Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Aiming high?

Overheard while walking across campus: I took 17 units last semester, and I only failed one class!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The view from here

Now that the weather around the country has more or less gotten back to normal, I feel less guilty about posting this image of my neighborhood that I took last weekend:

From Jan 2009

Those islands are in Mexico, by the way.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Pigs are flyin'

Hell has frozen over. The end is nigh... The Arizona Cardinals are going to the Super Bowl.

(photo from CNNSI)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Review of Books - 2008

Due to sudoku and Battlestar Galactica obsessions, I only read thirty books in 2008. The quality of the books was good, I'm happy to report.

In terms of non-fiction, two books stand out:

  • Omnivore's Dilemma - Michael Pollan - This book makes me want to grow all my food. Fascinating insight into the food industry and how much corn we eat with every bite.

  • The Varieties of Scientific Experience - Carl Sagan - This is a collection of lectures that Sagan gave on natural theology, to understand god without invoking the miraculous. A wonderful book, reminding me of all the reasons why astronomers were snapping up these Sagan posters at AAS last week.

    The generation of astronomers who belittled Sagan as a "popularizer" is being replaced by those of us astronomers who exist because of him. He is still so missed.

Two of my favorite books of the year are debut novels by good folks I'm happy to know:

  • The Magic Thief - Sarah Prineas - Aimed at middle-grade readers, this story is engaging and fun. A warning, though - do not read while hungry, or you'll end up making the biscuit recipe in the back of the book, just like I did. Yum!

  • Superpowers - David Schwartz - College kids develop superpowers and deal with the consequences. This book manages to be both fun and poignant.

I have a few more books to recommend:

  • Life As We Knew It - Susan Beth Pfeffer - This book is aimed at a YA audience, and it's all about the end of the world. I appreciated that the author managed to pull off a satisfying ending, well within the scope of the protagonist.
  • The Necessary Beggar and Shelter - Susan Palwick - These two unrelated books are engaging and possess deep emotional power. The first is more magical, the second is more science fictional... they've both helped Palwick become a must-read author for me. More books, please!

  • The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves - M.T. Anderson - The language of this book is so luxurious I just wanna roll around naked in it. Not an appropriate response to what is supposedly a YA book, I know, but the word-for-word prose is just stunning. Anderson has crafted an amazing look at the plight of slaves during the Revolutionary War, and there is as much, if not more, there for adults to read, just like all of Anderson's books.

Happy reading in 2009! (Doh, new BSG is on in two hours!)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Space Stuff

I very much enjoyed my time at the AAS meeting last week. I used up my social quota for the year, having conversations with: Judit, Benjamin, David, Victor, Carl, Greg, Ravi, Russell, Seth, Mike, Robert, Ryan, Eli, Steve, Sumner, Rogier, Hwi, Amber, Beatrice, Hu, Paul, Rolf, Matt, Melissa, Joe, Violet, Fred, Eric, Anthony, Jason, other Lisa, other Steve, Scott, Tyler, Kristin, Kaz, Nimish, other folks at the education workshop, among others. Besides hanging out with folks, other highlights included:

All in all, not a bad way to start the year!

Sunday, January 04, 2009


I spent the past two days in an intensive workshop about training teachers. It was a fascinating way to look at our own methods of instruction in our classes. I got a lot out of the experience and enjoyed collaborating with new folks. Now, though, the real conference begins. The Winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society kicked off tonight, and there is a lot on the schedule this week. Given that the meeting is in Long Beach, I'm not so much tempted to play hooky. ;)

Friday, January 02, 2009

RIP Senator Pell

Retired Senator Claiborne Pell died yesterday. I just wanted to pay my respects to this man, who helped me and so many others go to college. My students are usually surprised to hear that I worked my way through college, with help from scholarships, loans, and grants, such as Pell grants. I think students expect their professors to have had it easier than they do. Senator Pell made it easier for a lot of us.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

International Year of Astronomy

The International Astronomical Union and UNESCO have designated 2009 to be the International Year of Astronomy. You can find out information about projects celebrating astronomy at the official IYA website: For those of you who enjoy podcasts, check out the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast, which you can subscribe to via iTunes or RSS feed. If you're feeling social, here are the Facebook group and Twitter feed.

Although every year is a Year of Astronomy for me, I'm trying to think of an event or two that I might get approved for my campus. But most importantly for all of you, take some time in 2009 to look up at the sky and appreciate the universe.