Science and Mr. Cranky-Pants

One day, not too long ago, I met a scrooge of a man, but instead of Christmas he seemed to have a hearty dislike of science and basic research. I don’t think it was based on being religous and creationist, just grumpy. I was sitting in a cafe reading on my iPad, he sitting nearby. He was just looking about and curiously asked me about my iPad, what did I do with it or was it simply a toy?

I said, no it wasn’t just a toy, I use my iPad like a computer and use it for many things related to my work. “Oh, and what do you do?” he asked. I told him, I am an astronomer researching the physics of stars. At that point, the cafe became dark and chilly and the man looked like he was about to jump up and proclaim “bah humbug.” Instead, he snickered and asked what’s the use of doing that?

What is the use of stellar physics? It is a form of basic science, understanding the building blocks of the universe, how life can exist about the Sun and other stars. It increases our collective knowledge, and helps us find our place in the universe. Indirectly, it helps spawn new technology and provides a venue for general science education.

My response illicitted nothing but another snicker, and the comment that he hoped his tax dollars didn’t help fund my research. It was my turn to ask why.

He said that tax money should be spent on doing useful research only, but that was only his opinion, as if to excuse his accusation that I am wasting my time and his money. But, understanding stars helps us understand x-rays, lasers and so on. We can observe x-rays from the Sun and other stars and by understanding how the x-rays are generated in better detail we can transfer that knowledge to medical physics, etc. Without basic research by Einstein, lasers might not have been invented and we might not have dvd players, precision laser cutting and welding nor laser pointers that we use to annoy cats, just to name a few.

I don’t know why I was surprised, but the man proceeded to explain that the Sun does not have x-rays, for which I had to convince him otherwise, and that his opinion was based on him being a skeptic and that he paid precious money in taxes. Money too precious to be wasted on such frivolousness. At this point he seemed more like Scrooge or maybe Gollum.

I wish I could have changed the man’s opinion, but I think his head was deeply buried in the sand or possibly somewhere else and no contrary opinion could pierce that thick skull. I would call him a luddite but that might insult luddites. Maybe, if I could summon three ghosts to visit in one night, maybe Yuri’s night, that might change his perspective. One could be the ghost of Isaac Newton, who could show him the basis of curiosity and the power of mathematics. The ghost of science present could Charles Townes, who co-invented the laser, who could show him how he benefits from basic science no matter how obscure. The ghost of science future could be someone with lots of technological gadgets, that are all broken and no one knows how to fix, suffers from hunger because global warming has decimated farming, is poorer because the ghost has no usable skills for which to earn a living and suffering from serious case of stupid caused by too much reality television and not enough reality. Apologies to Charles Dickens for my poor analogy and to Margaret Atwood if I copied some of her themes from her compelling Massey Lectures.

I was shocked by the man’s sentiment and ignorance. But, it seems to be a growing sentiment. Congressmen in the US questioning the role of the National Science Foundation, as if they should decide which research should be funded. The Canadian government changing the role of the National Research Council from funding science to pursuing only economical technologies, trading basic research for get rich quick technologies and hoping for another BlackBerry... but maybe not Nortel. There are too many attacks on basic science these days, sometimes in the name of economic hardships, sometimes in the time of the taxpayer but rarely in the name of common sense.

This is ironic. Basic science has powered much economic development since the second World War. In 1945, the report “Science: the Endless Frontier” led to the creation of the National Science Foundation to promote and fund basic and applied research. It was recognized that science would help drive economic growth and development. And this is true today. Is it coincidence that Silicon Valley and many other tech hubs are situated near prominent research universities? Basic research drives technology innovations, and it is not easy to predict which research will lead to winners. The time scale from basic research to markets can be decades, maybe more, and can build ideas from many disciplines. An election cycle is simply too short of a time.

It is a tough question how much funding science should get and what research projects should share in the funding but I lament how science appears to be perceived more and more as a waste. But, one can hope that this attitude is the exception and not the norm.

