Thursday, August 16, 2012

Prochain Arret: Italia!

Good afternoon/morning/etc upper east siders LMFers,

Just a quick update today since I have been off the radar for some people for some time. I have a flight at 6:50pm from Geneva to Rome, where I'll stay for 3 nights before going to Florence for 1 night and then come back to Lausanne with a quick stop at Milan.

Life has been going pretty well. A lot of lying down in the sun at a pool with some famous model friends travelling - I have taken weekend trips to Strasboug, Interlaken/Swiss Alps/Luzern, Lyon, and Paris, and day trips to Dijon and Gruyeres. It has been a busy summer.

I go back to the US on the 27th. I don't know when I'm going back to MIT - I assume around the 30th or so - and I'm kind of excited to go back. Before that though, I need to buy more awesome European clothes.

Actually now that it's almost the end of the summer, I kind of wish I had gone to my mansion in England and hung out with a prince taken more time to just chill on weekends because I'm quite exhausted, but it's been a pretty great summer. Surprisingly, I did get better at French a little - I think mostly in comprehension. I'm a lot less hesitant to use French now than before (French 3 made me not like French as much). Mostly when I use French it's for directions, I can form perfectly well-structured sentences now instead of trying to say "How do I get to...." I kind of got in the habit of just saying the destination in the best French pronunciation I can manage with a slight hint of question mark at the end. It has not failed me yet. I did buy a train ticket completely in French though; that was fun.

Anyway, I should go scheme to get some secrets out of the it girls take a shower and do last-minute research on Florence and Milan. I should also eat and finish packing. I have been eating around 1-2 meals a day, mostly. I figured I should lose weight guess I had a lot of reserved fat before coming here because I am pretty sure I'm still quite healthy. :)

I will see you all relatively soon, but until then.....

Gossip Girl Sumin

Monday, August 13, 2012

Etis3n from Ghana!

Wow, has it really taken all summer for me to get my rear in gear and make a blog post? I'm sorry guys for staying out of touch, but please know that even though I haven't been writing, I've been an avid reader and I love your hilarious stories and awesome pictures. (The shark attack photos were particularly terrifying! :) And Zizz's skydiving photos were ACTUALLY terrifying - girl, you are so brave!!! WOW! And Ashley - your hats and other creations are awesome! Way to go girl! :) )  Its hard to be Queen of Partay when you have no Partay People, and being so far from home has been tough at times, but meu has been a great lifeline to the family. Thank you so much for keeping my spirits up, you are all wonderful.

I do want to mention that I actually have been maintaining a blog on my personal website since I came to Ghana. I neglected to send the site out to everyone, sorry! but here it is:

But no one should bother combing back through my posts from 2 months ago, so let me just give you some highlights of the craziest, hilarious-est shenanigans I've been in since I came to Ghana:

- Hanging out with kente cloth weavers in Kumasi.
- Getting hit on by Margarine Man, the factory worker in charge of putting the labels on the margarine tubs. His pickup line? [Voice of awe] "And these - are the original flavor labels!"
- Ordering my first legal alcoholic beverage on the beach in Accra (it was a Heineken).
- Riding tro-tros (aka bush taxis aka the craziest ride in a passenger van that you will ever have) all around town.
- Dancing azonto with some very drunk 40 year old women at a wedding! :) (And getting pwned, btw.)
- Getting sent, on my 3rd week at work, to the neighboring country of Burkina Faso where I used to live, to recruit university students at a career fair, acting as a translator for my anglophone boss, and even revisiting my old middle school and my old English teacher!
- Exploring the old slave castles around Jamestown.
- Going down into a gold mine in Obuasi.
- Getting a shirt tailor made from legit Ghanaian fabric, and bonding with the seamstresses who called me "sister-in-law" when they found out I was dating a Ghanaian.
- Taking the 6 hour bus ride from Kumasi to Accra in the most comfortable Chinese bus you'll ever sit in - until the shocks give out :)
- Making friends with the fruit vendors, sundries store owners and 9 year old bartenders (well, okay, there was only one of those) in my neighborhood.
- Ordering cocktails at half-price cocktail night in - get this - Ryan's Irish Pub in Accra!
- Crowding around the radio listening to the breaking news of the death of the former President John Atta Mills.
- Staying late at the office for countless evenings, mostly to rock out in the back office with the other Ghanaian interns to Janelle Monae and P!nk.

Now you're just dying to read all my old blog posts, right? :)

Anyway, its been a great experience being in Ghana. I have learned so much about who I am and what I want to do and be in my life than I could ever have imagined - I certainly wasn't expecting to figure this out in the middle of Ghana, of all places. Who would have known that eating banku at a roadside chop bar could give you deep insight into yourself? :)

This is my last week in Ghana - I'll be shipping up to Boston (waaa-aaa-aaa-oooh!) on Friday and arriving Saturday afternoon. I'm really excited to be setting up shop in IFQ - but Noah, what's this about calling our study room the Rumpus Room? I had a good laugh over that one when Adrienne told me, but can you do me a favor and keep it on the DL while my mom's in town? Otherwise she's gonna ship my butt straight back to McCormick. I only barely got out of there alive last time! :)

But please keep posting and letting us know how you're doing - its so much fun to read about your adventures! I miss you all so much and I cannot wait to see you all again. So for now, goodbye, and I hope you all have safe travels for the rest of the summer and that you come back to Boston relaxed and super excited for another year at MIT!!!

