Building a wall free Digital Tomorrow

Building a wall free Digital Tomorrow

I live a strange life. There is no way around it. My husband works for an office in San Jose, I have contracts to do work with a university in Sonoma, I teach for universities in Arizona, Australia, and Illinois, and I also do a bit of contract work for an association in D.C. (and somehow I don’t exceed 40 hours a week on paper…). Meanwhile, we live in Illinois. This wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for this fabulous thing called the Internet. Across its high-wires and by-wires we shoot our lives across the world, meeting for lunch across the desk from one another, with a video camera bringing our friends’ multi-continental faces face-to-face. This is an alternate reality that doesn’t belong to all of us. As I find myself...

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T’was the Astronomer’s Sys Admin’s Night Before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and clouds filled the sky Not an object was twinkling, not even Iota Tri; The telescope was parked in its dome with great care, In hopes of spying a star on which it could stare; My students were nested all snug in their beds While visions of data danced in their heads And I in my office, my Mac at my side, Was Googling for gifts – no bargain could hide. When on the network, there arose a great clatter, I popped up an xterm to ping what’s the matter Ping 74.208.25.93 “CONNECTION FAILED” was all it said back to me. The lamp on the screen of the Mac Book Pro Illuminated too many processes refusing to go. When, on what should my wandering eyes obsess, But a remote client, and eight shared processes!...

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Making Research

Making Research

One of the joys, frustrations, most loved, and most hated parts of being a professor is attempting to do research. I say attempting because sometimes the data just doesn’t want to produce anything useful. There are good times. For instance, in about three months this summer and fall Fraser Cain and I, with the help of undergraduate Rebecca Bemrose-Fetter and graduate student Georgia Bracey, managed to do a quick a solid study on who listens to Astronomy Cast and responds to surveys. The paper is already published and you can find it here. That was fun, challenging to analyze in a “I need a brain but not a Nobel prize” kind of way. That’s the type of low-hanging-fruit every researcher likes to pick and munch every now and again. The...

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Looking for Questioning (HS) Teachers

Some of the coolest moments in teaching only occur when your students realize they can safely ask anything. On random days, at random times, (during some unpredictable moment) one student will suddenly raise their hand and ask a question along the lines of “What you just said reminds me of something on TV.” They will then explain what they saw and may not have understood, and will end with, “Can you explain?” or “Can you tell us more?” or something similar as they try and build connections. These random student questions can lead the class on wild rides (and I love rollercoasters). They give me a chance to answer a lot of questions involving space, astronomy, and spacecraft in my physics classes as we stray off topic into the...

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AAVSO: Day 2 closes with Jordan Raddick

Long day. Tired day. Great ending. Jordan Raddick is currently talking about using the internet to advance science. He is addressing how we are moving into a new paradigm for doing science as our data is reaching the point of petabyte data sets. The old paradigm has an observer downloading their data, analyzing it, and doing a discrete publication with the data in a table in the back. Today, it simply takes too long to download, requires too many disks, and it isn’t feasible to publish when the researchers dataset is 20,000,000 points! He points out the following – Old Model: Feudalism “Today’s model: The peasants (grad students) bring the harvest (data) to their lords (professors). The harvest is tightly controlled by the availability of...

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Death to Bots

As a web administrator I spent a frightening amount of time trying to prevent spam from cropping up on this site and some of the other sites I maintain. I don’t always succeed, and occasionally spam creeps into my comments. A have tools to ban specific words and I personally keep an eye on things, but I am outnumbered in this battle at least 10,000 to 1. I spent my weekend warring on evildoers. In my case, evildoers is defined as porn bots, drug bots, and every other kind of web bot that is out there waiting to invade a hapless website. I maintain the International Year of Astronomy website and forums and we’ve had a problem with invaders posting all sorts of stuff that really, well… makes me question if humans are on average good or evil. And...

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