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It's all fun and games until you break out the Ruthenium-106 (106Ru)... then it's a party. Okay, maybe not so much. 3.56MeV electrons anyone? It's all about radiation badges and locked rooms and Geiger-Muller counters these days. It also means that what was once a student office is again a fully commissioned laboratory and there will be no more eating and drinking there. Meh... it's still pretty cool to be using all this stuff :).

The pixel "telescope" is set up and working (minus a couple of irksome software bugs, but that's not too surprising, we'll eventually sort those out), and we've figured out how to run the data acquisition and analysis software chains (not that we have fully grasped any of what it's doing under the hood, but at least we can operate it). I'm still setting up the cooling system (it's a bit trickier than I had anticipated because of the flow issues through so many tiny channels, but I'll sort that out as well), and will be mounting the chiller on the wall so it doesn't have to fight gravity. It's not needed to run the detector (it doesn't need to be cooled to keep from overheating), but rather is used to stabilize the temperature sufficiently below room temperature so it's constant between data taking runs (somewhere around 10°C to 15°C or so, we have yet to decide exactly and probably won't until some more testing is complete). The photomultiplier tubes (PMTs) to use as triggers arrived a couple of weeks ago, but we had to wait until last week for the connectors needed to hook them up to the Trigger Logic Unit (TLU) and I'm waiting for the work to be done by the department electronics guru (he'll be able to do the job properly in a few hours where it would take me a couple of days since I haven't worked with these sort of connector before and he has). We also need to modify the TLU since the PMTs we had to get are aren't the ones the TLU was designed for because the ones it was made for are no longer being made by Hamamatsu... that won't be a huge job and I can do it myself if need be (I've already figured out what exactly needs to be done, it's just a matter of replacing a few parts). Once the PMTs and TLU are ready, I will try to affix some scintillating plastic detectors to the PMTs (and light-tight the assembly) so we can use them as triggers for our testing with the... 106Ru source (see what I did there?). In about two weeks we should have the custom plates back (that I designed) that will allow us to turn the telescope on its end so we can use cosmic ray muons which are mostly between around 1GeV and 5GeV and come pretty much straight down from space (well, they have a cos2θ angular distribution if you are concerned about such things, and a sadly low flux of roughly 1 muon min-1 cm2 steradian-1).

It is rumoured that I will be doing my undergraduate honours project on the calibration, alignment, and general characterization of the telescope this coming year (and maybe even assist somewhat with the work being done at Carleton on the next generation Atlas experiment muon detectors at the Large Hadron Collider, or even Higgs-related data analysis... we shall see). Given the problems I've had with the physics department in the past, I'll believe it when I see it, but there's been a changing of the guard so it's possible this time around. If it does come through, I'll have to drop a couple of the courses I've already signed up for to make space for it. I have started studying this month for the computational physics course I'll be taking with a couple of former classmates this coming year as well. It's a very difficult course because it's the first time we see real statistical analysis and the ROOT framework. It's crosslisted as a Master's level course, but the only difference is that actual post-graduate students get two extra assignments... everything else is the same :P. I'll also be taking two extremely brutal mathematical physics courses with one of the most brutal teachers in the department (the person responsible for my previous failed attempts at doing my honours project... I suspect she actually has it in for me since I don't tend to tow the party line, so this isn't likely going to go well for me).

In less doominous news, as announced a few posts back, my friend Lilith has completed her radio training (some of which was on my show, The Dollar Bin). I was to be her first guest (which is pretty spiff) and, in fact, was. Her show now properly shows up on the CKCU web site and you can listen to her shows "on demand" if you don't manage to tune in live. It is a feminist show called Femme Fatale. As she says on the page: Femme Fatale is a feminist radio program that dives into different feminist topics from various perspectives in the hope of breaking pre-conceived sterotypes about who is a feminist and what a feminist topic is. Having fun and titillating discussions with guests and listeners that opens the conversation on topics not talked about anywhere else. While also playing music and ending with an event calendar, Femme Fatale is a feminist radio program with a punch.

