Rochester Rag April 1996
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Motto: The surest way to get a reputation for being a trouble maker these days is to go about repeating the very phrases that the Founders used in the struggle for independance.

-- C.A. Beard


Steve Langer
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On last month's Fix;

the answer to last month's Fix,

"All those whose last name starts with A-L supply a brief bio of

By sheer luck, Kevin Flynn chose this moment to drop me a line, and raise the same point - namely, where are people at now? And further, I got an invite to my 15'th HS Reunion. Talk about timeliness.

Anyway, Kevin bio'ed the MSU group, and my friends in Detroit couldn't get the call for bios so I'll let those folks off till the next issue.

On Mad Cow Disease;

The other night, some MDs and I were at a Pub. The staff neuro surgeon raised an interesting point. It turns out that the Mad Cow Disease that is afflicting the Beef herd in Britain has a human analog, Creutzfelt-Jacob Disease, which is a neuro tissue infection that kills humans. The disease is passed from cow to human by eating insufficiently cooked neuro tissue, usually in ground beef.

There is a move afoot to wipe out the entire British herd because of this, but the cows themselves get the disease because they are fed sheep offal, and an organism called scabies in the sheep brain and spinal tissue (which is mostly harmless to the sheep) becomes Mad Cow Disease in the cow.

So the question is, why destroy the beef herd if you don't also alter the feedstock given the beef? As of yet there has been no call to wipe out the sheep herd which has been known to be scabies infested for at least 200 years.

Guest Editorial:

On the Physics Ph.D.
by Steve Langer

Kevin Flynn asked me whether I thought the PhD was worth it. I thought I'd take the time to rehash that issue. For those of you who don't know, in the Fall of 1986, 52 of us started grad School at MSU. To my knowledge, two Caucasions succeeded, Rich Astur and Liz Gallas. I don't know where they are now.

Howden, Flynn, Willie, Dorsey, Karn, Brodbar, Gebhardt, and some others whose names escape me all left physics. Markowitz, Johnson, Rutt and I fled to other schools to continue in the Grail Quest, me in medical physics, the others in nuclear. We all got our Phuds, and with the exception of Markowitz, we're all still single. I don't know what it is, but the run for the Physics Phud is great for birth control. Also, I think (correct me if I'm wrong) we're all nomads in search of a permanent job. Maybe those two are related. In my experience, the women I've met are either equally carreer focussed and believe that a relationship would blow it (i.e. Brenda, the girl Kevin recalls from MSU), or they want the attention and stability that I'm not in a position to supply yet.

Was it worth it? Tough to answer since it is still a work in progress. Mostly, I'd say no. Last week several people were interviewed to replace me here. I got to take them out to lunch. Two were pure Physics Phuds, one a 38 year old High Energy guy (PhD UW Madison) comtemplating his 4'th post-doc with 38 first author papers in Phys Rev D. He cannot land a permanent job and has a wife and 2 kids in tow. The other was 33, married, 3 kids, a Penn State nuke PhD, and was cut from the Naval Research Labs civilian work force.

None of us went into physics expecting riches from it. I just wanted a comfortable life, get to do fun things, and maybe uncover a little more of how the universe works. Bzzzzzt. Wrong answer. The only physics Phud worth anything now is something that has immediate commercial relevance: materials science, lasers and optics, complex system modeling. Nor is medical physics a great choice. Each month there are about 9 therapy positions and 3 diagnostic (my area) listed. Figure on 2~300 applicants per posting. As recently as five years ago, industry was keen on getting MR physicists to invent new MRI systems. No longer. The Clinton Health Plan spectre caused all diagnostic companies to gut their research groups. I am actually broadening my job search to all English speaking nations - out of necessity.

There is no way I would councel a high school senior to go into physics today. If (s)he wants money, (s)he should go to a top 10 law or med school and graduate in the top 1/5 of his class. If he wants to do interesting stuff, go to a good engineering school like MIT or CalTech. If he wants a little less money, but get out of school and enjoy life while he's still young enough to, get a degree in Physical Therapy or Nurse Anesthesiology.

