### When pirates need funding

I was traveling Keck Observatory with my collaborator and friend, Josh Winn, this past April. We were standing at the rental counter and he was trying to downsize his car to a cheaper model. We had the following exchange when the agent stepped aside:

Me: "Why worry about a couple bucks a day? You're charging it to your grant, right?"
Josh: "Because there's only a finite amount of money in my grant and it has to last 5 years. This is something you'll learn when you move out from under your advisor's wing."

As is usually the case, Josh was spot on. I was used to working for a famous astronomer with deep, deep pockets. Chevy Cavalier? Why not get the midsize? Hell, go for the convertible.

I thought I had been fairly careful with my advisor's money while I was a grad student. But now, a mere 7 months later, I'm on my own and I can recognize that I could have been more thrifty in the past. I now rush to get rental cars back by the appointed check-in time. I book plane tickets well in advance to get good fares. When on the road I shop at the grocery store for lunch, rather than eating out every day. Josh was right, grant money is finite in the real world.

So that brings me to my latest adventures in applying for research funding. At the moment, I'm writing a grant proposal for the National Science Foundation Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Grant to cover some publication charges and so I can go to more than one conference per year. The research funds provided by my postdoc fellowship are nice, but flying to conferences from the middle of the Pacific Ocean is pretty expensive and it costs about $1500-$2000 to publish a paper.

So check it out: the NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Grant. AARG. Yes, the pirate grant! Batten down the hatches, the deadline is Nov 15!

Unfortunately, it turns out that the NSF calls it the AAG. Talk about a missed opportunity. Or perhaps they did it intentionally to avoid the association with plundering and eye patches. Ah well. Wish me luck in going after that research booty.

AARG!

I wish my keyboard had an "avast" button for when the computer tells me that it has encountered a fatal error.

### On the Height of J.J. Barea

Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea standing between two very tall people (from: Picassa user photoasisphoto).

Congrats to the Dallas Mavericks, who beat the Miami Heat tonight in game six to win the NBA championship.

Okay, with that out of the way, just how tall is the busy-footed Maverick point guard J.J. Barea? He's listed as 6-foot on NBA.com, but no one, not even the sports casters, believes that he can possibly be that tall. He looks like a super-fast Hobbit out there. But could that just be relative scaling, with him standing next to a bunch of extremely tall people? People on Yahoo! Answers think so---I know because I've been Google searching "J.J. Barea Height" for the past 15 minutes.

So I decided to find a photo and settle the issue once and for all.

I then used the basketball as my metric. Wikipedia states that an NBA basketball is 29.5 inches in circumfe…

### Finding Blissful Clarity by Tuning Out

It's been a minute since I've posted here. My last post was back in April, so it has actually been something like 193,000 minutes, but I like how the kids say "it's been a minute," so I'll stick with that.
As I've said before, I use this space to work out the truths in my life. Writing is a valuable way of taking the non-linear jumble of thoughts in my head and linearizing them by putting them down on the page. In short, writing helps me figure things out. However, logical thinking is not the only way of knowing the world. Another way is to recognize, listen to, and trust one's emotions. Yes, emotions are important for figuring things out.
Back in April, when I last posted here, my emotions were largely characterized by fear, sadness, anger, frustration, confusion and despair. I say largely, because this is what I was feeling on large scales; the world outside of my immediate influence. On smaller scales, where my wife, children and friends reside, I…

### The Force is strong with this one...

Last night we were reviewing multiplication tables with Owen. The family fired off doublets of numbers and Owen confidently multiplied away. In the middle of the review Owen stopped and said, "I noticed something. 2 times 2 is 4. If you subtract 1 it's 3. That's equal to taking 2 and adding 1, and then taking 2 and subtracting 1, and multiplying. So 1 times 3 is 2 times 2 minus 1."

I have to admit, that I didn't quite get it at first. I asked him to repeat with another number and he did with six: "6 times 6 is 36. 36 minus 1 is 35. That's the same as 6-1 times 6+1, which is 35."

Ummmmm....wait. Huh? Lemme see...oh. OH! WOW! Owen figured out

x^2 - 1 = (x - 1) (x +1)

So $6 \times 8 = 7 \times 7 - 1 = (7-1) (7+1) = 48$. That's actually pretty handy!

You can see it in the image above. Look at the elements perpendicular to the diagonal. There's 48 bracketing 49, 35 bracketing 36, etc... After a bit more thought we…