Justin's Blog

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sweet Potato Pie.

Hey, kids.

I just determined that Sweet Potato Pie is a killer food. Approach with extreme caution, and be sure to eat very slowly. I just ate a piece way to fast. A repeat episode of what happened last night. Thanks to Grandma for the Pie that deserved a repeat visit. Thanks to Fred Dillon and the Notorious Scott for the Pi that deserved a repeat visit.

All right. I can maybe report a few things of consequence. First, the trip to Ikea. Last Saturday, the family took the annual trek to PIttsburgh, PA to scour Ikea for sweet stuff. Of consequence, I needed things for my dorm. A [comfortable] chair. A dry erase board. A hanging laundry basket. A series of foldable cloth boxes. A plethora of lights. I'm convinced that my room would be way too dark if I depended solely on the dorm lighting, so I bought light. They're pretty cool.

Sunday was a good day. Basically, I saw my good good friend Ashwin in the morning. We talked of thing far and near, of Case and Chicago, and then he was off and so was I. I ventured up to Case to visit Rochelle, and was rather surprised at the easy commute. The fact that it was Sunday morning may have had something to do with it. While Rochelle and I were talking and enjoying ourselves and I was getting a tour both of campus and her newfound friends, I was getting comfortable with Case and excited about Chicago. I'm convinced that Case is a wonderful match, at least personality-wise, for Rochelle. The people there and her seem to really get along pretty well and have some interesting conversations. But college isn't only about intellectual conversations! They also have good taste in stupid online videos. The YouTube kind. Sunday was a good day.

Monday came and went with work at Hershey's. Today came and went with an online biology diagnostic exam (online; just to see how I am... the administrators stressed that it wasn't placement, but I guess that's my impression of what it was) for Chicago, and some looking over the orientation schedule. Now that the biology's done, I can enjoy the wide world of mathematics.

In other news... I got a haircut.

Photo courtesy of Ikea... of my chair.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Dual Posts, Part Deux

So after the Smokies we had nearly a three day break before leaving for Houston.
This three day stretch was not nearly as much of a break as the word usually implies.
The first day that we got back was the first opportunity of the summer to fulfill the near-obligation of a full day at Lazer Xtreme. For those not "in the know", Lazer Xtreme is basically a lazer tag arena. It's got tunnels and secret spots to shoot at and recently updated lazer packs. Jon, Ashwin, Ossama, Jon Gleason, Jason, and myself all took part in this tradition. Pretty cool. In combination with the preceding dinner of Chipotle, it was deemed a going away festival for Ashwin and a birthday festival for Ossama. Neither Jon nor Ossama leaves for college early like most of the world, so I'll still be able to spend some time with them before summer's up. Doing what? Who knows.

The day after was totally comprised of Rochelle and I. That day was full of activity. It included shuttling my brother and Mr. A. Iammarino from the golf course to home, going and getting a much-needed new pair of running shoes, and visiting the American Apparel store in Coventry. Just a couple of things about those items. First-if this were someone else's blog and I were reading, I'd be wondering the kind of shoe. Brooks Adrenaline GTS 7. Rochelle got Mizuno's. Sweet shoes. I wish Mizuno's fit me better. Second. I was apprehensive about American Apparel. I'd approved of the store's concept-a cool place with clothing that actually fits and looks cool, all made in a downtown Los Angeles factory where workers are paid $15/hour. Instead of downtown Beijing, with workers making $0.09/hour. But, I had heard of their sketchy advertisments and heard that their store locations catered to the nouveau youth culture... sketchy. BUT. I was proved completely wrong. We got there at maybe 7.50pm and were greeted by a nearly empty store. Just a ton of clothes, and really cool, mellow Modest Mouse coming from the ceiling. The employees were friendly and cool, and we talked for a bit about the Modest Mouse concert to which one was going after closing the store. Even cooler, the employee came at about 8.05 and said "You know we close at 8? But it's okay... Modest Mouse is on. I'm completely cool with you guys staying." So we stayed. I tried on a sweet polka dot hooded sweatshirt. I'm considering getting it from the store in Chicago, if it turns out I need it. Rochelle bought a couple of items, including a lovely red dress.