Just my $.02


1. From ex-MSUer Kevin Flynn.

>From Tue Apr  9 22:12:57 1996
Date: 09 Apr 96 22:09:48 EDT
From: "Kevin F. Flynn" <>

      Let me give you a brief synopsis of what I've done since we last talked
out in VA when you interviewed with GE.

I kept working for GE for 5 years as a maintenance programmer.  I fixed software
bugs on a large real-time system, all written in IBM 370 assembler (how
exciting).  The last year that I was there, I did enough C programming to become
proficient, and got a job for a small start up company in Columbus, OH (fall
1993).  The company name is HUBLink, and they sell a software integration
product that allows the various clinical systems in a hospital to pass
information.  I was hired as a programmer, and eventually moved into an
installation/project management role.  I was flying around the country
installing the system (UNIX based, written in C).  That job was fairly
interesting, especially since health care is an exciting field nowadays. While
there, I became proficient in various communications protocols, especially LU62.
After about a year, I was looking for some more responsibility but couldn't find
any since the company was so young.  That led to me to my 3rd job since MSU, (my
current job), directing a client/server team at CBC Companies (we sell credit
reports).  Its pretty much the same kind of stuff... software development,
project mgmt, numerous communications protocols etc., but more responsiblity and
bigger projects.

Each job at its best, has always been  just a job.  I've never felt like I have
found my "Career".  Thats perhaps my biggest regret about leaving MSU and not
pursuing the PhD.  I felt that I would have had a career if I had stayed in
physics, instead of just a job.  I'm glad I left though because I never would
have had the stamina to stick with it as long as you guys did.

As for my personal life, I married Monica (whom I was dating all through MSU)
about 1 week after I graduated with my MS.  We moved to VA, me to work at GE,
and her to complete her 4 year term with the USAF.  After 3 of the 4 years, and
the birth of our 3rd child, we petitioned for an early release and received it.
(Fall 1992)  It took me another year to finally get a job in Columbus, where
Monica's family is.  Since moving, I'm on my second job, and 5th child (due July

What ever happened with that girl you were dating when we graduated?  I remember
eating dinner with you and her while you were in DC for a week.  (She was
wearing a "Dukakis" button at the dinner table, so after reading a few of your
articles I'm  guessing that you didn't marry her.)

Other than you and John Johnson, I haven't been able to find out about anybody
from MSU.  The last PPSA mag that I got, I remember reading an article that you
wrote about completing your work at Oakland Univ.  (What was your PhD in?
Medical Physics?)  I know that you got a PhD, and I think that John did, but
what happened to everyone else?  Here is the last info that I knew about:

 - Paul Rutt, John Johnson, Steve Howden, and Karl Gebhardt all received A's on
the qualifying exam.  What happened after that I don't know, but recall reading
some negative commentaries in PPSA about the MSU Physics dept.
 - Paul Dorsey transfered to NorthEastern for an attempt at a Master's in either
Eng or computer science.
- Debbie Brodbar got a job at Physics Today (or some magazine) and was still
there as of 1993 or so.
- Karl (and his then girlfriend Keitha) came and visited me out in VA about 18
months after I graduated (early 1990).  Karl informed me that Dr. Tim Beers (my
advisor) had gotten a divorce, and was dating again.
- Joe Willie (after failing the qualifying exam 4 times) attempted to transfer
to the ENG dept, and quit after he ran out of money.  Last I heard he had moved
back in with his mom in NY somewhere.
- I recall reading some news about Pete Markowitz (wedding and some other stuff)
at William and Mary.  I still remember how his locker smelled at MSU, and how he
use to beat the crap out of his dog.  I also remember an awesome halloween party
at Pete's & John's apt. when a Vietnamese girl named Hahn came dressed as a
kitten (or should I say pussy).
- Sent Email to Paul Rutt and various others using the addresses listed in the
April 1994 PPSA mag, but never got any responses other than John.

