The smell of rain

I like the smell of rain in warm weather. Even though I'm stuck in a desert and it's the middle of January, it feels like the first real day of spring back home/East/Midwest.
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    nostalgic nostalgic

Learning how to run

As a way to fill in the boredom I usually associate with summers, I've been exercising & going to the gym again. I forgot how great it feels post-workout. I've mostly been doing an hour of fast walking followed by some weights, and have slooowly but surely adding on small bursts of jogging into the walking routine.

I don't recall ever being a runner. I have vague memories of being a fairly fast sprinter until 3rd or 4th grade, but once I put on extra weight in 5th grade (thank you local-cheap-neighborhood-hamburger-restaurant-with-awesome-video-game-arcade-back-in-1991), running was either a chore or just plain impossible to sustain for long. I was always that large kid who could power-hit homeruns easily in softball, but took forever to run the bases. But I have hope -- if only because my dad (whom I've inherited my body type from) trained himself to be a successful distance runner for a few years when he was in his 50s, and he used to be just like me. So I think I can do it. I'd love to learn how to build up to run a half-marathon, that would be so cool.

At this point, I'm trying to get used to the intensity. I notice my limitations on how long/far I can jog now are mostly psychological, which is really weird -- once I become aware of how much time has past, I immediately get tired and stop. Sometimes, just knowing that the end to a song is coming up will tire me out. But if I hear a song that really pumps me up and can distract me mentally, I can go for longer stretches of time without noticing a thing.

I just hope I can sustain this walking/jogging routine once the semester starts!
  • Current Music
    Chrono Trigger -- To far away times

Yay, classes

So it's been a while since I've posted, and another semester is already midway. I survived my Radiative Transfer class last semester, and was pleasantly surprised to find out I ended up doing better than the rest of the Planetary Students (probably because of the heavy math and coding content), so that made up for my lack of knowledge of atmospheres theory from the beginning of the semester.

I'm happier this semester, in terms of classes. I decided to spend some time finding a research adviser who actually does cool stuff that I'm interested in doing, and as such, am taking 3 classes now so I can finish my course requirement earlier than later. I decided that it was time that I tackled my great fear of chemistry, and am now taking a Chemistry of the Solar System class that is a LOT of work. It's a TON of chem, P-chem, and thermo, all areas I've been weak in and avoiding for 10 years. But ironically, this is my most enjoyable class -- I feel like I'm really learning a lot, despite it being a somewhat heavy time commitment, but it feels good to no longer cower in fear when people talk about dissociative recombination, phase diagrams, partial pressures, etc. It's actually really really cool material, and it's scary to think that I've been considering going into a math modeling aspect of this field. !!! Who ever would have thought, after all those years of my swearing off chemistry! My other classes (graduate E&M in Physics dept. and "Theoretical Astrophysics" in Astronomy) have been OK -- they're challenging at least, which has been keeping me engaged.

So now the only big thing going on is finding a research adviser. I have to admit, I really haven't done much looking. Or rather, I've looked around a lot, but have been too afraid to meet with professors and ask them "Would you like a PhD student? I'm looking for a dissertation topic." I feel like they are often impressed with me when they look at my resume and the whole "I'm from MIT" thing, but I fear eventually disappoint them in the end by how slow I really am. So that keeps me from asking; which is a dumb thing, I know. I do know that I will have to find an adviser, and soon, if I want to find any RA funding for the summer or this fall.

So that's that.
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    Godawful Country

Holy cow!

Wow. I feel like I've impressed myself, after some (very unexpected) news today.

I found out that only 3 people passed the quals this summer, and the remaining 5 failed. Whoa. That was totally unexpected.

