Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Rainy day in April.

"Drip, drip, drop little April shower, Beating a tune as you fall all around."

Okay, so the film Bambi didn't make the showers seem so cold as they made today. (Well, cold as compared to yesterday - personally, I think this is nice weather, although my plants would be wont to disagree if the could.)

It is SUPPOSED to get back up to the 60s tomorrow. Let's see. Until then I'm going to enjoy the wonderful cool day that is somewhat remeniscent of a Scottish grey.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Sunny Days

Last Saturday, I went to a "PrEaster" Party at an old friend's old house. The photo looking like something out of a JCrew catalog is just a regular graduate student sort of "porching" behavior that is common in the sunny srpingtime. (In case you are interested, you can find all of your clothing needs with JCrew, but probably at a higher cost than you would want to pay as a graduate student).

On a bit of wandering around later, Keith and I bumped into Shinsuke, and (while talking) saw an Isetta pull up at the A2 farmer's market. It's such a nice little car, in the sense that it provides something akin to an enclosed motorcycle on four wheels. The door placed on the front of the body made me wonder if such a car would be amenable to parallel parking, since an inconsiderate driver might back up close to the front of the Isetta, making it impossible access the door. Also, the length of the Isetta appears to be about the same as the width of most midsize cars, and definitely shorter than the width of most SUV's. Of course, this might just be too tempting for an over-zealous traffic warden to ticket...

Finally, Keith and I ended up at the rope swing out at West Park. The photo doesn't do justice to the drop-off that one swings out over.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Weather: Sunny.

There are art installations on the Diag this week, courtesy of the MLA students. Yay! Art! Distraction! Learning! Multi-disiplinary multi-media learning tools!

The following descriptions match up with the various projects (however, they will not likely match up with my photos, since Blogger and I don't get along very well).

ROOTed (front of Dana and Randall)

Jennifer Austin, Erik Dayrell, Susie Mattke-Robinson, Mary Walton

Beneath the surface, the roots of a tree provide stability, strength, and life. Were these roots visible, you would see they reach out far past the trunk of the tree, extending well beyond the canopy. They would bleed their imprint onto the ground, making clear the connection between the life of the tree, the earth around it, and our place rooted in nature. Media: Broadcloth, wire.

Dioxin Exposure! (front of Dana)

E. S. Bauer, S. M. Layton, M. S. Jastremski

Dioxin is a dangerous chemical produced primarily by waste incineration and burning coal to generate electricity. It is present to varying degrees in nearly all life on earth, humans included. Dioxin Exposure! does what its name implies; it amplifies something that is all around us, even inside us,
but that we never see. For more information on Dioxin, visit www.ejnet.org.

Wind at Work (next to Hatcher Library)

Brian Chilcott, Amy Hiipakka, Britt Olsen-Zimmerman, Joel Perkovich, Ja-Jin Wu

The Wind at Work installation is intended to reveal that clean wind power becomes a sculpture in the landscape, rather than a scar as left by traditional fossil fuel extraction. Our intention is to promote the simple beauty of these forms in a bright and joyful space.

Shrine of the Once and Future Forest (front of Tisch Hall)

Jennifer Dowdell, Dave Laclergue, Carrie Morris, Zhifang Wang

Inspired by "The Once and Future Forest" by Leslie Jones Sauer of Andropogon Associates, this shrine mourns human-induced threats to forest diversity. The project encourages consideration of the history of introduced diseases, pests, and invasive species in North America. Playing off of current concerns about the emerald ash borer and the hemlock wooly adelgid, the shrine intends to expand awareness of a long and catastrophic history of similar disturbances, and the inevitability of future epidemics if preventative policies aren't established.

Flux (front of Angell/Mason Hall)

Katherine Foo, Tao Zhang

This installation speaks to the complex energy network that lies underneath the earth. The exponential mathematical relationship of its form expresses the intrusiveness of human beings' patterns of resource use.

Highlighting Diversity (tree wrappings)

Michael Yun, Holly Zipp, Yasuhiro Ishihara, Alicia LaValle, Amy Beltemacchi

We are surrounded by the solidity and permanence of trees but their inherent familiarity can make them invisible to our eyes. Wrapping tree trunks with a simple swath of color highlights the diversity and immutability of the trees. A sequence of horizontal bands at eye level emphasizes a line on the landscape and brings unity to a space which is otherwise experienced disparately. Each color corresponds to the tree's botanical family. We hope to deliberately connect our community to the landscape with this simple act.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Weather: Sunny

I went to the farmer’s market, A2’s PFC, and Eastern Accents Café. At the market, I picked up some leafy greens from Brines Farm (fantastic salad mix, arugula, and spinach). ** As a side-note, MS Word 2002 doesn't include "arugula" in its spell-checker **

On the way to the farmer’s market, I saw city workers cutting down a tree near the “Y”. I didn’t ask why they were doing it, but if it was like many of the trees there, it was some sort of maple (so it wasn’t because of the emerald ash borer). It was likely damaged by the heavy winds we’ve been having recently. Still, to have four large trucks come to take down the smallest tree on the block seemed a little overkill to me. That they spray-painted a blue "X" on the side of the tree facing the street before starting to cut does, however, make it seem more (erm) in line with what I would expect from the city.

At Eastern Accents, Curt and I were given the privilege of briefly hosting a drunk in a puffy jacket for a few minutes before he realized that:

1) he couldn’t draw in his state of inebriation (he was apparently trying to draw a woman’s face, but couldn’t get past drawing just the eyes), and

2) he wasn’t going to get much more from us than near-rapt attention at the nonsequitor of his presence (after all, it’s not every Saturday morning that you have a drunk join your table at an near-empty café).

