Justin's Blog

Monday, September 29, 2008

The customary three weeks has elapsed....

The start of the school year means the start of more frequent updates... so that I don't have to go on these binge updates... which are probably far more boring, and far less of a time-waster than the more frequent updates. And who doesn't welcome diversions, especially after nonstop hours of work?

Norwalk Raceway Park
Jason to school
Glass Menagerie with A. Liz
Visit to Jason at OSU
Me to school

Savannah, GA
Fourish, maybe fiveish days after I came back from Houston, I immediately left for Savannah, GA to visit Cece and her mum. I'd pretty much been waiting for this trip since May of the school year. And because it was during the school year that the trip was planned, we were all (our group of travelers) able to coordinate so that Niamhbaby was also in Savannah for at least part of the time that I was. Which was sweet.

We got Savannah, GA drowning out the window side.

Two words (well... maybe three) can summarize my first impressions of Savannah:
Effortlessly beautiful.
A short distance away from the center of the city (but still within the city limits) lies scenery in the abundance of rural America scenery (wheat, corn, soybean fields). But instead of cultivated fields, there are only marshes as far as the eye can see. I was taken aback more than once on my visit by how amazing it was.

Yeah, and I won't deny that the backseat of Cece's mum's Benz CLK convertible helps. I've actually fallen for a car. Not only is it the most comfortable machine I've ever found myself in, but its features make it seem less mechanistic than it is human. When entering the backseat, the front seats not only fold forward and slide, but the car actually lifts them up and forward to allow easier passage for the backseat passengers. Once the front seat passengers are seated and ready to cruise, the car actually offers them the seatbelts by pushing what can only be equated to hands from the seatbelt recesses. You've got to see it. Oh, dear. And the ride, and the engine.... Okay. I'm done.

Day one. Straight outta the airport, straight to the beach. The not-so-aptly named "Redneck Riviera", two or three miles from Cece's mum's house, is right in the middle of the aforementioned scenery. Buuut it's swimmable. Highlights? Four dolphins cruising along, not 20 feet away from us. Sweet wooden poles sticking out of the water, perfect for climbing, considering the danger, and then jumping. Sushi... Once finished, the three of us (Niamh, Cece, and myself) headed to downtown for a shared meal at Southern-cooking queen Paula Deen (Steven McQueen?)'s restaurant. A ghost tour of downtown Savannah rounded off the evening. Aaaand the ghost tour really wasn't too lame. It was more of a history excursion with a ghost-story hue.

Day two. My first visit to the Atlantic at Tyndall Beach. Then, another excursion downtown for ice cream before taking Niamh to the airport in Edgar, the elderly E Class. At this point, Cece and I are on our own. Dinner and a failed attempt (the movie wouldn't download because the wifi was acting up) at watching the Maltese Falcon took care of the rest of the day.

Cece thought that this was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

This bird is a fan of sliced bread. Which is why he's on the umbrella's head. As for me?: "No thanks, I'd rather eat radial tire tread."

Day three. Cece and I take Edgar out to Hilton Head Island, about an hour northeast of Savannah. Well... we did stop at an outlet mall on the way, but it left us... bored. Dinner at Hilton Head was at a restaurant called Marley's, which I think I'd heard of or seen on some shirt somewhere. Tasty stuff, and it was the early diner menu... so $14 for chowdah, entrée, bavanade.

I get embarrassed when my hairline shows... like in this photo. But I've heard that it's an okay photo... so I'm posting it.

Set the scene... a dark and stormy Hilton Head Isle.

Day four. Dipset.

Norwalk Raceway Park.... excuse me.... Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park.
Being out of state all summer obviously makes it difficult to spend time with even favorite relatives. So it was time to spend quality time with Dad and Uncle Ray. And what a better way than by watching cars fly down a quarter mile in 10 seconds? We spent an awesome day at the track checking out some vintage drag racing, eating a quart of ice cream each for 99 cents (no, really! It was such a deal.) and chilling with some dineables provided by the one and only Aunt Debbie. Amazing day, and certainly good for some daydreams.

Note the sandwich in my other hand (not pictured).

Jason Madison

Like Billy Madison.... but not. Get it?
So over the past two weeks, I've been down to (The) Ohio State University twice. First, Mum, Norman, and I dropped Jason off at school and set up his room. That was fun. Then about a week ago, my good friend Jon Krause and I cruised down to visit and chill with Andy and Ossama (two more good friends). Definitely good.

