Sonia's Home Page

with facinating! links for work, play, and other travels and...

[sonia-jpg] Hi. I'm Sonia, and I'm participating in what, I suppose, the Internet is all about: sharing of information and connectivity. Where do I begin ...many years ago in the farmlands of the Ukraine and the Black Forests of Germany, my father and mother respectively grew up during the turbulent period leading up to WWII... Well, that's a start. For those interested in real-life stories of Germans in Russia or visa-versa, check out the historical/ geneological research site at Odessa, where, for example, the biography of Martha Liebelt offers a revealing glimpse of the unfathomable things that some of these families went through. And read about our 1998 travels to Germany, complete with photographs!

....... For an overview, see the Website Map .......
(note: links below in bold refer to pages resident on this site)


[tiny-launch]At Work ...

What do I do to make a living? Well, at the moment, I am privileged to be working as a physicist in California on the RS-25 (the former Space Shuttle Main Engine) and other engines, and am involved in design, data analysis, manufacture, and flight support for strain gage pressure sensors (to monitor combustion and lots of other areas in the engine), magnetic pickup-coil sensors (to measure turbopump speed), thermocouples (to measure temperature in the high pressure turbopumps), Resistance Temperature Devices (RTDs which measure temperature of the fuel among other things at several locations in the engine), and previously alkaline memory backup batteries (for an earlier version of the Engine Controller). For some excellent space program info and links, check out Bob Biggs' SSME: The First Ten Years which is packed with insights and history from one who experienced it first hand. For some really Cool Shuttle Stuff, check out NASA's Office of Space Flight, or NASA's Kennedy Space Center sites. (See also my small Space Shuttle and cosmic-mostly Hubble photo collections.) Or, all the gory technical details in KSC's archives. You can get the latest reports from NASA Headquarters or Florida Today, keep track of the past and future Shuttle missions, or listen (with RealAudio) to exerpts of astronaut dialog with NASA on Houston Chronicle Interactive--and get the scoop on Hubble and Voyager and other hot topics. But just what in Tarnation has the space program done for us lately (yeah, I know about integrated circuits and all that stuff from the Apollo era, but what about today?) Check out the Spinoff Page for some exciting developments which are unfolding right now!

News highight: STS-103 Hubble repair mission launched on 12/19/1999!
     ...and a third HST servicing mission (STS-109) went up Feb. 2002!
The fourth Hubble servicing mission was STS-125, launched in May 2009.
The final STS-134 to the HST was successfully completed in May 2011.
The final mission to the International Space Station was STS-135 in July 2011.

[space shuttle main engines]Like many in Corporate America immersed in an ongoing series of restructurings (numerous as California earthquakes ...), we've all found strange humour in Dilbert. Then, in August of 1996, our division of Rockwell was bought by Boeing, (Space & Communications), a logical fit, since making space travel stuff was exactly what they were looking to get into. However, after spiffing things up, they sold us in 2005 to the Pratt & Whitney subsidiary of UTC (United Technologies Company), who after some re-shuffling of their own, sold us in 2013 to Aerojet, a company within GenCorp. Meanwhile, Rockwell has been concentrating more on commercial, electronical kinds of stuff. So ... want to buy some liquid (cryogenic) fuel rocket engines? You'll find them here!


[grillos-cricket mini]At Play ...

After my ??-hour work week, I enjoy playing "new-age-classical" kinds of music on the piano, and Vineyard stuff for my church, formerly St. Jude's Episcopal in Burbank, which will always have a place in my heart, but from which I have moved to Vision Christian Fellowship in Pasadena. See the Windham Hill site, from which you can download some excellent musical clips from artists such as George Winston and Liz Story. Or the Music Previews Network, Classical Net, and other resource sites featuring a spectrum of artists ranging from Enya to Bach to Mussorgski. On occasion, I joined Los Grillos in Renaissance concoctions (but the group recently retired after 30 years of existence). I greatly enjoy playing the piano, using a relatively simple approach based upon chords and harmonical structure (rather than the reading of individual notes), and now I've written up this physicist's experimentations with these things so that perhaps others will find ways of playing (and creating!!) aesthetically pleasing music even if they've never achieved proficiency in sight-reading or classical theory. In a related, very interesting thread, a couple of mathematicians have written fabulous explanations (and interesting generalizations!) of the underlying theory of musical scales ("Pianos and Continued Fractions" [more at Wolfram and okstate] and chord structures, "An Algebraic Theory of Music").