Friday was full of seeing Dad at China Jade for lunch, then going off to Lynn's graduation festival. Padetha (his father) cooked a wonderful meal, and I was able to talk a bit with him about his research. That evening and conversation was a privilege. That family is wonderful.

This was a mass of activity. It was great to be able to reunite with relatives and finally meet Kim's man-friend, William. He's a nice guy who's fairly good on guitar.
We had four days there which turned out to be four days of nonstop activity.
Day one was all about Staying at home most of the day and lounging about in the pool, recovering from travel. With the evening of that day came the famous "Meat On Parade", or at least a mini version of it. In "Meat On Parade", Michael (Uncle) cooks pounds and pounds of meat on his homeade smoker and barbecue. Fourish different flavors of sausage, one of pork, chicken, brisket, baby back ribs... All marinated and cooked to be the best stuff I've ever eaten. This is one day of my year I simply give up on being a vegetarian. He also served the best lemonade I've ever had. I'm getting the recipe.
Day two was all about the water. First stop was a waterpark called Schlitterbahn. I'm not always for places like this, but this one proved better than expected. The slides were fairly cool and I basically chilled on a tube for a few hours. Galveston took up the rest of that day, which was sweet. Galveston Island is an isle about 40 minutes southeast (I think...) of Houston. Schlitterbahn is on Galveston Isle, but the main attraction is probably the beach. A few of us went there before the others, and I just laid in the sand for maybe an hour. After this, I went into the surf and dove into a few waves. The only downside was when I felt a biting sensation on my arms and in the shorts. I would later find out that this was not sand, but the biting of little creatures. Huh. That night was Mexican night, a big tradition. Thanks to Grandma for the funds.
As some of you may know, Rice University is in Houston. I'd probably say that Rice is the Case of Houston. There's an area around Rice called "Rice Village" which is filled with cool little shops and restaurants. Seriously cool shops. This made day three my favorite day. We stopped in a NONPROFIT store (?!?!?) called Ten Thousand Villages, which imports a bunch of crafts from nations and pays the cash they deserve. Even the employees are volunteer. There was also a cool French café with a remarkable interior (it felt like France) and free water. The other really cool spot was a beast of a 1/2 price bookstore-I got a little biology review book (I know... lame.) to review for my placement test (due August 31. I've got to get it done).

I'm devoting a full paragraph to the evening of the third day. DInner was at the "Hobbit Café". This place was incredible. I'm coming back here... sometime soon. This was a one-of-a-kind Lord of the Rings-themed restaurant. They served mostly vegetarian food, and seemed to specialize in smoothies. The people were friendly, the food was top-notch, but the environment of the place probably crowned it kind. It was so homely. The porch was leaning, the interior was a like a pub, the restroom was a little sketchy. It felt like what I envision dorm life to be: Chock-full of dilapidated rooms, but full of the best people. Awesome. Make sure you eat here if you're ever in Houston.

Day four was all over the pool and just a final lounge session before coming home. Come 4.30pm and we were gone to the airport, waiting for our flight.

Honestly, it was a great trip.

The first picture is of the BEAST of a black-bean burger. I swear. This was gigantic. Homeade and gigantic and the best I've had.

The second is just a pan-shot of the group at the Hobbit Café. Picture courtesy of Jason (who is not in the photo).

I want to post pictures from Galveston, but I don't know how the others would feel about this. ha.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Dual Posts

This has been such a busy time since I last posted... I may have to split this post into two sessions.
I'll first start with the time directly after NASA. And sorry-I probably will not be giving a "day-by-day".

All right. So it all began a little later than we wanted to leave, last Saturday morning. We (Mum, Norman, Jason, and myself) took the 8 hour quest to Gatlinburg, TN with little abnormalities. The moment we started driving through Pigeon Forge, the city adjacent to Gatlinburg, I began to feel unsure about this trip. We had gotten ourselves into the center of a money-pit tourist mecca. Couldn't stand it. Billboards for those lame shows... "Dolly Parton's Country Jamboree...All you can eat Breakfast and Dinner!!!"... shops, people, traffic. It was not what I wanted or expected out of the Great Smoky Mountains.

