Long time waiting for an update

I’ve been so neglectful here, but there is good reason. Since my last post (in Sicily!) I’ve been terribly busy. After Sicily I went to Rome for a week of work. Upon returning I immediately started prepping for my 5 day per week astronomy course at CU. That was a blast, but it consumed all of my free time. Then it was August, and August meant moving – both the office and the apartment. Than and I left SwRI to join PSI. PSI opened a new branch for us in Lakewood, CO, and it’s wonderful. I couldn’t be happier with the facility. The view from my office is fantastic, and my office itself is enormous!

I do miss working with a larger group of people. Hopefully one day this office grow.

So, August was a mess. Not only was I adapting to the new office (and commuting 40 minutes each way), I began packing and moved to Denver. Pictures of the new apartment are coming. I’m still trying to get it situated. Why, you might ask, haven’t I gotten it done? The end of August was more than 7 weeks ago. Well, I also ran a conference in Iceland! As soon as I got my furniture in place at the new apartment I flew to Iceland with Katie. We enjoyed some field trips (pictures to come), and I convened a conference with 102 people from 11 countries. It was an amazing experience, deserving of its own writeup.

Lately, I’ve been teaching at Regis again, and trying to catch up with the major changes at the new office. Currently we’re trying to get our servers and file systems to work again. They were moved from SwRI two weeks ago, and not everything is running yet.

Well, this is a fast update, but I feel better about getting something down.

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 it  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 🙂

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.  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 90°. 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 🙂

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.  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 🙂

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.

I did it!

I did it! I completed a semester as professor, or Dr. Smith. Tuesday was my last lecture, and I gave the final exam tonight. These are causes
I finished my first course as a professor. This is cause for celebration! Completion is a great source of happiness. 🙂

It was a pretty big deal to take on the class and my first time to sit on this side of the podium with no one behind me. If you had asked me 4 months ago how much more work went into being a professor than a teaching assistant, I would have severely underestimated the gap. Now I know, or at least have one data point.

Overall I’d say that things went really well. My students were very good for the most part, with only a couple of slackers. I’m grateful to the rest for dedicating themselves, and I got to watch them learn about Astronomy. Some of my students had some very nice words to day, which I will cherish.

Hooray! I’m done 🙂

I just bought tickets to Israel!

I’ve got a lot of travel coming up. Most of it is for work, but I’m able to extend each trip with added vacation days. My next trip is to Baltimore for two meetings related to SHARAD and MRO.

The next trip is to Switzerland. I’ll be there to provide radar observations and interpretations over several regions of Mars. Having been to Switzerland several times, and wanting to branch out, I thought it would be nice to visit somewhere new, so I bought tickets to Israel. It’s going to be a short trip, just 3 days and 4 nights, but I get to see somewhere new and explore more of the world. This is going to be great.

If that weren’t enough, as soon as I get back I head off to Idaho for another meeting. Yep! Lots of meetings. I’ll be taking the motorcycle that time, so there will be an added road trip after the meeting. Looking forward to that too.

Vacation in the south

There is too much to update for now.  We’ve been visiting a lot of Paris, especially the fun neighborhoods and museums.  After nearly 4 weeks we’re going out of the city for vacation to see some new things in Lyon and Avignon plus what every we come across along the way.  Should be a lot of fun.

In other news, work is progressing.  I’ve submitted a paper to publish (my 3rd as first author), and am working on the next two.  Paris is great, and we’ve had fantastic weather for the most part (a big departure from last year when it rained 90 of the 100 days in was here).  I’m looking forward to moving to Boulder, Co at the end of May.  That means a lot more work between now and then.


1955 Effie Repairs

I’m fixing up this old truck.  She’s a beauty with near perfect body and original, running motor.  I’m getting it tuned for the road, and hopefully before the new year I’ll be able to ride around town comfortably.

Here’s today’s progress

Adjusting the brakes was far easier than I expected.  Oddly, the front tire that has the least grab is the one that needed the least adjustment.  The other was actually much looser.  Now I suspect something else may be the problem.

I’m doing the ignition system tomorrow, new plugs, wires, points, and condenser.  I suspect the coil is good, and the distributor and rotor appear to be new.

I’m concerned that the loud bang/pop/explosion I heard under the hood last time I drove it wasn’t fuel related.  Since then, several weeks ago, I’ve only been able to start it once (after rebuilding the carb and trying for about 1 minute), and it ran for just a few seconds.  It hasn’t started since.  At least it did start after rebuilding the carb – so I can no it wasn’t a big foul up there.

With a new ignition system I suspect things will go better.  Also, my mechanic friend who was in the business more than 30 years is coming by with a timing light and dwell meter.  He’s really good about diagnosing problems.

I’m rehanging the doors right now.  That’s actually quite simple too.  The clasps are hung too high, so the doors won’t latch.  That’s fixed in just a few seconds of work.

Once it’s running I’ll have the oil changed and fix the left rear brake/indicator so it will be road worth.  Of course there is no heater, and I’m just in time for the cold.



Here I am, 30 years old.  Well, 30 minus an hour.  It’s one of those things that we all look to our future and then reflect back on.  This is a good time in my life.  For the first time I know who I am and have a path to reach the things I want.

I’m very happy with things and how they’re going.  There isn’t much to say about this, and I have plenty of other things to write about, especially the recent motorcycle trip/ birthday present to Mexico, so this post is just a placeholder until I can reflect on it more.   Here I am 30 years old.