The Glass Menagerie
I may have recently mentioned the DNC outing with Jason and Aunt Liz... I'm hoping that I did, considering how awesome it was. I'm almost sure that I did.

Well, Aunt Liz invited me out for a follow up session: a viewing of my first professional production, The Glass Menagerie. I'll just say that however tragical the play was intended to be, it was all a comedy for me. I left the theatre completely impressed not only with the production, but with how much I genuinely enjoyed the playgoing experience. Before most people arrived at the theatre, there was "preproduction" show. Basically, one of the actors came out and talked with the audience for a bit, telling us about Tennessee Williams' life and influences... it was really interesting, and extra-helpful, especially for an amateur viewer. Highly recommended.

Ah, yes. My ticket, market value $49, was only $10. Because I'm a student. Lovely.

And now.
I'm at the University of Chicago.

And there's lots of story to be told there. Happy ending.
Pictures and details coming soon.

But a few details for the moment: classes.

Modern Physics.... quantum mechanics, etc. I'll fill you in as I go.
Lecture MWF 11.30am-12.20pm
Discussion Tues 4.30-5.20pm
Lab Wed 5.30-9.20pm

Biological Diversity.... Main question: How did all this awesome alive stuff on earth get to be this way? Totally amazing professor.
Lecture MWF 9.30-10.20am
Lab Fri 1.30-4.20pm

Strange organism. Cousin of fungi.

Mathematical Methods for Physicists... essentially a framework for mathematical physics... but to me, it's math for the physicists who don't like pure math.
Lecture MWF 10.30-11.20am
Discussion M 4.30-5.20pm

Climate Dynamics of the Earth and Other Planets.... climate modeling. stoked.
Lecture MW 1.30-2.50pm
Lab sometime...

Until next time...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


It's what's going on right now.
Jason and I are currently sitting in the Detroit airport (really sweet. highly recommend choosing this place for a layover over most places) at gate B3. It's raining, holding up our flight, delaying our return flight from a visit to the host of relatives in Houston...

The last time I updated was August 17th... right at the tail end of the internship, six days before my return to Cleveland. I returned about a week prior from a visit to Cece in Chicago, and I was looking at planning the end of the REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates).

August 20th.
Poster session wrapping up the summer of research at the University of Washington. Basically a big pow wow where all the students who conducted research at the University of Washington get together, put posters on easels, and alternate between walking around inquiring and explaining their research. Fairly successful... got to talk to some cool people and listen to some sweet ideas.

Strange man with my poster.

The sweetest one I heard was of a new concept for energy use. Research is being done on harvesting heat from relatively small systems, making energy usage more efficient. The details are really really cool, but the important part is that we can harvest energy from waste heat and feed it back into the device.

August 21st.
Sweet sort of wrap-up dinner with rest of interns.
Had my first Korean food.... which was interesting. Doused it in hot sauce.
And then went out for an unusually conversive bubble smoothie bit. I think that I mentioned bubble tea/smoothies back on in the entries.... but for those who don't know, bubble smoothies are basically smoothies with balls of tapioca called Boba. They've got a strange gel-ly consistency and are sort of chewy.... you've got to try it.
Unusually conversive because it was pretty much a "what do you think about me" session. Long story short, people generally like each other, and I am still strange. But not creepy.

August 22nd.
Last day.
Get bike packed by local bike shop. Regret that I can't buy them alcohol, after they squeezed me in last minute (ahead of a three week waiting list).

August 23rd.
Glory glory hallelujah.
Fly back home after pickup by rideshare van.
Be amazed by the landscape/waterscape at the new house.... totally spectacular. Especially because I enter at night. Looks like it's straight out of some book on home and landscape design. The planters guarding the front door totally make the front of the house.

There's a kitchen inside. We keep the cars in the garage.

August 24th.
Bill Goldstein shows that he knows how to have a good time, and we unite for the annual summer concert at Blossom Music Center. I realize that while I may not be a major fan of most of Bernstein's music, he wrote some beautiful ballet pieces, and West Side Story pretty sweet. "Somewhere" deserves all the praise it receives.

Chucks on the lawn. You can't see... but they're low-tops.

