SEPA ’09

23 06 2009


This year’s SEPA started off pretty good, and then got awesome! It was held in Nashville at the Adventure Science Center (Kris McCall’s place), so it was close enough to me to drive.  I arrived Monday evening after fighting some pretty rough storms past Memphis.  The first event was early Tuesday morning and I didn’t want to miss it.

The first event was a guest speaker from Colgate University, Anthony Aveni.  He talked about a fascinating subject, “Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico“.  Unfortunately, interesting material does not always make for an interesting talk.  There was quite a crowd, though.  A ton of folks who were there from surrounding colleges just to see him.  The talk started 45 minutes late while we were waiting on some college class to arrive from somewhere.  He spent the time signing copies of his books.  His talk was all about the history of the natives themselves and the destruction of their culture.  Turns out the original European explorers to sail to Central America went back with stories that made the inhabitants there appear as a mixture of humans and, like, monkeys or something.  They were thought of as less than human by all the explorers who came after for a long time.  The greatest tragedy here is that the missionaries took it upon themselves to rid the natives of all that the priests deemed evil, such as their books on astronomy.  (Ahhh, you see the connection now!)  One priest’s story accounts of a pile of books his men stacked 20 feet high and lit on fire, much to the dismay of the natives who owned them.  Today, there are only 4 scrolls remaining.  Blast it.

Because we started so late, he didn’t get to finish his talk with constellation lore — the whole reason for having the talk in the planetarium! — because the center had to start their regular daily show schedule.  I had a look at the week’s schedule and I have to tell you, it was insane!  I headed back to the hotel to rest up for the evening.  Events started at 5pm and wouldn’t end until 2am.  The rest of the week’s schedule looked just as challenging.

That evening we had a social gathering in the science center to kick things off.  (You’re going to love this!)  I got to see a lot of old friends I only get to visit with once a year, so there was a lot of catching up to do.  My friend, George Fleenor, was standing at a table talking with a couple of guys I’d never met.  I went over and said ‘hi’, interrupting their conversation.  When Fleenor didn’t introduce me I waited patiently for a chance to jump in.  Finally, one took a breath and I introduced myself.  “Hi.  I’m Terry,”  I said.  “Hi.  I’m Richard Wright.”  (I resisted the urge to hum High Hopes.)  “Well, I see by your name tag that you work for Software Bisque.  What do you do there?”  “I’m a programmer.  I helped create some new software that we’re marketing here.”

… May I take this moment to tell you about Software Bisque?  They’re the guys who wrote The Sky software that I’ve been using since version 3 many, many years ago.  I personally like their software package more than any other I’ve tried, and I’ve tried virtually all of them!  I’m a bit of a fan.  :o)   Okay, let’s go back…

“That’s cool!”  [turn to look at other guy at the table]  “They didn’t have a name tag for me when I showed up, so I had to make my own,” he says as I look at the name he scrawled onto his tag.  “Steve,” I read out loud, “and I see you work for Bisque as well.  So what is your function at Software Bisque?”  With that I notice a bit of a chuckle coming from Fleenor, and I (and you, I’m sure) realize that I’ve asked something that probably should have been embarrassing, except it’s *not* embarrassing because I was never properly introduced in the first place, Fleenor!  “Ohhhh, I sweep the floors and take care of the little stuff around the office.”  “Yeah, there’s a job certainly worthy of a trip to SEPA.  You do anything else?”  “Well, I guess I’m also the de facto president.”  “Oh.  Your name tag doesn’t read ‘Steve.  Bisque.’  It says ‘Steve Bisque’.  As in, the Steve Bisque!  Awesome.  You know, I’ve been using your software for years!”

And there you have it.  I asked Steve Bisque what his function was at his own company.  It’s a story for the generations.  Truth be known, he was a really cool guy and we even went downtown together on Friday night to hang out.  Again, awesome.

Steve Bisque

Not really sure what I’m doing with my hands here, but that’s Steve next to me and Richard on the end. Steve isn’t wearing his infamous name tag here, but I’m SURE it fooled others…

That’s it for now.  I also want to talk about the really cool show shown on that first night.  That’ll be the next post.  Stay tuned!

Summer Schedule

22 06 2009

So I *didn’t* bother to list my summer schedule as planned before it actually began, but let me catch you up.  [Actually, this list is intended to just remind me of everything.  Even with this, I know there are many things I’m missing.]

Two weeks ago:  Took a GIS class at UCA.  It’s designed for teachers, so it crams a whole semester into 5 days plus some extra work to be completed over the next month.  The class — very informative.  The teacher — very knowlegeble and entertaining.  My classmates — well, that’s a story for another time.  In the end I learned a whole lot and consider it time well spent.