Zizz catching up

Hello dears!  I last posted at the end of June, so I've a decent amount of catching up to do.

"artsy" picture of one of our Mini-Mobility Bases (Mini-MoB)
At the beginning of June I posted about my internship and my summer project at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.  Re-reading that post, I didn't say much about my actual project, probably because I didn't know what it was going to be.  To give a quick summary: my team worked with the Flight Robotics Laboratory to develop a platform to simulate automated rendezvous and docking algorithms in a micro-friction environment.  The lab already uses two air-bearing vehicles which use pressurized air to float on the flat floor to simulate micro-friction, the smaller of which weighs 3000 lbs.  Since we want to simulate interactions with small satellites (80kg-ish), we needed smaller vehicles, so my team designed and developed a set of three smaller air-bearing vehicles, which we called the Mini-Mobility Bases.  If you're curious, here's a video of the finished product.  My team lead, Joaquin, is the camera man, and my teammate Dacen is spinning it around on the floor... and then attempting to surf on it. ;)

JPL mission ops room - that's where they controlled the MSL landing.
At the end of June I posted about our internship business trip to Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  In late July we went on a second business trip to California, where we toured NASA's JPL and Dryden Flight Research Center, SpaceX, Honeybee Robotics, Boeing Satellite Systems, and SOFIA.  SOFIA is a really bad-ass telescope because it's built into a modified Boeing 747 which flies at altitudes around 40000 ft and therefore can make observations sans most atmospheric distortion.

Left to right: Jenny, Me, Clare, Sera
My internship ended on August 3rd, and on August 4th I flew home.  On August 5th I had two long meetings to prepare for orchestra camp with my high school orchestra, and I spent August 7th-13th up at Interlochen Arts Academy being a PHS Orchestra Camp counselor.  This means I slept in a cabin with 12 high school girls, supervised students at meal times and cabin time, coached sectionals and chamber music, taught music theory, and played in the staff chamber ensemble.  We played a lovely suite by Dohnanyi and the kids did not fail to impress.  Picture: one day, Head Counselor Ben started a side-pony trend.

Sneak Preview of the rest of my summer: Seattle/Vancouver from the 14th to the 21st, campus on the 22nd, FPOP from the 23rd to the 26th, chill time till classes.

Love and miss you all!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Anna in the Wildernesses (Frat Boy City VA, Green Bank WV, Socorro NM)

Preview: I find a girl sleeping on my porch, have a bear encounter, image some merging galaxies, and climb on a radio dish.


Anna in Frat Boy City, Virginia

A couple of weeks ago, I finished Skyping Daniel at around 1:30am and decided to go to sleep. While changing into my pajamas, I noticed, with great sadness and distress, that there was a large insect on my ceiling. I watched it for a couple of minutes - it buzzed around the light, before finally overheating (I guess?) and taking a swan dive onto my bed. It crawled around for a bit. I dashed into the kitchen, grabbed a paper plate and a little Tupperware container, caught the bug, and shuffled over to the front door to release it into the wild. By this point, it was around 2:15 (I skipped the part of the story where my housemate was throwing up and I was running around the kitchen manufacturing a throw-up-bin for her.) I opened the door, released the bug, looked up, and came face-to-back-of-head with a girl who was fast asleep on our porch swing, about two feet in front of me.

Cue one of my most socially awkward five minutes, ever.

Me: Um...hi?
Girl: *snores*

I looked around desperately - no one. Nothing, except for the dulcet tones of a frat party happening a couple of blocks away. I figured that's probably where this girl had come from - the beer I could smell supported my hypothesis.

Me: Uh...HELLO!
Girl: *turns over*
Me: Hi. Excuse me? ...hello? ...HI! ...Um, hi, can I help you?
Girl: *snores*
Me: *poke*
Girl: *asleep*
Me: *poke* *poke*
Girl: *asleep*

I gave up and shook her. She stirred.

Girl: Mmmmm...
Me: Hi! Are you okay?
Girl: Yeaaaaah, yeaaaaah...
Me: ...Is there someone I can call for you?
Girl: Nooooooope (she had a vowel elongation problem)
Me: Um, well, I'd really like to call someone for you, since I'm worried about you.
Girl: I sweeeaaaaaar, I don't know where he got that alcohol
Me: .....
Girl: Heh, heh, we are SO fucked.
Me: Um. What? No, I don't think we are.
Girl: haaaaaaaaaaaa
Me: ...Can I call your parents?
Girl: Oh God, NOOOOOOOOO!!!!