The cabin was decent with a view unlike any other in Strongsville. Except that rolling out of bed the first morning, there was a scorpion on the sheets! That was something. A bit of research revealed that they are fairly common and a scorpion sting is treated as a bee sting. Still.

I think it was that same day that we took a hike to the actual top of a mountain. This was spectacular. It's the most strenuous hike I've been on yet, but it was completely worth it. What's more, it made travel through downtown Gatlinburg worth it. While it was not the peak of the mountain, the ridge was probably most amazing. Once one climbed this stretch, one found themself on the actual ridge. Look to the right: Sky through the trees. Look to the left: Sky through the trees. And an amazing breeze. This was a total change from the rest of the climb, with little breeze and always the side of the mountain in view. The last 80 feet were a quasi-rock-climb. I probably wouldn't have known to climb up to the top if someone hadn't been coming down at the same time.

The rest of the trip was a combination of playing pocket billiards with my brother, playing pocket billiards alone, and taking a multitude of other hikes. We did encounter some bears on one of those hikes, but this was no comparison to a species we weren't expecting to find in the national park. It was the Homo sapiens idioticus. Seeing what was happening made me proud of evolution. A bunch of people were playing on this waterfall. Waterfalls in national parks aren't like waterfalls in waterparks. First, the waterfall isn't made out of styrofoam. Second, there's no one to sue if you break your face. Third, there isn't any lifeguard to say "Hey, you dolt. Cut it out." So I started feeling sick, watching these people play on the falls, falling down and hitting themselves on the rocks, then getting up for more and doing it all over again. This one woman carrying an infant fell: The infant was okay, and she was okay, but some random girl next to her actually started doing the "point and laugh". But she did it sincerely. It was the grandest display of stupidity I'd seen in a long time. Point and laugh. My aunt just fell and almost broke her hip and some infant. Point and laugh.


A lot of people chose to stay off of the falls. Away from the cliffs and away from the idiots. I saw the cogs of evolution turning. Those on the falls die early, and their "dumb" genes leave the gene pool. Those on the sidelines continue the human race and make it smarter.

That's that.

We also went out to eat one night, where I chose a "Texas T-Bone" steak. That leads to Texas-My next post.

Edit-The picture is actually going to be a good shot of what one sees looking down at the peak we climbed.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Is this what busy feels like?

So I'm not sure of it, but I think I might actually be busy.
I'm actually feeling like I have a bunch of stuff to do and a limited amount of time to do them. Packing for two vacations is coming up, I generally have things to do after NASA these days, and I go to sleep fairly late. Yet, I'm finding time to do it all. I suppose that htis is the way I've wanted it to be. I used to spend a lot of time sort of just lounging around and looking around online, and I'm starting to fill up that space with useful things. LIke blogging?!?
Chicago's drawing closer and I'm getting ready. We're making mental lists of things that I need and running through the Chicago lists of things I need to do. Got my vaccinations against Menningitis and Tetanus, yesterday. That was fun.
My second last day at NASA is tomorrow. We're going out to lunch at the Rocky River Brewing Company. Should be...something... No. It should be pretty good. I'll most likely be able to find something good on the menu.
And then Saturday is the Smokies.
Oh. I downloaded a new CD this morning while I was brushing my teeth. Really a great CD: Full of both resonating notes and resonating lyrics. What I especially like is how knowledgeable the band is (or makes themself out to be). Here's information on the title of the CD, "The Earth Sings Mi Fa Mi" (courtesy of Wikipedia)...

