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Astro Memories

On the road on the way up to the Mauna Kea summit
Sometimes I try to remember specific events from my recent past, say in grad school, and I can't remember the dates, ordering of events, and other details. It's amazing how 10 years can smear out important details in your memory. However, there's one event that I can clearly remember and even assign a specific date to. On the eve of the start of the Iraq war back on March 19, 2003, I was driving from Hale Pahaku to the summit of Mauna Kea, from 9000 feet to 14,800 feet. Prof. Mike Liu was driving and Mike Fitzgerald and I were passengers of the CFHT-issued Chevy Suburban. BBC radio was on and I was listening to reports of bombs falling on Bagdad, with a sinking feeling in my gut. Both because of the realization there was nothing I could do to stop my country from getting into the war, and because of the ride up the mountain.

What I remember very vividly was Prof. Liu had that Suburban was going very quickly along that Mars-terrain-like road. I remember the date, the people involved, the color of the SUV (blue with tan interior), the clearness of the sky, and the distinct feeling that we were moving up the mountain along that dirt road not unlike this:

That's what I remember. I don't remember the details of the vast majority of the science talks I attended, much of the content of the courses I took, even the conversations at the Triple Rock Brewery after work. But I definitely remember getting the back end of that SUV loose around those mountain roads with no guard rails between us and sharp, volcanic boulders. I also remember the exquisitely clear nights we had once at the summit. Astro memories!


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