Sunday, September 04, 2011

Beach and Dog Pics

Summer is over, and the first two weeks of the new academic year are behind me. I didn't do much this summer, except for spend time with Greg and the dog on the beach. Looking at the pictorial evidence, I must say that it made for a fine summer.

From Dozer
From Dozer
From Dozer
From Summer 2011
From Summer 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011


Warning: This might turn into a long rant.

Last week marked two major events for America's space program: the last Space Shuttle launch and the recommendation by a House subcommittee that the James Webb Space Telescope be canceled. First, the shuttle...STS-135 Atlantis Launch (201107080016HQ)

I never got to see a shuttle launch or landing. I'm sad that I've lost my chance.Father and Son: STS-1 and STS-135

However, let's face it, the shuttles are an old, depleted fleet. They need to be retired. If you're feeling sad about the space shuttle program ending, it should be because there is no program to take its place. There is no replacement. Sure, there is movement towards private launch vehicles, but there isn't anything NOW. We won't be seeing any more pics like this one from Astronaut Ron Garan, currently on the ISS: My new favorite Shuttle px Took it #FromSpace 7/10/11 1:59pm ... on Twitpic

We are now dependent upon Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get our astronauts to the ISS. (That whirring sound you hear is Kennedy spinning in his grave. Have we retroactively lost the Cold War?) This didn't need to happen. But funding for NASA is allotted by politicians who only see as far into the future as the next election cycle.

This brings me to the James Webb Space Telescope. This is an infrared observatory, often called the successor to Hubble, that is in line with what NASA used to call its "Great Observatories" (Hubble, Compton, Chandra, Spitzer - by the way, except for Compton, the others are still operating many years after launch). JWST is an ambitious mission, and yes, it is over-budget. But so was Hubble, and who would argue its value now? And do you know one of the reasons why JWST is over-budget? BECAUSE YOU CAN'T BUY THE COMPONENTS OFF THE SHELF!! This mission involved developing new technologies, not just building a telescope out of existing components. And that's what the best science experiments should do - push the boundaries of our capabilities, as well as our knowledge. Science requires a long-term investment, but now a group in the House is recommending the cancellation of JWST when it is already 75% complete. Yes, you read that right. As I wrote to my Representative, "Canceling this mission now is not a savings of money, but rather a great waste of money due to the completed equipment being idle on the ground."

But what else do you expect when knowledge is under attack in so many venues. Instead of funding education to the fullest, states all over the nation are making drastic cuts and undercutting their futures. Instead of trying to keep quality educators in the classrooms with fair compensation and benefits, the media devotes time to those bizarre few who retire with outrageous salaries. And how many stories have you read recently that college isn't for everyone, when the statistics show that college-educated folk were far less likely to have become unemployed during this recession? Is it any wonder that our desire for an instantaneous payoff now threatens our future, scientifically and economically? Look at this following graphic, representing NASA's astrophysics missions timeline:

This is not a prudent restructuring of our fiscal responsibilities. This is the end of dreaming.

Friday, June 24, 2011


This week marked the publication of The Boy at the End of the World by my beloved companion of 21 years, Greg van Eekhout. Isn't the cover lovely?

Greg, along with Timothy Power and Cynthia Hand, will be discussing books at a signing tomorrow at Mysterious Galaxy.

Really, I couldn't be more thrilled that this book is out in the wild.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Just can't get enough

Really, would it ever be possible to get bored of images of Saturn?

(From Cassini)

Friday, June 03, 2011


Yesterday, our dear friend Colleen came to visit us. We hung out by the sea and provided puppy therapy for her. It was a lovely day!

From Summer 2011

From Summer 2011

Also, yesterday I saw a beautiful video of Cassini raw Saturn data set to the music of Nine Inch Nails. Favorite planet and favorite band!

Sunday, May 22, 2011


The academic year is over, and I am glad. The students were the usual mix of awesome and exasperating, but overall a good bunch. This was an exhausting year for other reasons; the budget crisis dominated most of our days. In fact, almost all summer classes were canceled. No equipment can be ordered. Not all adjunct faculty can be given their positions. We're told to anticipate more cuts in the fall. There haven't been any layoffs or furloughs, but faculty and staff who leave are not being replaced. Everyone - faculty, staff, student - is under more stress. The school year ended on a high note, a lovely commencement ceremony in Balboa Park. Most of my end-of-semester paperwork is done, with just a few days of office time still required of me this week. My muscles are starting to relax and it's easier to breathe, now that my summer (unpaid) vacation is beginning.