Great. With that, I ran out of ideas, and the girl fell back asleep. It seemed like she was in less than ideal condition, and I didn't feel comfortable leaving her on the porch like that, alone - so I called the police. In a few minutes, a police car and a police van (seemed like overkill to me) showed up. Two very nice police officers came up onto the porch, shone a flashlight into the girl's eyes, and got her to sit up. In the end, they got her sober friends to come pick her up. In the meantime, I tried to explain to them what I had been doing out on the porch at 2am with a paper plate, in pajamas and flipflops. I waved the plate in the air and said that I had been rescuing an insect. They didn't look particularly convinced...

Anna in Green Bank, West Virginia

The best place for a radio telescope is The Middle Of Freaking Nowhere, to minimize interference (your cellphone, spark plug, digital camera = the bane of the radio astronomer's existence.) My data, for example, comes from a 110m dish called the Green Bank Telescope (GBT), in Green Bank WV.

Green Bank WV is in a National Dark Zone: you can't bring ANY electronics equipment into that area. Closer to the telescope itself, you can't even drive your car, because of the spark plug; they have a bunch of diesel engines sitting around. It's like a little diesel car graveyard. As you can imagine, you get an awesome view of the sky at night. enticing as that may sound, the last thing any astronomer wants is to have to live at Green Bank. There is nothing to do there, except hike and consume large quantities of alcohol. So, when my friend Trey had to spend a week there, back in July, to point the GBT at some molecular clouds, his roommate Stephen and I decided to pay him a visit and deliver some hand-made truffles. We met up with my friend Kristin, who's working at Green Bank this summer (I can't even imagine what that would be like...) and the three of us were walking across the main site (by the dorms, offices, etc) when an animal bundled across the road and into a field to our right.

Me: ....What was that?
Kristin: A deer.
Me: I really don't think that was a deer.
Kristin: Eh, there are a billion deer around here
Me: That was WAY too big to be a deer.
Me: I'm pretty sure that was a bear.
Stephen: It's possible.
Me: Are there bears here?
Kristin: Yeah...

*pickup truck drives over to us*
Man with AMAZINGLY STRONG SOUTHERN DRAWL: Hey, did y'all see that bear that just went by?
Me, Kristin, Stephen: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Man with PERSISTENTLY STRONG SOUTHERN DRAWL: Which direction did it go?
Me, Kristin, Stephen: *point*
Man with southern drawl who turns out to be a TOTAL BADASS: Okay, thanks.

He drove off after it. I guess this guy chases bears in a pickup truck. Welcome to West Virginia!

Anna in Socorro, New Mexico

Many of you know that I keep ending up in New Mexico, for a variety of completely unrelated reasons. The summer after my junior year of High School, I did a summer program hosted at New Mexico Tech (in Socorro) called the Summer Science Program. In a nutshell, we had class during the day, with an overarching project of observing and calculating the orbit of a near-earth asteroid. One of our field trips was to the Very Large Array of radio telescopes (hereafter referred to as the VLA) - I had no idea that I would use said telescopes three summers later for a real research project.

The summer after I graduated from High School, I worked at the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque for seven weeks. I ended up spraining my ankle really badly during an Ultimate Frisbee incident; I spent the last four weeks of my New Mexico stay, and the first two weeks of my freshman year at MIT, on crutches. Even so, my host and I did a bunch of touristing around the state, including a day-long motorcycle trip (SO. MUCH. FUN.) A few pictures from the motorcycle adventure:

The takeaway: New Mexico is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. 

IAP of my freshman year, I spent four weeks on a Navajo reservation (about a two-hour drive from Albuquerque) with Teach For America. A few more New Mexico pictures, because I can't resist:



This summer, I'm based in Charlottesville, but working for the organization that operates the VLA. The summer students got time on the VLA to observe a galaxy merger (and two black holes, but I didn't work on that project). We took a field trip to New Mexico, to work with the summer students there on analyzing the data. We could resolve the two galaxies! It was so cool. We also found a mysterious extra flux source that wasn't in any database...we submitted another proposal, and will be taking another look soon. It would be cool if it were something new. Unfortunately, there's always the possibility that it's just some weird artifact of the way we processed the data. 

This time, when we toured the VLA, we toured as members of the NRAO, and were able to climb up onto the radio dishes and see the receivers.

I'm the one waving. The girl, that is.

The whole summer student crew :)

Hope you all are having awesome summers! I'll be back at LMF on August 26th - see some of you soon, hopefully? 

Thursday, August 9, 2012


By 10:10, I had settled down to eat. It had taken me so long to get started on my dinner because I had finally done what I had always do: make pasta.

At first it was a difficult task, with egg flowing everywhere, but in the end, I present to you "Pasta Drying on Dish Rack"

Note the intense use of lines which ultimately converge on my computer as a mixed, potentially distopian future where technology and homemade cooking live paradoxically.

I made egg noodles loosely based on the "Egg Noodles" instructions on the back of the 10 lb bag of Kroger flour I had. However, I added extra flour when I was trying to stop the egg from flowing off the table, so then I added more water and egg and eventually achieved a decent balance. At that point, I had also added some lemon pepper seasoning based on the lemon pepper pasta from Trader Joes (I miss TJ). After then going through the extra steps of rolling it and folding it until all the gluten strands had more or less aligned, I started to thin it out as best as I could with a rolling pin and then cutting it with a knife. 

