Monday, 31 December 2012

Lowering the flag for the last time

Well, today is an end of an era. The decision was made some time ago, but the UK STFC have ended their participation in the Gemini Observatory today. Not only does this make the UK look bad - who wants to work with a country that's pulling out of so many science projects they've invested in for so many years? - it's created a big problem for Gemini as the UK's financial contribution was a significant part of Gemini's income and operating costs. As you know, the UK will also withdraw support and funding for UKIRT (Gemini's next door neighbour and where I work) at the end of September 2013 and then the JCMT in late 2014. 

Anyway, I was kindly invited to attend the Union Jack flag lowering ceremony this afternoon at Gemini's Hilo-based headquarters as the JAC's representative. Some of the snapshots I took are below.

All seven flags of the Gemini partner countries fly proudly outside the Gemini Hilo Headquarters at 3pm today.
Gemini North Headquarters.
The Union Jack starts to be lowered by Gemini staff members Gabriela and Claire.
Folding the flag - it will be sent back to the STFC in the UK.
Careful! Don't let the flag touch the ground!
The flag is handed to Markus Kissler-Patig, Gemini Director.
I hope the UK government and STFC are proud of this picture.

I was also handed a second Union Jack to give to my own boss when he returns from a trip. No photos of that I'm afraid, but although it was quite a sad occasion people were smiling (perhaps because they now have cut off all ties with the UK STFC?) and it was nice to catch up with many old friends, several of whom worked for UKIRT in the past!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Merry Christmas

2012 has not been my favourite year, the last few weeks up until October were up there with the worst of my life. But then Pam and I visited the UK and my spirits were lifted again. She had only spent a couple of days there 30 years ago and so I took her on a tour of all the places in the UK that meant something to me. Where I grew up, where my family vacationed when I was a kid, where I went to college and where I spent the last couple of years before moving to Hawaii.

It was the best trip of my life. I think Pam enjoyed it as well.

Then it was back to work and dealing with the possible closure of UKIRT, running operations, etc. And then the utterly horrible, stomach-churning, distressing news from Newtown Connecticut. Twenty small kids shot dead along with the teachers that tried to protect them.

I have never felt so upset and I have yet to find a way to deal with the feelings I have. I love America, but how could this happen here? Not your normal shooting spree, that's terrible enough, but to shoot so many young children and their teachers?

Why? The country I moved to, one I love, with so many wonderful people, has people that can do this? Every day I meet people who want to help, have a chat in the store, joke about the weather, criticize my choice of beer or accent while giving me a high five on the way out. Wonderful people who want to stay in touch when I meet them in a distant hotel bar, offers of Thanksgiving dinners with people I've never met, people who go out of their way to help a stranded motorist at the side of the highway.

And then Newtown. 


I'm sorry I haven't been posting here much, but perhaps you might like to watch a video which I always find helpful when I feel low. I know Pam will like it, several shots of the UK countryside! The music, Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings is my favourite piece of music and the poem is wonderful and moving.

Merry Christmas everyone,