They’re Back!

…And this time they mean business…

That wonderful giant cactus plant in the back garden has done its trick of suddenly producing a host of lovely large flowers again. (Click to enlarge photo, and see below for links to earlier years’ posts on the very same phenomenon).

I saw them Tuesday morning, and I think they’ll be gone very soon (by Wednesday or the day after).

So lovely, so massive… and so sad that they last for so short a time.

But such is life. Enjoy and revel in things while they last, and then move on, holding the essence of it close inside you.


-cvj Click to continue reading this post


Somewhere in there, somehow, I am keeping my head above water…just. But then I decide on something equivalent to tying extra weight to my ankles. Last week, while deciding on what I would talk about in the short time I have, I decided to do the whole TEDYouth talk graphic novel style of course… Which means hundreds of drawings… Why do I do this to myself? (I can recycle some of this for The Project, I suppose…) So I sat in the sun on Saturday afternoon […] Click to continue reading this post

TEDYouth Approaching!

Ack! As you know, it has been an incredibly busy semester for me, but I still try to find time to tell you a bit of what is going on. Not long ago I got an email from the TED people asking me if I’d like to talk at one of their events. This event is for young people, called TEDYouth. It’ll be on November 17th. Well, this is such a good cause – how can I not do this?

TEDYouth speakers photoYou can see the announcement of the “incredible lineup” of speakers on TED’s site here. (I linked the photomontage they used there.) I’m looking forward to being in the audience to hear some of these guys talk!

So of course, I now find myself a week behind where I should be in terms of preparation, and in the middle of a whole bunch of other deadines… […] Click to continue reading this post

100 Registered!

So one of the things that has been taking up my time is the USC Science Film Competition. Well, last week, an important (slightly nail-biting) deadline passed, and that was the date by which interdisciplinary teams should have formed (finding each other due to the awareness campaign I’ve been running around doing since August – with the help of faculty who kindly spread the word in their classes, the blog I set up, an article by Pam Johnson in the Dornsife News, and ads in the Daily Trojan), come up with a film idea, and registered it.

So the day came, and (of course) within 20 minutes of the appointed cut-off hour […] Click to continue reading this post


But I sort of like them like that. It is a busy time, but I thought I needed to do something different and so last night I popped into a studio I visit to do a “drop in and draw” session. I’ve told you about these before. There were not too many other sketchers there, which is nice, and it was also nice to have a model that was not the usual (often tedious to draw) thin sort, but who had lots of interesting forms that played well with the light. This makes drawing interesting. (Click for larger view.)

I was rusty, not having done this in a bit, but rusty in an interesting way – I was seeing forms and getting balance fairly well (with some obvious proportion issues […] Click to continue reading this post

Subway Guy

It has been quite the busy period the last few days, so much so that one is tempted (but not overwhelmingly) to neglect to take note of wonderful things like the discovery of a planet in the Alpha Centauri system, or the awesomeness of my group of students in my graduate electromagnetism class who all did quite well in the midterm I set them. But I took […] Click to continue reading this post

Chasing Tail…

At around 11:15pm, after driving for a while toward the general area, we spotted it. The tail, poking high above the trees, gas station, and power lines, with people walking purposefully groups with only two flows of pedestrian traffic: to or from something that must be a viewing spot. I quickly (and in retrospect, miraculously) found a nearby parking spot (at a prohibited time for that spot, like for all the other cars, but I figured even the parking enforcers were looking at other things at this time) and we walked over to where we saw the tail to find places where we could see the whole craft. And there it was, the space shuttle Endeavour, the youngest of the fleet of re-useable spaceships, the one from which they did the historic and crucial spacewalk that repaired the Hubble telescope that allowed us to see so much about the universe in which we live… parked next to the Randy’s Donuts donut. After a back view of the engines, we found an even closer view, from the side, where most of the people were, and marveled for a while.

[caption id="attachment_12629" align="aligncenter" width="499"] The Space Shuttle Endeavour on its road trip from LAX to the California Science Center, close to midnight on Friday 12th October. Just about to cross Hwy 405. (Click for a larger view.)[/caption]

(There’s something interesting about the whole business of being in a crowd and […] Click to continue reading this post

Nobel Prizes!

So this first half of the week finds me largely trapped in meetings from 9:00am into the evening, as part of a task force I’m on. so I cannot write anything substantive about any of the prizes, nr point you to interesting material written about them. What I can do is (a) remind you that they are being announced daily this week, and (b) remind you that a first place to look to find out more about what a prize means and the significance of the work is the Nobel Prize site itself, which often has good explanations. In the past, I’ve also found that NPR has a good interview or two about the prize of the day, with a reporter valiantly trying to make sense of it for the host of Morning edition, so I recommend seeking those out by searching their site… If you find good sources, let us know in the comments if you like!

-cvj Click to continue reading this post

CicLAVia October 2012

Well, it was a lot of fun, once again. There was a huge turn out, and pretty much perfect weather for it (not the extreme heat of a week or two ago, for example). I was not part of a group this time, and so I was able to explore with a fair amount of random abandon this time, starting at MacArthur Park metro stop, heading downtown and then all the way to Exposition Park, where I stopped at USC to print something out at my office (a long report I need to read), then head back up to downtown, through the City Hall (and new Grand Park) area into Chinatown. That got me thinking about baked buns, and so having returned back past City Hall, stopping briefly at Grand Park to look at one of the many places where there were concerts, I made my way to Little Tokyo to this place I like to find red bean buns and had one during a short stop in a square.

It was nice to sit and listen to all the conversations, and look at all the people (in family groups, friend groups, solo, etc) enjoying the city. Just as I was leaving to head to the East LA leg a fellow came over with his two sons (on a bike with a tralier for one of them, if I recall) and asked if I was a scientist. I wondered for a moment what […] Click to continue reading this post

Topless in Grand Park

In the heart of Downtown Los Angeles yesterday evening, there was the grand opening of the Grand Park, a project that links City Hall to the music Center with three blocks of park space. They had music, food, speeches, lots of people (yay!), and acrobatics down the side of the landmark City Hall building.

Unfortunately, the looooong wait between the speeches by various officials and the actual startup of the acrobatics (during which I was able to start and finish the sketch of purple-lit City Hall you see to the left -I painted it later, although I did have my watercolour pencils and brush with me, but had to go off to a party) meant that by time they came on I was hungry and almost entirely […] Click to continue reading this post

Playing with Planets

Somewhere in all the craziness (that has partly been responsible for the light posting of late), yesterday I had time to rush over to a lab to do some demonstrations for a new TV show that is upcoming. It went rather well, since some time was found to prepare all the logistics for it, and one of our lab demo experts, Angella, did a great job of sourcing the things needed and testing it out beforehand. My job (after helping with the logistics of getting the operation off the ground and connecting some of the dots to make the shoot happen) was to show up and talk about the science and do the demonstrations.

It was about conditions on some of our popular neighbouring planets, and so in addition to holding models of the dear things and talking a bit about them to camera, I engaged in some demonstrations. The demos were simple enough – showing how to boil water at room temperature by simply dropping the pressure, and showing how sulphuric acid wreaks havoc with sugar by sucking the water out of it, making an impressive black column of carbon… fun!

I was glad to be doing some science discussion for public consumption again as we did not shoot any new episodes for The Universe this Summer (as in previous years)… They are still working through the backlog of shows we shot from last year, apparently. Part of the recent craziness was dashing off to another part of town last week to shoot some segments for another show entirely (some online material for a […] Click to continue reading this post