Justin's Blog

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Three weeks.

It's been nearly three weeks since I updated.
So let's start from the beginning.

When I last checked in, I had just been informed that I had been admitted to Europe in the 50s. I'd also just recently gone to my first sailing practice (which I thought was ridiculously cool and full of awesome people). I was also about to be hit by a deluge of apartment-viewing sessions in order to find a place to live for next year...

So probably the most important stuff that's happened has involved the apartment.
First, a short history.
Over the last couple of quarters, Kelsey, Cece, and I have become a really tight knit group of kids. We've gotten lost in Chicago together, dined together, relaxed watching Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure together.. and still, we've got a good dynamic, and no major schisms have formed. So naturally, when we started talking about getting out of the dormitory in our second year (next year), the only choice was to room together. We'd all get a place somewhere in Hyde Park, and by splitting the rent and food expenses three ways, save a ton of money off of usual room and board costs.

But problems have arisen.

It turns out that next year, Cece's (whose official title is now more than simply "friend") living quarters are being relocated from Hyde Park to a place about 40 blocks north called South Loop. It's one of the most rapidly developing parts of Chicago--there are new buildings going up left and right, young professionals walking the streets, and a great view of the main Chicago museums, Soldier Field, and the lake. While this is sweet, Cece's parents are looking to have a place to stay when they come to town, which means that Kelsey and I had to find a place of our own.

So those few days after the last blog post were really just a barrage of apartment viewing sessions. One after the other, we saw places in Hyde Park... none of which really looked good. But. Long story short, we determined that if we found another roommate, we could screen them, and be able to find a nicer place than what we were looking at, and still save money compared to UChicago-sponsored housing. Also, the three of us really wanted to stay geographically close...

View Larger Map
With any luck, I will sleep here. This is the side of the building.

So Friday night, I sent in my application for rent to the owner of an awesome, two bedroom, two bathroom condo in South Loop. It's got a really awesome view, in-unit laundry (oh, yeah... I forgot to mention--first quarter, I had two pairs of jeans stolen out of my wash.), a decent price... and, it's literally in the building adjacent to Cece's. This means that we'll be able to learn to cook, relax, and all those other sweet things like we would've in Hyde Park... but in a much more awesome neighborhood in South Loop. And we'll be able to commute to school together by the Metra--only an 8 minute ride added to the usual walk from Broadview dormitory (where I live now). Cool.

Quite honestly--that apartment stuff sucked like, two full weeks out of my quarter. It was totally ridiculous. But we almost have it. We just need approval from the owner, and we'll be cool. Hallelujah.

Classes have been going really well, though. It feels like the apartment search put me behind, but I'm definitely catching up by working hard. That presentation in the last entry for Europe in the 50s turned out pretty well, and since then, I've written a paper and given another presentation in the same class. Intense, but rewarding. I've really learned a lot about both postwar Europe, and the art at the time. Each person it the class actually has a smaller assigned subtopic around which these papers and presentations are revolving... I've got the Milan Triennale, a design fair that takes place every three years in Italy. It's really cool to have an excuse to look through old magazines and design books form the 50s and 60s. I've got another paper due on Wednesday.

Physics and The Atmosphere have been awesome. My physics professor is probably my favorite yet--he comes in late almost every day, but he really hammers the material out when he starts class. It's a fast pace, but instead of leaving me behind, I feel that it's easier to get caught up in it, and just resolve to copying the notes after class for comprehension. Waves are so cool.
I'm really happy with my professor from The Atmosphere, too. He's a total nerd, and just has these perfect idiosyncrasies... The way he talks, writes... it combines with that "nerd" aura to make him really hilarious--even if he isn't trying to be funny. That, combined with really terribly interesting course material and his deep knowledge of the subject makes for a great class period every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

So--sailing. Last weekend, I took part in my very first regatta, at Northwestern University. It was amazing.
Basically, take your perceptions of every kind of sporting event (except for surfing, maybe), and turn them upside down. This gives you a sailing regatta.
The festivities start on Friday night with a g i a n t party. This time, the team drove up in a van on Saturday morning, but next time, in Minnesota, we'll be there early on Friday night, so I'll be able to report on what it's like. From what I've heard from the team, it's exactly what I don't like--loud, pounding music and waaaay too much alcohol. But there are sailors--which have turned out to be really cool people. I don't drink, and I don't do loud, pounding music--but it'll be cool to say that I know what a sailing party is.


