Letter to Donald Trump–GOP Tax Plan

Update: Thanks, Donald & GOP, for listening to us and removing this tuition waiver tax from the final tax plan. Original post below —

I just sent the below message to Donald Trump via the White House contact page.

Dear Donald Trump,

I appreciate your hard work on behalf of the country. I am writing you because I am a college student concerned about your tax plan currently under development in Congress. I am a junior in chemical engineering and am considering attending graduate school. Unfortunately, the current Republican tax plan proposes treating tuition waiver / scholarships as taxable income. As someone who’s worked in research in a national lab setting (Argonne), a national research institute setting (NIH), and a university setting, I have observed the progress resulting from the hard labor of thousands of scientists and graduate students. It’s not an easy job nor one that you’re likely to get rich doing, but people choose it because they want to make a difference in the world. Counting tuition waivers as taxable income is not a good idea as it would make it very difficult, if not impossible, for me and my peers to attend graduate school in chemical engineering, where we would work in research to improve our American life–not just to make America great again, but rather to make it greater than ever before. I hope you will act on behalf of the American people and fix this Republican plan.

Thanks,
Matthew W. Coile

When it comes to balancing our budget, however, far more important than taxes is curbing our exorbitant military spending. We spend more on our military per year than the next 8 countries combined. I’m not happy about paying that much for a war machine. Check out this estimate by Forbes that each average taxpayer has paid more than $100,000 for the meddling in Iraq and Afghanistan… and each taxpayer pays upwards of $4,000 additional a year to maintain this money-eating people-killing monster that is the American military budget. Some military force is needed–but orders of magnitude less than current spending would suffice.

Yemen’s Civil War

Saada, Yemen.

Images from Google Images. Here’s an old article (last year) that describes the ongoing destruction from a doctor’s point of view http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35608328

“On Thursday, a young pregnant woman arrived at Al-Jumhori with 60% of her body burned. Like so many who come through the hospital’s doors, her home had been hit by an air strike, this one in the heavily-targeted Razeh district of Saada province, close to the border with Saudi Arabia.

With travel too risky, the woman was forced to wait for a week before her family could take her to a nearby clinic. From there she was moved by ambulance to the Al-Jumhori, a five-hour journey.

“I could not imagine how much pain she was in,” said Dr Carrara. “By the time she reached us she was septic and had severe organ failure. We did what we could but there was no hope.” The woman died 16 hours later. She was in her 20s.

If she had made it to Saada city within eight hours, she and her child could almost certainly have been saved.”

…and my biggest problem is deciding which job to work this summer…

A Weekend in Chicago

This is a post intended for my future self. Everyone else should probably ignore this. It’s my unedited, stream-of-consciousness recall of the weekend.

Hey, I just had another great weekend! I want to write a little about it, not because this weekend was necessarily far better than any other weekend, but just because I want to remind myself of why I’m enjoying this summer so much. It’s piled full of things to do, and I haven’t spent a moment bored yet.

Friday night I went out to NEIU and hung out with a trumpet student there, Katie (and the only trumpet student at NEIU, apparently). We played a couple hours of duets, and I gotta say, I loved being back in a music building. Music people are cool–see, back in high school, I lived a high pressure, high stress, high isolation life. In college, music is what relaxed me. No, actually, it wasn’t the music. It was the atmosphere in the music building, where people weren’t stressed about their grades, or school, or anything but getting good at their instrument and (perhaps even more so) having fun in college. I was jealous of that approach to life, and it helped me relax. Anyhow, after a few hours of playing duets and chatting about trumpet, she had to go cause she was running with a friend… and I spent a while messaging an unnamed person who was worried about another unnamed person.

Saturday was our downtown Chicago trip. I woke up in the morning to a text from Korbi asking if I was down for a run. Of course I was, so we put a few miles in before heading downtown on the bus. After walking to the Food Truck Festival and seeing the very long lines, we visited Giordano’s and got Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Following that, we nearly went to the Field Museum, but then decided to hop on a train and go to Hyde Park, where Liam said there was a bookstore. Indeed, there was a bookstore. From the train station, we walked down a hip suburb street, passing smoothie stores and restaurants and nice houses. Eventually we reached the bookstore, which was several feet below street level. And a pretty bookstore it was. Little 3×5 cards adorned the shelves with staff recommendations, and both tables and shelves of various books were ordered across the little room. After perhaps twenty minutes perusing the shelves, Lauren said something that caused the clerk to say, “oh yes, through that little doorway next to the information desk there are four more rooms just like this one,” which of course was a shock to all of us! We then wandered through the rest of the store, and our already hard choice was made even harder. Finally we picked the books out that we wanted and left.

We discussed going to the CSO concert, but it was sold out (well, only two seats left and there were more than 2 of us downtown). We wandered around the UChicago campus, visited the Oriental Institute (early writing systems and Code of Hammurabi and things were there), and played frisbee. Finally we wandered back to the train station, where we argued about whether Stravinsky was a good composer or not–I argued that it didn’t come anywhere near to the CSO setlist, which included Verdi’s Anvil Chorus. (There was a free Firebird concert in Grant Park) We ended up listening to Stravinsky and Anvil Chorus at the train station, which caused some random lady to come up to us and tell us how great the CSO’s performance of Anvil Chorus Friday was. It was the ultimate “told-you-so” moment–a random person at the train station had said how amazing the CSO performance was and (while that’s not condemning Stravinsky), t’was pretty nice.

