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 México, 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.
To be sure, the new year looks much like the old. Pandemic still raging, all activities still online, etc etc.
Still, the days are getting longer again, and we have a few new lab members to add to the People page. Nationwide vaccination campaigns are underway, and who knows? Maybe we’ll all be vaccinated in time for observing in Chile in 2021A. (Or 2021B. Or… you know what? Let’s not jinx it.)
One of the last shows I went to last year was a triple feature: The Exbats, Tacocat, and AJJ. (AJJ played a rather grim song called Normalization Blues that seems oddly prescient considering it was only released in January of that year.)
However, in a more upbeat spirit, your song of the day / week / moment is “New World” by Tacocat.
It’s been a very busy 6 weeks since we passed PSR and received the approval to ship out MagAO-X. In those 6 weeks, we’ve been working on putting the final touches for the instrument. On October 2, we were scheduled for moving the MagAO-X instrument into its shipping crate, which means lots and lots of preparation for the big day.
It’s been all-hands-on-deck with many days and late nights in the lab carefully packing the instrument and the electronics rack. Alex H and Maggie have been helping Laird with locking down all the optics on the table for minimal shifting through the transport process. Joseph, Kyle, Alex R, and I have been helping Jared with migrating the electronics from the lab rack to the MagAO-X shipping rack. Jared, Joseph, and Kyle have been working on integrating the hardware and software from the newly migrated electronics rack to the locked down testbed. The XWCL room was raining zip ties, velcro ties, and cut styrofoam for weeks. We ran out of label maker tape on the day we were packing up the instrument.
In case you missed all the fun, here’s some photos from the shipping preparation in the lab:
The final touch for moving MagAO-X to its shipping crate was wrapping it in lots of plastic:
October 2 was a big milestone step for MagAO-X, the day it made its first move out of the XWCL room in Steward. However, it only moved down 1 floor (XWCL is on the 2nd floor, and the loading dock is in the 1st floor / basement). It may not seem far in MagAO-X’s journey, but it took lots of effort… in addition to the freight elevator breaking the day before. Jared, Laird, Alexes R and H, Kyle, Jamison, Nick, Victor, and I were present all day for the big event.
First thing we did was get the (new and lighter) cart onto the testbed:
Next, the riggers arrived to lift up MagAO-X from its legs and onto the cart:
Then, it took a journey down the hallway to the freight elevator to go to the basement’s loading dock: (Shoutout to facilities for making sure the freight elevator worked that day no matter what!)
In the basement, it was carted to the loading dock area:
The shipping crate was waiting for the instrument inside the building by the loading dock. We needed to push the shipping crate outside to the loading dock first to make room for MagAO-X:
Out in the loading dock area, a crane came by and to remove the crate’s cover:
Inside the crate was the testbed’s shipping frame to maintain balance for MagAO-X. Jamison presented these at PSR. The PSR drawings don’t look fancy, but seeing them in person is super legit:
We wheeled out MagAO-X for it to be craned onto the shipping frame:
However, like all great projects, no matter the extent of our preparation, we encountered some issues with hardware. While fixing that, we encountered another issue – MagAO-X started overheating after exposure to the sun. The black metal panels absorbed lots of heat and the plastic wrap encouraged a greenhouse effect. So, we wheeled it back inside the building to let it cool down:
When the hardware issues were cleared, we wheeled MagAO-X back outside and the exciting crane process began:
With MagAO-X craned onto its shipping frame and bolted down, the crate cover was craned back to enclose the instrument:
We boxed up the instrument and wheeled the packed crate back inside Steward, where it has stayed for a week before it ships out:
Within that week timeframe, we continued on with the shipping process. Two days were spent in the Mirror Lab for getting the electronics rack in its shipping crate. We began packing and inventorying all the equipment to send down to Chile:
We modified one of the shipping crate’s side panels to add more viewing windows. Here’s one last look at MagAO-X in its crate, before it gets shipped off to Chile:
I’ve been working off-and-on MagAO-X since January 2017 on the simulation side doing Fresnel propagation analysis. Working in simulation means you don’t get a lot of interaction with the hardware. I got to see the instrument close up while helping in the shipping process, and it has been a rewarding learning experience. (Plus, my arts and crafts hobby finally became useful with lots of foam cutting, my heart was singing in delight for days) I’ve learned a lot with the team, and I’m sure we’re going to learn more as we continue on the next step of the shipping process.
The MagAO-X PI has rules. It is not necessarily a rule, but rather a recommendation to have a quote: Jared: Stop having fun, this isn’t fun
The rule is having a song. I picked this one because it’s so strange adjusting to the change of not having MagAO-X in the lab after 2 years:
Last Friday, MagAO-X underwent a pre-shipment review. This is the process by which the Magellan Observatory ensures that we won’t waste everyone’s time by shipping our instrument to the telescope. It’s a multifaceted process, evaluating everything from “does your instrument work in the lab?” to “have you baked your shipping crate?”
I’m happy to report that we’ve cleared this hurdle, meaning we’re taking MagAO-X to Chile for the 2019B* run! Many thanks to all of our reviewers and the observatory staff for productive discussions and suggestions. We look forward to getting on sky with MagAO-X this December! (Since this is the MagAO blog as well, it bears mentioning that we’ll be there in November too.)
* We use ‘A’ and ‘B’ to refer to the former and latter halves of the year, since “winter” means different months depending on your hemisphere.
Also, this means Jared feels it’s finally acceptable to hand out the 2019B mission patches I designed:
The patch depicts a viscacha, one of the local fauna of Magellan, perched on a rock at sunset. (As they do.) In the sky above, a point source is diffracted by some telescope spiders to form a stylized Magellan PSF. (Or possibly a MagAO-“X”.)
As long as I don’t run out of South American animals, I plan to do a patch for every run. Then I’ll put them all on a vest and look like the world’s nerdiest boy scout.
Part of being in the XWCL is following the P.I.’s rules:
No unauthorized use of the label maker
No coding in MATLAB
No circus activities
No volunteering for Olivier
No metric shit running around in the lab
Every post must have a song of the day
No unauthorized use of the label maker
I regret that I forgot rule #6 in my last post, so I will take this opportunity to rectify my mistake with two songs of the day.
I’ve been digging this song about not being too hard on yourself by Alex Lahey:
And if I had been thinking about a song of the day for the back-to-school post, it might have been “Restart” by Little Daylight: