July 2016

AstroBetter series on Twitter at conferences

Twitter logo on Hubble deep field. Image credit: HST/Twitter/A.L. Stevens
My 3-post series on Twitter at academic astronomy conferences has concluded on the AstroBetter blog! The first post, aimed at non-Twitter users, explains the basics of Twitter and why it’s a good thing to have at conferences. The second post, aimed at current or would-be tweeters, gives tips and tricks for conference tweeting, and spawned a great discussion on openness and sharing of unpublished ideas. The third post, for LOC or SOC members, has a rundown of what needs to happen on the conference organizing side for Twitter to be successful at a conference. Join the conversations in the comments section of those posts or on Twitter! 😉

The series comes from a post here from this past May.

Summertime activities in Amsterdam

Summertime in Amsterdam. Clipart via imgarcade.com
There’s a heatwave in Amsterdam! Yesterday it got up to 31º C (88º F) and today it’s looking hotter. You might be accustomed to more heat, but for the Netherlands, this is really hot. Here’s what you can do to make the most of the fleeting Dutch summer:

  • Eat ice cream! There are lots of  “ijs” or “softijs” places around town! Splurge on a double scoop. Or, get a box of popsicles at the grocery store and keep them in the freezer at home for later.
  • Go to the restaurant at the top of De Bijenkorf in Dam Square, make a custom magnum ice cream bar, and eat it on their rooftop patio.
  • Head to the beach at IJburg or Diemerpark. IJburg and Diemen are always windier than Amsterdam, and the little beaches are cute and just a (sweaty) cycle ride away. Bring a towel to lay on, a small picnic, and a good book!
  • Go to the beach at Zandvoort aan Zee. It’s a 30 minute train ride from Amsterdam Centraal, and I think the trains go twice an hour. Beware, it’s PACKED. Bring your own beach umbrella and something to lay on, and lots of sunscreen (as well as the usual towel, swimsuit, picnic, book). The water in the North Sea is extremely refreshing!
  • Go to the Amsterdamse Bos. It’s a great little forest just south of the city that you can cycle to, and it has a cafe and a small lake you can go for a dip in. Definitely bring snacks, if not a portable barbeque. If you don’t want to be by the little lake, hang out in the shade of the trees elsewhere.
  • Sit outside at a cafe on a canal, river, or dijk. Oostpoort has some nice ones, and the Jordaan neighbourhood is chock-full.
  • Hang out on the banks of the Amstel river. Bring a blanket to lie on if you’re fancy.
  • If you have a hammock, go in it immediately.
  • Sit on your balcony with your feet in a tub of cool water and sip a cold drink. Least amount of effort, decent payoff.

Letter to the AAS on #BlackLivesMatter

I’ve decided that I have the energy to channel my anger and frustration and sadness regarding the murder of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling (and the 604+ people of color who have been killed by the police in the US since January 1 2016) to do something about it. Specifically, I was moved by this tweet thread to write to a professional organization I belong to, the American Astronomical Society, asking them to endorse or issue a statement of solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Below is the letter:

Dear AAS Council,

I was enthused to see a post by AAS CSMA members on the Women in Astronomy blog (http://womeninastronomy.blogspot.nl/2016/07/black-lives-matter-standing-in.html) making a statement of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. However, I was very disappointed that this statement is not (yet) officially endorsed by the AAS or even the CSMA. Please endorse this statement or issue a similar one.

At a time when our Black colleagues and their families are facing the very real threat of violence and death in their everyday lives, they need to know that their professional organization acknowledges this and provides full support. The amount of effort it takes to do the emotional diversity work is staggering, and our Black colleagues do it every day. It is past time for white allies and predominantly white organizations to step up and shoulder that responsibility too, *especially* when Black people are being gunned down by the police. I find it wrong that the only diversity issue widely discussed in astronomy is sexism, when racism and white supremacy are so pervasive as well. Additionally, solidarity with gender minorities without solidarity with racial/ethnic minorities does not fully support colleagues with intersectional identities such as black women.

Our Black colleagues need to know that they have the full official support of the AAS, and that their contributions to science matter to the AAS, not just because they are POC and “diversity is important”, but because they are human beings with inherently valuable lives, and we live in a world where that needs to be re-said. Science does not happen in a societal vacuum, and the voice of the AAS is needed now to ensure that Black astronomers feel like a valuable part of the scientific community.

Abigail Stevens
PhD Candidate, Univ. of Amsterdam
Junior AAS member

(Thank you to Dave Tsang and Madhura Killedar for feedback on this letter!)