Monday, November 24, 2008

Social Awkwardness, part 14

As I was walking across campus today, I had an interesting social revelation. I passed by a girl that I 'kind of' know, meaning, we've met a few times, said hi a few times, but whose name I cannot remember. I noticed her just before we began to pass each other and I smiled and said hey under my breath. She must be more socially mature, because she quickly responded, "Hey! What's goin' on?" To which I replied, with no thought whatsoever, "Good."

Because we were both walking in opposite directions the conversation was (luckily) over.

The awkwardness was purely a personal experience.

From the ashes of a blown-conversation came forth my most recent social revelation.

We love asking meaningless questions, and we love responding with meaningless answers, but if you happen to respond to a meaningless question with the wrong meaningless answer, then you have committed a serious social faux pas.

How odd.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Excessive Economics

A Yahoo news article prompted the following ramble by me. Enjoy.

The American economy prides itself in being consumer based. It is driven by the 'Buy now, pay later,' and, 'You just might need this someday' mentalities. We're obsessed with showing off our fancy toys, even if that means weaving an intricate lie of pretended wealth (often built on a foundation of irresponsible debt). We're more content to replace a broken appliance then to attempt to have it fixed. We eat out more often because it is easier than making a meal at home, even if doing so costs many times the price of a home meal.

But the problem is bigger than just gluttonistic tendencies - our country not only encourages fiscal irresponsibility, it requires it for economic stability. After September 11th how did our government encourage us to show our patriotism? We were encouraged to go out and buy things! Spend, spend, spend - that's a good American. Support the economy!

I believe that as Americans become more frugal, quality of life will increase across all income levels. Americans can be happier with less - less stuff, smaller houses, smaller cars - and with greater expectations for those possessions.

But here's where the economists start freaking out. Daily, it seems, I read reports that "Consumer spending is down, alert! We're entering a financial crisis!" The American auto makers are breaking apart because (gasp!) people aren't buying new cars as much! (News flash people - in very few cases buying a new car is a financially good idea. It is almost always a better idea to buy a car a couple years old!) This desperation is exactly what is wrong with the economy - if the American people become more fiscally responsible then our economy collapses.
Our country is built on a sandy foundation - we require irresponsibility to prosper. It is this necessity for irresponsibility that is the cause of the widening gap between rich and poor. More and more the rich do not become rich by hard work, (there are, of course, exceptions) but instead by "working the system," i.e. benefiting from the mass financial irresponsibility of the populace.
Does capitalism require the irresponsibility of the masses to function? Is frugality capitalism's downfall?

Am I the only person puzzled by this?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Reply!

To my utmost surprise, the Chief Publicity Officer for replied to my e-mail! Here it is:

Thanks for the message, Nick - in the postcard to the president we inadvertently failed to include "Jesus Christ" in the name of the church and have corrected that.

I know they prefer people to only use the full name and to abide by their style guide; their preferred name makes the church sound much more mainstream. We, however, prefer to use the name "Mormon Church" which is the name by which most people know the organization. It's a bit like how they prefer to use "homosexual" when referring to us, rather than "gay."



Jim Key
Chief Public Affairs Officer
L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center
McDonald/Wright Building
1625 N Schrader Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028-6213

The original language of the website was:
"...Although we decry the reprehensible role the Church of Latter Day Saints leadership played in denying all Californians equal rights under the law..."

This has now been changed to:
"...Although we decry the reprehensible role the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints leadership played in denying all Californians equal rights under the law..."

Success! A small victory for the church! Hooray!
*sigh* I feel good.

Proposition 8

Reading about the renewed (and strangely posthumous) opposition to California's new constitutional amendment defining marriage, I visited the following website:

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I support the church's stance on proposition 8. However, I understand and sympathize with those who disagree with the church. In fact, they have my deepest respect. I see opponents of proposition 8 not necessarily as anti-Mormons, but as "anti-this-LDS-Church-stancers." Therefore, in an effort to help them increase their credibility, I sent their Chief Public Relations Officer, Jim Key, the following e-mail:


On your web-site,, you have neglected to mention or use the full name of the "Mormon Church." The full name is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In fact, there is no "Mormon Church" in that no church by that name exists. Mormon is a nickname given to the LDS Church (how it is normally abbreviated) because of the Book of Mormon. 'Mormon' used to be a derogatory reference, but it isn't anymore.

For increased credibility and to separate yourself from the very vocal anti-Mormon crowd, I suggest you use the church's full name at least once, and for other references use LDS Church, or the Church of Jesus Christ. This would likely bring greater respect from members of the church, even if they do not agree with you.

For more information I recommend the LDS Newsroom Style Guide at this web address:

With Respect,

Nicholas G Herrick
[With my mailing and e-mail addresses.]

I received an automated e-mail in response, but hope to receive a real response eventually. (Although I suspect it's not likely - I imagine he is a very busy and sought after person at the moment.)

For the official LDS Church statement on this matter, released yesterday, click here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

President of Awesome

In June it was hope,
now it's the real deal.

Congratulations America!

(I originally posted this picture June 14, 2008)

Monday, November 3, 2008

I'm Published!

I am third author on a peer-reviewed physics paper this month! It is the result of almost two years of work. I have assisted in nearly every aspect of the research and am the only undergraduate author! All of the other authors are either Ph.D. candidates or professors. How cool is that?

Extreme-ultraviolet polarimeter utilizing laser-generated high-order harmonics

Nicole Brimhall, Matthew Turner, Nicholas Herrick, David D. Allred, R. Steven Turley, Michael Ware, and Justin Peatross
Department of Physics and Astronomy, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah 84602, USA

We describe an extreme-ultraviolet (EUV) polarimeter that employs laser-generated high-order harmonics as the light source. The polarimeter is designed to characterize materials and thin films for use with EUV light. Laser high harmonics are highly directional with easily rotatable linear polarization, not typically available with other EUV sources. The harmonics have good wavelength coverage, potentially spanning the entire EUV from a few to a hundred nanometers. Our instrument is configured to measure reflectances from 14 to 30 nm and has ~180 spectral resolution (λ/Δλ). The reflection from a sample surface can be measured over a continuous range of incident angles (5°–75°). A secondary 14 cm gas cell attenuates the harmonics in a controlled way to keep signals within the linear dynamic range of the detector, comprised of a microchannel plate coupled to a phosphorous screen and charge coupled device camera. The harmonics are produced using ~10 mJ, ~35 fs, and ~800 nm laser pulses with a repetition rate of 10 Hz. Per-shot energy monitoring of the laser discriminates against fluctuations. The polarimeter reflectance data agree well with data obtained at the Advanced Light Source Synchrotron (Beamline 6.3.2).
©2008American Institute of Physics