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Showing posts from November, 2010

Allan Sandage

Sadly, my academic great-grand-uncle Allan Sandage passed away last week. I never had an opportunity to meet him, which is a shame because he worked just up the road at the Carnegie Institute right here in Pasadena. I would have liked to talk with him about evolved stars as his 2003 paper on subgiants was part of the inspiration of my thesis project. From his obituary in the NY Times: [His advisor Edwin] Hubble had planned an observing campaign using a new 200-inch telescope on Palomar Mountain in California to explore the haunting questions raised by that mysterious expansion. If the universe was born in a Big Bang, for example, could it one day die in a Big Crunch? But Hubble died of a heart attack in 1953, just as the telescope was going into operation. So Dr. Sandage, a fresh Ph.D. at 27, inherited the job of limning the fate of the universe. “It would be as if you were appointed to be copy editor to Dante,” Dr. Sandage said. “If you were the assistant to Dante, a


FDR's Second Bill of Rights

More here. Note: I previously said that these rights "never came to pass." This was incorrect as many of these concepts have been realized through legislation since FDRs time. But it is pretty sad that we had to wait more than 60 years after FDR to get some semblance of universal health care. And even now, people are losing their insurance as they're unable to find work. It's also sad that these concepts are considered radical "socialism" by many in our country when they were proposed by a US president and things like universal health care have long been enacted in almost every other democratic country on Earth. Check out my friend Leah's post about here 75 dollar emergency doctor visit in Australia. Then consider how we had to pay nearly $1000/month for insurance while I was a postdoc in Hawaii because Kaiser's Gold Family Health Plan doesn't cover maternity care in low-population states.

Trick Play

From Wikipedia : The ball begins on the ground with its long axis parallel to the sidelines of the field, its ends marking each team's line of scrimmage in American football; in Canadian football line of scrimmage of the team without the ball is 1 yard their side of the ball. The snap must be a quick and continuous movement of the ball by one or both hands of the snapper, and the ball must leave the snapper's hands . The various rules codes have additional requirements, all of which have the effect of requiring the ball to go backwards to a player behind the line of scrimmage (i.e. in the "backfield"). The ball may be handed, thrown, or even rolled, and its trajectory and the ball during that passage are called "the snap". The snapper is almost always the center . The ball is almost always sent between the snapper's legs, but only in Canadian football is that required. hat tip: Tim Morton

"Tricky puzzles" with Owen

Owen and I like to play "Tricky Numbers" and "Hang Pig." Tricky numbers is long addition, but we don't call it that. Hang Pig is like Hangman, without the misanthropic imagery. Nonna the Montessori kindergarten teacher is thrilled. We are too :) Tricky Numbers at the top with a maze at the bottom. More Tricky Numbers, and "Dad" spelled Espanol-style. Hang Pig!

Owen's view of the Solar System

This morning Owen drew his conception of the Solar System. Depicted are: The Earth, with Hawaii, California, North America, the North Pole, and the ocean Mars The Sun Planet Owen (newly discovered) Jupiter and its red spot Saturn and its ring Pluto

"My truck!"

"Don't take it!"

Post Prop 19 arguments

There simply aren't any good arguments in favor of prohibition. But people keep trying. Fortunately, there are smart people like Andrew Sullivan publicly destroying these bad arguments. A snippet: This is a core freedom for human beings and requires an insane apparatus of state control and police power to prevent it from occurring. All you have to do is burn a plant and inhale the smoke. If humans are not free to do this in the natural world in which they were born, what on earth are they free to do? My premise is freedom; Josh's is not. Should we ban roses because they give us pleasure with their beauty and their scent? Should we ban herbs, like rosemary or thyme, because they give us pleasure and encourage us to eat more? Should we ban lawn-grass because maintaining it consumes too many people's weekend afternoons? Should we cut down trees because the beauty of them can sometimes distract someone from the road? I could go on. The point is the government has

Student of the Month

Today, Owen was awarded The Student of the Month for outstanding achievement! He walked back to the classroom holding the award just like he is in this photo. "Mommy I'm so happy I got this!" That's our boy!

Division along class lines

In the last week, I've had two conversations with new acquaintances about our choice to send the boys to public school. It's so strange and foreign for me that this topic comes up in meeting anyone new around here. It's almost like asking someone who they vote for. We're always rooting for the underdog. In both cases, I found myself defending our choice for public education and proud to stand my ground. Pasadena Public Schools have a unique history among California schools. In the late 1950s, when public schools across the country were being integrated, Pasadena public schools were among the most reluctant to do so, outside of the deep south. Through the 1970s, the schools were still under de-facto segregation, because of demographic boundaries. When the black and brown kids entered the public schools here, nearly all the white kids pulled out--- taking their resources with them and creating a division in education primarily on class, and hence race, lines. To s

Existential Crisis Averted

I'm fairly convinced that every astronomer experiences at least one period of existential crisis at some point in her/his career. After all, astronomy is a luxurious pursuit of knowledge only afforded to the wealthiest of societies. It doesn't build bridges or clean up oil spills. So isn't there a more worthwhile use of my intelligence and schooling? a burgeoning astronomer might rightly ask. Shouldn't I be teaching kids in Haiti? Well, maybe we should. But if we did, who would come up with the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS)? And for that matter, who would come up with our snappy acronyms? Who? John Tonry, that's who. John popped up on astro-ph to remind us that astronomers are, in fact, capable of useful endeavors: Earth is bombarded by meteors, occasionally by one large enough to cause a significant explosion and possible loss of life. Although the odds of a deadly asteroid strike in the next century are low, the most likely impact is by

So awesome

A wonderful story from a mom who let her son dress up as Daphne from Scooby Doo, and the trouble she encountered. A great quote from among many: If you think that me allowing my son to be a female character for Halloween is somehow going to ‘make’ him gay then you are an idiot. Firstly, what a ridiculous concept. Secondly, if my son is gay, OK. I will love him no less. Thirdly, I am not worried that your son will grow up to be an actual ninja so back off.

Post election notes

Sadly, Prop 19 didn't pass in Tuesday's election. Score one for the old drug warriors and failed drug policy. But I'm encouraged because A) we're having this conversation B) the process led to a lighter punishment for possession (misdemeanor down from possible prison term) and C) it didn't lose by much. Losing by a 4-point swing isn't bad for an initiative that every major CA newspaper was against (see my LA Times review). Plus, the prohibitionists got their chance to roll out their best arguments and, well, they looked pretty silly in the process. In better news, Prop 23 failed. I didn't post about this evil little initiative, but I'm glad it's gone. Basically, two Texas oil companies pushed to have clean air laws rolled back. "We're all about clean air," they said. "But let's roll back the laws just until unemployment drops below 5.4% for four straight quarters. Jobs and stuff!" In other words, let's just suspend


Visual poetry ("Words"): Youtube montage version (equally beautiful, IMO): This was all inspired by the absolutely amazing Radiolab episode. that I listed to as a podcast on my way back from Ohio Friday night. Fortunately it was a night-time flight with no lights on because I was crying a bit after the story of the 27 year old man who learned words for the first time.

Halloween Pics