Saturday, December 31, 2005

Good-bye 2005

Like all years, 2005 had its highs and its lows, but instead of dwelling on the bad, I'll concentrate on the good:

  • Starting the year off with Greg and gently falling snow in Flagstaff.
  • Roadtrip to Minnesota and all the friendship.
  • Three Nine Inch Nails concerts. Three!
  • Central California Coast with Greg.
  • Avalon Ball with Greg, Kirsten, and Aaron.
  • The huge amounts of appreciation I was shown by my students.
  • Cozy birthday and Christmas.
  • Another 31 lbs lost, bringing my weight-loss total to 56 lbs since August 2004.
  • Ending the year here in Flagstaff with Greg and warm beverages and coziness and love, closing the loop..

Here's to hoping we all have a peaceful, fulfilling, and happy 2006.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Aurora Galleries has compiled all of their aurora images into a gallery, finally. There are some magnificent images here, contributed by people all over the world. Here's a current favorite of mine:


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

King Kong Hurt Me

My neck hurts. It's hurt ever since I craned it up at a movie screen watching "King Kong" yesterday. Ow. I didn't like the LOTR movies much in their theatrical release forms, but I adore the extended versions. Therefore, I wasn't too cowed by the thought of seeing a three hour-long Peter Jackson movie. Was I ever wrong. The movie was incredibly boring - I think my neck hurts so much because I was trying not to nod off. It had some good moments, but I think I come firmly down on the side of this being a bad movie. The most interesting characters disappeared too soon (being a flaw that the major characters were not the most interesting), there were racist overtones up the wazoo, the special effects were wretched in many parts, and this movie provides more evidence that digital animation enables filler when storytelling is needed. The most interesting aspect for me was looking for all the product placements in the New York sequences. I'm glad that I saw it on the big screen, but it's definitely a movie I'll never need to see again.

Monday, December 26, 2005


Yesterday was a lovely relaxing day. I was spoiled rotten by friends and family - thanks so much for all of the gifts and gift cards. I will now go buy all the clothing I need! I received socks and clothes and books and chocolates and a tackle box and sea salt and cocoa and much more. I'm a spoiled brat!

I'm also a stuffed brat - I cooked all day. For our holiday breakfast, I made sausage, roasted potatoes, scrambled eggs, and banana walnut pancakes. For holiday dinner I made chicken cordon bleu and pasta, because it's really all about the decadent cream sauce. Mmm...for snacking, well, there was a chocolate incident. Maybe several. That's all I'll say. It was a good day.

I hope that everyone is having happy and peaceful holidays!

Friday, December 23, 2005


Got up early and went to the gym. Headed over to Starbucks with Greg and had hot chocolate and a pumpkin cream cheese muffin. Treated myself to an hour-long massage. Greg and I had a late lunch at our favorite brewpub. We also went to the Phoenix Suns/Washington Wizards game. (Good game, even though the Suns lost.) Raked in lots of loot from friends and family. (Thanks, guys!) All in all, not a bad way to spend my 35th birthday. Except for finding that gray hair - I could have done without that. :)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Dover Decision

The latest ruling in the Dover, PA Intelligent Design case should make me happy, but it doesn't. My fear is that this will now get played out on a much larger stage. The judge's ruling that ID is a religious movement, rather than a scientific model, is correct, but now some proponents of ID are citing this as religious persecution. A couple of quotes for you, from a Washington Post article:

"This decision is a poster child for a half-century secularist reign of terror that's coming to a rapid end with Justice Roberts and soon-to-be Justice Alito," said Richard Land, who is president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and is a political ally of White House adviser Karl Rove.

The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank, wrote that the judge has a "pernicious understanding of what intellectual and religious freedom in America means."

So, my friends, the battle is far from over, and in many ways may have moved even further away from being a scientific battle than it was before. If you want more information on how the Discovery Institute is waging this war, go to It's good to understand the strategy of your opponent.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Standing Still

Today is the winter solstice, when the Sun stands still before beginning its trek back towards the north. The Sun appears to hover, thinking about its next move before continuing on.

