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Updated Site Design

Matthew Bietz —  January 23, 2013 — Leave a comment

I’m sure that you, as a frequent visitor to, have noticed that we’ve got a new (simpler) look. I’d been planning on updating things around here, but some lovely hackers have forced my hand. For the moment I’m using a default theme, but hope to customize it soon when I get a few spare moments.

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Matthew Bietz —  February 7, 2009 — 1 Comment

I’m bothered by the rhetoric coming out of the debate on the stimulus package. In comments from lawmakers and the press, the arts and sciences rank high in the various lists of pork and “unnecessary spending that will do nothing to stimulate the economy.”

Right now it looks like there might be a deal in the works (with $110 billion cut from the bill), but as the NY Times is reporting, “The fine print was not immediately available, and the numbers were shifting.” But according to Talking Points Memo, the cuts proposed by a “centrist” group led by Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) include $500m from the USDA (including $100m specifically for research),$750m from NASA, $427m from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), $100m from the Dept. of Energy Office of Science, and $1.4 billion from the National Science Foundation. Politico is reporting different numbers, but mostly in the same categories.

There are some really complicated economic arguments to be made, and questions about funding through “emergency” bills or the regular budget process. But the discussion instead centers on things like, why on earth should we worry about honeybees? Or the suggestion that the arts and sciences have no real economic impact.

For me there’s an obvious economic impact: the NSF is the entire reason I’m not drawing an unemployment check. I’m still hopefull that the Obama era will be different from the Bush years, but I think that we in academia aren’t doing a good enough job of explaining why and how what we do is necessary on a larger scale.

Thar be dragons!

Matthew Bietz —  April 24, 2008 — Leave a comment

“The random nature of quantum physics means that there is always a minuscule, but nonzero, chance of anything occurring, including that the new [Large Hadron] collider could spit out man-eating dragons.” – Dennis Overbye, NYT, 4/15/08

An interesting article about how to gauge the risk of a scientific experiment that just might blow up the world. But now all I can think about is how many of those physicists were D&D geeks in high school, and that CERN’s real mission is to prove that fantasy is reality. Turns out that Hadron is actually the name of a supremely powerful dragon banished to live inside a proton by 20th-level wizard who rolled a 19 in battle in 1982.

I can’t help but think of this little snippet of conversation from Clue (1985) every time I hear the news about Larry Craig:

…under the door of the men’s room,
how would you describe that transaction?

I’d say it stinks.

Well, how would you know?
When were you in that men’s room?

So it’s true!

No, it’s a vicious lie!

I’m sure we’re all glad to hear that.