Australia Day 2013

It’s Australia Day, also sometimes called Colonization Day (or Invasion Day), the more-or-less controversial equivalent of a mash-up of America’s Independence Day and Columbus Day. It commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet into Botany Bay around this time of year in 1788. These days it is observed with barbecues, cricket, fireworks and patriotic flag-waving. I’m with Emily and Lydia, and Lydia’s boy Tim. The barbecuing is from 5, but the board games and drinking are already well enough in progress. Others will hopefully join us soon.

I haven’t posted here in a while so here’s a bullet-point quick list of things which have happened since last time, in no particular order:

  • I’ve started a new research-only blog. This new blog will be about what I had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as far as my scientific research is concerned. The posts will be shorter, only two or three paragraphs, and will be aimed at my colleagues, hence will be quite technical (more so than the “Technical” tag here, which is really aimed more at a level of understanding appropriate for undergraduate physics majors). However, it’s not inconceivable that science people might run across this blog and want to know what I’m doing, so if you’re keen, go look here.

  • I spent Christmas and New Year’s with Emily’s family. We’re now on “take the boy home for the holidays” terms and this was the first holiday season I’d spent with anyone other than my own family. We went to the South Coast of NSW, in the town of Mollymook, south of Sydney. Overall it was a lovely restful period; Em swam in the ocean every single day we were at the beach, while I sat around and read as much as I could manage. Other attractions included board games, birdwatching, and virtually no internet (my only source of connectivity was my phone, and the network was completely overloaded, so while signal was strong I couldn’t get any data). My favorite present was an Emily-made Scalemate plushie (see this MSPA episode for some background and a re-enactment of Em’s presentation of the little guy to me).

  • There’s a new crop of ducklings at the pond. Remember that last post about wood ducklings? Well, Pacific Black breeding season is a month or two after wood duck breeding season, so it wasn’t long after our wood ducklings were all grown up that we saw another clutch of seven little Pacific Black ducklings chasing after their mom around our pond. Don’t have pictures yet, usually the light sucks, need to get out there earlier in the evening, but trust me, they’re cute too.

  • My latest paper is circulating among my colleagues. “That Paper” has been published but unfortunately doesn’t seem to have made much of a splash yet. This one is about normal SNe Ia, and therefore I expect it to make more of a splash. I finished the first draft just before Christmas, and the first round of comments (from the Germans) have covered it in an ocean of red ink. In a way this is good, because it means they’re interested and care enough about it to make sure it’s a good paper, but it’s still a bit daunting. I’ve got some long days ahead pushing this one through.

  • I’ve got stacks of other paper ideas. Hopefully it’ll be a good year for papers, since the results in my recent paper are (to me) quite exciting and suggest stacks of other things we can do. Of course, we also have to still get SkyMapper working, which brings us to the fact that…

  • Siding Spring Observatory almost burned down. A fierce bushfire completely destroyed the old Lodge where on-site observers would normally stay, but it seems to have left the telescopes miraculously unharmed. We can thank the RSAA’s extensive investment in fireproofing after ACT-wide bushfires leveled Mt. Stromlo almost exactly ten years previously. The observatory is closed until the risk assessors can get in and assay the damage for the insurance claim, and presumably until a few expert staff can get on site after that and determine whether there might be damage to the telescopes outside of the immediately apparent (ash or smoke, for example). Watch the story in the media for more details. Apparently on-site webcams, which the astronomers usually use to check the weather, were instrumental in directing resources while fighting the fire.

And of course you can keep following here. I can’t promise particularly regular updates, but when I have something to say that I can’t say in a single line or a couple of paragraphs elsewhere, this is where you’ll find it.


About Richard

I'm an American scientist who is building a new life in Australia. This space will contain words about science and math, but also philosophy, policy, literature, my travels, occasional rants, all sorts of things I find strange and awesome. The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my employer at the time (currently University of Sydney), though personally, I think they should.
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