Sunday, September 04, 2011

Beach and Dog Pics

Summer is over, and the first two weeks of the new academic year are behind me. I didn't do much this summer, except for spend time with Greg and the dog on the beach. Looking at the pictorial evidence, I must say that it made for a fine summer.

From Dozer
From Dozer
From Dozer
From Summer 2011
From Summer 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011


Warning: This might turn into a long rant.

Last week marked two major events for America's space program: the last Space Shuttle launch and the recommendation by a House subcommittee that the James Webb Space Telescope be canceled. First, the shuttle...STS-135 Atlantis Launch (201107080016HQ)

I never got to see a shuttle launch or landing. I'm sad that I've lost my chance.Father and Son: STS-1 and STS-135

However, let's face it, the shuttles are an old, depleted fleet. They need to be retired. If you're feeling sad about the space shuttle program ending, it should be because there is no program to take its place. There is no replacement. Sure, there is movement towards private launch vehicles, but there isn't anything NOW. We won't be seeing any more pics like this one from Astronaut Ron Garan, currently on the ISS: My new favorite Shuttle px Took it #FromSpace 7/10/11 1:59pm ... on Twitpic

We are now dependent upon Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get our astronauts to the ISS. (That whirring sound you hear is Kennedy spinning in his grave. Have we retroactively lost the Cold War?) This didn't need to happen. But funding for NASA is allotted by politicians who only see as far into the future as the next election cycle.

This brings me to the James Webb Space Telescope. This is an infrared observatory, often called the successor to Hubble, that is in line with what NASA used to call its "Great Observatories" (Hubble, Compton, Chandra, Spitzer - by the way, except for Compton, the others are still operating many years after launch). JWST is an ambitious mission, and yes, it is over-budget. But so was Hubble, and who would argue its value now? And do you know one of the reasons why JWST is over-budget? BECAUSE YOU CAN'T BUY THE COMPONENTS OFF THE SHELF!! This mission involved developing new technologies, not just building a telescope out of existing components. And that's what the best science experiments should do - push the boundaries of our capabilities, as well as our knowledge. Science requires a long-term investment, but now a group in the House is recommending the cancellation of JWST when it is already 75% complete. Yes, you read that right. As I wrote to my Representative, "Canceling this mission now is not a savings of money, but rather a great waste of money due to the completed equipment being idle on the ground."

But what else do you expect when knowledge is under attack in so many venues. Instead of funding education to the fullest, states all over the nation are making drastic cuts and undercutting their futures. Instead of trying to keep quality educators in the classrooms with fair compensation and benefits, the media devotes time to those bizarre few who retire with outrageous salaries. And how many stories have you read recently that college isn't for everyone, when the statistics show that college-educated folk were far less likely to have become unemployed during this recession? Is it any wonder that our desire for an instantaneous payoff now threatens our future, scientifically and economically? Look at this following graphic, representing NASA's astrophysics missions timeline:

This is not a prudent restructuring of our fiscal responsibilities. This is the end of dreaming.

Friday, June 24, 2011


This week marked the publication of The Boy at the End of the World by my beloved companion of 21 years, Greg van Eekhout. Isn't the cover lovely?

Greg, along with Timothy Power and Cynthia Hand, will be discussing books at a signing tomorrow at Mysterious Galaxy.

Really, I couldn't be more thrilled that this book is out in the wild.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Just can't get enough

Really, would it ever be possible to get bored of images of Saturn?

(From Cassini)

Friday, June 03, 2011


Yesterday, our dear friend Colleen came to visit us. We hung out by the sea and provided puppy therapy for her. It was a lovely day!

From Summer 2011

From Summer 2011

Also, yesterday I saw a beautiful video of Cassini raw Saturn data set to the music of Nine Inch Nails. Favorite planet and favorite band!

Sunday, May 22, 2011


The academic year is over, and I am glad. The students were the usual mix of awesome and exasperating, but overall a good bunch. This was an exhausting year for other reasons; the budget crisis dominated most of our days. In fact, almost all summer classes were canceled. No equipment can be ordered. Not all adjunct faculty can be given their positions. We're told to anticipate more cuts in the fall. There haven't been any layoffs or furloughs, but faculty and staff who leave are not being replaced. Everyone - faculty, staff, student - is under more stress. The school year ended on a high note, a lovely commencement ceremony in Balboa Park. Most of my end-of-semester paperwork is done, with just a few days of office time still required of me this week. My muscles are starting to relax and it's easier to breathe, now that my summer (unpaid) vacation is beginning.

So now that the academic year is over, and some of the stress has been relieved, I hope to more regularly populate this space with the requisite beach and space and dog pics again. Hope you're all well!

From Dozer

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Stress Relief

Between a very late spring break (not til next week!), overcrowded classes, and budget crises, it's been quite a stressful semester. I'm particularly grateful to come home and play with my two favorite guys.

From Dozer
From Dozer
From Dozer
From Dozer
From Dozer