Tuesday, December 25, 2007

And some chocolate

Today started off with a breakfast featuring these fresh-baked cinnamon rolls:

(Yes, I'm having a good baking week. )

And then there were many presents. I received chocolate and books and chocolate and a CD and chocolate and clothes and chocolate and kitchen supplies and chocolate and gift cards and chocolate and a necklace and chocolate. Spent the rest of the day watching basketball, cooking dinner, and having a cozy evening with Greg. Just perfect! I hope you had as wonderful and bountiful a holiday as I did.

Happy Holidays!

I hope you all have joy and beauty in your life.

From Astronomy Picture of the Day and The World at Night:

Sunday, December 23, 2007


Today is my 37th birthday. I had a great day. Greg took me out to breakfast and then on a mini-spree at Mysterious Galaxy. In the afternoon, we walked around tide pools exposed by one of the lowest tides of the year. (Thanks to Voidmonster for pointing that out!)

From San Diego - D...

From San Diego - D...

From San Diego - D...

Then there was mexican food for dinner and the opening of presents: books, gift cards, jewelry, gym gear... I'm a spoiled brat! And now, a cozy evening at home wrapped up with LOTR and this cake. Lucky me! Thanks, everyone!

From San Diego - D...

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Well, the first semester at my new college is over. The exams, the grading, the paperwork... all done. Some perspectives from the new job:

  • Teaching in the city sounds very different from teaching in the suburbs. Really. In my office, I hear sirens and construction and traffic all day long.
  • The leaves turn pretty colors here. There weren't any leaves at the previous campus, unless you count cactus spines.
  • The new colleagues are nice.
  • The administration here seems more "student-centered" than "administration-centered" to the point where I've seen deans help students with minor paperwork and the president fetch a piece of needed equipment. Nice change.
  • Community college faculty and staff everywhere seem devoted to helping students get through the semester. Deaths in the family, work schedule changes, losing jobs, children getting sick... students have so much going on in their lives, and there is a whole structure here to support them. There are campus health services, as well as mental health services, provided. The trick is getting the students the help they need.
  • We'll see how the trend emerges in subsequent semesters, but the students at my previous school seemed more scientifically literate than here. And that's a horrifying thought.
  • Love my new students, though.
  • The weather is better. ;)

Now to do my Christmas shopping for Greg! Let's see... what to get him... hmm?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Good Job

A few of my astronomy students told me that they've decided that they want me to teach all of their classes. Another astro student says that it was his favorite class ever. And one of my physics students, whom I talked into staying in the class after a disappointing first midterm, earned an A in the course.

Sometimes I feel like I'm in the right job.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Top kicker

Sadly, it isn't often that student athletes show up in physics classes. That's why I'm so excited that one of my best students from last spring was named the nation's top kicker. If I recall correctly, he wrote a paper on the physics of kicking for my class. ;)

Congratulations, Thomas!

Sunday, December 02, 2007


Greg's parents kindly take us out for Thanksgiving dinner every year. However, that doesn't allow for leftovers! So, today I made our belated Thanksgiving meal: ham, cranberry sauce, dressing, peas au gratin, scalloped corn, and rolls. Sure, it took a few hours, but I won't have to cook again for days! And, because whole milk was called for in one of the recipes, I had hot cocoa made with whole milk for dessert. Mmm... decadence.

It rained all day Friday, a pleasant change. On Saturday, clouds still filled the sky.

From San Diego - D...

Today, it was all blue and sparkly.

From San Diego - D...

Saturday, December 01, 2007


I woke up to the sound of rain. I shall go to sleep to the sound of rain. It's one of my favorite sounds.

Speaking of sounds, my office is next to the men's restroom, and something (I think it's the door) sounds like a TIE fighter screaming over the Death Star. I hear this all day long. Makes me twitch. Sometimes life is very strange.

I'll concentrate on the soothing rain now.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Musings during an exam

One of my students is wearing an Arizona State sweatshirt. I was very confused about my location for awhile.

So often we complain about "kids these days", but I've found that their parents are equally, if not more, irresponsible. For example, I have a student missing the quiz today because her parents decided to surprise her with a trip for her birthday. I've had parents phone their students during class and, in one case, I actually grabbed the phone and scolded the mother (a repeat offender who was afraid her daughter was lying about her whereabouts). In one instance of a power struggle during a divorce, I've had a father hide a daughter's shoes and car keys in an attempt to keep her at home. (She showed up to class in slippers.) I also had to write letters to her father stating that she had to be in class on particular dates when he wanted her to go on family trips. Parents regularly schedule flights home for break as early as possible (gotta get the good rates!), and pay no attention to students' final exam schedules. If you think the students are pulling scams, I've seen them in tears in my office because their profs won't reschedule exams and their parents don't want to eat the fees from the airlines. So for all my friends with kids, remember that responsibility does begin at home and that you want your kids to become independent adults with their own lives, even if you're still helping them pay for school. And paying for their schooling does not give you control over their lives or their professors.

The student I made the deal with remembered to bring a scantron and a pencil today. Unfortunately it looks like he forgot to study. However, chocolate chip cookies for everyone during the final quiz!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I hear them calling my name

Argh! There are fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies cooling on the kitchen counter. But my kitchen is so small that I need all that counter space! Gotta do something about those cookies then. What to do... what to do? ;)

We'll see how many are left to give to Greg's folks tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Short Week

For reasons that aren't entirely clear to me, classes only met on Monday this week. I'm not complaining. With my first day off, I had breakfast with Greg at a coffee house by the sea and chatted briefly with a student there. Then I wrote two quizzes. Got a haircut. Did some grocery shopping at Trader Joes, where I was amused by the number of people FREAKING OUT because they sold out of turkeys yesterday. Corresponded with distant TAs. Corresponded with distant former students. Made dinner. Kind of a mellow day. I feel restless, though. Like there is something I should be doing that I haven't done. Gosh, I hope it isn't important!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Cause and Effect?

The first time I taught a particular physics course, the class schedule was three days per week, 50 minute class meetings. I designed my exams for that length of time. The students did well and most students finished comfortably within the 50 minute period. The next time I taught the same course, the class met two days per week, 75 minute class meetings. Another difference was that the previous class was a small class at a community college, and the second class was approaching 200 students at a university. Anyways, I gave the same exams, so I could contrast performance. What surprised me was how many students took the whole time and the class as a whole did worse. The next time I taught the course was the same setup - large class, two days at 75 minutes each, at the university. This class also thought the exams were too long, but did really well overall. I'm currently teaching this same course to a small class at a community college, which meets two days per week, 2 hours each time. These students find the exams too long, although these are the same design, and in some cases the same questions, as the very first time I taught the course. In fact, the reason why I'm posting this now is that I had two students this week need MORE than the two hours to finish the exam.

So, what's going on here? I've come up with some possible issues:

  • First time through, I graded everything. Homeworks, exams, etc... The other times, TAs and/or online homeworks were incorporated.
  • The most recent section is made up of slightly different majors.
  • Test-taking expands to fill the available time.
  • Some classes are just better than others.

I've eliminated some possibilities:

  • Small class vs. large class - I've had both do well.
  • Community college vs. university - I've had both do well.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Deal

I have made a deal with an astronomy student: if he can manage to bring both a pencil and a Scantron to the next quiz, I will bring cookies to the final quiz. This deal was made publicly, in front of his classmates. I'll know the results in two weeks.

The things I do...

Friday, November 09, 2007

I am SO me sometimes

Did laundry earlier today. As I was hanging my four newly clean shirts, I realized three were gray and one was black. Typical.

Just got back from Extraordinary Desserts. I had a hot chocolate (made with Valrhona) and a piece of Viking cake (chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, chocolate ganache...). I may well be drunk.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Changing Times

One of the things I appreciated most about my time in Arizona was that it didn't observe Daylight Savings Time. (Trust me, nobody wants the Sun to set later in the summer there.) I despise changing the time, falling back or springing forward. Nowadays, it's easier. Our cell phones, computers, cable boxes... they all change automatically. But my inner fourth-grader will always remember walking to school, across a vacant playground and then having all eyes turn to her as she walked into class an hour late. Feh.

