Friday, April 11, 2014

Soakin' in Savannah!

Ever time I sat down to start a post all ideas fled from my head until I was thoroughly convinced that I had nothing to say. Luckily I have something easily concrete to write about-- my first time going to the American Physical Society!

Last weekend was the April 2014 meeting of the American Physical Society. Seven students, I, and one professor headed down to Savannah, Georgia for the weekend.

To get to Savannah we had to fly through Atlanta, where our group broke up to take two different flights to Savannah. I was with the early group, after a quick layover we boarded a plane and landed in Savannah. It was just before eight and we hadn't had time to grab dinner; we thought we could easily grab some food at the airport.

Think again. Every store in the entire airport (all three of them) were closed. It's hard to explain how excited we were when we stumbled upon a vending machine hidden away in some dark corner of the airport.

We had to wait a couple of hours for the rest of the group to get to Savannah and we took a bus to our hotel on the river. It was easily midnight by the time we, still hungry, finally arrived at our rooms. The hotel had given away our room, so the other three girls and I were put in a room with a king bed and a cot. Suffice to say, there was a lot of togetherness going on.

The professor we were with suggested we order pizza-- which sounded immensely better than our previous plans to walk downtown and hope a bar was open and serving food.

When I was abroad the idea of ordering pizza and having it delivered to your door sounded like the coolest idea everrrrr. I don't even know why-- they did deliver, as far as I could tell, in my town. Still, the mere idea of trying to order pizza over the phone in French convinced me I really did need the exercise to go out and get food.

After maybe four hours of sleep we got up the next morning in order to get to the convention center in time for the opening session. My usual crutch of caffeine was mercilessly gone as our coffee maker was broken; somehow we all managed to drag ourselves out the door.

 Sunrise on the river! Our hotel, and the downtown restaurant area was on one side of the river, while the convention center, where almost all of the activities were held, was on the other side of the river.

But have no fear! Ferries came to the rescue.They were like free public buses and ran from the two main hotels to the convention center.They were awfully cute.

There was a cute little candy shop on the riverfront that we ogled every time we passed. I got some truffles-- their flavors ranged from Irish coffee to Strawberry Cheesecake.

Sadly they all just tasted like chocolate, but it was a delicious taste so I couldn't complain.

Savannah is a gorgeous town, filled to the brim with lovely live oaks. Sunday morning, after the undergraduate awards brunch-- where four Hendrix students took home awards--we meandered downtown, jumping from green square to green square. The entire area was pocketed with little gardens.

Monday morning, before we ran to catch our flight, we caught Neil DeGrasse Tyson's talk. Now whenever I tell people about this I automatically assume they know who he is, which is a bad assumption to make. Suffice to say, he's one of the only celebrity astrophysicists. Anyway, we were all pretty pumped to see his talk but all left feeling a bit disappointed. His talk was mainly a collection of science memes, which means it was funny but it lacked substance. 

Two flights and one car ride later we arrived at Hendrix just in time to miss housing selection. Luckily my friend was present and we snagged the triple we had been eying for next year!

I promise that I will make myself write another post within a reasonable time frame. Even if I feel I have nothing to write. I know that I'll always have one reader!(yes, I'm looking at you) 

Thanks for reading :)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Back to Normal

Normal being, of course, a vague and relative term.

In this case I mean I'm back to Hendrix and a life filled with physics problems. Which is pretty normal for me. What was not normal was a semester studying only a language. It was a nice break-- one I might regret senior year when I have to take Quantum Mech and Thermal at the same time to catch up for my time off. 

I haven't written a blog post in forever. After leaving France I didn't know what to post-- I haven't had time for crafts, or cooking really, except for the communal meals I help cook in the house I live in. I thought about really putting in some effort and writing a text only blog post that rather than show off some pictures of what I've been up to, grapples with some issue that I'm interested in. 

And then I thought about a) my lack of writing skills ((my friends reading this are primary English majors and all talented writers)) b) my lack of free time ((at any given moment I should be doing something, case in point, I'm starting this post while taking a 'little' break from research)) and I just never got around to posting anything at all.

The longer I put off posting, the harder it got to find inspiration to start a new post. Yet here I am!

Coming back to Hendrix has been great. I was warned, many times, about the possibility of reverse culture shock-- all the sudden certain aspects of your home culture that were normal before seem annoying and you miss your time abroad.

