Justin's Blog

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Week Two? Or Three.

I'm having trouble starting out this entry...
Then again.. it's not like I never have a perfectly fluid start.

Or body.

Or conclusion.

Last week when we left off, I was stranded at Pike Place Market (not really) in a café called "Local Color". After I finished writing that entry and had submitted it, I had to make the decision of what do to for the rest of my day. I figured that the entirety of my week had been spent getting acclimated and wound up (a.k.a. lost on campus, lost in Seattle, etc.)... and that it wouldn't hurt to just call it a day, and chalk the rest of the evening up to de-stressing. So it was decided.

So after the café, I said "Hmm. Where do I want to have dinner? The dining hall is finally open, so I could go back and have dinner at school... but that would mean cutting my "day off" short. Long story short, I said, "When is the next time that I'll be able to justify having dinner out of the dining hall, and when will I actually have the chance to get off campus?". So I had a meal out. And with some hesitance, I made it a nice meal out.

Yours truly, now complete with white shirt and cuffed cords.

It was so nice, in fact, that I felt bad walking into the restaurant in my stained white t-shirt and cuffed corduroys. So between my decision time and 5.15pm, the time for my reservation for one (sad, I know.) I went to the Gap and got a polo off the sale rack. I needed one anyway. I think all of my polos are borrowed from Jason. I don't wear them much, anyway, so it's really fine.

Building... Seattle, not Hong Kong.

The meal was pretty good.... mashed potatoes, duck, and asparagus (that's the short story). I had some sort of dessert, too... it had the texture of pecan pie, but instead of the pecan filling, it had some sort of filling made with... "olde scotch"? I don't really remember what the waiter called it. I hadn't ever had it before, though. The whole shebang was severely lacking in the "company" dept., and not worth as much as I paid.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Space Needle... this is it. Built in the 1962 World's Fair. And still kickin'.

Sooo... I was not really correct with my reasoning about "the last time with being in a dining hall"... I remembered during the meal that I was scheduled to have dinner with the stepfather of my longest-running extrafamilial friend, Jon Krause. His stepfather, Don, is sort of one of IBM's nomads, running around to different headquarters and doing awesome work... he's been flying between Cleveland and Seattle for a few weeks now (home on the weekends, Seattle hotel during the week)---a pretty sweet coincidence with my work.

Some guy.... crashed. I think that this may have been more serious than I took it at the time.

Anyway--the meal was nothing short of spectacular, both in conversation and actual dining. And the view. By his choice, we had dinner in the restaurant at the very top of the Space Needle... one of the sweetest of Seattle attractions. The restaurant is spectacular. Amazing food. I had tuna (rare) with such a good peppercorn crust, wasabi mashed potatoes, some sort of strawberry-rhubarb compote... Man.... it was amazing. Dessert was the house tiramisu. Even more amazing, the restaurant rotates! It makes one revolution every 46 minutes, so Mr. Rohde and I got to spin around almost 3 times throughout the meal.... And the conversation was great, too... just stuff about life, liberty, happiness... Definitely one of my best times here yet. I've got a picture, too, from the meal. Probably one of the worst taken, worst posed, most overpriced photos that either myself or Mr. Rohde have been in to date.

Top of the Needle to you.

Hmm... during the week, I did work for both Chicago and for Washington... stepping up work by like, 12fold for Washington midweek. It's so much fun. Right now I'm trying to get this XYZ stage to move in more than one direction at once..... ask me about it next time you see me. It's awesome fun. And the Chicago project is nothing short of cool, either... I'm currently doing a bunch of research on these things called Integrated Assessment Models, which merge models of the earth's climate and economies. Bomb stuff. Mmmm. and now, I've got a colleague! Sarah, a second year at Chicago, is employed as my researcher's lab manager, but is doing work on this project... because I'd never be able to get it done on my own. We've also got a law student working with us.

This is my friend, Seattle... Seattle, this is Dinah Andersen. I'm sure you'll get along. Just remember that players change, and it'll be fine.

So the week was awesome, and full of work and other good stuff, like hourlong bike rides for fun and runs to a wacky place called Fremont.

And by the end of the week, I was spent.

Friday night... Wall-E. I've never actually found a movie to be adorable based on previews (I know... strange word to hear Justin say...) but this one had me. Friday night confirmed that. And I'll probably see it when it comes out on home video, this time devoid of the giant chorus of "Awwwwwww" coming from the seats around. I saw it with my co-interns. Good time. And if you're ever in Seattle, Emerald City Smoothies is nothing in comparison to Jamba Juice. Don't even try.

