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.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

L’été des enfants, 2ième partie

Hello Friends,

This post will be in English.

I am finding that I have a lot of time on my hands. As such, I am writing another blog post. This is to give me a break from reading things (including many papers).  Starting with the next paragraph, this blog post reads pretty much like a very bad paper.

As anyone who has worked with kids knows, kids are not adults.  The importance of this, as is relevant to this blog post, is that they are silly and say silly things.  Some of their silliness has been documented by SWHallee in his paper “L’été des enfants, 1ère partie” (2012).  We will expound upon this silliness in this paper, including by contrasting their abilities to identify stuffed animals and animal toys to the abilities of one of the experimenters to do the same.

In one experiment, children and experimenters are shown two stuffed animals, four animal toys, and one puppet.  At the beginning of the experiment, the child is asked to name each of the animals at least once, prompted with questions such as, “What type of animal is this?”  During the experiment, the experimenter is required to identify each animal several times with very little time in between trials. A trial for the experimenter consists of picking up an animal, and reciting the appropriate dialogue associated with that animal and time point, after tagging the line with the phrase “[Animal name] says.”

In Figures 1 and 2 below, the performances of the children and the experimenter are shown graphically.  A blue box indicates the name of an animal (toy) that is actually presented in the experiment. A red box indicates an animal that is not present. The yellow box represents an answer of “I don’t know.” The arrows in the figure point from the target animal (the presented animal) to the response given.  Each blue box should be assumed to have an arrow originating from and pointing to itself.
Figure 1

Figure 2
Other relevant information includes the following:
  • The dog has spots.
  • The kangaroo has relatively large, pointed ears that stick up.
  • The cow is spotted and has no ears (they have been ripped off).
  • The horse is really odd-looking.

From these data, one can conclude the following:
  •  It is difficult for some children to name animals that cannot be found on a farm, or do not have distinct onomatopoeia (or animal sounds) attached to them (see: Giraffe and Kangaroo).
  •  It is difficult for some children to identify toys that bear little resemblance to the animal that they represent (see: Cow and Horse)
  •  It is difficult for the experimenter to go for two hours at a time switching from one animal to another without making some slip-ups.

 I have many more things to write about … so there will hopefully be more posts from me.

In the meantime …

Love and animals,

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Greetings from Boulder, CO. This is mostly a picture post. Prepare your browsers.

So it started off in Chicago for my sister's graduation. She lives by Millennium Park, which is where the "Cloud Gate" or as the locals call it, "The Bean". Here it is below:

Lots of tourists come by. It's also really weird optically when you're underneath it. 

Also Chicago hotdogs follow the following notice:

They go for peppers, mini pickles, some other pickles and onions, etc. 
She's also really close to this:

which is a really cool place. It's also really close to Lake Michigan as seen below, if you turn left:

The first day we were there I mostly just explored, and past places like this:

And also visited the Planetarium which was free at the time:

If you're curious, the sign says "Welcome to the Universe" which I felt was really fitting for Anna.
We then went to the Aquarium, which was not free, but cheap (I think it was 8 dollars normally, compared to NE which is like 20). It was kind of like the NE Aquarium, with lots of stuff to see, including this manta ray: 

It's creepy looking from below. It looks kind of like that monster guy from Pan's Labyrinth. We also went to the Museum of Science and Industry, which was full of larger than life experiments, including the below which simulated avalanches (ie granular material that behaves chaotically when in large amounts). 

When I said my sister lives close, I meant really close (Millennium Park below): 

We then went on an architecture boat tour, and saw lots of buildings from below, like this one (Sears Tower, very famous for the glass floors that you can step out on at the observation deck at the top). 

But what we did was actually a river architecture + lake tour so we also got to see Chicago from Lake Michigan:

and lighthouses...

And then I explored around Navy Pier, which used to be a training ground until it got retrofitted into kind of an amusement park. Here's me taking an artsy far-away picture of the Ferris wheel in front:

Apparently during the.....something fair, possibly world's fair, not sure, there was a Ferris wheel double the current diameter, and a full ride (two rotations) would take an hour or something. Also something about how Chicago is known as the Windy City not for its wind, but because its politicians were wind bags when trying to convince people to host stuff in Chicago right after the Great Chicago Fire. 

