I have so much I want to do, so much pent-up desire (and sometimes need) to accomplish so many things after eight years as a "mature" (or at least elderly) undergraduate student. So many business ideas, so many technical ideas, so many geekly fun for myself ideas, so many social ideas, but I remain mired in making it from one day to the next. I really should have taken some time off to get my head straight, but it just didn't work out that way (in fact, I had negative amounts of time off because I started working for the university part time months before my semester was over, and was full time before my finals were written). With all that said, the reason was the bane of my hopes to accomplish the things I want: opportunity. The chances to work on things too cool for school (if you'll pardon the phrase as I am still, for all intents and purposes, at school) was too much to resist. It comes at a cost though for sure.
So where are things now, well, as stated, I am working on some truly amazing projects right now. These include both the Phase 1 (New Small Wheel muon tracker/trigger
[not actually very small, fyi], in particular the small-wire Thin Gap Chamber, sTGC, sub-project that I did the testbeam at Fermilab
for a few years back as a student research assistant and got authorship on a peer-reviewed journal article
by working on) and Phase 2 (silicon inner tracker
, ITk, in particular the end-cap strips sensors sub-project) upgrades for the ATLAS experiment
at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (which will be upgraded to the High-Luminosity Large Hadron Detector with the replacement of the inner tracker system in 2025).
If all goes well, I just applied for a 5 year work visa for the UK (by way of UK Ancestry... my grandfather was born in Measham), and if I get it I will go for two weeks in mid-September (I've never been to the UK) to help test 48 wafers of a new batch of ASICs (integrated circuit chips, 450 per wafer) for the ITk project as part of a plan to start testing wafers here in Ottawa. There are hundreds of thousands of ASIC chips and thousands of sensors to be tested for the final detector, and we need multiple sites to do it at... Canada built the forward calorimeter for the current incarnation of ATLAS, and is working on the gas-filled detectors, the sTGCs, but this is the first time we've done silicon trackers like these, or at least on this scale. Anyway, if the visa thing works out, I might be going to RAL in the UK periodically over the next few years to work on this particular aspect of the project. I was supposed to make a side trip to CERN for the "ITk Week" where physicists from all over the world working on that project get together (I've never been there either, but I have been to TRIUMF
, and DESY
), but we're not sure when the wafers are going to be in, so it's kind of up in the air right now whether or not I make it to Switzerland (which I've never been to either).
I am also working on the Cryogenic Underground TEst facility
(sorry, a PDF is all I could find that was public... slide 2 is worth checking it out for), CUTE (yes, CUTE...), which is an experiment that is part of the search for dark matter
that will be installed at SNOLAB, 2km underground, early next year. It is going to use a 1kg chunk of ultra-pure germanium as its main detector element (huge for something like that, and crazy expensive). I have heard rumours that I may be asked to spend 6 weeks underground (well, heading underground each day... 5AM, ugh, but this will be for science!
)... the first two weeks training (it's an active nickel mine in Sudbury, so there are real mining dangers on top of the danger of just being that far underground), and the next four weeks actually doing work. I had a chance to visit SNOLAB a couple of years back (I never got around to properly posting about it, which I am sad about), but I did post a couple of pictures I took
while there. It really is like a villain lair from a Bond film or something... it's pretty surreal.
The other cluster of reasons why I am still not even close to being recovered from my undergraduate degrees is moving... and not even me. Firstly, my partner (we've been dating for a few years) could not find full time employment (much less anything with benefits) here in Ottawa (due to the way the federal government outsourced language training to a cartel), so had to move to Shanghai, China (teaching English as a Foreign Language) to get a living wage and extended medical insurance (we have universal health care, but it doesn't cover everything... like prescriptions and glasses and dental work unless they are outrageously expensive treatments or emergencies, for instance... I wouldn't trade it for the world having lived the alternative for a suffiently long time, but that's another story). She moved mid-June and that effort just about killed me dead (international moves are big things, I've done them before, but she didn't have a lot of resources, so sweat replaced money for a lot of things that had to get done). I did a radio inteview with her the week before she left that you can listen to here
