Saturday, November 27, 2010

Race Report, Naperville Turkey Trot; November 25, 2010

Naperville Lion's Club Turkey Trot, November 25, 2010: 08:00

Conditions: Low clouds and mist, 38F (3C)

There were 6131 people who completed the Turkey Trot, with a best time of 14:54 and the slowest time of 1:06:12. The complete results can be found here.

With so many people, the start was quite slow. They asked the runners to self-sort themselves into groups based on their expected pace, from 6:00/mi to 12:00/mi in 1:00 steps. This stretched out for about 3oo yards down the road! I decided to take a spot about 200 yards from the starting line, just behind the group at the 10:00/mi placard. My goal was to get close to 12:00/mi for the entire race--a very aggressive goal!

The gun sounded at 8:00 sharp, and we all tried to move forward, to no avail. Slowly, slowly we sauntered to the starting line. Oh, so slowly! It took me approximately 8 minutes to reach the starting line!

My initial pace was just over 10:00/mile, as I expected it would be (adrinaline and all that). This quickly came down to a more sustainable 11:30/mile. There was a lot of weaving--it seems that 10% of the folks decided to run for long enough to be able to say that they "ran the Turkey Trot," and then walk, side by side with 5 of their closest friends and talk about life, the universe and everything. These barriers kept appearing over and over again--it was very frustrating for me.

I had my Garmin GPS/HRM set to auto-lap at 0.5 mile increments so I could keep track of my average pace in a meaningful way. I was able to maintain the sub-12:00/mi pace for the first 1.5 miles!

For some reason, my legs felt very heavy this morning. I tried not to think about it too much.

On Marty's advice, I also tried not to think about my heart rate, but rather focus on my pace (only). I was keenly aware of my heart pumping, but it never seemed to be stressing out. So I perserveered!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Aurora Special Olympics Run for the Athletes 5K, Saturday November 6, 2010

I completed this race in good condition! Final time: 39:50 (according to the timing) or 39:41 (according to my Garmin Forerunner).

Best part: I won first prize in the raffle!

Here are the data from the Forerunner, first the heart rate and pace:

And the summary information:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I ran for 60 minutes this morning on this route (including 2 minutes of wal at the outset and 4 minutes at the end). West Aurora High School is at the upper edge, left of center, of this image.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 15, 2010

First Friday?

I have a question.

If one were to count backwards in seven day increments from today, how many increments would it take to find a day that was not called "Friday?"

I have done a little reading on the Wikipedia, Week, and see that there were interruptions in the sequence of continuous weeks (officially, at least) in France between 1973 and 1801 (they tried a 10-day week (oy! the French are so silly sometimes!), in the Soviet Union (they tried 5 and 6 day weeks from 1929-1940), and China and Japan (which have a specific time that they adopted the 7-day week, around 1000 AD).

This article indicates that the Jews had the 7-day week no later than the 6th centurty BC.

I'm curious.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Comparing Canon Cameras: SD200, XSi/450D and 7D

In my family, we own three Canon camera at this moment, the ancient but incredible SD200 (3.2 MegaPixels, point-&-shoot), the Canon XSi (450D in Europe; 12.1 MP Digital SLR) and my recently-acquired 7d (18.1 MP DSLR).

There are gazillions of side-by-side comparisons of digital cameras on the "Internets", so my contribution is not going to be profound. But it is interesting to me because I feel that our SD200 is WAY better than it should be, and my XSi is worse than it should be.

So here is the first A-B-C comparison. This morning (at 8:30 AM CDT), I took a shady picture of the deck in our back yard with each camera set to automatic, flash off, on a tripod. Here is the un-processed result from, first, the SD200:

(Click on the image to see the full res version.)

Now the XSi.

(For the XSi and the 7D, I used the exact same lens: The Canon EF 50mm f1.8.)