Here are some of my fond MSU memories:

- Eating Peking Duck and drinking beer at your apt toward the end of our tenure.
- Having a kegger at my apt, and attempting to finish the rest of the keg during
the week while going to school.  (I can't believe we bought a 1/2 barrel for
about 15 people)
- Steve Howden's bachelor party when he bolted out the front door of the
establishement without a shirt on, and ran all the way home.
-  Going to the bar across the street from the P&A bldg right after my last
class (around 11:00AM), and not leaving until the end of the Piston's playoff
game, around 12:00PM.
- Weighing 215 pounds and lifting weights everyday for 2 hours. (currently weigh
- Playing hockey on the lake outside Debbie Brodbar's apt.
- Dialing up the American Physical Society's bulletin board on my 1200 baud
external modem, and KayPro "portable" computer  with the following features:
        weight:  30 pounds
        Disk       10 Meg
        Mem       640K
        Monitor   7 inch
- Giving you shit about drinking wine coolers instead of beer at my apt. (and
then arguing about the alcohol content of each for about 2 hours.)

Write me and answer some of these questions if you have time.  I'm still having
trouble getting into the PPSA home page, I may need a new version of Mosaic.


2. Texas Tom writes;

>From Fri Apr 19 14:33:39 1996

>"A short bio for those whose last name starts with A-L. For those
>who don't respond, I'll write one for you ..."

Tom Hall.  Age 31.
Key Events:
Born in Waukesha, WI.
Pooped on back porch.

Went to Hickory Grove Grade School.
Discovered masturbation.

Went to Glen Park Middle School.
Saw Star Wars.

Went to New Berlin High School.
Began playing Frisbee golf.

Went to University of Wisconsin--Madison.
Met Steve Langer.

Went to work for Softdisk, Inc.
Realized Shreveport blows.

Co-founded id software--made Commander Keen, Wolfenstein, DOOM.
Switched from Pepsi to Diet Pepsi to Pepsi to Iced Tea (no lemon, no spoon).

Left id software to start up in-house development at Apogee/3D Realms.
Met Misti.

Life is good.

P.S.  I may have skipped a few things in there, but that'll do.

3. David Gay writes from across the pond.

>From Tue Apr 23 06:26:43 1996

Hi Steve,

A long time ago and in a place far far away (at least from where I am
now), I lived in Michigan and several other places (TX OH IL NY).
Eventually, I earned a BS at Mich. Tech. Univ. in the first year of
Dr. Bob (1981).

After MTU, I headed off for Minnesota with my wife, where I worked on
a degree in experimental intermediate nuclear physics.  I did not like
the university and I did not see much future in nuclear physics
either, so I started my own computer company.  For 5 years I was a
system manager, programmer, troubleshooter and adviser to several
small companies in the Twin Cities area.

Eventually, I became bored with writing accounting software and
decided it was time to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I
eventually decided to return to MTU and get my PhD in computational
physics.  This is where I met Charles Scripter and through him the
editor of this newsletter.

After finishing my PhD (1991) I took a postdoc at The Royal
Institution of Great Britain.  I have been here since then working on
modelling surfaces of materials.  I also have been enjoying the great
beer they have over here!

On the not really lighter side:

Recently, the IRA was trying to plant a bomb in London, and the person
who was doing it was killed on a bus by his own bomb.  They use the
football (soccer) term "own goal" to describe this.  On the day they
buried the bomber, they IRA held their own memorial service.  One of
the IRA leaders said, "It is a sad day when an Irishman has to die
for the cause."  The saddest thing is that he did not have to die!

Note: The majority (65-80% I think) of people living in Northern
Ireland would like to continue being part of the United Kingdom
instead of joining the Republic of Ireland.

   David H. Gay                               email:
   Royal Institution of Great Britain
   21 Albemarle Street                        Phone:  +44 (0)171-409-2992
   LONDON W1X 4BS, UK                         Fax:    +44 (0)171-629-3569
        "640K ought to be enough for anybody"
                -- Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft, 1981

        Current catalog of Microsoft applications that will run
        in less than 640K follows...

