Rest in Peace, Little Friend.

Roux -- 1993 - 2006


On a must read

You must read this article by Pat Tillman's brother Kevin.

I would really like to hear someone accuse him of being a "cut and run" terrorist sympathizer. As ridiculous as that sounds, though, I wouldn't be surprised if someone does.


On location, location, location

I'm on the move again. Since returning to Penn State in 2001, I've been in the fifth floor corner office with two other postdocs (I can't even remember the number off the top of my head -- 508?), down to 403 to share with another instructor, and then a few years ago, up to the "Penthouse Suite" -- 601 Davey. The penthouse is nice -- I have a lot of square footage, but much of that is taken up storing the many materials we have for outreach, so in the end the space I have to actually use is about the same as a normal office. The downside to the penthouse is that I'm the *only* one on the sixth floor (the rest of the floor is the mechanical room for the building -- HVAC, elevators, etc.). I guess they decided that I need to be kept away from the rest of the humans. The upside to the penthouse is the view -- I'm in one of the tallest buildings on campus, and my window faces east campus with the new chem & life sci buildings, the Bryce Jordan Center, and the edge of Beaver Stadium.

Well, probably in a week or two I will be in my fourth office in five years. I'll be on the west side of the building now, so I'll have to get used to looking out the window at nothing but Chandlee. So I lose the view, but gain more frequent interactions with other humans. I'll have to learn how to be social again, I guess. The other good news is that there is a little astronomer's room on the same floor, so I won't have to go down & back up stairs to use the potty anymore. That probably doesn't sound like a big deal to those of you with two working knees, but for me, it means having to pop fewer pain killers. Wahoo.


On bald tires

Scary moment. We've had a slow steady rain since about 6pm, and when I went out tonight in my truck, I was hydroplaning a bit. I knew my tires were low on tread, but I didn't think they were too bad.

Well, when driving home from my vball game (luckily on a residential road after 10:15pm without anyone else around), I hydroplaned a bit worse than before, spun completely around, and wound up half off the road. Thankfully, I didn't flip, didn't hit anything, and was able to just drive away unhurt.

Tomorrow, I start shopping around for new tires.


On my soapbox

I'm married to a certified K-8 teacher (who doesn't work in a classroom anymore, but did for two years), and have a number of other educators in my family. As part of my job, I have also been presenting astronomy workshops for teachers, and I have gotten to know a number of teachers personally through this work. All of the teachers that I have met and know personally are very good people that I respect. Even though I'm not a K-12 teacher myself, I get incensed when I hear or read or see people attacking teachers. I don't see why anyone would want to go into the profession of teaching anymore -- in most states it is in most people's economic self interest to keep teacher salaries as low as possible. If you think teachers deserve higher pay, well then you are essentially saying you want to pay more property taxes, and who wants to do that? In fact, several years ago, someone I worked with (and respect greatly) was telling many of us how happy he was to tell his elected officials that he opposed their budget that included additional property taxes. I pointed out that in essence he was advocating that my wife receive no cost of living salary increase. At that time, teachers in her school received an increase of $50 between their first year and second year of teaching.

There are many political issues right now that raise my blood pressure, but the anti-teacher thing really grates on me. So I found it refreshing to read in one of my favorite football columns (yes, football) the following:

"The media now stereotype public schoolteachers as muttonheads who oppose high standards and are more concerned with union politics and political correctness than teaching the basics and classics. (In my experience, teachers spend most of their time on basic subjects and classic texts.) The annoyingly large subset of "helicopter parents" now constantly second-guesses teachers. Meanwhile salaries of doctors, lawyers and other professionals keep accelerating toward the asteroid belt, while teachers are expected to work for love rather than money." (TMQ)

I would say that in general, I only agree with the political comments TMQ sneaks into his NFL columns about 50% of the time, but this time I 100% agree.

One last point in this rant -- I was told by a teacher attending one of my trainings in order to get his hours that in PA teachers are required by law to have more hours of professional development than MDs. Maybe we should all keep that in mind next time we are deciding they aren't worth a small percentage increase in our taxes.


On Astronomy

I realize that to date few of my posts have had much to do with astronomy. That may be because I'm not an active researcher anymore, but I think that it has more to do with me enforcing my own rule never to blog at the office, and when I'm home I've usually just come from playing vball, just finished watching a football game, or just pruned the pine trees. So that's what I write about, and the thoughts I had all day about planets, stars, astronomers, or observatories are gone by the time I start typing.

Anyway, here are some really random thoughts on astronomy and astronomers.

1) Great joke at the ASP meeting, and I apologize that I can't remember who said it so that I can attribute it properly. During the Q&A session after the talk by the IAU's press officer about the Pluto controversy, someone stood up and said (paraphrasing) -- all of us face the problem when we teach about the planet between Saturn and Neptune -- it is embarassing when you get up in class and talk about the rings around Ura... Anyway, we can solve both problems by just renaming that planet Pluto! This drew the most laughs by far during the whole meeting.

2) Two good quotes from Neil Tyson during a clip we were shown from the new Nova program -- first, he said that if Pluto were moved closer to the Sun, it would sprout a tail, which is completely innappropriate behavior for a planet. Next, when he aked a person during a "man on the street" segment if he had a question about astronomy, he told the guy, "There are only something like 6,000 astronomers in the world, so this is a one in a million chance to ask an astronomer a question".

3) We had a colloquium the other day by a classmate of mine -- we took our first observing class together. She just got a faculty job at WVU. A few points here -- it was great to catch up with her, find out she's doing well, and see another one of my classmates make it out of postdoc land.

4) More on Pluto -- it was just pointed out to me that the whole Pluto / dwarf planet / Kuiper Belt change has real implications in our high stakes testing K-12 educational culture. You know there have to be questions on some of these standard assessment tests in one of the states asking how many planets are in the Solar System. What does a teacher do now?

5) Apparently there are some cool results coming out of something I worked on in my thesis. Some collaborators are talking about proposing for follow up with HET -- I assume I will probably wind up as the nth author on any paper coming out from this. It continues to amaze me, but I've been published several times since I went cold turkey on research. I don't mind being out of research, but it is nice to keep the tiniest toe in the water. It will really be neat to see if we find the stars we're looking for (and by we I mean they) and come up with a fun result.