 

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Constellations from other perspectives

The night sky is one of the few things that every pain and culture has in common. Every culture in the world has watched the stars at some point. Astronomy has helped cultures develop, the Vikings and Polynesians used stars to help navigate the oceans. Astronomy helped with the development of the calendar, for instance the mound in Newgrange in Ireland that was used to measure the day of the winter solstice through a small opening where light shines through. As cultures learned about the sky, perhaps they developed stories about the stars, their own constellations.

However, the constellations we learn about these days are Eurocentric. This is because, in the northern hemisphere, the constellations were described by early Greek and Persian astronomers and became part of the lexicon of modern astronomy; especially when the International Astronomical Union used these constellations as a basis to map the sky.

The modern view of the constellations, I.e. Scorpio, Orion, etc. all came from Greek astronomers but other cultures defined their own constellations based on their society's experiences. In particular, First Nation groups in both North and South America developed their own view of the cosmos and their own constellations. For instance, the Mi'kmaq nation of eastern Canada have their own constellations. Coincidentally, in the location of the Big Dipper, the Mi'kmaq define a bear constellation, I.e. where the constellation Ursa Major is found (Great Bear). Based on the movements of this constellation throughout the year, the Mi'kmaq created a myth about the bear to describe the changes of the seasons. I paraphrase the story here from the following sources ( Clark, E. Indian Legends of Canada, 1960 and Dempsey, F. 2008, JRASC, 102, 59).

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The Great Bear and the Seven Hunters

In the spring of every year, the great bear (the four stars of the big dipper) wakes from her hibernation in her and den and she leaves in search of food. While the bear is searching, she is spotted by one of the hunters, chickadee. But chickadee is too small to hunt the bear on his own, so he summoned his fellow hunters for help. Chickadee and his six companions birds chase after the bear, with robin in the lead followed by chickadee, moose bird, pigeon, blue jay, and two owls. (The closest three are the handle of the Big Dipper)

The seven hunters chase the bear across the sky throughout the summer and into the autumn. But, by then the most distant hunters lose the trail of the bear and fall off the chase. First the two owls lose the trail and soon after blue jay and pigeon give up the chase. The remaining three keep trying and by mid-autumn catch up to the bear.

As the three hunters close in on the great bear, she stands on her hind legs to defend herself. Robin aims at shoots the bear with an arrow, but being so close he is covered in splattered blood. He flies into a nearby maple tree to shake the blood off of his feathers. The blood spills onto the trees making the leaves red.

Chickadee eventually catches up to robin and the two build a fire and begin to cook some the bear meat. When the meat is ready the moose bird joins the duo. But moose bird is clever, he knew the others managed to kill bear and it would take time to prepare the meat. If moose bird took his time then he could arrive when the meat is cooked and would not need to do any work. That is why a moose bird shows up at the end of any hunt. Even though moose bird did not help robin and chickadee still shared their food.

Throughout the winter the skeleton of the bear lies on its back, but the its spirit enters another bear waiting for spring when the bear rises again and the hunt begins anew.

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This story hints at the richness of astronomical lore in these other societies. From the story, one can envision how by watching the constellation one could develop a calendar and time the passing seasons. It also hints at similarities with European astronomy in that both groups have a bear constellation, however it is unlikely that any First Nation culture from Canada or Northern US would define a constellation as a scorpion, they would not have experience with scorpions.

As astronomers we seek facts and knowledge about the universe, but we tend to forget (conveniently) that our knowledge is seeded in the Greek tradition and then the western tradition of facts and numbers. There is still much knowledge we can learn by exploring the sky lore of other cultures and by discussing these other traditions encourage other ways to engage with astronomy.