Today - watched Pats-Colts. It was fun to watch such a good game without rooting for either team, sort of an "NFL Appreciation" class. During half-time, I put together a loaf of pumpkin bread and a dozen pumpkin muffins. Tasty breakfasts await us this week!

Saturday, November 03, 2007


Today started off with breakfast prepared for me by Greg. He even brought it to me where I was sitting on the couch still in my robe. I'm a spoiled brat. Later, we went to our favorite pizza place and walked along the beach. I took another walk tonight by the mist-shrouded bay. Not such a bad day, hmm? Hope you're all well!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Do you agree?

I think the peanut butter-to-chocolate ratio in Reese's Miniatures has improved. The balance seems to reflect more the perfection of the regular Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Perhaps I shall continue testing this hypothesis.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2007

An observation

In the past couple of weeks, I've baked banana nut bread and brownies. There is a coffee cake in the oven as I type. Methinks I've moved back to a cooler climate, and it's baking season! Mmm...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Not Complaining

My college has canceled classes through next Monday due to the fires in the surrounding areas. As much as it's annoying to lose a week in the second half of the semester, I won't complain... so far, class time is all I've lost, and so many others aren't as lucky.

Monday, October 22, 2007


My college closed early today and will be closed tomorrow because of the fires in the San Diego region. Several of my colleagues and students were evacuated from their homes. The air quality is bad, the car is covered with ashes, and we are miles away from the fires. As I sit here on the couch in our apartment, I can see ashes in the air outside, and the color of the light coming in through the window is just plain wrong. Although all the windows and doors are closed, I can still smell smoke.

Here's to hoping that the fires are contained soon and to being safe and well.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Back in MY Day

Last week I did a calculation on the board in my physics class. The physics was simple (just two lines), but the algebra to solve the problem involved most of the board. Must to my dismay (horror? surprise?), instead of writing down the derivation, several of the students took out their camera phones and snapped pics of it. "If I copy it down, I might make a mistake," was the response to my, well, sarcastic questioning. The art of note-taking is fading, fading... gone.

About half of my physics students are architecture majors. If you aren't aware, architecture students get worked hard in their classes. I understand that, truly, but there's a level of work that you need to put into physics to understand it. Problem-solving is a skill learned through practice, not just by watching someone else perform calculations. I approached a few of my students about their (non-existant) homework scores, and they sheepishly admitted they needed to put in more work. But they also said, "At least when you were a physics major, you could just concentrate on the physics, without having all this other work to do." Yes, I remember, back in the day, when I was required to take only one class each semester so I could give my attention solely to learning physics.... Everybody's own major is the hardest, isn't it?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Missing Arizona

I'm sick. I wanted spicy food. So we drove to a place where we knew we could get really spicy food, but we couldn't find parking. For blocks around. In Phoenix, there would have been multiple choices to get really spicy food, all with ample parking. I usually don't miss Arizona, but today, I miss some of the conveniences.

On the other hand, after we gave up and came home, Greg heated up some chicken noodle soup, which I dosed with hot sauce. He's always a sweetie, especially when I'm not feeling well. In a little while, I will look at him beseechingly, and he'll make me cocoa. Mmmm...curative cocoa...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


The week goes by so quickly. The class schedule at my new college is concentrated Mon-Thurs, so I have three day weekends. Yay! But that also means I have four really hectic workdays. It is all a blur, they go by so fast. In fact, I'm writing this during "free time" - my students are taking an exam. Just thought I take some time to jot some thoughts on my blog:

  • I forgot my watch today. I feel naked and disoriented.
  • Car insurance in CA is waaaaaay more expensive than in AZ.
  • Facebook is very, very weird.
  • I get stranger questions in my astronomy classes here than I did in AZ. I don't know if it's a difference in background, or if my previous students were more shy and didn't pipe up.
  • I'm hungry.
  • It's that time in the semester where the students are infecting us with their germs. Two lab techs and a faculty member taken down so far. Wish me luck.
  • My new students didn't appreciate the Mimas vs. Death Star comparison. I feel old.
  • Since work started, I no longer see the sea as often, but there are some new pics at my Picasa space.

Test is done. Back to work!

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Sputnik was launched 50 years ago today. NPR has thorough coverage, including Daniel Schorr's memories of being in Moscow that day. All the talk of Sputnik reminded me that I hadn't yet mentioned that y'all should go see In the Shadow of the Moon, which features Apollo astronauts discussing their missions. I, of course, wept during he whole movie. How we've failed those courageous, risk-taking, intelligent, driven men. We used to know how to dream.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


When the students ask me what would happen to somebody without a spacesuit on the surface of the Moon, I always blame them for the grim discussion that follows while I smile maniacally. Students seem to find my proclivities for impacts and other cosmic catastrophes to be somewhat unseemly.

After class today, I was paid a high compliment: "This is my only class where all the students pay attention." Think there's a correlation? ;)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sighs Fits All

I woke up with morning with a horrible neckache and migraine. I only had a 13-hour workday ahead of me, so no problem, right? Greg was very nice to me, rubbing my neck and driving me to and from work, but it was still not how I wanted to start my day. Sigh.

My physics exam seemed to promote more frustration than work. I can't seem to break some of their bad habits, no matter how hard I reinforce some of the concepts. Don't plug in numbers right away. If you have two unknowns, you need two equations (an idea they can recite, but do not comprehend). Sigh..

After my astronomy class tonight, two students came up to me to complain about another student who asks somewhat, um, well, ...let's just say she annoys them with the questions she asks in class. This is actually my least favorite problem to deal with; how do I tend to an individual student's needs without alienating the rest of the class? It's a fine line, and I need to figure out how to deal with this student in a positive way. Sigh.

Tonight Greg picked me up from work and took me to walk along the beach on the way home. D'aww... We saw a seal on the beach. First we noticed that a man was taking photos of something and then we realized it was a seal. We kept our distance, but we a bit alarmed how close the man was to the seal. Then he started bothering the seal, getting too close, making the seal move away. When we realized that we were rooting for the seal and carnage, we decided it was time to leave. Sigh.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

My calculator is dying

I've purchased new batteries. Didn't help. I've tried resetting the calculator. Nope. The bottom row of buttons are only functioning some of the time. I'm sure you're thinking that I should just get a new calculator, but you don't understand. This calculator and I have been together a long time. How long? I'll be turning 37 in December, and this calculator was a gift from my sister for my 18th birthday. Yup. Half my life. A B.S in astrophysics... a Ph.D. in physics... all with my trusty little HP 20S. :(

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Is that the neighbors?

My streak of fourteen years without an earthquake came to an end this morning. I must admit, I enjoyed the earthquake-free aspect of living in Phoenix. I guess it's balanced out by the natural disaster known as the months of May-October there, though.

Monday, September 03, 2007

A Few Musings

  • San Diego has two alternative radio stations. They both play a lot of Nine Inch Nails. Happy, happy...
  • The NPR station, however, sucks.
  • I've heard criticism of San Diego's food scene, but we're dining quite well.
  • I miss Four Peaks, though - at the end of my first week of work, I really wanted to celebrate there.
  • I should have done more work the past few days, but I'm a member of a union... working on Labor Day would have violated its spirit, right? Sigh.
  • This weekend makes me glad we picked an apartment with an A/C.
  • I just finished reading The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, andThe King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. Read them. They were excellent.
  • It's bizarre living in such a touristy area. We peeked out at the beach this morning after breakfast (yummy Belgian waffles) and decided to not brave the hordes, but rather return later. We have the option to return later! Every day is a day at the beach. ;)
  • As a corollary, despite judicious usage of suncreen, I have the worst farmer tan ever.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

First Month

We've now spent a full month in our new home. I've started my new job. I still feel somewhat out of place - not quite settled in the apartment, not quite settled in the office. The new students are good, though - eager, respectful, hard-working, responsive... I like them quite a bit so far. I don't know that they'll see the best of me this semester, as I figure out all the ins and outs of the new workplace. I'll try my best, though.

