A Good Kind of Tired

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Last Saturday, my alarm went off at the very uncivilized hour of Oh-dark-early. The incessant screeching from my smartphone at 3AM was even more annoying than usual. Perhaps my having gone to bed past midnight had something to do with it? With considerable effort, I pushed myself out of bed, splashed some cold water on my face in hopes of reviving myself to an acceptable level of consciousness, chugged a cup of coffee for good measure, then quickly grabbed a fistful of nails, a hammer, and got busy. Today demanded multi-tasking by a jack-of-all-trades, in record time. There was no time for self-pity by the sleep-deprived! Continue reading

The Perpetual Two-Body Problem

An example of a 2-body problem: Two objects with the same weight (mass), orbiting around a point in space (credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-body_problem)

An example of a 2-body problem: Two objects with the same weight (mass), orbiting around a point in space (credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-body_problem)

Amongst the colleagues in my profession, the phrase “Two-Body Problem” is a geeky way to describe the challenging situation that a married (or committed) professional couple finds themselves in, when  they are looking for jobs in similar research fields in the same geographic location, in hopes of sustaining their careers and keeping their relationship intact.  StarMan and I are, by all accounts, a strongly-coupled  Two Body Problem, and we just got news today that dashed some high hopes. Continue reading

Killer Rocks

One of the aspects of my career as a professional astronomer that has always bothered me is that, well, I’ve chosen a kind of ….  selfish profession.  Oh sure, astronomers try to rationalize their line of work by making claims that technological advancements that further the study of the stars also end up in our homes and enhance our lives, or that such research provides much-needed perspective to the world at-large and underscores the fact  that we are but a fragile island of humanity living on this small rock, promoting the cause of peace and good-will and satisfying humankind’s innate thirst for knowledge and exploration.  All the above sounds good, and indeed I’ve likely been guilty of making similar arguments, but honestly?  Astronomy, along with a few other pure research science fields, really is about the joy of discovery and desire to know more about the Universe. If one has a strong need to “save the world” or promote world peace,  then astronomy is probably not the profession for you.  Or so I thought, until a few weeks ago.  Continue reading

Furlough Frenzy: Day 2

Because I enjoy, at least for the time being, the freedom of writing as an anonymous blogger (but see footnote), I have not provided many specifics about my personal life, outside of my multiple sclerosis diagnosis and related goings-ons.  I will, however, say this:  I am one of those 800,000 federal employees who are now furloughed, thanks to (as one friend put it) “CongressCritters comporting themselves like the Hatfields and the McCoys.”  Continue reading

Remembering This Week

This past week marks two sad moments in history:  Challenger and Columbia.  Ironically, I was an eye-witness to both of these terrible shuttle tragedies, and the memories of each day are as crystal clear in my mind as the day that they happened.

I was an undergraduate at an engineering school located on Florida’s Space Coast in on January 28, 1986.  Continue reading

A Short Week In Long Beach

I’ve spent the last couple of days catching my breath following a wonderful mini vacation + science conference that my significant other (“StarMan”) and I attended last week.  We really made the most of the trip, in a way that I wished we lived our life, every day.  For example, we opted to drive to Long Beach rather than just fly, and we took a route down the awesome, vertigo-inducing Pacific Coast Highway, passing through Big Sur.  On the day we arrived in Los Angeles, we went to the La Brea tar pits, a place that I’ve wanted to see since I read about them as a 10-year-old paleontologist wanna-be!

We finally checked into our hotel in Long Beach and spent Monday through Thursday attending the American Astronomical Society conference, which is a kind of astronomers’ Super Bowl. Continue reading