Doina's Blog

Acolo sezum si plansem

    All that will appear below will be somewhat related, thus the need for an incisive, inclusive, unifying title...representative epigram...

    Let's see... "STALINISM IN THE BELTWAY"... It might have fitted after Sharon Weinberger's article in the Sunday Magazine of Washington Post. That was when Sharon complained to us that "the best and the brightest" heaped political coals on her head and accused her of betraying the cause by giving a balanced view of a controversial topic. (Carl thought it was quite good).  Since then comrade Sharon Weinberger repented , and Imaginary Weapons is the public confession extracted from her. It is an ad hominem attack on the targets assigned by "the best and the brightest": shallow, badly written, ignorant of fact, intentionally hurtful. It does credit to the fourth rate courses that honed her turgid style.

    But the boys and girls from the fly-over country that Sharon despises in such heavy-footed paragraphs don't only do great physics, they also write, perish the thought, great books. Like the physicists, they sometimes have trouble getting their work accepted and appreciated. With deep reverence and humble apology to John Kennedy Toole I have to state that to the musings, criticism and such that will follow, no title, dedication, or quotation is more appropriate than his finding in the writings of  Jonathan Swift: "WHEN A TRUE GENIUS APPEARS IN THE WORLD, YOU MAY KNOW HIM BY THIS SIGN, THAT THE DUNCES ARE ALL IN CONFEDERACY AGAINST HIM". Jonathan Swift, "Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting".

     ...On June 12, Ms. Hyde, in a pre-Imaginary Weapons mood, denied her Jekyll side ; she was allowed a treat for being a good little girl and "talked issues" for 37 minutes on NPR. Good gracious me, what next?! Junior membership in "the best and the brightest"?

                                                                                                                                        Ouray, June 13, 2006.


In numele sfintului / Taci s-auzi cum latra / Catelul pamantului / Sub crucea de piatra- M. Eminescu, "Strigoii"
How, now, Sharon, and since when, is it considered sound journalistic practice, on a scientific topic, for you, who knows nothing about it, to give an opinion? You can have no opinions, just an agenda. You are supposed to hide it a little better, though. Come now, they must have taught you something in journalism class. To slavishly repeat the like of "It would have made an ox skeptical", and call it thoughtful scientific reasoning, to gleefully describe back-stabbing as admirable as long as it is directed against Carl, and to term his protest as" histrionics" gives the whole show away. Is Carl the only real man you ever met? Does it still rankle that he fascinated you into giving a reasonably fair presentation of the controversy in your first article? So much so that that you have to throw at him every over-used adjective and every hackneyed comparison that you ever heard and hoarded for later use in dazzling the multitude? "Baptist preacher"? Pretty convincing, wasn't he? You even seemed to begin to understand simple notions such as "scientific method" - Lord knows he explained it to you enough.     

 Our impartial Sharon scrapes the bottom of her journalistic ethic many times, but never more so than when she lets loose her flights of fancy, in her frequent bouts of investigative fatigue. Instead of trying to find out the root of a scientific dispute between Carl and J.J. Carroll, she becomes strangely concerned about their personal relationship and fantasizes in pseudo-Freudian jargon about their relative sizes, giant Carl intimidating, with  his Messianic delivery, sweet, petit Carroll. Transference? Leftmost in the picture of the lab team is Nicolae Catalin Zoita, and there is a dark passage in the book about Sharon Weinberger's encounter with him. At the end of the book Carl is labeled as the anti-hero, while Zoita, who is bigger than Carl, frightened the little girl and she describes him as Dracula.

Ouray, June 14, 2006


Mihai Eminescu

Asta e jocul / Al joci an doi, al joci an trei, / Al joci an cati vrei, / Arza-l-ar focul! - T. Arghezi, Poezii. 
The "Tundra" slipped some since last year, but the "Buen Tiempo" is as lively as ever. The Perfectas, well, perfect, the green chili Hatch, the red chili Chimayo, I wouldn't be surprised if the beans were Milagro. Great evening, stimulating conversation - oh, what a burden it is to bring to mind the evening we spent with Sharon. She claims she describes it in her book, but it is obviously a feat of recollection beyond her powers, she gets so many things wrong. 