In some ways, I kinda feel like they might have made a mistake or clearly made an exam that was unfair (and happened to mostly test things that I was good at). Seriously, I was the lazy ass this past year of the group, and I was the whiner and complainer about how things were different here; always critical of what I wasn't learning; and how I hated that everything was just "theorem-proof" and the lack of applications in ANY math class; and I felt like I was the only one talking about switching departments and really thinking that this field was totally wrong for me. I stopped caring about my math classes during the spring semester, and even got a C in numerical methods because I didn't feel like finishing 2 projects, and I flopped the final by burning out and not studying for it. There were a number of students among me that were diligent, always did their homework, paid attention in class, etc. And I was jealous of them because they seemed to be enjoying what they were doing, and acted like everything was great. And I was the opposite kid in the class. I gave a LOT of thought about switching fields and starting over again, and pretty much decided that failing quals was a confirmation of my being in the wrong department.

And I think its ironic that so few of those people passed, and I somehow did. And also disturbing, because I think what gave me the edge on the exam is not what I learned this past year, but more of all the random things I learned over 6 years at MIT. And also a little about the thinking-on-your-feet kick-your-ass test questions -- I apparently learned something by getting my ass kicked by Course 8 exams over and over again for 6 painful years.

I feel that if the qual were more like years past, that my passing would have been more questionable.

I feel like MIT taught me how to think, and how to be a problem solver when you've never seen anything like it. And I feel like Arizona isn't teaching me how to think at all; rather, they just show us the right answer, but never satisfactorally explain HOW to obtain solutions to difficult problems (except in very limited simple & classic examples).
There is a distinct lack of "open-endedness" in both the projects and assignments I get here, and I find that very frustrating.

I still miss MIT and Cambridge so much. And I think this experience just adds to my appreciation of my experience there.
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    Final Fantasy VI OST


Well, I passed quals! This is great because I no longer have to take required classes again -- only a handful of electives and my search for a dissertation topic and advisor with RA $$$.

Today was the first day of class, and I like my schedule. 2 classes (both "fun" and more my type of stuff -- Dynamical Systems for my math elective, and Galaxy Dynamics for my non-math-elective). I'm teaching College Algebra to a group of 35 non-science freshman, which is going to be a new challenge. Today's class went okay, and what was interesting was that I think I got students engaged because of my personality & enthusiasm for math and not neccesarily because of the clarity of my explanations. My goal is to have as many passing students as possible, since this seems to be a common problem with freshman who take this class.

I'm currently in search of a research advisor, and need to start doing some serious thinking about which research field I want to travel down to. I'm inclined to do research in Planetary Dynamics, especially since they have a great appreciation and use for Applied Math folks, but well, there isn't much else in Planetary that intrigues me! I like the physics & math behind Planetary dynamics, and that's about it. Ironically, when I look at non-math courses to take, its the courses in the Physics and the Astronomy dept. that are most intriguing, even though I don't see anything promising in them as research for me. Hmmmm...

I'm also, somehow, becoming way more social this year than I was all last year! Having supportive and fun office mates helps a lot, and I'm looking foward to going to a few fitness/Pilates classes with some, and choir with others. I enjoy having a busy schedule, but not because I have too many classes; I enjoy a business of different types of activities (teaching, taking classes, exercise, singing, etc.)

I think having taken quals and passed them unloaded a lot of unseen stress. I feel a lot more positive now about my experience here, and only hope that I'll find an advisor and field that is fulfilling. It's a relief to be done with life-like-an-undergraduate, and back on track with what I consider to be "real" grad school -- research, research, colloquia, and few classes!

Maybe I'm finally adjusting to the area and life in Tucson. I think I will always prefer to live in a city like Boston, New York, Chicago or Vancouver, but its better to no longer feel the need to leave ASAP.
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    Super Mario Bros. 3 soundtrack

Almost done with quals!

Well, its the day before quals start. I have 4 hours of the exam tomorrow morning, and another 4 hours on Friday morning. I'm all studied out, and will be very glad when the exams are over. Ironically, I haven't experienced much panic or anxiety about these exams. It may be because I've devoted many entire days (12+ hours/day) to studying, and feel as prepared as I'll ever be. On the other hand, I think I'm coming to terms with and have accepted that if I end up not passing quals, that it won't be the end of the world. On the contrary, I don't think I would really mind if I had to leave; since I've been battling with this "wanting to do something different and significant" idea for many months, it makes failing quals a bit more attractive.

