Small Talk
May 27th, 2016

Olivia and I saw a fairy garden display and wanted to have one for ourselves. Of course, I've seen adorable little worlds of miniature gardening before, but it struck a different chord with me as a mother of a girl.

Our fairy garden!

Our fairy garden!

It's a great DIY project - far better, I think, than buying one. The joy is in the journey of making it, spending wonderful quality time with the kiddo.

Fairies welcome!

Fairies welcome!

I'm a gardening hobbyist, so I have a lot of what we need at home on the plant front. She's eight, so she has a lot of what we need at home on the decorations end.

However, there were still a few things we wanted to pick up specifically to make it enchanted, so we drove to Ben Franklin Crafts Hawaii to buy some fairies, bridges, wishing well, and LED lights. (We failed to find a woodland home.)

SKy, Olivia's fairy

Sky, Olivia's fairy

Violet, my fairy

Violet, my fairy

You can make a fairy garden simple with just a couple of figurines, and it will still be charming. Or, you can get crazy like we did, which adds up unexpectedly fast. I wasn't looking at the prices and we just excitedly threw things in the basket.

IMG_5473

If you're inspired to DIY, you've been reminded! Little things can cost a lot. $80 later...

Including travel time to the store, the project took us about four hours. We loved it so much, we played with it for the rest of the day and night.

IMG_5451

We invented a whole fantasy world involving a quest riddled with challenges- a bit like the Hobbit. Every little item in the garden has a role and a backstory. So much fun letting out my inner child!

IMG_5457

She suggested we make this our new hobby and that we keep an eye out for accessories all the time. I love the idea.

Unicorn

Unicorn

Olivia was so happy about this. "Best day ever! You're my best friend!" she chirped. My heart melts :)

And for me, that's the real magic of the fairy garden.

IMG_5453

Have fun making yours!


May 25th, 2016

For about a month, I haven't had to ask my kid to clean her room. For the first eight and a half years of her life, it's been a pigsty. I have blogged about this before.

Olivia's tidy room!

Olivia's tidy room!

Sometimes, we had to go in and deep-clean it, like before guests come to stay in it. That required parental involvement. Ugh. It would always revert to its chaotic state within a day of their departure.

I have made a few comments over the weeks about her room being super tidy, but it hasn't been a prolonged conversation. Until last night.

I praised the consistent cleanliness and order, and asked why she's been keeping it so nice (bed made daily too!) for so long. The answer: "I'm tidy and I hate it."

Well, when I'm tidy I love it. She's halfway to being my kid.

Olivia says she hates keeping it neat, but she hates more when I ask her to clean it on the weekends. Now her new habit is to clean small messes as she makes them instead of spending hours picking up one big mess.

"Don't you feel a sense of pride that your room looks beautiful?" I asked.

"Well, yeah," she admitted.

"So this is the new Olivia?" I hoped.

She shrugged, "I guess."

Not that enthusiastic, but I'll take it!


May 23rd, 2016

Olivia loves coming to work with me. She is willing to wake up at 3 a.m., but I prefer to let her get her sleep.

Often on a school holiday, Claus will drop her off at 8 after the show's done, and he'll go to work. I can watch her while I do my off-air duties. In this manner, she's even accompanied me to my reporter beat checks at court and the police station, which are places I'd never visited until I was in my teens or even early 20s, as part of college field trips.

This pretty much sums up exactly why she loves Mommy's work:

IMG_5178

Not long ago, the Surf Paws Animal Hospital vet told me she'd bring in a kindle of kittens, so I asked if she'd mind if Olivia came on set with us holding a kitty. Dr. Cristina Miliaresis said OK, and Olivia was thrilled.

Luckily that segment is at 7:20 a.m., so it wasn't terribly early for Olivia or Claus to get to the station. (Not like a 5:50 a.m. guest segment.) So, Olivia got to hold kitties and be on TV (the latter, she could care less about).

Surfer China Uemura brought us pastries!

Surfer China Uemura brought us pastries!

Following that, as they left, I invited her to grab a pastry and brownie outside. Pastries, from one of the other guests. Brownies, which I brought for Taizo's birthday.

Justin Cruz as Darth Vader, for Taizo's birthday

Justin Cruz as Darth Vader, for Taizo's birthday

When she got to school, some of the kids told her they'd seen her on TV, which was a little fun for her. Mostly, she enjoyed bragging that she got to play with kittens.

With Dr. Miliaresis and all the felines!

With Dr. Miliaresis and all the felines!

To sum:

Kittens
Brownies
Pastries
Kittens

I'm glad she thinks I have a cool job. I do, too.


May 20th, 2016

Astronomers using the eight meter Gemini North telescope on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea probed an enigmatic, and unexpected, supermassive black hole dominating the core of a large galaxy in the cosmic backwaters.

