Friday, July 27, 2007

Girl Scout Camp

So I just got back from Girl Scout camp. No, seriously.

It's been about 20 years since the last time I went to Girl Scout Camp, but it was pretty much how I remembered, with the campfires and the singing and hiking and swimming and what not. Except this camp specializes in incorporating NASA activities into their programs, which is too cool. One of the things they like to do is to have scientists come and hang out with the girls so they can see that scientists are people too, and this year, I was that scientist.

I hung out with the girls, went on their hikes, did arts and crafts. Turns out I'm pretty good at archery, or at least better than your average 9 year old girl. And we talked. They asked lots of great questions. I like using these opportunities to size up the world and see how NASA is doing with outreach and spreading its message. I use my family for this a lot too, but kids are much better because they aren't afraid of looking stupid and they will ask you literally anything that pops into their heads.

The most popular question I was asked is why Pluto is no longer a planet. They are still pretty upset about that, but they do seem to have accepted the fact, they just want to understand the reasons behind it.

Nobody asked me if we faked the Moon landing (something I get asked by adults all too frequently), which I take as a positive sign.

They seemed very concerned that the world was going to end, they wanted to know if the Earth was going to blow up, if the Moon was going to blow up, if the Moon was going to crash into the Earth, if the Sun was going to explode, and so on and so on. I hope I didn't give any of them nightmares when I explained about the Sun going red giant in another 5 billion or so years and swallowing the earth, perhaps I shouldn't have fed those flames.

They all wanted to know if I had been in space and how many times I had been to the Moon. I asked one group when was the last time people went to the Moon, they said last year (so cute!). They seem to think that we go to Mars pretty regularly too.

I was a little saddened to learn that most of them didn't know what a geologist was, and a lot of the brownies (6-8 yr olds) had never heard of NASA. Can you imagine? The older girls did better, probably in part because they've been coming to this camp for a while.

They asked a lot of questions about what it's like to be a scientist. What I liked about the job and what I didn't. I told them one of the things I liked was that I could wear whatever I wanted, and one girl asked if I could wear my pajamas - apparently that is the ideal job from a 10 yr old's perspective, one in which pjs are a fashion statement.

All in all, a good week. I had tons of fun and hopefully the girls learned something.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Happy Apollo 11 Anniversary

Today marks the 38th anniversary of the day that humankind first set foot on the Moon (unless you're Australian, apparently they mark that on the 21st). Here at JSC they are celebrating with a Grand Reopening of the Saturn V facility and a sneak preview of the movie "In the Shadow of the Moon" which I am really looking forward to seeing.

Agency wide, NASA is referring to today as the inaugural "First Footprints" celebration, an annual commemoration of one of humankind's most amazing and important accomplishments. I like that, I'm surprised that we haven't made more of a big deal of this in the past. I hope it catches on.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Academic Life

As my post-doc comes to an end in just a few months, I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about my future and what I'm going to do with it. I decided long ago that the tenure-track lifestyle was not for me, but every time I get to one of these decision points in my career, I find myself questioning everything.

Today I stumbled upon this blog entry from someone who chose the academic life and is now leaving. Here is my favorite part:
I know a lot of people think the "utter pressure, sink or swim in the whirlpool" method is a great way to motivate pre-tenure people to extreme productivity, but in my case the primary result was an extreme crushing of my soul, the suppression of my ability to really function well as a scientist, and ultimately my decision that there are other exciting things in the world that I could be doing...

So now I'm done pondering that question. No tenure track for me. I prefer my soul uncrushed, thank you very much. I have a hard time understanding why anyone would put themselves through that and yet, there is certainly no shortage of people trying.

Of course the soft-money route is hardly any easier these days, particularly in planetary geology with NASA funding so hard to come by and absolutely no safety net to fall back on. I talk to too many people that are spending all of their time writing grant proposals and have no time left to actually do any science, not to mention the constant stress of not knowing if you are going to have a paycheck next week. That is not exactly what I signed up for when I decided to become a scientist.

I can always do another post-doc of course, the low pay and lack of respect are almost worth it to get to do the science (though this postdoc/blogger might argue that with me). In the end though, one cannot be a post-doc forever (well, one probably can, but it is definitely not recommended), at some point I will have to get a "real job" (or so my Dad keeps telling me). Is it any wonder I'm thinking about leaving academia, as so many of my friends and colleagues already have?

How sad is that? I really fear for the future of science in this country.

Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.

Nuke the Moon?

This guy has some pretty convincing evidence for why we should nuke the Moon.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Drive Update - the last 2 episodes available on Monday

Fox has announced that "Drive" will be available for streaming as of Monday, July 16, at and on Fox affiliate sites.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Goodbye Drive, we hardly knew ya

Well, looks like we are never going to see those last 2 episodes of Drive. I hate FOX. After scheduling them to be burned off on July 4th and then moving them to July 13th, they have now been pulled completely off the schedule with no plans to show them anywhere. For those of you that want to know, check out this great interview with exectutive producers Tim Minear and Craig Silverstein about what would have happened had the series continued.

Poor Tim Minear.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Dead Like Me Movie!

Good news for me and the four other people out there who liked Dead Like Me - according to the good folks at TVSquad, they are making a made-for-DVD movie! And if it does well, they may bring the series back to life. The one big catch - no Mandy Patinkin (he's busy with his other show). I'm not sure how the reapers are going to manage without their fearless leader, but, I am so willing to shell out my cash to find out.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Some budget relief for NASA?

Via NASAwatch...

Senators Hutchison, Landrieu, Mikulski and Shelby Pledge to Introduce NASA Funding Amendment to the Fiscal Year 2008 Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill to provide $1 billion in additional funding for NASA when the bill reaches the Senate floor.