Archive for the ‘Journal’ Category

Mike Hinton: PhD Candidate

July 31, 2009

Hey everyone.  You may recall several months ago, in May, when I said I would be undergoing an exam that would take about a month.  It was ultimately delayed and I instead went through it during July.  The last week of it was probably the most miserable of my life, but now I can say I am a PhD candidate for Physics.  If all goes well, I will have my degree in approximately two years from now.  It is an indescribable feeling to have accomplished this, since failing would have forced me to make some serious changes in my life… like get a real job!

antiferroFor the few who are actually curious, my project was on a recently discovered new type of superconductor called Iron-pnictides (the “p” is silent).  Pnictide is  just a fancy name for the elements in the nitrogen column on the periodic table.  I had to describe how neutron diffraction was used to find the magnetic structures in these compounds, since you can’t “feel” the magnetism like you do with a normal iron magnet. This is because when you add the magnetism from the individual iron atoms together, there is no net magnetism left since they align in opposite directions (see figure).  This is called antiferromagnetism, and as far as I know, neutron diffraction is the only way to find out if something is antiferromagnetic.

So, that’s where I am now.  Much happier than I was just 1 week ago.  Now I can get back to more entertaining things in life, like planning for my wedding, working on my house and yard, keeping up with economics, and writing this blog.  Thanks to everyone who helped me get this far.

2nd to Last PhD Hurtle

April 24, 2009

atomI probably won’t be posting a whole lot for the next month.  This is caused by the do-or-die project I will be engaging in.  It’s called the General Exam and it is a written paper and oral exam, kind of like a mini thesis defense that physics students must complete to be official PhD candidates.  It’s an intense experience, and as hard as it is for me, I will have to concentrate on basically nothing but this project until I pass.  I have to be done before the start of June because my professor will be in Paris for the whole month.  I’m already nervous, if I don’t pass they are going to give me my Masters and send me on my way, but that is an unlikely outcome.  Luckily, I have become an important asset to my professor and he has helped me understand better what is expected of me during the presentation.

On a happier note, it looks like I will finally have my first authored pubication as a colaborator in this pretty neat paper.  I’ll summorize and link to it if and when it is published.

Facebook Advertising Works!

April 13, 2009

facebookHi all, and thank you everyone who stopped by my website either now or who are returning. WordPress lets their users see a wide variety of statistics about their blog. It’s neat to know what people are doing and how much they are doing it (without knowing specifically who it is). My favorite is this graph showing how many unique people come to my blog each day. It seems to be accurate and go by IP address, so the only double counting would be if someone came here on the same day from different computers. So, let me show you what happened when I put a little notice on my Facebook account about my blog.

Number of people visiting my blog per day.

Number of people visiting my blog per day.

Pretty neat, huh? It made me feel good that people cared enough to stop by. When I mention this and future posts on Facebook maybe I’ll get similar spikes in traffic. Perhaps a few will even show up unprompted.

Anyone Know of a Good Florist?

April 8, 2009

bouquetAlice and I haven’t had much luck with the whole flower part of our wedding. Every other aspect has gone pretty smoothly, but we don’t know where to start when it comes to flowers. Does anyone have any advice or recommendations concerning finding a good (inexpensive) florist? Please leave a comment.

I think we are mainly going to need the bouquet, flowers for the wedding party, and perhaps something to put on the alter.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

UPDATE:  For those who don’t know, I’m getting married in Cincinnati.

The Perils of Flossing

April 3, 2009

brushingI thought nothing could go wrong from flossing my teeth.  I was doing something healthy even if I didn’t do it often enough.  The worst that would happen is a little bleeding, right?  Wrong!  I broke off a chunk of my molar that measures 5mm/3mm/2mm (3/16″ by 2/16″ by 1/16″).  That’s huge!  Just by pulling the floss out.  Since it happened on a Friday I have to wait until Monday to get it repaired.  And I’m lucky someone canceled, my original appointment was for the 14th of April (though I could still go to the emergency clinic Monday morning).  I bet the dentist is going to blame it on fracturing my tooth due to grinding them while sleeping and recommend I get a $300 (vs. $1000 at most private practices) bite guard.  I’ll probably take him up on it after this.  It’s freaky when parts of your mouth come flying out – I’ve had plenty of nightmares where I’m spitting my teeth out.

Cracking my tooth by flossing reminds me of another hazard of preventative dental care: gum recession due to harsh brushing. We received no warnings about the ferocity of our daily routine, and I would say it was essentially encouraged. That is, until we started complaining about sensitive gums. Then they kindly tell us to take it easy as if they hadn’t done something to initiate the irreversible erosion.