I continue to enjoy the beachy vibe. We've spent part of every day by the water. I guess that's what happens when you spend over a decade in the desert - you learn to treasure water. I especially like wading in the ocean. During my time at UCLA I was too busy to spend much time at the beach; I can only recall a handful of visits. I think I'm making up for it now. Not that I'm not busy, but I am scheduling in beach time. Very important.

I hope y'all are having a great holiday weekend!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


  • I have lived in San Diego for two weeks now and have spent part of every day near the water.
  • Classes don't start for another week and a half, but I have officially started the new job. The people are all very nice.
  • I can hear the fireworks at SeaWorld every night. We watched them once.
  • Upon leaving work yesterday, I realized that I had never driven home from the new workplace before. Still managed to find my way home.
  • Hot cocoa has medicinal properties, truly.
  • I miss how unabashedly spicy the food was at our favorite Phoenix restaurants.
  • I have not found It's-Its in San Diego, but I'm heading to L.A. this weekend. Hear me, Kirsten? A quest?
  • I think our apartment looks cleaner with all our belongings still in boxes. Perhaps this should be our new strategy.
  • My entire wardrobe consists of jeans, linen skirts, and t-shirts. I might need to upgrade for the new locale.
  • I should probably wipe the sand off my feet before I go to bed, eh?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Keeping me honest

Today marks my three-year anniversary of being on Weight Watchers. Unfortunately, this year being a Weight Watcher meant watching my weight go up - all my fault, not the program's. I have all sorts of excuses: traveling a lot, stress related to moving and looking for a job, eating out whilst the movers had our stuff, etc... The reality is I just haven't been as healthy as I should. But instead of berating myself too much, I'll just vow to get back on track and celebrate the weight I've managed to keep off.

August 2004

August 2007

From San Diego - A...

Click on the above image for some pix of our new locale! To a good year ahead!

Thursday, August 09, 2007


We have stuff! The movers finally came today, and I just spent the last hour or so unpacking clothes and linens and such. I've sat on our couch. I've made the bed. Yay for stuff! Although the last week and a half demonstrated that we can do without a lot of our stuff. Of course, we had the internet. I'm sooooooo glad that we had the cable company set up our box even though we didn't have the TV, because we would have gone crazy without the internets. It's good that the movers came today, though, because last night I found myself watching Snape fanvids on YouTube for entertainment.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Dinner Relaxation

I cooked dinner. Armed with one stockpot and our new microwave and toaster oven and parsley from our wee herb garden, I made us a meal. Our first home-cooked meal in a very long time. We, um, ate a lot tonight. And there are leftovers!

Still no delivery of our stuff from the movers. Although highly aggravating, this has also allowed us to spend more time relaxing and getting to know some of the different areas in San Diego. I mean, sure, I could have been unpacking today, but then would I have taken two walks along the beach? Had breakfast at a funky cafe? Explored a new coffee house? Hmm? So, in silver lining mode, I will enjoy the free time before life gets busy with unpacking and starting the new job. Hope they don't mind me looking casual, because all I have are jeans with me now!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Pizza, Beach, Donuts

Tonight featured pizza and a sunset stroll in Solana Beach, a very pleasant way to spend the evening. On the way back, we spotted a donut shop and stopped by to pick up dessert. There was a little boy there, speaking for his mother, and he wanted a dozen donuts. But he only had five dollars - that was enough for half a dozen, but the whole dozen was seven dollars. He looked forlorn and told us we could make our selections ahead of him. He was so sweet and polite and was obviously trying to determine his best options, so we offered him two dollars on our way out so he could buy the dozen. At first he refused, but I told him that I also really like donuts, so he thanked us. On the way out the door, I looked back and the shopkeeper was smiling at us while filling up a box with a dozen donuts. I hope the boy and his family enjoyed them.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


I'm slowly getting used to the idea that I don't live in Arizona anymore. We'd lived there so long and spent so much time away the past few months that I still kinda feel like I'm "out of town" for a little while. But it's sinking in.

Today we found a nifty coffee house in Point Loma. We also went to the new Trader Joes in Point Loma, which is lovely and BIG! We also ate fish tacos for lunch, went for a stroll on the beach, and put away some of the belongings that we brought with us. (Still waiting for the darned movers.) The day closed eating yummy Vietnamese food with Greg's Cousin Ellen (hi!) and her husband. All-in-all, a pleasant day here in the new home town.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Well, we're here. We have officially moved to San Diego, after fourteen years in Arizona. I had some very good experiences in Arizona - earned my Ph.D., met good people, ate great food, had a wonderful job, reveled in Flagstaff. But in all that time, I never considered myself to be an Arizonan. Born and raised in California, I've always considered myself a Californian. My time in Arizona had a "Californian living abroad" sort of vibe. But now I'm back, even though it's only Southern California (says the Northern California girl). Now I'll be able to argue both national and state politics with the family. Speaking of which, I leave the state for awhile, and people voted in Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor. I'll never forgive them!

Monday, July 30, 2007

West Coast Offense

The battle to move to the West Coast is ongoing. The move isn't going as smoothly as we'd hoped, but it's going. I guess most moves go this way... it's just been a long time since I'd made the attempt, and the game-plan has been disrupted.

I can think of few people who brought more high points to my youth than Bill Walsh. I remember "The Catch" and beating the Cowboys in the playoffs. I remember the defeat of the Dolphins (ha ha ha!) in the Super Bowl. I remember almost missing dinner in the dorms while watching the last of his Super Bowl victories in 1989. His influence on the NFL was immense, from the West Coast Offense to the advocation of the recruitment of minority coaches. He'll be missed.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Things I WILL miss about Phoenix - #4 & #5

Greg and I, as well as friends Bob and Laura, went to see Rush in concert last night. Rush is always a wonderful band to see live - incredibly tight, fun performance. Before the concert, we all met up at Four Peaks. Even though I'm not a beer drinker, this brew pub is one of the best places on the planet, in my opinion. Great food, great atmosphere, friendly folks - the vibe is always so comfortable and festive. I've been to many brew pubs in many places, and apparently there are many to explore in San Diego, but Four Peaks will be difficult to replace.

Another haunt that I will miss and will find hard to replace is Carlsbad Tavern. It was where we celebrated my Ph.D. with family, the first restaurant we went to after 9/11, the place where I get to watch Aaron eat habanero burgers. We went there last week, and I ordered a plate of blue corn enchiladas with black beans and rice... a plate of Southwestern love.

I think you can guess my dining choices on any return trips to the Phoenix area. ;)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Things I WILL miss about Phoenix - #3

Today we crossed the desert without incident and ended up in San Diego, where tomorrow we'll pick up the keys to our new apartment in preparation for the big move this weekend. I still can't believe the move is upon us. The summer is going by so fast!

As much as I look forward to living near the sea, I will miss our Tempe neighborhood. We have a great apartment (at least when it's clean). I can walk (but not during June-August) to the bank, gym, Starbucks, my massage therapist, and Whole Foods. We're in a little blue island in a sea of red. I have a seven minute commute to work. However, it does seem like we're leaving at the right time. The Whole Foods will be moving a few miles away. A Super WalMart will be moving in about a mile away (over the dead bodies of many of the residents, I'm sure). And many of our baristas have left in the past few months - Katie, to do humanitarian work in Africa, and Ricky, of the perfect hot chocolate, to devote more time to school. Things are changing, and our departure will be part of that change.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Don't Bother Me, I'm Reading.

We went to get ice cream tonight and enjoyed it while walking around a strip mall with a good independent bookstore. We decided to peek in at the Harry Potter festivities. With over three hours to go and before the official start of the party, the place was already a zoo. Muggles, witches, and wizards will wandering about. As many, if not more, adults than kids were in costume, including a brilliant Mad Eye Moody.

