Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Interview

Back in September I wrote about how Ella had sent an interview request to Neil deGrasse Tyson of the Hayden Planetarium and his office had said yes and then we never heard back. Uncle Ty decided he was a man on a mission, and put a link to my post on a lot of forums he frequents, including the Texas Concealed Handgun Forum. And it worked! We got a nice e-mail from the head of media at Star Talk Radio letting us know that they hadn't forgotten about Ella.

We did happy dances of joy around the house.

And then nothing again.

So Uncle Ty once again decided he was on a mission and started pestering the Star Talk folks.

Last Monday we received an e-mail from Dr. Tyson's office asking if Ella was available to do a 30-minute Skype session on Friday.

There was wild joy and celebration. Uncle Ty is now definitely Ella's favorite uncle (who is actually a cousin once removed, not an uncle).

As we counted down the minutes until our scheduled time, I was a nervous wreck. Ella was calm as could be, acting like interviewing world-famous astrophysicists was an every day thing.

We had some trouble connecting to his office. You would think Skype would be relatively glitch free, but no.

When we finally connected, I might have actually gasped out loud, "Oh my gosh, it's HIM." Maybe.

My biggest worry was that Dr. Tyson would be all "OK. Let's get this over with." I wanted Ella to finish the interview still thinking he was her hero.

Turns out I shouldn't have worried. Dr. Tyson was incredibly generous with his time - Ella's interview lasted about 45 minutes. He was funny and charming. He could tell that Ella was nervous, so he warmed her up with a few questions.

I sat off to the side, holding my phone up to record the interview because we hadn't been able to get the app that records Skype to work and grinning like an idiot. It's a good thing Dr. Tyson couldn't see me.

Ella asked him about string theory, the Large Hadron Collider, going to Mars, Harry Potter, living in Austin, and he answered every single question.

It was just awesome.

At the end of the call, he told Ella to take a screen shot of their faces together. She got a big kick out of it.

Ella has posted a transcript of part of the interview over at her website, The Magnolia Post. I have posted the full interview over on YouTube. The picture is lousy, but the audio is great. You can even hear me snort laugh when Ella tells Dr. Tyson an inappropriate joke about the Higgs-Boson. In her defense, she didn't realize why the joke was inappropriate.

Thank you to Dr. Tyson, Elizabeth Stachow, Jeff Simons and Uncle Ty. You all made a 12-year-old science nerd's dream come true.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


I am still reeling about the explosions at the Boston Marathon yesterday. I know others have and will continue to write much more eloquently than I could ever hope to. But, still, here I am writing.

As I do every year, I watched the marathon online. It was a perfect day for the race, and I ignored my writing deadlines to spectate. I got all misty eyed watching the runners cross the finish. Having finished marathons, I know the feelings of joy and accomplishment and exhaustion the runners were experiencing. I will never be fast enough to qualify for Boston, but I can still celebrate with those who are. 

I turned off the feed after a while and got back to work. Two hours later I went back on line and was shocked at what was in my Twitter feed. It was incomprehensible. This is the Boston Marathon. Bombs don't go off at the Boston Marathon. Who blows up a marathon?

I ignored my work for the rest of the afternoon and watched for updates from running friends who had been there. At long last, everyone reported in. One friend was walking up Boylston Street to meet her husband at the finish. She was yards away when the first explosion went off. Fortunately, her physical injuries are limited to cuts from flying glass and ringing in her ears.

For more than 20 years, running has been a huge part of my life, part of who I am at my very core. When things aren't good, I go running. When things are good, I go running. I've met some of my best friends through running. I've run countless races and worked as a volunteer at dozens. This year I volunteered at the finish line of the Austin Marathon. Training for and running the New York City Marathon was one of the best experiences of my life.

And this is where I lapse into incoherent rambling.

I don't know what to do or what to say. So this morning I put on my NYC Finisher's shirt, laced up my shoes and did what I know how to do - I went running. 

Tuesday, April 02, 2013


This is my dad, runnerdude in the comments. Except he now rides his bike insanely long distances, too, so maybe he should change his name to i'm67andcankickyourassdude. 


Runnerdude is tall and skinny. When he is not in business casual attire, he wears a pretty standard uniform: jeans or khaki shorts, a t-shirt from a 10k race, and running shoes. He also loves doing crossword puzzles.

I think one of the best days of his life was when he was finally old enough to qualify for the senior discout at McDonald's. He will drive past Starbucks to get his "senior coffee" at McDonald's. Also, he usually has exact change.

Last week, Lily had a dentist's appointment, and after she was finished we went to McDonald's for a "yay! no cavities" treat. (I know. I know.) As we were waiting for a our food, a man walked up to the register next to ours to place his order. I would not have paid the least bit of attention to him had he not ordered a "senior coffee" and then handed the cashier exactly 54 cents.

I turned and looked, and it was like runnerdude was standing right there. The guy was tall and skinny, wearing khaki shorts, a race shirt and running shoes. He took his senior coffee to a table, sat down, and whipped a crossword puzzle out of his pocket.

I nearly died.

But it makes me wonder which of them is the evil twin.