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The World won't end and neither will Betelguese

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Betelgeuse is a constant companion in the night sky for those of us in the northern hemisphere. It is the brightest star in the constellation, but its fame or infamy is due to a common fear that it will explode and destroy the Earth in a couple of days. Short answer is it won’t happen. There is zero chance it will destroy the Earth and practically zero chance we will see Betelgeuse explode in our lifetimes much less in the next month or so.

I’ll ignore the nonsense about the Mayan calendar ending except to say that the calendar probably isn’t ending, just starting a new cycle, like when we start a new year in our calendar. What I am interested in is Betelgeuse the future exploding star. Betelgeuse is a red supergiant star, meaning that it emits a lot more light than the Sun, about one hundred thousand times more. It is about ten to twenty times the mass of the Sun and Betelgeuse is near the end of its life. The Sun is main sequence star where it generates energy by fusing hydrogen atoms to helium in its center. Betelgeuse has fused all of the hydrogen in the center and has moved on, now fusing helium or maybe carbon. When stars evolve to this phase of life, time is running out; stars like Betelgeuse will live for a few hundred thousand years. This seems long but the Sun is more than four billion years old.

Betelgeuse will continue to age and fuse carbon, when it runs out of carbon it will fuse neon and then oxygen and so on until the core is made of iron. Iron is a poor element for nuclear reactions. When hydrogen atoms fuse together to make helium, energy is released, but for iron atoms to fuse together, energy has to be added to make them fuse. In that case the star becomes unstable and explodes. That is Betelgeuse’s fate and when it explodes we’ll see it. When Betelgeuse explodes it will emit roughly ten billion times more light than the Sun and will appear to use to be one hundred thousand times brighter than it appears now. Since Betelgeuse is about six hundred lightyears away then it will appear to be a bit dimmer than the full moon, at least for a week or so until the supernova begins to get darker and fade away. That’s pretty darn bright. We would be able to see the supernova during the day. But that is about it.

It has been speculated that Betelgeuse will blow up this year and that it could destroy the Earth. I don’t know how it could destroy the Earth, it is too far for a normal supernova to do any damage, if it were a special type of explosion called a gamma-ray burst, and if the pole of Betelgeuse were pointed directly at us then maybe. But, Betelgeuse is not pointing pole on to us, and it is not likely that Betelgeuse will be a gamma-ray burst. Most work suggests that Betelgeuse is less than 20 times more massive than the Sun and gamma-ray bursts are believed to occur in binary star systems or stars more massive. So no destruction there.

We can also be sure that Betelgeuse will not explode for a while. Recent research by a colleague of mine showed that Betelgeuse must be only recently a red supergiant. In his article (Mackey et al. 2012, ApJ, 751L, 10), he modelled observations of a double bow shock that is observed about Betelgeuse. A bow shock is formed by a wind from a star as it speeds through the interstellar gas and dust as the star itself is also moving, like a wake formed as a boat moves through water. It was shown that the double bow shock can form only if Betelgeuse is rapidly evolving from a hot blue supergiant and only just become a red supergiant. If Betelgeuse were a red supergiant for more than a ten to thirty-thousand years then we would see only the one bow shock. This means that Betelgeuse must have a little while to go before it can become a supernova.

So Betelgeuse will not destroy us nor explode in the next few months or years or centuries.
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New Move, New Work

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Astronomy and academia are tough careers, there are not too many job available at any one time and they are in many places. I have finished an amazing three years in Bonn at the Argelander Institute for Astronomy and am now beginning a new job in Johnson City, Tennessee at East Tennessee State University. My new job is a great opportunity to develop into a better astronomer as well as being closer to my family than I was before.

I have been nervous about moving here, Johnson City is not the most famous nor largest city. I really did not know what to expect in living here, except that it is a less urban city than say Nashville or Boston or Bonn. I expected it to be a quiet city and a bit more rural than I have been used to.