Hmm. Saturday was yesterday. Let's see.... I ran in the morning... and then.... oh. I did a lot of work for Chicago. At night, I went into the lab and made a minor breakthrough in getting the stage to work. I had been calling the different axes the incorrect names in my coding (the directions I give the stage), and I finally found the correct names. But as soon as I could get that working, I tried manually configuring it by using the instruction manual so that we could pull more work out of it. It's what the manual told me to do!!!

It started making crying noises... I've never really "shushed" much... probably a dog or two.... maaaaaaaaybe a human (once.).... but I really strangely naturally and humanly started talking to the machine, "shushing" it and telling it that it'd be okay. Hmm. Strange thought to make me smile, but the way I reacted was just so funny.

I got the stage to work again... no worries, kids. But tomorrow---I'll be on it again.

TODAY! I said "Ha!" and that was that--I took the #75 bus to the beach at Warren G. Magnuson Beach. No sand there. On top of that, I had to walk around lost for like, 1/2 hour when I got dropped off by the driver in the wrong half of the park. Totally lost.

The hot setup.

But it ended up fine. I wore hardcore sunscreen and as a result am now neither sunburnt nor tan.

I got back... and had some ice cream.

And here I am... sitting outside the Starbucks (opens at 4am, closes weeknights at 1am and Friday and Saturday at 2am) typing an entry to all you guys. There's a barista walking around giving samples.

Hmmm. A final thought:

10 things from this week that I haven't yet mentioned.

1-Midweek the dormitory was invaded by camps. Football. Lacrosse. Cheerleading. Golf. Basketball. So loud. Soooooo messy. And like, 12 years old. Crazy. As a result, I've been spending my evenings working for Chicago in a Barnes and Noble with free wifi. B&N cards welcome--I buy iced tea, they let me use wifi.

Did I mention that I have not yet met Bill Gates?

2-But. I have become friends with a bunch of the kids' clubs. There was a leadership camp that stayed this week of which I made like, 4 new friends... They're all going to college next year, and are really cool kids. I also made some friends in a girls golf camp of all like, 15 year olds. They were funny.

Main Campus, Pre Wall-E. Mt. Ranier.

3-So the dormitory isn't as eerily empty anymore. The rest of my hallway is full of college kids from Hong Kong who are here to learn English for the summer. They, like me, are here for 10 weeks, and are really pretty awesome. I've made friends with some of them, too.

4-The funniest group yet is this group of like, 200 or 250 kids from China.... so young and so crazy. Like, 12 years old. They travel in packs of like, 8... and when one opens the door by swiping their card, they all go "OOAHOAOOAOAOOOO!!!" in mock amazement. It's so awesome.

5-The lame barista with samples ran out, and therefore skipped me. Lame. So lame.

I found this at 3rd and Stewart downtown... I don't know what it means.

6-One of my co-interns, my age, has both a full back tattoo and a 31 year old boyfriend. Good job.

7-I've got to stop eating like, 3 bowls of cereal with every meal. Definitely cramps my style.

Oh no!
Spotted en route to beach, after I had found my way.

8-Party happening here 4th of July. Supposedly last year fireworks got thrown off the roof... I accidentally typed Firefox the first time. That would be realistic in some parts...

9-Oh, disgusting. I now have Windows XP running on my computer.

Windows... this is running on my computer, now. Actually, this was taken at Pike Place.

10-I've consumed a ton of water today. Sometimes I amaze even myself.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


So right now I'm sitting in a cafe at Pike Place Market called "Local Color"... It showcases art of local artists, is a pretty good temperature, and sounds like a slow song at the high school jazz band concert. A pretty good atmosphere. And I've got a fan blowing around right next to me. Anyway, they've got a little sitting area in the back complete with Ikea couches and chairs and tables (photo)... a lot of coffee places here have things like this. More on that, later.

Does this look Local Color-ful to you?

It's rather comfortable.

I decided to take the day off because the past week has been just crazy. Monday was all about getting acquainted with the co-students, etc, and then a night on the town with mum... which could've gone better, but was still good. We ended up having a great meal at a place called the Winslow Way Cafe... and I had my first "amaretto" something or other. A sweet dessert that had a texture like... jello pudding. Ish. huh.

Birds on pole. Sighted near Pike Place.

Monday and Tuesday and much of Wednesday were totally ridiculous for me. I got lost on campus more times than you can count on two hands, discovered that none of the campus dining places were open until Monday (except for a convenience store named "etc." and a Subway), and a bunch more stressful stuff. I also started working more diligently on the Chicago internship work... which is really sweet, but taxing, because I'm really formulating what I need to do on my own.

