Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Monday, August 28, 2006


It had been years since I've had the chance to go to WorldCon, but this year's con was in Anaheim, so I took the opportunity. I'd almost forgotten how much I enjoy cons - seeing old friends, meeting new people, attending readings, and let's not forget all of the book-buying! I also picked up a few meteorite samples. :) I had a wonderful time, but somehow I don't think I'll get to the 2007 WorldCon in Yokohama, alas. Perhaps Denver in 2008!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

It's official!

The solar system has eight planets. Here's the new definition of a planet from the International Astronomical Union:

A planet is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.

Pluto fails part (c) because it crosses the orbit of Neptune, only surviving because of its orbital resonance with Neptune such that they are never in the same place at the same time.

Whew. Now that's settled, finally.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Oldies, newbies, outliers, and a barista

Today was the first day of the Fall semester. Summer was too short! I taught two lectures and one lab today. Ah, new students. Some old students, too. I got to freak them out by remembering their names, although it had been years since they had been in my class. And one of our former baristas has shown up - perhaps she'll try to bribe me with a tall non-fat with whip hot chocolate. Mmm.... that's a bribe that might work! :) This semester, I'm teaching two astronomy lectures and four astronomy labs at my community college. At the university, I'm supervising the astronomy labs and am teaching the third semester in a calculus-based physics class designed for engineering majors. Out of 52 students enrolled in that class, only four are female. Sigh. More reason to be proud of the young ladies who are there.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Not so bad

I should be absolutely panicked because the fall semester starts on Monday, and I'm nowhere near ready, but after yesterday morning, I'm just not that worried.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Pluto spam

I'm receiving emails from former students about this whole Pluto ruckus. I'm somewhat vindicated in that I always said if you were going to call it a planet, it should be a double planet. I don't know about "plutons", though. Sigh. And really, rename 2003 UB313 already, but just don't name it Xena, or I may never be able to step back into the classroom again.

(Gotta admit, though, that I love getting these emails. They still think about astronomy! Yay!)

Friday, August 11, 2006

Two years

Yesterday marked two years of being on Weight Watchers. I haven't made much progress since last year, but I did attain my goal of losing 50 lbs on September 26, 2005 and have kept that off (and then some) ever since. Overall, I'm quite pleased.

I'd like to lose a little more weight. I'm still closer than I'd like to the recommended upper limit on weight for my height. Things are going very slowly, though. All my fault, not the plan's. I've been having some discipline issues the past few months. I like soda. French fries...oh, how I love french fries! And if I ever go missing, look for me in a large vat of peanut M&Ms. I'll get back on track, I will. I can do it.

For posterity, here's me in August 2004, compared with me this morning. I don't know which chick looks more like a stranger to me.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Looking back

I'm back in the desert now, after a few blissful days along the coast of California. The area around Carmel and Big Sur is the loveliest in the world to me. Not only physically beautiful, but peaceful, quiet, healing. I can't spend enough time there, and I never want to leave. I spent a few hours hiking around "Punta de los Lobos Marinos" - point of the sea wolves - otherwise known as Pt. Lobos State Reserve, named for the sea lions always in residence. Along my journey down the Pacific Coast Highway, I saw harbor seals, sea lions, elephant seals, and sea creatures still scuttling in their shells. I saw a California Condor in the wild on Thursday. I have no words to describe that experience.

I'm not a good photographer, but with such beautiful material to work with, I managed to snap a few decent shots. Besides those here, I've posted some to my Flickr account.

Quintessential Big Sur:

Sea Lions at Pt. Lobos

Lichen, Algae, and some of the last wild Monterey Cypress

Cypress and Sea

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Asilomar State Beach

Sea lions in Monterey Bay. Cute!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Feeling Californian

While watching firefighters battle a brushfire not 50 yards from my car, I drove across the San Andreas fault along the stretch of road where James Dean died. My journey ended with a warm bowl of risotto in fog-shrouded Carmel-by-the-Sea. I feel in touch with my California roots.