Lunar Awesomeness

Having fallen sick the prior weekend, I was hard pressed to be dedicated in my efforts toward a speedy recovery while ruing the lost opportunity of posting a new article on the blog. A sudden cold, and the ensuing fatigue left me out of sorts; the origins of which could be traced back to a persistent cycle of late-night at work along with irregular sleep.

The past week has helped me recover, and now that I’m back, I would like to recapitulate on my original plans for a post dedicated to the lunar awesomeness coinciding with the final and initial weeks of January and February 2018.

The night of January 31st hosted a special treat for amateur and professional astronomers alike with three lunar events coinciding upon the occasion: a supermoon, a blue moon, and a blood moon.

Unfortunately, the weather in Edmonton was less than accommodating  with a rapid slew of snowfall enveloping the city at January’s end, and resulting in quite the cloudy forecast on the night of the occasion.

While this was a mild disappointment, I drew delight by watching the video recordings of the event that were made available online the following morning. With that being said, what do astronomers mean when they use the terms supermoon, blue moon, and blood moon? Your friendly neighborhood astronomer is here to explain.

Simply put, the supermoon refers to a full moon or a new moon where the moon is at its closest distance to our planet in its orbit. This makes the moon appear slightly larger and brighter than usual.

A supermoon would be at least 14% bigger and 30% brighter as opposed to a “normal” moon.  

The moon’s average distance is 382,900 km from Earth. To get some context, if we were to scale the Earth’s size or diameter (12,756 km) to that of a beach ball (16 inches), the distance from the Earth to the moon would be an equivalent of 40 ft. Thanks to its elliptical orbit, the moon tends to experience both a closest (perigee) and farthest (apogee) distance of approach to our planet.

Now, this doesn’t imply that a supermoon will occur every month as the moon’s orbit changes orientation as our planet revolves around the sun. Thus, a full or new moon won’t always happen at apogee or perigee. 12-13 full or new moons are possible every year, with 3-4 usually being classified as a supermoon. The most recent supermoon occurrence will be followed by another at the year on December 22, 2018. The closest supermoon of this century is set to occur in the relatively far future on December 6, 2052.

blue moon refers to an additional full moon that appears among the months of a year. The term can refer to either the third of four full moons in a season or the second full moon over a month of the calendar year. The existence of the second definition is due to an erroneous parallel drawn by amateur astronomer James Hugh Pruett (1886-1955).  Having misunderstood the measures for calculating the seasonal blue moon, Pruett would publish an article in 1946 in the Sky & Telescope magazine writing instead that the a blue moon was the second full moon in a month. The phrase “blue” has nothing to do with the actual color of the moon. Nevertheless, varying atmospheric conditions may cause the moon to take on a tinge of blue e.g. elevated fires or volcanic eruptions that may result in particles being spewed into the atmosphere resulting in the preferential scattering of red light.

Lastly, the blood moon refers to a lunar eclipse, when the moon passes directly behind our planet and into its shadow. This occurs only when the sun, Earth, and moon are aligned exactly or at least closely enough, with the Earth smack-dab in the middle.

This is also why a lunar eclipse can only occur on the night of a full moon. January 31, 2018 witnessed a total lunar eclipse, a perfect alignment that resulted in sunlight being completely blocked by the earth’s shadow.

The moon’s “color” is nothing more than the reflection of the sun’s light upon its surface. During a total lunar eclipse, the only light seen is refracted or bent through our planet’s shadow. This light is mainly of a “red” nature thanks to the scattering of its bluer spectrum (an opposite process to what may occur in a “literal” blue moon). Therefore, a total lunar eclipse is also called a blood moon as the moon takes upon a reddish color during the event.

So, what is so special about January 31, 2018?

Well, this was the first time in 152 years that these three lunar events coincided with each other making it a rare gem of a beautiful lunar display. Pretty much everyone in the UK missed out on the spectacle while those in the US, Asia, Australia, and Russia got to see the full eclipse. But not to worry, if you missed this lunar awesomeness of a super blue blood moon, the next one is up for grabs in 2037.

