Tuesday, January 31, 2006


David stopped by for a few days on his epic cross-country roadtrip. (Jealous.) I think it's exciting that David is moving to Switzerland. Sounds so romantic and adventurous. (Jealous.) Best of luck to David! And wish him well getting over his evil sickness! (Not so jealous.)

I have not done any significant grading yet this semester. I am so screwed.

If Arcosanti weren't so cultish, I could totally see myself wanting to retire there. But, no.

It occurs to me that I should ask the chemistry lab tech if he's washed his hands before I accept the piece of chocolate, but for 73.5% cocoa content, it's so worth the risk.

We all know the dream is better than the reality, but do you ever wonder if you might just be wrong about that?

The green laser pointer I purchased for the astronomy labs kicks ass. I'm gonna get in trouble with that thing. :)

I think I shall eat a peanut cluster now.

Friday, January 27, 2006


The Stardust mission is the coolest mission EVAR!!!! - cometary dust impact in aerogel, from Stardust

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Only 5 earth masses! - the smallest extrasolar planet,with artist's representation, from Hubble

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


For a moment, I thought this CNN headline was about me: Student: Teacher humiliated him over Broncos jersey

Monday, January 23, 2006

Uphill Battle

A lot of people have basic misconceptions about astronomy and science in general. Many seek out information, whether it be by reading magazines and newspapers, watching science programs on TV, or attending talks, like the symposium on religion, intelligent design, and evolution that I attended last night. The majority of Americans may be scientifically illiterate, but sometimes I think it's not due to an unwillingness to learn, but rather lack of ability to filter out the crap.

Case in point - this last weekend, the USA Today Weekend Magazine supplement, which appears in many papers nationally, published an article on how the newly discovered possible tenth planet "Xena" might affect your horoscope. Not tongue-in-cheek. Devoid of sarcasm. And listed under the subject heading "Science". So let's say John Doe wakes up on a Sunday morning and decides to educate himself in current events in science, so he opened up his newspaper, and pulled out this article. Didn't he do his part? Didn't he try?

Or he could sign up for a class at his local community college and walk into a room where a mousy mid-thirties chick attempts to debunk astrology as the pseudoscience it is. Who carries more sway - the nationally syndicated newspaper or me? I'm not claiming that this has happened, but rather use this example to illustrate my point. Misconceptions are being perpetuated by what we consider to be legitimate information sources. Sigh. I guess this is why I do what I do.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


I napped for almost two hours today. I think the stress of the first week of classes caught up with me. Or it could be the overeating. When I'm not feeling well and still have to work, I eat everything in sight to keep up my energy. Oof.

So I'm wondering, what would be your reaction to someone sitting on a bench in Scottsdale who was barking and growling softly at passersby?

Congrats to Greg and Tim Pratt for the selection of their story "Robots and Falling Hearts" for Kathryn Cramer's and David Hartwell's Year's Best Fantasy 6. Yay!

I've developed a crush on Kevin Garnett, due to his new Adidas commercial. Yup.

Just the first week of classes, and I'm already behind. Sigh. This is going to be such a long semester.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Getting By

Lack of sleep and a long flight conspired to put me under the weather this weekend. Raging ear infection, to be precise. I'd have been completely miserable without the gentle ministrations of Greg, who brought me hot cocoa in bed, made a doctor's appointment for me, and settled me on the couch with hot tea and Empire Strikes Back. I am once again reminded how lucky I am in my friends and family. Did I mention Mom sent chocolate chip cookies and Sis brought us her famous peanut clusters? :)

But as you can imagine, being sick and still wishing I was on my D.C. trip made the first day of classes a little rough today. I was feeling down and uninspired, but then I received my course evaluations from last semester and my day started to improve. I work really hard at what I do, so it feels good to have my efforts be appreciated. Then I had a visit with Charly, who always brightens my day. (And dare I say he's a physics major now, hmm?) My physics lecture went a little rough, in part due to a lack of misunderstanding of the word "prerequisite" by many students. But tonight's astronomy lab had some friendly faces in it, and I just ate two chocolate chip cookies, so the first day of classes wasn't so bad after all.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

A few pix

My photos from my D.C. trip sucked, but here are a few I liked (and I had to do something while watching Colts-Steelers):

I'm old enough to rule the world from here now.

However this building is much more impressive.

Here's the Lincoln memorial as seen from the WWII memorial.

I became obsessed with the Washington monument, which looks so gleaming white in the distance...