The second I stepped onto American soil I was yelled at/reprimanded by customs officials for not doing, by accident, exactly what they wanted me to do. In that moment I hated America and yearned for the normal, non-crazy intensive attitude the rest of the world has towards security at airports. In France I didn't even have to take off my shoes. No one was particular intense about the whole thing-- two seconds into America I was yelled at for not standing in the right place.

Walking through the airport Americans seemed impossibly loud. I heard someone having a very emotional phone call almost yelling argumentatively into their cell phone seemingly not caring that they were in a public space and that I really didn't want to hear about what so-and-so had said about them.

And perhaps it was primarily due to the fact I had just gotten up at 2 am, driven 7ish hours to Paris, and then sat in the same place on a plane for 10 hours, that I was a little lacking of patience and grace as I was faced with my impossibly loud culture.

I meandered through the airport in a generally grumpy mode (traveling does that to you. I feel like I'm 80 but whenever I traveled anywhere in Europe I was absolutely exhausted. Not the best when you have like two days to explore an entire new country) and stopped to purchase some Gatorade. The cashier smiled at me, asking how I was, and if I had a good Christmas-- small talk between strangers that would have never happened in France. I was buying groceries the other day, trying to decide between grape tomatoes and the much more expensive cherry tomatoes. A lady passing by told me that she always used the cheap grape tomatoes instead of the cherry ones, and it didn't make any difference taste wise. Helpful strangers just striking up a conversation-- also a rarity in France, but a normal occurrence in the US. 

I was sitting on a train in France with plenty of time to think when I realized that I really did miss the US. It took four months of being away from my home culture to realize there were a lot of things I liked about America. I like the fact that our culture is characterized by being outgoing. I like baseball, TexMex. I like that you smile at people on the street. ((If you make eye contact with a stranger in France, they will not smile at you. This freaked me out for four months as little old ladies would just stare me down if I accidentally made eye contact. I would then spend a frantic thirty seconds making sure my shirt wasn't too low cut, or that I didn't have like food on my face or anything))

And maybe this is southern American culture but regardless I never had much I particularly liked about America. Living in the culture everyday, all I could do was find its faults-- and believe me, I still realize that they exist. I recently saw a car commercial that bashed the entire European lifestyle (In America you live to work) saying that we as Americans were so much better and achieved so much more than those "people who take off a month in the summer!"

Imagine! Taking off an entire month to be with your family! Taking time off from the office to enjoy life!

How horrendous.

Can you imagine if all jobs allowed this break? This idea that your work does not rule your life, but is simply just a part of it? The commercial bashed those "people who stop by a bakery on the way home". Because obviously they should have stayed at work longer. 

And while that commercial made me want to punch the stupid writer who thought that was somehow an effective way to sell a car, it didn't negate my revelations on the good points of my culture. Even with our superiority complex and the fact that we brought McDonalds onto this Earth. Everyone has their faults.

Suffice to say, it's good to be home. :)

I just realized this entire post consists of nothing but words and my opinions. However, I just got two friends who promised to read it so I will break my normal routine and post it.

Thanks for making it this far!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

DIY: Sweater to Skirt

New year new crafts!

A couple days ago I was browsing through one of my favorite sewing/crafting blogs, and came across a simple and quick craft that transformed really any old sweater into something new, wearable and rather unexpected-- a skirt! I had expected her to tailor the big sweater or perhaps turn it into something weird like a pillow cover. I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a cute skirt and quickly set about to make my own.

What I Made:

How I did it:

This craft is ridiculously easy-- and keep in mind I can not sew a straight line. Every time I operate a sewing machine there is a high likelihood of me accidentally breaking it. Again. 

But this tutorial is great for beginners. All you need is a sweater, some thread, and a sewing machine. 

I found my sweater at one of my favorite clothing store-- Goodwill. It was an XL but I loved the festive red and white pattern. When you look for a sweater keep in mind it needs to fit around your hips, not your waist. You might need to get a size or two bigger-- it's really easy to trim a sweater that is too big but you can't do much with a sweater that is too small. 

Sorry for the blurry photo! I was too excited to start the project ;)
Simply cut your sweater horizontally right under the arms. Once again, it's relatively easy to take off length, but you can't add length so try not to cut it too short. 

This will give you, roughly, your shirt. All that's left is to tailor it! Like I said, my sweater was an XL so it wouldn't stay on my hips. To take it in, I turned the sweater inside out, slipped it on, and pinned it in place. 

