Sunday, May 28, 2006

Keolu Motivation

Liz woke up and asked me to do a hike. It was nice to not be the one doing the suggesting! We had found a trailhead to a small hike near Lanikai the week before and since the morning was looking really grey, it looked like a good one to try. It was insanely hot but at the summit, the breeze was nice. I did about an hour and a half timelapse of some awesome clouds from the summit. Liz was feeling brave and we decided to bike around the south-east corner instead of catching a bus back over the pali. She made it to Hawaii Kai before bonking. Props!! We stopped at one of the lookouts and I was in a rush to get a timelapse set up. I deleted all the photos from the day!! Sucks! It was really pretty up there! Here's a shot of the Keolu hills from Mariners Ridge.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

North Shore Party

Saturday was supposed to be a fire twirling party. It started raining about 4pm.... This pool had formed as the tide was coming in and eroding the sand. It was awesome. There was hardly any wind so it was still most of the time. The weather was not cooperating. As soon as the sun went down, the rain came in. Better luck next time! We ended up meeting some californians in for a wedding at a timeshare on the beach and grilled with them for a while.

Raindrop Diffractions

At the north-shore party, a few raindrops got on my lens as I was timelapsing and made this pattern. I cropped and enhanced it. Pretty cool. For those who have been subjected to the likes of Hecht, Serway, Jackson, etc, You can see the classical Airy pattern in the center, but I'm not sure why the main peak is supressed. Probably something to do with shape, focus, etc. The hexagonal shape is from the shape of the aperture with a knife-edge pattern coming off each. There are also two small Airy patterns in the bottom corner of the hexagon. Camera geeks will love this diffraction tutorial for SLRs.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Carin Visit

It's been a long time since I've seen any friends from Houghton. Carin was on her way to Japan and stopped by to visit a few of her friends on this island. It's a bit strange, but there's 7 MTU people on this island that were around when I was up there. I can't decide whether it's that the world is small, or that you know so many people that a few random coincidences are normal. I think the smallest the world has felt for me was on the summit of south teton with Jesse. 6 months after leaving australia, on a random week day on the summit of some mountain top, an 8 hour hike in some national park in Wyoming, I finally met two friends of a friend I was supposed to have dinner with one night the year before. They were on their way from Oz back home to Europe and they just happened to summit this random mountain on the same day. Go figure. Anyways, I digress. I met her and her friends to do a hike at Mariners Ridge and a Hanauma snorkel. It was a really good day.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Student Sallary

I just got out of a budget meeting. The issue of our payscales has recently come up because the incoming TA's couldn't really afford to live here. I was amazed to learn how different the various astronomy programs are as far as payscale goes. I make 18K on an 11 month, half-time stipend. If you scale the top paying university (Arizona) for cost of living it's more like 40K. (It's actually 21k or so, but rent here is 700 for a studio next to a crack dealer and rent in the desert is about a dollar) There trying to get a 15-20% pay raise for the older grads and something more like 30% for the incoming "protograds". They accepted some ridiculous number of students last year and only got 6. I've also been amazed at the inter-department differences too. Sallaries are ranked in steps. The old cap was 9 but they just added 5 more 4% steps to it. All the faculty here were behind raising all of us to step 13. The strange part is that this is more money than chemistry post-docs make. The physics TA's are at step 3, basically near the poverty line. It's amazing how within the sciences, at one university, grad students can go from 14K to 25K pay for the same type of work. I guess that just says something about "market forces" to quote our admin guy. It's also funny how tiny that is in a department with a 10 million dollar budget..... Anywas, long story short is I might get more cash come july. Yipee!

Monday, May 22, 2006


COCKROACH UPDATE - I found 4 of the biggest roaches ever in the bathroom tonight, but they have given up their secret!! I saw one scurry into a gaping hole in the bathroom wall. I killed the other three after much avoidance-dancing, hopping, and thwacking. The holes are now plugged with TP and I'll be doing a full house search in the morning for more secret entrances!!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

South East Corner Drive

Today, Liz and I took a drive around the island to take a break from moving/unpacking/cleaning. I haven't been to the south-east corner in a very very long time. It's only 10 miles, but with traffic, it's 2 hours from Pearl City. Liz talked on the phone while I did my timelapse. Beautiful day. I'm really looking forward to the "pali-loop" biking again and all the in-town ridge hikes now that I live right there.....