Lesseee... I had my 2nd ever "movie afternoon of doom" weekend last weekend (it seems like a month ago already... and a special thanks to kweenbee for helping me get the house ready beforehand!). I played the following flicks to a mostly stunned, occasionally shouting in confusion, sometimes cheering in celebration, and often jeering in amazement hearty few who were able to come. I had announced that the lineup was going to be:

01:00PM – Bubba Ho-Tep (Elvis and JFK battle evil forces at the Shady Rest retirement home)
02:30PM – Akira (a landmark Japanese animated feature portrays a cyberpunk/dystopian future)
04:45PM – Insignificance (a true classic of contemporary cinema, plus Einstein meets Monroe)
06:30PM – Funky Forest (from the trailers I've seen, this is going to be seriously messed up)
09:00PM – The Guy With Secret Kung Fu (great costumes, fights, and locales... but... so bad!)
10:30PM – Deer Woman (John Landis and son doing a bizarre tongue-in-cheek horror movie)
11:30PM – Paprika (Satoshi Kon's animated masterpiece: brilliant, poingant, and beautiful)

I had planned to show Roadkill if anyone was still functional after all that, but decided (wisely) against it, heh. I'll show it at a future one. I also picked up Pontypool recently (which I have not seen) which is by the same director, and which I am told is an excellent movie.

One of the big surprises was how much everybody enjoyed Bubba Ho-Tep (I'd seen it before once many years ago)... it's a pretty whack piece of cinema but it has social commentary and is just plain-up unabashedly what it is (starring Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis). Akira was received pretty much as expected (pretty much universally: "wtf?")... I had not seen it since it came out in the theatres, so it was a real treat for me as well (and it blows me away that it was all hand drawn... mind blowing). Insignificance was the serious movie of the day. I had seen it several times myself and had ordered the Criterion Collection edition of the movie (it had been impossible to find earlier) and had not watched it yet. There are still scenes in the movie that I consider to be some of the most powerful ever captured and I notice new things every time I watch it (at least one person has reported being haunted by it, but in a ponderance way, not a nightmare way). Then there was Funky Forest. One of Beep's friends I think said it best: "how could such a thing possibly even exist?". It was in turns sweet, strange, messed up, all out bizarro, and hilarious... and nobody who saw it will ever be the same again (seriously, it's a one way ticket). I didn't know what to expect (although I had seen the director's previous movie The Taste of Tea and it was a beautifully shot and poingant and twisted and funny movie as well... definitely more art house and less gonzo than Funky Forest), but I will definitely sit and watch it again soon (even though it's two and a half hours long... it didn't feel like it). The Guy With Secret Kung Fu is a classic Hong Kong martial arts period piece movie... I bought it for $1 new from a bin of cheapo movies put out Digiview Entertainment (bought along with bad monster movies and a "documentary" about Area 51... also all for $1 new), presumably because nobody had copyrights on them anymore (or nobody cared). The costumes and settings and fight scenes and much of the acting was beautiful and brilliant, but... the dub was nightmarish, the sound effects during the fights were the sort of thing that is made fun of in spoofs of the genre, and foley work was almost random (jet noises, frog sounds, whip cracking sounds, and dive bombing sounds during the fight scenes... so bad!). It's a family favourite and it's almost as fun to watch the people watching the movie as the movie itself ;). Deer Woman is hilaribad (and intentionally so, fyi)... it's part of the "Masters of Horror" series and was directed by John Landis (American Werewolf in London) and written by his son... but it's more of a dark comedy (and there are many laugh-out-loud moments) than a horror movie. Again, enjoyed by all. So many great one-liners! I should mention that Deer Woman was the movie that finally got me lifetime-banned from picking the movie to watch when friends got together when I lived in North Carolina ;). I was on probation after showing them the film Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter (made in Ottawa, and looong before the current round of Lincoln and stuff movies, and probably made for 5000 times less money, literally). Oh, as a note, Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter will be shown at my next movie night later in August ;). For all the howling they did about those two movies, they borrowed them and never returned them before I moved back to Canada, heh. Finally... Paprika. I'm not even sure I have anything to say except it's really one of the few movies I'd actually recommend to everyone to see (and that's saying quite a bit).

