Justin's Blog

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Left on a Jet Plane.

So right now I'm 34,000 feet above sea level, on the second of two flights in my journey to Seattle. Mum's here next to me catching some sleep to try and minimize the jetlag, and we've got a random seat-mate in our row drinking Bloody Mary mix ("Spicy tomato juice"). More on all of this later.

So. As I often do when I haven't updated since the last ice age, I'll give bullets as to what's been going on:

1-Two and a half weeks ago, Cathy and Michael (one aunt/uncle pair from Houston) came into Chicago by plane to visit with Cece and I. Chicago is also the place of Michael's childhood, and he was eager to show Cathy around his old hangouts. We had a ridiculously good time.... Introductions happened, a trip to Giordano's (famous stuffed pizza.... terribly greasy, terribly good.), tours of campus, and more.

Probably one of the more memorable experiences was a trip to a place called "Kingston Mines"--a legendary blues club in Chicago. Michael had been pretty stoked about this one for months, now. Apparently, it's a must-see for an avid blues fan. But. It's a 21+ club, so Michael made sure to call the club's owners ahead of time to make sure that I could go on in. Things were verified, and I was allowed in. It was honestly a really cool place--I'd like to go back without escort when I'm of age. Basically, there were two halves to the place, and each half had its own stage. When one stage's band was taking a break, the other stage had a band playing, and vice versa. As to the atmosphere--it was really crowded, but mostly a lot of people either standing up or sitting at these bench-looking tables. Basically a table from Friday's or Applebee's cut in half lengthwise, with chairs on either side. There were people closer to the stage dancing, doing their thing, but the cool (or sober) people all hung back at the tables and just took in the scene.

2-Final exams. Good times, kids. I had two papers--one for Mind and one for my Art class. For the art history course, I basically analyzed a chair produced in Postwar Italy in and out.

The Model 683:


This quarter in mind, we'd been learning about the mind and brain (some would argue that these terms are synonymous) in a social context. Especially stressed during the quarter, however, was the interdisciplinary nature of trying to totally understand the mind and how it works. The professors liked to refer to this as "building bridges" across disciplines. We've got to look at all levels of psychology (biopsychology, social, and that of one person) in order to get a full and comprehensive understanding of any process.

So basically, the professors and TA's gave us a ridiculously broad prompt--Essentially, "Explain why we need to look at all these levels. Then, look at a social problem (war in Iraq, hunger, poverty) and explain it from a psychological perspective. Specifically use stuff that we've learned." I had fun. And I think I wrote a decent paper. We'll find out soon.

Physics. Beautiful. This course on waves and vibrations was so much fun. My grade may be frightening (we'll see) because my homework was always started too late, but I learned so much, in both applied mathematics (differential equations) and physics (learned mostly through these things called "boundary conditions" that restrict the general solutions differential equations).

Just a note--the "starting the homework too late" stems from the fact that I'm a rather slow learner... Whenever I learn something, I'm not content with just knowing what I need to know for the test, and how to solve the problems on the homework--I'd rather be able to be completely able to rederive all of our results from "first principles" (the fundamental observations and foundation of physics) and work it that way. So I spend a lot of time learning so I'll really never forget anything (seriously--it works. and it's satisfying) and I learn the material a week after we need it for class. I'll change stuff up next year so that it works out better.

And finally.... The Atmosphere. Great class. The final exam was last Friday, because I took it early with the seniors (this was one of the rare classes where we were offered this opportunity) and I'm pretty sure that I can pull off a full-fledged "A" in the class. The crowning achievement of the class was a final derivation of a theoretical model for the weather systems on earth. It's all based on the unequal heating of the earth by the sun. Ask me about it sometime.

4-I'm listening to the band Yellowcard's "Ocean Avenue" CD....

someone's got to do it.

5-Belly fat. It's happening. I may have gained 10 lbs muscle this quarter, but hanging out at home and having visitors implies quality food and little time to exercise (time zone changes are a killer) which implies belly fat. Eeeew.


6-A plane to Seattle? What???

Okay. So most of you who can read and care know from previous entries that through a bunch of work, I've got a good internship in Seattle. I get free travel to and from Seattle, a free hotel room for a night before the internship starts (tonight), free dining, free housing all summer, free social events, and to top it off--a $4500 stipend. Bomb.

So what am I doing in Seattle? Okay. So. Hmm. Basically--by focusing a laser beam in a certain way in to a material, we can take part in either a solidification or reduction process. In the end, we can either carve away the material or actually build stuff out of the liquid or solid. There are a lot of intermediate steps and some really sweet science, but that's the end result. There's a computer program called CAD and AutoCAD that a lot of engineers and welders use. It's basically used to design and draw stuff. There's also a computer program called LabVIEW that is often used by research scientists to control lab setups. After you've written the program, you're left with a cool virtual interface of knobs and switches and graphes---good stuff. Easier than text-based control of programs. I've basically been assigned to write a program that'll take designs from AutoCAD and port them to LabVIEW so that our setup will automatically build the stuff that people have designed.

I've got some experience with LabVIEW (thank you, Padetha) but none whatsoever with AutoCAD. But none with LabVIEW. We'll see what's up. I'll keep you updated. Tomorrow's my first day. It should be cool.

Oh. FYI, this is all through the University of Washington. I'll be a Husky for the summer.

7-Surprise! I have a second internship!

During the school year, especially winter quarter, I became really really interested in the environment and in actively saving what we've got left. Because we've really got to take action now. I also started an introduction to an education on just how powerful physics is. I think that I can combine these two loves.

Physics is essentially man's attempt at a description of nature. This description can be applied to tell us what we can do with nature, given the materials. Environmental science and environmental knowledge essentially offers a survey of what man has around him. It also tells us what we can expect if we prod the earth in one way or another.

So what I want to do is combine these two knowledges--and while there are many ways to do this, I think that my place is in alternative energies. I'm not sure yet, but we'll see.

Anyway---I wanted a few opinions on my idea, so I talked to my fall quarter physics professor (Henry Frisch... a really really cool guy, and easy to talk to) who told me that I was on the right track and referred me to a number of people. These people then referred me to others and included a bunch of people in a certain reply to an email I'd sent. The next thing I know, I'm in the thick of all these environmental scientists.... and I couldn't be happier.

So basically, I've been invited into a research group. I'm not sure how much I'm allowed to disclose on the project on the internet at this very moment, but I think that I can divulge at least enough to catch your interest. At the end of this beast, we'll have a breathtakingly beautiful piece of work. I'm terribly excited at how elegant this may turn out. Right now we're in the proposal-writing stage... I'll check with my researcher and see if I can disclose any more.

That's expected to be 20 hours a week.

8-Wait... you're going to Seattle... but mum's with you? What's the deal with that?

She wants to see where I'll be this summer... and after spending a ton of time together when I was in high school, college has been a shock to both of us--we've spent virtually no time alone together in the last 24 weeks. This trip will be really really good. I'm so glad she came.

She's got a flight back home on Tuesday evening.

9-This past weekend was great--I was able to see so much of the essentials of my family before I dipset to Seattle.

***Pilot update--90 miles north of Billings, Montana.... 1 hr 35 mins to Seattle/Tacoma***

So let's see...

Wednesday--Mum has been in Chicago for a day, meeting my friends and helping me pack up. At about 4.37pm, we leave Chicago and embark on the cruise back to Cleveland. The Eos is packed. Good music and good conversation about life ensues. We arrive home, and have time to celebrate Mum's birthday and unpack the car before she and Norman go to sleep. I stay up and videochat with Cece and Connie.

Thursday--Rise and go to dentist. No cavities... "Good job on the homecare. Keep it up.". Funny, because 50% of the time, I've brushed my teeth only once a day and I haven't flossed at all. Okay, though. Get home, Run and shower, go with Jason to Legacy Village to pick up his Macbook Pro for college. Aunt Liz comes over for hamburgers and all that other good cookout stuff. Good to see her, and good to relax. Video chat with Chicago, then sleep.

Friday--Wake and visit Aunt Debbie. It's been awhile. Have pleasant conversation, watch dogs fight, cruise the town with Jason. Buy Jason sunglasses. Go to dad's and enjoy Grandma and Grandpa's company. Watch America's Funniest Home Videos. Laugh (once more) at the same things we've seen 200 times before. Watch Life According to Jim. Actually enjoy it.

Also, hang out with dad next to grill with steaks and see his sweet. new. scooter. This has also been another terribly anticipated visit as Dad and I talk via email almost every day at school, and often by video chat. It's good to relax in the driveway again and marvel at the sweet green shutters.

Saturday--Day before departure... Ashwin, Ossama, Jon Gleason, and Lynn come over to hang out and play Lynn's PS3 on my brother's ridiculous purchase of a TV and sound system. 50 inches of television is carazy.

The game??? The highly contested new Grand Theft Auto... I have no idea what it's actually called (1, 2 3, 4, LIberty City, San Andreas, etc...). I hadn't really ever watched anyone play the thing. It's terribly entertaining.

Good to see everyone and marvel at how Ossama has not changed a bit.

Saturday evening, dine at Grandma's with Aunt Liz and the nuclear family. Highly anticipated, highly delivered. Ate far too much dessert. Belly fat.

Saturday night, pack and videochat with Chicago once more before the plane ride.

Sunday morning, and we're gone.

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