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Mantis Visit

so, we're completely out of the pearl city house. it feels really good to have a place so close to everything i do. the first night was spent listening to one of our neighbors 5 dogs convulse for a few hours and die around 4am. sad for the neighbors since the dog was 21 freekin years old! i slept fine but those of you who know liz will know how scrunch-faced she was in the morning. the second night was a bit better (liz actually woke up happy!). We had our bed up on risers, had fans to block out the noise of the hot-rod-civics, moped-drag-races, and all the animals. AND we got visited by a really cool mantis (after the two cockroaches). The mantis was fascinated by the camera. I don't know whether it was trying to kill it or mate with it, but the mantis would do a little shimmy and then charge the camera. Once I got too close and it jumped on the lens. Town as usual.....

Mantis, jigging along, minding it's own business.

Wait a minute, what's this big noisy thing over there. Getting curious......Pounce!
Spent and satisfied, looking for food.

Friday, May 19, 2006


John Gleason has some awesome pictures up on his website - Celestial Images,of hydrogen emission (Halpha 656nm) in the northern and southern hemispheres. I really like how fluid the shots are....... Check it out if you get a chance!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Moving to Town!

Here's some shots of the new apartment. It's pretty nice inside. I like it. The front door isn't that nice since it goes through a garage-type corner with a bunch of crap outside, but that's Hawaii for you.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Night Life

And here's the super-exciting night life on Maui. Basically, I've got 6 screens and 7 computers doing things to keep me busy. Today was a total crash course in IR chips. Katie and I went into the code that runs the IR chips. There's a lot of different voltages that perform different functions when going from photons to electrons to a voltage to a number to an image. The kicker was, when none of that worked, we just turned the power off and then on again (just like pulling the plug, but with a million dollar instrument) and everything worked fine. Go figure. So here's the normal routine - I'm on the headset with a dude in the control room who's driving the telescope. I've got a screen that shows me what the telescope sees and what my camera's see.Basically, most of the night is hitting the "go" button and writing down what the instruments settings are. Exposure time, settings, weather, etc. The system is a total hack though - most systems have hired operators who make the software and hardware run smoothly. They don't have two new grad students trying to figure it all out on their own. All the software is randomly distributed and hardly connected on 4 different computers, all of which can crash if you click the wrong thing. That's what happens when nobody has the time to do anything right. It's a very unique experience though. Most people who go to Keck or somewhere else walk into a room and tell somebody to take some pictures. I walk into a room, realize that everything is broken and that I have a screwdriver, some tape, and 2 hours to fix it.
This is what a faint star looks like on our "slit viewer" camera. The dark band is a hole in a mirror that lets the starlight into the spectrograph. This "slit-mirror" lets us see what the star is doing while letting most of the light into the instrument.
And this is the raw pictures. It doesn't really look like a star does it? Basically, it's a rainbow. The star gets smeared out horizontally with each position being a slightly different wavelength. The bright vertical stripes are either sky emission lines (bright) or absorption bands (dark).
It was neat to get this side working. Amazing how construction of this thing got started about 10 years ago and it hasn't yet made it's way into the normal working mode of most UH telescope time. Nobody is here to run it, it breaks all the time, and the software is so user un-friendly that you have to have many training runs before you can even think of handling it yourself........ Let the good times roll.

Summit Moonrise

I caught a moonrise from the summit.....

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Days on the Mountain

Liz was wondering what I do with my days when I'm up here. When you're working the night shift, sunset to dawn, you do a lot of sleeping. When you can. With the solar folks and Panic-Starrs, it gets loud so you basically end up a sleep-deprived, overworked zombie hooked on the black-crack (coffee). And I take a lot of timelapse. I spend a few hours in the summit visitors center when I can, since they have this awesome panorama-window and power for my camera. I usually end up talking to this random mix of fairly normal people with the hordes of retarted tourists. Which island is this again?? Did you look at a map before you bought your tickets here? Anyways, I digress. I've made friends with most of the rangers. Judy and Nan being the awesomest. I've managed to piss one off pretty good with my loud SLR. It's annoying, I agree, to have a loud clicking noise disturbing your summit bliss..... Anyways, night time is behind a computer, day time is behind a camera.


Today was definately a learning experience. We had to do some tuning of the IR chip. Most camera's now use some form of "potential well" to trap electrons created by photons. The potentials are a bunch of voltages in different little bits on the chip. We had to do a bunch of voltage tweaking to get the chips working ok. It went pretty well. Nowhere near perfect, but these are a helluva lot better than the ones last week...... Still nowhere near perfect, but that's one more thing that I've never done before....... Always an adventure up here....

Monday, May 15, 2006

Incredible Sunset

One of the better sunsets I've seen from up here.......