The past few weeks have been strangely busy. Here’s what we’ve been up to:
1. We had our housewarming party. People kindly brought us plants and booze and food and put up with our lack of socializing – we were cooking for 35! Stupidly, I didn’t take any photos when there were actual people, and fun and whatnot. Thankfully, my first attempt at a pavlova (‘what is that?’ said every American who saw it) came out well and I did get a photo. Recipe by Jamie Oliver.
2. An episode of the new CBS series Battle Creek was filmed in our neighborhood, including right outside our house. I tried not to get in the shot, whilst also trying to see what was going on. I also tried to get a peek at Josh Duhamel. I’m pretty sure I saw him marching towards his trailer with an assistant hurrying along behind him. Since the series is supposed to be set in Michigan (i.e. somewhere less semi-arid than Pasadena) quite a lot of the block was decorated with green plants in pots. They struggled with our neighbor’s banana plant though. They paid us some money for our trouble, but after talking to our neighbor we realized we could have probably asked for a bit more! Oh well, next time.
3. We gate-crashed a tour of Mt Wilson Observatory. The tour was for some Australian astronomy personalities but thanks to knowing the right people we were able to tag along (thanks Mark, Warrick and Matthew C!). Our guide, Mike, was nothing short of excellent and was very patient with all our questions.
First we got to see inside the CHARA array hut (“Beam Synthesis Facility”) where there were so many mirrors and thingamagigs we were scared to breathe too hard. This is a serious bit of kit which takes extremely precise measurements of close binary stars and can take actual images of the surfaces of stars.
Then we went up the steep flight of stairs inside the 100 inch telescope dome (all the cool kids abbreviate this to “the 100 inch”). We got to experience ‘relativity’ when our guide turned on the motor that rotated the dome – the movement was so smooth it was impossible to tell if it was the platform we were standing on, or the telescope below, that was moving. Really impossible. The astronomy personalities were suitably impressed, and for a device that’s nearly 100 years old, so were we. We also went out on the gantry for the view. It wasn’t that high, but somehow because I could see the ground through the grating of the walkway, it seemed much higher. We also got to see the 60 inch telescope, and the Monastery – the quarters for the observers, apparently so named because observers in the olden days were inevitably men.
On that note, I’m reading The Perfect Machine by Ronald Florence which describes in vast detail the process of building the telescope that came after the 100 inch – the 200 inch at Palomar. I haven’t finished it yet but it is totally gripping and somewhat exhausting. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in telescope building, the new generation of ‘world’s biggest’ telescopes, or in engineering in general.
4. We went with friends to the LA Arboretum and saw peacocks. It was a really REALLY hot day. But, peacocks!
Also, the rest of the Arboretum is quite beautiful:
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