Thursday, August 28, 2008

new semester

so the first week of the new semester is almost over and I have already had way more coffee than I was expecting. oh well. I have now officially been in Arizona for four years and it's starting to sink in just how long that is. although parts of it have gone quickly, others have dragged on and on. hopefully I will have only two (maybe three) more years, so my goal of finishing before I turn 30 might actually happen (keep your fingers crossed).
this semester I am taking four classes. that's right, four. I know it's a horrible idea, but it just has to be this way. one of them is actually not a class so much as teaching experience, but it still gets factored into my already packed schedule. I am also still doing 20 hours of research each week and our new project is super exciting. we are developing a fun video game to teach students introductory physics concepts (mostly force and motion ideas). hopefully we can get some programmers soon so I can start collecting data by next semester (again, keep your fingers crossed).

in non-school news, I went to Seattle last weekend. nominally, the trip was for Steve and Keely's wedding, but I also got a lot of sightseeing in (it was my first time to Seattle) and also visited Dustin (grad student up there) and Gregg (happened to be there for a conference). Amy, Meschelle and I did a little bit of hiking at Snoqualmie Falls (this awesome waterfall just outside the city). the wedding was absolutely beautiful and fun. and lucked out with the weather since it rained like crazy the following day (the wedding was outside). so yeah, great time in Seattle, definitely want to visit again. here are some pictures from the weekend:

this weekend, I am going to Carpinteria (near Santa Barbara) for the annual family beach weekend. cannot wait. I miss the beach so much (and my family too). not having a beach nearby is the worst part about living here in Arizona.

in other news, our pub quiz team The Evil League of Evil has triumphed again. hooray!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

attack of the deranged mutant killer monster donkey

last night, Katie, Rosa, Mike P, Laika, and I went for a short camping trip to Lake Pleasant Regional Park to watch the Perseid meteor shower. little did we know that it would turn into the adventure that it was.
it began simply enough, driving an hour or so out of Phoenix to the park and finding a perfect and scenic campsite on the lake (it was great because almost no one else was there). it was still hot, but not too bad as we quickly put up our tents before sunset. we cooked up some soup for dinner and Laika chased some lizards and spiders and a mouse we found in the fire pit. everything was going smoothly until around 11:30pm when we wanted to take a little nap (the meteor shower was supposed to peak around 4am). we were all in our tents and trying to stay cool when we were heard some weird noises and Laika started barking her head off. we turned on our flashlights to try and see what it was, but we couldn't tell. at first it sounded like a donkey, but that was such a weird idea that we then thought maybe it was a goose. but then we heard galloping. and it was really close. it was definitely a donkey. a wild, crazy, possibly mutant donkey that lived in the lake and came out at night to feast on human flesh. or something. we kind of freaked out a little bit and ran to the car for protection. then after a few minutes we couldn't hear anything anymore so we went back. but 10-15 minutes later it happened again. Katie had had some previous experiences with wild donkeys on an island in Georgia so we knew it was best to be cautious. we built a big fire to scare it away and keep shining our flashlights over in the area where we heard it. later we heard another one on the other side of the lake and eventually were able to see the one (well, actually two) that were over by our campsite. we were so happy that Laika was there because we knew she was listening and would alert us if it came near again (which, of course, it did) so we could get a little bit of sleep.
the whole thing was simultaneously hilarious and a little bit scary and made for a camping trip not soon to be forgotten. the meteor shower itself was pretty good; there were some really bright and long ones with great vapor trails, but there also weren't as many as we were expecting and half of the sky was cloudy.
when we got home this morning, our brave guard dog Laika passed out on the floor and slept all day. :)
here are some pictures of the beautiful lake (click to see the album on Picasa):
Lake Pleasant

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

from one extreme to the other

okay, so it's really hot in Phoenix right now. like 110 degrees hot. so when I found out I would be going to UC Berkeley for a research meeting for a week in August, I was super excited. little did I know that when I got here, it would be really cold. like, freezing almost. and it's not just me who is perhaps maladjusted. the people who live here are also cold. so it's unusual and it's cold and I'm wearing a sweater and drinking hot tea and I'm still cold.
only good thing: we were able to do a little hiking today in the late afternoon and it was beautiful out. couldn't do that in Phoenix right now.
oh, I guess other good thing: I am learning a lot and networking with cool people and getting good feedback about my research. and I had some good Thai food. two days in a row.