Finishing up with this astronomy treatise for today, unlike the 19 year wait in the case above, I hope to see you all soon again the following week with another interesting story to share.

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Red Hot Chili Peppers, and all about being a PhD student

It has been a vivacious start to 2018, and I have been immersed in my studies over the last few weeks, teeing up for another set of courses this winter semester while putting the last touches on a research paper I intend to publish very soon.

Given my absence for so long, I was quite torn about what to post on my return but it didn’t take me long to realize that the answer sat in plain view. So today, I intend to provide all of you a brief glimpse of my daily life, and exactly what keeps me so busy. Let’s dig in.

We begin with the usual wake up call at 7 a.m in the morning, a goal which in the immediate outset of things provides for varying rates of success depending on the season. With winter, it is an issue of hustle, when the purpose of an alarm is lost over several snooze snippets, resulting in a hustle to get to classes on time. With summer, it is an issue of hassle, when the purpose of an alarm is moot, thanks to my bed bathing in sunlight in the early hours of 5 a.m. in the morning. Welcome to Edmonton!

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Much like the amusing contrast of my forgetful friend Bucky Barnes’ season oriented fashion and epithet, the ritual of morning alarms in my life is largely hyperbolic in nature. 

Now, assuming things do go as planned, I begin my day at the university around 9 a.m. in the morning, jogging along to my courses or engaging in research otherwise, with a finely conditioned but old package of a portable workspace aka my Lenovo G505s laptop. Ideally, I finish at 5 p.m. returning home to proceed with dinner, going to the gym, and engaging in my hobbies (writing, art, music) before heading to bed by around midnight.

Now, with that being said, we all know the obvious outcome: when it comes to life, things never go as planned…

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I often relate my academic life to the act of cooking; I enjoy both equally. While I do love my Indian spices, I have no problem flirting with various cuisines from around the world. In the end, cooking is often about finding a delicate balance, and most importantly, maintaining it.

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Unless I’m asking to be caught at the end of a Gordon Ramsay rant. 

It is the same with my studies. Not one to be attached to a single subject of interest, I’m a fan of interdisciplinary science; a notion that parallels my current research on “hot electrons,” but more about that another time. Ultimately though, it is all about discipline, organization, and a strong ability to multi-task.

Thankfully, I do not lack in any of these categories but that doesn’t take away the usual stumbling blocks that appear every now and then. In that vein, with my PhD, it is all about juggling my degree requirements while simultaneously building towards my goals. This largely revolves around  amassing a wealth of scientific publications, advancing my resume, cooking up original research, and last but not least, having fun while avoiding stress as much as possible. All in all, it is a business modeled around a philosophy of accretion. If you have the right balance, you’ve pretty much hit jackpot. Of course, this is not what happens in most cases, and so while I’m strung up like Anakin Skywalker dealing with an annoying Jedi Council,

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two good friends of mine provide some much needed reminders and send me on my way,

Thus, I survive by running a strict diet of activities removed from my academic pursuits, and by this I mean indulging avidly in my long-term pursuit of becoming a writer/mangaka, not to mention catching up on all the reading and fun one tends to miss while at university.

Where does this cycle end? Truth is, in my case, it probably never will, and with time I’ve grown to enjoy it more than anything else. While the journey has its fair share of ups and down, at the end of the day, when I take a step back and think about it, my mind finds rest within the reality that it is no different from cooking a new recipe and making sure to have a healthy balance of spices (especially in the case of adding chilies, where one should only rub their eyes after having washed their hands…)

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It took over an hour of suppressed pain before my eyes cleared up. 

Keeping with that attitude, I hope to add to my list of goals, a steady accretion of weekly blog posts. Winter break oversaw a rapid increase in viewer traffic on my blog,

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leaving me invigorated with new strategies and topics to engage all of you, my wonderful readers in what I hope will be a wonderful 2018! So, until next week, toodles!

TIMELESS

I awoke this morning, my dry eyes struggling to gain clarity amidst my groggy state.  Walking over to the kitchen, I would return and fall back onto my bed, draping a wet compress over my face, sighing in relief as my eyes welcomed the residual moisture.