But, I arrived to a vibrant city surrounded by mountains and forests. There are trees all around in their autumn finery displaying many shades of red and green. Everyone I have met so far are friendly and outgoing, making me feel at home. The university is scenic with a blue buccaneer as the mascot. My new workplace seems great. It is far from the largest astronomy research group, but the faculty are certainly enthusiastic and productive. I haven’t been there a whole week yet, but research ideas are popping up everywhere. It is an energizing research environment.

So far, it has been a good move, but wow, there were so many things to be done. Thankfully, my lovely wife helped me out and gave me lots of support. I owe her so much. There was the work visa, the social security number, health insurance, etc., I could have been buried alive by paperwork. There was the flight, bringing only a couple of bags and setting up It is mostly done now, and I can focus on new science and astronomy.

I am excited to be working at ETSU, starting new projects understanding massive stars, magnetic fields and polarized starlight, and I look forward to experiencing the local culture and flavor. But, I still don’t understand why the mascot of a university in a landlocked city and state is a blue pirate.
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Pulsating Stars Under the Spanish Sun

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I just returned from a conference in Granada Spain on Stellar Pulsation, I took some pictures that you can see here. The conference was very interesting, discussing almost all aspects of pulsating variable stars, the city was amazing, with clear skies and 30 degree heat and no, absolutely no humidity. The only problem was getting there.

So, I’ll start with the rant. I have flown a number of different airlines, but this had to be the worst experience ever. In case you are wondering, the airline is Iberia. My flight plan for this conference was to fly from Frankfurt to Madrid, have a one hour wait and then connect to Granada. That sounds easy enough, but somehow it isn’t. The first problem is that we appear to board the plane on time but for no apparent reason the flight didn’t take off for another half hour. That would be fine, I would still have a half hour to make my connection, the exception being that my seat in the plane had only enough space to accommodate small children. I had one leg resting in the pathway, tripping the flight attendants as they walked by ignoring everyone and the other leg bent in a shape that only a professional contortionist could envy. Fine, I can survive that. While in the air, the attendants have a snack service where they charge for everything, even two euros for a cup of bad coffee. Fine, it is only a short flight, I can wait. I mean, I had a short connection and would be in Granada in only a few hours.

No, that wasn’t going to happen. Somehow, the flight took longer than scheduled and I ran as fast as I could to make the connection, getting there just in time, but the gate was closed. No dice. So I go to the service desk to reschedule. They tell me I cannot get the next flight to Granada and have to wait 8 hours fine. They compensate me with a meal voucher for the cafeteria. That sounds alright, no, people behind in the service line were put on the next flight, I was just screwed over, and the food... well I am being generous in calling it food. I had meatballs that smelled and looked like dog food, with cheap boiled vegetables. That was crap.

Fine, fine. I make my connection and again it is late leaving. My 5 hour trip turned in 15 hours, I might have been able to drive to Granada in 15 hours. But fine, I made it... time to move on, stupid Iberia.

The conference was interesting with a lot of discussion about Cepheids and RR Lyrae Stars, and asteroseismology with the Kepler and CoRot satellites. I learned a fair bit about the Blazkho effect, a phenomenon known for about a century but there was no clue about the source of the phenomenon until recently, thanks to Kepler. Hear that NASA, your space observatories are awesome. Maybe, I’ll write more about the conference and the astrophysics later. At the moment, I am more interested in Granada, and in particular the Alhambra.

The Alhambra or Red Fortress is an old city build by early Islamic settlers in Spain when they were establishing a Caliphate. Over time, Christians took over the Alhambra and attempted to change the old city and make it more christian. Later on, the Spanish built new palaces in honour of the Habsburg emperor. There is now a mix of relics and ruins and more recent unfinished palaces and a mix of medieval and modern history.