This is rather cool...
1-Shrink-wrapped building (noticed first by mum). We think they do this to keep the rain and moisture out.... which is ever present (except for the summer months).
2-Fireboat. Good stuff.
3-Notice the bridges in the background... all the highway. Sweet. Tri-level traffic. Even more than Chicago's bi-level Wacker Street.

Wednesday was also a pretty cool day because I took a trip to the East side of town (closer to all of you!) and bought meself a pretty sweet bike. (I think Norah Jones came on the speakers.... I was into Norah Jones for a bit in fall quarter---fact.) Wait until the end of the story. There's irony. So I looked online far before I got to Seattle where I could buy a used bike at a bike co-op... They're basically these cool places to which people donate bikes, and volunteers come in, learn to fix bikes, and in return fix bikes that the co-op sells to keep in business. I'm not sure about bikes yet, and I'm just using it for commuting around this beast of a campus... and I'm going to sell it at the end of the summer, so why do I need a new, expensive supercool bike? I've been meaning to go to Working Bikes in Chicago to buy a bike, but by the end of the year, it just wasn't worth it. Anyway. I took the bus for like, an hour, to get there, and eventually found myself in Columbia City.... really just a strange, really free-thinking town to the East or Southeast of Seattle.

This is my mum, on a ferry, headed for Bainbridge Island.

Long story short, an hour and a half later, I had a road bike from the early 1980's by my side and a bunch more accessories to make riding safe. e.g. helmet and lights for front and back. It's sweet.

I decided to take the focus off of work today, and lay it all on exploration and having fun because of my crazy week. And it's paying off. I'm pretty relaxed and just enjoying this great breeze from the fan and the atmosphere. Which seems now to be fairly Barry White-centric...... Oh well. It could be worse. I had lunch at this place in the market called "Three Girls". It's basically run by a bunch of friendly goth/hippies. Needless to say, I enjoyed eating my meatloaf sandwich at the bar (suggested by the guy serving me... apparently it was written up in National Geographic as being a bomb sandwich). I also got me a San Pellegrino Limonata as homage to Cathy and Michael... The drinks are fairly common here... they come in this can with a foil cover. It's sort of cool.

Okay. Seattle atmosphere? Unbelievable. People here are more friendly than anything.
Like... we got to the airport and were signing up for the rideshare van to the hotel... and first, the person behind the desk was like, really terribly helpful... and then the person in the van actually offered us and our co-passenger bottled water, saying that he knew how taxing long plane rides could be.

So I chalked those happenings up to a driver who wanted a good tip, and an anomaly behind a desk.
But no.

On Tuesday and Wednesday after ridiculous days, I just wanted to chill. So I went to this place next to the university called "University Village". It's basically a more extensive Crocker Park or Legacy Village... it's pretty sweet. Anyway. They've got two Starbucks there--one on the north side of the center, and one on the south. The south side shop is open every until 1am and weekends until 2am. So I basically bought an iced tea (friendly people behind the counter, asking how my day was) and chilled, doing work. I also caved and bought 24 hours worth of wifi (useable at any Starbucks or T-Mobile hotspot) for $10.

So I was syncing my phone with my computer and videochatting with Cece... and this guy next to me just leans over, and says "What're you doing with your phone? Uploading music, or something?". We ended up talking--him, his wife, and I--for like, 15 minutes about technology, my research positions, and the videochat. I had to leave, because I was running out of laptop battery... and Cece was on the videochat the whole time.

So then I switch positions in the store to a place with a power outlet. Lo and behold, it happens again. A guy hanging some of his artwork in the store asks what I think of the photographs, and then asks me to help him hang one.

Aaaaand then the day after, a woman interrupts the videochat asking whether she should get the glossy or matte screen for her new Macbook Pro.

Aaaaaaaand that stuff happens all the time. It's pretty sweet.

Probably the worst picture I've ever posted:

The city is unlike anything I've ever seen... I've heard it likened to a safer San Francisco--and I can see why. There are so many hills, and the scenery is really just beautiful. It may rain here 3/4 of the year (ooh. Signed, Sealed, Delivered just came on the speakers. Decent...) but it does wonders for the place. It's just overflowing with vegetation. And in addition to the cool hills and vegetation, there's a constant vista... mountains to the east, mountains to the west.... I know it's a trek, and will cost an arm and a leg, but all of you have got to get out here sometime.

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.