Friday, February 12, 2010

The alarm on the roof

A few days ago I walked into my office in the physics department and faintly heard some sort of alarm going off - Beep Beep Beep Beep – like a truck was backing up outside. I ran off to do some tutorials and came back about three hours later, and the alarm was still sounding. “How annoying” I thought, “must be something about the construction outside”.

The next day, I had a short meeting in my office with my grad student, Simon, and the sound was still there. It was still rather quiet, but nonetheless distracting as we tried to focus on physics. I kept looking out the window to see what that damn noise was. Simon suggested that since we couldn’t see the source of the sound outside, maybe it was coming from the roof. Hmm… an alarm on the roof. How strange.

Well, the next day I walked into my office and the alarm was still going. I finally decided that I had to investigate. I opened the window and stuck my head out into the cold to look around. I immediately discovered that in fact the sound was not any louder outside, rather it was much less loud. Scratching my head for a second, I concluded that the noise was coming from inside my office. A few minutes of Sherlock-Holmes-ing, and I found the culprit: My phone was off the hook. I should have been suspicious that no one had called me in a few days. Beep Beep Beep. Now I know what British phones sound like when they are left off the hook.
Thursday, February 4, 2010

I am such a moron!

Last December, before leaving for the holidays, I was struggling to collect financial information to file my UK taxes (the deadline is end of January). Suddenly, as if by divine intervention, I got an email with return address (That is “Her majesty’s revenue and customs”. ). This email said, in short, “We have sorted out your taxes for you, you will receive a refund”. How nice of them. I even blogged about how nice they were here. Many people had told me that UK taxes were a lot easier than US taxes, so this was perhaps not completely unexpected. I went back to the US for the holidays feeling good about being on the up-and-up with the UK government.

Well, if it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is.

Coming back to the UK, I didn’t think much more about taxes until I started thinking about US taxes (which promise to be a bit of a mess this year). So on Feb 1st, coincidentally one day after UK taxes were due, I set about collecting all my information together. Among other things, I figured the US would probably want to know how much I was taxed by the UK. So I went back and looked at the email sent by

And this was where I realized I was duped.

Although the email really does appear to have as a return address, I was nonetheless became a bit suspicious of some of the links in the email. Exploring around a bit more, and checking out the real website, I finally came to realize that this email is some complicated phishing scheme where you are supposed to enter your bank info so that they can take all your money.

In the words of the great Homer Simpson...

The good news is that I did not enter any bank information, so they will not get all my money.

The bad news is that I did not file my taxes on time either.
Monday, February 1, 2010

Random Quotes

Best scientific quote of last month:

“My work was not of interest to anyone else at the time”

- John Cardy, after winning the prestigious Boltzmann medal for the development of boundary conformal field theory, encouraging younger scientists to work on things that they think are interesting, whether or not the rest of the world cares.

Best Excuse of the month for me:

"You are a professor of physics, not of fashion.”

- Christiane Riedinger giving me an excuse to continue to dress like a flood victim.

What I should really listen to:

“You have to get over that”

- Fiona Burnell in regards to my feeling bad about potentially missing a random seminar.

What I should not listen to:

People who tell me that blog postings with random quotes are lame.