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From the outside, it is obvious how the Alhambra earned its name. It is a massive structure on a hill overlooking much of Granada. However, the most amazing part of the Alhambra is not the outside or the scale of the buildings but the detailed designs decorating the interior throughout. There are archways and ceilings designed to look like there are stalagmites hanging, giving the visitor the impression that they are in a natural shelter and not a man-made one. More so, my eyes pulled towards the intricate geometric designs painted on walls throughout the complex. It is interesting how precise these designs are. I could only stand there awestruck when I imagined the number of artisans patiently and carefully painting the walls for many and many days.

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Further along, there are many more designs, patterns etched in the walls. They intricate, geometric patterns with no apparent differences from on part of the wall to another, made of perfect circles and intertwined lines, repeating across the room, like modern, industrial tiles but done by hand. The arches have similar designs, with smaller arches gently carved with the larger.

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However, I think my favourite design is in the pictures below, shown in two different ways. The design appears to be of the Sun, blazing in the sky, with a perfect symmetry of light rays from the Sun. The iconography presented in the Alhambra embraces nature and the sky, with a detailed precision and repetition that I have never seen. I am fortunate to have seen this human achievement up close, because it is something that will be reproduced again because of industrial manufacturing and costs of doing such work by hand.

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The Conclusion of the Great Coffee Experiment

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Well, a month ago, I decided it was time to try to save a little money and live healthier... maybe only a little bit healthier. See the past post. The goal was to make a thermos of coffee every weekday morning instead of buying cups of coffee elsewhere. The cost of brewing coffee at home is less than 8€ for the month. On the weekends, I limited myself to one trip to the coffee shop spending about 3€. So for the month of August, I spent about 15€, at most, on coffee out. This is a dramatic difference from my previous habit of spending more than 50€ on coffee every month. Thus, I managed to cut my coffee expenses by 50% and there is still some room for improvement.

Since I gave away the punchline, perhaps I should step back and explain why I am trying to change my personal and spending habits. I spent more than ten years in university, and for five of those years I used student loans to pay for tuition/living costs. Great. The debt load is not too onerous, tuition in Canada is generally much less than that for universities in the US, but I want to kick the crap of this debt and pay it off sooner than later. So for now, I am looking to change my habits to save money here and there to help me with that goal. Yes, I know, saving 25€ per month is not going to change anything overnight, but it is a start. It is not a bad start either, as an extra 25€ per month could mean my debt is paid off a number of months sooner.

So that is the why, now the how. I worked on changing my habits 30 days at a time. For 30 days, I keep track of my coffee purchasing and brewing. By writing down how much I spent, and reminding myself that spending this money is counterproductive to my goals (can you say guilt trip?), then I push myself to make my own coffee. I just had to remember not to try to justify buying coffee out with some excuse. For example, if I buy a Starbucks coffee then I contribute to stimulating the global economy :P. So, I spend one month like this, focusing on my goal, and changing a habit. Better yet, by the end of the month, I don’t really think about brewing coffee at home, it is now part of my morning routine, along with bringing a thermos to work.

There is nothing particular smart or original about my process. I have read blog posts elsewhere using this kind of theme, change your habits or life in some time. And, at least for something small, it worked for me. Next step is to move on to big stuff, and other changes I can make to save more money and gain more control of my finances.


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Slovakia, Stars, and Torture?

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Last month, I attended a conference on binary stars and planetary transits, where there was a lot of discussion about light curves, binary star physics, some great talks on planet transits and exoplanet atmospheres. The conference was hosted by the Astronomical Institute of the Slovak Academy of Science in Tatranská Lomnica, Slovakia. Granted that I had never really heard of the place beforehand, I am glad I visited. It is a beautiful place with sharp mountains surrounding expansive plains. There are not too many people so it is also pretty quiet.

