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(First ever!) Poetry Friday: Mask poems

Exciting blog news! The Poetry Sisters have kindly welcomed me into their writing and critique group, and I’ll be joining in on Poetry Friday this year. We take turns choosing monthly poetry challenges, and share our poems on the first Friday of the month. I’m really excited because I haven’t been writing much since I finished school. (I need deadlines and peer pressure to accomplish anything.)

This month’s challenge, from Laura Purdie Salas, is to write a mask poem from the point of view of a non-human object or animal. I decided to write from the point of view of my house, which is a duplex built in the 50’s as part of a government housing project to provide living quarters for employees and their families at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The duplexes are old, but solidly built, with wood floors, big crank-open windows, and stainless steel countertops. All the homes were eventually sold to private owners. It’s fun to see how people have modified and renovated them, from adding solar panels to covering the whole thing in adobe. If you go to a friend’s house you’re likely to recognize your doorknobs (or hideous flowery bedroom light fixtures).

The serial number on my stainless countertop. And the mint green paint I've grown to love.

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Poster for QCMC

I made this poster for the 2016 QCMC meeting in Singapore earlier this month. It summarizes our research using quantum states of light to study the human visual system, and focuses on a study we did to learn about how the eye adds up signals from multiple photons. Click the image to see the full version.

I wanted to try something different from the last poster I made, using no full sentences and focusing on data and diagrams that would be difficult to describe in words. I don’t have much of an attention span for reading posters and I doubt most people do either… and what’s the point when the researcher is standing right there?

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SEA legislative blitz and bipartisanship in space

Last month I went to D.C. to participate in the Space Exploration Alliance annual “legislative blitz.” The Space Exploration Alliance is a coalition of about ten of the major space advocacy organizations, including the Planetary Society, the National Space Society, the Mars Society, AIAA and the National Society of Black Engineers. Volunteers from these groups gather in Washington every February (when Congress is deciding what to do with the President’s budget request) to meet with lawmakers and push some talking points about the NASA budget. (Summary: Please increase the NASA budget.)

I had never done anything like this before, but my parents live near the Capitol in D.C. and I wanted to visit them anyway. I got the sign-up link in a Mars Society email, found some cheap tickets from Indianapolis, and decided to go for it.

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We're (not) going to Mars

There’s a cynical attitude about a manned Mars mission that some people love to whip out. “We’re not going to Mars,” they’ll say. “It’s impossible. And stupid.”

“One, do you know how much radiation there is in space? NASA hasn’t solved that yet.”

“Two, Mars is a terrible place to live. It has practically no atmosphere, it’s unbelievably cold, and the soil is full of poisonous chemicals.”

“Even if we could send people to Mars, it would be absurdly expensive compared to robots that could do the same thing. And humans will bring bacteria that will contaminate Mars and ruin our chance to know whether there’s life there or not. The only reason to send people is our pride.”

“Also, everyone will go nuts in space on the way there. Do you know how long it takes to get to Mars? People will go insane, they just can’t take it. There have been experiments. Send robots.”

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How to dress up as an astronaut for Halloween

In 10 steps:

  1. Casually Google astronaut costume, intending to buy one of those cheap flight suits you saw in the gift shop of the Air & Space Museum as a kid (or um, more recently). Nothing seems to come in women’s sizes.

  2. Change your search to female astronaut costume. Become very sad.

  3. Spend hours searching. Flight suits do of course come in women’s sizes, but only the real kind (which cost over $200). Delude yourself into thinking a men’s small might fit you. Triumphantly discover an XS on eBay; it turns out to be a typo.

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