of my life is: I can’t sleep. On a good day, it takes me 45 minutes to fall asleep. On a bad day, it’s a couple of hours, and even then I might not sleep through the night.

Not only can I not fall asleep, I sleep lightly, and if I wake up again, it takes just as long to fall back asleep. Lack of sleep is why I always hated sleepovers and girls’ camp, and why I am very grateful not to have roommates at present. Although a cheerful person, normally, I get very cranky very quickly when I get tired, which is something that anyone who ever plans on living with me should probably be warned of. (In my own defense, the only reason a bad night pushes me over the edge is that I don’t have enough, or any, good nights to balance it out.)

At home, I usually sleep with the bathroom fan on for the white noise. Here, I don’t have a bathroom fan (there’s just a vent). Happily, my dorm is fairly quiet. Almost the only noises I ever hear are the T.V. across the hall and my next-door neighbor, who sings. Loudly. Late at night.

To be fair, he sings very well (he’s studying music), and it has yet to bother me enough to go talk to him. Usually I just turn the cooler on, and that drowns him out enough to let me sleep. (Also, I’m in my pajamas by that time, and I don’t want to bother getting dressed to knock on his door.) The last few nights have been cold, and I won’t be able to run the cooler much longer, so I’m buying a white noise machine.

Heaven help me if I marry a man who snores.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Book Review: The Art of Looking Sideways

The Art of Looking Sideways / Alan Fletcher. – Phaidon, 2001

This is, by far, the coolest book that I own. I love it so much that this entry is likely to become a book gush instead of a book review. The author, Alan Fletcher, is an English graphic designer.

This book is one of many books on design I have read, and forms part of my “Creativity Food Storage.” (I.e. the group of books to which I turn for creative inspiration when I have none of my own.) It is a loosely organized collection of quotes, pictures, anecdotes, poems and illustrations, gathered into 73 thematic chapters. The typography and design itself is splendid and innovative. (The design includes dozens of typefaces, full-bleeds, varying paper stock, and a signature binding with headbands. – The spreads are numbered, not the pages, and there is no title page – this is a problem when it comes to cataloguing!)

Page (spread) 100, in the chapter titled “Noise” is a quote by Emile Zola, in white on pink: “If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, I will answer you: ‘I am here to live out loud.’” The words of the quote get progressively larger until the last word takes up nearly half the page.

Spread 200 (chapter: “Perception”) features a silhouette of St. Petersburg, a drawing of some street markings, and several anecdotes, including this one:

“I’d like to be a Gecko, not permanently, but for ten minutes or so. Geckos are charming small lizardy creatures with suction pads for feet. They live vertically. Walls are their terra firma. For them trees grow sideways, hills are sky, pavements are walls. Our heads may be in the clouds but our feet are always on the ground and even if you wear spectacles which make you see the world upside down, you adjust in a day or so, and see everything the right way up. Take the glasses off and you’ll have another few upside-down days until everything reverts back to normal.”

Spread 500 (“Names”) is a somewhat abstract watercolor and pen illustration of Brussels sprouts, duly labeled as such.

I found this book on the sorting shelves of the HBLL 5th floor. I checked it out, brought it home, and read it straight through (1066 pages) in a couple of weeks. (It is not really the type of book that’s meant to be read straight through – but that’s never really stopped me from approaching reference works as if they were novels.) I showed it to Melyngoch once, who said something like “This is how your mind works, isn’t it?” Fair enough, although I’m not nearly so creative. I think it’s more how I’d like my mind to work, or the kind of stuff I’d like to be able to produce. (Melyngoch is the same person who once called me “a repository of random information,” and told me it was my favorite thing about myself, sending me into an egotistical panic.)

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Champaign: Moonstruck

Moonstruck (a “Chocolate Café”) is a small business on Wright Street in Champaign. (This means that it is barely in Champaign, as Wright Street is the border between Champaign and Urbana.) It is on my way to the bookstore, the library, my job, the LIS building and pretty much anywhere else I walk on a regular basis. (Except for church, I suppose.)

I have decided that I will treat myself to a Moonstruck truffle (or other concoction) every Friday afternoon. I have yet to remember this on any Friday afternoon, because I am always hot and tired and anxious to get home, so I usually end up strolling back to the café on Saturday afternoon.

I have also decided that I will try everything in the café at least once, so long as it is not Forbidden. The Definitely Forbidden list of ingredients includes: Irish cream, champagne, latté, brandy, cappuccino, espresso, cognac and coffee. The Possibly Forbidden list (in other words, the “I’m not quite sure what it is” list) includes: amaretto, chambord, Tuaca liqueur, Cointreau liqueur and Framboise liqueur. (“Liqueur” does not necessarily imply “liquor.”)

So, if you’ll excuse me, I have a chocolate-with-chili-pepper bar to attend to.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A "Typical" Mormon

A conversation struck up in the elevator in Daniels Hall:

Him: [a resident with an indeterminate Eastern European accent] What are you studying?

Me: Library science. What are you studying?

Him: Accounting.

Me: Oh, you must be good with numbers.

Him: Where are you from?

Me: I’m from the West. From Utah. [“Will he even have heard of my state?”]

Him: [with typical Slavic directness] Are you Mormon?

Me: [laughs] Yes. Most of us are.

Him: You don’t look like typical Mormon, with typical – [he makes a gesture which can only signify large bangs] – hair.

Me: [laughing as we exit]

* * *

How on earth does he know that Mormon girls have big hair!? I don’t contest the stereotype for a second, but of all the things to know about us! . . . it’s like never having heard of Joseph Smith, but knowing all about carrots in Jell-O . . .

Saturday, September 03, 2005


and navy blue are my school colors. In that order. Which I find somewhat disturbing. The navy blue, I’m fine with (although as a “spring” I shouldn’t be wearing it). On the other hand, I own no articles of orange clothing, which leaves me singularly unequipped to demonstrate school pride. Not only do I not think the color looks good on me, but if I were to walk around wearing orange, I’d be paranoid that I was attracting undue amounts of attention. Actually, this is unlikely. On any given day, between 1% and 2% of the student body is wearing bright orange. On a game day (such as today) that amount rises to as much as 1 in 5. On this campus, wearing orange is no more likely to draw attention than wearing blue at BYU. Which begs the question: if everyone wears orange, does it cease to be orange?