I am a “retired” postdoc in particle physics, trying to transition into the tech industry. I started out programming with Java around 1999, and more recently I’ve been doing a lot of work with Python, C, and C++, although I do occasionally dabble in PHP, Perl, shell scripting, and other languages.

  1. 2020

    Christmas Song of the Day: First Snow by Trans-Siberian Orchestra

    I’ve chosen today’s Christmas song from the repertoire of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, who — along with several other artists on this list — are enshrined in the pantheon of Christmas music for their trilogy of holiday albums and the live shows created from them. First Snow comes from the first of the trilogy, Christmas Eve and Other Stories. Like most of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s holiday music, it’s an entirely original composition, and this one is rock ‘n roll to its core, standing in stark contrast to the typical traditional carols. Even so, the song really captures the excitement of a snowfall. Heavy snow was one of my favorite things about growing up in upstate New York, not only because it makes the whole outdoor world look fresh and unspoiled, but also there’s nothing that compares to the feeling of waking up and finding out that school is closed so you get to sleep in. When I listen to this piece, you can bet that’s what I’m thinking of.

  2. 2020

    Christmas Song of the Day: Faeries by Mannheim Steamroller

    Today’s song is another Mannheim Steamroller remix. Faeries is, of course, based on Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. Amazingly, this arrangement keeps nearly the exact original melody and a lot of the original accompaniment, while putting a unique Steamroller spin on it: instead of pairing the celesta with orchestral instruments, it features (what sounds like) a glockenspiel in a very high register paired with a bass guitar in a low one. The contrast between extreme high and low pitches gives this song a spectacular and unique feel.

    With this one in particular, I highly recommend listening to the full song if you can. The 30-second preview from Spotify doesn’t do it justice.

  3. 2020

    Christmas Song of the Day: Sleigh Ride by Debbie Gibson

    From big band to 80’s pop, today I have another modern take on a classic, with Debbie Gibson’s rendition of Sleigh Ride. The arrangement just puts the original melody and lyrics over a swingin’ rock beat, and doesn’t do anything fancy, but it doesn’t need to: the combination works exceedingly well. I used to listen for this on the radio when I was a kid, and it’s one of the original songs that sparked my love of Christmas music in the first place.

    My one complaint is that I miss the traditional horse whinny at the end. But it’s an acceptable sacrifice.

  4. 2020

    Christmas Song of the Day: Run Rudolph Run by the Brian Setzer Orchestra

    Today’s song, Run Rudolph Run, is one you might think was written by a popular rock band doing a blow-off Christmas album, as so many artists do. But it was actually co-written by Johnny Marks, the same composer who gave us the famous “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. Its first recording goes all the way back to 1958, done by the great Chuck Berry.

    The arrangement I’m sharing today, though, is decidedly more modern, performed by the Brian Setzer Orchestra. My first introduction to The BSO was through their covers of jazz and rock standards, but they’ve done a lot of Christmas music as well, both classics and original pieces. I’m always glad to add their big band music into my holiday repertoire.

  5. 2020

    Christmas Song of the Day: Deck the Halls by Mannheim Steamroller

    Today marks the first of many appearances in this series from my hands-down favorite artist of Christmas music, if not of all time: Mannheim Steamroller. Deck the Halls is the first track from their first album back in 1984. It’s a classic carol, but Mannheim Steamroller’s take on it as a driving rock song is so different from any traditional version you’ll hear that it doesn’t feel old and overdone at all. They do indeed rock so hard and so festively that steam comes out of your brain. As it melts.

  6. 2020

    Christmas Song of the Day: Christmas Pipes by Celtic Woman

    My followup to yesterday’s song is a beautiful original offering from Celtic Woman, Christmas Pipes. I love this one for its catchy melody, which repeats throughout the song, as well as the exhibition of different countermelodies and backgrounds that are juxtaposed against it. Besides the eponymous (uilleann?) pipes, it takes full advantage of orchestral instruments over a wide frequency range, from bass strings to chimes, so if you have a good set of speakers, you’ll want to turn them up for this one.

    Shoutout to the composer Brendan Graham.

  7. 2020

    Christmas Song of the Day: Christmas Eve by Blackmore's Night

    I love Christmas.

    Not as a religious thing; for me it’s a chance to escape the troubles of everyday life and make some happy memories with friends and family. And music has always been a big part of that. Every year, from the day after Thanksgiving up through Christmas Day itself, I put aside my regular playlists and break out my favorite holiday songs, which I’ve accumulated a pretty substantial collection of over the years.

    This year, I want to share some highlights of that collection, so I’ll be posting 25 of my favorite holiday songs over the next 25 days. The first one is a recent discovery that I consider a perfect introduction to the season: Christmas Eve by Blackmore’s Night. It’s upbeat, festive, and full of anticipation.

    As a bonus, there are actually four versions of this song: the original 2013 version, and then three radio-edited versions in English, German, and an English/German “hybrid”. Try them all and pick your favorite!

  8. 2020

    November update: Fun with Docker

    In honor of November, which used to be my NaBloWriMo (“National” Blog Writing Month), I’m determined to exceed my usual output of zero posts per month.

    A haphazard introduction to Docker

    My latest hobby project has been changing this website to use Docker. For anyone who doesn’t know, Docker is a containerization system, which means that it lets you run programs in their own individual “containers” that prevent them from interacting with other programs running on the same computer (except when you specifically allow it). For example, a file stored in a container is typically accessible only within that container, each container has its own set of network ports to send and receive communication, and so on. Containers are a lot like virtual machines, but whereas a virtual machine runs an entire operating system — that includes a kernel plus any number of programs — Docker runs only one primary program in each isolated environment, and when that program needs a kernel to do something like reading data from a file, it uses the underlying host system’s kernel. So you might think of containers as “partly-virtual machines”.

    The isolated environment of a container works the other way around, too …

  9. 2020

    A late arXiv Fool's!

    For the past few years I’ve been maintaining what may be the most comprehensive list of arXiv joke papers on the internet. It all started a few years ago with an answer on Academia Stack Exchange, and it’s become an annual tradition for myself and other Academia SE users to update the list with the new discoveries each year, after which I mirror the changes here on my website.

    This year, just in time for it to not be April anymore, I’m pleased to share eighteen new papers being added to the list. Some were missed entries from previous years, but almost half of them are new to the arXiv, a very impressive showing. We’ve got a groundbreaking approach to achieving room temperature superconductivity, the extension of Godwin’s Law to the age of quantum computing, a progress report on the search for space vampires, and more. May they bring you much enjoyment!

    If you know of any papers I’ve missed that should be added to the list, please let me know. I’d like to thank Mike Lund and E.P. for their contributions to this year’s list.

  10. 2018

    arXiv Fool's!

    About a year ago, I posted a list of arXiv joke papers as an answer on Academia Stack Exchange. At the time, I was just going for a de facto “proof” that it’s okay to upload joke papers — after all, there have been so many of them, and some have been so famous, that if the arXiv moderators thought this was a problem they surely would have done something about it. (Which they haven’t.) But after the answer kind of exploded in popularity, I realized that (as far as I know) nobody else has bothered to list all these papers. So I’ve been keeping it updated each year.

    Starting this year, I’m going to mirror the list here on my site. If you know of anything I should add, let me know!

    And I’d be remiss not to mention this year’s entry, “Sitnikov in Westeros: How Celestial Mechanics finally explains why winter is coming in Game of Thrones”. This paper actually does have a real scientific explanation for the bizarre patterns of seasons in Game of Thrones.