I've spent a good deal of time thinking of what I'd do if I had an excuse to leave Arizona. I don't want to take the exams again in January (you get 2 tries to pass before being kicked out). I think I'd just move back home to Chicago in January, and find a real job for a while. I'd like to do some combination of a money/finance/economics job that pays a lot of $$, and some kinds of Math & Physics teaching; and I'd start learning some foreign languages at a community college on the side, and learn how to play piano. Or, I'd go back to Northwestern and ask them if they'll accept me again, and switch fields to high-energy Astrophysics. A big part of me wants to move back to Boston, or to New York City, and work there, but Nick will be in Milwaukee and my family in Chicago, and so in other ways it makes more sense to stay near the Chicago area. It would also be nice to re-forge closeness with good friends i've had there before moving away to IMSA and MIT.

So in many ways, the alternatives to graduate school in Arizona are even more attractive!

But alas, before any of that may happen, I have some tests to take first. I won't find out until August 18th (almost 2 weeks later) what the results will be, but in the meantime, I'm really looking forward to getting my SNES back and to discovering how good a game Chrono Trigger is! :)
  • Current Music
    Earthbound OST

Needing a change

I've been wanting a change of pace for sometime now.

It's kind of funny, because I think I've been living a life on default. I've had this idea of being a professor since high school, when I was finally surrounded by academics. I wanted to stand out of the crowd around me, and aspiring to be a professor seemed the best way to do so. My entire college career was oriented on one thing: get the best grades possible in the hardest classes so I'd get into a killer PhD program and be set for life on being a professor. I only did things that came easiest to me (applied math) and inspired the most passion about (astrophysics).

But lately, I've been questioning this "life on default" thing. In many senses, graduate school life is going well: I'm actually enjoying studying for my quals this summer and having fun doing problems; I've really loved the teaching I've done thus far; I've loved almost all the research projects I've ever done (especially those in astrophysics). All are signs telling me that being a professor may be a well-suited career. But there are many other aspects about graduate school, and academia in general, that I don't like.

For instance, I don't like the competition to stay in academia. I don't like that level of stress hanging over my head everyday, pushing me to publish paper after paper after paper just to have some schools consider me. I don't like the idea of giving so much of myself for many years and run a risk of not securing a career at all (and if I do, it won't be until i'm in my 40s, likely). There are many, many times where I want to have a job that allows me to develop my own life and not focus it almost entirely on work. I want to be able to choose a city to live in and then get the job that suites me. I also can't stand the loneliness/solitary nature of the work I've been doing; I yearn to work with other good, motivated people again. As a professor in my kinds of fields, the work is almost entirely solitary; there is little collaboration and sense of teamwork involved. There is also the issue of money -- I want a job that pays enough so that I can maintain a happy lifestyle without having to worry about money. I want to be able to pay my bills and student loans, and still put a good chunk away to save for a house, a car, retirement, and future kids. And I want a different quality of lifestyle than the one I've been living recently.

I want to live abroad and do something exciting and make a lot of money. I want to live in a big, bustling city, where I can go out my door and walk down the street and have hundreds of options of things to do in front of me. I want to live somewhere where a car isn't necessary. I want to experience a different culture. I want to eat different food and adopt a new way of living for a while. I want to spend time learning more languages. I want a job that is intellectually challenging, but still fun, and still affords time away from work to enjoy a life of my own. Or, I'd like a job in a big city (like New York) that requires me to travel to other countries for weeks at a time. I want to do something really significant and I want it to affect people's lives.

I've been questioning whether the graduate school track is taking me where I want to go. I often find myself saying that completing grad. school and getting a PhD will create more opportunities for me -- but what if I'm not interested in the opportunities created for someone with a Math PhD? What if I don't want to be labeled as a "mathematician" and be limited to jobs that people think are good only for them?

Oy! Too many questions!
  • Current Music
    FFVI OST - Terra's theme

Wow, long time!

