Friday, October 27, 2006


I saw these guys on my way home yesterday and took some pictures on my way in this morning. One of my original goals for the blog was to take a lot of pictures of animals. I didn't know how easy that would be.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

My iPod, your iPod, we all ...

On the flight to Germany, my sister and I sat next to a guy heading back to Poland after a month in San Francisco. He said that he'd been busy working in the States and didn't get much of a chance to have the quintessential American experience, but he bought an iPod and now he "feels just like an American." I thought that was pretty cute -- are iPods the new Coke? -- but I didn't think too much about it.

Turns out, maybe iPods are an American thing. On a public bus, near a university, the rate of iPod/headphone use that I've observed is much, much lower than in the States. As a naive American, I'm honestly puzzled how it is possible that not everyone in the world has an iPod.


Friday, October 20, 2006

On the Way to Work

So I had a little time this weekend to take pictures of my route to work. The start is this tiny trail -- which I never actually ride the bike down -- less than block from the house.

At the bottom of the path there's a farm. Hey, here's some geese:

And some fuzzy pigs:

Past the farm is the path that leads to work.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Not Like Riding a Bike ...

I've moved out of the temporary apartment and am now crashing with some friends. They rent a house across the field that is outside of my office. Getting to work, then, means borrowing their extra bike and biking the path across the field. I haven't had a bike since I was ten years old, and the last time I was on a bike was nearly a decade ago and involved an incident with a tree. If you are one of the 3 Yale students and one homeless man who witnessed this incident, do not -- I repeat, do not -- email me to reminisce about it. Just let it go. Out of shame, I will not disclose my current incident rate.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Germany is on the Honor System

One week in Germany. Still homeless. On the plus side, I have an office. I share it with a PhD student here, but it's rather nice and large with lots of shelves. And here's a picture of the view out the window.

This is the view through the window (actually from where I sit there's a lot more dirt on the window).

The "city" is small and cute. People here, however, have a distorted sense of scale. I'm constantly being told that some destinations are very far, and I'd better take the bus there. Those destinations are at most 1.5 miles away. Here's a picture of me in front of a pear tree. I'm very tired.

When you get on the bus, you can pay the busdriver. You can also buy a ticket in advance and validate it on the bus, inserting into a box at the back of the bus for a timestamp. You can also have a pass and do nothing when you get on the bus (no showing or waving around of your bus pass). I've been told that occaisonally someone will come by to check that you have a valid ticket/pass and if you do not it's a 40 euro fine. I have never witnessed this. So as far as I can tell, it's basically the honor system. My sister is fairly convinced that no one actually pays and we're busily paying the stupid tax. I asked one of the students here, "why do people pay if there's no need to prove you paid?" From the look on her face, I'm pretty sure that she could see horns growing from my forehead as I asked the question.


Friday, October 06, 2006

No Sleep Till Deutschland

From Tuesday morning through this afternoon, I've been at a conference in Santa Barbara. I don't have much to say about the conference right now without being too gossipy or too sciencey (although maybe I'll think of something later) but, for obvious reasons, it's my last day here and I had only 4 hours of sleep last night. I have 4 hours to sleep tonight on the red-eye back to Chicago. Then, from when I touch down in Chicago at 6 am Saturday, I have 34 hours to do a kazillion things before taking off for Germany Sunday afternoon. I may make it. From lack of sleep and lots of flying time, I may be sick by the time I land in Cologne.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006


So far, the verdict on homelessness: not entirely terrible. On Saturday, my first full day of homelessness, I flew to LA to hang out with some college friends. It turned out to be a reunion of the last 4 participants in the class of 1998 CfA REU program to remain in the field. (Just in case, if you're number 5, email me!) We went ice-skating.

On Sunday, I went to see the Watts Towers. For 30 years, Simon Rodia built a series of concrete-clad steel towers decorated with found and salvaged objects like glass from bottles and cups and plate, using almost no tools and a hand-made window-washers belt. The tallest tower rises to 100 feet in the air. It's pretty amazing. Here's a picture I took with my cell phone.

As their name suggests, the Towers are in Watts. The best part is my overprotective mother calling me as we're leaving. Her question: Are you in San Marino? (Me: Uh, not exactly ...)

Some months ago, back in Chicago, a frequent topic of discussion was the need for a resource for great places to eat. So, Risa and Sarah, this is for you. I went to dim-sum at the Oceanstar Seafood Restaurant in Monterrey Park and it was fantastic. Significantly more options than any dim-sum in Chicago. Lots of great seafood. And -- I've never seen this before -- they serve Tong Fun (wide noodles usually with shrimp inside and a mild soy sauce on top) with Yu-Tao (fried dough) inside!

Just as an extra note, I know that the only American location of the famous Taipei dumpling restaurant, Din Tai Fung, is very near Pasadena (mmm, xiao lem bao). I hear it's not as good as the original, but I can't imagine you can find any better in the U.S.

I spent Monday at Caltech. As my goal is to have as many awesome animal pictures as possible, I'm sorry to say that my pictures of the turtles that live on the campus didn't turn out. You all will just have to go and see for yourself. I also gave a talk; it was essentially my thesis talk redux, except this time I wasn't as prepared and one of my contacts slipped out of place midway. It didn't stop the talk, but I spent the rest of it unable to see out of my left eye and feeling the contact poking me in the side of my eye.

What does the title of this post have to do with anything? Hmm, that's a good question. Well, I'm sure it's trivial. I leave it as an exercise for the reader.



It's almost a cliche now to start a blog upon finishing grad school, but ... well, I guess I don't really have an excuse. However, I do think that I have a fighting chance of keeping up with this blog. I'm moving from the U.S. to Germany and I've never been to Germany, don't know German, and am deeply suspicious of the metric system. So, plenty of blogging material.

By the way, if you don't know me and have stumbled upon this blog (I'll probably keep it public), I'm a young astrophysicist, set adrift in the world, just me and my MacBook (my precious, precious MacBook. iTunes 7 froze my computer (repeatedly) and I nearly cried). Ten points if you figure out the Simpson's reference in the title of the blog. Also, despite the vaguely astro-y texture of the title, I don't intend to blog much about science.

When I posted the first, test blog, I was desperately packing up, and I didn't want to post sad pictures of my emptying apartment. Now that I don't have an apartment anymore, that's no longer a problem. So, what's the first thing that a newly homeless person should do? Why, go to California for a week before moving to a different continent ...