AAS: The Party

This, of course, is where AAS meetings get interesting.

Andrea and I gathered together a random group of people, including one girl who I'm pretty sure was the tallest woman at the conference. (Note: still not taller than me, although astronomers have a very very strange height distribution. It's like being in the Netherlands.) Dinner was tasty, but nothing to write much about, just a faux-Irish American place. My general plan was to create some new friends so I'd have someone to talk to at the party rather than being bored and alone.

Then Andrea bailed on me.

And the tall girl asked if they were going to card at the door since she was only 20. (Note: YIKES!)

So, that left two people from UC Davis and one of my friends from NMSU that I was going to meet up with.

Yadda yadda yadda, people going to hotels to change, things taking longer than expected, we get to the party... the drink special is a Galileo and seems to have no redeeming characteristics other than being strong. I decide to start my drinking slightly later. Since we were late, that puts me a good three drinks behind everyone else.

The good stuff starts below.
Continue reading AAS: The Party


Catching up: The AAS Meeting

The entire AAS experience can roughly be divided into two parts, the meeting and the party. Thus, two posts.

The meeting went very well. People liked my research and thought it was significant and no one found any critical holes. I got an idea for a easy-to-write paper that is actually significant (just have to email Aaron because it needs his expertise). I had a really solid hour-and-a-half interview for a teaching job (although from the sounds of things, they're really looking for a woman). Then I got offered a fellowship from one of my competitors who really wants to pick my brain. When I said I couldn't move to the Netherlands, the guy suggested that I just come out for 3 or so weeks and they'll pay all my travel and expenses and give me a salary... if that pans out, I'l be in Europe probably in August for a while.

Oh, and I found out that I'm on the short list for a postdoc in Seattle that I really really really want.

All together, that seems like a pretty successful trip even if nothing SHOCKING happened.

Oh, I met Neil deGrasse Tyson too. He had a huge crowd of bouncy female undergrads around his poster asking him to sign autographs. I've hereby decided to hate any astronomer who signs autographs. (Although it could also be said that you hate people who have what you want.)


Facebook-datamining utility

Are you bad at remembering birthdays? Wish that you knew the address/contact info of your friends? Well, especially if you have a lot of friends on Facebook, then you may find this little program useful.

The un-hyperbolically named AddressBookSync will download Facebook profile pictures and birthdays to Address Book cards on your Mac (OSX 10.4 or higher), probably most useful for people who sync their iPhones (or other fancy phones) with their OS X Address Book contact information.

One nice little feature is the automatic matching of many common short/alternate first names between Facebook and your Mac (i.e. Mike for Michael, Jess for Jessica).


Not black and white

Or should I say, not silver and black? But either way, I want to point people to this article pointing out that the piracy off the coast of Somalia is out of desperation and a direct result of Western neglect, not a simple case of greed and immorality.

The quick summary: In 1991, the government of Somalia - in the Horn of Africa - collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since - and many of the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas....As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died.

According to the UN envoy to Somalia, "somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury - you name it." Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to "dispose" of cheaply.

Combine that with severe overfishing by foreign supertrawlers, you have a sick, starving, and desperate population... and suddenly piracy and hostage-taking seems a lot more reasonable, even if not defensible.


Brian's POTW: night sky

I will start by admitting that I didn't actually take this photo, but it is an impressive (depressing) example of light pollution:

On the left we have a "dark sky" photograph - a 'naked-eye' photo from the ground under good observing circumstances ... while on the right is the same region of the sky, taken in "the teeming metropolis of Orem, UT at the heart of the Utah County megalopolis comprising about half a million people." I'm not quite sure where JP Stanley is from* to call Orem, Utah a "teeming metropolis" but no matter - the comparison is striking.

* oops, turns out he is from Orem. hmm.

P.S. This isn't really Brian, but it fits the category.