Ignore the mess! ;)

Then, I took it off and sewed along the line I safety pinned. Be sure that you sweater is inside out before you sew your new seam. 

Before I cut the excess off, I tried the skirt on again to make sure I hadn't made it too small. Once I saw it fit, I cut off the extra fabric. 

The waist didn't fit perfectly-- so I pinned the just the top of the other side and sewed it for a better fit.

Et, volia! It's really that simple. All in all, this craft took me thirty minutes or less, and that includes setting up the sewing machine, finding cardboard to cut my sweater on, cajoling my wonderful mother into helping me pin the sweater, and sewing.

And that is how you make a personalized, tailored winter skirt for only four dollars :)

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2013 Book List

I read a lot of good books recently ((though I can't really call this a 2013 book list as I no longer remember the books I read in the beginning of 2013. This is more of a late 2013 list)) and half of the fun of reading an amazing book is badgering everyone you know into reading it. To date I haven't been extremely successful at this but there's a first time for everything.

The Magician by Lev Grosman

I could rant and rave about this book for hours but the end result is that you need to go out and read it. Like, now. I feel like this is a book I would have written-- it makes references to Narnia, Star Trek, LOTR, so basically this is as good as fiction gets. I can't fully explain how much I love this book-- it's interesting and an non-romanticized view on life and magic. It's like a gritty grown up story about magic where magic doesn't even come close to solving all the problems. It has a sequel (also a book that you must read) called The Magicians' King. I'm eagerly awaiting the next book which should be released this year.

The Fault in our Stars by John Green
I rarely cry at the movies. Broadchurch (go watch it) is the only tv show that has ever made me cry. But I never thought I would ever shed a tear reading a book. That is, until I read The Fault in Our Stars, a modern day take on star-crossed lovers. It's a quick read-- I started and finished it all in an emotional, tea and Kleenex filled Saturday afternoon. I was reading it on Michelle's iPad and there was a point when the iPad got tired of my tears and started flipping out, causing me to flip out thinking I damaged her iPad with my tears. It's that emotional. The movie is coming out next summer but I don't know if I want to put myself through that again. It's heartbreaking but also amazingly beautiful.


All I Ever Wanted by Kristen Higgins
This was a guilty-pleasure quick read romance book I downloaded from my library onto my nook while I was in France. I loved every page of it-- it was well written with interesting characters and made me laugh out loud more than once. That being said, if you read this and like it, just stop there. Don't try and find other books by the author. I found another book by the same author and found it to be almost identical to this one-- same premise, basically same main character, some of the same quirks, ect. However, All I Ever Wanted is a nice fluffy romance.

The Pox Party by M. t. Anderson
I've seen this cover multiple times but never took the time to read the book, until it appeared on a list of books recommended by John Green. It was definitely an interesting book-- slightly esoteric and poetic at times it told the tale of a little black boy during the Revolutionary War. The boy is being raised by a group of philosophers who want to determine whether or not African Americans had the same mental capacities as their whiter counterparts. It's heartbreaking but beautiful.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
I found this book on a NPR best book 2013 list and picked it up online through my library while I was in France. It's a fun paranormal read set in London-- I read it after my trip to London so it was fun to recognize some of the things mentioned. It heavily features, surprise surprise, the tale of Jack the Ripper, but it isn't cliche or particularly expected. I can't wait to go find the sequel in my library.

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
I'm pretty sure this book was recommended to me by a friend a while ago but I just never got around to reading it. That was a mistake, as I really enjoyed this paranormal(? more like fantasy) story. I had, once again, rented the ebook from my library, and I really enjoyed the vintage photographers that tie in heavily with the story and that appear on the pages. I can't wait for the sequel to come out this year. 

That's is! I've read some other books but I really loved these and wanted to share them so that maybe someone else can enjoy them as much as I did. 

Thanks for reading! 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Retrospection 2013

Last year I wrote a blog post looking back over 2012 and dreaming of what would happen in 2013. I'm not one for New Year's Resolutions-- my year is marked more by the academic calendar, if I did resolutions they would be August Resolutions like 'I resolve to do my physics reading every night and not just the nights I know I'll have a quiz'.

However, I think the New Year's is a great time for reflection over the past year and to write down dreams for the upcoming year. So get ready for some embedded links!