The Indian restaurant where she lunched was in a strip-mall, for dinner we took her to a free-standing "Copeland's of New Orleans", a Creole restaurant that she calls Cajun.( I thought anyone with a PC bone in her body would know to call it Acadian). Finding herself in Dallas, in a Louisiana style seafood restaurant, she ordered Maryland crab-cakes. We were all guilty of similar solecisms in our youth, I thought, so I just halved my expectations for the evening and kept smiling . Students caught on first that it was going to be a wasted evening - nothing interesting was to come from her- and concentrated on the food. Jean-Michel and Farzin were waiting gamely for some intellectual nuggets to be contributed.. And waited. It was not in Sharon's intention, (nor, I later found out, her ability), to contribute anything to make the evening go. She was in her lethargic mongoose mode; not for her to "go and find out", she just wanted to listen, hoping to pounce. In desperation I started to ask her the usual polite questions, where did she live, etc. She briefly described a "dangerous" neighborhood in Washington and that was that. Were we supposed to discuss experimental details at dinner, for her to store in her sieve? We didn't oblige. To make the time pass, Carl and I launched into some stock tales of our travels, inviting Sharon, with a "you know how it is" once in a while, begging her to contribute something, even though by that time we only expected a description of adventures through the by-ways of Baltimore in search of crab-cakes.

Sharon Weinberger, with reportorial thickness, did vary the pace with such subtle questions as "How did you get the isomer sample to Japan?" and "How can others repeat the experiment when they have no samples?" and subsequently writes  that I smiled trickily, since I "control the world supply of Hafnium isomer". As usual inaccurate, she misses the point that the samples belong to my small company and continue to be available for sale. Last time I heard private property had not been abolished in our country, (no doubt a thorn in some hides),    

Ouray, June 15, 2006


Dining in Ouray, CO

“Barbar canta femeia ceea, / Tarziu, an cafeneaua goala, / Si nici nu ne-am mai dus acasa, Si-am plans cu coatele pe masa…” G. Bacovia, “Plumb”

We ignored the heat to help our Monica in her search for a new car good enough to take her to her brave new job. We ended up co-signing  for the loan, since we all decided nothing would do but a pretty little new 325 BMW. It’s black and gleaming, and it just suits her. We went to celebrate with Amarone at good, reliable Mi Piaci.

No sooner was my back turned than the dunces started gathering ‘round. Ephemeral little oaths of fealty to the agenda they share with Sharon Weinberger, taking the form of naively written reviews of Imaginary Weapons, they mostly died off like June bugs in the Texas night. What should make her friends fearful for Sharon Weinberger’s grip on reality was an eleven page interview on a site so remote it took Google two weeks to find . Never letting her ignorance stand in the way of her political agenda, the girl who never liked facts rambles vacuously on, even after starting a sentence with “ I don’t really know anything about that.”.

I didn’t need those eleven pages to convince me that once she starts she can’t stop herself -  after all, she fantasizes about Carl ‘s work for two hundred pages. Had she kept to presenting scientific controversy I wouldn’t be blogging here instead of swimming out back, but, suspecting that simple denigration of Carl’s work wouldn’t be damaging enough, Sharon Weinberger takes to personal abuse. She abandons the last pretence of being a reporter, and becomes a rabid attack dog that will bite indiscriminately, knowing that it will please master. (Just who is holding the leash I will not speculate, since we can see those who applaud personal attacks.)

"Le style, c’est l’homme”, says Buffon.

The death of our child in the middle of the experiment is meat and drink for la Weinberger. It is not my intention to explain how we live with our loss. Had Sharon been a true investigative journalist, it was immediate to her hand to find that in a large international collaborative group there is also collaborative leadership, and there are always contingency plans. Scientific data is fact, not to be influenced by personal tragedy. As usual succumbing to her penchant for half-baked analysis, childless Sharon Weinberger sticks her proboscis into forbidden territory. 

If the style is the person, here she is! Gives clues galore, she who, when describing me, uses “adoring wife” as a term of opprobrium. 

Dallas, July 1, 2006


Monica's car in silver.

"Dintre sute de catarge / Care lasa malurile / Cate oare le vor sparge / Vanturile, valurile..." Ion Minulescu, "Poezii'.
    Cantoni has delivered the console that goes in our entrance hall. I try vase after vase , Nambé bowl after Nambé bowl, and finally have to bring over my favorite Finnish vase in order to create the arrangement I had in mind -  stark, and only faintly softened by tall, sturdy roses. ( I know I sound pretentious but if you detest the idea of handing over your house to an interior designer, the hit or miss approach is a necessity). Now, what color roses? The Schweitzer-Cumpana painting above says red or white, the question is do I want to spill the red from it and spread it about? No, let the painting with its intensity barely contained in the deceptive calm of the old fashioned frame be the only source of warmth. White roses it is.

    Do I have time to smell the roses? No more time than poor Ferdinand had! Another paper bull galumphed into the ring and here I have to leave the roses and snatch a cape and a dagger, (i.e. a goose-quill pen.)

    Let’s look at this latest know-all. Mr. John H. Gibbon’s review of Sharon Weinberger’s Imaginary Weapons brings to my mind a caricature from 1993, when President Clinton had a hard time making all his political appointments. In the cartoon, an over-taxed Clinton sat with his wife at a table with Ronald McDonald and Hilary was saying: “ I know he’s your friend, Bill, but I don’t think you should trust him with a political appointment”.

