Sunday, June 28, 2009

Back from the desert

I greatly enjoyed my week in Arizona, hanging out with friends and eating at old favorites and hiking amongst the beautiful outdoors. Here's one of my favorite photos from a hike in Sedona:

From Southwest Trip - June 2009

See whole album here:

Southwest Trip - June 2009

It's like looking at a different world, the beauty is so grand and exotic. One of these days I'll have to get back there when it isn't summer, because I had to keep my hikes short! It's good to be home, but part of me already wants to be on the road (and in my hiking shoes) again.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Things I Miss

  • Exceptional colleagues.
  • Good friends.
  • Red rock country.
  • Best Starbucks ever.
  • Amazing desert sunsets.

From Southwest Trip - June 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

Dry heat

Back in Arizona. Hitting some of the old haunts. Carlsbad Tavern is as good and tasty as ever. Our old Starbucks has remodeled with many more outlets. And the temp isn't even 100 degrees! With low humidity! Strange the things the desert makes one grateful for.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I've been bizarrely productive this week. Cleaning, organizing, work stuff, car maintenance, car wash, ... even baked cookies! Makes me feel good, actually. I know I'm on vacation and I need to relax, but if I'm not productive, I feel all icky about myself.

Tomorrow, we're heading in an easterly direction. I'm looking forward to the trip, but would the desert please arrange to cool off a bit? Please?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cell phone manifesto

There used to be a big problem with cell phones ringing during class. That doesn't happen very often any more. Two reasons: 1) experience evolving into etiquette, and 2) the students are ALWAYS using their phones, so there is NO CHANCE for them to go off.

What am I blathering about? Students are now constantly texting or web-surfing on their phones. Up til this point, I hadn't cared. You want to ignore part of the class? Fine, I know it'll show up in your grade. However, for the first time, the correlation between attendance and performance has waned in my astronomy courses. Even the students who know it's rude to use the cell phone during class feel no remorse about jumping in and out of the classroom to use it. So now it has turned into a distraction for more than just the user. Which is funny, as you'd think the cell phone ringing would be more annoying, but it isn't. I have a couple of specific examples from this last semester that have motivated me to come up with a long, clear cell phone policy for my syllabi. Here's a first draft:


All electronic devices must be turned to “silent” before class starts. Cell phones should not be in use during the class period at any time. Usage includes answering the phone, making calls, sending and receiving text messages, browsing the internet, listening to music, taking or looking at photographs or using the phone as a calculator. If such usage is noted by the instructor, the student will be asked to leave class for the day.

Any usage of a cell phone during an exam will mean that the student is finished with the exam, and the exam must be turned in to the instructor at that time.

If there is an extenuating circumstance (ex: on-call at work, family emergency) that means that the student must be in contact via voice/text messaging, the student must inform the instructor at the beginning of the class period. Any voice/text messaging in that case must be conducted outside of the classroom. The student will be as silent as possible in this situation out of respect to fellow classmates and the instructor.

Comments? Suggestions? HELP!?!?! Sadly, this is now the longest part of the syllabus!!!!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Sunday ramblings

It was a lovely day in Southern California, the type that makes you want to go outside and enjoy the public spaces before the Governator closes them all. Greg and I journeyed up to San Clemente, a beach town behind the Orange Curtain about 45 min north of San Diego. We had yummy Mexican food, ventured onto the fishing pier, and walked along a beachside trail.

From Summer 2009

From Summer 2009
It's good to know that there are still fun places to explore, that we've barely scratched the surface of what living in San Diego has to offer.

On the drive, we saw a truck marked Observatorio AstronĂ³mico Nacional, Baja California. I bet it was headed to the American Astronomical Society meeting in Pasadena. It feels weird not to be there! I had contemplated going for a day this week, but the one-day registration fee was too rich for me! I probably won't be at the meeting in D.C. in January, but perhaps next summer in Miami I'll meet up with my astro peeps again.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

That makes me how old?

Tetris has turned 25 years old, all the media outlets tell me. That, um, dates me a bit. I recall spending many an hour in UCLA's Ackerman Union playing Tetris side-by-side with my beloved Kirsten. (If only I had spent as much time in the Physics Library!) Tetris reminds me of Monday nights, World Class Chocolate, and friendship. I look at it and am immediately transported back to my undergrad days. I still see undergrads playing Tetris and its imposters today, except now they play the game on their tricorders, or whatever the heck they call their electronic appendages nowadays. Guess I'm dated in more ways than one! ;)

Monday, June 01, 2009

Action vs. Inaction

Ah,summer break. I've been trying to develop an adequate balance of productivity and relaxation. So far, that's involved:

  • Reading Terry Pratchett's Nation, which is a wonderful, inspiring book.
  • Doing laundry.
  • Paying bills.
  • Whipping up a decadent macaroni and cheese.
  • Wandering around La Jolla.
  • Doing a survey of physics requirements at local four-year institutions.
  • Finishing up a story as part of my plan to write three stories this year.
  • Attempting to calculate the maximum vibrations for an astronomy observing platform on the new building. (Hints, anybody? Please?)
  • Sending pleas to my legislators about the proposed cuts to California state parks (closing 80%!) and blows to higher education. One proposal cuts the Cal Grant program completely. Another proposes raising community college fees 300%!
  • Finding ways to calm down about the previous bullet point.

My goal for tomorrow: to not sleep as late as I did today. It's all about balance, right?