Finally ended up in line with over 500 other people at a different bookstore. Mostly adults, with a significant number being women with their long-suffering men in tow. (Thanks, dude!) Many were making purchases in addition to HP, including one man ahead of me buying an anthology that Greg is in. Yay! And now, after a two-hour odyssey in which I met former students and colleagues, I am home with my book. Time to read! Sleep is for the weak!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Solemn Vow

I will clean my new office more often than my old office. I will not let several semesters' worth of recycling pile up. I will be better about tidying up and organizing my paperwork. I will shred old student papers in a timely fashion. This, I vow.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Things I WILL miss about Phoenix - #2

I've been having problems with my neck since Spring 2003. It's much better than it used to be, in large part because I've been seeing a wonderful massage therapist once every few months. Oh, how I shall miss her! For example, last night she was so worried about the state of my neck that the hour-long massage turned into two hours, and I'm SO much better. Just a sweet, kind woman, incredibly attuned... I wish I could pack her up and take her to San Diego with me. If any of you are ever in the Phoenix area and want a great therapeutic massage, let me know and I'll give you her contact information. I know that I have one more scheduled before I leave, and I'll keep her number for the next time I'm in town.


I'm at one of my offices, sorting through old student papers. I can recycle everything but pages marked with names & grades...those I have to set aside to shred. Thus, this process takes awhile, but it's fun to come across old students. I remember most of them fondly, can even see where they sat in class, hear their voices... I found this comment on an end-of-semester exercise:

Have you always been this entertaining of a teacher or has the witty sarcasm and amazing energy come to you with time?

Oh, that's a keeper. :)

Sunday, July 15, 2007


I'm not sure what day it is anymore. Between the epic road-trip and the quick trips to San Diego and not having to be at work, I feel disconnected from time. Perhaps that explains how I ended up with two, if not three, meetings tomorrow...at three different locations! At least they're all in Arizona... I'm not that confused yet. Trust me, the heat reminds me where I am. :)

The dotted lines have been signed on all the new job-related paperwork and on the new lease, so this move will be happening in two weeks. Wow. I can't let that date slip away like all the other days. Well, I also have to keep July 21 in mind, too - Harry Potter! Better get packing, so I have that day to read!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Things I WILL Miss About Phoenix - #1

When it's almost 110 degrees again, it's easy to come up with things I won't miss about Phoenix - the relentless heat, the feeling of being trapped inside one's domicile for about 3 months out of the year, the increasing urban sprawl... However, as the move to San Diego grows ever closer, I can also think of many things I will miss about this area. For example, I will miss Harkins Theatres, a family-owned movie house chain that's been in operation since 1933. From seeing the Fugitive during our first week in town to camping out for Episode I to seeing Transformers just today on a truly large screen with a great sound system (to perfectly complement such a fun summer movie), Harkins has been an important part of our lives here. Dan Harkins, a true movie geek who makes sure all the important indie films and documentaries get into his theaters, has expanded the chain to outside of Arizona recently, with a few in the Riverside area of California and I wish him well. If he ever decides to move into the San Diego area, we'll spend our movie dollars there gladly.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Definitely Summer

The beginning of the week was quite productive, with finding an apartment in San Diego and dealing with some of the paperwork for the new job. Hopefully the rest of the week will see packing and cleaning and more progress towards the move. But before dealing with that, we had a lovely Fourth of July - banana walnut pancakes, Live Free or Die Hard, buffalo burgers courtesy of Greg, and a hot fudge sundae. Just a glorious summer day. That is, after Greg made me drink water and supplied me with cold compresses because it was 116 degrees today! In all our years here, I never acclimated to the summers, and don't dare say "at least it's a dry heat" to me. San Diego is sounding better and better. ;)

Friday, June 29, 2007

Seeing is Understanding

I started reading Annals of the Former World by John McPhee tonight. What a remarkable writer he is! The book starts off with a topographic map of the United States, and now it's really easy to understand why Illinois bothered me so much.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Road Ruminations

Total miles traveled = 6400 miles

I do not understand 65 mph speed limits. I understand even less those who obey 65 mph speed limits.

Radio across the Midwest goes like this: country, Christian, classic rock, Christian, country, Christian, classic rock, Christian, and (bizarrely) disco. I had the opportunity to see Greg bop to "Staying Alive" more than once.

When I would hold doors open for people in the Midwest, there was no "thank you" or any other acknowledgment.

I could spend a lot more time in the following places: Ozarks, Black Hills, Madison, the Twin Cities, and Boulder.

Next time, I will bring Tapatio.

Every time I visit a National Park, I want to become a Ranger. Do geology tours during the day and sky tours by night...that is the dream.

I just love, love, love this country. Every roadtrip brings me closer to the land, yet reminds me how much more there is to explore. Must plan another roadtrip. Where to next?

My pics are at: http://picasaweb.google.com/dustchick/Midwest2007

Greg's pics are at:

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Back Home Again

Woke up in Santa Fe, had brunch in Albuquerque, ate dinner in Flagstaff, wrapped myself in my robe and drank cocoa at home in Tempe. I had so much fun on this trip and I could keep going for at least another week. But, alas, reality intrudes. Can't wait to plan the next roadtrip, though.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


This morning, we bid a fond farewell to Boulder. It's an area I love and plan on returning to over and over again. But I couldn't be too bummed about leaving, because our destination for the day was Santa Fe. Santa Fe reminds me of San Francisco in the ease of finding good food. I'm now full of lovely spicy southwestern treats. Another aspect of Santa Fe that I enjoy is how it blends into the surrounding environment. You could almost pass it by without knowing the city is there. Normally I'm a proponent of building up instead of out, but Santa Fe seems to have controlled both. I also like the laidback vibe, and it's the only place in the world where Southwestern-themed decor doesn't piss me off.

Now back to the hotel, where a bubble bath, dessert, and pleasant company await me. Not a bad way to end the day.

Today - 420 miles

Tomorrow - traveling across the desert Southwest

Friday, June 22, 2007


Greg and I spent the day up at Rocky Mountain National Park. Having gone there three out of the last four years, I never tire of this beautiful park. I especially love being above the treeline, in the alpine tundra, which is an otherworldly environment. The awesome beauty leaves me feeling inspired and grounded at the same time. I'll post some images soon.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in Estes Park (if you're ever there, check out the view from the Starbucks) and the evening on Pearl Street in Boulder. Just a lovely, lovely day.

Today - 170 miles in RMNP

Tomorrow - back to the desert

Thursday, June 21, 2007


We started off the day at Mount Rushmore. I thought I'd find it to be goofy, but instead I found it beautiful. The surrounding Black Hills are also lovely. After seeing eastern South Dakota, I didn't think I'd warm up to the state, but the southwestern part of South Dakota is lovely, and I'd return again. We also stopped off at a site in Hot Springs, SD where there are mammoth specimans being excavated. That was wonderful. Then our route took us through Wyoming, into Colorado, and finally into Boulder. I will now think of Boulder as being the place where my Mexican food drought ended. I hadn't had Mexican food since June 6. All of you should be grateful I've had a burrito.

Today - 400 miles

Tomorrow - more Boulder

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bad Land

After a most pleasant time in the Twin Cities, Greg and I headed across South Dakota today. The eastern part is much too flat, but upon entering the Badlands, I felt like I'd returned to the West. Oh, don't get me wrong... the Midwest is pleasant enough and I enjoy the green fields and the wild rivers, but I miss the majesty of the West when I'm away. This evening finds us in Keystone, SD, one of the most awesome goofy Wild West towns ever. I've seen fake shootouts, had dinner in a saloon with flocked velvet wallpaper, and have strolled in fresh mountain air whilst eating an ice cream cone. Ahhh...contentment.

Today - 630 miles

Tomorrow - heading back out!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Toured the Cathedral and Summit Ave. in St. Paul with Greg this morning. I must admit, I am fascinated by the Cathedral. I do have an affinity for domed structures. We also took a stroll down Nicollet Mall and by the Mississippi and had a good meal at an Irish pub.

I'd only visited the Twin Cities once previously, for a AAS summer meeting a few years ago. Overall, I've decided I like the Twin Cities area quite a bit. I've apparently been lucky, though; I haven't been here in winter nor mosquito season. I'll have to come back in the winter some time to see just how bad it is, because this area in May/June is close to perfect.

Tomorrow - onward!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Sing with the Wind

Poked about Milwaukee a bit before heading out. Find a nice coffee house with good cocoa, pastries, and free wi-fi. Success! Then we got into the car and headed to the west, singing in the car. Eventually we ended up in Minneapolis, where we attending a reading at Dreamhaven Books, a great science fiction bookstore. It was nice to see Dave again, and I met Haddayr and Kristen and Alan and just generally had a lovely evening.