about her path through life that led her to where she is now. Her contract is for 15 months, but I am going to go visit her in Shanghai for two weeks in November! I've never been to China, so I am very, very excited (and Shanghai is a good introduction without going too deep, although I do hope to do one trip into another part of the country while I'm there). I was just starting to recover from that crazy process and my eldest daughter Beep finally decided to move out with two of her friends into a relatively nearby apartment. That happened last Saturday and it is still a work in progress (although 99% of the move is done now). It went relatively smoothly, but she had a lot more stuff than she thought she did, and it was a really hard job (moving hide-a-beds up from the basement here left some amount of injury, but nothing that's slowing me down too hard... I'm just freakin' exhausted). I'm heading over once I post this to her place for her housewarming party, and will be bringing a couple of serving spoons (she only has a ladle at the moment since her and her roommates didn't coordinate "stuff bringing" particularly well, heh), and a homemade vegetarian pizza to cook (I'm just waiting on the dough to finish and will bring the prepared ingredients in bags to assemble there). Her two roommates are effectively vegetarians (one will eat meat, but only if ethically sourced from personally known farmers), and I think that will be good for Beep (she's a whiz with vegetarian foods, we have always eaten a lot of vegetarian meals at home here). She is also continuing at college (Algonquin) in their Culinary Management programme, where she is learning to be a chef and to be able to run a kitchen or even restaurant. It's a good portable (almost universal) skill to have, and could open up a lot of doors for her all over the world if that's what she decides she wants to do. She is also talking about taking a degree in antropology at university eventually, and that would pair very nicely with a background in food... could be interesting, but we will see. Tuition is now free for low income families in Ontario (that'd be us, give or take a bit), so it is financially easier to go to school for both of them too (I completely missed out on it as it is only starting this fall). Happy had planned to move out at the start of the summer, but didn't quite get around to it, and for many reasons, has decided to stay with me for at least another year of school. She is going into her second official year in the psychology programme at Carleton (with minors in Women's and Gender Studies and Sexuality Studies... she has grown up around a broad spectrum of gender representations, so she is well placed to make contributions in those fields, imho). School starts for both of them in a week, so that's going to take a lot of effort on my part as well (if history is any indication). I do have to say I'm not looking forward to Carleton being packed to the rafters with people again soon, summers are so nice there...
My radio show, The Passionate Friar
, is still going pretty well: an hour of feminism/social issues, physics/science, and music... news, reviews, interviews, ideas, engaging audio, and the Oxford comma!
I've managed to up my game with interviews this summer and hope to keep the momentum going forward (I need to get more lined up for September now, but I think I will try more phone interviews, so it opens up a lot more possibilities). The shows are available "on demand" for somewhat over a year, so there is lots to listen to if you want to hear the people behind the physics (and science) and feminism (and social issues) you may hear/read about and benefit from. The list of shows to choose from is here on the CKCU web site
. It's a long-form show (an hour), with some music for good measure (so it's not an hour of just talking). It gives a chance for people to warm up and share the stuff they are really passionate about and have devoted at least the current part of their lives pursuing. Some recent stuff includes: Ryan Couling and Matthew Johnston about their research into social media reactions to the Jian Ghomeshi trial; the writers for, and the editors and publishers of, the new young adult anthology Brave New Girls: Stories of Girls Who Science and Scheme
; Lori Stinson on her research which ranges from patterns of pornography consumption, to corporate manslaughter and homicide laws, to the changing federal family violence initiative; Alex Nuttal on disability tropes in comics and Barbara Gordon / Batgirl / Oracle; S.M. Carrière about creating characters or talking with/about people that don't share your lived experiences (e.g. LGBTQA+ if you're not, women if you are a man or visa versa, etc.); neuroscientist turned social worker Dr. Elaine Waddington Lamont; an interview with Canadian new wave synthpop band Rational Youth; an interview and live music with Xave Ruth on the intersection of math, music, and comedy; Dr. Michael Windover, historian of architecture, design, and material culture on his research, exhibits, and book on early radio in Canada; outgoing Carleton University President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Roseann O'Reilly Runte about her French poetry, writing, and research; theoretical physicist Dr. Thomas Grégoire; science education innovators Martin Williams, Ian Blokland, and Mats Selen (2015 US Professor of the Year); Cindy Stelmackowich on the history of Canadian women in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics (STEM); etc., etc., etc..
Needless to say, every Wednesday morning, my mind is totally blown and I can be excited about life and everything in it all over again. It's good to be The Passionate Friar!!!
Lastly, and on the topic of "mind blown", if you're in Ottawa September 11, please come out to the Carleton University Art Gallery
for the vernissage of the art gallery exhibit I helped to curate and produce! It's an amazing collection of artifacts from early women scientists in Canada and tells both the story of the tremendous contributions they made, and the forces that were arrayed against them simply because of their gender. It has been an indescribable privilege to have participated in such a unique exhibit. From the CUAG list of upcoming exhibits
11 September – 03 December 2017
Curated by Josie Arruejo, Chelsea Black, James Botte, Brigid Christison, Michelle Jackson and Sharon Odell; in collaboration with Dr. Cindy Stelmackowich.So, what is a “herbarium?” and why is she the focus?
A herbarium is a collection of dried and preserved pressed plants or fungi that are stored, catalogued and arranged systematically for study.