2013. I went to my first physics conference. I became obsessed with sushi. I went to my first concert. I had a blast celebrating Spring Break with friends down in New Orleans. I ended my sophomore year of college, slightly surprised that the workload of a Physics major hadn't killed me. I went on my first international mission trip, a dream of mine for many years now, spending almost a week in the beautiful country of Honduras. I wished I spoke Spanish more than just putting a Spanish accent on French words that look vaguely like they could pass as Spanish.

I started an awesome research position coding robots at my college. My cooking skills were tested by my first time living on my own. I bought a new lens for my camera ((for those who aren't obsessed with photography like me, this is a big deal)). I helped create decorations for my brother's wedding.

I started preparing for my study abroad trip. I road-tripped down to Houston with my family and got my visa while my brother and his new wife got their visas to teach in Spain. Then, on September 2nd, I boarded a plane heading for a semester in France. I don't even know how to recap my semester there. It was full of ups and downs, challenges and adventures. There were days I cursed whoever first planted the idea of studying abroad in my head, and there were days I wished I could stay in France for more than just a semester.

 I feel in love with Lyon. I met up with a friend in Dublin. I had a blast, and saw Phantom of the Opera, in the amazing city of London. I was blown away by the beautiful mountains in Annecy. I ate more ham sandwiches than I have ever eaten in my entire life. I also set a personal record eating delicious chocolate; every week I would try new flavors and I still hadn't tried them all by the time I left. I took a weekend trip to Barcelona.

As my stay drew to a close I began to realize how many little things that I would miss about France. Though I was glad to leave my little cubical of a room-- where I had, literally, zero privacy-- I was sad to say goodbye to the awesome friends I had made. The semester had been a mini-vacation, as the workload was exponentially lighter than  I was used to. However, it did have all the normal stresses of starting over at a new environment. In that respect it'll be nice to go back to Hendrix and see all the friends I've missed.

2013! Whew. It was a jam packed year. I realized many of my dreams-- my dream to study abroad, my dream to visit Ireland.

2014. With all the amazing stuff I did last year, I'm excited for 2014, even though it won't have the international flair that 2013 did.

The weekend before school starts I'm heading to my second Women in Physics conference, where I hope to present my research on robotics. I also have to prepare and take the GRE. Hopefully I'll be able to land a great summer research position-- I'm applying to some really cool places. This time next year I will be halfway through my senior year of college. D:

Thanks for reading! I hope that you had a great 2013 :)

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Beautiful Barcelona

As my semester in France neared its end, a brief window of free time appeared. Right after my program ended, and right before I met up with my parents, I discovered I had a couple free days. And since my friends were planning on meeting up in the wonderful city of Barcelona I decided, on a whim, to join them. Of course, this whim was granted thanks to some great deals-- not only was my favorite hostel chain having a huge winter sale, the plane ticket was also very cheap.

So, with the stars aligned, my friend and I hopped on a plane and flew to Spain! Getting there was easy, not only was the plane ride a short one, but there were no customs to go through.

We took a bus from the airport and jumped off on the first stop to see this 'magic fountain' my friend had heard about.

These heavy-grained, high ISO pictures do little to capture the feel of the square at night. More than that, they're lacking the feel-- the 'I just landed in a foreign city I never even dreamed of visiting and look how cool it is'.

After a good deal of searching and walking, we finally found our hostel, threw our stuff down, and headed out to find dinner. After more searching and walking we ended up circling back to the first restaurant we saw, a Japanese restaurant. I know what you're thinking-- you're in Spain and eating Japanese food?? In my defense, I had just spent 3 1/2 months in a town that, while nice, lacked the Asian food options I was used to. The restaurant in Spain served delicious fried sea food rice for a good price.

The next morning we went on a free walking tour of Barcelona-- a guide met us at our hostel and then took us to the meeting point. The tour was 2ish hours long and amazing. Not only was our tour guide passionate about his job, but the city itself was covered in layers of history, stories that I would have never known about had we not taken the tour.

The tour was free, and at the end you tipped the guide whatever you felt like-- it was definitely worth it, and a cool way to see the city, given that I didn't have much time there.

The next day we headed out to see one of Barcelona's biggest attractions-- Sagrada Familia, a massive, impressively strange cathedral. Designed by Gaudi, our guide told us that it was originally designed to be a lot taller but looking at its ginormous shape that seems neigh impossible.

