Merry Christmas!

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Cutting a piñon pine tree in the Clover Mountains near Caliente Nevada. Dave, Caroline, and Andrew Syzdek.

Thanksgiving

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Me and Dad, Thanksgiving 2011.

I try to be thankful every day, but sometimes the rush and pace of life causes me to take my good fortune for granted.

Most of all I am thankful for my parents, who have always set a great example of being generous and caring. Their marriage of 62 years is an amazing testament to their faith and their hard work in maintaining relationships. I am thankful for my 4 siblings and the rest of my family who have always been there for me. I’ve got a great bunch of friends who are also very supportive and who are always willing to help me out and spend time with me.

I’m thankful for my great job which is always interesting, always challenging, and often fun. I am thankful for variety at work, a lot of freedom, and to work in a beautiful and amazing outdoor setting. It’s wonderful to work at a job where I get paid well to “do the right thing” and where morals and ethics are critically important and supported by upper management.

Finally, I am thankful for my kids. They are truly my joy and are a huge blessing in my life. Their energy and exuberance is boundless, and they never cease to amaze me.

Thank you everyone, and have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving.

Little Room

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I am more of a realist than a romantic so I really think that there are probably several, if not many, women nearby that I could be perfectly happy having a long term relationship with. The relationships that I have been in have, for the majority of their lifetimes, have been amazing and fulfilling up until they, ahem, fall apart. Anyway, even if someone is so cool and unique that they are one in a million, there would still be two of them in my hometown and 20 of them in Mexico City. Anyway, I really enjoyed the recent XKCD comic about soul mates.

And this song by Tim Minchin is absolutely delightful. Enjoy:

There is a fisheries guy I work with who often will ask during a long day of field work “What’s your favorite fish?” And we’ll go around the field crew and talk about what everyone’s favorite fish is at that moment. It could be a species we are catching (woundfin), one we are hoping to catch (Virgin river chub), something weird and nightmarish (goliath tigerfish), or even lunch (I eat tuna on the river. A lot).

Anyway, my colleague usually sticks to talking about fish species. But if he ever asks about insects, I have my favorite. It’s the Lord Howe Island stick insect. It’s huge, it’s creepy, it was used as fish bait because it was common on Australia’s Lord Howe Island. However, like many island species are really specialized and don’t deal well with predators and this amazing insect was apparently wiped out by introduced rodents some time ago. However, there is a nearby smaller island, a rocky crag jutting out of the ocean, that just maybe could harbor the stick insects. Some entomologists went there in 2001. After waiting for the seas to calm, they made a landing on this jagged rock.

The entomologists came to prove that the stick insect had gone extinct. Climbing the spire of rock, they found nothing. Climbing back down the spire, they found a bush in a small crack. This single bush was the only real plant on the rock. And the plant was growing in a small crevice that held a tiny volume of soil. And on that soil, they found “a large poo.”

The next day, they climbed back up to the plant and found, on the bush, two adult stick insects. In total, they found a population of 24 insects under and around the one bush. Some were collected and taken to a zoo in New South Wales and they were successfully bred. It took a lot of work and dedication by a team of scientists and it’s a great story.

So that’s my favorite insect. And it has been my favorite since I heard the story.

So you can imagine how delighted I was to see an amazing video of one of these stick insects hatching. Enjoy.

An SLR for sad food photography. Apple knows me!

This video of a the Mars Science Lander landing from a camera on the bottom of the lander is amazing. It’s at 3X speed and provides a stunning view of landing on Mars.

Mars Descent Imager (MARDI): During the descent to the Martian surface, MARDI acquired 4 color images per second, at 1600×1200 pixels, with a 0.9-millisecond exposure time. Images were taken 5 times per second, starting shortly before heatshield separation at 3.7 km altitude, until a few seconds after touchdown. This provided engineering information about both the motion of the rover during the descent process, and science information about the terrain immediately surrounding the rover. (Link)

Mojave Monsoons

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Enjoyed some pretty heavy rain here in Las Vegas yesterday. The official total for the date was 1.65 at McCarran airport which was a record for August 22 and the second highest ever recorded for Las Vegas. I recorded 0.81 inches at my house and 0.35 at my weather station at work. It was also very cool, with afternoon temps around 70°F and dew in the evening.

The great spatial variance of rain is interesting. If you are interested in participating in “citizen science”, buy a rain gage and submit your rainfall observations to Cocorhas.

“We’re better than Space X and ain’t afraid to show it!”

I am so proud of our nation in our successful landing on Mars tonight. It’s an amazing achievement and I cannot wait for the amazing science data to start arriving. This is what we should be spending money on.