Where science and tech meet creativity.

I have to admit, I’m not quite sure where I am, other than I’m in Texas and Cygnus is straight overhead. The town is call Quanah, and it is small, and dark, and the desk clerk at the hotel is very friendly and missing a front tooth.

Did I mention it’s dark?

I was standing in the parking lot of the hotel looking at stars with Sarah and Glen from SAO and a former grad student of mine, Tim Hunter and a former grad student of mine, Tim Hunter (who when not taking grad classes for fun is a tenured prof in radiology – really saying he was my grad student is a bit misleading…). There were as many stars visible in the glare of the hotel as we see in out “dark site” at SIUE.

The skies are why I’m here. For the next several days SAO and the 3 Rivers Foundation Astronomy Club are hosting AstroFest. So far I’ve met several high-end amateurs, educators, and professional astronomers who are all coming together to talk about how to do better science, create better images, and practice everything together both in a computing center (portable classroom actually) and in the field (literally – we’re going out to a field  with telescopes and CCDs to do some astro imaging (clouds willing).

Like all good sites for astronomy, we are in the middle of no where. This morning I flew from St Louis to Dallas on a healthy sized plane, and then (with several other conference folks) I took a prop plane from Dallas to Witichita Falls, TX. This was the first flight I’ve taken in several years that made me question both our ability to make it all the way to my destination and made my stomach question if it wanted to travel with the rest of my body. After landing gratefully in Witichita Falls, we drove 1.5 hours.

There was a field of camels along the way. Seriously. Single-hump camels grazing on a farm with cow farms in every other direction as far as we could see.

Tomorrow I will be giving the first talk of the day and Saturday I’ll be giving the first workshop of the day. Last night I tried recording my practice session, but I learned the hard way that my sad little laptop can’t have both Garageband and PowerPoint open at the same time. I tried out my new mic and it works beautifully. Next week I’m getting a new laptop as part of an NSF grant, and it will be loaded with memory, so the new mic should work great with it. So… Next week I’ll try and get posted my presentation. I’m really eager – the new machine is a PowerMacPro with the latest iLife. This new machine will enable me to do much better remote recording. Up until now, I’ve had consistently bad audio quality on the road, which has made me reluctant to post some of the audio I’ve recorded. Now I can set that fear aside and record with confidence 🙂 (Fraser and Rebecca, with Astronomy Cast, will also have machines, and we’ll be invading future science meetings to report live on everything that’s going on)

Anyway… I shouldn’t be counting my laptops before they arrive. FedEx could still leave me heart broken and alone on the curb with my Purchase Order.

For now, me and my little old laptop Caprice are at AstroFest and in 13 hours we’ll be presenting on the Improbably Universe.