Anyway--the team got there at 8.45am on Saturday morning... a little late, actually. But we were still the first people out on the beach. From what the captain of the UChicago sailing team explained to me, the regatta actually starts at varying times--it depends how sick the other teams are from the night before. So as teams gradually trickled from where they were staying down to the Northwestern boathouse, they weren't chastised for being late... they were served breakfast. Northwestern had set up a few portable electric skillets, where a couple members of their team were making omelets. And there was a huge spread of fruit salad, bagels and cream cheese, and orange juice. It was pretty sweet.
After everyone had had their fill, there was a "skipper's meeting", where the officials basically said what was up. The regatta would be delayed on account of a dense fog. Okay. Back to breakfast.

Amanda, Chris, Steve, Otto.

The regatta actually started at noon.
Sailing regattas are pretty cool. Each team is split up into two parts: an A fleet and a B fleet. All of the A fleet boats go out on the water first and race two races... usually a race around two cones set up a fair distance from one another. The A fleet then comes back in, and the B fleet goes out and does the same thing. While B fleet is on the water, A fleet gets to dine on some random snacks that the home team brings out. This continues... pretty much until race officials get tired, or teams don't want to race anymore.
On Saturday, only A team got to race, because it was too foggy for B team to race, but on Sunday we all got to race 6 races per fleet.
Chicago usually finishes about mid-fleet... and once again, we got 7th overall. I sailing in A fleet with the captain of the team. A fleet is usually reserved for the more advanced racers, but the captain wanted me to get experience. Honestly, he's an amazing skipper. We actually held our own, and finished 3rd and 4th in a couple races, out of 12 teams.

Here's a video that might be informative and interesting:

Most sailing videos seem to feature AC/DC as the soundtrack... but this one didn't. I'm not sure why.

Saturday night most of the team went home, but both the captain (Chris) and I wanted to stay in Evanston, and really get the most out of the weekend. So we cruised around Northwestern, had dinner at a BBQ place called Merle's, and then did some homework. Good stuff.

A note--usually, we'll launch off of docks and piers, so we don't really get too wet. But at Northwestern, we launched off of a beach. Given the ragged borrowed gear I was wearing (I actually put a hole in the wetsuit when I put it on on Sunday... it was really old.) when I got wet, I didn't get warm again. So I was sick with a fever and cold for the first few days this week. But I'm better now.

Okay. Skip to this weekend. Because I should get back to work.
Friday night.
I cannot wear flip flops. Yet. Cece and I went downtown and stopped at Old Navy, where we picked up 2 pairs for $5. I also bought a pair of white pants (?!?!?). We also went to Target, where I bought some socks. We then headed to Chinatown, where we dined at a place called Joy Yee's... they're known for their smoothies, but the food was pretty darn good, too. Pad Thai and Spicy String Beans. Bomb.

I went to the North Side solo, in search of a wetsuit. Windward Sports was the name of the place I went--I really cool skate/surf shop in Chicago! It had a great, laid-back atmosphere, with good music. I didn't end up buying a wetsuit there, because they didn't have what I wanted. And even though they could have ordered the item and had it delivered to the store, I said I'd get it online so I didn't have to make another trip to the store (it takes about an hour to get there). I expected this to be received with a "okay... bye.", but instead I got suggestions of sites where I could find it online.

Oh, yeah. I also got my hair butchered. I'm accepting donations to the "get Justin a better haircut" fund.

I miss Sherri (my usual hair person).

Saturday night.
Cece, Kelsey, and I try our hand at manicotti.
Someone's popcorn set off the smoke detector... so our manicotti noodles were in hot water for too long. Bad news. So we tried to make lasagna with them. Bad news. It ended up being reeeeeeeally greasy, mashy, bland-y, lame stuff.

But a learning experience.

And the bread we'd bought was awesome. Garlic bread, from Treasure Island. I'd even bought olive oil. We finished the loaf.

Oh, how I miss that hair. My right foot is always like that. Look, next time you see me.

That week with the apartments, Cece and I ran from Hyde Park to downtown, and had dinner at Friday's. It was spectacular. Farthest I've run, yet. 7 miles, maybe 7.5. But it was sort of slow.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Hmmm... the past week.

