Sunday, July 31, 2005

First day!

Well officially I guess tomorrow will be my first day at my new job. I say officially because I've kind of been doing a lot of it already. But now that it is official I will be able to do a lot of the things that I could not technically do before. Like ordering items for the facility. And of course I'll be able to move into my office. I think it will be a little busy and a little exciting all at once.

Today I got new jogging clothes from Target. Very nice shorts with built-in "support" and a great shirt that wicks moisture away from your body. Maybe now I'll be able to go running in 100 degree weather without going topless. For me it's a neccessity as a T-Shirt is just too hot and I don't really care what other people think after about mile 3. But I worry about the safety of others, one day the glare of sun off my pasty white chest is going to blind some poor driver. That would be bad. So hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to take them for a spin. They were a great price ($24 for both) so if they work out well I may go back for more. Melissa made me get these after I told her that I would not do certain stretches in the gym due to the translucent nature of the worn material in certain areas. Yikes!

Friday, July 29, 2005

Road Trip!

Well we went to Boulder today to get all my final paperwork sqaured away. I had to pick up a computer as well to use temporarily in the facility until we get our own. We parked in the reciprocal (meaning that I could use my UCHSC parking pass to park) parking lot and walked to the Chemistry department. Boulder has a great system of walking/bicycling trails so it was easy to get there, but navigating the buildings with a stroller was a bit challenging. Once I had that all sorted out we walked up Broadway to Pearl street and up the outdoor "mall," basically just a pedestrian only street with lots of shops. We found a nice bakery/cafe to eat lunch in and then went back to campus. Boulder is a beautiful town, a bit weird, but beautiful. It will be nice to be able to go up there more often now. Apparently I can get a discount on the bus up there with my ID card, so I'll have to look into that option for getting there. It might be nice to zone out with my iPod occasionally while someone else does the driving. Especially in the winter.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The last minute

Well, as expected everything came together at the last minute for our visa. So it looks like Monday I'll be officially starting the new job. We're off to Boulder tomorrow to bring in our new documents and sign paperwork, etc. Also we'll try to see some of Boulder in the best way to see Boulder: on foot.

Things are looking pretty good for the magnet, we've started a Magnet Blog to deal with some of the more facility related announcements there. So you can check that out if you are curious. Plus we'll be working on the Rocky Mountain Regional 900 MHz NMR Facility website quite a bit in the next little while, so look for changes there too.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Weekend Off

Well this has been a great weekend off, I've caught up with my chores and still had some time to relax with the family. Today was a little cooler too (91) which was nice. This week will be hectic at work for sure, we will be bringing the magnet up to full field, assuming it does not quench spontaneously. This will take three full days, and if we start Tuesday morning we should know if the magnet will persist or not by Friday. That coupled with the paperwork I have to take care of will make it pretty busy. I'm going to try to regularly go to the gym though as I have been dragging these past couple of weeks without it. It's amazing how much more energy I have at the end of the day if I've had a workout. Friday is pay-day, if all goes well it will be the last pay-day with my small salary. It could not come at a better time, this month has taken us right to the bitter end. God has really answered the prayers we have been sending up all year, this job could not have come at a better time, and I could not have been more of an underdog for getting it. There's no question in our minds that God has provided for us and will continue to do so.

Saturday, July 23, 2005


Well if anyone was wondering if it was possible to run 5 miles in 100 degree weather then the answer is yes. If anyone was wondering who would be crazy enough to run 5 miles in 100 degree weather then the answer is me. Actually it wasn't as bad as you might think. This was my first weekend off since we were in Edmonton, so Melissa and I ventured off to Cherry Creek North this morning. We ended up wandring around and window shopping. Dreaming mostly. With the prospect of buying a home looming it's easy to dream big. I really enjoyed getting out of the house with the family and it did not seem too hot. So by the time we had finished grocery shopping and come home I had decided that I would go running despite the heat wave. I haven't been out since Monday, our last day in the low 90s. I prepared for the run by drinking 4 big glasses of water before my lunch, which I knew would work its way through my system in about an hour, just in time for my run. As I was taking Elijah out with me I packed two big water bottles and a bottle of Gatorade into the jogging stroller. Then both of us lathered up in sunscreen. By the time I had finished the run I had gone through both water bottles and a few sips of the Gatorade. I was glad to have finished the full 5 miles as it has been a while since I've been able to do that, and I've been trying to get back in shape. It took me about 50 minutes which is off my best pace, but pretty reasonable for a hot run. I've been keeping hydrated ever since. So with the right amount of preparation running in this heat is very doable.