[farouk]Speaking of clips, there's some great movie stuff out there--both synopses and sound bytes, which I use for interesting sound effects that combine, for example, movie lines with musical or other background passages. And I always enjoy a bit of poetry from some great online libraries of English writings, along with the BBC and good stuff lovingly collected in Wisconson, along with classical, fictional, and contemplative and Ethereal Literature. (To this I contribute a poem about welding, essays on Sunfire, and two short sci-fi stories...) In addition, I visit some marvelous ballet sites, which offer photos and descriptions of works and dancers from the Kirov, ABT, English, Paris, and countless other companies. (See also Cyberdance which is searchable and has a wealth of links.) Other theatre arts abound in the "culture-finder" links, as do art galleries and museums, offering boundless history and photos. There are wonderful sites on Renaissance lore which I visit, in addition to other historical places.


[tiny-nebulous]More Travels ...

[heart]The entire globe can be traveled with the Lonely Planet, or the solar system for that matter with the Nine Planets site (the adventurous can take the Bradford Robotic Telescope for a spin). In a different "vein", an exploration of "inner space" can start at biolinks or at Loyola University's Medical Library ... I mean, where else can you find a full-color picture of tricuspid valve vegetation associated with infective endocarditis? Another great library of medical info and journal articles is that of Univ. of Pennsylvania, which also has a very useful oncolink. To leave this solar system altogether, check out the Exploratorium, or NASA Marshall Space Flight Center's Spacelinks, or Goddard Flight Center's Astronomy Picture of the Day. Another place is the StarFacts Journal page, history, or the fabulous National Space Science Data Center's Photo Gallery or the Mount Wilson Star Map. Lots of wonderful Hubble stuff can be found at this NASA-and-Oklahoma collaborative site. Speaking of Hubble, a small collection of cosmic eye candy has been put together on this site.

[hummingbird]The mysteries of physics can be explored through books and essays such as one on Symmetry that leads naturally, in the quest for a unified field theory, to readings in Mathematics. Another great stop is Selected Science Resources on the Internet. Of course, the Smithsonian, and articles in National Geographic, Discovery or Animals magazine can keep one entertained for hours ... and last but not least, the Physics Dept of UCLA (where I earned my M.S. in 1988) has some wonderful stuff, in addition to a UCLA Science & Engineering Library Home Page.

In the realm of computers, some really neat Macintosh stuff can be found at the Macintosh Resource Page, MacFixit, MacCentral, SiteLink, MacInTouch, or through Apple's product data/ spec sheets. Several Windows-IBM users recommend Personal Computer online and other reports for handy tips and utilities, and BugNet for glitch reports. There are also the oft-quoted sites for Netscape Navigator plugins (I like BrowserWatch too), e-mail, and (for those who want to venture into the creation of Web pages using Adobe PageMill or some other tool, replete with animated graphics) a good introduction is in the NCSA's Beginner's Guide to HTML. And ... for Something Completely Different, there's always the Hot Sheet and/or Best of the Web pages of interesting sites.

Souls in ancient aloneness torn
The Uncreated itself to rend
Ageless presence by time enclosed
From within their hearts to mend
Brightness of eternal glory
Unbounded yet in womb contained
Transcendent love in mortality formed
Finding birth in hearts reclaimed


Sonia, December 1991 ©

 [sonia's tessering graphic]
"tessering through... 'a wrinkle in time'"
(sonia, inspired by Madelein L'Engle's book)

Bundle Ch. 1   |   Bundle Ch. 2


[Adventures of Prof. Bundle] [Space Shuttle Stuff] [Cosmic Stuff]
[Piano Playing by Chords- a tutorial!] [Family Pics] [Animated Lamb]
[Welding - a poem]
 [Sunfire, a project which changed my life...]

[Site Map] Contact: Sonia Balcer, (


Last Updated: June 17, 2013. Created: Dec. 01, 1996.
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