As it turns out, I was successfully admitted to the "Europe in the 50's: Art and Reconstruction" class that I was talking about. It's totally crazy. Basically, the title of the class is self-explanatory. After WWII, Europe was totally trashed. Well... not totally trashed. But basically, a sizable chunk of the population was homeless, cities were destroyed, the economy was in shambles, and a whole race had just been targeted for liquidation. Russia had it even worse off. The class is essentially a a look at the dialogue between history and art in Europe during this time period. It's ridiculously cool not only because of how cool the situation in Europe was (well, not cool, per se, but both interesting and mindboggling in its enormity) but because I have no idea about anything art-related.
The class is a major draw on time... We've got this giant book that we're reading about the history of postwar Europe, and it's going to be supplemented by smaller articles and books, not to mention a film (this weekend). Like, 150 pages of reading per class meeting... And I have a paper due already.... NEXT WEDNESDAY! Crazy.
But it's good. The subject matter is really cool, the professor is awesome and my classmates seem pretty cool. I'd say it's a prime way to fulfill my art requirement for graduation.
So for that class, I had to look through these tomes of art literature... in German, no less (I don't speak German) in order to find art for a presentation that I had to give today... it was only a five minute little thing and pretty informal, but still-we really jumped right in. Something sort of major due each week. Crazy.

You might remember that I had sailing on Friday and Saturday of last week...
This, too, was crazy.
Crazy awesome and amazing and everything else that you can really throw at it.
Basically, the sailing club, a group of maybe 16 kids, meets up at the Columbia Yacht Club (essentially in downtown Chicago) to go out sailing in these little two-man racing boats every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. They're pretty little craft-like, 14 ft long, 14 feet to the top of the mast, and can't really be taken out by two people alone onto open water. The main idea of the club (theoretically) is to goto these races on weekends called regattas and do well. But really, we just chill and enjoy sailing. We've got a coach, who does her best to keep us all alive as well as teach us techniques for controlling the boat as well as more efficient ways to race.... it's actually pretty complex, because of how many variables there are. Shifting wind, sporadic wind, other boats serving as obstacles, and the like are all major factors in how one races.
In each boat there are, as mentioned, two men (or women. or man and woman.). One of these guys is called the "skipper"... they steer the boat and control the main sail. The "crew" is the other due. His or her job is to fly the little sail, called the "jib", and keep the boat as flat as possible (it is usually in this position that the boat travels fastest). Keeping the boat flat means shifting his or her weight smoothly and effectively so as to counter the way the wind in the sail might make the boat lean or the way the weight of the skipper might make the boat list. I was crew on Friday and Saturday (we couldn't really go out on Friday due to lack of wind, but Saturday was cool), and can say that I totally totally am enamored with it.
This weekend we won't have practice on Saturday because we're hosting a regatta, but next weekend, we're going to Northwestern University for a regatta. I didn't think that I'd be experienced enough to race in the regatta, but I just received word from the guy who acts as lead sailor that he'd like for me to crew for him! He said that it'd probably be all right, because I'm fairly athletic and pretty agile. I'm stoked.
Oh, yeah. All the people in this club are seriously cool, laid-back people. I couldn't ask for a better club composition.

Other news...
One of my friends and I are searching for an apartment for next year. This is rather entertaining.
Basically, housing and dining through the university costs an arm and a leg. On our own, we might get it to cost only a leg. Or maybe an arm. And we'd be able to cook for ourselves. In any case, it makes total sense, and it's pretty sweet.

Oh. I had to buy sunglasses for sailing, because the sun is... sunny. And I already have a pair of good shades (that look decent on me) at home, so I didn't want to spend that arm and leg that are already overextended for housing and dining this year. Hence, Walgreens called my name. And Cece's. More on that, next. The shades:

$10. Walgreens. Downtown. "Blublocker: As seen on TV".

But wait! Downtown Walgreens!?!
Yeah-Cece had left her iPod at her aunt and uncle's from staying there over break, so her and I took a crazy (there it is, again) Thursday trip to pick it up. They live on the edge of a cool neighborhood called Lincoln Park on the north side of Chicago... Nice houses (though sort of close together) and good people. It's also near DePaul University.
The north side has a totally different feel from the south side of Chicago-it feels less dangerous, more friendly, and... I don't know... just sort of better. But whatever. I'm warming up to the south side. As much as I can, I mean.