Above is only half of what I made because the thinning out process took up all of my usable space. I had to divide the above match again when making it alone. The remaining dough is sitting in the fridge for another time (soon). After I got that done, I went back to my bread dough which was rising. Unfortunately it collapsed a lot when I separated it into two loaves so they will probably come out pretty tiny. I realize at this point that I will have to immediately bake my bread though so I will be up for another hour waiting for them to finish. Sigh. Life is full of cooking this summer.

My dinner, if anyone was curious, was two eggs sunny side down, sautee'd tomatoes with butter and rosemary, the larger tip of an avocado, and half a thick tortilla that I had made the previous night (made unfortunately with butter instead of lard as I should have). The remaining tortillas were thin and independently good. I had a hard time achieving a good "cooked" state where it wasn't too chewy but still soft. 

Also a lot of the interns are leaving soon. They're mostly done next week, and I will be finishing up the week afterwards. However, those that live near by are now celebrating ends with their families so it's harder to get people to go out and do things like watch TDKR. I also don't have a car so I don't feel like driving out to Westminster, where there are IMAX versions of TDKR which is apparently a must-see experience according to one of the interns.

How is everyone's summers wrapping up? I will be back in Boston by the week of August 26th. I look forward to seeing you all then.

EDIT/UPDATE: Here's one of the finished bread loaves at 11:35. It has a butter/cracked peppercorn eggwash on top. I used 3 tablespoons of butter across the three by stuffing the ridges (originally slits) with butter. These should be really good. I also added some extra salt and coriander actually to the dough.
PS. The bread totally looks better in real life. The camera's white balance is making it look more brown/muddy than the amazing golden brown it is under these jewel lights (or whatever those are, the longish lights that are like ovals, with a glass nib at the end).

And an actual post about where I am. There have been some wonderful sunsets lately. Here's one from last week that I just had to take a picture of:

This past weekend I also managed to get another intern to go with me in the "early" morning to the Denver Art Museum because it was free. Here's one of the buildings:

And below is the view of the other building from the other other building of the museum, connected by the bridge you see in the lower right corner. I don't have a picture of this other other building because it is gaudy as hell. It's like a legos + skullator/heman mix. 

The other other building has the most extensive Central/South American exhibit I've ever seen. If I get a chance to go back, I will definitely revisit this part. I mainly didn't get that much out of it because at that point, I had been in a museum for almost 4 hours so I couldn't really go on. There was a long lunch break in between where we were hunting for gourmet hot dogs (like made of buffalo/bison, elk, reindeer, etc), side tracked by a first annual bbq fest (4 ribs for 8 bucks!) and instead settled for this kind of retro bar/restaurant that seemed like friendly toast plus 1-2 decades/decades of class. It was also expensive but I got "Irish Breakfast" which involved boudin blanc, noir, and some other stuff. It was not good, but it was kind of a memory trip back to France due to the boudins. However, we then discovered the Denver Performing Arts going back, and then lots of shirtless parcour guys that were apparently doing a photo shoot. There must have been at least 50 guys total. And back to the museum: Here's a picture of a gigantic brick of butter in one of those NA exhibits. I think it was originally about corn. I told the other guy that we'd probably go through that much butter in a semester; it was that big/we go through that much butter. You/us people are scary. 

 Also, there was an exhibit on airports and design and design revolutions or something. I decided that the below picture gave at least some sense of what I would like my super artsy/not-cookie-cutter house to look like:

Basically I like the steel, glass, and wood stain combination. Perhaps even some stained cement because it actually looks amazingly regal based on some pics of a guy who did a DIY on his (parents) house on Reddit.

Okay that's all the pics I have for now. TTYL. ROFLCOPTER. WTFBBQ (learned that one in HS). Or as the French like to say, [lul].

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Summer of Hulu

Hi! I'm not off having super awesome adventures, so this is going to be a random post. If you're allergic to Instagram, this is not the post for you. Sorry,  but my unprocessed face is pretty painful and I suck at taking pictures.

June: I went to the Boston Pride Parade. It's my first time ever going. Basically you march along a route for an hour and shout things and be happy. Our MIT group had a bunch of candy that I ended up passing out to little children and excited adults and was much beloved for doing so. I forgot to take pictures, but if you imagine a rainbow with nerd candies falling from it, you pretty much have the gist.

July 4th: SummerComm spent July 4th camped out on Memorial Drive awaiting fireworks! Which did end up happening, although it was pretty touch and go for a bit. Teresa is crazy prepared and equipped for life, I would just like that to be known. (If you click on the pictures, they will enlarge themselves for you. They're manly like that.)

 <--- Quite the stalwart crew...

....oh wait, they're alive!---->

Knitting Things:

I have still been knitting. -_-;; Here are some of the things I've knit this summer. Skills gained: Slip-stitch edges, picking up slipped stitches, knitting entrelac, knitting backwards, and picking up dropped yarnovers/k2togs (that lace hat was a pain).

This hat converts to a cowl.
 This hat is deceptively simple. It was the biggest pain to knit construct.