Another artsy picture of Chicago from Navy Pier this time:

And here are my parents at The Bean at sunset:

So when I finally went into the Art Institute of Chicago, I found a couple goodies like the following (Erin, pay attention):
1. Goodie One

2. Goodie Two (a piece found in the temporary R. Lichtenstein exhibit)

3. Goodie Three

4. Goodie Four
5. Goodie Five

Now another picture from the roof deck of the apartment building:

And then take a 2 hour flight to Denver and you can see this in the area between Boulder and Denver:

I actually then went to Denver after spending a while in Boulder (few days). Here's the Colorado State Capital below (from below):
And then at the same time, participated in an Equalist rally (like in Legend of Korra, except not). Just kidding, it was actually Denver PrideFest. Here's a more.....controlled/reserved picture:

On my way back, I found Rory (see arms for tallies, although kind of look more like stitch marks):

So something about Boulder/Colorado/etc is that there are lots of prairie dogs. Here are some on my way to work:

There's a scout dog that then emits a high pitched squeak when danger is observed, alerting the others to go back into their holes. The ground is filled with holes. Here's another picture from the area where I work:

The clouds around the bottom may be caused by the Colorado wild fires going on right now. Not sure if they're in the right direction or not, but it looks like the white clouds stuff is actually coming from the ground.

Finally food. I felt kind of proud of this NY strip steak, potatoes, and mixed greens with yellow bell pepper I made below:

And the below picture doesn't really do the baguettes I made quite enough justice because I had to put them in the microwave to keep them high enough to not get eaten by the 3 (now 4) dogs, 2 cats and 1 kitten that are also in the house I'm in.

Also work is good. Lots of office supplies, my computer finally arrived (nice laptop and two monitors at work). Getting used to industry-lifestyle is in process. Very different compared to the sacrifice-everything way of Academia I feel.  Hi.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

An expedition through the High Sierra

Two weeks ago my sister Emily, Marathon Matt, and I left our homes, families, and jobs to explore the wild forests and dizzy mountains near Yosemite for five days and four nights.

Some of you know that bears are my deepest, oldest, and most probably irrational (at least in California but don't ever take me to Montana or Alaska) fear.  In Yosemite, backpackers who don't want to stay at the bear- and people-infested campgrounds where there are built-in lockers are required to carry these approximately 3-lb, stool-sized (giggle) cylinders to put their food in.  We each had one.  I was fully prepared to see a bear sometime on this trip.  I was especially alert when it was dark out.

We didn't see any bears.  We saw tracks though.  Also a young rattlesnake, deer, and the probably famous much-too-friendly coyote of Cloud's Rest. 

There were several days on which we saw more deer than people.  This was probably because we saw no people, except ourselves for about 48 hours.  I think Yosemite is the most visited national park ever or something. (It should be.  The only other ones it might be have man-eating bears or unpleasant daytime weather.)  You would never know it off-trail in the high country.  

So we had a couple of adventures.  The first one was Vogelsang Peak, which at 11000 something feet was enough to give us some altitude sickness.  Nevertheless, I signed my first summit register, and we all butt slid down a nice north-facing snow slope.  Winter school techniques came in handy.

Vogelsang ended up being the elevational high point of the trip, as our foray up a taller nearby mountain was stopped short by a realistic assessment of the conditions, our abilities, and lack of technical gear.  That adventure involved a rather longer snow slope descent, but no photos were taken.  

After scrambling down from our campsite 400 feet above the trail to get water the last night, Emily and I ran into a herd of confused and tired boy scout leaders and their boy scouts.  We told them where the water was and where to camp.  We felt seasoned.  

John Muir, in his unbounded joy over spending his first summer in the Yosemite, called the Sierra Nevada the range of light.  We saw a lot of beautiful places.  I'm going to put pictures on Facebook, so I won't overwhelm you here, but I will leave you with this, which is of our campsite the last night, where we slept on an isolated ridge with a perfect view of the sunset and the sunrise before hiking down to the valley.

in which sometimes things are sad

(Be calm if you think this is going to be terrible it's not.  It's just the cat.)

So I'm about to post on my trip to the Yosemite, but I thought I'd sneak this in first.  Remember this guy?  He died.  

(picture is of cat.  if picture does not load, do not panic unduly)

I like to think that you guys kind of liked Blackie because I sent you all a picture of him telling you to clean up your stuff or else.

