Once again, I find that when I settle in to my life, finding few things worth blogging about, I am unsuited to change pace when I do bump into something blogworthy. Also, since I haven’t had an iPhone implanted directly into my brain yet, I still need to be near a computer with internet access for long enough to type a post. Tricky.

Anyway, on Wednesday I got to see both the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific in a single day. While transcontinental flights are now so common that almost no one bothers to call them transcontinental anymore, I still think it is pretty cool. At the end of our trip to New York we took off from JFK which, like most other infrastructure in New York City, seems to be much too big, old, and held together by a combination of rust and duct tape to actually survive the traffic it handles. The flight landed at Long Beach, CA, and its airport provided a stark contrast in that regard.

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Numbers in context

4 December 2007

I am well accustomed to having difficulty finding a sense of scale for certain things (e.g., low temperatures, travel distances, the price of gasoline) as a result of living in The Other Two for twelve years. I was surprised to hear this morning, however, that I-5 is closed in Southern Washington today due to flooding. My surprise originates not from the closure itself, but from the descriptions of the storm that caused it:

A severe storm smacked the region Monday with hurricane-force winds and several inches of rain, and was blamed for four deaths.” (Yahoo News),

Rescue boats were used to grab flood-stranded residents, and GPS-equipped helicopters were used at night. ” (CNN, but from later in the same AP story)

The National Weather Service was certainly more sober: FLOOD WATERS WILL CONTINUE TO DRAIN OVER THE NEXT 12 HOURS BUT MANY PROBLEM AREAS STILL EXIST. THE FLOOD WARNING HAS BEEN EXTENDED INTO TUESDAY AFTERNOON.

My point in all of this was that the total amount of rainfall was somewhere between four and ten inches in something like twenty-four hours. Hilo barely even opens its collective umbrellas when that happens. I guess I’ll be adding ‘twenty-four hour rainfall’ to my list of ungrounded comparisons.

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And such is the guilt of both the Jewish student and the Jewish teacher: The secret knowledge that no matter how much we learn, or how much we teach, it will never, ever be enough–that our parents, our teachers, our children, and our students are watching us, and so is everyone else, that eternity is breathing over our shoulders, waiting to see if we will notice.

A student facing these expectations needs to be constantly humbled, to be reminded again and again that everything she already knows is nothing more than a tiny spark in a night full of stars.

[snip]

The great secret of education is that one doesn’t learn by being smart, but by being aware of the limits of one’s own knowledge–by finding those limits and then plunging over them, as if jumping off the edge of the world. The student has to know that the edge is there, and the teacher who coaxes the student over the precipice has to catch the student when she falls. It’s a sacred trust.

-Dana Horn, “The Last Jewish American Nerd”

We in the science outreach business can be pretty self-congratulatory sometimes. I think that very often we’re doing good stuff, as any kid excited about their look through a telescope or recent tidepooling trip can tell you. But that doesn’t mean that we’re trying hard enough, or thinking critically about how and why we go about this stuff. A good friend of mine is giving an astronomy talk in a couple of weeks, and his hook is brilliant. I bet a dollar that he’s going to talk about Olber’s Paradox, a seemingly simple statement that has pretty profound implications for how we frame our questions. And that’s the part we’re not talking about.
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V-Day Hilo 2007 (updates)

6 February 2007

It was incredibly remiss of me not to post beforehand on the V-Day 2007 events. Fortunately, the show was a great success, with a nearly full house at the UHH Performing Arts Center, an outstanding Vagina Art show, and a general raising of awareness all around. And, of course, some extremely deserving Vagina Warriors received awards.

vagina-warriors.JPG

[Update] And Feministing has good coverage of a very important reason for presenting and supporting this show every year, in as many places as possible. Elle had already heard of this, natch, but thanks to Roberto for commenting here.

We spent several hours last night with the current titleholder of the Cutest Child in the World, Camila. Lola was keeping Ramon from going even more crazy while working on his tenure dossier, and we were trusted with keeping the benevolent dictator happy in the meantime.

Despite my complete lack of rational thought during that time, it makes sense this morning to connect with an information design anecdote. While at Gemini, I am surrounded by a lot of technically competend (not to say obsessed) people. This story about Edward Tufte (full disclosure–one of my heroes) fits rather nicely with the theme of the Squirt and the Code.

Dr Spock’s Baby Care is a best-selling owner’s manual for the most complicated ‘product’ imaginable — and it only has two levels of headings. You people have 8 levels of hierarchy and I haven’t even stopped counting yet.