I collected one of my last signatures for my PhD thesis.  I hope to get the next one in the coming week.  After that it there is just one signature left, that of my advisor, Jack Holt.  There is so much to do, I barely have time to write about it.  Mostly I’m worried about getting my house ready to rent.  That means cleaning and repairing some things.  Then there is a week of vacation, and I should avoid work that week….

These are just the big things.  So much to do.  Wish me luck.

30 ft tall Buddha and a walk through Stereotypical Tokyo

The third day of my trip was as awesome as the first, but with less walking, for which my legs thanked me. My calves were especially sore after the long day, and even a week later one lets me know I pushed it too hard.  Here is the entire set of photos for this day.

It was another early start. My goal was to reach Tsukiji fish market before it closed. Unfortunately, it wasn’t open on Sundays, but I was able to fill the day quite well by visiting some other nearby famous sites. After a short walk and visit of a super market (which you should check out because it was very interesting – $10 cantaloupes!) I found myself in Ginza. Ginza is the street most people imagine when they think of Tokyo. The buildings are tall, and there are lots of ads hanging.

The famous clock tower.

Also, I found more people standing around waiting for something. At least this time it made sense. The Apple store was about to open. These people were almost alone on the street.

I ate some food picked up at the supermarket. Not all bad, not all good either. Yep, that’s a whole fish, and the green thing was filled with sweetened black beans. I probably shouldn’t have eaten that. I ended up throwing away nearly half.

I wanted to see Mount Fuji. Rumor has it that you can see it from Tokyo, but even at the highest points, it was not visible – probably due to haze. So my plan was to get closer on my way to Kamakura – where the 30 ft tall Buddha sits. My efforts were not fruitful, but I did get to see some smaller towns towards the south- putting me at ease that Japan wasn’t all tall buildings and asphalt.

My farthest point south was in Odawara. It was a seaside town, and I decided to get my feet wet plus find some lunch. This is also when I decided Fuji wasn’t in the cards. It clouded over and eventually rained. I couldn’t have seen the mountain if I was standing on it. Odawara is an interesting town with few westerners. Nothing in the shops tempted me, so it was a longish walk to the beach.

I couldn’t wait to get in the water.

I came across an old fort that was picturesque.

And some interesting things that weren’t buildings.

Nice Art

On my way to the Buddha

There’s a whole lot more of this area and the temple here.

And that was my great day. I was again super tired and even missed my connecting train on the way back. Thankfully I recognized one stop and was able to get back to the hostel before passing out for my last night in Tokyo. Next time Tsukiji and the Emperor’s Palace grounds.

Here is the entire set of photos for this day. 

Parisian Food

Things are going well at the conference, and I’m learning a lot.  The food just keeps getting better here.  Today for lunch was quiche, and for the first time in my life it was done well – well enough to enjoy!  Mostly we’ve eaten out, but tonight is different.  For dinner we picked up some things from the local cheese, wine, meat, and bakery shops.  Looking forward to chowing down.  Photos to come.


Bon Jour

Arrived in Paris today by speed train.  Man those things go fast, almost 200mph

Paris is great.  The cheese and wine are excellent and decently priced.  The views are outstanding.  The apartment I’m renting is barely two blocks from Notre Dame.  It’s a beautiful day, and there is a lot to see.

and a post from Sunday that wasn’t posted:

“I’m getting the grand tour today.  We’ll visit Rotterdam and Delft, maybe Den Haag if there’s time.  Last night was Utrecht – the second or third largest city in the Netherlands.  It’s not cold, but windy and cloudy constantly.  The cities are very pretty although foreign.”


I’m in Tilburg, Netherlands right now at a friends.  He’s from Chile but works here temporarily and has a great girlfriend working on her PhD.  Monday I head to Paris for a conference on Mars Atmosphere, but it’s nice to get here early to adapt.  This jetlag is awful.