Today - 340 miles

Tomorrow - more exploring of the Twin Cities.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Today I picked up Greg at the Marblehead ferry. Hadn't seen him in a week! Sounds like he had a great time at the workshop, and I had a great time on my own, but I'm happy to have my travel companion back for the last leg of our roadtrip.

The drive to Milwaukee once again solidified my loathing of Illinois. Just can't help it. Now to do some laundry and get some sleep!

Today - 380 miles

Tomorrow - Minneapolis!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

On the Road Again

On Friday, I left St. Paul and headed to Iowa City. I stayed at a great hotel (thanks for the rec, SarahP!) and very much enjoyed exploring the town and the University of Iowa campus. I also made it to Prairie Lights, because I have to see the cool independent bookstore in a town. I would have liked to have seen more, but I wasn't feeling all that well and the humidity was irksome. Hope to get back there sometime.

Today I drove to Sandusky, Ohio, so that I can pick Greg up from his workshop tomorrow morning. I've decided that I do not like Illinois. Just don't. Too flat. More hills please. At least the toll roads in Indiana and Ohio are civilized - obtain a ticket at one end of the state and pay a varying rate depending upon when you exit. That's works. Stoopid Illinois.

I had a very tiny cup of soup and a very large hot fudge sundae for dinner. I had to give in after walking into the restaurant and seeing all the kids eating ice cream, having to crane their heads up to reach the level of the dish. So cute!

Friday - 305 miles

Saturday - 500 miles

Tomorrow - heading out again with Greg!

Friday, June 15, 2007

St. Paul, Part II

Thursday in St. Paul was another mellow day. Started off with breakfast and touring the Univ. of Minnesota campus with Philip. Then I drove around St. Paul some more - I really like the neighborhoods quite a bit. Much playing with the dopey doggie occured. Corresponded with colleagues and students. The day concluded with dinner and a walk along the river with Philip and his new girlfriend, whom I liked quite a bit. She bought me excellent chocolate ice cream, so we're friends for life. ;)

My time here in St. Paul was relaxing...just what I needed...and that was thanks to Philip. I have no clue how we became friends, but I'm grateful for him.

In a few minutes...back on the road! Yay!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

St. Paul, Part I

Let's see...I explored a little bit of St. Paul on Wednesday. Philip lives in a good neighborhood with lovely homes and access to many stores, so I poked around there a bit. I also went to the Science Museum of Minnesota. There were a lot of summer camps touring the exhibits, and it was interesting to observe the kids and what demos they were drawn to from a science educator's point of view. They loved all the medical stuff - getting their pulse and blood pressure, etc... Enjoyed the weather demos. Very few students were doing any of the physics experiments, many of which were just too darned wordy. I also took a brief walk along the river before the humidity tried to kill me and spent the rest of the afternoon working (hey, it isn't vacation without work) and playing with the dopey doggy. Wednesday concluded with eating fried cheese and a burger at the Mall of America with Philip. Oof. There was also an awesome Lego display...I could have spent so much money. But, no.

Thursday...still stationary. After that meal, I'd have to be!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Reference points

Tuesday started off with me walking around downtown Madison a bit more. I was getting really annoyed with the whole "Capitol Loop East" vs "West", etc... until I finally found a map that showed that these designations were NOT exactly aligned with the true cardinal directions. The names didn't match the sky! I really felt, um, astronomical.

After lunch I hopped in the car and headed towards St. Paul. I listened to ESPN Radio most of the way because the NPR stations have zero range and I didn't feel like listening to music. Strange, huh? Met up with much beloved Philip for dinner outside in the lovely evening weather. Now I'm in a truly midwestern house - two stories, plus a basement, plus a detached garage - with Philip's dog sleeping at my feet. Not a bad way to spend a Tuesday.

Today just a mere 270 miles covered. Next few days, I'll be holding fort here, experiencing why us folks in the southwest like to declaim "at least it's a dry heat."

Monday, June 11, 2007


Today started off with the best chocolate croissant of my life. Then much walking, sunshine, reading, eating and some working ensued. I really like Madison and am very glad I spent the day here. I'll post some pics at the end of the roadtrip - it's a lovely town and let's just say the Student Union at UW-Madison has a nice view.

Tomorrow...on the road again.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Greg ditched me to hang out with his writer buddies, so I've fled Ohio in a westerly direction. I saw so much roadkill driving from Columbus to Madison that it was similar to plague scenes from movies. (I'm particularly reminded of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.) Northern Indiana and Illinois are very flat...too flat. And driving through Chicago was a pain, adding about an hour to my journey. I wish they would let you buy a "turista pass" at the beginning of the tollway so there aren't so many stops. Or that they would tell you the amount of the next toll in advance. I was getting more than a little irritated by the time I finally entered Wisconsin - yay, a new state for me! Then the landscape became pretty with gently rolling hills again. I like how Madison is completely invisible from the interstate when approaching from the east. And such a lovely city!

500 miles today. I look forward to exploring Madison tomorrow.

Speaking of roadkill, how about those Cleveland Cavaliers?

Saturday, June 09, 2007


We spent a pleasant morning exploring Columbus. Seems to be a nice town. This afternoon and evening featured a cookout (thanks, Paul and Stacy) and a book-signing, surrounded by many interesting writerly folk. (I finally got to meet SarahP in person!) Tomorrow, I'm back on the road with more exploring ahead, but it was good to be in Columbus today.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Fourth State

This morning, I veered across two lanes of traffic upon sighting a 24-hr Starbucks just outside of St. Louis. I hadn't had a hot chocolate since Monday! We'd only seen (emphasis on seen) one Starbucks since Oklahoma City - that's about 500 miles! How do these people deal? ;)

Missouri possesses the most pleasant natural landscape I've seen so far, but St. Louis itself looked very appealing from the road. Old brick buildings, the Mississippi, sunlight gleaming off the Arch. The ride through Illinois, Indiana, and into Ohio was lovely, too. I have to say, though, the official Largest Cross in the Western Hemisphere in Effigham, IL, doesn't look nearly as impressive as the one in Texas. What was impressive? Steak N Shake. That could be addicting if closer to home.

530 miles today. Stationary tomorrow, to be social.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


Don't think I saw a single tumbleweed today, but I did see the largest cross in the Western hemisphere. (Only in Texas, ya know.) I also received a free soda from a clerk in Oklahoma, which partially offset the amount of tolls racked up just driving across the state. In Missouri, I travelled along a stretch of road labelled the Edwin P. Hubble memorial highway, so I satisfied my geek quota for the day. Missouri is a very lovely state, but the people here don't seem very happy. Hmm... The Ozarks also confuse me. Beautiful, but the tallest point is only about 1700 ft about sea level. The hike I did in Flagstaff recently had an elevation difference of about 2300 ft. Um... that's just wrong.

650 miles today - whee! More tomorrow - yay!

(edit: apparently that cross is now just the second-largest...I guess I'll leave seeing the largest for tomorrow.)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


How windy was it in the Southwest today? Well, I saw a jack-knifed truck block I-40W (hope nobody was hurt) and a billboard fall down. While gassing up, sandy bits of New Mexico impaled me. And the tumbleweeds...so many tumbleweeds...

First 760 miles are done. More tomorrow! Yay!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Useful and sweet

Found a nifty option on the NPR site tonight - NPR Road Trip. This will be useful this week.

Don't know if this is useful or not, but it is intriguing - Vosges Bacon Chocolate Bar. I don't quite know how I feel about that, but I'd try a sample. I mean, it's two of my basic food groups united in one item!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Peace Challenge

I had a lovely weekend in Flagstaff. Gorgeous weather, tasty food, good hiking...could not have asked for better.