Last week:  SEPA!!!  This will turn into multiple posts, so I’ll just mention that I left on Monday the 15th and I returned on Saturday the 20th.  Wonderful, wonderful time.  Perhaps the best SEPA ever?

Today:  Father’s Day.  Garrett felt sick.  Liam got sick.  Geneva was exhausted from the past week and from taking care of Garrett and Liam.  Gavin and Miles helped me out in the garden which was in total disrepair after the previous week.    –Oh, and happy summer solstice to you all!

This week:  Tuesday I have an eye exam followed by a test at UCA.  I’m participating in an evaluation of a new Algebra II teaching strategy for the state department.  I’m in the control group.  That, also, is a story for another time.

At the moment I have nothing more scheduled for the summer until July 27 when I’ll be working on a science standards project at UCA with Dr. William Slaton for two weeks.  The day after that ends, my school year begins again.

Good News, Everyone!

9 06 2009


Wooooooooo Hooooooooo!

futurama crew

Everyone, Safety Dance! … do do DO DO do do do DO DO, do do DO DO do do do…!

According to, Fox Executives have announced that they have ordered 26 new episodes to be aired on Comedy Central for 2010.  There was some rumor of it on a couple of days ago, then yesterday announced that the rumor was confirmed and that 13 episodes had been ordered.  And finally this evening the official announcement came that production for a whole season is in full swing and Matt Groening and David X. Cohen are already busy on the project.  Casting is now underway.

Groening said, “We’re thrilled Futurama is coming back. We now have only 25,766 episodes to make before we catch up with Bender and Fry in the year 3000.”

The studio claims Futurama‘s solid performance on DVD and in reruns on Comedy Central as the reason for its rebirth.  But I have to wonder what really changed their hearts…


Truth In Advertising

6 06 2009

Here’s a funny via Criggo.




And here’s a toy I’ve been looking for an excuse to use!

You may vote only once per computer (I think), and the results will be shown to you when you vote!  Cool, huh?

Dr. May Answers Your Questions

4 06 2009

I love it when things I like mix together.  Like science and music.  Or even better:  music and science!

I’ve mentioned many times how impressed I am that Brian May [ahem!  Dr. Brian May!] of Queen went back to college and finished up his astrophysics degree last year.  I was thrilled to see him on American Idol a couple of weeks ago.  I mean, I’m not exactly the A-I type, but his appearance made me feel like perhaps I wasn’t being too lame watching the show.  If only they had tried to pull off Under Pressure…  Right, NickLauren?

So this prompted me to look up his thoughts on the appearance, and turns out he maintains a website (don’t we all?) where he keeps a blog of sorts.  He uses this forum to talk about music, art, photography, current events, sci-fi, and yes… SCIENCE!  He also takes time to answer questions people send him.  Which brings me to this really cool post he put up a few days ago in which he answers this question from a science teacher about interstellar dust:

First, let me give you some background for the question. I have a swimming pool in my backyard and we keep it covered throughout the fall/winter/spring. The cover accumulates quite a bit of dust and here is the interesting part… if I place a strong magnet in a small plastic sandwich bag and drag it across the pool cover, the magnet will attract and collect many small particles. The particles are easily removed from the exterior of the plastic bag when the magnet is removed.

When I show these fragments to my students, I can make a solid case for the particles being micrometeorites based on the following evidence: 1) They are attracted to a magnet (probably iron), 2) I do not live near a main road, so the most likely source of the dust and debris on the pool cover is the sky, 3) Under a microscope (40x), one can easily see pits and scars that are evidence of strong heating/melting, and 4) The particles are generally small and spherical.

Now for my question: What is the probability that silicates and other non-magnetic space dust might also exist on my swimming pool cover… or on any relatively large surface area such as a roof?

[snip further questions]

Dr. Bri has this to say:

This is a great set of questions, Stan. I love it.

I have joked many times about the dust in my house being our prime (unused) research material right in front of us.

I agree. It’s such a simple thought, but all the great ones are. Without any doubt there is some component of Interplanetary dust in the dust we seep up every day in our gardens. And some percentage of that must be of interstellar origin. It’s just a question of what these percentages are … which, as you say, can only be resolved by identifying each kind of grain.

I think there has been some research done in this area by people working on samples from polar ice … I must look that up.

But as for the regular every-day dust in our lives … I don’t think anybody has tackled it seriously.

Is anybody else loving this as much as I am?  Wow.  A rock legend who not only speaks the language but actually contributes in a positive manner to the education of the masses.  Not only on the internets, but all over the place.  He’s written a book, BANG! The Complete History of the Universe, and created a planetarium show currently running in Germany.

And just because this is awesome…

Brian May header