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November 20th, 2009

I am in Houston for the rest of this week, speaking (last night and today) at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, just down the road from the Johnson Space Center. This trip had been on my calendar for over a year, even before I knew I was going to be teaching in Syracuse, so my students at LeMoyne get a holiday today.

The talk last night was an oldie-but-goodie, "Astronomy, God and the Search for Elegance". They had a big crowd -- not much to do on a Thursday night, I guess.

What was fun for me were some of the folk who came up to see me after the talk. Some I was hoping to see, like my friend Rita from Peace Corps who now lives in Galveston; others, I had no idea...

1. "Glad to hear you mention our old advisor, John Lewis," said a man about ten years younger than me. We had the same advisor, I wondered? Who was this guy? He saw the look of confusion on my face, and introduced himself. "I'm Tom Jones." Oh, right. We had written a paper together in the 1980s, while he was a student at the U of Arizona... before he went off to become an astronaut.

2. "Hi, I'm Luanne," said a woman about my age. Luanne? The only Luanne I ever knew was the little girl who used to chase after me to play house when we were four years old, living in Harper Woods. Yeah, that Luanne. She lives in Texas now, and came to the talk when she saw that I was in town.

3. A little old lady waited patiently until she had a chance to tell me all about a book that I really must read; it was by Carl Sagan. I didn't know about the book, but I did tell her that, ahem, yes, ma'am, (strut-strut), you know I actually knew Carl Sagan. (We even spoke together a couple of times.) She let this flow on by her. Then replied, "I was Carl Sagan's sister." (She did look just like him, in fact.)



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