Shite, it's been a while since I last updated this.

So life is going good and fairly smoothly (although really busy!) this spring. I decided to go to U Arizona for grad school, so I'll be moving to Tucson AZ sometime in August. (wooot! warm weather!) I think that life in the west (well, southwest) will be interesting. I've never spent time there or even visited until the Preview Weekend last spring for 3 days. I think it will do me some good! I'm also thinking of just "switching" to Planetary Science research instead of Astrophysics, if only because the math behind planetary dynamics is just way cooler! And Planetary people seem to like mathematicians a lot more than the Astrophysicsts do.

Before I go to AZ, I need to write and hand in an M.S. thesis. Officially, it's due in about 3 weeks from now, but there is a
chance that I may have the deadline extended until August before I move.

Discovering the wonder that is Harry Potter in book format in the midst of writing my thesis seems like a bad BAD idea!! But shit, Harry Potter's life seems so much more interesting to me right now than writing about the history of GRB satellites!

Yeah, one thing I discovered is that writing a thesis just to be able to graduate, knowing that I'll be moving to a sunny state in just a few months, is WAAAY more difficult than I thought it would be! :b

Okay, I'll write more again!
  • Current Music
    Zelda: Link's Awakening DX OST

Gotta boogie

This song is great!

Gotta boogie
Gotta boogie
Gotta boogie
Gotta boogie
Gotta boogie (gotta boogie)
Gotta boogie (gotta boogie)
Gotta boogie (gotta boogie)
Gotta boogie on my finger and i can't shake it off

Well, i went out to a party just the other night
I was jammin' to the music, i was feelin' alright
I was burning up the floor like a disco maniac
When my woman said, "baby, why's your hand behind you back?"

Gotta boogie (gotta boogie)
I said boogie (gotta boogie)
I gotta boogie (gotta boogie)
Gotta boogie on my finger and i can't shake it off

I can't pick it off (uh uh)
I can't flick it off (uh uh)
I sure ain't gonna lick it off (oh no)
So i guess i'm gonna have to learn to live with it

I gotta boogie (gotta boogie, uh huh, he's gotta boogie)
I gotta boogie (gotta boogie, uh huh, he's gotta boogie)
I gotta boogie (gotta boogie, uh huh, he's gotta boogie)
Gotta boogie on my finger and i can't shake it off

Gotta boogie

Hey, you wanna boogie? (no man, i don't wanna boogie)
Wanna boogie? (get that boogie out of my face)
Do any of you wanna boogie? (no!)

Gotta boogie on my finger
Gotta boogie on my finger
Gotta boogie on my finger and i can't shake it off
  • Current Music
    Gotta boogie

Laughing so hard that my side split!

Okay, so while punting on doing more for my Mechanics project this week, I was browsing Google for random
shit (one of my favorite hobbies); today's random shit was for .wav files of the hilarious low-budget commercials
that used to haunt me in my childhood & would be able to recite word-for-word. Instead of .wav files, I came
across this website that kept me laughing for a good while. How I miss those bad Chicagoland commercials!

This entry prolly won't be as funny to most people, so feel free to skip it; but if you're from Chicago, then watch out! :D

Taken from:


I'm searching the web for a page that lists all the classic Chicago TV commercials, and the best I can find is a handful of message boards filled with hyperactive former Chicagoans who squeal "OHHHHHHH! AND REMEMBER THE EMPIRE GUY?!" So, I'm going to jot down the ones I know here, and will add to the list as I remember more. Maybe someday I'll even organize the info with links and stuff, but don't hold your breath!

1. Empire Carpet. A classic! The Empire guy doesn't appear to have aged at all during my entire tv-watching life. The song has changed a bit over time, adding "800" before the 588-2300, but at least you can always depend on the dancing bunnymen at Easter time doing the bunny hop, and the elves doing their "Jingle Bells" parody w/Empire guy as Santa ("588-23-ho-ho!"). At one time, they were even giving away Empire guy bobbleheads as a promotion. Interestingly, if you see Empire commercials on the Spanish-speaking stations, the Empire guy isn't in them. I guess his appeal isn't quite universal.