In highlighting the “her” within
HERbarium, this exhibition focuses on the highly skilled and too widely unknown women who contributed to the collection, identification, illustration, production and distribution of early scientific knowledge within the field of botany in Canada.
Because of the accessible nature of botany close to home, and a national pursuit and desire to see, describe and classify flora and fauna species that were distinct from Europe within a then-young Canada, botany was the first natural science formally practiced by Canadian women.
With examples of path-breaking contributions by Catharine Parr Traill, Lady Dalhousie, Faith Fyles, Dr. Irene Mounce and Dr. Mildred Nobles, this exhibition looks back at an important and underrepresented history. It also includes a copy of the “Privy Council Letter, 1920 – Women, Marriage, Employment” which outlines the federal policy in effect until 1955 that prohibited a woman upon marriage from continuing her career as a federal employee. The exhibition also looks forward at the continuing need to encourage women to pursue careers in science, where they face ongoing discrimination on the basis of intersections of gender, race, sexuality, dis/ability and class.
This exhibition has been developed for the Carleton Curatorial Laboratory in collaboration with Dr. Cindy Stelmackowich as part of her seminar “Representations of Women’s Scientific Contributions” offered through the Pauline Jewitt Institute of Women’s and Gender Studies at Carleton University.
If you're there, come say hi! I'll be the old, fat, bald, white guy standing awkwardly in the midst of many very cool and diverse young women ;). I do have to say that it was one of the most amazing courses I have ever taken... when I saw the title of the course, I knew there was no way I could not sign up; however, I had assumed it was going to be more research and essays and maybe classroom discussions. I was wonderfully, wonderfully wrong... it was many, many excursions to the hidden collections of Canada's national museums, practical hands-on work with many brilliant classmates, deeply engaging conversations about women in science (both historically and today), and working far outside my comfort zone on so many things. It was an absolutely magnificent way to cap my B.A. Honours degree in Women's and Gender Studies.
If that doesn't work, and you're here on October 17th... to the best of my knowledge, I should be there for this as well (see above re: potential travel to the UK or maybe even SNOLAB):HERbarium: Exhibition tour with the curatorial team
Tuesday, 17 October 2017, 7:00 p.mPlease join us for a tour of the exhibition HERbarium, which was co-curated by Josie Arruejo, Chelsea Black, James Botte, Brigid Christison, Michelle Jackson and Sharon Odell, in collaboration with women’s and gender studies professor Cindy Stelmackowich.
Admission is free and everyone is welcome! CUAG is an accessible space, with barrier-free washrooms and elevator.
It does run until December 3, 2017 and I'd be happy to pop by if you get a chance to see it (just let me know a day or two in advance). I will be going in right after my show on Wednesday (August 30, 2017) to lend a hand or two in helping to set up the actual exhibit. It's delightful that we were actually able to get some amazingly rare artifacts to (safely) put on display, including Lady Dalhousie's 18th century personal herbarium, a first edition of Catherine Parr Traill's groundbreaking 1865 book "Canadian Wild Flowers" (a limited print run of 500 units, each with 10 colour plates, hand watercoloured by family members, it was the first "coffee table art book" published in Canada), amazing botanical artwork and science by Faith Fyles, and mycology (mushrooms and fungus) samples and other work by the pioneers in the categorization and study of fungi Dr. Irene Mounce and Dr. Mildred Nobles from the mid-20th century. The reproduction of the “Privy Council Letter, 1920 – Women, Marriage, Employment” (which was the "smoking gun" for so much of what we were trying to document regarding the limitations imposed on women) is just jaw dropping to read.
Just writing that, I feel like I need to go back to bed...
For a video today, hmmm... I think I need to repost something I seem to post every once in a while. The first video, "I Tak Bez Konca" by Polish musician Karolina Kozak is the United States I remember fondly and saw as the possibility of the place. Filmed in Savannah, Georgia, it often brings a tear to my eye (I actually know the people in the coffee shop from when I lived in North Carolina... it's a small world). The second video is the United States that we see on the surface and is the one the world is carefully watching: "I'm Afraid Of Americans" by David Bowie and Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails)... which will ultimately win, and at what cost? This is another place where a tremendous amount of my energy is going these days, just wondering if I'll have time to realize that nuclear war has broken out before me and my children and friends are all dead (we live in a national capital). I lived through the 70s and 80s, and I had hoped these days of fear were behind us. They are not, and I think it is even more dangerous (and possible) today than it was then given the multi-axis instabilities and extremism (and by that I mean established governments, not non-governmental groups) we are seeing all over the world. The Bowie/Reznor video sends chills down my spine when I watch it.
If that's too depressing... how about this song from Zepparella's original lineup (I have serious respect [and other feelings] for the drummer, she doesn't mess around when it comes to playing those things):
So much to live for still, let's get our shit together.