I did a mellow hike on Friday, going partway up the Oldham Trail out of Buffalo Park. This hike was all about being at peace, just strolling along with my iPod on. Here are some pics (wasn't it a lovely day?):

Saturday's hike was all about challenging myself. It's a popular hike - the Elden Lookout Trail - but it is a more strenuous hike than I've ever done all by myself. I passed up several groups who turned around without making it to the top. At a few points, I thought about turning around myself, but saw a man bounding down from the summit with a todder on his shoulders as well as a woman wearing a leg brace, so I figured I could make it to the summit. Near the summit, I even ran into a group of former students. They're all over the place! Here is an image from this hike (look at how little Flagstaff looks from up there!):

On a very much related note, I have the best massage therapist in the world. My quads are no longer screaming profane things at me.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Let the weekend begin

My day started off very early, to take my favorite writer to the airport. That was followed by running the dishwasher, doing laundry, doing some work, going to the bank, and going to the grocery store, interspersed with emails with much beloved and much harassed Philip. Later I met up with my Padawan, so that I could present him with his well-deserved lightsaber. Then he, Carl, and I went to the student union for beverages and a chocolate chip cookie so large that we split it three ways. Generous of me to share, I know.

And now I'm in Flagstaff, for a few days of cool air, hiking, and yummy food. I have chocolate awaiting me, as well as a Nine Inch Nails concert DVD, the first two seasons of Battlestar Galactica, and Fight Club. Let the weekend begin.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

No Quarantine!

Had a surreal start to the day. I received a phone call from the County Health Dept. It seems that one of the international students at the science fair last week had the measles. I had to provide proof of immunization or face the possibility of being quarantined. Strangely enough, in this mess I call home, I found documentation and faxed it in. No quarantine for me! Perhaps the oddest thing about this was how cheery the Health Dept. worker sounded on the phone. "Fax in documentation or come in for blood work or face quarantine....ha ha ha ha!" Really, a nice lady, but still...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Read through my course evaluations for the physics class at the university this past semester. Mostly positive. Got some of the typical "make the class easier" comments. A few really amused me in response to "What did you like LEAST about the class?":

Office hours held before class encourage doing homework at the last minute.

Critical thinking on the exams.

Having to justify my answers on the exams.

Awww...poor kids. ;)

Monday, May 21, 2007


I've spent the past few days reading. First, I read Greg's just-completed novel, which I enjoyed very much. Then I read a few chapters from a graduate student's thesis-in-progress; nothing like a little magnetohydrodynamics to get the blood flowing. ;) Ah, summer break...I do enjoy having time to read.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Red or Green? Yes

Mmmm...now this is a breakfast burrito - the egg and potato burrito, with red and green chile, from Perea's Authentic New Mexican Restaurant in Albuquerque:

Monday, May 14, 2007

Green Chile

Drove across the Southwest with Carl today. We're now in Albuquerque to be judges at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. What does one do after traversing the Southwest? You go here and order the Frontier Burrito: beef, beans, green chile inside, w/green chile stew on top & flour tortillas


Moving Along

Last Friday not only marked the end of the semester, but it marked the end of my time at my community college. I've accepted a similar position at a community college in San Diego, and we'll be moving at the end of July. This move will bring us closer to family and friends. Honestly, we never anticipated being in Arizona as long as we have. My love of my work is what kept us here. Leaving my current college is difficult; it's a great school with wonderful colleagues and tremendous students. I think I've built a strong program there and hope it will continue to thrive. My students have reacted to my departure with hugs and tears and generally just making me feel loved and appreciated. I hope that they understand that I love and appreciate them, too.

This summer will be crazy busy, with time for fun, too, I hope! Then on to a new job and a new city to explore. I'm looking forward to both!

Saturday, May 12, 2007


Done. Finally done. All the grading, all the paperwork...done.

My last duty for the semester was to attend graduation at the community college last night. Of course, it was the hottest day of the year so far (106 degrees!) and the ceremony was outside, but it was worth it to see all the happy faces. A couple of stories:

  • I had an extremely shy student this past year in astronomy. So shy she could barely make eye contact with me and very seldom spoke to other students. Good student, though, but hard to draw out. You should have seen her at graduation last night - beautiful bright smile. She looked so happy! Congrats, Heather!
  • One of the most amazing moments at graduation is when those graduates who are the first in their family to earn a post-secondary degree are asked to stand. About 50% of the students stand up, and I noticed one of my best students from this semester amongst them. During the recessional out of the ceremony, I saw his folks taking pictures of him, all so happy. Congrats, Justin!

I was too busy to get to the graduation ceremony at the university, which meant that I missed the graduation of two of my former students. A few more stories for you:

  • Eight years ago, during my year as an adjunct faculty, I had a student who was afraid of science and math. She came back the next year, though, for the second semester of astronomy, and she made it through, quite well I must add. We've kept in touch over the years, through some rough times for her, but I remember how happy she looked at her community college graduation. I can only imagine how she must have been glowing yesterday, receiving her Bachelors! Congrats, Sarah!
  • And now on to my Padawan. First he battled with the question, engineering or physics? The choice was obvious to all rational people, and he soon figured it out, too. ;) Yesterday, he graduated with a B.S. in Physics and will be starting at graduate school at Brown at the end of this month to do research in dark matter physics! The Dark Side lured him and won! I couldn't be more proud. I know he'll do great! Congrats, Carlos!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Grading levity

A student just referred to my "piercing, intimidating glare" in an email. Hee hee hee. I do so appreciate sarcasm.

Almost there!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Ah, spell-check

A student's paper included the term "constipations" in place of "constellations." Nothing like an immature giggle-fit to wake me up while grading.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


I graded about 100 physics exams yesterday. I have graded 110 physics essays today, with more to come. If it weren't for bbq from Greg and hot chocolate, my brain would be completely mush.

I don't care that the Suns lost today...Steve Nash is the MVP. Nowitski scores EIGHT points in a game 7, whereas Nash is forced to leave a game with blood gushing from his nose after scoring over 30 pts. What a contrast!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Are you okay? Your eyes! You look terrible!"


What's her name again...I can never remember...you know, the thin astronomer? Uh, I mean, the other thin astronomer?


Saturday, April 28, 2007

It's that time

Just writing my to-do list here. Move along, move along.

  • write 1 physics final
  • write 3 astronomy lecture finals
  • write 5 astronomy lab finals
  • write 2 astronomy lab quizzes
  • grade astronomy papers
  • grade physics papers

That should keep me busy for the next few hours. Whee!

Sunday, April 22, 2007


This weekend has gone by in a blur. How did it get to be Sunday night already? Oh yeah, this is where the time went:


  • Corresponded with many students.
  • Corresponded with TAs.
  • Checked physics essays for cheating - found one. Not a good move on his part.
  • Graded many astronomy essays.
  • Wrote two letters of rec.
  • Wrote two astronomy quizzes.
  • Corresponded with part-time faculty.


  • Did grocery shopping.
  • Did some much needed recycling.
  • Went to the bank.


  • Spent a leisurely breakfast tormenting much beloved Philip.
  • Spent an hour dancing around the apartment with my iPod.
  • Dinner outside at the brewpub with my dear Greg.
  • Suns beat the Lakers!
  • Sat outside in the stunningly lovely weather with Greg while he grilled tri-tip and chicken, making the best dinner ever. Mmm...I shall call him the Grillmaster now. Mmm...

Hope y'all had a good weekend!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Sad Questions (long)

This week was sad, busy, and stressful. For the first few days of the week, the students were subdued. I don't know that any single action could have prevented the tragedy at Virginia Tech. I do know that letting the students bear arms in the classroom is not a solution. My arguments?

  • I have students show up to class drunk.
  • I have students who use calculators to multiply by 1.