4. Sheryl writes;

>From RSC!RSC! Tue Apr 23 15:12:18 1996

No exciting news from my end.  I did just have a enlightened travel
experience.  I flew to Arizona on America West which was a new experience
since I have always been a true Northwest Airlines fan.  When I was waiting
at the gate to board the airline personnel says, "Attention all of those who
are waiting to board flight 586 to Phoenix.  We are now providing snack
sacks as a convenience to all of our travelers.  Please pick one up on your
way into the airplane.  All snacks are the same and we would appreciate it
if you would only take one."
I don't know if you find this humurous but I was actually quite pleased by
this announcement.  I thought to myself at least you know right away that
you are only getting a dried out ham sandwich and a package of raisins
instead of waiting till mid flight and discovering the so called "lunch" on
your travel itinerary is just a small package of peanuts.

5. Lee writes from Michigan Tech

>From Thu Apr 25 18:08:51 1996
From: Lee Howard 

        You asked for a short bio, so here it is:

Bio Info: Some call Him, Lee, other call Him Birk.  I am an undergrad
working towards a degree in electrical engineering and in physics at
Michigan Tech. I spend my 'spare' time maintaining a well-rounded
personality, which means that I am president of the PFRC (the local
science fiction group) and the local branch of the Society for Creative
Anachronism, not to mention work as a music director at the school radio
station.  I also homebrew, hunt, and try to further libertarian ideals when
I can.  And for completeness I consider myself Taoist, despite the facts
that I was raised an independent Baptist and I have no eastern blood in me.

Another thing that I would like to mention is the Republic of Texas movement.
It seems that there is a fairly healthy movement to restore Texas to as an
independent and souvereign nation, which has been quite successful to date.
By successful I mean that the Republic of Texas has been recognized as a
souvereign nation by the ICJ.  For further information check out which has all the important information and
is updated fairly regular (at least every couple of weeks).
Is there anyone in Texas that can fill us in on how large and well recieved
the movement actually is?

Finally, to help maintain my Superior Image a short anecdote.  Our local
SCA group held an event on April 20th, where I taught several people how
to make and use slings.  To practice we drove out to the shore of Lake
Superior, where we disembarked.  I strode out in a wool tunic and a pair of
drawstring leather shoes, and commenced to stomp around and throw rocks.
As we prepared to leave one of the people commented, "I never thought of
going back home to Minnesota as going back to where it is warm before this."

Quotes(s) of the month:

"And don't forget, the purpose of an ecomomic system is to raise people's standard of living."

Labor Secy Robert Reich on This Week With David Brinkley, April 14.

Fix of the month:

1. Bio sketches for readers M-Z, or I'll make them up.

2. In light of Robert Reich's comments, a multiple choice test - short answer:



1. St. Paul, 19 April; The State supreme Court has found in favor of a man who is sueing a former teacher for alleged homosexual advances that occured while the plaintiff was in High School. The suit was thrown out by a lower Court because the Statute of Limitations (six years) expired long ago for the 32 year old "victim." The supreme Court said the clock does not start when the alleged crime occurs, but when the victim realizes the crime caused harm.

2. St. Paul, 25 April: DFL (Dem-Farm-Labor) Sen. Skip Finn, agreed to resign in July after his conviction on embezzling $1.1 million from the state band of Ojibwe Indian's trust fund, which Finn administered. The DFL leadership, which controls both houses, decided not to indict Finn until his resignation, to avoid having a convicted felon on thge state Senate.

3. St. Paul, 25 April: DFL Sen. Florian Shimalevski has also been convicted of allowing himself and family members to rack up several thousand dollars in personal long distance bills on the state phone system. Shimalevski says he intends to run for reelection.


1. Waco, 18 April: Baylor University dropped its one hundred-fifty year prohibition by holding a dance on campus. The first couple on the floor was the University President and his wife.


1. Pontiac, April 19: In court again for 2 more assisted suicide cases, this time Jack Kavorkian may have a tougher time proving he was just helping to ease suffering. Oakland County Medical Examiner Dr. L.J. Dragovic testified that Sherry Miller (who had MS) could have lived for years if not decades. Marjorie Wants suffered from a phantom pain in her "womb" even after she had a hysterectomy. Said Dragovic, "Miller needed pain management. Wants needed psychiatric help. They were in no way terminal."

Kavorkian was aquitted on two earlier trials of physician assisted suicide under a temporary state law that was enacted specifically to stop him ( Ed: Can we say ex-post-facto?). Defense attorney Feiger attacked Dragovic's statement that the deaths were homicides, "How does what Dr. Kavorkian did differ from a Dr. removing a patient from life support?"

"You're mixing apples and oranges", replied Dragovic. "These women were not on life support and left alone they would have lived for years. Kavorkian essentially put a gun to these women's heads, and then helped pull the trigger. It's making sure that they died that makes this a homicide, not suicide."


1. Milwaukee, April 20: A 73 year old women who claims she began having spontaneous orgasms after an electronic Bingo scoreboard fell on her lap won't get her day in court. Judge Pat Madden threw out Mary Verdev's lawsuit against St. Florian Catholic Church when Verdev repreatedly failed to undergo a psych evaluation that Madden ordered.

New York;

1. NY City, April 20: Callers to NYPD's main info switchboard this past Thursday recieved a crank answering machine message that said,

"You have reached the New York City Police Dept. For a real emergency dial 119. Anyone else, we're having donuts and coffee, a lot of coffee - and masturbating. Just hold the line, we'll get back to you."

The NYPD had no explanation for how the message got on their machine.

2. NY City, April 24: The sale of Jackie Kennedy Onassis' memoralbilia collection at Suthebys auction brought in much more money than anyone expected. A book of conjugated French verbs fetched $41K, John F.'s desk went for $1.4 million, and a cigar humidor went for $500K.

Ed: No doubt these items were bought by evil rich Reps, since Dems, being in touch with the poor, would not have access to this much cash.

3. 30 April: The UN has announced that it is officially broke and going into debt due to non-payment by member nations, including the US.

Wash. D.C.

1. Arlington Cemetary, April 10: Commerce Secy. Ron Brown was laid to rest after today after dying with 30 some US business executives in a plane crash during a Bosnian trade mission. Bill Clinton, not one to waste an oppurtunity, mentioned that Brown's chairmanship of the Democratic National Comm. was responsible for his winning the White House. Clinton planned a Fund Raising dinner that evening for his reelection, saying, "Ron would have wanted it this way."

2. Wash. D.C., 20 April: The Freedom Forum, a bi-partisan polling group, reports that 51% of journalists call themselves Dems, 4% Rep. and the remainder call themselves "independant."

Ed: Of course an old girlfiriend of mine called herself independant. She worked for Americans for Democratic Action, Peter Hart (a Dem. pollster), was on the reelection campaign of Sen. Bob Kerry (D, NE), and didn't vote for a Rep. in the five years I knew her. This is how liberals define "independant."

3. 30 April: Clinton has annouced that he will attempt to ease the gasoline price hikes of the past month by "flooding" the US market with 12 Million gallons of crude from the nation's petrolium reserve. This sounds impressice until you realize that 12 million gallons is less than one day's US refinery needs.


1. Tasmania, 28 April: The effectiveness of a society's Machiavellian gun control policy was demonstrated when a lone man "somehow" got position of an "assault weapon". [ Ed: That's what was reported, without pictures we may never know what it was since the press seems to consider a single shot Crossman pellet gun an AK-47.] It seems he killed at least 30 people and wounded many more before barricading himself in a house and being burned out by police.


1. 30 April: The Presbytarian Church of Scottland is voting to rescind the XMas hymn "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" from the next edition of its hymnal because of the offensive gender reference.

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