Taking a moment to clear my mind, I spent the next few minutes recalling the memories of the past year before closing the door upon the roller coaster journey that was 2017. Sitting back against the wall, I looked out the window, only to meet a white landscape. It penetrated the stillness of my surroundings, inciting memories of my crash-landing at the planet Abafar, a few years back, in the company of my good friend R2D2 while ardently binge-watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

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Our motley crew at Abafar discussing the specs of the planet. Awesome show, for all Star Wars fans out there. 

My month long absence has seen me confront the end of a semester of work, and an intense study schedule for final exams. The stress that ensued from said experiences retreated following the two weeks of Christmas break during which I relaxed as I saw fit, by doing absolutely nothing.

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A large part of this nothing involved catching up on the sleep I had missed out on over the school year. Christmas Eve was inspired by the excitement that I crafted for my loved ones. The desolate cold of winter, and I mean the -40 degrees Celsius that we Edmontonians love, was supplanted by the nostalgic memories and rituals of time past with my family and friends that I seem to periodically recollect upon this festive occasion.

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Winter is a complicated affair for those who live in Edmonton…
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but we can always find a way to cozy up. 

Time waits for no one but in it’s passing we find life’s wonderful gifts, memories that forever resonate eternal in our hearts. To embrace and cherish the memories of my past, to live the present, and to happily anticipate the future. This is my mantra. Alighting  upon a new year, these words echoed resoundingly in my mind.

Often, we can’t see the forest for the trees. New Years is precisely such an occasion. Growing up, New Years was an opportunity to look back upon my mistakes, and resolve my lingering doubts in empty resolutions and promises that never saw the light of day.

Not anymore!

A new year, a new beginning, but not because I’m tying up loose ends of my past while forging ahead toward the future. Rather, it is about embracing and paying due respects to the past, those multitude of experiences, those lost instances that have led me all the way to where I am now.

In that vein, I’m thankful for everything that has happened over the past year. All the ups and downs, as well as the lingering staleness of an uneasy equilibrium between the two, all of it…it was just perfect. Why so? In my opinion, because life has to be so, in order to provide some sort of personal incentive and impetus. I found both on a number of unforgettable occasions that will forever tickle the strings of my heart.

Above all, I learned the importance to stay true to myself, to believe in myself, to fall and learn to get back up on to my feet, to fail so that I may succeed, to never give up, to love and to express said love to those who I considered important. More so, I learned to enjoy life and be thankful for all that I have. Making the best of the present, I found fulfillment in the individual that I am and the one I hope to be a few years down the road.

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The past is a reflection of the present, and the present is a gateway to the future in the never-ending journey that is life.

What we consider the present may be nothing more than a temporary and transient construct of time. In a split second, the now may become a window to the past, an instant that is seemingly lost to us, but we always have the choice to make that instant, a timeless memory…

With that said, Happy New Year everyone!

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Nostalgia – A Celebration Of The Past

Listening to music is a favorite pastime of mine when it comes to sitting in front of my computer and writing away my thoughts be it my journal, my novels, or just plain old school work. I don’t necessarily identify with any particular genre of music (vocal and instrumental alike), and as such go with any piece that suits my mood further aligning with the fact that my selections vary wildly from artist to artist.

Over the last few weeks, my efforts have predominantly revolved around the completion of a literature review about my PhD research. I completed the draft just a few days back. Relishing in the bout of relief that ensued, I lounged back into my chair while listening to a randomized instrumental playlist on YouTube. I would soon alight upon a particular piece that would kindle the memories of my past, drawing my eyes back to the screen of my laptop, where I was welcomed by the opening to a show I had watched in my childhood.