Lastly... a while back, I mentioned I was going to a series of wine tastings that are being run as fundraisers for CKCU. Word got around pretty quick and they sold out of the limited seating very quickly earlier this summer. Again, these are being given by food and wine expert Rod Phillips who is really making the events worth going to. Not only is he witty and great to listen to, he has an amazing breadth and depth of knowledge on the subject (he's an actual professor of alcohol... and he tours the world tasting wines and food professionally... this guy has figured out how to live!). Most importantly, he's not all stuck up and knows how to share his enjoyment with others. For the overall series, he chose four grape varieties that grow consistently well in Ontario's climate (cold with a short growing season), and then features four diverse wines made by Ontario wineries made with that month's featured grape. I've been to two tastings since I last updated on the subject: Gamay on June 27th, and Chardonnay on July 25h (uh huh, I've been too busy to really update, thus the posting of essays and short bits). I'll hold off on the Chardonnays until a future post, but here are my notes on the Gamay...

Firstly, Rod believes that Ontario should declare itself home to Gamay grape wines (no other region lays claim to this title) as it grows consistently well here and is used to produce several excellent wines. Gamay got a bad rap because it actually grew well compared to other grape varieties controlled by certain medieval French aristocratic landholders, and so was banned and ordered torn up by the peasants and middle-class growers of the grape (and not before being seriously badmouthed by the aristocrats in question, I might add). From Wikipedia: In contrast to the Pinot noir variety, Gamay ripened two weeks earlier and was less difficult to cultivate. It also produced a strong, fruitier wine in a much larger abundance. In July 1395, the Duke of Burgundy Philippe the Bold outlawed the cultivation of the grape, referring to it as the "disloyal Gaamez" that in spite of its ability to grow in abundance was full of "very great and horrible harshness", due in part to the variety's occupation of land that could be used for the more "elegant" Pinot Noir. 60 years later, Philippe the Good, issued another edict against Gamay in which he stated the reasoning for the ban is that "The Dukes of Burgundy are known as the lords of the best wines in Christendom. We will maintain our reputation". Jerky jerks ;). It's now grown extensively in Beaujolais and in the Loire Valley, and pretty much every cool weather grape region in the world. The first wine we had was Cave Spring from the Niagara Peninsula. I liked it quite a bit and found it spicy, somewhat acidic with a clean taste and short finish, and thought it would make a good wine to have with food. Rod suggested it would go great with stew, ragu, pizza, and pasta. I thought it tasted somewhat Italian in style as well and he said that Italian wines are usually quite acidic because it helps them stand up to tomatoes. I'd never really liked Italian wines, but that's probably because I'd sit down to drink a bottle at it wouldn't be pleasant... I understand now that they are more for having a meal with than having on their own. The second one was Angel's Gate (Niagara Peninsula). I thought this one had a somewhat acetone smell, but it tasted fine. It was definitely drier than the first and had quite a bit of tannin as well. Rod suggested it would be lovely with fruit and crème fraiche, which I agree with. We then moved on to a Château des Charmes (from Niagara-on-the-Lake) which was quite dry and had obviously been oaked quite a bit. I didn't make any other notes on that one... And the last one was Grange of Prince Edward County (from where it says). It was a 2010 (the others were 2011 I think) and I made a single comment for later reference: "weird... fish?". I can't remember exactly why I said that... whether it tasted weird and would go well with fish, or whether it made me think of fish (heh). It's also possible that the wine listed fish as an ingredient because some wineries still use isinglass to clarify wines (because it's not a chemical clarifying agent). I'll have to leave it to your and my imagination with respect to why I wrote that comment :). All the wines were around $12 to $14 a bottle. Overall it was a great experience (again) and I get to do it one more time near the end of August. It also set me to thinking that I would replace soda in my diet (at least for dinner, maybe lunch on the weekends) with wine. Too much pop is one of the issues I have with my diet and moving to something that I would drink much less of would be a huge help to me in reducing my caloric intake (and no, I'm not dieting, but I am trying to eat, and drink, better... I was pretty harsh to my digestive system last year because of all the stress).