This past week was also a major "let's meet Cece's family" event.
Her father came up to visit, and took both of us out to eat at a cool restaurant in the Lincoln Park neighborhood called "Boka". It touted itself as being... American? Contemporary American. It was really seriously good. I won't go into the four courses. But I'll say that it was good. For dessert I had these awesome sesame macaroon bits... probably one of the best desserts I've ever had in a restaurant.
Mr. Edgar Yu is a cool guy... pretty bad at making conversation, but after maybe 1/3 of the total sitting time, we'd relaxed a bit and had some cool conversations-mostly about Cece's sweeet new apartment in South loop (about 40 blocks north of Hyde Park).

Cece's Aunt and Uncle also came down from Michigan to visit, saying as their nine year old son was on a break from school. Tito (Uncle) John, Tita (Aunt) Pets (Annabelle) and their son Billy (Billy) were pretty cool. John is an entomologist at the University of Michigan and Tita Pets also does something at UMichigan... I'm pretty sure it involves viruses of the biological sort. They're all outdoorsy people who enjoy fishing, hiking, hunting, and other outdoor things on their weekends and evenings... Perhaps sometime we'll take a visit.
It was sort of funny-they looked so out of place in the city. But Tito John admitted it. And it was cool. And I look forward to meeting them again.

OH. On that outing, we ate at Weber Grill.... a mid-range restaurant in downtown Chicago that's basically a huge, contemporary, barbecue. It was awesome. Smelled like a summer Aschenbener family gathering. I ate half a chicken. No lie.

It was crazy.

Okay. Finally. I'm doing a little experiment on myself. You all pretty much know that I only ate fish.
But the oceans are in terrible shape. So I'm not eating it anymore....

But I am eating chicken. Like... lots of it. And I used to eat fish sparingly.

Basically, last quarter, I didn't eat meat and ate a ton of tofu and soy. And worked out. Oh yeah. I didn't tell any of you. I gained like, 6-8 pounds of lean mass last quarter. Good stuff.

This quarter, I want to do the same workout schedule... but eat chicken.

It'll be battle a of the proteins.

Epic, I know.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Right before we left for break, Cece discovered the English graduate student lounge... It's this tower that extends two floors out of the top of one of the buildings on the main quadrangle. The first floor of the tower comes with free tea and cookies (no lie!), but only half of the octagonal room's walls are covered in windows. The second floor, while rather colder and less sating, has a full, 360 degree view of the land around the building... even cooler is that from the second story is roof access to the top of the tower-a cool little, 100 square foot octagonal patch on top of the tower. I'm pretty excited about this part of the tower, for when summer weather rolls around. I'm writing this blog from a chair on the second story of this tower.

Spring break was really, truly awesome.... but I think that I'm going to have to do this backwards in order to remember everything that has happened. Soooooooo starting with today and yesterday:

In about half an hour, I have to head out and make my way over to the athletic center's swimming pool for a swim test.
What? Swim test? But you already did that!
Not exactly.... I'm joining sailing club this quarter! I'm really really excited about this, because the more I think about sailing, the more beautiful it gets. I've been a fan of water and boats for as long as I can remember, and it's even cooler to be able to relax on the water without using any energy to power an engine. On the bus ride back to Chicago, I read an article on the physics of sailing, and this put me even further into a fascination with the pastime-the physics are really truly beautiful, and often counterintuitive... there's actually a lot of Bernoulli's Principle (the same laws that govern how we make airplane wings so that they can provide lift... It's especially strange, too, for me to be calling a display of physics "beautiful", because I seem to be awestruck far less often than the average physicist when it comes to seeing beauty in the laws of nature. Whatever the case-ask me about these physics, sometime! They're really, terribly amazing.
Anyway-sailing club. We'll probably have practice three times a week-Monday and Thursday from 3.30pm to 7.00pm, and Saturday from 12 to 4pm. I'll keep you posted... and post pictures, as soon as I can.

The start of a new quarter means new classes! And my classes, while not all finalized, are shaping up to be really quite exciting.

Physics 14300-This is just a continuation of the yearlong honors physics course that I've been taking for the past two quarters. The topic this quarter is "Waves". Which is pretty darn vague, because there are so many kinds of waves. I'm pretty sure that we're starting with mechanical waves, followed closely by electromagnetic waves and then other cool stuff about which I know ridiculously little. Of note, on the first day of class the instructor (a really funny guy named Woowon Kang) said that we'd be working extensively with Differential and Partial Differential equations.... I have never taken a course on this relatively advanced (notice the use of "relatively".... relative to what I know already) mathematics technique of which I know next to nothing. Sooooo I'll be learning this technique as we go from whatever I can get my hands on. Wish me luck.