Also I was thinking also about how probably plenty of you have sick or dying pets or grandparents or parents or something.  Or maybe you're off by yourself in some city and lonely, or maybe you have to put up with difficult people or whatever.  Because there's lots of you and probability and stuff; you can't all be having fun.  Dead cats are just the easiest to blog about.  It's getting late and I don't really remember where I was going with this, but I think it was to tell you all to keep in touch and ask people how they are doing because that is how you show them that you care, and sometimes during the summer people need to be reminded about that.  And all the time.  

Also don't freak out guys, I liked the cat and I miss having him around, but this was pretty much a peace + love public service announcement, not a pity-me facebooky deal. Greetings from Berkeley.  

In which lightning dances and giant monuments sparkle

We just got internet at our apartment!

Well, by ‘just’ I’m referring to almost two weeks ago- but let’s not think too hard about the words that Rashed chooses to open his blogposts with. 

The first week after finals was a bit unusual- it started with me arriving at the airport in Geneva, walking up to my grandfather, and waiting about twenty seconds for him to realize that the person standing in front of him was not, in fact, some random person who decided to situate himself right in the middle of his field of vision. I’ve never had hair this long before, and apparently this gave my grandparents great trouble in identifying me.

We drove from Geneva to France, where I would stay for a week before heading to Paris for a night, all to visit family. I wanted/needed to visit my grandparents, and their spending the summer in France instead of Kuwait meant I only had to cover half the distance to see them.

Lac Léman/Lac de Genève. Lausanne (and therefore, theoretically, a Sumin) is on the far shore!
The first week was wonderful- pretty much all of it was spent reading, swimming, and sleeping (when I wasn’t spending time with my grandparents). It feels good to actually have time to do things like read!

I went to Geneva a few times, bringing home more and more chocolate each time. I currently have a fairly large suitcase filled with chocolate, mostly because my grandparents decided that I would not survive through the summer without boatloads of chocolate. Walking around Geneva was a bit unusual, though, mostly because it seemed to be filled with Laura Gilsons.

Allow me to try and give a bit of context to that last sentence: whenever I leave an area that I’ve been in for a while, (Kuwait, summer camp, or MIT, for example) and travel to a new place, I often mistakenly identify people around me currently as certain people from whatever area I just left. The fact that I can’t see people’s faces too well without my glasses on (which is nearly all the time) means that this happens fairly often. Usually it’s just a bunch of random people with no pattern to it, but for some reason an awful lot of people in Geneva looked like Laura Gilson. Take that as you will.

This was taken right at the border between France and Switzerland.
At the end of the week, I bid my grandparents goodbye and headed off to Paris. I arrived there pretty early in the morning, and after visiting certain people and finishing my business in Paris, it was well into the afternoon, but I still had about 24 hours to explore the city.

I’ve been to Paris once before, but I was only 7 years old at the time, and 7-year-old Rashed didn’t exactly have much appreciation for the city. Paris was just the mandatory pit stop on the way to Disneyland. 18-year-old Rashed could enjoy Paris a bit more (though he probably wouldn’t mind going to Disneyland afterwards either way).

I wandered around the city for a bit, since I couldn’t remember the last time I had just walked around a new city. After a while, I met up with Erin, and did Paris-like things (most of which she has already mentioned). We walked up (the?) Champs-Élysées, grabbing macarons and eventually working our way up to the Arc de Triomphe.

We also stopped for dinner on the way, at this restaurant where, instead of offering you a menu, they simply ask how you want your steak cooked. This restaurant has a branch in Kuwait, which I went with my family. My sister decided to ask the waitress if they served anything other than steak. The waitress proceeded to stare my sister down until she finally uttered ‘well done, please’ in the quietest voice I have ever heard her speak in. I am generally very fond of this restaurant.

See, it sparkles!
With considerably less empty bellies, we sauntered off towards the Tour Eiffel. While sitting on a random patch of grass and admiring it, it suddenly started to sparkle, which I don’t think either of us was expecting. Sparkling is not something I generally associate with French monuments- I usually link it to things like water, juice, faux vampires, and the like.