It didn’t take long for my bout of relief to transform into one of nostalgia. Indulging in the bittersweet bliss of the feeling, I sank into the warm and fuzzy emotions of fond memories from my past, subsequently delving into the late hours of the night on a marathon of memories that took me over. This particular scenario was most apt, relating to my earliest inspirations that engaged my creative skills and fueled my love for writing and music, namely, Cartoons from the 1990s. In that vein, I could relate, or for lack of a better word, restrain myself to a few cartoons that struck my nostalgic chords the most all the way back to my childhood, long before anime ruled the roost of my creativity.

It all began on a sunny day jog back home from school to meet my two friends, Christopher Robin and Winnie-The-Pooh. 

This would officially be the first of the may cartoons I ever watched as a kid, taking me back to my days in my hometown in Madurai, running home from school, only to sit down in front of the TV and share in the whimsical adventures of my two friends Christopher Robin and Winnie-The-Pooh.

We would also be joined by two other friends from the distant lands of Arabia: Aladdin and Genie.

With no idea of how vast the world was at such a young age, these four would be a large part of my childhood where I learned to

and when it came to being a mischievous kid  that

all in the time-span of an hour’s limited streaming of cartoons on the single channel that ran on the T.V.

Soon, I would be lucky enough to have my chance to explore the world when my family first moved to Egypt. This time there were two T.V.s in the house though the cartoons were still a limited treasure to come by.

The cartoons would usually broadcast around a three hour session early every Saturday morning when my baby sister (half-asleep most of the time, if I may add) and I would sneak over to the T.V. room while our parents were fast asleep. This time my adventures would alternate between outer-space and our planet as I accompanied Flash Gordon and his crew (the animated feature of 1996) hovering over to futuristic and past timelines with good family friends in the Flintstones (celebrating Christmas before the birth of Jesus Christ), the Jetsons (who would be the preface to my own experience of the technology boom that followed the late ’90s), and a pinch of freakishness to add to the concoction in the Addams Family.

Along with a whole host of other characters each with their singular adventures, I would find myself surrounded by an ever growing family of friends who served as my inspirations in the Cartoons I watched as a kid.

You had the anthropomorphic cats T-Bone and Razor from Swat Kats, who were my first taste of being a legitimate bad-ass, to the incredibly fun Mystery Inc. gang and their impressively subtle mysteries, as well as a slew of others from the manly Centurions, the infuriating Dee-Dee from Dexter’s Laboratory, and the Elvis Presley of Cartoon characters, Johnny Bravo, of whom my mother wasn’t necessarily a fan (in retrospect, I could see why), and his far more adventurous and wiser cousin in Johnny Quest.

But everything that has a beginning has an end, and so as the years passed I would soon find other interests that would catch my attention.

Diverting as I did from the cartoons of the yester-years, I would delve into anime and other forms of entertainment in a world that gradually evolved into a social media frenzy. But that transition is indeed what makes those very memories so nostalgic.

Funnily enough, I’m now at a stage in my life where as I ponder about the future, I only seem to find more pit-stops where I visit and relish the company of the friends of my past. I would have never known then as a kid that one day I would aspire to become a writer/artist, and here I am following in the footsteps of my dreams propelled by those very same inspirations of the past.

Though life is an adventure filled with beginnings and separations, nothing can deny the eternity of memories, and in that sense, this bout of nostalgia was in essence a celebration of the past, and a merry precursor to the good weekend’s rest that has followed!

 

It Is What It Is…

Hello everybody! It’s been a busy week for me at the U. It’s great to be back in what is a break from a seemingly endless cycle of analyzing research papers mixed in with the occasional stupor of staring into empty space and contemplating the meaning of it all, in what is an effective cocktail of scientific education that is my PhD so far. In fact, the busy-ness of it all has molded into a slightly routine affair over the last eight years of my life in academia, and that’s exactly what I’m here to talk about today. Isn’t that great?

At the ripe age of 26, I already feel like an old man running through the wheeling seasons of the years. With each year’s passing, I bear witness and welcome the arrival of a fresh batch (and ready for the picking) of students jumping out of the proverbial frying pan that is high school and unknowingly (but optimistic nonetheless) into the fire that is university. At the same time, I bid farewell and sink into a boat of nostalgia on those good friends who continue onward in their singular adventures beyond university, and wherever they deem life should take them.