This computer-simulated image shows a supermassive black hole at the core of a galaxy. The black region in the center represents the black hole's event horizon, where no light can escape the massive object's gravitational grip. The black hole's powerful gravity distorts space around it like a funhouse mirror. Light from background stars is stretched and smeared as the stars skim by the black hole. Simulation Credit: NASA, ESA, and D. Coe, J. Anderson, and R. van der Marel (Space Telescope Science Institute). Acknowledgment for Omega Centauri Image: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team. Science Credit: NASA, ESA, C.-P. Ma (University of California, Berkeley) and J. Thomas (Max Planck-Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, Germany)

This computer-simulated image shows a supermassive black hole at the core of a galaxy. The black region in the center represents the black hole's event horizon, where no light can escape the massive object's gravitational grip. The black hole's powerful gravity distorts space around it like a fun house mirror. Light from background stars is stretched and smeared as the stars skim by the black hole. Simulation Credit: NASA, ESA, and D. Coe, J. Anderson, and R. van der Marel (Space Telescope Science Institute). Acknowledgment for Omega Centauri Image: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team. Science Credit: NASA, ESA, C.-P. Ma (University of California, Berkeley) and J. Thomas (Max Planck-Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, Germany)

“It’s a bit like finding a skyscraper in a Kansas wheat field, rather than in Manhattan,” says Chung-Pei Ma of the University of California Berkeley, who led the international team of researchers. “We expect to find gigantic black holes in massive galaxies in a crowded region of the universe, where frequent galaxy collisions and cannibalism sustain the black holes' insatiable appetite and allow them to grow to excess. But to find one in relative isolation indicates the black hole has long-ago tapped its sources of matter that allowed it to grow.”

The research, published online on April 6th in the journal Nature, provides a rare glimpse of a supermassive black hole – one with a mass some 17 billion times the mass of our Sun – deep within a rather isolated galaxy, known as NGC 1600, some 200 million light years from our Milky Way Galaxy. Finding such a monster black hole in a galaxy with so few traveling companions is an enigma.

The massive elliptical galaxy in the center of this image, taken by the Digitized Sky Survey, resides in an uncluttered region of space. A close-up view of the galaxy, called NGC 1600, is shown in the inset image, which was taken in near-infrared light by the Hubble Space Telescope's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS). At the heart of NGC 1600 lurks one of the most massive black holes ever detected. The supersized black hole, weighing 17 billion suns, resides in an unlikely place. The biggest supermassive black holes – those roughly 10 billion times the mass of our sun – have been found at the cores of very large galaxies in regions of the universe packed with other large galaxies. This black hole, however, lives in a cosmic backwater town. Astronomers suggest the black hole grew from repeated collisions between its home galaxy and neighboring galaxies, which funneled gas to the massive object. The black hole also may have merged with a black hole from one of the consumed galaxies. The frequent feasts may also explain why NGC 1600 has few neighbors. NGC 1600 is located 209 million light-years from Earth. The NICMOS image was taken on Nov. 10, 1998. Credit: NASA, ESA, and C.-P. Ma (University of California, Berkeley). Acknowledgment: Digitized Sky Survey (DSS), STScI/AURA, Palomar/Caltech, UKSTU/AAO, and A. Quillen (University of Rochester)

The massive elliptical galaxy in the center of this image, taken by the Digitized Sky Survey, resides in an uncluttered region of space. A close-up view of the galaxy, called NGC 1600, is shown in the inset image, which was taken in near-infrared light by the Hubble Space Telescope's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS). At the heart of NGC 1600 lurks one of the most massive black holes ever detected. The supersized black hole, weighing 17 billion suns, resides in an unlikely place. The biggest supermassive black holes – those roughly 10 billion times the mass of our sun – have been found at the cores of very large galaxies in regions of the universe packed with other large galaxies. This black hole, however, lives in a cosmic backwater town. Astronomers suggest the black hole grew from repeated collisions between its home galaxy and neighboring galaxies, which funneled gas to the massive object. The black hole also may have merged with a black hole from one of the consumed galaxies. The frequent feasts may also explain why NGC 1600 has few neighbors.
NGC 1600 is 209 million light-years from Earth. The NICMOS image was taken on Nov. 10, 1998. Credit: NASA, ESA, and C.-P. Ma (University of California, Berkeley). Acknowledgment: Digitized Sky Survey (DSS), STScI/AURA, Palomar/ Caltech, UKSTU/AAO, and A. Quillen (University of Rochester)

The presence of this enormous black hole, lurking in a relatively barren outpost of our cosmic neighborhood, also presents an opportunity. The lonely monster, thought to be a primitive relic of galaxy growth, is helping to shed light on how huge black holes could have formed rapidly in the early epochs of our Universe. This, in turn, provides evidence for what is likely a rare leftover power supply for an ancient quasar – objects that shined brilliantly when the Universe was only a few billion years old.

“Other galaxies found to harbor very massive black holes are typically located in dense regions of the Universe populated by many other galaxies and clusters,” says the paper’s lead author, Jens Thomas of the Max Planck Institute of Physics. “By contrast, NGC 1600 is in a modest group of galaxies in a rather mundane part of the sky.”

