My Lunch

Yes, I just ate bread with cheese and salami on a Sicilian beach. Yes, I accompanied that with olives and a nectarine. Yes, I’m about to go swimming in crystal clear blue water and take a nap under an umbrella. Yes!

Pretty Awesome Day

Today was great. I woke up late but still had time to enjoy many of the things that LA has to offer. After successfully running the glacier model (the main point of this trip). I headed out to LACMA, or the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It was recommended to me by Akili, a buddy from France, and his recommendation couldn’t have been better. The art was excellent, and it took me to a really cool part of LA. I met up with some people that I met at a bbq last night. Keith, a fellow motorcycle rider I met while on a road trip through Glacier National Park, invited me to eat brisket with him and other guests. This was superb and really gave me the fix I needed from being away from home. Well, his friends Chris and Taylor are art connoisseurs, and they were excited to have someone join them. They left me in the afternoon, and I found myself in Little Ethiopia, so I said why not get some Ethiopian food? I had never had it before, and now seemed like the best time.

The Ethiopian food was excellent, and while eating I had to decide on what to do next, so Yelp came in handy because it told me about a big flea market that’s only open on Sundays. It also reminded me about improv theater, from Upright Citizen’s Brigade and the Griffith Observatory. My afternoon and evening were planned! The flea market was fun, and I picked up some things for Katie. Hopefully she likes them. After that I headed to the theater and got in line. Sunday’s 7PM show is free, and people were already lining up when I got there at 5.

I met a nice couple and their friend, and we chatted the time away. Seeing live comedy was something I had been excited about before coming here, and it didn’t disappoint. Finally, it was dark, and I could head to the observatory. Griffith observatory is no longer active in research, but it is a fantastic place and highly respected for its public events. Tonight was a special night too, with Mars being the closest it’s been since 2003 and a nearly full moon, so lots of people were there. I was extremely lucky because I was the last person in line to see Mars. An employee got behind me and sent a lot of people a way. But I did get to see itΒ  and the northern ice cap! Finally I’m ‘home’ and still excited enough to share some pictures with the internet.

A fun view with the observatory, the moon, and Mars above them both.

Again with the moon, Mars and Los Angeles. Also, you can see Saturn between Mars and the moon. It’s not as bright, but it’s equally as cool.

Finally, I want to make a special note to how awesome it is having a motorcycle in LA. It’s basically a super power. Five times today I pulled up to something cool (LACMA, Ethiopian restaurant, flea market, UCB, and the Griffith Observatory) and five times today I parked exactly in front of the venue. It’s almost impossible to be closer than I was. We call this ‘Rockstar Parking’ and motorcycles are the best. So here’s to Blue πŸ™‚

Getting ready to ride

I’m headed to California on Wednesday. In preparation I’ve done some maintenance on the motorcycle. I’ve replaced changed the oil, spark plugs, and air filter. I replaced the rear brake pads and had a new chain installed. One day I’ll teach myself how to do that. The tires are good and should get me there and back with some extra. One worry is the seat, which has cracked in places, leaving the potential for a wet butt if it gets rained on, but I’ll likely be wearing rain pants in that eventuality.Β  In doing all this maintenance, I learned that one of my allen wrenches was missing, a very important one, so I’ve replaced that and also picked up a new spark plug wrench. The old one lost its rubber and was only half effective.

Now that the bike is ready, I’ll start packing for the trip. It’s a little awkward because I have to prepare for snow and cold weather until I get past Colorado. Then it’s Mojave Desert where they’re already hitting 90Β°. The return trip in June won’t be as cool!

The riding part of this trip is for personal pleasure, but the trip itself is for work. I’ll be at JPL hopefully learning how to model ice sheets. The goal is to extend my skill set and answer some fundamental science questions at the same time. If it works out, I won’t be just a Mars ice + radar person. I’ll be able to answer questions on other planet too πŸ™‚

Now if it would just stop snowing….

Big Changes

Some big things are happening around here. The biggest is that my job and affiliation are going to change soon. In the next couple of months I’ll transition to the Planetary Science Institute. The move is part of my boss’s plan. Some of it is sad. I like where I work now and all of the people with whom I work. It’s been a great environment for learning new things and starting collaborations. After the transition it will be the two of us, at least at first.Β  I’ll still be able to come back to Southwest, but my office won’t be mine, and I’ll be a visitor.

