Archive for March, 2007

Book Review: Physics and Beyond

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

(Apologies for the repost … testing out Blogger 2.0′s new Labels feature)
Physics and Beyond by Werner Heisenberg
An amazingly human book about physics. In deeply personal terms, Heisenberg tells how he grew from a war-tossed youth to an elder statesman of physics. His thesis is that physics is more than just experiments, numbers and math; instead, it is a deeply social process of discussion among physicists trying to understand the world experiment reveals around them. He weaves an idyllic picture of the interchange among the physicists of his generation, portraying the quantum mechanics as emerging not from dry scientific discussions but from vigorous literary, philosophical and religious interchanges, shared excitement and brassy poker games, and invigorating hiking, mountain climing and sailing adventures. Heisenberg carefully picks out key conversations during his life that ultimately led to the Uncertainty Principle that bears his name, interwoven with key turns of events that illuminate the slow disintegration of Germany leading up to World War II. We watch the idealistic, musical Youth Movement of his childhood degenerate into an edgy conversation with a Hitler Youth member who overhears Heisenberg playing. We see his despair as he is conscripted into the atomic bomb program and tries to steer it towards nuclear piles, rather than nuclear bombs. And we follow him through harrowing bike rides through the lines, the rescue of an old man from a burning house, the shock of an avalanche and an encounter with an unexpectedly friendly American bear.

Truly an amazing book.

The Florist is Strong with This One

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007


“You don’t know the FLOWERS of the Dark Side!”
-the Centaur

My Bestest Cat Story, Evah (So Far)

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

So my lovely wife Sandi and I often take walks at night, which causes a problem when we’ve let the cats out. Caesar (our smaller Holstein-cow fraidy cat) and Nero (our larger black-with-white-blaze surly cat) like going O-U-T-S-I-D-E, but if we’re walking they tend to follow us, which is dangerous in a neighborhood full of dogs.

SO one night this week we let the cats out the back door, hoping that the normal “beg to be let out back, prowl the back yard, walk the fence, prowl the front yard, beg to be let in front, beg for some C-A-N food, beg to be let out back, repeat” cycle would spin in our favor. No such luck: we were no more than two houses down when Nero leapt out of a bush and began stalking us.

He’s done it before, and we’ve tried to let him follow us before, only to have to pick him up and carry him back when a dog owner turned a corner ahead of us. But we decided to chance it, taking a shortcut that curved round the block back to our house rather than our long route, hoping that at the end of the walk he would want some I-N-S-I-D-E.

Hoping to keep him close, we called Nero, and surprisingly, he came, speeding up to walk with us, sometimes booking it forward to weave between our feet, some times hanging back and playing it cool, never more than twenty feet behind. We made it to the end of the street, then the charming walkway, and then the back side of the street, all with no problems, even when we passed houses that we knew housed dogs.

And then we turned the corner onto our cross street, and saw, crossing right at the intersection leading to our home, a woman with a huge Great Dane. It came to her ribs, head as large as Nero, and she walked right up to the bushes in front of our neighbor’s house to let him sniff.

Hoping to pick him up, we called Nero, and thankfully, he stopped, allowing Sandi to pick him up while I calmed him. After a moment I crossed the street to get a better angle, and saw that the lady had taken the Great Dane up our street and out of view. Relieved, we put Nero down and hoped to hurry back to our home, and he booked forward as well, no doubt thinking the same thing.

Then the Great Dane lady returned, having immediately doubled back.

Hoping to avert catastrophe, we told Nero to stop, as if he could understand us, and shockingly, HE DID. We walked up next to him, and he just stood there, looking down the street as the Great Dane looked back at him, never moving while Dane’s owner looked at us in acknowledgement and took her charge down the cross street, away from us and out of view with finality.

So we resumed. Nero followed us, weaving through our feet as we turned the same corner where the Great Dane had just stood. We were both shocked. I was raised to believe that you could never herd cats, and yet we had; Sandi, with far more cat experience, pointed out we would have been lucky to get that behavior from a trained dog, much less a new adoptive cat with a rough past, who strolled right up to our front door and darted in quickly without letting his brother out, allowing us to resume our walk.

And that made me think: despite his difficult past and surly demeanor, Nero IS a really good cat, calm and agreeable, easy to pick up, even calm at the vet. Caesar, while skittish, is similarly easy to deal with. Frankly, I don’t know how we lucked out. But we did.

Thanks again, God!
-the Centaur

Be Healed

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007


A little over two years ago, I broke my arm in a karate match…

… and received a metal plate in my arm.

A little over six months later they decided that the bone wasn’t healing.



SO, a little under two weeks ago, I went under the knife to have a bone graft to repair my unhealed arm.

A little under six days later I decided to ask for a blessing from the local priest at the end of mass, as is the custom at our church.

The bandages came off yesterday, and the doctor pronounced me healed. Not a little bit better, not improving, not ready to go in three months as expected or six months if they had to replate it, but healed. Apparently my Atlanta doctor had used a suture to hold a chip of bone in place during the healing process; over time the suture began to dig into the healing bone, clouding up the X-rays and leaving a gap in the CAT scan and overall creating the impression that my arm was much more messed up than it was. My California doctor found the suture, removed it, and probed the bone repeatedly with a scapel to confirm its solidity: as far as he can tell the bone is solid and ready to go.

No replating. No bone graft. Not even a waiting period. Just completely healed.

Now, I’m somewhat skeptical about miracles, which is to say, I’m somewhat a believer too. I of course understand that this is a broken bone that healed, which happens every day, and I have of course heard the old saw that miracles are in the eye of the beholder: to a believer, a sequence of events is credited to God as a miracle; to an unbeliever, that sequence explains the event away. I might complain that that old saw is nonsense, that it presumes there are no supernatural miracles that contravene known natural law like raising the dead, and presumes an ad-hoc explanation after the fact should be considered just as “scientific” as a predictive model developed before the data rolled in. But deep down I know it is just a broken bone after all, which happens every day.

But science or blessing or both, one thing I do know is, I’m grateful about how it turned out. Thanks to all the efforts of my doctors, the support of my wife, the prayers of my friends, and most of all…

…Thanks, God.

-the Centaur

Recuperatin’

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

Well, after more than two years since my initial break, I finally bit the bullet and went back under the knife, and am now recuperating:

Ever since we found out my broken arm wasn’t healing on schedule, my doctors and I have been playing a waiting game, trying every noninvasive technique we could to spark healing. To no avail; a disgusting lack of progress indeed.

Well, wait no more: the docs opened me up, cleaned up the site where the bone wasn’t healing, and closed me up again. Hopefully this will help. Time will tell, as will future X-rays:

More news as it happens. Flash.

-the Centaur