I will leave you with a song I'm quite fond of... by Canadian singer/songwriter Sarah Harmer:

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Went and saw the documentary "Sound City" by Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters (and Nirvana) fame... an interesting movie. The one part that really stood out for me was when someone pointed out that modern music making takes the human out of the music process, like so much of the rest of Western "civilization". Kind of (if you'll pardon the pun) struck a chord.

I finally picked up a decent studio microphone last weekend (the first I've ever owned... I had only had two crappy ass dynamic mics I picked up for $30 apiece new). It's an Audio-Technica AT2050 "Multi-Pattern Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone" that I got new for nowhere near the suggested retail price (from a well-known reputable music shop, don't worry, heh). It's awesome because I can use it for other project ideas I have besides music (because of the switch-selectable pickup patterns). I just need to finish the walls in the basement to isolate the cats (and especially their cat boxes) from the rest of the basement and I'll finish putting together a little home studio (I have everything else I need already, I was just missing a halfway decent microphone). This summer I'm also going to buy an inexpensive acoustic guitar as the guitar I have is fairly badly beaten up (it's intonation is shot, the frets are worn off, etc. ... 20 years of playing it have taken their toll). Finally, I am going to buy Prosonus' Studio One 2.5 Professional software... anyone who has a "certificate of completion" for Coursera's free online course "Introduction to Music Production" was given the opportunity to purchase the software suite for the "education" price (which is only 25% of the retail cost of the software!). I have used Sony Acid Pro for most of my electronic music and got a copy of Ableton Live 8 Lite with the MPK25 I purchased, but everything I have right now is hamstrung in some way to get me to shell out many, many hundreds of dollars for the "full" version of the software, which I just haven't been able to afford (well, I do also use the free package Audacity to record live stuff). The Prosonus offer will finally allow me to get a real Digital Audio Workstation for a price I can afford!

I will be continuing to go to the Mayfair Theatre for the month of June after my feminism class (which ends at 9PM) on either a Monday or a Wednesday. For June, I hope to see the following films:

2013/06/05 (Wed): Easy Rider
2013/06/12 (Wed): Evil Dead (2013)
2013/06/19 (Wed): To The Wonder
2013/06/24 (Mon): Room 237

The week of "To The Wonder", there were two movies that played late enough for me to see them and I chose that one instead of the Tom Cruise movie "Oblivion". I saw the trailer for Oblivion tonight and my decision is doubly made, ugh! The movie "To The Wonder" does sound like over two hours of watching paint dry though... dry beautifully, but... From the Rotten Tomatoes reviews of it: "Malick, who is obviously unconcerned with his film's commercial success, continues to work with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, and together they have grown immensely fond of long, lovely shots of nature.", but then "While it may be filmed beautifully, To the Wonder doesn't exactly move its gestating 112-minute duration along any faster with everyone on-screen galloping around their front yard or a field full of slow moving bison genitalia." (bison dongs? what?), and sort of in the middle "Gorgeous cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki almost makes 'To the Wonder' worth seeing. Unfortunately, director/writer Terrence Malick fails to flesh out this drama with a plot we can follow.". So, go to see the cinematography, and nothing else... gotcha. I also do hope to see Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain this Friday (May 31st) if I'm rested enough, and might even go see the one or both of the Super Secret Saturday Night Sinema showings in June (one on the 1st and the other on the 29th ... original 35mm prints ... the first two events were both Russ Meyer films, "Vixen!" [critiquing communism, sort of] and "Supervixens" [critiquing American war bravado, kind of], but I'm hoping they manage to show "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" for a heaping dose of socially irredeemable celluloid). Anyway, those last two movie nights are pretty optional, especially considering I'm helping my sister-in-law and niece move the morning of June 1st (and I'm going to a get together that evening as well).

Now, off to get what sleep I can, I've been up and busy since 6AM on Monday (19 hours ago)...


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