Justin's Blog

Friday, March 21, 2008

Spring Break begins!

So as I type this, I've got Switchfoot in the headphones, and a view of fields interspersed with forests rolling past the second-story bus window. The past two weeks have been madly eventful:
It started two weekends past with a cool, prelude-spring break trip home... I hadn't been home since I had come to school after winter break, and mid-quarter Mum and I decided that it'd be good for me to come home before the full 10 or 11 weeks of the quarter had gone by. I'd say that this was a good idea. While I had some homework to do, it was a ton less stressful, because I had dropped that totally ridiculous math class (as I've mentioned) that made my visits home last quarter so.... not as good as they could've been. This time I was welcomed home by a giant blizzard that didn't lay a finger on Chicago, but dumped feet of snow on Cleveland. So much of the weekend was spent digging us out of where we were or to wherever we wanted to go. We got to spend a bunch of time as a family-it was good. Oh. I think I already told you all about this. Oh well...

But the weekend wasn't going to end with the weekend...
It had been determined that one of my friends, Jon Gleason, was going to come back with me to Chicago. He's a prospective student for the University of Chicago as well as a great guy, and I thought it would be cool and no problem to have him over. So before heading to Tower City to wait for the bus to go back, we picked Jon up.
We got to Tower City, waited an hour.... and were then informed that the bus had been cancelled. The buses were far too snowed in. A+, kids. There was no problem, though, and we were able to get our tickets rescheduled for free.
Third time's the charm? Not quite... the second worked this time. The bus ride back, though, was less than cool. First, the driver has the whole bus watch a horror movie called "The Eye".... lame. And I don't like horror movies. AND he makes it so that the whole bus' sound system is involved: not just the individual headphone ports. Great. So then, during this, he doesn't even turn on the personal lights... After the rest stop, he turns on every light on the bus, and every one of them on. By this time, I've given up on my attempts to get something done: I'm getting spotty sleep and just chilling. Then, he turns on the movie Juno. So, yeah. The bus had left Cleveland like, 3 hours late... So we arrived in Chicago at 1.30am. Good time to be downtown. Honestly, it wasn't that bad, but just a bit uncomfortable.

Fast forward to sometime mid-week. It's about 11.30pm and I step out of the shower.
Someone starts furiously banging on my door. Apparently, Jon's gotten kneed in the face playing soccer, and it doesn't look good.
6 and a half hours, an emergency room visit (including three stitches), and a 5.30am visit to Walgreens later, I'm going to sleep at 6am. Jon should be fine. So should my humanities paper, which I wrote in the emergency room while Jon was getting treated.

The weekend arrives.
Dad and Grandpa come in because Dad's got some business in Chicago. This is cool.
We spend a bit of time together-one night kickin' it at Leona's after a killer Mass with a sweet organist, and another day with me escorting them downtown to make sure that they got where they needed easily and safely. I plan on spending more time with them this weekend: It was a great time, however short.

Chicago dyes its river green for St. Patrick's Day:

This past week was finals week, which really wasn't bad. I'm pretty sure that they went far better than last quarter's finals... i seriously enjoyed my physics class this quarter (electricity and magnetism), and am looking forward to next quarter, which will include both a study of optics and my first taste of quantum mechanics.

Finals are scheduled at the end of the quarter by the class schedule.... classes from 9.30-10.20am MWF will have a certain finals time, and a 9-10.20am TTh class will have another. This leaves a lot of time for studying during the week, because there aren't any classes during finals week: Just a few 2-hour final exams. So sometimes, there'll be a quarter where all the difficult exams and papers are finished early, and there's time to relax at the end of the week. Kelsey, Cece, and I all had some spare time on Wednesday, so we decided to take the day off, and see a museum. I'd never been to the Art Institute, so it was cool to check it out.

Sharing a secret:

Kelsey had to leave a bit early, because she had to go work at the library, but Cece and I went out a place that billed themselves as "Cal-Ital"... Californian/Italian... called "Caliterra". It was decent... Nothing crazy amazing, but still worth it. We had a cool view of an intersection just east of the Magnificent Mile, and ordered an Ahi Tuna Tartare (a bunch of tuna smashed together with some oil, pepper, and fruit) and... a pizza! Pretty good, and we had a sweet server guy named Luis. It was a good meal. Relaxing, too. When I dine, I usually like to just sit and chill for awhile afterwards... definitely influenced by the ways of the homestead.

Last night we took one last hurrah and after all the finals were over and after Holy Thursday Mass (which was also sweet... 1.5 hour marathon, complete with an organ prelude and a soloist), Kelsey, Cece, and I went to eat at Siam Thai. Decent.... we topped it off with dessert at Leona's in the form of a Chocolate Brownie Cake Sundae. Which was basically 1/2 whipped cream and half substance. But still good. Sundaes with brownies are good.

And here I am. The person next to me is watching Star Wars (The Empire Strikes Back) and I'm stealing glances... okay... 5 minutes stretches of watching the film. Star Wars is good.