This hat was pretty fun to make. The way you construct and attach the fan is very neat.

Kindle entrelac case. Attached a garter stitch lining on the inside for moar padding.


I've been square dancing throughout the summer. Bill pretty much dragged me into an A1 class. -_-;; Got to learn Chain Reaction first week of said class, which he considers the hardest call in all of square dancing (animation of said call). On Thursday nights I attend pizza and a movie night at the Rainbow Lounge.Sometimes during the week I go to the Student Center were Rashad, Shaun, and Adam play videogames/"work". I'm going to try finding somewhere to volunteer so I can meet people, though, since I spend a great deal of time alone. Yes, that means my love life is still pretty much loveless, not counting the guys who bug me on the subway. It's really annoying. It's either hobo/street-looking guys or older men. This one guy basically tried to force me to get on a particular train with him (I carefully let enough people between us and ducked into a different one), while another one wouldn't stop badgering me to let take his phone number. Be careful what you wish for, I guess. Where are all the normal people?! T_T


Oh yeah, the title of this post! Well, I've been watching television (-_-;;) when I have no one to hang out with or books to read and am tired of coding. Finished The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, btw...amazing book about a young African slave during the Revolutionary War period whose life is an experiment conducted by white philosophers/scientists to answer the question of whether black people are inferior to white people. It's an extremely sad and mature book to be a YA novel, honestly. But yeah, back to Hulu. So far it's been Community (haven't finished the third season yet), Revenge (SOOO good, omg. It's like live-action female Death Note. Queen Victoria and Nolan are epic), Ghost (Korean drama about a cyber-crime unit, political intrigue, the most boss corporate executive villain of all time, and Phantom of the Opera), and Caprica. I watched Caprica because it was the sequel to BSG, however, it was god-awful. The only redeeming quality was Sasha Roiz as Sam Adama putting the gay in gangster.

Fortunately, Sasha is playing another BAMF on Grimm, a decidedly better show where he has more screen time and speaks French. It's about a descendent of the infamous Grimm brothers, except they were actually supernatural demon-killers instead of just writers. If you liked Supernatural before it became...what it is today...I heartily recommend it!

I have also been attending the movies! A lot of us went to go see Brave. Lizi's sister Becca came with, it was great. She's adorable! I dragged Shaun out to see Magic Mike. PERSONALLY, I enjoyed it, although it could have used another hour of Channing Tatum stripping and less of everything else.Shaun and Luis and I went to dinner afterwards, which was nice! I also saw The Dark Knight Rises, of course. Good movie, but the second was better. Not to spoil anything, but Marion Cotillard was completely miscast and her character wasted. Anne was okay as Catwoman, not bad, but not superamazing either. The best part was Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Whelp, that's enough rambling. Sorry for the long-browser breaking post. Blogger needs an lj-cut feature.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

More pictures

So it's been a while since the last post so I decided to just write something up. Or as I like taking pictures, post some pictures.

As some (though few) know, I live with lots of animals. This summer's high point (cough) was at 4 dogs and 3 cats. Now it's down to what is supposed to be the norm of 3 dogs and 3 cats. Here's the newest, third cat camping under my dilapidated umbrella. The picture was taken from afar and it was shady under the umbrella so low picture quality of course. It also should give you low expectations/make you easier to be wowed by the subsequent pictures.

Cat #3.

Then last weekend, we went to Chautauqua (Park?) where we scaled some Flatirons and did some minor spelunking   (because people here don't seem to know this is word).
Bad picture of me, good picture of the side of the cliff we came out of post spelunking. You can see how high up we are from how tiny the trees are in the background (not including the large tree in the midground).

Here's us going through some rocks at the beginning of the spelunking. Okay they weren't really caves carved out by water (most likely) but we did end up having to use flashlight apps on phones because it was dark and we were climbing down/up rocks/logs that had been set up.

A while before then, I met up with an MIT peep to go to Denver Museum of Nature and Science. It was mostly a nature/history museum than a science museum. There were also lots of exhibits on Colorado's mining history. Here's a picture of me being awkward with my hands (now you can't look away from my hands and how I don't know where to put them in pictures) while also looking at the huge park next to the Museum (and the Zoo which was adjacent) as well as the Denver skyline. 

Hands. CARL, no. Hands.

Then wayyyy back when, I got caught in this big nasty storm. It was a "I'm experiencing Nature" moment. Here's the storm rolling in: 
Here's the storm when it was still afar or actually not really well documented in this picture because it was about 45 degrees to the left or right (but the Boulder Res, where I was, (and the Res standing for Reservoir although it was huge) had a nice beach-y area with people playing with their dogs) as depicted below (yay nesting grammar or at least text; grammar is optional):

Here's the storm rolling in again over the Flatirons when I first got to the Res. To clarify, I got rained on while I was at the Res, going on a bike ride because I wanted to go outside for an adventure. It was an adventure. I was also leaning while biking at about 8-12 degrees to my right in order to bike with the strong wind, not including the more powerful gusts.