The automatic image from teh 7D is 9.2 MB, and this blog has a limit of 8 MB per image, so I resized it from 5184x3456 to the same size as the XSi image, 4272x2848. Here it is:

For the final stage of this little test, I ran the "I'm feeling lucky" process from Picasa on each image, and then exported them to 1600 pixels. SD200:

The XSi processed image:

And the 7D processed image:

Conclusions for this subject: The SD200 has significant "bluing" around the edges. There is not a lot of difference between the XSi and the 7d, but there may be a small improvement in the sharpness from the 7D: look at the grass blades in front of the step.
More later

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Photos from Japan's J-PARC Accelerator Complex

I took a bunch of pictures during the tour of the J-PARC facility in central Japan, north of Tokyo, on the Pacific coast. You can see the pix at my Picasa site:

J-PARC, LINAC10, September 17, 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Misinformation about CERN and the LHC

For sure, CERN's LHC is making great progress. But they have not overtaken Fermilab's Tevatron in the amount of "physics" that has been delivered so far.

So it burns my butt when reporters get this fact wrong! In this article from Yahoo!, the author says this:

After a shaky start, experiments at the LHC have in a few months replicated discoveries that took decades to complete at the rival Tevatron accelerator in the United States.

The true fact is that the plan for the LHC is to run through 2011 so that, by that time, they will have replicated the data that the Tevatron has taken decades to produce.

They have not replicated the Tevatron data!


As of now, the experiments at the LHC have accumulated approximately one-twenty-thousandths (0.00005 or 0.05%) of the Tevatron data.

(Because the LHC operates at a higher energy than the Tevatron (3.5 TeV compared to 0.98 TeV), the "effectiveness" of these data is improved by between 2 and 5 times.)

And to say that they "replicated the discoveries" is also misleading: The Tevatron discoveries show them precisely where to look! Anyway, these discoveries at the Tevatron were made with equivalent amount of data, several decades ago.

This sort of mistake unnecessarily makes the Tevatron and Fermilab seem meaningless in the context of CERN and the LHC. This is just not true (and it is not fair). The point of this article, that CERN is bracing for budget cuts, makes Fermilab even more relevant, especially if we decide to extend the Tevatron run through 2012 (which, IHMO, we should).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pretty image from LHC Beam Dump

This is an image of the beam at the Large Hadron Collider ("LHC," at CERN) as it is ejected from the ring and hits the beam dump. The redder the color, the more protons have hit the detector.

There are 25 individual bunches of protons, with about 80 billion (8E10) protons in each bunch. They are in a sprial because the beam dump cannot dissipate the enbergy of the beam unless they specifically and carefully spread out the individual bunches like this.

The beam dump system is one of the more elegant systems in the LHC. An overview can be found here.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Can you identify this quote?

I have removed the elements of this article that would give away the speaker. I did not eliminate much.

[..] talk with you about a problem unprecedented in our history. With the exception of preventing war, this is the greatest challenge our country will face during our lifetimes. The energy crisis has not yet overwhelmed us, but it will if we do not act quickly.

It is a problem we will not solve in the next few years, and it is likely to get progressively worse through the rest of this century.

We must not be selfish or timid if we hope to have a decent world for our children and grandchildren.

We simply must balance our demand for energy with our rapidly shrinking resources. By acting now, we can control our future instead of letting the future control us.

[..] the alternative may be a national catastrophe. Further delay [in acting] can affect our strength and our power as a nation.

Our decision about energy will test the character of the American people and the ability of the President and the Congress to govern. This difficult effort will be the "moral equivalent of war" -- except that we will be uniting our efforts to build and not destroy.

I know that some of you may doubt that we face real energy shortages. The 1973 gasoline lines are gone, and our homes are warm again. But our energy problem is worse tonight than it was in 1973 or a few weeks ago in the dead of winter. It is worse because more waste has occurred, and more time has passed by without our planning for the future. And it will get worse every day until we act.

The oil and natural gas we rely on for 75 percent of our energy are running out. In spite of increased effort, domestic production has been dropping steadily at about six percent a year. Imports have doubled in the last five years. Our nation's independence of economic and political action is becoming increasingly constrained. Unless profound changes are made to lower oil consumption, we now believe that early in the [specific decade quoted here] the world will be demanding more oil that it can produce.