I'm glad I was able to go, this week has been pretty stressful. I've been trying to get my visa all sorted out so that I can start at my new job on August 1. Unfortunately as it seems to take at least a day for anyone to get back to you and with miscommunications and weird hours for certain offices it has taken a full week to accomplish what should have taken a day. Now I need to get a few letters signed and hopefully it will all come together next week. But for sure it will be at the last minute. This doesn't help my stress level at all though. Things aren't as bad as I had thought though because when we donated blood on Tuesday my blood pressure was 132/82. That's pretty good considering I've been slacking on the working out and jogging, and have been drinking a little too much coffee lately. Well, it's a busy week this week, and I'm sure everything will come together by the end of it. Gotta go, Melissa's making dinner tonight and I have to watch the boy.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Message for Dr. Armstrong...your magnet is calling

Well starting this week I am officially on call. The system that keeps the magnet up and running is set up to contact me if something goes wrong. This morning I got the first call. Fortunately it was at 8:30, and not 3:30. But as I was going to drive Melissa to the doctor (see Dame Limps-a-lot) this sort of put that plan out the door. It turned out to be an alarm that was not yet set up so I really didn't have to rush in, but it gave me a taste of what's yet to come. Oh well it's part of the job I suppose. I surprised Melissa by coming home early (5 o'clock) and was able to get out for a run this evening. Man am I out of shape. I'm going to have to get serious, I'm thinking about running in the breast cancer race for the cure in October. Anyone who may sponsor me let me know, if there's enough interest I'll do it for sure!

Saturday, July 16, 2005


Today the magnet reached the lambda point. For lower frequency systems, the magnet coils are cooled to superconducting temperature by liquid helium, which is about 4 degrees Kelvin, or -269 degrees celcius. For larger systems like the 900 however, the magnet is cooled by superfluid helium. This is accomplished by cooling the liquid helium with a fridge system. Essentially this is just a big coil of tubing inside the magnet can that you can flow a small amount of liquid helium into, and is pumped with a vacuum. Under vacuum, the evaporation of the liquid helium cools the coil and the surrounding helium just like the evaporation of sweat from your skin cools your body. Using this fridge system the temperature of the helium surrounding the magnet can be cooled gradually (over about 30 hours) to 2.17 degrees Kelvin. At this point, called the lambda point, the helium becomes a superfluid and behaves completely unlike a normal liquid. In the case of the magnet, the lower temperature of the helium lends stability to the superconductivity of the wire, and allows the magnet to be brought to 900 MHz. Right now the magnet is energized to about 675 MHz, and will be left to stabilize at 2.17 K for the next week before being brought to full field.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Ahh, Ardbeg

Friday night I broke into my new bottle of Ardbeg. I had been saving it just in case I got to celebrate a new job. It was all that I had been hoping for. I had forgotten how great an experience it is. That initial sweet taste, and the follow up smokyness. The incredible peety aroma, yet no one thing dominating. It is like a great play, where each actor has a role to play, and each does so superbly. From The Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch by Micheal Jackson, Ardbeg "skips sweetly along at first, then becomes mean and moody," an apt description I think.

Today the magnet went through it's test quench. Normally a quench is something that is naturally part of a magnet installation, but never planned. With the 900 system, however, the magnet is designed with an Energy Management System (EMS) which must be tested before installation. Essentially, there is so much energy in the magnet (remember two 40 ton trucks hitting a brick wall at 100 miles per hour) that if it were to quench accidentally it would destroy itself in the process. So the EMS is used to "safely" quench the system if it starts to quench. The EMS consists of a set of capacitor banks that remain charged at all times. The system monitors the potential across each section of the magnet coil constantly, looking for sudden changes, indicating a quench is about to occur. Remember the magnet is superconducting, so normally there should be no potential across the coil. But when a section becomes resistive, the potential increases rapidly. This induces a large negative potential in the next section as the quench spreads. The EMS system looks for this signal in the magnet, and if it detects it, it fires all of the capacitor banks, routing all the energy from the magnet into big quench resistors that can safely dissipate the power. By doing a test quench (i.e. manually setting off the capacitor banks), the system can be tested to make sure that it will work if it is required. Now that the test quench is out of the way, the magnet can be energized to full field, a process that will take a full week to accomplish. That is assuming that there are no "unplanned" quenches during the process.

Hopefully over the next few weeks I'll be able to finish up most of the work I have left to do from my post-doc. The timing of this job was particularily good as the major projects I signed on to do were pretty much wrapped up. We just need to get this manuscript out the door. Once I finish with that I'll start the transition to the new position. I'll likely be setting up a "facility blog" where I can discuss more formally the goings on in the facility and interact with users a little more. I'll set up a link to that when it's up for those of you who may be interested in these matters.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Big Day

Well, I've been waiting a long time to be able to say this, but now I can. I got the job that I was going for! I will be running the facility for the new magnet at UCHSC. It's a great opportunity and I am really excited with the prospect of building it from the ground up. I have a lot of great ideas that I want to pursue, but at first it's going to be a lot of work getting things going. It means a permanent job (i.e. one that does not have a set end date) for me though for the very first time. I feel all grown up. I'm sure I'll be posting more as things go on, for now I'll end with a quote from the Tick that seems fitting given my new job.

Tick: Arthur, you have no historical perspective. Science in those days worked in broad strokes. They got right to the point. Nowadays, it's all just molecule, molecule, molecule. Nothing ever happens big.