This picture doesn't even come close to depicting this bizarre cathedral. Gaudi thought straight lines were too man made and wanted his cathedral to have a more organic feel to it. You could stare at the front for an hour and still pick out new details, hidden in the many facets. The cathedral was undergoing heavy construction so we couldn't see all of the outside. The line to get in looked hours long so sadly we just walked around the cathedral.

After the cathedral we hopped on the metro and went to an overlook park area.

After getting off the metro we still had a huge climb ahead of us. Luckily, the lovely city of Barcelona had installed escalators for part of the trek up the hill.

The climb was well worth it-- the overlook gave impressive panoramic views on the city.

This is the Sagrada Familia-- from this distance you can see just how huge the cathedral is, and how much construction work is going on.

There was a cool mosaic area that you had to pay to go in, so we just hung out on the outside and snapped some pictures.

After 3 1/2 months of seeing nothing but pigeons, it was cool to spot these little critters in the trees.

We spent the rest of the day just walking around, enjoying the city.

This was a delicious coffee drink my friend has us all try. It's condensed milk at the bottom, with a shot of espresso on top. Mix them together and you have a tasty drink.

After two days, my quick trip was over, and I jumped on a plane to meet my parents in the south of France.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Le Fête des Lumières

A couple of weeks ago, I headed to Lyon with a group from my school to see the Le Fête des Lumières-- the festival of lights.

Of course, anytime anyone said 'festival of lights' I'd break out in Adam Sandler's Hanukkah song. Hanukkah iss.....a festival of lights....

 Anyway! The festival of lights in Lyon has nothing to do with the Jewish holiday. Rather, it's a really cool weekend where they set up fabulous light shows that play on buildings strewed throughout Lyon, France's third largest city. 

We started off in the main square in downtown Lyon-- they projected a cute animated movie on the Ferris wheel, complete with lights and fireworks.

I was told that Lyon saw 4 million extra tourists just during the festival of lights weekend and I believe that. There was an unbelievable amount of people at the festival. Everyone was wearing black and it was incredibly hard to keep up with people-- at some points we had to hold hands like kids in order to not lose each other in the crowd.

The streets of Lyon aren't terribly big to begin with, but the flux of people stretched from building to building in some parts-- pushing you shoulder to shoulder with the next person.

Not all of the shows were as grand as the first one. Some were more modest, just lights, no images for example.

It was rather cold so we all grabbed a cup of my new favorite drink-- vin chaud. Literally, hot wine, though it translates to mulled wine. I never knew what mulled wine was, but I love vin chaud. It's delicious, sweet, and it warms you up quickly on cold nights.

As the night wore on we started to nervously glance at our watches. Our school was taking us back in a bus-- if we missed the bus, it'd be too late to catch the last train home. The massive crowds made getting anywhere take five times longer than normal.

We had heard that the city hall put on the best light show so we tried to head in that direction to see if we could see it quickly enough to get back to our meeting spot on time. We literally got stuck in a street, surrounded on all sides by a huge crowd of people. The mass of bodies had the added benefit of warding off the cold so it wasn't as cold as it had been the whole night.

We couldn't move forward, we couldn't move backwards, and we weren't sure where we were even going. Every couple of minutes the crowd would inch forward a foot or so and then abruptly stop. Time was marching forward without us and we worried that we wouldn't be able to get out of the crowd with enough time to get to our meeting point.

One of the chicks who lived in the apartments lining the street we were stuck on looked out at the huge crowd of people stuck in the street and decided to spice it up. Opening her window she started blaring some upbeat French song that everyone knew the words to. We all started cheering; it made the wait more tolerable as the crowd turned into a small dance party-- even if there wasn't enough free space to do anything but kind of sway back and forth.

Eventually we reached the end of the street and saw that we were right at city hall in time for the light show. It was, by far, the best light show in the entire city. It spanned two grand buildings and was intricately beautiful.

After the light show ended, we linked hands, put my fastest friend in the front, and set about running our way through the dense crowd to get the our meeting point in time to catch the bus. My friend was amazing at finding the little spaces between people and had us through the seemingly impenetrable crowd in no time at all. Not only did we catch the bus, we also had time to grab some churros.

Stay tuned for more posts coming soon! We've been longing around the house so I've had time to sort and edit my photos and write those blog posts I'd been putting off for weeks.

Thanks for reading!