The world now uses about [number removed] million barrels of oil a day and demand increases each year about 5 percent. This means that just to stay even we need the production of a new Texas every year, an Alaskan North Slope every nine months, or a new Saudi Arabia every three years. Obviously, this cannot continue.

We must look back in history to understand our energy problem. Twice in the last several hundred years there has been a transition in the way people use energy.

The first was about 200 years ago, away from wood -- which had provided about 90 percent of all fuel -- to coal, which was more efficient. This change became the basis of the Industrial Revolution.

The second change took place in [the 20th century], with the growing use of oil and natural gas. They were more convenient and cheaper than coal, and the supply seemed to be almost without limit. They made possible the age of automobile and airplane travel. [...]

Because we are now running out of gas and oil, we must prepare quickly for a third change, to strict conservation and to the use of coal and permanent renewable energy sources, like solar power.

The world has not prepared for the future. During the 1950s, people used twice as much oil as during the 1940s. During the 1960s, we used twice as much as during the 1950s. And in each of those decades, more oil was consumed than in all of mankind's previous history.

World consumption of oil is still going up. If it were possible to keep it rising during [...], we could use up all the proven reserves of oil in the entire world by the end of the next decade.

I know that many of you have suspected that some supplies of oil and gas are being withheld. You may be right, but suspicions about oil companies cannot change the fact that we are running out of petroleum.

All of us have heard about the large oil fields on Alaska's North Slope. In a few years when the North Slope is producing fully, its total output will be just about equal to two years' increase in our nation's energy demand.

Each new inventory of world oil reserves has been more disturbing than the last. World oil production can probably keep going up for another six or eight years. But some time in the [decade] it can't go up much more. Demand will overtake production. We have no choice about that.

But we do have a choice about how we will spend the next few years. Each American uses the energy equivalent of 60 barrels of oil per person each year. Ours is the most wasteful nation on earth. We waste more energy than we import. With about the same standard of living, we use twice as much energy per person as do other countries like Germany, Japan and Sweden.

One choice is to continue doing what we have been doing before. We can drift along for a few more years.

Our consumption of oil would keep going up every year. Our cars would continue to be too large and inefficient. Three-quarters of them would continue to carry only one person -- the driver -- while our public transportation system continues to decline. We can delay insulating our houses, and they will continue to lose about 50 percent of their heat in waste.

We can continue using scarce oil and natural to generate electricity, and continue wasting two-thirds of their fuel value in the process.

If we do not act, then by [specific year] we will be using 33 percent more energy than we do today.

We can't substantially increase our domestic production, so we would need to import twice as much oil as we do now. Supplies will be uncertain. The cost will keep going up. [A few] years ago, we paid $3.7 billion for imported oil. [...]

Unless we act, we will spend more than $550 billion for imported oil by [specific future year]-- more than $2,500 a year for every man, woman, and child in America. Along with that money we will continue losing American jobs and becoming increasingly vulnerable to supply interruptions.

Now we have a choice. But if we wait, we will live in fear of embargoes. We could endanger our freedom as a sovereign nation to act in foreign affairs. Within ten years we would not be able to import enough oil -- from any country, at any acceptable price.

If we wait, and do not act, then our factories will not be able to keep our people on the job with reduced supplies of fuel. Too few of our utilities will have switched to coal, our most abundant energy source.

We will not be ready to keep our transportation system running with smaller, more efficient cars and a better network of buses, trains and public transportation.

We will feel mounting pressure to plunder the environment. We will have a crash program to build more nuclear plants, strip-mine and burn more coal, and drill more offshore wells than we will need if we begin to conserve now. Inflation will soar, production will go down, people will lose their jobs. Intense competition will build up among nations and among the different regions within our own country.

If we fail to act soon, we will face an economic, social and political crisis that will threaten our free institutions.

But we still have another choice. We can begin to prepare right now. We can decide to act while there is time.

[The] plan is based on ten fundamental principles.