It is also out of the way, like completely out of the way. To get there, I flew from Cologne to Vienna, then took a bus to Bratislava, and then a five hour train to Poprad. It took about twelve hours to get there, it takes about the same amount of time to get from Cologne to Beijing. But you know, while it was a long haul, it was also a beautiful place to visit.
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The area is a bit of an outdoor tourist venue with a number of walking trails. I enjoyed a pleasant walk the first morning I was there, but this was not the best part of the visit. The best part was the visit to museums and to this amazing old castle in the Spis region. The first stop was the museums and old churches. In the first place, I got to see so much history of the region. There were swords, big swords... one such sword was almost a tall as I am. In another room, there was also a long bench with shackles for arms and legs and across the waist. Apparently, the bench is designed to hold people down, lying on one’s stomach, while they get whipped. I guess they get whipped over and over again. Ah, the history of Europe.
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The second stop was Spis castle, one of the largest castles in Eastern Europe, dating back to the twelfth century. It is an amazing old ruin sitting atop a small hill, a single, small peak surrounding a large expanse of flat plains. The castle is mostly in ruins, but much of it is being rebuilt into a museum. From the castle, I could look down and see afar to the nearby town, I don’t know its name, and I could almost swear I could see straight across Slovakia. But that wasn’t the highlight of the tour, at least to me.
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The highlight to me was the torture chamber, it was a small dark room buried in the base of the castle. The floor of the chamber was uneven and the ceiling was pretty hight. There was only one small window to let in light. The room is effectively a prison cell. But instead of a cot, there was a cage hanging about three meters above the floor where a prisoner could languish. The cage is just large for a person to curl into a small ball or
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just stand all day. Strangely, directly below the cage was a torture chair, maybe you can see how it tortures in the picture above. Nails in the seat... ouch. Around the room, there was another one of the benches that I saw in the other museum, and rack to stretch prisoners. I could imagine some poor person being stretched, and their muscles tearing from the strain. It is horrendous in its simplicity. On another wall hung a number of small handheld torture devices that made me
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think of a dentists office :P. And... of course in another part of the room hung chains and shackles to hold the prisoners. It is remarkable how dark and violent life was in the middle ages. Of course, the truly ironic thing about the room was its location, when I walked from the torture chamber into the hall, I could see the castles chapel at the other side of the hall. Prayers and faith on one side and pain and torture on the other. Strange.
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Pondering Pompeii

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Back in May, I visited Naples for a conference, described in this post. While there I also got the chance to visit the ruined city of Pompeii. Pompeii was a Roman settlement almost 2000 years ago when the volcano Mount Vesuvius erupted and showered the city in ash, suffocating the citizens and burying the city. The eruption was so strong that some estimate that the top of the volcano was blown off and the height of Mount Vesuvius was halved.

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Now, much of the city has been excavated, land cleared away and millions of tourists roam the city’s stone streets every year exploring the way life was in the city. Along with other conference attendees, we toured parts of the old city and heard from the tour guide about what life may have been like. We also got to see what life is currently like in Pompeii. There are many, many tourists but also many stray dogs. They live in and around the ruins of Pompeii, mostly oblivious of the tourists. Although, on the bright, hot and sunny day I was there, the dogs seemed to hog all of the little shade that was available. The dogs were either much smarter than the people or were enjoying a prank on us. I tend to lean towards the latter possibility. But the dogs mostly kept to themselves and were very docile.
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The ruins were interesting, when we entered we saw the grand square from which there were many shops, and malls, kind of like ancient supermarkets for people to buy fish, meat, and vegetables. I also got to see a bar, which apparently, and according to the tour guide, doubled as a brothel. So, I guess people had many of the same interests 2000 years ago as today: booze and sex. Go figure. But there was also numerous statues and decorations that survived the excavations, including a great statue of Pan. I didn’t know this at the time, the word “panic” is derived from the God Pan. He wasn’t so nice it seems.