Okay let’s summarize the rest of the day quickly. Went to Ghirardelli’s for ice cream, missed the train after a frantic sprint, Trevor scared Korbi by sneaking up behind him, poking him in the side and saying “gimme all your money,” got kicked out of playing frisbee in front of 5/3 bank, went to the World’s Largest Block Party in front of St Patrick’s Church where we played frisbee and people joined in (despite the fact that it was a giant, hand waving, spotlights waving, rock concert) and one was enthusiastic about my UK shirt–said I should go to the Pony Bar where a bunch of Kentucky folk hang out… finally we walked back to Union Station, caught the train, and uber-ed back from the station. Of course, I got to end the night with a run back from the gate, so that was cool too.

Sunday (today) Jackie invited me to go to Starved Rock, so we went there, hiked around with her Husky named Alaska. Following that we went back to the house, dropped the dog, got dinner and ice cream (where, weirdly enough, her mom and sis showed up too), where a magician did a number of magic tricks for us. We then wandered around Michaels and Target before heading back to Argonne, where we wandered around Waterfall Glen before parting ways. I’m hoping to get some laundry and dinner in tonight, but who knows what I’ll actually do. I’m getting sleepy. Tomorrow night I’ll be skipping jazz rehearsal to hang out with Rachel, Daniel, mom and dad! Should be fun–can’t wait! Oh and of course there’s frisbee tomorrow too!

Lovin’ this summer. Peace.

Advanced Photon Source

This is a post intended for my future self. I’m not editing it, I’m simply spilling words all over the page. You probably won’t find it interesting–skip it.

Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to witness science collaboration, stress, and ingenuity for 24-hours straight. My supervisor and a couple others had been granted 24 hours on Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source (APS). Their plan had been to use a reactor that had already been fully built to study the structure of alumina as it grew on carbon nanotubes and hydroxylated carbon nanotubes via X ray diffraction patterns. The week before the run, however, it became obvious that the main reaction chamber, a graphite dome which was transparent to x-ray wavelengths, was not going to show up–it couldn’t be found anywhere, and nobody knew where it had been placed. Entonces, my supervisor and another postdoc worked long, frantic hours with the machinists at APS to create a new reactor. They essentially built it from scratch. Of course, that meant all kinds of things could go wrong when they started running it. Indeed, a white substance began to build up on the windows of the reactor as soon as they started running the reactor. It turned out that it was a simple problem of the o-rings not being thermally stable at the temperatures we were using (150 C).

Anyhow, despite problems like this plaguing the setup, data collection finally started. It’s so cool, because a project like this necessitates networking knowledge to get computer controllers hooked up to vary scans and reaction, beam line scientists to ensure a smooth run, spectroscopy knowledge to read the x-rays, mathematical knowledge to use Pair Distribution Functions, and mechanical and Atomic Layer Deposition knowledge to set up the reactor. I witnessed a group of excited, coffee-driven scientists work on a project straight through the night. So cool, I’m like heck yeah, I can’t wait for a future in science!

English Language

Rather than writing anything here, I just want to marvel at how language can be used to manipulate readers … cheers

NBC’s coverage:

“Demonstrations against Islamic law led to arrests, tense confrontations and physical fights in some U.S. cities Saturday amid several rallies sponsored by ACT for America, which the Southern Poverty Law Center designates as an anti-Muslim hate group.”

ACT for America’s page describing the purpose of the rallies:

“On Saturday, June 10, 2017, ACT for America is having March Against Sharia events in cities across the nation.

This is a march against Sharia law and for human rights. Our nation is built on the freedom of religion — a pillar of our democracy — which we must always respect, protect, and honor. However many aspects of Sharia law run contrary to basic human rights and are completely incompatible with our laws and our democratic values.

We, at ACT for America, are committed to protecting women and children from Sharia Law and its impact on Muslim women and children including honor killing and Female Genital Mutilation. We must ensure that every woman and child enjoy the protection afforded by the U.S. Constitution.”

And, an update in which ACT disavows white supremacy:

“ACT for America cancelled its June 10th “March Against Sharia, March for Human Rights” event in Arkansas when we became aware that the organizer is associated with white supremacist groups. This is against all of our values.

We stand firmly opposed to any actions by individuals or organizations that seek to attack or intimidate based on race, religion, or sexual orientation.  Our June 10th nationwide marches are in support of basic human rights for all – and against the horrific treatment of women, children, and members of the LGBTQ community that is sanctioned by Sharia law.”

English is a powerful tool, y’all. Don’t tell me you couldn’t see yourself making assumptions off of just one of those sources. Whatever you do, please don’t kill anyone or promote violence based off of your assumptions. I wish I could see a discourse about Sharia that didn’t include name-calling.

Update:

I don’t want to post again about Islam, so I’m updating this post: check out this Washington Post opinion piece about Berkeley’s cancellation of an invited talk by Dawkins, an outspoken atheist and author of The God Delusion (an amusing read, by the way).

Cool Battery Video

I’m at Argonne National Lab right now about to start a summer project in battery research and I stumbled upon this cool video: http://lifehacker.com/test-if-your-batteries-are-dead-by-dropping-them-on-a-h-1630525062  It doesn’t have much to do with batteries in particular; it’s just a cool video that explains why fresh batteries don’t bounce. (Spoiler: the gel electrolyte / inside of the battery has an “anti-bounce” effect.) Enjoy!

Interviews Are Pointless

As someone who detests interviews, I’m delighted to share this link, which describes “the utter uselessness of job interviews.”

Here’s my favorite quote:

“In the end, our subjects’ G.P.A. predictions were significantly more accurate for the students they did not meet. The interviews had been counterproductive.”

I’ve also taken interviews of a more technical nature than those described here, where I’m asked to solve a problem or spit out some fact (i.e. what’s the length of ethanol in angstroms or how would you separate ______ ). I’d be curious to know whether these are more useful than interviews that simply attempt to “get to know” a person. Furthermore, I’m curious whether strong interview ratings predict future success in jobs that require interview-like situations, such as meeting with potential clients or striking business deals.

But for now, please join me on the interview-hate train.