Best photos of 2010

It’s a little late, but I’m finally getting to my best and favorite photos of 2010.  I did some decent traveling last year, and the best of photos mostly come from that.  They include parts of my two trips to Colorado in the spring and the long motorcycle trip to California this summer.  Plus there are a few from Monterrey, especially the aquarium, taken in December.

I’ll just show the absolute best, and you can flip through the entirety of the ~60 photos here.

Here was a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park in March about. Snow was everywhere, and three of us, Prateek, Charles, and I, had a good time hiking. We were really tired by the end of the trip and rested well for the upcoming science meeting.

Some others

The next trip to Colorado was by motorcycle in May for a conference about extra planetary sand dunes. We visited Great Sand Dune National Park on a fieldtrip, and it was beautiful. The weather was much more conducive to riding then, and I really had a blast heading through Palo Duro Canyon and north-central New Mexico to southern Colorado.

Palo Duro from above

And another from the park.

Always a favorite part of the year is adding liquid helium to the super-conducting magnetometer. Here you can see cold helium outgassing, as it does it freezes the air around it, and you get air-cycles. Sometimes we even get oxygen drops, but be careful, even though they are liquid they will flash freeze your skin!

The next trip actually went through Colorado, but it took me much farther through Utah, Nevada, California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Utah has so many amazing places that I could do a best of Utah 2010, but I’ll stick to the few best of the best from that trip.

Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado is a most picturesque place.

It’s almost impossible to choose Utah pictures, but here we go. These are all from Monument Valley or nearby Valley of the Gods.

There are more in the link above

Possibly the most beautiful place on earth is Canyonlands National Park, especially the Needles section. Within a few minutes I took all of these amazing photos and more.

Here are a few from Arches, Natural Bridges, and Capitol Reef National Parks

Those were great, but Bryce Canyon National Park was just gorgeous. And there are several more in the link above.

As it should be, the Grand Canyon is the highlight of any trip, and I was not let down for good quality scenery, even on the way in.

These others are definitely work a click.

More in the link

Of course the stated purpose of that trip was a week long summer school at Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I got to see the upcoming Martian rover while there. It only moved about a foot at the time, but people were happy with that.

Mt. Wilson Observatory tops my list

As does Saguaro National Park

New Mexico has so many highlights I can’t really put them all here, but this from White Sands National Monument takes the cake and may be my personal favorite of the year.

In September I was back in Pasadena, California for another conference, and afterward I took a trip to Santa Barbara for a day. It was pretty. That day happened to be September 11th, and there was a large memorial to that day setup with flags for every person who died that day. Most were Americans, but you can see some other flags in the photos. The one I show is a favorite of Gary Paul, and I like it too.

My last big trip for work in 2010 was to San Francisco for a giant conference. Afterward I stopped by Monterrey for some relaxation and wine tasting. They have a great aquarium there where even an amateur like me can take fantastic photos. Here are just a few of the best.

My favorite from the aquarium turned out to be this one, and that is surprising since it was just a single shot taken in passing. This leads me to believe that one should always have his camera ready.

Actually before I even got to San Francisco I stayed with family in Berkeley. On the first morning at their house I awoke to this view – one that has won me many points with my photographer girlfriend.

So I put a lot more in here than was required, but there are just too many to choose from that were fun to take and look at. I hope you enjoyed, and if you want to see the rest just click here.

Research and writing

These days I’m doing a lot of the former but beginning to get into the latter.  I started my second paper this week.  It won’t be as ground breaking as the first one, but it certainly will add to our knowledge of Mars.  That’s what we’re all about!

I’m looking forward to the process, which I expect will take several months, and then the final result.  It is rewarding to watch these things grow.

In the mean time I’ll try to finish up the trip from this summer.  I didn’t die at Bryce Canyon!

Upcoming travel

I’m headed to San Francisco this weekend.  I’ll be there for a conference the whole week.  I was there years ago but didn’t get much time to go out.  I expect this time (with lots of friends) I will be able to see more of the town.

