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Showing posts from September, 2011

Mar is 3!

technically, he's been 3 since Aug 2 :) it just takes mommy forever to post! ;)

Back to Teaching: Intro Astro for Majors

One of the older Caltech undergrads in my Ay20 class (j/k) My posts here will be a bit sporadic since the academic year just started with a bang here at Caltech. I'll be teaching Astro 20: Intro to Astronomy for Majors . We met for the first time yesterday and I have 16 bright, enthusiastic Techers in my class, ranging from Sophomore Ay majors, to Junior physicists, up to the lone Chemistry-major Senior. I'll be blogging regularly about Ay20 here , along with my faithful second-year TA, Jackie. I'll cross-list posts of interest here at Mahalo, but you should add the Ay20 blog to your RSS feed to keep up with the latest. My students will also maintain their own blogs, which will be linked from the Ay20 site. Please follow their writing and leave encouraging comments and requests for more excellent astronomy posts (I'll try to update here as the student blogs come online)! Here's my latest post on The Power of Dumb Questions .


We just began our first AYSO season and we're going in full force.  I frikkin' love soccer, so it warms my heart that Owen does too!  He will be the first to tell you that "I am the smallest, but I'm the fastest" and he has become fast friends with a couple of teammates already! His team is called Dragon Flares and although they lost their pre-season game against the Slayers, Owen scored his first goal!

My Superheros

  What started as good-guy, bad-guy play (using fly swatters and water guns) evolved into a serious dress up session involving lucha libre masks and the creation of super hero capes.  Owen was so thrilled to finally have his own cape & each of the kids helped to sew their own letters onto the back.  Fortunately everyone's powers were effective today and none of the flying resulted in injury.

Go Dodgers

I took Owen and his cousin Giovanni to a Dodger game a couple weeks back as part of the annual Caltech/JPL Dodger Day event.  25 bucks for bleacher seats and all-you-can-eat Dodger Dogs, nachos, popcorn and soda. It was fun, but HOT in that stadium. The Dodgers were playing the Rockies and with two outs at the bottom of the first inning, the Dodgers gave up five runs. Owen said, "Dad, I think they put in a belly itcher on accident." Indeed. At another point Gio said, "Cotton candy kinda looks like insulation." Owen added, "Yeah, fiber glass insulation!" Which is worst, fiber glass or actual cotton candy, is debatable, but the cotton candy was certainly appreciated. In true LA fashion, we left in the 7th inning and didn't catch the final score. That's Dodger baseball!

From the Top Rope

I think this picture is more enjoyable without an explanation, but then again, it's so strange that it probably deserves one. I was in my friend Mike's wedding and all of the groomsmen received lucha libre masks as gifts. Mike had an extra one and gave it to Erin. This was a year ago I guess. Anyway, I was recently searching for a hat in my closet and I found the masks, which are a huge hit with the boys.

The Tempest

I think this is supposed to be pretty, and it should be to many people. But as an optical/infrared observer, I find this positively horrifying! Oh no, my night is ruined. The stars are gone! Ack, now I'll have to wait until next year to observe my targets. Queue wailing and gnashing of teeth. Tempest Milky Way from Randy Halverson on Vimeo .
When I become the king of Pasadena, my first decree will be the elimination of turf grass, to be replaced by desert vegetation, veggie gardens or artificial turf. We do, after all, live in perpetual drought here in SoCal...
Oh, DINKS ...

Explosions in the Sky

I like post-rock music. The lack of lyrics, the gently rolling soundscapes, the slowly building peaks and gentle falloffs all make it ideal as background while coding, or writing, or just sitting around thinking. Seriously, hit play and sit a spell: This song is by one of my favorite bands, the Austin, TX-based Explosions in the Sky , who recently released a new album. I'd write a review, but a recent Slate article by Mike Spies summed it up very nicely: [T]hough the band has crafted, over the span of a decade, 38 separate tracks, it would be more accurate to say they've crafted one, gorgeous, ever-evolving score, to which listeners establish an individual relationship. While the music is very emotional, per se, it resists revealing itself and never asks to be "understood," which is why it tends to attract people who have nothing in common, as there is no singular message to unite under—no inside joke to be shared among fans. Instead, the music attaches it

New Additions to the Johnson Family

Introducing our new fish tank and fish! Erin, our resourceful American picker, found a very nice fish take for, like, a dollar. Those are two Ikea tables for support. It works surprisingly well! The tank is in Marcus' room. I have no idea how we negotiated that setup without Owen's strenuous protestation... This is Owen's fish, Squirty Spark. S.S. likes to sleep during the day perched under the green fake plant, which initially had us very worried that he was dying. But watching him squirt and spark around the tank at night squelched our fears. Squirty Spark is the fastest fish in the tank, and his specialty is doing "face plants" in the early evening while searching for food among the rocks. This is Mar's fish, Nemo-Dory.  N.D. swims around non-stop, making clear photography very difficult. Nemo-Dory has no respect for territory, and cares not for sleeping or sleeping fish. N.D.'s specialty is searching for and eating food near the surfac