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Showing posts from July, 2005

Thoughts from an "enlightening" mountaintop experience.

Having been outside at high elevation from 8:50pm to 10pm, 10:50pm to midnight, 12:50am to 2am and 2:50am to 4am, I have a few observations: Time goes faster if you watch the skies, not the clock. The clock also exhibits a pronounced lack of shooting stars. Wearing warm outer layers indoors will make you colder outdoors. Airplanes move relative to the stars. Stars don't. Airplanes blink. Stars near the horizon twinkle visibly. Stars at zenith (here) do neither. Any electrical or electronic device, no matter how expensive, has its peevish moments. Never underestimate the value of free snacks.

Security Council Chamber

I took this picture of the Security Council Chamber at UN headquarters in New York while attending a meeting in the next conference room over (Trusteeship Council). United Nations Security Council Chamber, New York.

Reality? What reality?

Somebody got the first season of " Xena, Warrior Princess " on DVD. And she's quite giddy about this. "Oh, Dan," quoth she, as we prepared to twist her hair. "She's the coolest person who ever lived!" "Um," replied I, "She didn't live. I'll be back after I blog about this."

A laser, a folding lawn chair, a hula hoop, and Peter Gillingham

Today was, as expected, my training (using the term somewhat loosely) as a laser spotter at Keck. A laser spotter does not spot lasers. Nor does a laser spotter use a laser to spot other things. No, a laser spotter tries to spot things before they run into the beam of a laser. In my town, laser spotters are available as temporary employees from one of the local employment agencies. Just call them up and tell them that you need a half-dozen laser spotters on a certain date, and you too can have laser spotters! (Yes, I do live in a slightly   unusual   town.) Anyway, there were a few purposes to the training: Make sure that hanging around the facility where the laser is for a few hours wouldn't make me keel over or anything. (Considering that I've hung out at facility around the corner, with very similar environmental hazards, for the last year, this was more of a formality than they knew. Show me where things were. I can now find the first-aid kit, a bunch of f

Back on the saddle again

Thursday I hopped on my bike and logged about 34km (21 miles). Stopped at the zoo for water, got rained on a wee bit coming out of there, then went down to the next town, checked out a little toy shop at the market there (picked up a card of fossils for my daughter), rode through that town, and came back by the somewhat scenic route, avoiding further rain. It didn't feel too bad, and given that my legs were tired but still functional at the end, I think it was about the right length. Of course, the parts of my bottom that land on a bike saddle are... not interested in any more rides just yet. But perhaps I'll manage one sometime on Saturday or Sunday. If not, perhaps next Thursday or Friday.

So this is acting...

Shouting at a young lady Brandishing a sword menacingly at her Standing in front of a table full of chocolates Wearing a green tunic with lace cuffs and collar For which I'm sure some curtains were martyred Smudged with cocoa and spices And no pants.

My daughter, the guinea pig.

  Well, the little one will soon enter first grade... at her  fourth  school. She spent a year in the "kinderhale" program at the local  Waldorf school  (that's Rudolf Steiner to you Europeans) as a 4-year-old. Then a semester of Kindergarten at  Voyager  Charter School in Honolulu, and the second semester of Kindergarten at  Chiefess Kapiolani  elementary here in Hilo. But the folks at Kapiolani told us repeatedly that we needed to get her into a better school, one that wasn't constrained so much by the  Every Child Left Behind  legislation, with less rigid reading and math programs and more challenges and opportunities and so on and so forth. So we put her name on the list a couple places. Last week, one of them,  Connections  Charter School, called to say that sorry, there wouldn't be any space for her when school starts up in a couple more weeks. Today, they called to say that there unexpectedly  would  be a space. Connections partners with the  Cu

Kung Fu Hustle

The first reviews I saw for this movie claimed that it was something like Jackie Chan meets Buster Keaton meets Bugs Bunny meets Quentin Tarantino. It sounds crazy, but they were exactly right. This movie has: Tons of kung fu, some of it humorous a la Chan Lots of physical comedy and Keatonesque pratfalls Some ridiculously fast movement and crashes like a cartoon Over-the-top stylized violence a la Tarantino If you're wondering why you haven't already seen fifteen other movies that combine these kinds of elements... well, the results can be pretty bizarre. "Hilarious" meets "disturbingly violent" and it's hard to know whether to laugh or cringe. This movie manages to make the combination work, skewering all manner of stereotypes in the process, and even offers a happy ending. If you're looking for something different , this might be a good one to see, as long as you're not easily offended or squeamish.

The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D

El Mariachi . Desperado . From Dusk Till Dawn . Once Upon a Time in Mexico . Spy Kids ? And now... The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D ?? No, Robert Rodriguez hasn't gone completely insane - he just has kids, and he makes films for kids sometimes. This particular one is based on a story one of his sons, Racer Rodriguez, created at age 7. Yes, really. The bad news is that audience members older or younger than age 7 may have a hard time really getting into the movie. The plot feels like a story being made up on the fly by a 7-year-old whose parents forgot to renew a ritalin prescription, and the acting and dialogue aren't likely to wow adult audiences.. The good news, of course, is that kids who are (around) 7 will probably really enjoy the movie. So: enjoyable movie for its target audience, but if mom or dad has to tag along, a matinee, second-run, dollar movie house is definitely the way to go.

Having an Impact

 Since last August, I've occasionally run a telescope for the university. A lot of the observations over the last academic year involved comet P9/Tempel-1, which had been selected as the destination for NASA's "Deep Impact" mission. One of the members of the NASA Science Team for the mission is a professor at the university, and she's had quite a few postdocs and grad students observing the comet for her. For several months, I've known that there would be some public outreach surrounding the mission. Public outreach is nothing new -- the university's Institute for Astronomy has a person who specializes in science education and public outreach. There are frequent public talks at the local campus, often by rather well-known figures in the field of astronomy, which draw anywhere from 50 to 150 people. But this... this would turn out to be a little different. Initially, I was going to be in the control room of the telescope I run, facilitating