So now that the academic year is over, and some of the stress has been relieved, I hope to more regularly populate this space with the requisite beach and space and dog pics again. Hope you're all well!

From Dozer

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Stress Relief

Between a very late spring break (not til next week!), overcrowded classes, and budget crises, it's been quite a stressful semester. I'm particularly grateful to come home and play with my two favorite guys.

From Dozer
From Dozer
From Dozer
From Dozer
From Dozer

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dose of Dozer

So many serious things going on in the world. So much going on in the life of family and friends. So much going on at work. Time to appreciate the little things, like this little guy:
From Dozer
From Dozer
From Dozer

Monday, February 14, 2011


The semester is well underway, which would be distraction enough, but there's another distraction who has taken up residence in our home. His name is Dozer, which is short for Dozer the Malfeasant. But Dozer the Distraction would work well, too.

From Dozer
From Dozer
From Dozer
From Dozer
From Dozer

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Funniest Thing Ever

Alright, I should be working. Really. Perhaps if I could use this awesome xkcd joke in class next week, I'd be inspired to work harder?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review of Books - 2010

Alright, I'm a little late, but here's my review of books for 2010. I read 66 books, meeting my goal of reading an average of one book per week. Here are some of the standouts:

  • Kid vs. Squid - Greg van Eekhout - Yup, I'm biased here, but this was fun and gross and sweet and whimsical and all the things that middle-grade readers like. I also got the bonus audio version, a chapter per night read by the author himself!
  • Flash: Terminal Velocity and other Flash back issues - Mark Waid, writer - At Comic-Con this past summer, I was at a panel where Matt Fraction gushed at Mark Waid about how awesome the issues of Flash were that Waid wrote. Since Waid's Flash, Wally West, is the one I'm familiar with from the Justice League animated series, I picked them up and really enjoyed them for their simple, yet emotional storytelling. Now, if only Waid would write the only Green Lantern who matters, John Stewart.
  • The Conspiracy of Kings - Megan Whelan Turner - I reread the other Attolia books before reading this, and you'd be hard-pressed to find another series as strong as these. You'll find these in the Young Adult section, but any fan of fantasy would enjoy these books.
  • Cryoburn - Lois McMaster Bujold - Another Vorkosigan book, finally! No spoilers here, but this whole book seemed like a setup for the final chapter and epilogue, and I found them just devastating.
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson - John Green and David Levithan - Two teens with the same name, their lives intersect. I don't know how to describe it other than to say that it explores the issues that all teens face in honest ways and I'll never hear Tiny Dancer by Elton John without thinking of this book. And this is the book that introduced me to David Levithan's writing and he was the discovery of the year for me.
  • Boy Meets Boy and Realm of Possibility - David Levithan - I read almost all of Levithan's singly-authored works this year, and these were the two standouts. Boy Meets Boy is more well-known, but Realm of Possibility is one of my favorite books of all-time. Yeah, these are young adult books, but one never forgets being a teen, right? Levithan's characters are almost brutally honest and emotionally raw and bracing. Love him. Love love love him. Picked up his latest, a book for adults called The Lover's Dictionary today.

Hope your readings were as enjoyable as mine. Here's to another great year of books!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Astro stuff

I am not at the current meeting of the American Astronomical Society, but thanks to Twitter, I've been able to keep up with some of the more exciting news.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Looking ahead

I hope y'all have been having a lovely 2011 so far. The holidays have been leisurely and mellow here, which is how we like it. The rain has returned, so nesting at home has been encouraged.

So many people make resolutions at this time of year, but I prefer to call them "goals". Here are mine for this year:

  • Continue to read books at a minimum of a book per week. (I'll post my yearly book review in the next day or so.)
  • Allow myself some "me" time by doing my best to NOT work on Saturdays, with the exception of responding to student emails.
  • Focus on living healthier by cooking more at home, with the following specific cooking goals
    • Prepare interesting weekend breakfasts
    • Cook enough on the weekends to provide leftovers during the week
    • Learn how to make nasi kuning and rendang
    • Cook with fresh ginger
    • Develop more satisfying vegetarian meals
  • Exercising more, especially enjoying the lovely climate here in San Diego
  • Take more photos

Alright, when I started this blog entry I thought the list of goals would be shorter! I wish all of us a happy and healthy 2011!