One of the biggest problems facing higher education today is dealing with students with mental health issues. Do we expect instructors, who are untrained in this matter, to pinpoint problems? Differentiate between the blues and clinical depression? I have no answers, but anecdotes:

  • I wrote an essay in high school that my English instructor praised highly, but also let me know that I should feel free to talk to her about anything and everything. It was a much appreciated offer, but I didn't take her up on it. I am eternally grateful she did not contact my parents, nor do I think the content warranted such attention. Nowadays? At least parental contact, I'm sure, and that would have made matters much worse for me. The catharsis of writing was what I needed.
  • Two very important men in my life, Greg and Aaron, would have been detained. Kirsten and I would have been single. Splatterpunk, anyone?
  • I had a student once who, quite frankly, gave me the creeps upon our first meeting. My gut told me he had issues, but my Ph.D. in physics doesn't make me qualified to make such diagnoses. I had to treat him just like any other student. I started to notice strange behavior in class on his part, particularly towards young women. Then he even appeared to follow a girl when she finished her lab. I made eye contact with another student, who said to me, "Did you see what I just did?" I went into the hallway and called him back in. For a few classes after, I would distract him with discussion while the last girls left the classroom, because his, um, interest in them was overt. I went to the chair of my department, who is amazing, and he said that he'd have a word with this student with security present. The student didn't show up that day, though, and never showed up to my class again. The chair still contacted his family, who said that the young man had been hospitalized and had problems that were controllable with medication. The next year, he showed up in somebody else's astronomy class at our satellite campus. He made one girl so uncomfortable that she told the instructor, who contacted me. Once again, the chair and I started the mandated steps - first warning, then removal if behavior continues. However, this did not go smoothly. The dean who showed up to monitor this class and make the warning told the instructor after class, "You just don't understand this student's culture." Um, does his cultural background explain why he followed the instructor out to his car yelling threats immediately following the warning? We eventually succeeded in having him removed, but not fast enough. He actually touched the leg of that female student in class, and she withdrew before we finished all of the steps to get him removed. I still have regrets that the system didn't work fast enough, and my chair and I fought to at least have the young woman's registration fees refunded for that class.
  • Many students have voluntarily revealed to me that they are on medications - depression, social anxiety, bipolar disorder. I would hazard a guess that as many as 50% of my students in some semesters have been under mental health treatment. Is it my duty to ask them if they are taking their meds? Is it the college's responsibility to monitor this? Force them to take the meds?

So many questions, so few answers...so much sadness.

Jamie Bishop was dear to friends of mine. The Jamie Bishop and Jocelyne Couture-Nowak Scholarships will be awarded annually to German and French majors at Virginia Tech. Donations may be made payable to the Virginia Tech Foundation for the Jamie Bishop Scholarship (for German Majors) or the Jocelyne Couture-Nowak Scholarship (for French majors):

Virginia Tech Foundation
University Development
902 Prices Fork Road
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Working things out

Today would have been my father's seventy-fourth birthday. He died in August 1999. It seemed to be a quick death from our perspective, but for the amount of pain he was in, it was agonizingly slow. I regret that I cut short our last conversation - he was in quite a bit of pain, so I told him I'd catch him the following week, but there was no following week.

A colleague has been diagnosed with Pick's Disease. He's only in his fifties. Many of us have been quite affected by this news, putting together all the little symptoms we just didn't recognize, much the same way he suddenly doesn't recognize us. I wonder if he understands that many of us appreciated him?

I have two dear friends making big life decisions, and they both asked me for advice, which I did my best to give them. I think I gave good advice. However, in doing so, I realize how I don't follow that advice. Things that seem so clear in hindsight or from the outside are so blurry in the moment. I guess I'm just dwelling on all of this because there are changes ahead, and I'm faced with uncertainty and situations out of my control. I'm feeling on edge and I'm hoping the choices I've made are the right ones. I can certainly think of things I should have done and things I should have said, but never did.

Sometimes it just feels better to write things down.

It rained tonight, unexpectedly. What a gift.

And there's always Saturn, from Cassini

Monday, April 09, 2007

Good thing I was drinking cocoa...

...while grading a paper from a student. First of all, he referred to "astronomy" as "astrology". Secondly, his summary of a newspaper article derided the idea of being able to infer a previous collision between Kuiper Belt objects as being "too great for a reasonable person to believe" and that humans in the current era couldn't possibly have the ability to make such a statement. In fact, he extols his own skepticism and that he doesn't believe everything he reads. It distresses me, because putting this opinion together with his body language in lecture, I think he's been approaching the whole course this way. Don't get me wrong: I encourage my students to call me out when they think the ideas are too wacky to be possible. It's especially crucial in astronomy. I'm always careful to point out where the error bars are large or what assumptions underlie an idea. The goal of this course is to get enough of a fundamental basis so that you can be a "reasonable" person. To read this with only one month left in the course leaves me feeling a little pointless. Sigh.

It's all clear now

This explains that 98/60 at my last doctor's visit.

Cocoa calms blood pressure.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Hack, Wheeze

Well, the sore throat and the earache are gone, but the plague of snot continues. I can't even taste my cocoa! I did not finish anything approaching the amount of work I should have done this weekend. It's going to be a busy week, but then again, I am at the "one month to go" mark of the semester, so busy is the norm til the end.

But for all that, the weekend was pleasant and mellow. Who can complain about a weekend that involved eating donuts at the park at night? Hope y'all had a good weekend.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Year Zero

Nine Inch Nails has posted their new album Year Zero in its entirety in a streaming format on the website. Very different from previous work, political commentary wrapped in a story arc throughout the album. Noisy in the beginning, beautiful in the end. (Would somebody please convince Trent to do a piano tour? Please?) And if you haven't explored the associated ARG yet, here are a few sites to look at:



End of Public Service Announcment.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

One of those days

Today I'm very tired. I think I got through last week on sheer adrenaline, but my supply gave out last night. I was already feeling poorly when I graded exams that made me feel even worse. I mean, I'm not having an awful day, but a tired and cranky day? Oh, definitely. So I will attempt to dwell on beauty and otters and It's-Its and weekending.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Simple Life

One of my goal's for yesterday was accomplished - I had an It's It. You know how most things from your youth aren't as good when you're an adult? These are still as good as I remember. Mmm...

Goal for today: see an otter.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

So pretty

Saturn makes my job easy - Rhea and Saturn, from Cassini

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Monday was the first day back from Spring Break. My first class had just started when one of the students walked in. Before Spring Break, and for at least the year I've known him, he had a long blond ponytail. But this day, his hair was much shorter, and it looked great. The class watched his progress as he walked to his usual seat in the front of the class. One girl's jaw dropped. (And if you're reading this, no, I will not tell you who it was.) From my point of view, it looked like one of those slo-mo scenes out of a high school movie. Just awesome.

On Tuesday I handed back the physics exam I was fretting about last week. It had the lowest average of any exam I've ever given, but also had a lot of high scores. An inverse Bell curve. I was still debating what to say to the class when one of my students came to my office asking if he could make an announcement about a new honors society. I handed his exam to him, telling him that he had the only perfect paper. "Really?" he asked. "Yeah." "But this exam was so easy. Maybe I shouldn't announce the honors society to this class." Between his comments and a helpful talk I'd had with Greg, I felt so relieved. Then I went into the classroom and told them they had three more exams to get their acts together.

On Wednesday, a former student (in fact, the one I ran into at a NIN mosh pit) dropped by my office. We had a nice long chat. He's at one of the state universities now and he's a physics & astronomy major! Yay!

Thursday was a 15-hour day. Started at 8:30 am, ended around 11:30 pm. I had to substitute for one of my AST TAs, so I spent the evening at the university. I must say, I enjoyed eating dinner in the student union, watching the NCAA tournament with all the other folks on campus. And I had a chance to talk to my Padawan about his grad school decision - Brown or UCLA. I think UCLA is the better choice, but this Bruin might be a little biased.

My week ended with an email from a former student, because the following reminded him of me. It does suspiciously sound like one of my lectures. :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I can't draw

I just had to give in to the meme floating around. First of all, I can't draw by hand, and on the computer, it's just that much worse. But I was curious to see what it would say if I did the drawing I remember always doing as a kid. Here goes:

drawing personality

What does your drawing say about YOU?

Your friends and associates should generally find you a dependable and trustworthy person.
You are a thoughtful and cautious person. You like to think about your method, seeking to pursue your goal in the most effective way.
You like following the rules and being objective. You are precise and meticulous, and like to evaluate decisions before making them.
You have a sunny, cheerful disposition.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

One Question, One Meme

After grading physics exams, a question came to me: do I kill them or myself? Sigh.

