Season’s greetings from the XmasWCL

There’s one upside to an atrocious windowless office in Steward: it makes your Christmas lights look nicer.

The Principal Investigators in place of pride at the top: Katie, Laird, and… Jay. Wait, that doesn’t sound right.

The Xmas Wavefront Control Lab celebrates in style, with only the finest Dollar Tree Christmas decor. They weren’t selling stockings this year, so it’s good that Jhen Lumbres bought a bunch back in 2019.

I would also like to announce the mission patch sticker for 2021 (really putting the miss in mission):

I haven’t named this guy or gal yet. Maybe Robert Bobcat? (Bobby Bobcat to friends.)

As the saying goes: if you’re not queasy, you must not be paying attention!

If you’re lucky enough to have a 2020 mission sticker, you can make them do this:

It’s not much, but it’s something.

Note: Anyone spreading rumors that this will require a 2022 swing-and-a-miss-ion sticker design to complete the ‘ronamoon should be kicked in the knees.

Song of the Day

Today’s S.o.t.D. was chosen by Logan Pearce, nine time winner of the official Star Trek fan club “dankest memes” competition.

“Let it Snow” by, uh, Star Trek?

In which a television broadcast occurs

XWCL member Logan Pearce, connoisseur of fine brews and science communication, is an organizer of the local Space Drafts (Astronomy on Tap Tucson) event. The special edition Space Drafts talks on the soon-to-be-launched (really) JWST mission drew attendees from around Tucson, including reporters from local news channel KGUN.

Anyone who stayed up late on Tuesday to watch the news saw Logan Pearce’s television debut:

The segment was reused in the morning news, too, judging from this email from beloved departmental program coordinator Michelle Cournoyer:

Good Morning Logan,

While I was getting ready for work this morning, I saw you on the Channel 9 news, very excited about Space Drafts and the JWST upcoming launch. Very cool! I hope you’ll remember the little people,like me, now that you’re a celebrity 🙂

Mama Michelle

Song of the Day

“La Baie” – Clara Luciani (Metronomy cover)

Zweetkamertje—or—Congratulations Dr. Van Gorkom!

Our Dutch postdoc Sebastiaan Haffert has taught us many important terms (like “We at Toilet Duck recommend Toilet Duck!”), but the one most relevant today is zweetkamertje. As explained by Atlas Obscura, this is the “sweating room” where Ph.D. candidates in Leiden await the results of their doctoral exams.

This draft is being written (in part) during the sweating period of Kyle Van Gorkom’s Ph.D. defense.

But let’s back up a bit: Today, a pandemic-appropriate number of masked people filed in to Meinel 812 (and a much larger people joined online) to see Kyle Van Gorkom defend his Ph.D. research in adaptive optics. The view was excellent, but Jhen and Daewook had eyes only for Kyle.

Some pretty sweet mountains, you might say.

Mr. Van Gorkom (as he was then known) regaled us with tales of deformable mirror characterization and modeling. Battles won, vibrational modes damped, etc. (We will not talk about the IrisAO.)

The room was then closed for the committee to thoroughly examine him. We waited. Some of us blogged. Then, after some ritual hazing questioning, he was presented to us: Dr. Kyle Van Gorkom, Ph.D.!

A toast was called for.

The final test of the candidate is whether they can open a bottle of champagne. We are happy to report that he passed this as well, despite Susana’s evident skepticism.

And, after some initial difficulties, a toast was had! Congratulations, Dr. Kyle Van Gorkom!

Song of the Day

“Someday” by The Strokes

Congratulations to Dr. Lauren Schatz!

Resident pyramid expert Dr. Lauren Schatz defended her thesis work today, despite pandemic pandemonium. The field has decided to accept her (with minor revisions), and she will be joining the Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico later this year.

We’ll miss her a lot, but every wavefront sensed by MagAO-X will have her fingerprints on it. Well, not literally, that’d be bad optical science-ing. But you know what I mean.

We had all kind-of forgotten how to do the in-person rituals of academia, but we “reserved” a “conference room” and used a “projector.” We also set up Zoom, for good measure (and for everyone beyond the tiny occupancy limit imposed by These Unprecedented Times).

Masks were worn by all non-presenters, fear not.

Best wishes in all your future endeavors, Lauren!

Drs. Schatz and Males post-defense. The women of Optics make sashes to commemorate defenses, and this one was made by Dr. Silvana Ayala.

Song of the Day

You’ll find in time
All the answers that you seek
Have been sitting there just waiting to be seen
Take away your pride and take away your grief
And you’ll finally be right where you need to be

“Different Now” by Chastity Belt

Bonus Lauren

Have you ever unpacked a new optic and it turns out it was actually Lauren? (Photo: Jennifer Lumbres)

In defense of the “Steward oranges”

Shortly after I began my Ph.D. studies at Steward Observatory, I noticed that the historic dome building (where they gave me my first homely office) was ringed by orange trees.

“Don’t try eating them,” I was told. “They taste terrible! They’re not edible; they’re only, what’s the word, decorative? Ornamental?”

In this post, I will seek to rehabilitate the reputation of the much maligned Steward orange.

I have been undertaking progressively more intricate cooking projects over the course of the last covid, and after SeriousEats featured a recipe for cochinita pibil on its homepage I knew I had to try. Cochinita pibil is a pork dish from the Yucatán region of MĂ©xico, best known to Americans as “where Cancun is.” The Seville oranges used in it are known for being sour, bitter, and generally unpalatable on their own, but impart a distinctive flavor to the dish. I tried finding them at local Mexican grocery stores, but struck out.

But… aren’t the Steward oranges sour, bitter, and generally unpalatable? Could they be the oranges I’m looking for? Fortunately the campus arboretum has cataloged every notable plant on campus, and I had only to ask:

Armed with this information, I went to harvest some ingredients. However, a problem arose.

Undaunted, I returned under cover of darkness with an improvised professional harvesting tool.

The first thing I made with my sour oranges was some quick-pickled onions (another SeriousEats recipe). They were delicious. No food coloring required!

Of course, juicing a bunch of oranges means you have a bunch of orange rinds left over. The Seville orange’s peel is full of flavor compounds, with writers sometimes calling it the “orangiest” orange. I couldn’t let that go to waste! Seville oranges are prized in the UK for use in marmalade, but, quite frankly, I don’t eat much marmalade. So I made candy instead.

That’s already two ways to eat the Steward oranges, and we haven’t even gotten to the main event yet. In cochinita pibil, the bitter (or sour, or Seville) orange juice is used in the marinade alongside a laundry list of spices—but no hot chilies. The flavor of the final dish is a bit smoky and earthy, and fairly orange in color (thanks to achiote), but you’ll have to apply hot salsa to taste.

After a tedious overnight wait, it was time to parcel up the meat and veg. Though I’m not digging the traditional pit, I can still use banana leaves. Fortunately, Tucson’s excellent international supermarket had them in stock.

Trussed up and placed on a tray, it was time to grill. Or, I guess, smoke. (The grad-student budget version of a smoker is a grill plus a lot of babysitting.)

Success! Some corn tortillas and pickled onions were produced, and tacos were had by all. A poll of the individuals present for this pork fest indicated broad approval for this cochinita pibil recipe. More importantly, there were no leftovers.

Not bad for a sour, bitter orange!

Song of the day

In honor of our first 100ÂşF day of 2021…

“Sunny” — Boney M.