Wednesday, September 30, 2009

it's a small world, astronaut

waiting for the submarine ride

well, i've done it. at the young age of 31, i took my first trip to disneyland. owen and i had a special adventure along with my dear friend & cousin, faye, and her sweet daughter, evan. from the minute we arrived in the parking structure, until the moment he passed out in the stroller at 9pm, owen was in a steady state of wonder.

we rode about 15 rides, which i understand to be quite an accomplishment for a single day at disneyland. i wish i could capture the level of excitement in owen's voice when he saw mickey mouse from the monorail, the amazement in his eyes at the people getting soaked on splash mountain, and goosebumps on his little arms when we first spotted nemo on the underwater submarine adventure. we loved the hand-dipped corn dogs and cotton candy and were blown away by the fireworks display.

Astro Orbiter

my favorite part of the day was hearing owen and evan sing their versions of "it's a small world". evan sang it for the better part of the day, and owen has been humming the tune, or singing his own version, "it's a small world, astronaut" since we got off the boat.

Evan & Faye aboard "Small World"

On the Disney railway

burning off some sugar in Toontown

tonight, in all seriousness, owen asked, "mama, why does winnie the pooh like honey so much? why doesn't he like edamame?"

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mar and Me (and Monkeyblanket)

Today was supposed to be the day that we all went to Disneyland. However, Marcus and I are recovering from a cold, so we revised the plan: Erin and Owen would go to Disneyland, Marcus and I would recover at home.

Mar and I had a great time today, despite feeling a little under the weather. I was a bit apprehensive at the beginning of the day because I haven't spent a day alone with Marcus since he's been mobile. Man, I just realized how sad that is right as I typed it, but it's been a busy busy year for me at work.

Well, I shouldn't have worried because Mar is a great kid. It dawned on me that as a parent you of course love your child. But there's nothing to say that your kid actually has to be a cool person. Let me tell you, Marcus is a really cool little guy! Ever since he started walking earlier this month, his personality has really bloomed. He just goes about his business with a smile on his face all day long, looking for ways to make people around him laugh.

One thing I really had hammered home today is that Mar loves his Monkeyblanket. Aunties Liz and Lindsay give him the blanket a while ago and he has really built a relationship with that thing. Picture a miniature bear-skin rug with extremely soft fur and a monkey head. Wherever Marmar goes, Monkeyblanket comes along.

After his nap, I forgot to take it out of the crib, and after getting his diaper changed, he ran around the house for a while without his blanket. After about 10 minutes, he walked into the kitchen where I was fixing lunch. With a concerned look on his face and he said, "Uh?!" He then ran back into his room where I found him trying to pull the blanked through the crib bars, but the monkey's head was stuck on the other side. He looked at me like, "Now do you see my problem? Care to give me a hand?" So I pulled Monkey out and handed it to him. Mar threw it on the floor, flopped down belly first on top of it, hugged it, and, if I'm not mistaken, started murmuring sweet nothings in Monkeyblanket's ear. (He's gonna hate stories like this when he's 15.)

The rest of the day we kicked a soccer ball around the back yard, ate Trader Joe's chicken-fried rice, played hide-n-seek in the sliding-door closets, and played with Owen's train set (a rare treat for Marcus since big brother would have been none too pleased to see him mess up the order of the cars in his train).

All in all, it was a great day!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Best fire time-lapse video yet

The best I've seen so far. Amazing.

It almost looks like a volcano. Or a nuclear aftermath. Yuck and wow.

We can actually see the mountains now, which is a pretty big deal. Lots of dirt and charred stuff up there. The last time I saw the mountains they were dark green. Next up: The rainy season, and with it, mudslides! Wheee!

The fire is 50% contained as of this morning. Mt. Wilson is still standing. I can't help but think it has more to do with people's desire to protect all those communication towers up there, rather than their desire to save astronomy per se. But I'm okay with that. People's weird belief in their fundamental right to television was harnessed for good this time, and a valuable piece of history was preserved. Big ups to the fire fighters who risked their lives to protect the mountain top.

MarMar's First Steps!

With bonus video of Owen stealing the scene, as usual.

Video linked here.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

This Just In

Owen: Daddy!
Me: Yes Owen?
Owen: I was, um, learning to spell Ha-WEE-ee with Mommy and---A BUTTERFLY!
Me: Huh? What?
Owen: A butterfly out the window!
Me: Oh wo--
Owen: And Hawaii rhymes with Ha-WEE-ee (then runs out of the room)

To have a conversation with a 4-year-old you must always stay on your toes...

First week at work

In all of the excitement over the fires, I almost forgot to mention that Tuesday Sept 1 was my first official day at my new job. I am now an Assistant Professor of Astronomy at Caltech. When I picked up my new photo ID I was amused to see that they used the same number that I had when I was a staff member of the LIGO project back in 2000. Below is a photo from the summer research program I participated in at Caltech, about 5 months before I graduated and went back as a research assistant. I then went from there to the graduate program at UC Berkeley in the Fall of 2000.

It's hard to believe that kid on the left went from working in a lab in the basement of Downs, hoping that he would get accepted into at least one grad program somewhere, to having his own office across the street in Cahill. It's a crazy world!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dear fire: kthxbai

Yeah, we're just about ready for the fire to stop so we can go back to breathing clean(ish) air. Fortunately, Mt. Wilson appears to have escaped serious damage. What we need now is for the temperature to drop so the fire fighters can get this thing under control.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I was going to write something about the uncontrolled forest fire visible from our house, but then I found a better write-up was already posted on Cosmic Variance. All eyes in the astrophysical community are on Mt. Wilson as the flames bear down on the historic observatory.

The photo above is the view from the Caltech Astronomy Department. The word for the day: pyrocumulous cloud.

We're doing well. Far better than the people evacuating Altadena right now. When we wake up in the morning it smells like a mixture of cigarette smoke and last night's camp fire. It's very hazy around town. Kinda like LA in the late 80's!

You can follow the fire on this handy Google Map:

Click here for the full-screen map. For reference, we're in Pasadena
south of the 210 Freeway and just north of the Huntington Botanical Gardens.