University, in many ways, can be likened to a pit-stop. It is not a necessary one, and for the ones who are offered the chance for it and take that opportunity, it may be a short or long-term visit. Some could even consider it to be a rite of passage while for others it may be a trial through fire or as my good friend Zuko would put it, an Agni Kai!

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But beyond everything else, university is an experience. With every end that comes to pass, there is the beginning of something new right around the corner, and amidst a plethora of mixed emotions: laughter, sadness, anger, relief, melancholy, love…there endure the countless memories rendered complete in an unforgettable experience.

I’ve had my fair share of adventures over the last eight years, going back to 2009 and all the way to where I’m now in 2017, comprising my time at university. I can relate various stories in what would be a compendium of tales to share since then. But that would be too long of a story to tell so in my own liking as your “griot”, I will share what I can of what was (and to a certain degree still is) my life as a student at university.

YEAR 1: In search of “One Piece,” the grand adventure begins.

Embarking on an adventure was really what it was. I left my family, and set foot in Canada in 2009, beginning the first year of my studies at the University of Alberta. It all started with me getting lost on my first day of classes, and running about the streets trying to find my way to the right building, before eventually settling into a class only to realize it may not be the right one. An adventure that began with a misleading compass, but eventually finding the right pinch of curiosity to spur me onward to an endless horizon that sprang forth ahead of me in the dreams that I wished to seek. That was pretty much my first year: coming to terms with the fact that the journey was real.

YEAR 2: Facing my first COLOSSAL obstacle.

An adventure without any obstacle is quite boring, and as the second year of courses came around, I would finally face the first of my many challenges, mostly revolving around balancing my studies while working part-time. I would learn that the world is bigger than what I had previously thought. I would meet others of great intellect in my field, and at many times feel dwarfed by my own inabilities. But most of all, I would learn to never give up. No matter how colossal the problems felt in the heat of the moment, I would strive to be strong for the sake of achieving my dreams.

YEAR 3: Sinking In Self-Doubt

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With the progression of every year, university grew into an endless stream of assignments, and I struggled to stay afloat. Bearing the brunt of my own personal struggles in an identity crisis that followed in the wake of a lost friend, I began to view the world differently. Where there were dreams and a never give up attitude, I began feeling the fatigue of it all, sinking into the tediousness, unable to connect with the original purpose that had brought me to university.

YEAR 4: Getting Back On My Feet By Letting Go

You can always count on family to be there for you when in trouble. I had my father on that day when I just needed to let go of it all, and while there wasn’t much to be said, I realized that the doubt that seemed to plague me was nothing more than an elusive catalyst that motivated me to keep pushing, and understand that there is nothing wrong with redefining myself and my dreams. I would soon find myself sitting in a packed auditorium of students waiting to receive my undergraduate degree. I can’t say I was happy. Things hadn’t gone the way I had hoped in the years prior, but the spirit still remained in me to keep seeking an answer beyond the persistent questions. University, in that manner, was as much about asking questions in class, as well as about myself, my dreams, and what really made me happy. I found my answers by letting go and taking a break.

YEAR 5: Trying Something New

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Learning to let go was difficult, but I eventually got my way about doing it. Doing so, I redefined my road, trying something new in my life for a change. I found a partner to join in my adventure, meeting as we did in the crossroads. Moving forward to the future, I reassessed my dreams, thinking back to what I had lost and what I had gained through my experiences over the last four years, and finding new purpose in making my own path I decided to pursue graduate studies in a field and topic of my own interest.

YEAR 6 & 7: Reinvigorated Purpose

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The following two years would pass in bliss as I engaged my Masters degree (which was VERY different from doing an undergraduate degree). There was a measure of intellectual freedom and space that followed with my graduate studies which was quite unlike the hectic lifestyle of my undergraduate years. I made the most of it. Of course there were ups and downs but for some reason things just didn’t seem as difficult as before. In retrospect, I could attribute this to the fact that I believed that nothing could seem to phase me worse than my own self-doubt, something that I had learned to overcome and master. With that being said, the road only stretched ever forward, inviting me to reach for the stars.

