19 November 2015

Gratitude (Nov. 11 - Nov. 17)

  1. Physics lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings
  2. The veterans in my life and my ancestry, including my grandfathers (Austin and Galen), step-grandfather (Louis), and many friends.
  3. Leftover squash cake from Sunday potluck
  4. Being able to adjust my wife's bike seat to a better and (I hope) more stable height. 
  5. Visiting the WiSE open house 
  6. Writing birthday cards to our friends
  7. Dinner with friends to celebrate a birthday
  8. Fun at Watiki Water Park (Nov. 14)
  9. Getting part of our basement in better condition for guests
  10. Dinner at Famous Dave's
  11. My wife leading the discussion at our church on Sunday (Nov. 15)
  12. The wonderful people she told us about in her discussion
  13. A chance to help a friend through a rough time
  14. Finishing and posting the short version of a book review for my friend's novel Truest
  15. Good weather for walking over the weekend
  16. Meeting and petting a neighbor's cat, named Purry Como
  17. The STEM: Women Are All Over It shirt is back on sale!
  18. Pointing a student to a potentially helpful source of information on cosmic rays.
  19. Packing for my trip to the AAPT Teaching Workshop went smoothly
  20. My wife's help in getting ready for the trip

15 November 2015

Review of Truest: Spoiler-Free Version

This novel is powerful, moving, deep, and marvelously infused with the author's faith. It grabbed places in my psyche that I barely knew were there, and it has refused to let go.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a personal friend of the author; we have known each other since college.  Thus, any positive comments I have may be partly due to my personal bias as her friend.  I will do my best to avoid this bias, but doing that perfectly is impossible because if she were not my friend, I would never have known this book existed.

The author achieves many great things in this novel. She created flawed yet compelling characters, moved me to admire Elliot, and took this reader through the growth and maturation of her characters.  Running through these achievements are many motifs, including abandonment, rescue, faith, God as father, and uncertainty.

Regarding my admiration for Elliot, some explanation is required. Like Silas, I enjoy words, am an astronomy buff, and have long hair.  I was bullied in high school, and several of those bullies were football players.  In Elliot, Sommers created a character so realistic and yet contrary to stereotypes that I admire the football player more than the long-haired astronomy buff!  That is an amazing achievement.

I think her greatest achievement is getting me to join in her characters' emotions and growth, but I cannot detail that without spoilers.

You may be wondering if I liked or enjoyed this book. My answer is that those not the right words; they do not have enough gravity, power, or depth to accommodate the emotional and spiritual wallop contained in Truest.  I was moved, amazed, surprised, and deeply touched by this novel.  It was far deeper and more powerful than I expected. She has crafted a parable (or series of parables) that honors her faith and respects her readers.

I have also posted this review on Amazon and Goodreads.

11 November 2015

Gratitude (Nov. 4 - Nov. 10)

  1. Excellent discussion and planning with Society of Physics Students
  2. My wife landed safely (and close to punctually) in Pittsburgh
  3. Received my influenza vaccination.
  4. Physics colloquium from one of our graduate students
  5. Time at the library this evening (Nov. 5)
  6. The Pleiades rising in the east.
  7. Retrieved my wife's bike from the bike shop)
  8. Tried a new restaurant (Nov. 7)
  9. My wife was able to spend most of Friday (Nov. 6) with dear friends
  10. Finished machine shop training
  11. I was able to help my wife find a hotel for part of her trip.
  12. Beautiful conjunction of Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and the Moon early in the morning as I was riding to a men's group (Nov. 6)
  13. Good discussion at men's group 
  14. Being able to make tea in my office.
  15. My wife's bicycle is turned up and back home.
  16. Good conversation with a colleague about religions beliefs and their effect on society
  17. New pillars in place for our garage porch
  18. My wife's beautiful flight from Pittsburgh to Minneapolis
  19. Bringing my wife home from her trip
  20. All of the wonderful friends my wife caught up with during her trip
  21. Starting a calibration test of our radon monitor.
  22. Dark chocolate ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery 
  23. Discussion of race and policing in Rapid City based on a study from the University of South Dakota.
  24. Leftovers from Sheetz
  25. Video of a levitating frog.

04 November 2015

Gratitude List Returns (Oct. 28 - Nov. 3, 2015)

  1. First lesson on using a milling machine
  2. Eating produce from our garden
  3. Lining a ramekin with parchment paper before microwaving an egg is an effective way to reduce cleaning time.
  4. The overwhelming messages of encouragement I have received in response to my Facebook question, “Whose story can I make better today?"
  5. A change in perspective on an important personal issue.
  6. The ability to communicate with a long-time friend on Facebook.
  7. Discussing faith, science, and affordable housing with friends at a morning men’s group.
  8. Learning to use a milling machine and making my first piece on it.
  9. Good conversation with a student who is having trouble.
  10. Helping a friend I have never met
  11. Opportunity to speak at The Well on Nov. 1
  12. Handing out candy to trick-or-treaters; my favorites were the boys dressed as Mario and Luigi!
  13. Physics Halloween social 2015, with us dressing (and acting) as Dark Matter an Dark Energy
  14. My friend wrote a novel called Truest, which is powerful, moving, deep, and infused with her faith. It grabbed places in my psyche that I barely knew were there, and it has refused to let go.
  15. Laughing with my wife while watching recorded TV shows on our Entertainment PC
  16. Homemade Sloppy Joes, including peppers from our garden.
  17. Clearance Halloween candy
  18. My presentation at The Well was well-received. 
  19. Time with a good friend (Nov. 1)
  20. My improving ability to play our upcoming concert pieces in the SDSM&T Symphonic Band
  21. Progress in seeking new projects for my lab.
  22. Good meetings with students on Nov. 2