And so is this trip home. If anyone's around and cares to meet up, give me an email. It'll be cool.

Happy Easter.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

I actually took the weekend off from Chicago, took a little bit of a bus ride, and am now alive, well, and in Strongsville, Ohio. And am totally loving it.

It's great to be back here, relaxing with the family, planning spring quarter visits, and simply relaxing. When I came home last quarter to visit, I had a heck of a lot of math homework to do (those darn journal-things...) and my visit was stress-laden and I didn't have the chance to sit and smell the roses. But since then, as you all know, I've dropped that math class and have time to breathe. Furthermore, it's the end of the quarter. I've got only three days of class left for next week, and then it's time for reading period and final exams. And I'm back home for spring break two weeks from now.

The bus ride here was pretty darn crazy. As you all know, we're getting a bunch of wild weather in Cleveland (Chicago hasn't gotten anything), so it's great that I chose this weekend to come home. Everything was fine on the road until about Sandusky, at which point things got a lot more dicey... But it was hilarious, because the bus driver kept screaming past these cars on the highway. They were all plodding along at like, 30 mph, but the bus driver kept on truckin' in a bigtime way, maintaining a ludicrous 60 or 65 mph. I was impressed. Needless to say, we arrived only about 1/2 hour late. I was then escorted home by Norman and Jason, and greeted at the homestead by two stoked dogs and Mum. We hung out in the kitchen for like, an hour and a half just talking and eventually got to sleep at 1am. My family's the greatest. It's great to be with them.

Shnow Shnoveling with the brother:

So the itinerary for the weekend home is basically a few visits to friends and family and a lot of relaxing.

I've got a friend coming back to Chicago with me, which will be pretty sweet. He's actually looking at coming to the University of Chicago, so he'll get a firsthand taste of what it's like to live and work there. We'll do some relaxing, but the time will be full of a lot of classes and a of work.

The past week was pretty busy... a physics midterm on Monday and a math midterm on Friday (on both of which I did fairly well, I think...). The teachers there are crazy-midterms are not for just midterm. Some classes even have three midterms, from what I hear. I was lucky to just have two in two of my classes. But it's really funny because there are ten weeks in a quarter and I took a math midterm on Friday on ninth week.

The friend I visited at Notre Dame three weeks ago was awesome enough to take the first weekend of his spring break off, and came to visit me in Chicago. We (Cece, Ryan, Kelsey, and myself) went out to Leona's (previously mentioned on this blog, I do believe), and went downtown to a Mexican spot called Su Casa. Cece and I had been there before-It's fairly authentic Mexican food served by really nice people. The waitress said that she liked our group in particular because she had kids at home who were our age. As usual, the food was good. Mexican restaurants are awesome, because free chips come before the meal. Booya.

The four of us ventured to Buca di Beppo afterwards (yes, downtown Chicago comes fully equipped with a Buca's) and at like, 11pm, as the restaurant was shutting down, got ourselves some amazing dessert. Buca's has amazing chocolate cake-I highly recommend it for anyone who's looking for a good spot for dessert.

Last entry, I posted the wonderful news that I'll be living ten weeks of my summer in Seattle. I also specified "more information to come".
Here's the lowdown:

So you all know that I've been applying to internships like crazy for the past month or two... a NASA internship, a SULI internship (through the Department of Energy), a few universities... Anyway. As a first year student in college, it's ridiculously difficult to get an internship. Researchers are usually interested in older students, because they've had more class and have spent more time in the lab than younger students. Honestly, the best part of research is understanding what it is that you're doing-and younger students can't do that. And if younger students can't understand what they're doing, they're basically limited to simple tasks (I like to call this "button-pushing"). So second, third, and fourth year students have a much easier time getting into these programs than first years.

I understood this when applying, and I knew that it would take some hard work in order to actually secure a position. So I took it upon myself to actually reach out to researchers who had previously mentored students at the places to which I applied. There was one guy at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado who I'd been in contact with, and it looked like I might've gotten a job from him... He appreciated my display of passion and motivation in my contacting him, and said that he'd read my resume. But after a few weeks, I hadn't heard anything back from him. I called up, and it turned out that he couldn't find my resume. That sucked.

So my reaction was to contact the office that took care of all the internships at NREL, and see what was up. Apparently, my application didn't even get handed to researchers, because I was only a first year. That sucked even more. I wanted to make sure that this didn't happen with any other applications. Because that would really suck.

Long story short, I had a physics quiz that day. Before the quiz (instead of studying), I emailed one researcher at the University of Washington and stated my case. I walked out of the quiz, looked at my Blackberry, and lo and behold:

"Hi Justin-I will be very glad to have you spend the summer in my group"
"Summer time in Seattle is very pleasant, with temperature rarely above 80˚F and lots of sunshine."

I get free travel.
I get free housing.
I get free dining.
I get a stipend.

And I get an amazing opportunity to work in lab under a great researcher, in a new city, learning amazing stuff.
More later.

Stay warm, Ohio people.