How can such a large black hole exist now without a substantial source of material to feast on? Thomas points his finger at NGC 1600 itself. “Within the group, NGC 1600 is by far the most brilliant member and outshines other members by at least three times, an indication NGC 1600 may have cannibalized its former neighboring galaxies and their central black holes in its youth.”

“NGC 1600 also appears to have scoured away many of its central stars,” continues Thomas, who believes the black hole within NGC 1600 was once part of a pair of (or even multiple) black holes that worked as a team to gravitationally expel nearby stars. “Rather than devour them,” Thomas says, “the black holes would act like a gravitational slingshot, sending neighboring stars careening out of the galaxy’s core.”

A pair, or multiple black holes would also be expected when galaxies collide and merge, as the team believes happened long ago with NGC 1600.

Understanding this lonely relic galaxy required the power of the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS) on the Gemini North eight meter telescope on Mauna Kea. GMOS spectroscopically dissected the light from the core of the galaxy and allowed the team to discover the extreme mass of the black hole.

To map this environment, researchers had to model the surface brightness of the galaxy and velocity distributions around the center of the galaxy, and compare this to orbit superposition models. The collection and analysis of spectroscopic data from Gemini was led by National Research Council Canada (NRC)’s Nicholas McConnell.

“After many years of exemplary service, it’s great to see the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrographs [GMOS] continue to contribute in such a fundamental way to these important areas of astronomy,” said Chris Davis, program director at the U.S. National Science Foundation, which, with partner agencies in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and Chile, support the operation of the Gemini Observatory. “In just a few months, two separate teams using GMOS published compelling yet contrasting results: one group finding evidence for a supermassive black hole that’s flinging stars outward from its galaxy's core, and another observing a black hole that clings to its stellar neighbors. One wonders what other remarkable things Gemini and this remarkable technology will tell us about supermassive black holes and the cores of distant galaxies in the years to come.”

In addition the Gemini observations, the Mitchell Integral Field Spectrograph at the McDonald Observatory as well as NICMOS on the Hubble Space Telescope probed the core to characterize the sparse stellar environment. To distinguish the mass of the central black hole from the mass associated with starlight, NRC’s John Blakeslee analyzed images from the Hubble Space Telescope

The focus on NGC 1600 for this study was a result of the MASSIVE Survey, supported by the US National Science Foundation. Initiated in 2014, the MASSIVE Survey focuses on about 100 of the most massive, early-type, galaxies within about 300 million light years of the Milky Way. Gemini continues to play a critical role in MASSIVE by measuring the velocities of stars swarming around the galaxies’ supermassive black holes, and thus discovering the black holes’ masses.

Ma speculates the black hole in NGC 1600 might be the tip of an iceberg. “Maybe there are many more monster black holes that don’t live in an obvious skyscraper in Manhattan,” says Ma. “If so, GMOS on Gemini will help us find them.” Ma also notes the masses of the three largest known black holes were all determined by Gemini, including two 10 billion solar mass black holes discovered by her team in 2011.

“If the deficit of stars in the center of NGC 1600 is indeed due to a pair of black holes, then the twins could have coalesced and created gravitational waves,” says Ma. “These would be the supermassive version of the black hole binary detected by Advanced LIGO two months ago.”
The Gemini Observatory is an international collaboration with two identical eight meter telescopes. The Frederick C. Gillett Gemini Telescope is on Mauna Kea, Hawai`i (Gemini North) and the other telescope on Cerro Pachón in central Chile (Gemini South); together, the twin telescopes provide full coverage over both hemispheres of the sky. The telescopes incorporate technologies that allow large, relatively thin mirrors, under active control, to collect and focus both visible and infrared radiation from space.

 


May 18th, 2016

My daughter made us a pie, mostly by herself. It was a recipe my mother used to assemble for us, and I loved it.

I haven't had this exact recipe since she stopped baking due to Alzheimer's, and her final baking phase was about cakes, so she hadn't made the blueberry dessert for years and years.

Some bakeries sell it with cake on the bottom but I prefer it this way. Comfort dessert, I guess. It's what I grew up with.

Olivia's pie!

Olivia's pie!

It's very easy, and it doesn't require baking. It's a kid's recipe, if you think about it.

It's basically cream cheese with sugar and whipped cream, plus a touch of vanilla, topped with blueberry filling, set on top a crumbly pie shell. What's not to like?

It took Olivia about 15 minutes to put it together. It's so delicious!

She took great pride in watching us devour her pie, and has now declared this "her" recipe. I'm encouraging her to make this for us again.

Here's the recipe if you want to give it a whirl:

Blueberry Cream Cheese Pie

1 eight oz. package cream cheese

1 bottle whipped cream

3/4 c. powdered sugar, unsifted

1 t. vanilla

1 can blueberry pie filling

1 nine inch pie shell (I like the graham cracker ones)

Put cream cheese and sugar in a mixer and blend. Add vanilla. When it's mixed, fold the whipped cream in. Pour half into the baked pie crust. Add half the blueberry filling. Repeat to create a second layer of cheese then fruit filling. Refrigerate it to set it.

Enjoy!