12 April 2014

Gratitude, Part 34 (Apr. 5 - 11, 2014)

 1. Surprise breakfast from my wife (Apr. 7, 2014)
  2. Helpful notice from my wife that I needed to cover my bike to protect it from incoming weather (Apr. 7, 2014)
  3. Jerry's Cakes & Donuts
  4. Fun conversation at Beer & Bible (Apr. 6, 2014)
  5. Finished planning class for the remainder of the semester
  6. Enjoyable lunch with Pres. Wilson, award-winning physics students, and the co-spokesperson of LUX
  7. Informative presentation from a SD Public Utilities Commissioner
  8. Good conversation about possible outreach opportunities to K-12 students
  9. Wonderful dinner with good friends (Apr. 11, 2014)
  10. Our friends' oldest son Matthew gave me a hug
  11. Meeting our good friends new baby (2 weeks old) for the first time (Apr. 11, 2014)
  12. Holding the new baby (Oliver)
  13. Learned more about my colleagues
  14. The latest episode of Cosmos, which I watched online.
  15. Wrote my first letter of recommendation
  16. Submitted a seed grant proposal a day early
  17. Learned that we do not like a particular restaurant
  18. More free evenings now that band rehearsal is done for the semester
  19. Books ordered for my class in Fall Semester
  20. Our friend Laura passed her Master's defense
  21. I was able to attend Laura's defense
  22. Attended part of the Honors convocation and congratulated our award-winning physics students in person
  23. T-shirt from the High Plains Regional Science & Engineering Fair.

Total: 1024

This list was inspired by the book One Thousand Gifts Devotional: Reflections on Finding Everyday Graces by Ann Voskamp. Since I am much more of a geek than Mrs. Voskamp, my goal was to list 1024 things for which I am grateful within a year.  God has given me so many blessings that I have reached this goal in less than 8 months.  Thank you all for reading, and thank you God for all the blessings.

06 April 2014

Gratitude, Part 33 (Mar. 29 - Apr. 4, 2014)

  1. My sister's boyfriend getting a new job
  2. Our friend Emily's new son Oliver
  3. Beautiful weather (Mar. 29, 2014)
  4. Walking to the library
  5. Carrying books home from the library for my wife
  6. Getting fries on the way home
  7. Helping my wife install garden trellises
  8. Helping my wife make turkey curry
  9. Getting several tasks done that I meant to do yesterday (Mar. 30, 2014)
  10. Significant progress on my proposal (Mar. 29, 2014)
  11. Finding my balaclava, which was in the laundry the whole time
  12. Rode in and home safely despite the campus being closed due to a "blizzard" (Mar. 31, 2014)
  13. Excelling visit from a funding agency representative
  14. Our Spring Concert was well-attneded, and I think we played our best (Apr. 4, 2014)
  15. The other two groups in the concert were a joy to hear (Apr. 4, 2014)
  16. Walking with my wife under a beautiful sky (Apr. 4, 2014)
  17. Rode in safely despite unexpected heavy snow (Apr. 2, 2014)
  18. Physics lunch was postponed (not cancelled) due to the snow
  19. Good physics lunch at Dickey's BBQ Pit (Apr. 4, 2014)
  20. Ability to play in the concert here and call in to NOvA meetings at Fermilab
  21. Good discussion at the InterVarsity GFM meeting (Apr. 2, 2014)
  22. Talking via Skype with Gary again (Apr. 1, 2014)
  23. My wife had a good time at a gardening class (Apr. 1, 2014)
  24. Significant progress on purchasing equipment for my lab
  25. Submitted my proposal for the Board of Regents Competitive Research Grant Program (Apr. 1, 2014)
  26. I have my teaching assignment for Fall Semester 2014.

Total: 1001

30 March 2014

Gratitude, Part 32 (Mar. 22 - 28, 2014)

  1.  When I pulled my bike out of the garage, my rear tire was flat.  I am grateful that I had time to change it and get to the office well before my first appointment of today. (Mar. 26, 2014)
  2. Giving some of the light fixtures we replaced to a new home (Mar. 22, 2014)
  3. Sending birthday card and gift to my sister
  4. Watching the third episode of the new Cosmos series
  5. Cosmos episodes are available for free online after airing
  6. A friend told me about a state-level call for proposals that I would not have otherwise known about
  7. Compliment from department chair on the letter of support I wrote from him to sign
  8. Final interview for our new faculty search
  9. Visiting the early morning Christian men's group (Mar. 28, 2014)
  10. Engaging discussion at small group (Mar. 27, 2014)
  11. Good physics lunch at Mongolian BBQ (Mar. 26, 2014)
  12. Progress on getting orders submitted for my lab equipment
  13. Visiting my wife in her office (Mar. 28, 2014)
  14. Walking with my wife around campus (Mar. 28, 2014).
  15. Kansas City Street is open again on my route home
  16. Riding home with my wife on our bikes
  17. New shoes
  18. Unexpected discounts at the shoe store
  19. Dinner, including wonderful noodle soup and Thai curry, at Saigon restaurant
  20. Good conversations about finances
  21. Increasing confidence in my relationships and life in general as a result of increasing acceptance of God's grace

Total: 975