    So John H. Gibbons became President Clinton’s Science adviser. It was a political appointment all right, with the stress on the “political“. He may have been a scientist once, (unlike him, I don’t talk about things of which I don‘t have any knowledge) but Gibbons doesn’t know Carl from Adam, or Carl’s work, neither did he make the slightest effort to get in touch with Carl or to understand his work before slandering him in the January 2007 issue of Physics Today. Sufficient unto the day it was for him that he and Sharon Weinberger shared the same politics. If he purchased “Imaginary Weapons“, that must have been the event that raised the book’s Amazon rating from 90,000 to 60,000. That may be it, or it may be that he picked the book from a remainder bin - anyway, he decided that a few words from him would save it. I make him sound conceited; still, he is not too proud, I’ll say that for him. Without giving a thought to what he might be stepping into, he now joins the company of  the vulgar and the small, of the hoard that praised the book and attacked Carl with neither knowledge nor wit - nor, Lord knows, with style.

    For a presidential science adviser Gibbons projects, unbelievably, total ignorance of the fact that there is a difference between a university professor  that does basic research in an open academic setting with international collaboration, and a developer of new weapons. He may be only totally out of date. Carl has never claimed that his successful experiments would lead to a Hafnium bomb. The phrase was used by Sharon Weinberger, was run away with by her “gigglingly” “ gaggingly” “agog” friendly reviewers and Mr. Gibbons thought he might as well use Hafnium bomb too, it's so darned cute!. (The words in quotations are from Weinberger’s and the above mentioned reviewers’ writings, this appalling bit of alliteration marking the peak of their stylistic endeavor).  

Dallas, January 29, 2007


Entrance - Dallas.
"...Te-nfioara / De ceasul galben, necesar." Ion Barb, "Joc Secund."  
    Since Monica’s wedding the weather has been reminding us that we don’t all have to accept a boiling cauldron, good Texans go to Colorado for the summer. The kids insist we stay for Father’s Day dinner though, so we leave next week.

     It’s been an idyllic spring, so relaxing that something had to give, to wake us up. But there is nothing I could call even remotely interesting, only a little mouse nibbling on the palimpsest of my mind, an article in APS News by P. D. Zimmerman, “The Strange Tale of the Hafnium Bomb: A Personal Narrative“.

    Zimmerman had tried for an open position on the Executive Committee of the “Forum on Physics and Society” of the American Physical Society, but was beaten to it by Dr. Pushpa Bhat, the voting members showing themselves tough and unmoved by Zimmerman’s unshakeable (he thought) argument  of “I want this”. But, it seems that when he expressed a wish to narrate the strange tale of his supremely uninteresting political stint in Washington, they, perhaps contritely, let him pollute the back page of their newspaper.

    Zimmerman has a few articles on physics, as befits  even the poorest physicist, (about 10% of the number Carl has in reviewed publications), but now he is completely given over to politics. I read some of his recent articles out of London, or as much of them as I could stomach - the term “nihilistic scribbler” comes to mind. In this more for domestic consumption fare, I expected more of the same -  and it really was the same, only not quite, for he ran out of steam in the first paragraph, (usually he lasts a few rounds), and the article is boring, boring, and  there is no meat.

    God help us all, he makes a pun, and, afraid we wouldn’t notice, he puts in the original adagio “pun intended”. (It was a puny one, too, about isomers triggering his memory). I wish they had left it alone, for his TRIP down memory lane, ( oh, my God, I don’t know what he has, but it’s catching!) puts one to sleep with its inane repetitions of how “I went” and how “I told them” and how “They didn’t listen“. He doesn’t come across as the prophet in the wilderness of Washington, more like the exile dwelling on his - self-serving - recollections of heaven, when he was one of the folks on the hill, feeding his ego on public nectar.

    Sharon Weinberger has wronged him, but she is forgiven, being an unbiased reporter on the side of his angels, Carl was wrong in his calculations, and even more culpable in not heeding the Archangels - the JASONS. ( Zimmerman has a touching faith in committees and acronyms, but they must be the ones of which he approves, and a Triggering Isomer Proof experiment is not one of them).
    Zimmerman doesn’t know about Carl’s research, but the JASONS don’t approve of it, and that’s  good enough for him. John Gibbons called Peter Zimmerman a hero, and that’s good enough for him, too.
    I wonder why he bothered to write at all, there are enough soporifics in this country. Could Peter be sniffing the air, and hoping for another Clinton Administration, and more stints on committees, and more acronyms after his cottontail? Is he, in short, preparing to hop and skip back across the Atlantic? Me, I’d rather he continue TRIPping in London. Because, given the Mutual Admiration Society he formed with John Gibbons, I fear there’s no chance of having Clinton’s beloved Ronald McDonald as science advisor, but only worse.

Dallas, June 15, 2007

Summer Evening