This is happening very quickly, mostly because I have a lot of travel coming up. So I have to pack up my office very soon and store things at home. The travel is good though. I’ll be at JPL for 4 weeks learning about ice sheet modeling. This will hopefully prepare me for papers and proposals related to ice sheets. Before and after JPL I’ll be in Baltimore and then Rome. I’m gone more than 6 weeks out of the next 7! Of course this makes my transition more stressful. Wish me luck!

First Oil Painting

I made some art. This is new to me, at least since freshman year of high school. It took about a month, most of that drying time, and the painting ended up better and different than I expected. Mars was the only planet that didn’t need to be redone πŸ™‚

The lighting in my office is bad, and there is some glare, which hides detail. Still, it’s great to be able to share! Click to enlarge.

Some really cool things are happening on Mars!

Some really ground breaking things are happening with Curiosity!

This week they are driving through a dune field – the first time that this has ever happened off of Earth. It’s huge for the planetary dunes community because so many questions can be answered by just a few good observations here. 1) what is the size and composition of the material that comprises the dunes? 2) what is the actual wind speed threshold for saltation (we can model it but don’t know for sure in this atmosphere), 3) how active are the dunes, and when are they most active during the day.

Like I said before, we have only been able to model these problems until now. Breakthroughs abound!

Some cool but raw images. Remember that the sand is dark black on Mars.

Looking at the dune slipface

looking at the bottom of the dune

Again

Really amazing!

Stunning

We’ve been dreaming about shots like this for years now

Can’t wait to drive here

And Here

and here
This also means that we’re actually getting close to the mountain.

Not much of an update

I don’t have a lot to update here from mid-October. Mostly I’ve been working, although I did travel to UCLA for an invited talk and to Austin to visit my family. I have a new niece named Josephine, and it was my dad’s birthday, so two great excuses to head home.

Right now I’m waiting to hear back from a paper I submitted, trying to get into gear to write and submit two more grant proposals, along with the MRO extended mission proposal that my boss is working on and asking for my help. I have two papers in prep that need to be finished, and the holidays are upon us. Also, I’ve applied for six jobs recently with nearly double that to go. Wish me luck in getting interviews.

All in all, things are going well and busy, so I haven’t done much outside of work. The weather has been iffy for motorcycle or mountain bike riding, but I did get a long snow shoe in this weekend with my friends. We were 6 in all, and it was the first time I filled my car with that many people. The car did great, which makes me happy. Of course snow shoeing is always a good time.

Thanksgiving is coming up, and I expect to entertain a few friends and my mom. She arrives tomorrow. It’s her first visit to Colorado since I moved here (actually since she was pregnant with me), so I’m looking forward to showing her around.

These last two weeks have been super busy!

There are times in your life when everything comes together at once, including tons of work. Recently I experienced one of those times.

Since the last post, when I submitted a research grant proposal to NASA (wish me luck!), I’ve served on a NASA review panel, submitted a spacecraft mission proposal to NASA (wish me luck!), submitted applications for employment (wish me luck!), submitted a manuscript to be published (wish me luck!), and am now reviewing another manuscript.

By far the busiest part was writing the grant proposal. Having started that in July, I spent a lot of time putting it together, especially in the final week. After that was the review panel, for which I had a LOT of reading to do and then a week of meetings. Finally last weekend I had some time to relax, so I started applying to faculty positions (again, wish me luck!) and submitted a paper I’ve been working on for many months. Usually I try to spread these things out. It’s already a lot of work, and keeping everything straight in my head takes more concentration than I had for a few moments.

Only once before have so many things happened at the same time. It was March 2010, and everything took place within 9 days. First I took and passed my PhD qualifying exam (with luck), submitted my edits to the journal Nature (with luck), successfully presented my research at a major conference, found out that I had received an award from the American Geophysical Union Conference the previous December, and one more thing I’ve forgotten since then. At the time my committee members told me to cherish the moment because so many things usually don’t happen at once…..

I can finally breathe, so I’m writing to the entire internet about how busy I’ve been πŸ™‚