From the album press release via Absolutepunk.net:
"The title, The Earth Sings Mi Fa Mi was taken from a book written by a late 16th century astronomical theorist by the name of Johannes Kepler [Harmonices Mundi] and the publication just fascinated the band. Kepler’s theory suggested that each of the 9 planets in our solar system produced tones as they orbited the sun. Throughout the orbit, Venus would stay a consistent note that was considered the 6th in relation to the rest of the planets. As Earth would shift its tonality, it would create the effect of the notes moving from the major 6th to the minor 6th and back and forth. This is where the “Mi Fa Mi” comes into action, symbolizing the corresponding syllables when singing a scale in relation to the notes of the earth {Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do}. Kepler further concurred that the Earth “singing” Mi Fa Mi could truly stand for Misery, Famine, Misery and ultimately, that is the song the Earth and Venus continued to sing. Misery, referring to an empty place and Famine, referring to the appetite or thirst for things."

The picture is from my poster session that happened after my presentation... First picture I've posted that actually involves me in the lens! And no, that isn't the new shirt.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

So it's been awhile...

I'll start with the very last ending, 'cause that's a very good place to start.
Today when I got home, I was greeted by two wonderful pieces of mail. The first was a Receiving End of Sirens t-shirt (band). The second (while perhaps not as form-fitting), was just as good a shelter against the elements, if not better: My dorm assignment!

I was granted my very first choice: I am going to be living in Broadview Dormitory in a single room! My new address (I really don't care if I post it here... you guys are cool) is:

5540 South Hyde Park Boulevard #535
Chicago, IL 60637

Pretty sweet. I'm so excited that I got a single-More room to relax, play my music as loud (or as soft) as I want, whenever I want, more room for people who come to visit to sleep over, and just more freedom! When I want to venture out and see people, I can venture out and see people. Otherwise, I can just stay inside.

I had my culminating presentation and poster session at NASA today. A poster session is basically a meeting of a bunch of a people in a room who have created posters to boast the research that they've been doing. Anyone interested can walk up and read the poster, then if they have more interest ask the presenter for more information. The presentation is a fairly basic entity: Simply get up in front of whoever's in the conference room (the room in which I presented seated perhaps 40) and give a presentation on the research performed over the summer. I (once again) cut it too close for comfort on both of these events today. The presentation was still in the tweaking stages until this morning and the poster was printed and completed this morning.
My rehearsal for the presentation yesterday was a picture-perfect instance of crash and burn. I forgot nearly everything that I had learned over the entire summer and was full of nerves. I reverted into some habits, which may have included an accent, and certainly included some serious overuse of the word 'bit'. Note to self: Never refer to compounds or parts of compounds as 'bits'. Doesn't work. I also lapsed into a lack-of-logic brain state. It's fairly logical stuff, so I should've been able to logic it out, but when you're under pressure, the ground just seems to fall out from underneath, and you're left treading air. Never mind that the ground fell only 3 inches.
But the presentation today went really quite well. Much better than yesterday. Save a technical difficulty. I was calm, composed, and really relaxed giving it. Sure, there were a few parts that I'm sure I messed up, but it was a great improvement over yesterday. I want to thank whoever's reading who helped out with that. Their comments and guidance really prevented a total train wreck.

Went out with Mum a few nights ago to buy a couple of things for school... Sheets, toothpaste, toothbrush, toilet paper... only the beginning, but certainly a start. We're making it so that Chicago is basically another home, and when I want to come truly home (to Strongsville), all I have to do is pack clothes. Leave everything in the dorm: The contact cases, the solution, the toothpaste...down to the toothbrush.

Bought a new shirt. Pretty cool. I think I'm going to be changing my style a bit. Have no fear. But if we look around and see these people and say "wow... that looks pretty cool", why don't we just do it ourselves? Honestly, it won't be much of a change at all. For some reason, I found I like long-placket polos. I might buy two. When it's a really warm day, I can just wear nothing under it and unbutton all the buttons: It's great for getting the heat out of the inside of the shirt. It's like wearing a deep-v-neck t-shirt, but with a collar. I don't know. I'm not sure why I'm saying this.

Norman, Mum, and I went to the beach last Sunday. This was amazing, and a wonderful end to last week. I really enjoyed myself. The people, the scenery, the temperature-it all worked together to create a memorable experience. That picture at the top is Mum in the surf. I liked the picture, so I posted it. Mum is pretty photogenic. There are a couple more, but I've really got to go off to sleep...