Skip to main content


Showing posts from January, 2011


One of my and Owen's favorite players is former Cal Bear Deshawn Jackson, who plays for the Eagles. Here's a representative play from the explosive wide receiver: Here's Owen's take on the theme: BTW, this was from just after Christmas in Texas. Uncle Brian and I were cracking up so hard because Owen did the celebration s spontaneously. While we often talk about aspects of the game later, we never really talked about the endzone dive until after he spontaneously reenacted it on the farm.

Did I really just see that?!

One of my many pet peeves about NFL television broadcasts is the focus on a "narrative," usually played out by zooming in on players and coaches on the sidelines hoping to see them scream in anger, or smile, or jump around and celebrate. Annoyingly, this usually happens when actual action is happening, or just happened and I'd really like to see an instant replay. But instead of seeing how the running back was able to run untouched for 15 yards and a first down, we instead have to watch the opposing coach stand there stoically and blink his eyes. Oh! Teh drama! As a result, I was extremely excited to finally see something interesting during one of those glances at the sideline. The Steelers were in the red zone, poised for a score. The cameraman finds the opposing quarterback Mark Sanchez on the sideline, probably hoping that he's wailing and gnashing his teeth. But instead: That. Was. Awesome!


Marcus running down the hill beside the La Brea Tar Pits museum.

Shorts vs. Shorts

Owen and I like to watch basketball videos on Youtube. This morning we were watching some Magic Johnson highlights and Owen asked, "Why did they wear shorts?" I had to think for a second, and then it dawned on me: 1990 shorts 2010 "shorts"

Professing for the first time

I joined the Caltech faculty back in August of 2009. During the first year I frequently had the following exchange in conversations: Person: "So, what do you teach?" Me: "Nothing right now." Person: "Wha? I thought you were a professor." Me: "I am. I'm just not teaching right now." Person: "So...what do you do all day?!" What do I do all day? Professor stuff! Advising students. Writing proposals. Reducing data. Writing papers. In astronomy, nominally we're hired to be instructors. But in reality, we gotta pay the bills. My tenure decision in about 6 years will be based primarily on how many papers I publish, how important those papers are to my field of research, how much grant money I bring in (Caltech keeps a percentage of all the grant dollars I raise, to keep the lights on, pay salaries, etc), how well I use Caltech's telescope facilities (my papers), and the quality of the work of the students I advise. Oh, and I&

Writing and music and fighting

I cannot get over this song/video by the White Stripes . I realize I'm extremely late to join the band wagon, but better late than never. I've encountered them before on others' recommendations, but for some reason I never connected. However, this song has excited a strong resonant response somewhere deep down inside me. I don't know how to explain it (maybe it's just gas?), but I'm thoroughly entranced. I finally became interested in the White Stripes after watching the documentary It Might Get Loud . If you have Netflix it's available on Instant viewing and I highly recommend it. The movie follows a conversation among three guitar giants: The Edge, Jimmy Page and Jack White. My favorite part among many amazing scenes is when Jack describes his crappy, plastic, red guitar that he bought from Montgomery Ward. He laments how many guitarists obsession for collecting pretty instruments. In contrast, with his music and instruments he prefers to "pick a f

Teaching about race

I came across this excellent piece of MLK Day reading this morning by a guest writer on Ta-Nahisi Coate's blog: Of course, I think it's important that she know this history. I think it's absolutely crucial that, at some point, she understand how race works in America, not the least of which is because she'll inevitably learn it the hard way (and I suppose it says a lot about how sheltered a life she's had thus far that she hasn't been confronted with it)[3]. Most importantly, I want to raise her with an investment in social justice and that means she's going to have to intimately understand the history and function of race and racial inequality. I just hoped this would all come "later." I have thought a lot about Owen's future as a mixed-race kid, particularly because he'll likely be attending public (read: colored ) school. But I haven't yet had a conversation about race with him. I guess, like the TNC guest blogger, I've

