Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Adventures in Pasadena

I thought I might share some of my thoughts I had jotted down as I was sitting in front of the Caltech cafe in the last week of January, basking in the evening sunlight.~

January 22

Yesterday I almost climbed the Hollywood sign - I didn't because it's illegal and I'd be carried off by a trooper helicopter, like in the movie "Friends with Benefits". Though, I could have been on TV if that happened! Oh well. It was a nice view nonetheless, with the Pacific ocean and LA to the west and Pasadena and the mountains to the east. On my way to the top, I met some French photographers and a French reggae singer, though I forgot the name of his band that I wanted to look up ("Il est très bien connu!" said his two friends). 

Griffiths Observatory as seen from the
Hollywood sign.
Right now I am sitting in front of the equivalent of Caltech COOP and people watching. It's fun. A tour of just three people and guide just passed by me. I walked into their coffee shop to buy coffee and noticed a sign that they only take cash, and with Caltech ID's. They also sell "MIT" t-shirts there, I thought it was sweet until I realized that it says "Wasn't good enough to go to Caltech" on the back. Anna '14 and I think that we should get back at them by replacing all the t-shirts on the stand with "MIT - Because I was too good to go to Caltech"! 

Side note: Anna is an awesome host, and has a really comfy couch, in a snazzy apartment that reminds me of a beachfront hotel. Thanks for the great food and conversations, and showing me around this beautiful town! Also, your orange juice was really good. :) 

Speaking of hacking culture, here's me in front of the Caltech cannon, which apparently fires twice a year on surprise dates. I heard that MIT once hacked it by transporting it across the country and putting it next to the Green Building. Heh.

Notice the cute palm trees in the back! Right on campus!
I also saw the guy who played the Professor in the PhD movie sitting outside that coffeeshop. I was considering asking for his autograph - would that be too weird..? The guy who played one of the main characters "The Unnamed PhD student" is actually in the same year as Anna, and she sat next to him in lecture! 

My mission (according to my mom) here is to "get a nice Caltech guy"... well... I am not sure I am going to succeed at that, although I'm not really trying. I found the Feynman lecture hall, though, so that's like meeting the person I love, anyway.

Yesterday I rode an uber for the first time! (Yeah, multitudes of Didi rides in China don't count). It was UberPOOL too. I know, so brave. Since apparently people don't usually choose UberPool. On the two rides, I met a fashion designer from Japan (this girl named Hitomi, which means "eye" in Japanese) and then a guy from China who owns a food truck and sells it to students in Pasadena City College. The driver on the way back from the Hollywood hike was super talkative, and told me a story of how he had escaped from Iran at the age of fifteen and moved about twenty times from one European/Middle Eastern country to another. He then couldn't stop talking about this "the best" Persian restaurant near Pasadena that everyone *must* check out at some point in life. He called his mom right from the car (this guy is like, fifty) to find out the name of it.

Me and half of Caltech's astrophysics first-year grad students at Echo Mountain! :) 
The day before that I went hiking to the same mountain we hiked on Tuesday with Anna and two astronomy students, but I wanted to go slightly further, to "Inspiration Point". Plus, the weather was much nicer so I knew the view would be present. It was good. I even saw the sunset, though I was worried about getting back since the neighborhood between the mountain and Caltech was super sketchy, and so was the bus I took to get there. So, I was kinda worried, until I met this super nice couple on the way down, who had the most hyper/happy dog called Stella. They turned out to be producers/actors who are working on three movies at the moment and rode across the US in their car to get here! (For instance, one of the movies is "Occupy Texas"). We had a really great conversation ("Don't tell me what you're doing now," said one of my new acquaintances, "what kind of research would you rather be doing?") and they offered to drive me to my familiar and non-sketchy intersection near the grad dorms, which meant I could sit next to Stella in their car. Stella kissed me very passionately. It was the first time I was kissed so lovingly by a dog. 

Sunset from Sam Merill trail to the Echo Mountain 

Something about traveling by yourself is so oddly refreshing. It is a lot easier to connect to others on your path. The interactions are organic and spontaneous, and so memorable.