YEAR 8: From Our Last Summer To A Little Bit Of Everything

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And so, I arrive at where I am now.  Finding a particular love in writing, I push forward to a bigger goal to be a science communicator, and toward a long-term goal in retiring as a writer and mangaka. I chose my PhD to be a platform for that dream, and in the grand scheme of things that is what motivates me. In this vein, university, FOR ME, has essentially been a proving ground of sorts to find my place.

My journey here is yet to end, with three more years ahead during which I hope to finish my PhD degree. I look forward to it. I say that not because the story will end soon but rather with the realization that as long as I keep pursuing my dreams, wherever they may take me, the journey is itself the destination. With that thought, I find my own resolve to put my all into what I love, reminiscing every once in a while happily on the memories of our last summer, and enjoying a little bit of everything that life has to offer.

Oops…

So, here’s a quick update to all my readers. After publishing my last post, I was parsing through my blog, when I noticed that while I had decided to write about meteor showers on my next post, I had done exactly that a few months back on August 21, 2017.

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Baaakaaa….

I can attribute my forgetfulness to the recent bout of work and lack of sleep that has been following me over the last few days along with the happiness of dealing with the persistent paparazzi of my studies.

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My new look over the last week or so…thanks to a lack of sleep and an intense regiment of writing a paper on my research. 

Having said this, I’ve decided to scrap my prior idea and instead will publish a post later this week on the wonderful adventure that has been my life in university so far. Eight years and still running (hopefully the cycle will end in three more years when I intend to complete my degree), I’ve realized there is a lot I can share ranging a large spectrum of experiences!

My goal is to provide a window into the life of an academic, strictly from the humble viewpoint of a student. I hope to also share my own opinions and expound on the lessons I have learned along the way. For those among my readers who may also be contemplating on their chances in academia, I hope the post will provide much needed insight!

That’s all for now! See you all very soon!

Braving The Storm

It has been a while since my last post. I have been busy all the while braving the storm that has been my PhD studies. While I’m only three months into my new degree (and a good 3.75 years remain until its completion), not surprisingly enough, I’m swamped with work. Thankfully, it is the enjoyable kind that comes with a research topic of my liking.

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Nevertheless, it has been slightly frustrating that I haven’t had the chance to post as frequently as I would have wished on the blog. 

But, the prodigal has now returned, and he does hope that he would be able to keep up with his blog posts as he deems it to be in the coming weeks. The brief respite that Halloween offered came with a sweet dose of playfulness as I carried out my annual responsibility in scaring the shit out of my girlfriend…

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And deservedly getting my ass handed to me afterward. 

Winter is most certainly here as well, the first snowfall caressing Edmonton in what began as a slush soup of snow rain that alerted me of its presence most distinctly through the water that slipped through the newly discovered gaping hole in my shoe. With only a few more weeks to go before classes end for the semester, and the age of final exams to come, I hope to put up a good number of posts that I have kept waiting for too long.

I will begin with keeping my word on the anecdote I wished to write on meteor showers. The Orionid showers occurred just a few weeks ago, and I’m looking forward to the Geminid showers which will hit in December. Apart from this, I will soon be pulling my book, A Little Bit Of Everything, out of Amazon KDP Select so that I may distribute it through other e-book publisher chains online. The book remains available on Amazon, and hopefully the redistribution will allow for further promotions in the future.

Having closed a chapter of my life with the completion of the book, I’m also working hard on setting the stage for a trifecta of stories that I’m hoping to work on over the next few years. Two of these stories will take the form of comics, for which I have been diligently taking art classes on human anatomy, while the last will be a novel, which remains in the back-burner of ideas, and a whole load of brainstorming.

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It is pretty much a blank slate for now, but the emptiness of it evokes the certainty of greater ideas and explosive creativity.

So, for now, I leave you all with this short update as I busy myself with another late night of catching up on my art practice and contemplation on my stories. I hope to have another post up by the end of this week! Until then, toodles!

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