...but shows such beautiful texture up close.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

So much, yet not enough

The problem with such an amazing trip is that I don't even know how to begin describing it. I spent last week in Washington, D.C. at the American Astronomical Society winter meeting. I had tremendous amounts of fun. The conference itself was impressive - over 3100 astronomers in attendance. There were many good talks and posters presented. I attended a talk by the NASA administrator - he painted a realistic picture of the future, but the budget next month is going to be very, very ugly.

In the past, I've generally attended conferences all day long and didn't explore the cities much. This time, however, I decided to follow my New Year's resolution, which is to not be such a good girl anymore. :) So I cut out of the conference in the afternoons and explored D.C. My explorations actually began the day before the conference started, when my beloved Philip and his lovely Faith took me to the National Air and Space Museum. Ah...heaven on Earth. I touched a Moon rock! And saw the Columbia module from Apollo 11! And the Wright Flyer! And the Spirit of St. Louis! I returned there again the next day when I cut out of the conference, and then I headed over to the Natural History Museum to check out the Gem and Mineral exhibit. Oh, so lovely. Especially the meteorites. Oh, the meteorites. I've never seen such a beautiful selection on display. There was a piece of Nakhla out to touch - I've touched Mars! I saw snippets of some of the other museums on the other afternoons, with my friend Kevin, and I must say that every other museum I've been to previously looks like a bad museum gift shop next to the Smithsonian museums. And the monuments and buildings are all remarkable. I took tons of pics, but they all suck compared to reality.

The socializing was excellent. Got to meet new people, including Jackie M.! Nice to see you in person. Got to catch up with the old UCLA astronomy crowd (Robert, Steve S., Suzi, Deborah, Brant). Hung out with the ASU astronomy crowd (Sam, Steve B., Paul, Kevin, Joe, Katie, Greg S., Hu, Ravi, Jason A.). Spent a lot of time, although not enough, with Philip.

As much as I was glad to come home, where Greg had a beautiful piece of azurite waiting for me from his road-trip, I was sad to leave D.C. There is still so much to explore there. I shall have to return soon.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Look at the pretty colors

I slept for one hour last night, before catching an early flight from D.C. to Phoenix. Greg very kindly picked me up at the airport and brought me straight to work. I spent some time curled up on Carl's office floor and have been getting work done very slowly. I'm at the point where I just want to look at pretty colors. Oooh... - the Orion Nebula, from Hubble.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


I'm at the AAS meeting in Washington, D.C. this week. (Blog entry about that when I return.) This morning as I walked around the exhibit hall, I heard someone call my name. I turned to see one of my former community college students presenting a poster. I have to say that it was one of the most gratifying moments of my life.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Gotta love it when one of my former TAs gets a big press release. Go Amber! - galaxy mergers, from Hubble

Friday, January 06, 2006

So pretty

Couldn't you just weep at the beauty? - Saturn, through a methane filter, from Cassini

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


USC lost the Rose Bowl, lost the national championship and ended their 34-game winning streak all in one game. Happiness seldom comes in a tidier package. :)

Monday, January 02, 2006

Book Reviews - 2005

I've been keeping track of how many books I read each year since 1997. 2005 marks a new low in number of books read - only 39. Methinks I spend too much time on the interthingie. Here are the notables from my 2005 reading, in the order I read them:

  • Perfect Circle - Sean Stewart: Lovely writing and a beautifully developed main character that ya just feel for, so much.
  • Burger Wuss - MT Anderson: This man remembers what it's like to be a teenager. And the social commentary is hilarious.
  • Alphabet of Thorn - Patricia McKillip: The world is so lush and beautiful and magical and you never doubt the magic can work.
  • Whales on Stilts! - MT Anderson: Makes me giggle just thinking about it.
  • Olympos - Dan Simmons: I did not like this one as much as its predecessor Ilium, but the daring and scope and joy of the writing makes this one a winner.
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling: Alright, I don't agree with everything she did, but it's a measure of how much I enjoy these books and characters that I can form such opinions. Snape...ah, Snape.
  • The Complete Calvin and Hobbes - Bill Watterson: Pure brilliance. The part of me that is glad Watterson retired while still in his prime wars with the other part of me that weeps for more C&H.
  • Peeps - Scott Westerfeld: I didn't find the ending to be very satisfying, but I loved the scientific explanation of vampirism. That construct alone makes the book worth reading.

Happy Reading in 2006, everyone!