August 25th.
Birthday party for awesome dude David, hosted at Case in front of a dormitory by good friend Rochelle.
Ashwin shows up (totally premeditated) and we schmooze for awhile.
People at Case have totally crazy schedules full of ridiculous nine hour days and the like. Good luck to all you Case kids. Keep on trucking.

August 27th.
After having planned it for years (literally), Jason, Aunt Liz, and myself finally go out with the intention to have dinner and see a movie. I take them to Aladdin's... a Lebanese American place near the theatre. They totally reject it. I still like it.
Aaand instead of a movie, we end up returning to Aunt Liz's apartment and watching the Democratic National Convention. Which turns out to be really sweet, with some good speeches and surprises.
The "Night Out with Aunt Liz" was definitely worth the wait.

August 28th.
Finally, Padetha (former NASA mentor, current friend and guide), his son Lynn, and I have a coincidence of an open night, and are able to have dinner together. The meal is spectacular (as usual) and the usual five courses long... all cooked by Padetha. One of Lynn's friends from high school/Ohio State is able to come, and conversation is thereby enriched, Sweet stuff.

August 29th.
Return home from Padetha's at 2am, after having watched the Bourne Supremacy with Lynn and friend.
Leave for Texas at 1.25pm from Akron Canton Airport.

NOTE: Akron Canton Airport is a funny place.... probably the most stand-out quality of the whole compound is how not outstanding it manages to be. In this outstanding mediocrity it makes its mark... no Max and Erma's or Friday's.... but an Arby's accompanied by a lone Great Lakes Brewing Company bar. The gates aren't the cool combination of alphanumerics, but simply numbered. Why? Well... there aren't enough gates to necessitate leaving one's own two hands in counting them. Jason and I left from Gate 7.... and quite literally walked onto the plane, using the steps instead of the usual jetway.

August 30th-September 3rd.
Houston, TX.
Houston proved once again to be a really really great place to visit. I hadn't been there in a little over a year, but it seemed like I'd left just yesterday... even with the changes that have taken place.

First off, Aunt Cathy is seven months with child.... and looks it. It's really pretty sweet. BUT. She isn't showing any of the normal "pregnant woman" symptoms that I often hear spoken with dread. I looked everywhere in their halfway-remodeled home (it looks crazy.... stuff is everywhere) but couldn't find any raging hormones, random food binges, or animosity towards anyone. I'm going to chalk this up to Michael, who is even more amazing than when I saw him in late May/early June. Cathy's always laughing and smiling... the new kid could not be arriving in a better home. Good luck on naming.

Michael, with bowl-ling. (Like duckling.... but not)

Second. The Vozars are largely the same. Which is a good thing. The only thing in that household that might have changed is Kim's William, who has gotten way more talkative over the past year.... which means that I really got to meet him for the first time this year. He's a great dude with musical taste, and definitely gets along well with the Vozars. A+.

Houston, in summary, was awesome. Jason and I had never spent as much time with the duo of Cathy and Michael as we did this past week... and I think that the comments two paragraphs ago explain my impressions fairly well. From the annual Grandma-provided Mexican meal to the newer concept of sushi (Jason actually tried some. Good job.) to the (horrendous) Reno 911: Miami to the movie tavern plus "Death Race" (it's a movie) experience, days were full.

(Extra note: WestFest. The largest gathering of white people south of the Mason Dixon line.... basically a Czech heritage festival. Totally crazy (read as: extra mellow) with lots of polka and tons of sauerkraut and sausage. I think that the only thing one needs to be Czech is a strange affinity for polka. And strangely enough, I think I have that affinity. For maybe 1/2 hour.)

Translation: "Enter at own risk: Extreme whiteness beyond this point"

Not pictured: Sign with message: "We warned you about the whiteness"


Thanks a lot, Houston. I walk away with extra belly fat, seven mosquito bites, and a new blog entry.

September 3rd (stage two... after the flights).
While Houston may have been great, the return home (escorted by Norman) was (understatement, here) welcome. You all know that I've spent all my time away from home these days... returning is always so great. I realized after walking in the door how much of an oasis this place is. The location is so good, the house is second to none... In every sense of the word, the house is an oasis.

Two pounds of fruit later, after some yogurt, granola, and figs, here I am.

This is not me. It's the local entertainment: Saydee.

Next week:
Savannah, GA.