The LIGO
Web Newsletter
Front Page Hanford Livingston Caltech MIT

       The Editor's Page


     Kayaking the Stream of Consciousness

          by Dave Beckett

     beckett@ligo.caltech.edu


Surf's Up!

Greetings from Waikiki!

This month the LIGO Web Newsletter is going Hawaiian! Okay, it might be more accurate to say the Editor is going Hawaiian. What happened was this: Lately in my after-work acting class (Advanced Facial Grimacing 201), we've been doing a lot of improvisation exercises. As a matter of fact, last week our esteemed teacher, Frau Grotten, suddenly pointed at me and said, "You! Imagine you are facing immediate death! How would you respond! Wicked criminals threaten your cranium with guns and knives! Now, react! Show me!" Without a second's pause, I profusely wet my pants and shoes. The rest of the class erupted into wild applause, and Frau Grotten heaped me with compliments. "Ach! Not since Brando have I seen such realism!" she swooned.

So, I was feeling pretty arrogant afterwards about my powers of improvisation, and decided to practice them in the real world. Next day I sat down at the computer and in a fury of inspiration--like Mozart pounding the piano--I typed up an outlandish email intended to persuade gullible management that there was an "important new mineral" to be found in the tropical, sun-drenched paradise of Hawaii, "a substance that might prove vital to LIGO interferometer operations." What an absurd line of drivel I devised! I went on and on about "an indigenous strain of harder-than-diamonds sand" that could "prove invaluable to the glass-polishing effort," etc., "no stone should be left unturned in our relentless quest," etc., "the future of science hinges on our success," etc., "prefer a suite at the Waikiki Hilton," etc. and etc. And they bought it! Two first-class tickets and reservations for the penthouse were on my desk before lunch. (The second ticket is for my hard-working associate editor, Ms. Bluxom.) We've been here a week already and I don't mind telling you the only thing we've found so far is each other's ticklish spots. But if you really want to see some frantic improvisation, wait till next week when the Expenditures Board asks me to explain my expense account! No doubt I'll have to resort to my "facing immediate death" response.

All right. Now that we've got the preliminaries out of the way, let's get down to business... Hard business... Serious business... LIGO Business!

Turning A Dream Into Reality

I am happy to report that construction of "LIGOWorld - The Theme Park" is now well underway. Mammoth undertakings across from Caltech's Beckman Institute are in full-swing. The area can be seen to be constantly crawling with an army of steel-helmeted workmen, and rugged smoke-belching tractors are rarely at rest. Pedestrians and other passers-by are said to be inspired by the sight of great endeavors afoot--as well as with the rich aroma of damp earth upturned, a scent that always announces mighty structures are on the rise!

Yes, the premier of LIGOWorld in September 2000 is certain to be a gala and star-studded affair. But make no mistake, this is no mere celebrity event. Family fun is what we're all about! Dad is sure to love being packed inside the thrilling "Vacuum Chamber To Venus"! It's dark, airless, silent and stationary--and a ride he won't soon forget! Meanwhile Mom will have a great time shopping along the "Beam Tube Promenade"! It's two and a half miles of tubular concrete and metal that virtually guarantees huge savings! As for the little ones, won't they have a blast on that white-knuckler, the "Data Control Room of Doom"! Here they will be cautiously strapped into "Totally Awesome" swivel chairs (for safety) and then be presented with reams of "Way Radical" computer print-outs which they can then begin to analyze for evidence of "Too Cool" coincident vibrations. (Warning: this ride may be too intense for children under five, or those without PhD's.)

On Another Subject Entirely

But further reports on our theme park will have to wait till later. We have urgent subjects to disgust... (oops, sorry) to discuss, so let's keep moving...

Last week the LIGO management, those terrorizing bigwigs, sent me a curt and defamatory note which I reprint below:

Dear Dave: The LIGO Web Newsletter has become a travesty, you pea-brained idiot! What's with you, anyway? Previously our little gazette was a solid chronicle of noble achievements, hard science, interesting bios, and first-rate physics. But under your stewardship it has dissolved into an immature mess of silly puns, low-brow gags, frat-house hijinx, and corny bombastic prose! We could understand it better if you were of student age, and rejoicing in your exuberance as a young adult, but as you're just three years from retirement and pension, we would think you might prefer to exhibit a bit more dignity! Need we be more explicit? Get your act together--pronto! Or else! Love, Management.

I trust it goes without saying that I'm wholly contemptuous toward these mean-spirited gripes. My seniority of years is in no way relevant to my ability to be crude and sophomoric. And in any case, I have no intention of retiring in three years or even thirty. (They'll have to pry my rigor-mortised fingers right off the keyboard ever to get me out.) Besides, these jabs are only cheap-shot retaliation for my subversive pranks at last week's Project Controls Meeting. Ha, you should have been there! My use of rubber novelty gags--always my strong suit--was this time absolutely inspired! The fake doggie-do was a big hit, of course. The squirting flower and whoppee cushion furnished sure-fire guffaws, as always. And my placement of the phony vomit-puddle on top of the overhead projector won me plenty of high-fives and hearty backslaps from all the gang, even as Campus Security was leading me away in handcuffs. Needless to add, the incident only strengthened my resolve to remain a clarion voice of journalistic integrity. Fear not, reader, this is one maverick whose spirit shall never be broken on the cruel rack of compromise!

A Gentleman of the Press

Still, I wouldn't like it to be assumed that I'm incapable of savior-faire. In the heyday of my own blazing youth, back in the 1920s, I was regarded as quite the sophisticate--a charismatic action man of wit, charm and erudition, and totally irresistible to the ladies. That of course was before I took up my career as a newsman. The tolls of that calling sit ugly upon the human person, take it from me. What else could have taken this unblemished boy Adonis--with the skyblue eyes, full red lips and silky mop of coal-black hair--and turned him into the present fat and unfragrant brute, with pock-marked nose, smoke-scarred face and a stomach destroyed by scotch.

But so what? Sure, sitting here in my stained undershirt and beard stubble, I may make Lou Grant look like Cary Grant, but it's worth it: I'm a newsman, darn-it! Overseeing one of the most respected journals in Gravitational-Wave research! And as such, it is my pleasure to present you with the illustrious Summer issue of the LIGO Web Newsletter. So, kick your shoes off! Come inside and stay awhile. Here, let me fetch you a soothing citrus-based beverage from our fully-stocked bar. Take one sip and instantly you're transported to our balmy oasis of LIGO news. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll learn a thing or two. You'll stare wistfully into the sun-sparkled ocean, pondering the innate nobility of Man, ever striving, ever yearning, ever inching forward in his iron resolution to stay the course of Progress. Or instead perhaps you'll suffer a bout of irritable bowel syndrome. It's hard to say. The point is, we'll be here for you no matter what. So read on and enjoy. The LIGO Web Newsletter for Summer bids you welcome!