Thursday, July 17, 2008

Heavenly Intrigue

I just started reading Heavenly Intrique: Johannes Kepler, Tycho Brahe, and the Murder Behind One of History's Greatest Scientific Discoveries by Gilder and Gilder. The subtitle says it all. I've only read six chapters, and the book has already blown away several of the myths I had heard about them. Apparently Tycho lost his nose in a duel with a relative (not a mathematician), and perhaps he didn't die of a bladder infection because he didn't want to excuse himself from dinner with the king, but, if you haven't guessed it already, he was murdered! (I haven't gotten that far, but it does sound much more intriguing than the bladder problem.) Another interesting thing is that one of the reasons Tycho strove to make more accurate observations was to improve the "science" of astrology, as opposed to proving it wrong which might seem more in line with his scientific methods. He thought horoscopes were usually wrong because the astronomical data of the time gave poor predictions to the positions of the stars, planets, etc.

Other than being a murderer, I learned that Kepler wrote a journal in which he referred to himself in the third person and record the names of only his "most lasting enemies" -- twenty three of them. I also found it interesting that "to assist his astronomical investigations he would often formulate "new" mathematical theorems that he would later fine out, somewhat to his annoyance, had already been discovered, htough they were not taught in the school's curriculum."

Hopefully reading this book will also inspire me to start posting here more often.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

blogging philosophy

So I had this idea that I would create amazing blog posts that would uplift and inspire everybody. I also wanted to start with a really good post to make a good impression. But after starting a few drafts, I recognize that as I am just starting out, that is a little too much to ask. So rather than spending a lot of time drafting and editing and waiting to come to closure on each individual topic before I post on it, I will post things as they come. Later I might pull my thoughts together better, so I will likely repeat myself multiple times, but hopefully clearer and better informed as time goes on.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Where's my overtime pay?

On a topic I will not be directly addressing (whether child labor laws should apply to kids in focus groups) Trent at The Simple Dollar says:
It’s because information work - white collar work - is perceived differently than labor. In other words, work in a focus group is seen as existing under different rules than work in a fast food restaurant.

You can see it quite often in the adult world, where IT workers are required to have their cell phones on at all times. On the other hand, factory workers clock out and completely forget about their workplace. Businessmen are chained to their Blackberries, but waitresses go off duty and forget about the restaurant. Construction workers leave their cranes behind at the end of the day - but other workers come home with a briefcase or a laptop in hand.

Unfair labor laws exist all over the place for blue collar jobs, but not for white collar jobs. Why is this? In the past, blue collar jobs were the ones that could be exploited for profit, as white collar jobs merely existed to manage the work of blue collar jobs.

In the information economy, though, white collar workers are now doing much of the actual productive work, but the perception that white collar jobs don’t demand any labor protections still exists.

A few weeks ago I was waiting for the microwave or something in the breakroom and saw the mandatory FAIR LABOR sign that among other things mandates being paid 1.5 times your normal wage if you go over 40 hours a week. I remember working at the Zero-G Cafe and getting time-and-a-half for overtime, or even double pay for working on holidays. But now as a salaried employee working in the information economy (though also being classified as a full-time student removes me from any protections anyway), that doesn't have any meaning. Working full days and sometimes late days, finishing up projects and checking on data and e-mail while at home in the evenings, and sometimes being on call over night -- 40 hours a week would be a vacation (and yes, sometimes I do work while on "vacation"). And technically, my contract says I'm being employed for 20 hours a week. My paycheck is a better match to that 20 hours a week than whatever I actually do put in, but I guess those extra hours are considered my "schooling" as I work on my dissertation. At least I am blessed to be payed at all and don't have to go into debt for grad school.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Astrophilosopher's Beginning

The title of this blog is a job title I thought of as an undergraduate. While sitting on the grass reading German literature, probably with a physics textbook nearby, I realized that though I wanted to be a scientist, in particular an astronomer, I also had very strong right-brained tendencies (I wound up with a minor in Philosophy in addition to my Physics and Astronomy major). "Astrophilosopher" and "Metaphysicist" were two job titles I liked. But I am definitely not a physicist and even avoid the term astrophysicist as well. But I have wide ranging interests in philosophy, religion, literature, and such, so "Astrophilospher" seems fitting, ignoring an astrological connotations. So this blog will hopefully give me a creative outlet for some of those other areas. As this is sort of an introductory entry, I will likely update this as time goes on.

I will note that searching the web for "astrophilosopher" brought up the following result (or non-result), so I suppose there isn't much of a market for dreamers with their heads in the stars.

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