The first principle is that we can have an effective and comprehensive energy policy only if the government takes responsibility for it and if the people understand the seriousness of the challenge and are willing to make sacrifices.

The second principle is that healthy economic growth must continue. Only by saving energy can we maintain our standard of living and keep our people at work. An effective conservation program will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

The third principle is that we must protect the environment. Our energy problems have the same cause as our environmental problems -- wasteful use of resources. Conservation helps us solve both at once.

The fourth principle is that we must reduce our vulnerability to potentially devastating embargoes. We can protect ourselves from uncertain supplies by reducing our demand for oil, making the most of our abundant resources such as coal, and developing a strategic petroleum reserve.

The fifth principle is that we must be fair. Our solutions must ask equal sacrifices from every region, every class of people, every interest group. Industry will have to do its part to conserve, just as the consumers will. The energy producers deserve fair treatment, but we will not let the oil companies profiteer.

The sixth principle, and the cornerstone of our policy, is to reduce the demand through conservation. Our emphasis on conservation is a clear difference between this plan and others which merely encouraged crash production efforts. Conservation is the quickest, cheapest, most practical source of energy. Conservation is the only way we can buy a barrel of oil for a few dollars. It costs about $13 to waste it.

The seventh principle is that prices should generally reflect the true replacement costs of energy. We are only cheating ourselves if we make energy artificially cheap and use more than we can really afford.

The eighth principle is that government policies must be predictable and certain. Both consumers and producers need policies they can count on so they can plan ahead. This is one reason I am working with the Congress to create a new Department of Energy, to replace more than 50 different agencies that now have some control over energy.

The ninth principle is that we must conserve the fuels that are scarcest and make the most of those that are more plentiful. We can't continue to use oil and gas for 75 percent of our consumption when they make up seven percent of our domestic reserves. We need to shift to plentiful coal while taking care to protect the environment, and to apply stricter safety standards to nuclear energy.

The tenth principle is that we must start now to develop the new, unconventional sources of energy we will rely on in the next century.

These ten principles have guided the development of the policy I would describe to you and the Congress on Wednesday.

Our energy plan will also include a number of specific goals, to measure our progress toward a stable energy system.

These are the goals we set for [next year]:[omitted for brevity]

We will monitor our progress toward these goals year by year. Our plan will call for stricter conservation measures if we fall behind.

I cant tell you that these measures will be easy, nor will they be popular. But I think most of you realize that a policy which does not ask for changes or sacrifices would not be an effective policy.

This plan is essential to protect our jobs, our environment, our standard of living, and our future.

Whether this plan truly makes a difference will be decided not here in Washington, but in every town and every factory, in every home an don every highway and every farm.

I believe this can be a positive challenge. There is something especially American in the kinds of changes we have to make. We have been proud, through our history of being efficient people.

We have been proud of our leadership in the world. Now we have a chance again to give the world a positive example.

And we have been proud of our vision of the future. We have always wanted to give our children and grandchildren a world richer in possibilities than we've had. They are the ones we must provide for now. They are the ones who will suffer most if we don't act.

I've given you some of the principles of the plan.

I am sure each of you will find something you don't like about the specifics of our proposal. It will demand that we make sacrifices and changes in our lives. To some degree, the sacrifices will be painful -- but so is any meaningful sacrifice. It will lead to some higher costs, and to some greater inconveniences for everyone.

But the sacrifices will be gradual, realistic and necessary. Above all, they will be fair. No one will gain an unfair advantage through this plan. No one will be asked to bear an unfair burden. We will monitor the accuracy of data from the oil and natural gas companies, so that we will know their true production, supplies, reserves, and profits.

The citizens who insist on driving large, unnecessarily powerful cars must expect to pay more for that luxury.

We can be sure that all the special interest groups in the country will attack the part of this plan that affects them directly. They will say that sacrifice is fine, as long as other people do it, but that their sacrifice is unreasonable, or unfair, or harmful to the country. If they succeed, then the burden on the ordinary citizen, who is not organized into an interest group, would be crushing.