I have a picture of the really nice sunsets that go over/under the Flatirons I've been seeing lately but they're still on my camera and therefore too difficult to upload right now. I was going to then post a random picture that was good but that process wasn't going anywhere because I didn't have any really good pictures that were also very random. However, I did find this .gif that was pretty random. Write in the comments which LMF member this reminds you of (or hint heavily towards it). I believe the conversation that resulted in this member doing the following motion (though in the opposite direction, CW instead of CCW) was about shaving. Enjoy the random mayhem randomness!

Also the benefit of a .gif is that in addition to the title that I just created, a .gif is like lots of pictures combined!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

This post contains three cakes and six cupcakes

Five miscellaneous stories, in chronological order.

4. Four weeks ago, my friends and I went to the local observatory's Public Night, because astronomy is awesome. They packed about 150 people into three rooms: the room with the telescope, a little museum room, and a classroom, where a somewhat awkward but adorable graduate student from my pulsar group was giving a talk. I was super jealous, because I wanted to tell the public about pulsars! So, at the end, I hustled up to the front and asked who I would have to talk to in order to do such a thing.

Awkward-but-adorable graduate student: "Ricky."
Me: "...Ricky?"
ABA GS: "Yeah, Ricky."
Me: "...Do you know his last name?"
ABA GS: "No..."
Me: "Oh. How about an e-mail address?"
ABA GS: "No."
Me: "Oh."
ABA GS: "He's around here somewhere, though!"
Me: "Oh. Uh...what does he look like?"
ABA GS: "Uh...short ish man, middle-aged, greyish hair."

PERFECT, considering that the place was (a) dark, as observatories tend to be, and (b) overflowing with people. Since it was so ridiculously crowded and my friends and I weren't willing to stand in line for another 45 minutes to see Saturn a second time, we walked outside to drive home. I was surprised to find an extra eight gajillion people out there; I guess these were the ones who also didn't feel like standing in line. Before anyone could stop me, I screamed "RICKY!" at the top of my lungs....silence, awkward muttering, people paying attention. I took a deep breath, and yelled: "IS ANYONE HERE NAMED RICKY?"

Some guy: "...I am."

More silence. I rushed across the grass to the voice, introduced myself, and found out that this was, in fact Ricky, the University of Virginia astronomy professor who helps coordinate the observatory's volunteer program. After apologizing no fewer than seventeen thousand times for screaming his name like that in a crowded place, I marched triumphantly away holding his e-mail address. I'm surprised I still have friends, after that; each of them said "I can't believe you just did that" in turn. But! Guess what? Three weeks later (last week), I gave a talk at the public night about pulsars :)

3. Three weeks ago (WHAT? ALREADY THREE WEEKS AGO?) it was my friend/fellow NRAO summer student Stephen's birthday. His research project here at the NRAO (he sits at the desk opposite me, so has the misfortune of being the person I stare at furiously whenever I'm thinking about why my code isn't working) is to model C-O regions in the Whirlpool Galaxy, using data from the Very Large Array in New Mexico.

This is what the Whirlpool Galaxy looks like:
The Whirlpool Galaxy has a little dwarf satellite friend.

This is what the Very Large Array looks like:

There are 27 dishes, each with a 25m diameter.

This is what Stephen's birthday cake looked like:

The dwarf satellite friend needed its own baking dish.

This is what Stephen's birthday cupcakes looked like:

There are 6 cupcakes, each with a diameter that I did not and cannot be bothered to measure.
Turns out that lighting the intersection of four candles produces some really epic fire.

That was a good weekend, because Daniel came to visit! Friday night was Stephen's birthday, so we all went out restaurant-hopping downtown (Daniel didn't like the ikura, but he liked the dumplings). Afterwards, we went back to the guys' flat, played Dominion, and drank water while everyone else got either drunk, or very drunk. Gooooood times. On Saturday, we went on a little walk around Observatory Hill, which is (a) quite pretty and (b) right next to where I work, before joining the others for go-karting and watching Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. It's worth mentioning that I have been waiting for that movie to come out since I first saw a poster for it last summer; it was precisely what I expected it to be (hilarious, if you refuse to take it seriously.) I saw a suggestion online for the next such movie to be Bill Clinton: Lady Killer. On Sunday, we had a ridiculously large, ridiculously late lunch, before his train back home in the afternoon. Yay for LMF reunions :)

2. Two weeks ago, I went to Radio Shack and bought a little breadboard + a little 1'' speaker + a 9V battery + a resistor, a copule of capacitors, 2 cadmium sulfide photocells, and a couple of other electronicky things. Avec assistance from my friends Stephen and Trey, I built this:

It's a cute little pocket theremin! A theremin is an electronic instrument that you can "play" without touching; you vary the pitch by varying the distance your hand is from the antenna. This is a very cheap, beginner's version, that works by varying the amount of light shining on it instead (hence the photocells.) Next plan: take apart an old radio, build a little radio telescope, and use it to watch sunspot activity and electrical storms on Jupiter. Alternatively/after that: build a crude EEG using an arduino (I noticed they had arduino-building kits in Radio Shack) and a Mind Flex toy (some kids' game.) I have to admit - the EE side of Course 6 looks SO much more appealing now than it did pre-summer. I guess I've run into a lot of this stuff by trying to figure out how exactly my data gets from deep space onto my Desktop, and have realized that it's actually really cool. 