Kinda how I feel right now. I'm at a bit of a loss. I keep feeling like there is something I should be doing. Comes from always having tons to do during the semester, I suppose. I feel pretty useless when school isn't in session. Teaching is satisfying and meaningful and it enables me to (hopefully) contribute to society in a positive way. Without it, I am a loser. Blah.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Finals Week Tally

Received: one homemade pumpkin pie, 10 frosted sugar cookies, chocolate hazelnut candies, and 0.4 lb Valrhona extra-bitter chocolate

Graded: 56 astronomy term projects, 69 astronomy lab finals, 68 astronomy lecture finals, and 122 physics finals

Total hours of work: 60

Goal for the weekend: no work (except to answer student emails - just can't help myself)

And now I shall sleep.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Ah, yes, I remember it well.

Finals week brings out all of our hopes, fears, and quirks. I see the students struggle and remember being them. I remember doing so many of the same things and asking the same questions.

Will flash cards help? Um, if they're good flash cards. Not if you attempted to write an entire semester's worth of notes on five cards. (I still have the flash cards for my undergraduate astronomy courses.)

Will there be a curve?
Dude, the class average is an 81%! (I think that makes me the easiest physics teacher ever.)

What is my grade currently so that I can calculate what I need to get on the final to earn (insert grade here)?
I'll tell you, but don't you think it would be better so spend your time studying? I mean, it's a great time suck - feels productive and involves math - but studying would actually serve you better on the exam.

You professors just don't know how stressful finals are.
Sadly, I am more busy during finals as an instructor than I ever was as a student. (Let's see...I've written and have to grade four astronomy lab finals, two astronomy lecture finals, and one physics final.) Maybe I work too much now, or maybe I didn't work hard enough then. Either way, I'm glad I'm not taking the tests anymore.

(PS. A student brought me a homemade pumpkin pie this morning, still warm from the oven!)

Friday, December 09, 2005

On a related note

A few of my astronomy students have voiced their surprise that not only do I correct their grammar and spelling, but I will also dock their grade. I've heard "This isn't an English class, you know." I like the implication that proper English usage is only necessary for their English courses, which have no bearing on the rest of their academic and personal lives, of course.

Don't worry. Next week is finals week, and then my petty griping will slow down somewhat. Until I hit the malls, that is.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Can anybody tell me why so many students think the plural of "scientist" is "scientist"? No "s" at the end, or if on the rare occasion they do put the "s", it's as in "scientist's". Is this a typo or a misunderstanding? Just something spell-check doesn't catch? As I sit here grading papers, I find it to be annoying.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


After almost the entire semester has passed, one of the students in my physics lecture told me that, not only does she live in the apartment across the hall from me, but another of my students lives in the apartment upstairs! Aaiiee! It also says something about the way I go through life ( head down, not making eye contact) that I didn't recognize these chicks. Sigh.

During an in-class discussion, one of my astronomy students raised his hand and asked very seriously, "Why are there so many songs about rainbows? And what's on the other side?" I told him that I've obviously lost control of the class when the kids start quoting "The Rainbow Connection."

A former student came to visit me this week. He's heading home to the deep South where he means to go to law school, which was always his goal. His plan has been slightly modified, however, by the fact that his family struck oil on their property. Now instead of pursuing law in part for the financial gains, he hopes to open a family law practice benefiting underprivileged folk. Wish him luck!

A student I hadn't seen since September emailed me to ask me if I could withdraw him from the class, because he forgot to withdraw before the deadline. I told him I didn't have that option on my final grade roster. He then emailed back saying that he learned that I could instigate an administrative withdrawal removing him from my class for "disruptive behavior" and would I please do so? If by disruptive, he meant making me laugh til tears streamed down my face, I have been so affected. Otherwise, I'm not going to lie to make up for someone's laziness. Egads.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Couldn't choose just one

A couple of images for your enjoyment - too beautiful to choose one over the other

New composite image of the Crab Nebula, from Hubble - Jeff is famous for his many Hubble images (for example, the Eagle nebula), and congrats to Allison for her great work.

Many moons, from Cassini - I want this spacecraft to send back such images forever.