2. Victory Auto Wreckers. "That old car is worth money!" The Victory tow truck driver gives skanky 70's-Dude three bills, the top one of which is a $20 (so...$60?), for an old car whose door 70's-Dude has just pulled off by accident. Tow truck drives away w/car... not sure where the door ends up. Then a lovely shot of the junkyard, filled with very large cars with tailfins. Just another reason why Bensenville doesn't seem like the most homey of the suburbs.

3. Lincoln Carpeting. This one is long gone, but I still sing the jingle... "When you're thinkin' Lincoln Lincoln, Better carpeting for less, call National-2-9000, National-2-9- *phone rings*-thousand!" Good stuff.

4. Danley Garages. Not much to say about this one except that it existed/exists. When I was very young and impressionable, I was sure that having a garage torn down and rebuilt was something every adult would have to do, so I stored away the name Danley for future reference. Dial G-A-R-A-G-E-S!

5. Tile Outlet. The blonde lady with perfect bangs has been doing these commercials for ages. Is she the owner? Owner's wife? Daughter? Who knows? "Are you looking for marble?" "2444 Fullerton in Chicago, just three blocks west of the Kennedy Expressway!" Funny thing is, when we were shopping for tile for our kitchen, I was able to recall the commercial and drive directly there without having to look it up in the phone book. I guess their advertising pays off. (and they do have nice tile!)

6. DeVry (now DeVry University). Again, as an impressionable child, this was one of the only schools I knew of, so it seemed a foregone conclusion that this is where I would end up. Either here or...

7. ITT Technical Institute. Not to be confused with IIT (IL Institute of Technology), which is an actual university in Chicago. At ITT, you learn how to point intelligently at circuit boards and to frown intelligently at transmission timers. I could have done that.

8. Eagle Insurance. Okay, this one's clearly a self-parody, but it's too funny not to include. Eagle Man! is a guy in a bald eagle suit. He lands on the roof of an underinsured car and announces, "I've got something for yooooou!" Then he lays a huge egg on the car, in which is a baby eagle holding a sheet of great insurance rates. Onlookers looked shocked, then pleased. Good fun for all. Further proof you don't need a budget to do a memorable commercial.

9. Menard's. Menard's is a midwest home improvement chain. Their spokesman, a big guy with white hair and a crooked grin and Harry Caray glasses, is the guy we love to hate. He vanished for a while and there was some woman doing the commercials, but it just wasn't the same! And let us not forget the frantic banjo music and the jingle that haunts us in our sleep: "Save big money at Menard's!" (I actually like shopping there, and if you get their weekly circular, it has interesting quotes at the bottom of each page in tiny print.)

10. Peter Francis Geraci. Bankruptcy ((Info))((Tapes))!! (the double parentheses are very important) With Mr. Geraci's doleful face gazing out of your tv and into your financial heart, how could you *not* call now and learn how you too can get out of debt? He seems so sad and he cares so much about my well-being, I'm almost tempted to declare bankruptcy just to cheer him up.

11. Celozzi-Ettleson Chevrolet. These commercials are pretty standard dealership commercials, with two well-dressed grey-haired gentlemen holding fistfulls of cash saying together at the end: "Where you'll always save more money!" I'm not sure how much they're saving us if they have handfuls of cash to taunt us with afterwards. The guys actually showed up on a Wickes furniture commercial a couple of years ago. I guess they managed to clear just enough profit on their cars that they could afford new furniture.

12. Luna Carpeting. I think the phone number for this one has changed, but the song remains the same: "773-202-*four touchtone sounds*-LUNA!" Another song that haunts me late at night.

(ObCarpetDisclaimer: We've bought carpeting three times in Chicago, and all three times we went to Olson Rug, which to my knowledge doesn't even do TV commercials and which has by far the best service and selection. I'm not sure what that means but I just wanted to give them a plug.)

Will post this now and think of more commercials later.
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