1. One week ago (Saturday, close enough) my friends and I drove down to DC for the day, since one guy had to drop his girlfriend off anyway. It was something like 105 degrees outside, and totally unbearable. We spent all day in the Archives/Art Museum/Natural History museum. Funny story: while I was standing and reading the original Bill of Rights, this random guy next to me asked where I was from, talked with me about Python programming for a couple of minutes, then asked if he could give me his number (little-known fact: guys dig the Python programming thing.) I wanted to be smooth and say something about exercising my right to say no to random strange men, but instead got all flustered and suggested that he start coming to the observatory public nights instead. 

...yeaaaahhh. good times.

0. It's restaurant week in Charlottesville! Tonight, we went to a place called "The Bavarian Chef" which was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING, and gave quantities of food on the order of what one would hope for from a German restaurant. I had asparagus wrapped in ham atop rye bread, beef with a mushroom sauce, and vanilla cake. Ohmygoodnessitwassogood.

Anyway, it's now midnight, which means that it's time for a very sleep-deprived me (ugh, even over the summer...) to go to sleep and reboot for work tomorrow.

Take care and post more of your adventures! I want to hear them. I miss you all <3

Love and skydiving-to-come,


A belated and perhaps incoherent recap of a weekend

NOTE: please excuse my incoherence and lack of accent use. 

When I told my advisor that I will be going to Lausanne for the summer, she told me to check out Strasbourg. Well, that didn’t sound like a bad idea – after all, I know someone who’s doing an internship there, don’t I? Therefore, a little whimsically but not completely randomly, I chose to visit Strasbourg (and therefore Noah) this weekend.

Strasbourg is about 3.5 hours from Lausanne by train. I first took the “tilting train” (it’s pretty cool… train tilts when turning to be able to go faster) to Basel, which is the city at the Swiss-French-German border. Then, I took the Alsace regional train to get to Strasbourg. The trains were comfy and sleepy Sumin had a pleasant, peacefully asleep train ride.

Within minutes of getting off my train, I met up with Noah (yay!) and we walked to his place. Here were my thoughts while walking:
1.       Strasbourg is SO LARGE
3.       So many restaurants! And the food looks tasty!
5.       More pretty buildings! And I’m still walking…how big is this city?

By the time I left Strasbourg became a little less frightening and large, which probably has something to do with the fact that Noah and I walked around a lot on Saturday.

Walking around was interesting – Noah took me to the street that had a produce market, and it was hard to resist buying fruits and veggies that I probably cannot carry back home (just imagine me with my backpack and carrying an armful of produce on the train…. No I don’t think so). There’s a cathedral in Strasbourg (1. Surprise! 2. It used to be the tallest building in the world until 1874, and is now the 6th tallest church in the world) and we went up to the viewing platform after looking around the interior. There were a lot of stairs, but Noah and I successfully conquered them and were able to look at the city. There, I learned that 1. Wind is really great 2. Strasbourg is filled with small, pretty buildings 3. Mountains and forests look about the same from really far away, and 4. Noah is quite photogenic.

Although it was a very hot day, there were many interesting things to see on the streets. There were many people dressed in medieval costumes and dancing to medieval music being blasted from speakers. The vendors of the produce market were also dressed in costumes. There was also a large flock of geese, which Noah and I originally spotted in a pen. Later, we saw a guy in costume with a wooden flute leading the flock of geese in the streets as a part of a little parade of dressed-up people.  I must say, that was the cleanest and happiest-looking flock of geese I have ever seen. According to Noah’s friend and Noah, Strasbourg is celebrating some liberation from some bishop or something this July. I’m not exactly sure what the celebration is for, but it was fun to see people and geese.

Eventually it became too hot and Noah and I escaped to the library, which was super nice and air-conditioned. I highly recommend this library as a tourist attraction, with its collection of all genres of books, personal DVD-watching units (I think they were for DVD), and nice, simple design with comfy chairs. Noah and I went to the theatre section and read for a while (I read Romeo and Juliet – in English – and it was way too cheesy). Afterwards we grabbed THE BEST SANDWICH EVER, chilled, and ended up at the museum of modern and contemporary art, which was also super nice and awesome. I have come to the conclusion that museums in Strasbourg are pretty awesome – on Sunday, the museums were free because it was the first Sunday of the month, and we went to the archeology museum and the decorative arts museum. It was pretty crazy seeing all the artifacts they found in Alsace,  since every archeology museum I had been to presented things from far far away lands.