While we saw many different facets of daily life in Pompeii, it was seeing what happened to life in Pompeii that was striking. I am not sure if I can imagine what it must have been like. To wake up to the air smelling of sulphur, choking and burning in the throat. To see the end of your world in such a dramatic way, and knowing that your neighbours and friends and children and parents are facing the same doom. These people clearly suffered before they became entombed in the falling volcanic ash.
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It is very sad to see the mummified remains of the poor beings that were trapped in Pompeii. The image on the left is that of a pregnant woman, laying face down, trying to protect herself and baby from the ash, all for naught. On the right is a poor dog that had been chained while the ash fell. The dog was clearly thrashing fighting the ash, fighting its chain, trying in vain until its last breathe to escape. The tour guide mentioned that tourists always seem more moved by the dog than by any of the people. A small comment about how people relate to animals I guess. I think people are more moved, because in the thrashing movements, one can see the desperation and panic as well as the determination.

Pompeii is a piece of ancient history, and while I got to glimpse into the daily lives of people, I also received a simple lesson into how fickle life and nature are. Life is an incredibly complex phenomenon, how life formed on Earth is still mysterious, how life ends is not. Only a small change in conditions can destroy a city, only a twitch of nature can decimate a population be it volcanos or earthquakes, or if you are a dinosaur, an asteroid. But, walking around Pompeii is also a reminder of the resilience of life. In the last two thousand years, the nearby city of Naples grew into a modern metropolis, people would dig up some of the marble and granite in Pompeii for their own homes (before it became an excavations and UNESCO site), and of course, stray dogs that returned to usurp the shade from tourists.

I walked out Pompeii with a bit more appreciation of life and how easy it can end. That might sound depressing, but it reminded me to enjoy it, and not waste it. I walked out appreciating the sunlight, and clear skies a little, if not the 30 degree celsius heat.
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The Great Coffee Experiment

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I love coffee. Coffee, espresso, lattes, ice coffee, americano, I love it all. I love coffee brewed from Italian or French roast, beans grown in Yunnan, or Columbia or shade-grown organic in Mexico, dark or light roast. I love coffee.

This should not be a surprise to anyone who knows me, or anyone who is just acquainted with me, or even anyone who has walked past me once in the last ten years, because odds are there was a cup of coffee in my hand. Yes, I love coffee. I love the first smell of a fresh pot of coffee, the hot, bold aroma that is a not-so-subtle kick to the head when it tickles your nose. I love the taste, strong, bitter, bold, hot, with a slight citrus-y aftertaste. Oh yes, and the feeling I get after that first mouthful, that subtle perk and shock to the system that tells you sit up straight. Oh yes, coffee is the nectar of the gods.

However, my love of coffee, or addiction (depending on one’s perspective) comes with a cost. I can drink up to 4-5 cups of coffee per day. When I am in North America, buying coffee at Starbucks, or Tim Hortons or an independent coffee shop, that can add up to $5-10 CAD per day. Over 1 month that is up to $100!!!! That is is a lot of money, too much money to spend especially when I can have the same amount of coffee for far less. In Germany, it is better, there is no Tim Hortons and Starbucks is not very convenient. There is coffee at work for 20 or 30 cents per cup, and I tend to drink 5-7 small cups per day. That adds up to about 1-2€ per day. I also tend to go to cafes on the weekend, adding a few more euros to the cost. Much better than North America, but it still adds up to about 40 - 50€ per month.

This isn’t good, it adds up and costs a fair bit of money. So, in the spirit of self-betterment and saving money, I am posing myself a new challenge for the month of August - to brew my own coffee at home six days per week. I still want one day per week to sit in a cafe and chill with a book or work. During the work week, I intend to brew a pot of coffee at home and take it to work in a thermos. On the sixth, I’ll drink at home, or carry a travel mug full of coffee with me.

If successful, I hope that this starts a new habit and saves me money. All things considered, a pound of good coffee only costs 5€, and drinking coffee out is about 3€. Therefore, I would project this month to spend less than 20€ on coffee this month. That is a huge savings!!

So wish me luck! Hopefully in 31 days, I’ll have more money in my wallet without sacrificing my love of coffee.

PS: yes I know, I drink too much coffee. But at least it is not tea :P
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