There should be only one test for this program: whether it will help our country.

Other generation of Americans have faced and mastered great challenges. I have faith that meeting this challenge will make our own lives even richer. If you will join me so that we can work together with patriotism and courage, we will again prove that our great nation can lead the world into an age of peace, independence and freedom.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Racing R/C Cars with Sterling

We went to the R/C cars race track in Joliet today. I took a lot of pictures. I really like this one.

This is not Sterling's car, though.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fixing Soccer

As an American sports fan, I feel it is my duty to say how soccer should be changed.

Of course, the primary motivation for any change must be to increase scoring. It is my view, as an American, that increasing the probability of scoring decreases the probability that a bad call or a lucky break will ruin a game. Basketball, (real) football and hockey get it right.

I think there should be two simple rules changes. Both of these changes center around a new line "near" the goal. This could be the inner box, extended, or it could be the outer box, extended, or it could be a new line somewhere in between. I will call this the Near Line.

Elliott's First Rules Change: More Corner Kicks

A ball that is kicked out of bounds by the defense beyond the Near Line (that is, closer to the goal) results in a corner kick by the offense.

Elliott's Second Rules Change: Screw Offsides (sometimes)

Offsides is not called if the ball is kicked from inside the Near Line.

Impact of These Rules Changes

One of the best opportunities for the offense to score is the corner kick. Increasing the number of corner kicks will increase scoring. This rule change will likely lead to an adaptation by the defense to kick the ball well past the Near Line, so it may not have much impact.

Offsides is one of the strangest rules in any sport (aside from some of the rules of baseball, of course). Although the actual intent of the offsides rule is not clearly stated anywhere, it seems to be there to avoid creating a situation where an offensive player stations him/her self near the goal, waiting for the easy tap-in. (This does not seem to be a big problem in, say, basketball--whatever!) But once everybody else is already near the goal, calling offsides is a pretty crazy (and error-prone) bastardization of the (probable) intent of the rule.

If the ball is close to the goal, the defense should be punished! Get rid of offsides near the goal.

As for the position of the Near Line, I think that the small-box-extended is probably too close, and the big-box-extended is definitely too big. Drawing a new line on the field is just (uh) too American. So I think I'd favor that the Near Line be the small-box-extended.

With these simple rules changes, the 0-0 tie, settled by penalty kicks, would become a thing of the past. There would never again be a botched call in a World Cup game, and peace would come to the Middle East. Cats and dogs would sleep together and road construction would be completed in Chicagoland!

Well, maybe not that last one.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Entering the world of Podcasting

Subject to approval from the Publications Office at Fermilab, I have created a Podcast, available in iTunes or through

It is called "Fermilab Today Result of the Week." I read the "Result of the Week" that is published on Thursdays in the online news magazine, Fermilab Today.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Quantum Leap

There are (at least) three terms in common use in English that have come to mean pretty much the opposite of their original meaning.

Quantum Leap (n)
Colloquial meaning: A huge, metaphorical jump from one regime to another. "The consumption of organic foods took a quantum leap when Wal-Mart started selling it."
Actual meaning: The smallest possible step in energy levels that an electron, bound to a nucleus, can make.

Cherry Pick (v)
Colloquial meaning: To select only data that satisfy the conclusion you are trying to make. "Cheney and Bush cherry picked intelligence data on Iraq to justify the 2002 invasion."
Actual meaning: Use a cherry picker to raise yourself high into a cherry tree so you can pick all of the cherries you can see.

Show Stopper (n)
Colloquial meaning: A problem so bad (and usually unanticipated) that you just cannot do what you intended to do. "He wanted to use the computer, but the fact that the disk was corrupt was a real show stopper."
Actual meaning: A performance (usually by a singer in a Broadway Musical) that is so fantastic and wonderful the the audience stops the performance with their applause.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Gold Medal Singers: The results are in

My prize to the best country in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics goes to: Sweden! With 5 gold medals, all five of them sang their anthem in the gold medal presentation.

Here is the summary in this web page.

The full analysis is seen in this web page.