Geos 13300-Long story short, the human race in in deep trouble. Long story short, if we want to survive, we have a lot of work to do to change the current course of the earth's climate. The evidence is irrefutable that humankind has had a major effect on the climate track of the planet... I completely agree with this. But even for the people who disagree with the evidence and say that global warming is not happening---if we do not do something, and let the earth simply slip into the next phase whatever ostensibly "natural" cycle it's going through, a bunch of people (...understatement) will lose their homes to global flooding. This includes even my grandparents' vacation home in Florida. I mean, seriously.
Anyway-I think that by combining what I will know about physics with a deep knowledge of the environment, I can have both a major and positive effect on the situation. This is step one. Wish us all luck.

Sosc 14300-Mind, Part III. Oh. that's another thing. I'm going to be working in a Biopsychology Lab this quarter, doing experiments on Siberian Hamsters! Pretty sweeeeeet.
"But... you're pretty close to being a vegetarian! How could you do something like that? Don't you kill the hamsters, and put them through a hard life?"
Answer-Yes. But this will save human lives, and make many human lives more tolerable. If I were going to be working at a major shampoo or body wash or cosmetic corporation, then you'd have a major right to yell at me... the animal testing there isn't saving any lives.
Oh. but Mind III. Pretty excited about this. It's an extension of the yearlong psychology sequence I've been taking. Good stuff.

Art ?????-Yes, kids. I have to take an art class. But it's okay, because I think that it'll turn out to be pretty cool. The only obstacle at this point is getting in... Due to a misunderstanding, I missed the early registration period for classes, and now I have to fight with fourth-years to get into good classes. I'm looking at "Europe in the 50's-Art and Reconstruction"... if that fails, it'll be "Global Baroque". I'm really hoping for Europe in the 50's.

Spring break. And ten minutes until I need to leave...
Okay. Spring break in ten minutes:

1-The rest of my break will not make any sense unless I say this now: Due to some really fortunate circumstances, fine taste, and weather patterns in Africa (not so much this last one), my family is going to be moving to an awesome little place about twentyfive minutes southeast of Strongsville-Richfield Township. We found a really cool house stuck right in the middle of a forest (N O J O K E, here. I'll post pictures.), the price was right, and the location was amazing (five minutes from where Mum and Norman work). More on this later.

2-Easter festivities! Quite a good time. Full of family, which is always good. I put on some good ol' adipose tissue. Winter fuel. Bring it on.

3-Lunches and dinners with all of my favorite people... honestly, I had an amazing time. Relaxing and talking with Padetha and Win (current friend and former mentor from a couple of NASA summers and his wife) (quite honestly one of my favorite parts of every break), chilling with Jon and Ashwin and Jon (Trattoria on the Hill in Little Italy-Cleveland's Little Italy is.... Little. And pretty rusty.) (and a surprise Rochelle sighting and interaction), Aunt Liz (soup, salad, breadsticks at Olive Garden... and a waitress whose day could've been better [honestly. split coffee isn't anything to be worried about]), kickin' it with Bill and Dinah (veterinary school sounds difficult. and being a laywer is apparently a good way to get a sweet website), rocking out with Dad and Stayce (hardcore gratuity for the Clif bars), catching up with Uncle Ray and Aunt Debbie (we are cartographers), and finally, some good times with Grandma (whose driveway we shoveled... most of the calories came from this house. but they were sooo welcome).

4-Grade discovery. I'm happy about my grades from this past quarter. Hallelujah.

5-Yep. And pretty much every waking moment that was not detailed here was spent on preparing for the move... Packing, cleaning, buying new furniture, setting up the new home network (using an Apple Airport Express-highly recommended. Easy, and now we have wireless printing (!))... we even took a huge day trip to Ikea (Swedish everything (mainly furniture) store with a location in Pittsburgh). Well.... the trip was half for the heck of it, because Ikea's cool, and half because we needed stuff.

So. Or, to keep with what is appearing to be the theme of the day, SooOooOOooOOOOoOooooooo....
To those of you who read this blog to learn about education in Chicago, or the city of Chicago-I'm sorry. This was pretty mundane for you. But fear not! And read more! The coming weeks are sure to be full of new and exciting adventures! I promise! Even this weekend, I will be meeting /new people/... Cece's father and her Aunt/Uncle/Cousin who live in Michigan. I'll be sure to post another mug shot.

If you're lucky.

Oh. and I saw these when I was walking to class, one day:

Happy Spring. And thanks for reading.