Look forward to a few pictures but not all, since your author is too lazy to post them all.

Rome part 2.

It takes me too long to do this stuff!  I want to finish this up so I can post pictures from Pompeii and the Vatican.

After lunch I continued my walk around the city, and without a map I soon found myself away from the exciting stuff, but thankfully there is plenty to see there.  From the Colosseum I unknowingly headed toward the Roman Forum. On my way I passed some nice things.

The city was littered with these things, viaducts? aquaducts?

That last one has an arch structure coming out of a house!? And the pine trees you see there have somehow been cultivated to look like that. Think giant Bonsai.

My walk took me through a famous church, San Clemente. It was old and beautiful as you can imagine. I didn’t take any photos in there out of respect (well actually it was too dark :), normally I would). So here’s a google image search if you want to see what it looks like.

And since my hotel was so close I found myself back at the Colosseum.

Jack, my boss and advisor, and I met up with some colleagues at a restaurant below our hotel, did I mention there were 4 on that plaza? These guys are from Colorado, and one is the head of the project on the American side. I think this was the cheapest meal I ate there, probably $40 per person or so.

After dinner Jack and I walked in a direction I hadn’t yet gone. I especially liked the view of the Victor Emanuel Monument.

That first one is nice. We walked for a while and found ourselves back at the Colosseum (right by the hotel still). It made for some nice night shots.

Here’s one with the two of us although smeared because I forgot the flash

By then I my feet hurt, and I was tired from jetlag and the long day. The next day was neat, my lunch spot even older than today.

GIS class field trip

This weekend my GIS class left town for some good ol’ geologic mapping.  The class is mostly computer based, and we collected data in our attempt to better learn ArcGIS software.  The work wasn’t difficult, and the area very pretty.  Be ware though, cacti are everywhere!

Our site was the Mason Mountain Wildlife Refuge: a place where the plants are all native, and the animals are all imported.  We saw animals, but I didn’t get any photos.  Silly me.  Out job there was to map outcrops of a very old granite formation that is being uncovered by erosion of the sedimentary deposits above.  Our group stayed in cabins last night (not all of us slept inside though – the sky was just too good to miss), and we even got to watch UT beat Missouri at football.

I’m just going to show some photos here and link to the rest.

Professor Helper giving instructions on what we were to do and our fearless TA, Ephraim ready to go.

An outcrop, our trucks, and my lab partner, Trisha. We traded off quite a bit, but there are no photos of me working. haha

Trisha again on the “big one”, the largest outcrop we found on the first day. This one caused us to be 20 minutes late and Ephraim to be sent out after us. We beat him back.

Last night was gorgeous. The sky had a few brushy clouds – the kind perfect for nice sunsets, and there was a slight chill on the air.

I took a lot of sunset photos, you can see some of them here.

I slept outside, and on Ephraim’s recommendation did so on top of the van; he chose the suburban because of the rails on top to keep him in place. It made for an interesting place to sleep, and the view of the sky was fantastic, as I so rarely see it these days. It was too good to even take photos, they wouldn’t do the scene justice. There were a lot of stars, and I must have seen 7 or 8 shooting stars to add to the wonder. I woke up once, and there, right over my head, was Orion and the entire winter Hexagon. The best part was finding the Andromeda Galaxy, The Perseid Double Cluster, and the Little Dipper, all three of which are invisible in the city.

This morning the sun came out nicely.

And then we were back to mapping. Today we were busier, and it took all morning for Trisha and I to finish even the closest outcrops (which were far larger than yesterday).

Here’s me celebrating UT’s great football team and Trisha working again, and then some of the biggest red ants I’ve ever seen. I kept far enough away not to find out how bad they bite

On top of the big outcrop we could see the horizon miles away.

And then our group picture.

On the way back we stopped at Coopers Barbeque for lunch 😀

You can see all of the photos here.