Martin Luther King Day

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. This dream was once considered radical. In some ways it still is. It's like realizing what it means to love your neighbor as you love yourself. I can say I believe it, but it takes constant practice to realize it in even a portion of my daily life. Similarly, our nation needs to constantly remind itself of this belief as it evolves through the decades. From time to time, and for certain groups of people, this radical notion must be advanced from dream to reality. Happy MLK Day! Take the 20 minutes you'd use to watch your favorite cooking show or reality TV program and recall his amazing speech (says the guy who twice on Sunday forgot that Monday is a holiday):

misc photos

Mar rocking Daddy's Bose headphones on the way to Houston. Thank you iPod and PBS Kids downloads! Owen, Mar and Nonna rocking the Victrola . We're still trying how to get that from Houston to Cali. Check out Owen's new do! He wanted a haircut just like Daddy's. When Erin's first attempt left too many curls for his liking, he took scissors to his head. The end result is that I had to remove the guard and shear him like an Army recruit. I love the new style. I think even Erin had to admit it looks good, despite the pain in her heart. Immediately after The Haircut. Mar and Pokey Man (Pokemon?). Mar thought that guy was a total ass. Everyone agreed. Owen's new haircut bends time and space around him. There were 17 three-week old baby goats at Aunt Jeanette's and Uncle Dave's farm. Erin managed to catch one using a fishing net. One handsome dude. Mommy and another handsome, yet goofy dude. Erin and Aunt Jeanette going to check the mail. Ma

The Frontier is Everywhere

I really needed to see this today. I crawled past my astronomical existential crisis long ago. My new challenge is hoping for a bright future for Owen and Marcus. I hope they'll live in a world that provides them with the luxury of studying the stars and dreaming of other planets like our own. Of course, Carl Sagan nicely summed up this idea long before I came on the scene. This NASA PSA encapsulates the sentiment nicely: h/t: Andrew Sullivan

Just born that way

I had a lot of fun browsing this photo blog tonight. We all had at least one of these guys or gals in our school (or maybe you were one of them!). I remember my friend James in first through sixth grade who was way into Barry Manilow . He always wore an impeccably ironed shirts to school and always sported the nicest haircuts among the boys. I'd go over to his house after school and all he wanted to do was stage piano recitals for me, singing Mandy or some such. I didn't know he was gay then, and I can't be 100% certain now. But then again, looking back...with some people, you know, right? I really hope James is as fabulous now as he was back then. Some of my favorites from the blog: Colby Brumit, age 9 Door County, WI (1988) "All that summer we listened to George Michael's Faith album on cassette endlessly, and I was mesmerized by how cool it was...Looking at it now, I feel so, so lucky that my parents let me fruit out as much as I wanted to." --

Like, you know?

I plan to make all of my students watch this video: Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo . I've noticed the creeping vines of questions crawling on sentences in many recent science talks, especially by the "young'uns." The non-question question mark is a defining characteristic of Caltech undergrad speech patterns? I've also noticed a lot of, "Today, I want to tell you about low-mass stars." Oh yeah? You want to tell me that? Well tell me, instead of leaving me in doubt right off the bat! "Today I'm going to tell you about low-mass stars." Period. Then do it! Another pet peeve of mine is "sort of." There are way too many things in astronomy these days that sort of do things, and sort of correlate with other things. In practice, you don't sort of extract your spectrum. So don't tell me you did. Tell me what you know. Be the expert in the room. Not just for your sake, but for mine and the rest of the audience. Hat

Home Again

We've returned from Houston, safe and sound. The boys traveled like champs. We ate, imbibed and even exercised at the Pousson homestead. I love xmas time. I'll be off to Seattle for AAS soon. I might post on the road, but more likely I won't. Perhaps Erin will post pictures from our trip if you pester her enough in the comments section. For now, I'll leave you with a love song from father to child, and child to father (you've seen this, right?):