Friday, February 26, 2010

HD TV Over the Air

I am opposed to Cable TV on a number of levels (maybe another post...). But with the advent of over-the-air digital TV in my area, it makes even less sense to buy cable.

1. Over the Air HD channels are Numerous and Free!

In our home in the Chicago suburbs, we can get the following stations in High Definition:
  • Channel 2 (CBS)
  • Channel 5 (NBC)
  • Channel 7 (ABC)
  • Channel 7.2 (Local)
  • Channel 9 (WGN)
  • Channel 11 (PBS)
  • Channel 20 (PBS)
  • Channel 32 (Fox)
  • Channel 38 (Ion TV)
  • Channel 44 (Telemundo)
  • Channel 50 (UPN)
  • Channel 56 (PBS, Indiana)
You have to pay extra for HD programming on cable, of course.

2. There are some pretty decent free TV channels now.

We get 54 channels now! Of course, none of them are The Golf Channel, or CNN, or Discovery. But there are some good ones out there, like 5.3 is Universal Sports; 11.3 is The Create Channel; and we get ME-TV and ME-Too (and ME-too has Star Trek TOS and TNG).

3. Digital TV is cool.

The digital TV signal really is excellent. The picture quality is fantastic, and you get meta-data on all the channels (what is on, with a description; what is on next, out to 24 hours from now; what is on the other channels).

There is a down-side: If the signal is weak, you see nothing, not even static. But you rarely notice it because the signal is so good!

Conclusion: Cable TV Sucks

If you have Cable, get rid of it--save money and watch better TV.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Canadians Know How To Sing!

Special praise to the Gold Medalists for the Ice Dancing, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, for doing a great job of singing O Canada! last night.

For my complete list of singers, criers and idiots (e.g., people who don't sing their national anthem), see my web site, here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sing the Damn Anthem!

For goodness sake, if you win the gold medal at the Olympics, sing your damn national anthem!

I am making a complete list on my web site, here.

Cool people (who sing their anthem) include:
Amy Williams of England, who sang a rousing edition of God Save The Queen, Frenchman Jason Lamy-Chappuis, and most of the Canadians--who could help but sing with the great audiences in Vancouver!

Idiots (who don't sing) include:
Basically all the Americans (except for Seth Wescott). But you gotta hand it to Shaun White, who gave a rousing air-guitar solo at the end of The Star Spangled Banner.

In case you forgot the Star Spangled Banner, you can get the words here. And you folks who put the words on the screen for all the idiots to read, the last punctuation of the first verse is a question mark.

Radio Knobs

Switzerland is an ordered country: everyone (pretty much) obeys the rule because, well, rules are RULES! The US is also a rules-based country, but our attitude is a little different: "Rules are mostly made to be broken".

One aspect of this I have written about before: That the Swiss public transportation system has no turnstiles. Mostly, people buy a ticket before boarding a train. And if they don't they face, and often receive, a really big fine. Whereas, in the US, the engineering prowess that goes into the design of some turnstiles systems is impressive. It is assumed that most people will obey the rules in Switzerland, but in the US it is assumed that most people will break the rules if they feel like they will not be caught.

Another factet of this difference is in the respective Auto Shows. I loved attending the Geneva Auto Show--the density of Super Cars was impressive! The Chicago auto show, which concludes today, was, uh, not so great.

But the real difference between the Geneva and the Chicago Auto Show is radio knobs: Geneva has then, but Chicago does not.

Virtually every car I sat in yesterday had its radio knobs (and its gear shifter knob, if it was a manual transmission) removed. I am guessing that the auto manufacturer had removed them, but it is also possible that the guests had removed them, one by one.

Folks in Switzerland would never even think of trying to steal a knob! And it kinda makes sense: why would you even WANT a radio know from a Scion Whatchamacallit 1.6L sedan? I know the answer: because we Americans are often drawn to breaking rules when we know we probably won't be caught.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010


I have decided to move my personal observations blog from my personal web site to here. It is free, and I don't need to worry about backups and upgrades and stuff like that.