No real pain yet. I hope that lasts until Monday. I also hope I avoid slicing open my cheek from the now sharp point where my tooth use to be.

What’s Up – 1 April 2009

April 1, 2009

dancingSo, I have a friend who has offered to give Alice and I ballroom dancing lessons so we can be prepared for our wedding. This is very nice of her because otherwise I can’t see us going through with it. We’ll be able to pick the song we want to dance to and learn a couple of the traditional dances (waltz, foxtrot, ect.).

GrossLast night Alice and I saw a 2004 Nobel Laureate in Physics, David J. Gross, give a long talk on particle physics and string theory. I don’t remember when I first heard about string theory.  Apparently, some form of it’s been around for 41 years, though I think the present theory started much later. I think elementary particle physics was what got me interested in physics the first place, and I still have a fascination with it even if the excitement it caused didn’t last me all the way through grad school. I do still enjoy what I do on a day to day basis, and can’t think of a better way to ride out what is likely to be the worst economy of my lifetime (fingers crossed).

Comment bait

March 17, 2009

LawnI doubt many people reading this would have much experience with the subject of this post, but now that I have started to establish my presence here, I would enjoy some responses to what I’ve been saying. For now, I will settle for anything, so even if you don’t have an opinion or question on the subject, just say hi or something off topic. Feel free to comment on previous and future posts as well. 🙂

I bought a house in 2006 and while the house was in good condition, the yard and surrounding area was very neglected. For the past 2+ years I’ve been repairing it and trying to spruce it up. Currently, I am working on filling out my lawn. This is kind of a daunting task because I have no experience and there is a lot of mistakes one can make. I’m trying to go all out while not breaking the bank. Meaning I’ll do everything I can that is a reasonable cost.

Apparently, an important part of making a lawn look good is a process called overseeding. With overseeding you prep your lawn and then throw seed down over the whole thing to try to fill in bare spots and make the lawn more dense overall. Apparently, this is more effective in Fall, but it’s Spring now and I am impatient. I found advice online that rye grass has the best chance at germinating enough before it gets too hot, so that’s what I bought.

As for prepping the lawn. I am having the soil tested at a local lab for pH and fertilization levels ($15). I also am having my lawn professionally aerated which only costs $40, less expensive than doing it myself. Beyond that, you are supposed to cut the lawn very short right before you throw down seed which I haven’t decided if I am going to do yet since it makes me nervous. I did buy a new blade for my very old mower, so hopefully that will help.

Maybe I’ll put up some before and after pictures if it’s sufficiently impressive when I’m done.

Ideas for this blog… #4

March 11, 2009

America... ---- Yeah!Politics – I enjoy politics, and I like discussing it intelligently with intelligent people without getting into arguments. I don’t want arguments exploding on my blog (assuming enough people eventually read it to have one), so I will probably keep politics to a minimum and as uncontroversial as possible. This doesn’t mean I don’t have strong beliefs, but I understand that there’s always room for refinement and the occasional complete revision (more on this later). I like to bring counter-intuitive ideas to people’s attention. By the way, I consider myself a Liberal Capitalist.

Tax windfall

March 10, 2009

So easy!I just saved $345, and no, I didn’t switch to Gieco. I highly recommend getting a rental property, it’s a great deduction source. Originally, I wasn’t able to deduct my mortgage interest and property tax because I didn’t reach the standard deduction threshold. I submitted it yesterday, but then I tried putting those values in Turbo Tax under my rental property (I share my house equally with the guy I rent to so I call it 50%). This allowed me to take a deduction of half my interest and taxes paid without itemizing. On top of that, just for 2008, there is a standard deduction of up to $500 if you payed that much in property taxes. I payed just over $1000 in real estate tax in 2008. So half was deducted using the rental property and the other half with the standard deduction, all without itemizing. The trick is, when you have a rental property, you can include things such as depreciation to deduct from the amount you earn and even take losses. The losses are taken right from your AGI and not considered an itemized deduction.

Now I can mail in an amended return and only owe $200 instead of $550. Cha-ching!

Ideas for this blog… #3

March 10, 2009

Finance – Some may consider this similar to Economics because it also has to so with money, and I suppose it is economics on an extremely micro scale, namely a single person or family. Generally, I look for ways to best invest my money and use tricks to make a little cash on the side and try to earn the most interest on the money I’m saving. I try to keep the ratio of work involved/financial payoff as reasonable as possible. There are countless blogs about finance, and I would like to post things I find the most useful. I want to filter my favorite parts of what I read and put them here.