All the sightseeing and walking around was pretty great, but I don’t think this trip would’ve been as good if it weren’t for the food. For dinner on Saturday, we had tartines , which are basically the outcome of taking a slice of good bread, putting stuff on top, and baking it. For lunch on Sunday, we went to a tarte flambee (a famous Alsatian dish where one takes some kind of dough, put crème fraiche, onions, and bacon pieces on it, and bake in a brick oven) place. Compared to the expensive food in Switzerland (Erin can tell you all about this), I was so grateful for the reasonably-priced, delicious food.
I really enjoyed looking around Strasbourg and it was good hanging out with Noah (I was a little deprived of interactions with students my age). To end this post, I would like share these following realizations:
1.       So you think you can dance is a pretty great show. (Noah and I watched an episode and it was so good!)
2.       Goat cheese is very yummy, especially on tartines and tarte flambees.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Zizz in Florida

Greetings, dearests-of-dears,

I love you all and miss you bucketloads.  Today I'm writing from Orlando, Florida, where I am miraculously back in Eastern Time (nothing quite says "welcome" as specially as being in the same time zone as home).  I'm exhausted from the past couple of days and ready to hit the sack for the night before driving back to Huntsville tomorrow, which will be, as they say, a trek.

Atlantis on her way from the OPF to the VAB =)
On Wednesday of this week, we (the Robotics Academy & the NASA Leadership Academy) met outside the UAH dorm lobby at 5:30 AM to begin the long haul to Florida.  We took an 11-seat van, which proved conducive to passing time quickly.  Some ways in which I passed time were sleeping, reading (The Wings of the Dove - Henry James), playing Uno!, playing Mafia, Contact, and jamming out to random songs on Joaquin's iPod.  In the evening we arrived in Cocoa Beach, Florida.  We went out as a group for Thai, and after this we went for a midnight stroll around the beach, where we saw a number of constellations and a pair of crabs.

The Launch Control Center @ Kennedy.
Thursday was our beach day (initially planned to also include a viewing of the Delta-IV launch, but they delayed that), so I spent all day on the beach - swimming, bodysurfing, sandpile-building, and... getting my very first sunburn ever.  In the evening we went out to eat as a group at a seafood place, where I had fried alligator, and after that we went to Ron Jon's Surf Shop, where we confused a little marklar[girl] who asked her marklar[dad] what marklar[we] were talking about.

Hogwarts Hogwarts Hogwarts Hogwarts Hogwarts!
On Friday we got up early to view the launch, which unfortunately was delayed to the point that we had to leave the viewing location without seeing it - we had to get to Kennedy Space Center for our tour.  I've been to KSC once before, when I was about 10 years old, and it was pretty awesome to see it again... this time as an aerospace engineer (can you believe... actually, it really blows my mind that the last time I went to KSC was a time when I had not yet decided to be an aerospace engineer, or even had the slightest interest in science, math, or engineering...).   We got to see Atlantis and Endeavour pretty close up and this was very exciting.

After KSC we drove down to Orlando, where a bunch of us relaxed in the pool at the hotel before going out to dinner at Downtown Disney, where we wandered for a bit listening to live music and eating ice cream.  I must say I'm beginning to understand the definition of vacation.  I feel like the past five days might have been all I needed to recover from last semester...

have you seen me this happy?  I don't think I have....
which brings me to today, Saturday, which we spent at Universal Studios's Islands of Adventure, which consists of Seuss Landing, Marvel-land, the Lost Continent, and most importantly... The Wonderful Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

I won't waste too many words on descriptions.  I walked through Hogsmeade.  I had lunch at Three Broomsticks.  I drank a glass of pumpkin juice.  I had a mug of Butterbeer.  I bought a wand at Ollivander's.  I flew around the Hogwarts castle... twice.  I smiled so much my cheeks hurt.

Today was a magical day. <3
Love you lots and lots and lots,

totally turtle

This is a sad story.  It is about 2 tall boys and 2 short girls.  They decided to go to the beach.  This is where they met me.  My name is Schnappi Long-Snout.  I am a very handsome Alligator sinensis or just alligator to you folk.

I was relaxing on the sand, minding my own business, enjoying the wonderfully perfect summer day with little humidity and a light ocean breeze.  These younglings stumbled upon me just as they arrived. They were quite pleasant and playful, but talked an awful lot.  My stomach started grumbling for brunch, and I soon grew sick of their ramblings.

I first ate the smallest one.  I swallowed her whole.  She didn't have much time to react, but she sure does kick on the way down.  That got them a bit riled up.  The curly-haired one was feeling particularly chivalrous and tried to defend his fellow kiddies, but that failed pretty quick.  I grabbed a little snack from his arm before he fled the beach dripping blood all over my sand.  It wasn't very nice of him.

The other boy was a bit of an idiot.  He tried to ride me, but clearly I'm an alligator.

I did not enjoy it, but he seemed to enjoy me chomping on his leg.  It was odd.  Luckily, the rest of his body got washed out to sea.  I think the seagulls got several meals out of him too.

The last girlie tried to fight me.  She threw sand in my eyes and mouth.  It was not very nice. or effective...  I think she wanted revenge for killing her friends.  So I got my revenge on her.  I ate her in two bites.  She was not much of a meal.

All in all, it was a fairly filling brunch.  It was quite tiring though, but I got some cool yellow sunglasses out of it.  It was a good Saturday morning.

P.S. I had some good turtle ice cream to wash it all down later.
(P.P.S. More pictures will be posted somewhere else detailing the exact encounters with me. They were not appropriate to place here.)