I suppose at some point I should talk about the other traveling I did last month. And since there's a lot of work I should be doing at the moments, I'll talk about it now. Around the middle of October, I made the big hop from Tucson to Pasadena, for the Michelson Fellow Symposium. This is the first one of these, and I think it went pretty well. Two days of talks, as every one of us grad students and post-docs with a Michelson fellowship (there were only a couple dozen of us there) descended on the Caltech campus, and gave a talk on what we were working on. It was really a nice format, short enough to not break my spirit the way longer conferences can, and small enough to really get to know a lot of the people. My talk was pretty uneventful, though I tried to hide with a joke the fact that I didn't know the answer to one question which, in retrospect, I could have answered easily. It was also good for me, in that I got more of the nuts and bolts of various planet-finding techniques. Even the talks that were repeats of stuff I'd heard in France were useful, since I typically need to hear things a few times for them to sink in.
I also got to catch up with the family a little. My brother lives in San Diego, and my father came down to see the talk (and a good deal of the rest of the conference, surprisingly). It felt a little strange, since this was the first talk with a family member in the audience, but it didn't throw me off too much. After the conference I got to hang around San Diego and catch up with family a little for the weekend, before going to Hawaii on Sunday for Protostars and Planets V.
Going to PPV was a big deal for me, since with the better part of a decade between each PP conference, suspense really builds up. There were over 800 astronomers there, so it seemed a little intimidating. But it turns out I've been in the field long enough, and been to enough conferences to know a lot of the participants. The talks were interesting in that they were geared as reviews of the many subject areas, and most were in fields I didn't know much about. But five straight days of them, just coming off another conference, was a bit much. The poster
I presented seemed to be well-received: I'd printed out a bunch of 8.5-by-11 copies, and left them under the poster itself; by the end of the conference, about 35 of these had been taken. Plus I got to talk with a lot of people in the field, which is one of the main points of going to conferences.
Hawaii itself was quite nice. The conference was in the Waikoloa Hilton, a massive resort on the western edge of the big island. It was a gaudy tourist trap, but the location was still pretty nice. Rather than stay in the hotel, and spend too much on food, three of us Steward grads rented a condominium for the week, and bought food at a supermarket to cook for ourselves. The condo was really nice, so I think it was a good decision. Partway through the week we went out to sea (a bit). There was this guy who provided kayaks, had us row out a little bit to an isolated cove, then gave us snorkeling gear to look at the fish around the coral reefs, which was very cool. In addition to all nifty tropical fish, we also saw a few sea turtles (a foot or so in diameter), which are pretty magnificent in the water. We also drove around the island a bit, going to a black sand peach, then to Volcano National Park, where we saw (from very far away) lava flowing down a mountain, and the smoke plume as it went into the ocean. We arrived just at sunset, which was when it was the most spectacular. Then, my last day there, I went with some of the other conference participants up to Mauna Kea, where we got to see Subaru (man, the Japanese build cool telescopes), Gemini north, and the sub-millimeter array. All very cool.
Anyway, hopefully I'll get around to developing my pictures (yes, I'm still analog) soon. But until then, look! Me with a dolphin!
. (From Sea World San Diego, courtesy of my dad)