Friday, May 9, 2008

So Sleepy

Most of the time we gemini queue observers are scheduled for four or five nights at a time, depending on the preferences of the individual observer. That works out to ~3 five night shifts or 4 four night shifts per semester. I always preferred the five night shifts. Now that I'm back here just for observing, I've got two observing blocks scheduled with a 10 day break in between to catch up on sleep, visit with friends, and toodle around La Serena and Santiago with Jaime. That's a good chunk of observing, and I'm at the tail end of night #5 right now, and I'm super tired. So if it were a normal run for me, I'd be done, but this time I'm up here for six nights, and I have to figure out some way to sleep today so that I can make it through tomorrow night. My second run, at the end of the trip, is only five nights, but then I have to go down that afternoon and fly home overnight to the U.S. That will probably be the most tired I've been getting onto the overnight flight, and I hope it leads to a serious quality sleep on the plane.

I'm too tired to even include a picture with this post...

Monday, May 5, 2008

New Dorm on Cerro Pachon

Woohoo, there's finally a new dorm on Cerro Pachon. We used to have to drive back and forth each day from the telescope on Pachon to the dorm on Cerro Tololo, half an hour away. And it's not an easy half hour drive. No, it was a stunningly beautiful and spectacularly scary half hour drive, after having stayed up and worked all night long, and trying to remain awake for that windy cliff-edged drive back to bed.

Now we have a three minute drop from the telescope to the new dorm. Much, much better and safer too. I slept there today, and while I'm still not able to get eight hours of continuous sleep up here, it was much quieter and more comfortable than the old Tololo dorms. So, Yey!

The architectural styling is kind of interesting too. The west face of the building has a bunch of windows on a long, wide hallway. It reminds me of an airport terminal. It also heats up something wicked in the afternoon (and it's late fall down here), but the rooms stay well insulated and cool despite the hallway temperature.

The windows cast interested shadows on the carpet, I was noticing during our daily 4pm coordination meeting. I want to take a picture of the shadows, but was busy with the meeting today. Tomorrow I'll bring the camera with me.

The other quirky thing about the building is the front entrance. It reminds me of the old space invader characters...

Sunday, May 4, 2008


I'm back on my old stomping grounds, having just driven up to Cerro Pachon, site of the Gemini-South telescope. I'll be up here observing for six nights. It's a couple hours until sunset, and the sky is completely clear, and conditions seem quite stable, so it should be a good start to the observing run. I'm overlapping tonight with another astronomer to remind myself of how to operate things, and to learn what's changed since I was last up here in January.

The picture above is from my garden. It's a night jasmine bush which has the most wonderful scent, and flowers which make me think of stars. Or pinwheel galaxies.

Time to pack up my computer now and head to dinner, and then the summit. The first night can be hard to stay awake for, but hopefully my sleeping in today will allow me to stay at least somewhat alert for the whole time.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Surfin' round the world

It's been a while. I know you know that, because you've been telling me for weeks, months even. Who are you? You should know yourself. But just in case you are feeling a bit too singular to be singled out in a post by wee little me, yes, I am referring to the plural you, ustedes, not just the single you, you who is reading this right now (or perhaps due to the wonders of the world wide web, yous who are reading this right now), but to all of you (J, E, C, C, M, D, T, R, A, P, S, J, M, and all those other initials) who have asked me to get back at it, start posting again, and to keep it up a bit longer this time. So, here goes...

A year ago when I bought two surfboards, just after deciding to move to the desertlands of phoenix, people (maybe even you) asked why? Where was I going to surf in Arizona? Well, I answered then, I'll only be a six hour drive from the beaches of southern california. I won't have a job. I'll be able to go surfing whenever I want. So, six plus months after moving to said desert, have I been surfing yet? Yes, once, in san diego. But no, not on my board. It was a rental. So my board is sitting idly by in the house, yearning to be surfed upon, and my pool is sitting idly by in the backyard, yearning to make some waves, and combining the two seems like the perfect combination. I started by paddling around in circles (small, little circles). As my paddling form is still rather inefficient, I do get to paddle several times per hand in a forward direction before I need to throw on the hand brakes, turn, and head back the other way. As my efficiency improves, I expect I'll only get one or two paddles before I streak across the pool and outgrow the space. Then I start practicing my pop-ups, getting from prone to up-standing in one swift graceful motion. Finally, I graduate to advance maneuvers, such as the cut-back seen above. I'm ready to take on the real waves now. If only I could find an ocean...

In other news, I flew to La Serena yesterday, my old haunt, and I'm down here for most of May working for Gemini and doing a couple of observing runs. I'll do my best to get back into the frequent posting schedule I had when I lived here last.