A meme, from EssentialSaltes - Spell Your User Name in Songs. I choose Nine Inch Nails songs, of course:

Dead Souls
Underneath It All
Terrible Lie
Help Me, I am in Hell
I Do Not Want This
Kinda I Want To

Despite the tone of the above, I've had mexican food, cocoa and chocolate cake today, so I'm quite chipper.

Friday, March 16, 2007

King and Queen

I've seen two movies this week - two! There are some years when I don't see that many. (I know. I suck. I am out of touch with mainstream culture.) I enjoyed both movies, but in very different ways.

The first movie I saw was 300. The good: the movie looked absolutely gorgeous. I was also impressed with the pacing, considering the movie was all action. The not-so-good: the depiction of the Persians...um...there could have been much better judgment employed there. Also not a very good representation of women in Spartan culture. Am I the only one who wanted to scream "Just say Thermopylae!"? And am I the only person who thinks chocolate instead of king when hearing the name Leonidas?

The second movie I saw was The Queen. Better late than never, that's what I say. This was a great movie, with amazing performances not only by Helen Mirren, but also by Michael Sheen, who played Tony Blair. I am not much interested in celebrity and seldom have sympathy for celebrities, who know the life they choose. But to be born into a life of scrutiny, all duty and no time for self? It is not a life I would choose for myself. I found this movie to be an insightful love-letter to the Queen, while also showing the royal family at its weakest.

Hmm...maybe I should try to make it three movies this week. Hmm...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007



  • Went to the gym.
  • Graded at the coffee house.
  • Did laundry.


Good day!

Monday, March 12, 2007


We had a good weekend in Los Angeles. We spent some time down at the beach with the folks. We attended a friend's 40th birthday bash. We managed to grab some time with Kirsten and Aaron and ran into a bunch of friends experiencing the Pinkberry phenomenon. (Hi, Riz!)

I also indulged in a lot of pub food this weekend.

  • Friday - Irish pub - potato chowder
  • Saturday - British pub - Cornish pasty and chips
  • Sunday - German Tavern - sausage and spaetzle

Tasty fare, all, but if I hadn't eaten chorizo and eggs on Sunday morning, I'd be insane. I mean, really, how many days can I go without spicy food and tortillas? None of you want me to find out.

Now I'm back home, where there is plenty of work to be done over the rest of Spring Break, but I'm aiming for plenty of play, too.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Spring Break!

I was taking a poll of the other faculty to see how many of my 45 students would show up to my Friday 1pm AST class on the Friday before Spring Break. The popular consensus was 15 students. I had guessed 22. The result: 28 students showed up! Love my students!

Now I'm in a coffee house in Santa Monica, about to read a friend's script...hoping to hang out with friends later...enjoying the first day of Spring Break! Woo!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Good Test

I'm giving a physics exam to the pre-meds at the university right now. I allow students to listen to headphones, if they let me hear what they are listening to. I cannot tell you how much Christian crap I've had to listen to as a result. One person has walked out, writing only that their time could be better spent elsewhere. If I took a picture of the class right now, you'd see one chick totally ready to burst into tears. Do I write a good exam or what?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Lemons, Lemonade

Today sucked. Sucked on many levels. Sucked in many ways. Sucked, sucked, sucked. My mood is not pleasant, so I shall endeavor to overcome that by noting the following:

  • New NIN songs are available at http://www.myspace.com/nin.
  • One of my university students came over to the community college for two hours of additional help for the exam this week.
  • Even though I was sorry that Greg didn't feel well enough to go to his martial arts class, it was nice to spend the evening on the couch together.
  • Many good folks have good things happening to them, much deserved!

Alright, I feel a little better.

Monday, March 05, 2007

I adore y'all, but...

...if I request that you start treating your TA with more respect, don't say that my email left you feeling "violated."

...please don't show up to class reeking of marijuana.

...don't blame every mistake you make on how the lab is written as opposed to your poor reading comprehension skills.

Thank you for your attention.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Little Things

It's been a pleasant weekend. There was pizza, cake, cookies, and cocoa. There was time at the gym and time on the couch. Last night at the coffee house, I didn't do work, but instead wrote a few pages of fiction. Today, after a walk to the grocery store in the gorgeous weather, I cooked a tasty and satisfying meal. Yes, I am fairly content right now.

I hope y'all had a nice weekend as well!

Friday, March 02, 2007


After posting a few words in defense of college kids, I was rewarded this morning by a student showing up mindboggling shitfaced drunk to my 9 am class.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

For Aaron, Some Hope

Aaron recently linked to the story about how today's college students are more narcissitic than their predecessors. As a college teacher, I have witnessed this behavior in the classroom: reluctance to do homework, expecting As, gasping in horror when test averages fall below 85%... It isn't that they are bad kids, but many of them are B students who think they're A students and have never been assessed an honest grade in their lives.

As a counterpoint to this article, I'd like to relate a story from my office hours today. A student came in for help on physics homework. He's really good and capable, so he was just fine-tuning his understanding. Once we finished up, he asked me a question about the lab course, which I'm not affiliated with. He said, "Why are the labs so easy?" "Easy?" "Yeah, I mean, we go in, take our data, and plug the numbers into the equations. I just think we should have to do more." This young man plans on going into the Air Force and med school, so he can be an astronaut.

It isn't that there aren't good students, with drive and ambition and work ethic. It's just that the others are, well, narcissistic, and just demand more of our attention.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I am Jack's inner teenage boy

I worked from 9 am to 10 pm today. Greg, although feeling poorly, went to several stores so that I could come home to the new NIN concert DVD that was released today. (Thanks, dude!) Of course, that meant I had to watch it before I could try to go to sleep. Not exactly sleep-inducing. And then I checked my email to find out that one of my TAs is dealing with a belligerent student. Oooohhh...sweet anger... One of these days I'll let my alter-ego start that soap business.

Crap. I have to teach soon.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Things They Say

Some of the typical mnemonics for remembering the spectral sequence of stars are "Oh Be A Fine Girl, Kiss Me" and "Overseas Broadcast Alert Flash, Godzilla Kills Mothra." I always ask students to come up with some of their own, and this is what I got:

Oh Boy, Astronomy Fun? Geez, you're Killing Me

O Baby Aiden Forever Giving Kim Migraines

Orbiting Bodies Are Far Greater Killing Machines

Old Bush And Family, God's Killing Machines

I love my students.

Other things they say:

Your lectures don't make me want to stick needles in my eyes. - Thank you.

I like to talk to you about these things because I don't have many friends. - Awww...this was after a science vs. religion conversation with a young man who is perfectly presentable and intelligent. Made me a little sad.

That's just how I bump. - This was a response to me teasing a student about how loud his music was blaring through his headphones.

I've spent many a long night alone with my telescope. - I had to respond to that with a straight face to distract this young male student from the fact that one of the other lab groups burst into hysterics when overhearing that comment.

Gotta love 'em!

Friday, February 23, 2007


Last week marked our seventeenth anniversary. Tonight we went out for a celebratory dinner. We decided we wanted a unique Arizona experience, so we went to Lon's at the Hermosa, a restaurant set in an old hacienda. When we arrived at our table, there were a dozen long-stemmed pale pink roses waiting for me. Just lovely. We had a leisurely meal with appetizers, salads, entrees, dessert...mmm.... The restaurant itself is beautiful, the food was wonderful, the staff was competent, but not stuffy, and of course, the company was great. Just a perfect way to celebrate 17 years.

Thanks for putting up with me for so long, Greg.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Sunlight and Shadow

This has been a busy weekend, but so fun that I'm sad it's over. Philip was in from St. Paul. It had been over a year since I'd seen him, so I enjoyed sharing a few meals with him very much. Kirsten and Aaron drove in from Los Angeles. It's always great to see them! We went on a couple of day trips - to the Boyce Arboretum (and a scary bar on the way back), and also up to Flagstaff, where we went to Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monument. I miss all you guys already!

I can't head up to Northern Arizona without a few lame attempts at capturing the natural beauty. I posted a few photos to my Flickr stream, but I thought I'd post a few here, too.

Snow and lava flows at Sunset Crater:

Wupatki Pueblo at sunset:

Sunlight and shadow in the Painted Desert: