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At home on the farm in Iowa

Each morning I take in the latent aroma of freeze dried coffee and hear the monotone voice of the radio reporter who calls out the price of beans and corn, the auctioneer’s rhythm unmistakable. The soft voices of my grandparents speaking to each other echo in my memory of the early morning kitchen table. The door to the stairway would be open such that it blocked most of the entrance to the kitchen, reducing the clamor of breakfast preparation to a minimum.

No matter how I tried, I never woke early enough to catch either of my grandparents descending the creaking stairs, for Grandpa was there, sitting in his chair at the table, smiling when I came in.

“Well there he is! ‘morning Kai-boy!” he would say.

Grandma would chuckle, turn from the counter where she tended to a pot of oatmeal, and smile. “How did you sleep Kai?”

There was not a single morning, not as a boy, teenager, young adult, or even in my thirties when I tied my business road trips into visits to the farm that I did not feel welcomed, respected, and cherished. Those smells, sounds, and voices are yet here, alive, vibrant. They are welcomed ghosts of more than a decade ago. The rattle of the glass pane at the top of the stairs, the static of the countertop radio, the subtle hiss of water through the pipes from the basement to the main floor, and ultimately, the sound of Grandpa opening the ground level door that brought the smell of fresh cut grass, rain, or sheep inside.

This is why we come back here, to our family farm. This is why this place, more than any other feels like home.

By |2020-01-17T15:00:08-04:00November 29th, 2019|The Written|Comments Off on At home on the farm in Iowa

The barricade of desire

The more we barricade ourselves from others, the more others want to get in.

The more we hide our bodies, the more the unclothed body is appealing.

When will we learn to accept who we are, and recognize that we have constructed our entire civilization on the false pretense of sin?

By |2020-08-15T13:14:59-04:00November 15th, 2019|The Written|Comments Off on The barricade of desire

No instead of Yes

When I feel safe,
I open my arms
and welcome you wide.

When I am insecure,
I shut down,
run and hide.

When anyone but you
confronts me,
I deal with it fine.

But just one word,
“no” instead of “yes”
or an uncertainty that leaves me to guess
and my heart is left in pieces,
my maturity replaced.

Once again, I am a mess.

By |2019-05-29T02:54:21-04:00May 29th, 2019|The Written|Comments Off on No instead of Yes

Where is Walter Gropius now?

I stumbled across an article about the Bauhaus, and how its founder Walter Gropius and members defied the Nazi regime for more than a decade. As a graduate of the School of Architecture and Environmental Design, the Bauhaus was core to our curriculum. I recall vividly images of profound shapes, stark contrasts, and bold lines that defined the artists of that era.

The one line of this article that stood out for me was this, “Gropius’s aim was to introduce soul into the age of the machine. The Nazis’ was to introduce the machine into the soul.” I was immediately moved to ask, are we not now in the age of the machine, far more than the second decade of the last century? And what has become of our soul now?”

Those international designers, musicians, potters, painters, and architects risked not only their standing in the local communities, which often rejected them for their expressions, but their lives under the increasing intolerance of the Nazi regime.

According to the Wikipedia article, “… —the radically simplified forms, the rationality and functionality, and the idea that mass production was reconcilable with the individual artistic spirit—were already partly developed in Germany before the Bauhaus was founded.”

I look at where we stand now, the machines we have designed, built, and integrated at every level of our lives—between us, communicating for us, in our hands, our back pockets, even embedded in our ears. We hear voices and see faces and receive written communications—digital representation of what was once a face-to-face norm. Each of us is now endowed with the capacity for personal expression, every message moved across a medium in which the entire world can view, reject or enjoy.

Is this what Gropius has in mind? Are we the very souls entered into the machines? Or have we become so intertwined, so dependent, so anxiety ridden when we are no longer connected by means of our digital companions that in fact the totalitarian machines have entered into our souls?

By |2019-03-12T12:54:02-04:00March 12th, 2019|The Written|Comments Off on Where is Walter Gropius now?


Tonight, I am deeply troubled by the fact that Hershey’s Syrup with Genuine Chocolate Flavor contains no chocolate. And we wonder how and when the world became prone to believing alternative facts? I say it started a long time ago, when we were first fed chocolate syrup, that is not.

By |2019-03-11T00:44:22-04:00March 11th, 2019|The Written|Comments Off on Chocolate

What does the future hold?

For the third year in a row I have returned to our family farm in Iowa for the week of Thanksgiving. My grandmother of 99.9 years lives in town, at an assisted living center. Time with her is cherished, for while she will soon move into the start of a second century on this planet, we know intuitively that years past 100 are limited.

With each visit my mother and I engage my grandmother in story telling, recording each memory on our cell phones, camera, or audio recorder. She shares with us a blend of bitter, sweet, dismay, and wonder at all she has seen and experienced. In the century that has passed she has moved from moving between rented farm houses by means of horse and sled to the automobile, the first commercial airlines, jet engines, and Moon landings. She has seen communications evolve from installation of the first telephone lines to mobile phones, satellite, and the Internet.

Just yesterday afternoon, while decorating her apartment for Christmas I played a Putumayo album ‘Folk Playground’ which started with a fun version of ‘This Old Man’. My grandmother leaning just a bit forward on her walker, swung her hips left and right, tapped her feet, and rolled her shoulders to the lyrics and the beat. My mother quickly came ’round to my grandmother’s front and danced with her, both of them laughing.

The moment was just that, a few bars of a familiar song and a reminder of the countless thousands of evenings that my grandparents danced in Texas, Florida, and Arizona during their thirty years as Iowa Snowbirds. And then my grandmother asked, “Where is that music coming from?”

“From my little black box,” which is how she refers to my cell phone.

“Oh my,” shaking her head as she found her seat, “I just don’t understand how all of that works. All of that,” referring to phone calls, text messages, photographs and music, “in that little box?”

Once seated she concluded, “As I always say, what does the future hold? What … does … the future hold?”

She asks this with a certain degree of longing to know, and at the same time a need to let go. She seems content to know that it produced a song familiar to her, and in that moment she found joy. Moments are what matter most to her now, not the past nor the future. In some ways, she is living exactly how the wise have advised for millennia—in the moment.

By |2018-11-24T17:38:32-04:00November 23rd, 2018|The Written|Comments Off on What does the future hold?

Styx: The Mission

Styx: The Mission I am of that generation that yet cherishes the physical representation of music in vinyl and CD form. I listen to albums, not songs, enjoying the story as it was designed to unfold. As long as I was visiting, I walked the CD isle at Best Buy to see if there was anything new of interest.

I noted an album by Styx called The Mission. I didn’t even read the back—I just grabbed it, as I had not seen a new album by this, one of greatest rock bands of all time, in many years. When I got home, I read the booklet and was blown away, realizing this is not a compilation or digital re-sampling of old songs, but a totally new album written specifically for this, the second era of space exploration. I ripped the CD, copied it to my phone and listened on my car stereo as I drove north to Flagstaff.

The Mission is the sixteenth studio album by the band Styx, released on June 16, 2017. It is the band’s first studio album since 2005’s Big Bang Theory, their first album of original material since 2003’s Cyclorama, and their highest-charting studio album in the United States since 1983’s Kilroy Was Here, reaching #45 on the Billboard 200. A concept album, it tells the story of a mission to the planet Mars in the year 2033. The album’s story was written by Tommy Shaw and Will Evankovich —Wikipedia

It is difficult to express the impact this album had on me—a visceral response that included goosebumps, adrenaline, sweating as I moved to the beat, and most of all—a reminder of what music, real music used to be.

The Mission is not just a voyage to a distant planet, but a voyage through rhythm designed to match the unfolding story, intelligent lyrics (“Time may bend, but it hasn’t bent enough for me.”), and engaging melody. These songs contain a deep understanding of instrumentation, dynamic control of the human voice, and the telling of a complete story much as a movie carries the audience through a full range of emotion. It may be that each generation says the same thing of the prior, but there is nothing being produced by modern bands that matches the rich offering of Styx and the era in which they were born.

On the way out, the guys behind the counter asked if I thought CDs would be around much longer (clearly, they were asking “the old guy” this question). I said I was not sure, but referred to the fact that more LPs are being manufactured today than at any time in history. Clearly, muzak and random play lists are not cutting it any longer. I encouraged them to set aside just one hour, just once, and do nothing but listen to an album, start to finish, to hear the story as intended by the musicians. They admitted they had never done this before … but I am not certain I convinced them to put down their mobile phone for such an eternity.

By |2018-12-01T12:19:41-04:00July 25th, 2018|The Written|Comments Off on Styx: The Mission

New Socks

I have decided that a new pair of socks may be one of the best things one can experience.

A snug fit, the kind that provides a sense of security, yet soft, fluffy, and warm. Hiking socks are the best, for they are full bodied, like a good beer, totally enveloping your foot with or without the boot. New running socks give new life to old running shoes.

Yet, if you purchase a half dozen new socks that are of the same model as the old, you run the risk of not immediately telling them apart once through the wash. Yes, under the right light it is possible to see which is faded, for black is truly a dark, dark blue in the world of cloth and dyed materials. Sometimes you are able to pinch the wall, rubbing thumb and forefinger together to determine which is thicker. But sometimes you just have to try them on, determining which is the thicker. The thinner is removed, and another tested until you have a match.

This can be a time consuming process, and anxiety producing if you are late to get going in the morning. I am considering some kind of marker, a tag or tiny bleach spot, perhaps an ID tag for the various degrees of age.

NO DOT – new
ONE DOT – previous generation
TWO DOTS – two generations old, likely ready to be come rags

By |2018-07-12T13:11:22-04:00July 12th, 2018|The Written|Comments Off on New Socks

Where should the words go?

I haven’t had much to say lately. Neither here nor on social media (which I seldom use, anyway). My words are no longer at home outside of my head. Where do they go? What value to they carry? To whom do they intend?

I’ve been hyper-focused on my research project and team at ASU, building a mathematical model of an off-world habitat and community. My work at LIGO has slowed, but remains in motion. Mostly guiding, in a supporting role. With the help of my high school physics prof Dan Heim, we are preparing the Cave-Cassegrain telescope to ship to Tanzania, the one I drove from Wisconsin back to Arizona a few weeks ago.

I am settling into some semblance of a routine, now that Colleen and I share a house in Flagstaff. Runs every-other-morning from here around Buffalo Park and back. Home made fruit smoothies, fresh eggs from Nikki’s chickens on the east side of town, then work from my shed-office, a tiny tin-roofed structure built from lumber recycled from two generations earlier. Interior sideboard are covered with newspapers from the 1800s. When I need a break, I walk around the space (4 paces long, 2 paces wide) and journey back in time.

I am experimenting with crabapple pies. Colleen continues to cook incredible meals, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. She is a natural with food. We eat incredibly healthy, yet both crave garden-fresh food knowing we have succumb to store-bought produce that always fails in comparison.

This was my summer to begin construction of a home on my land outside of Moab. But recent alterations to the C&Rs have raised confusion and tension. My ideal, modest mountain cabin may not be accepted, for it does not uphold the neighborhood that is leaning toward half million dollar homes. Legal language has been employed instead of neighborly consideration, despite my best attempts at personal communication. While the land remains astounding, I question if this is where I want to live, to raise a family. I should not have to seek legal approval to build a greenhouse or children’s playground when the nearest neighbor is a quarter mile away. I cannot help but see parallels between our small microcosm of the larger, over-developed world. Houses are sized not according to personal need nor their impact on the environment, but by the need to increase the value of the investment. This establishes a contest between frequently opposing forces. Development almost always wins.

The issues on the border are crushing to me. I fight back tears as I listen to the news. Having worked on the border with No More Deaths ( I feel the pain of the situation deep inside. I contemplate forgoing a vacation and instead learning if my organizational and computer skills could somehow be applied, a database and image recognition algorithms to help reunite children with their parents.

Today, I must remain focused. Three calls with ASU research team members (ignoring that it is a Sunday), editing a film proposal, and the final submission of my book proposal for MIT Press.

By |2018-06-24T14:34:47-04:00June 24th, 2018|The Written|Comments Off on Where should the words go?

When Stars Collide

A few paragraphs from my book, “When Stars Collide” (working title)

This is the realm of multimessenger astronomy, the amalgamation of instruments each designed to witness a cosmic event though a unique point of view. Not unlike seeing the human body from the outside, optical light refracting from clothing and skin, an x-ray image looks past the superficial to the inside. Add ultrasound, CAT, and fMRI and we have a multimessenger means to probe the interior as we do the vast exterior of the cosmos with telescopes.


What makes astronomy so exciting is that while you anticipate one thing, you are often met by another. It is not that the laws of physics are being broken, rather that our understanding of the laws is being challenged and expanded. What we did not expect catches us off guard, keeps us humble, and reinforces a childlike sense of the mystery and magic of the incredibly vast universe in which we reside.


Franco was annoyed that I had not kept up with the LIGO email lists, that we could not reflect on this together. I realized my mistake, for I had missed the live unfolding of something extraordinary. But what we didn’t know then was that just three days later there would be another detection event, this one a total game changer.


This confirmed that the signal was real. It could be seen with an unaided human eye above the background noise in the data from both Hanford and Livingston. At that point, all skepticism disappeared and a chant erupted in the telecon chat: “Send the alert!” “Send the alert!” “Send the alert!”

The alert went out to hundreds of astronomical observatories around the world, partners who had for years waited for just such an opportunity. This started it all. This was the birth of multimessenger astronomy.

By |2018-05-17T00:11:11-04:00May 17th, 2018|The Written|Comments Off on When Stars Collide