It turns out Paris is a lot bigger than I thought it was when I looked at its map- by the time we reached Erin’s apartment, it was about 1AM. I tried calling a taxi, but my sleep-deprived taxi-acquisition skills could not find a taxi that could come before 3:30AM, possibly because of the thunderstorm happening right outside. The thunderstorm itself was magnificent, though- not often do you see lightning arc horizontally across the sky instead of vertically.

I finally managed to get back to my bed by about 4AM, and about five hours later we not-quite-woke-up so we could take advantage of the fact that most of the museums in Paris were free for the day. After finally making my way towards the Musée D'Orsay, Erin and I spent a few hours walking through most of it, an experience which was surprisingly enjoyable despite the sleep-deprived haze (there’s still one Monet that will probably bug me for a very long time, but that’s a long story for a different time). After grabbing lunch, we walked through the Notre Dame, after which I headed off to the airport and finally came back to Boston. All in all, they were quite a busy 24 hours, full of deliciousness and sparkly things.

Sadly, did not have enough time to climb to the top. It was still plenty impressive, though!

Since it is almost past 4AM, I will have to stop typing (until the next post, in which large wooden objects are built and slept upon, and certain other family members are revealed).

Bonne nuit, tout le monde!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Davie meets Water

Yay, I finally have time to post!   This last week I went on a road-trip with my parents, ending up finally in Duluth, MN, where I will be spending the summer as an advisor at a math research program.  Anyhow, I was intending to post about what we saw during those 1500 miles of driving, but something happened last night that I should really talk about first.  Here's how it went:

6:00 pm - I am hungry.
6:05 - I find out what the cooking team is making today.  (We have set up an LMF-like system - two-person teams and no food steward.)  The menu turns out to be mushroom turnovers.  Yum!  Three of them for ten people, and nothing else.  Oops?
6:30 - I decide to have dinner with my parents.
7:00 - We get to the Duluth Grill.  Btw, this is just about the most awesome restaurant ever.  Here is an indication of the amount of food they pile in front of you.  It's also really cheap, and organic, and they grow their own everything, and their menu is about a mile long.

8:00 - We notice it's raining.
8:30 - We leave the restaurant, and make a break for the car, because it's now Raining.  I drive back very slowly to where we are staying.
8:40 - I park the car, but we can't get into the building, because there is a puddle about 10 feet wide in front of it.  We go around the side, running through the downpour.  The stream beside the building is very swollen.  My parents go to their room, I go back to the research program.
9-11 - I skype people, procrastinate, start playing cards with the rest of the program.  I tell them it is wet outside.  They are not interested.
11:30 - We look out the window and notice the stream is almost up to the bridge.  We decide to investigate when we are done with the game.
12:10 - My team narrowly defeats that of another advisor, whose birthday it is (sorry, Adam! I'm making you a cake!).  We prepare to go out and look at the stream.
12:15 - We open the door and find that the stream has come to us, being now about 30 feet wide and almost at the walls of the building.  The storm drains are now fountains, overflowing with water from further up the hill. We splash about and get thoroughly soaked, to the enjoyment of all.  I discover a puddle that is almost up to my waist.  We watch the stream (now river) rage and we almost get hit by lightning.  It is now RAINING and thundering and storming.
12:30 - I go inside and take a shower - hot and from a faucet - and go to sleep.

This morning, I got up and went for a run to one of my usual trails.  There is normally a stream here, called Chester Creek.  This is what it looked like today:

I talked to some of the other onlookers.  Apparently, 8 inches of rain fell in Duluth overnight.   (!!!!)  Downtown, at the bottom of the huge hill on which the city is built, there are places with 12 feet of water.  Roads have caved in.  Power is out in many places.  People are kayaking in the streets.  A donkey named Ashley died at the local zoo.  The county looks like it will be declared a disaster area, in the face of its worst flooding since 1972.  And there are more thunderstorms on their way.  Fast.

As I turn back from Chester Creek, a thunderstorm comes overhead.  Fast.  Within moments, I am soaked.  Water is coming from all directions - the air is just as much a puddle as the ground.  I didn't fully appreciate before how a rain "shower" can in fact deliver as much water as a normal one.

That thunderstorm is now over, but apparently there are 2 more inches of water in store for us.  The Land of 10,000 Lakes seems likely to become the Land of One Big Lake.  I will be out running somewhere in the middle of it.