I’m also including some photos of Ann Arbor’s lovely City Hall that I took on my way to the market. It seems to be a building lost in time. I say this because, given the right building materials and planning, the design would have been awe-inspiring, as the building would appear to defy gravity; a triangular wedge standing on its point. Instead, we have something that tried to make an attempt at this in planning, utterly failed somewhere during the construction phase, and now sits sullen and alone in the middle of its asphalt parking lot. Ladies and gentlemen: the city hall building of Ann Arbor.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Weather: Rain and rain and rain (and clouds)

I woke up today to the sound of rain pelting down on the roof. Lots of rain. Yesterday was sunny and breezy. Today is rainy and breezy. It MUST be spring.

Unfortunately, this rain means that we will be postponing the Spring Picnic to another day (the first time since I started here). As SNRE students, part of me feels that we should be able to withstand and enjoy the various types of weather that is part of a Michigan spring. However, I am not a "normal" person in this regard. (Plus, rain doesn't go well with sandwiches...) If there was some way of having a gathering outside the building, out of the rain, but in a different situation (similar to the Arb), I would be all for it!

Oh, well. Back to work. Back to (a modeled) reality.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Window: Cloudy

Apple is now capable of doing Windows! People with Apple can now use ArcGIS! (And apparently, it runs Windows faster than a PC...)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Weather: ...

The bird flu is not even 10 miles away from my alma mater, St Andrews in Scotland. The story is likely to cause panic in the area. I hope my friends keep a sound head and do the right thing.

Weather: Changeable.

It appears that the Ross Business School's Davidson Hall is to be demolished as part of the $300 million redevelopment process. The trucks are out and ready to start the destruction! I took some last photos of the place before it goes bye-bye and all that is left is rubble. I wondered when this will happen, what will the new building would look like, if it would be LEED design, how this might hurt the school's short-term enrollment, or cause more people to come to an expanding program. All questions were mostly answered at the "Community Creation" page at the Ross School of Business. Lots of pictures of what the thing looks like, including information about their fitness center!?!

I also include a photo of one of the sorority buildings overshadowed by the South Quad dorm. I just like the photo.

Also, Bank1One is now Chase! (The ATM is being measured to fit. It turns out that most of it is plastic - just like the H2!)

Weather: bleaugh

The weather is SUPPOSED to get warmer. We shall see... (currently 37F, but it FEELS like 29F.) Slightly windy. Perfect! This is good weather.

(The "bleaugh" is just my mood right now.)

Webcomic review 1: Okay so I read webcomics. Fine. I know that there are better ways of spending my time. However, I choose to not follow them. In this and future blogs, I will go through some of the (many) webcomics that I have deemed suitable (for various reasons) for me to read. The first one is Accidental Centaurs by John Lotshaw. Apart from having a bias positive regard toward John's last name (hahahaha, bad joke), I feel that this strip is a nice piece of fantasy comedy, and isn't a dark, violent, gory, erotic, super-sarcastic, and/or geeky comic. It isn't manga-esque or a super hero comic, but features two centaurs (Alex and Samantha) that were originally human scientists from earth and are now caught in another dimension where they meet a genie called Lenny that transforms their perceptions of themselves (and you, the reader) to that of centaurs from Greek myth. They go through some adventures, but since the comic is updates only semi-weekly, each adventure might take a year or more to get through (going through the archives is a better way of getting a feel of each entire plot arc). John's pacing seems to be a little slow for my liking at times, but he still makes the ride a good one.

There is usually some amount of time that passes between adventures, so you pick up with Alex and Samantha in a place that usually has little to do with where the previous story line took place. Additionally, there has been a couple cross-over plot lines with The Wotch (coming up in a later post), and a few guest artists have also contributed work.

Final review: I like it! You should check it out.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Weather: Windy

I like days like today: just above freezing, windy, and touches of sunlight (I would call it a "dappling", but that might be going too far). Brisk wind; makes me feel like I should be energetic.

Yesterday, I went to a talk by the creator of Piled Higher and Deeper, the online webcomic all about graduate life. It was a great talk where the (now FORMER grad student) told us all that procrastination is GOOD. However, procrastination is often mistaken for laziness (which is BA~~D). The difference is that if you procrastinate, you put off something until a later time (usually unnecessarily). If you are lazy, you just put stuff off.

There are two implications here: the first one being that if you procrastinate, you will do it when it needs be done (although "when it needs to be done" and "deadline" apparently don't always mean the same thing), and the second one being that procrastination requires finding something pleasurable to do (although not always pleasurable in all circumstances; such as cleaning all the dishes, vacuuming the house, cleaning the oven, etc) that suddenly makes postponing the first thing necessary.

The problem comes from GUILT. Guilt comes from (other than being a Catholic) the belief that you SHOULD be doing what you are distracting yourself from actually accomplishing. However, guilt tends to make a person enjoy their distractions less and less, causing them to pursue them more and more, causing a person to hurtle along a downward-spiraling trend toward depression. The key is to enjoy your distraction fully, and then go back to what you were working on before being distracted. (And learn to become less distracted with extraneous things in general - like life...)

Finally, I liked his explanation of Newton's (modified) second law of graduate student life:

F=m a

therefore: a =F/m


Age (grad student) = flexibility (of choices)/motivation (to finish)

As one progresses through graduate student life, one's motivation to finish tends to wax and wane (apparently at electrical engineering at Stanford, motivation wanes more than waxes). As dm/dt decreases, da/dt is expected to increase, as per the formula. The key to finishing a PhD is (apparently) not increasing motivation per se, but seriously decreasing a grad student's flexibility! (So long as the flexibility is lower than the term for motivation, the degree will be finished!) What an insight!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Weather: PhD Potluck-y

Thanks Dave (and Lekha) for hosting this month's PhD potluck. I've never been to such a successful one (and met so many PhD students from outside SNRE)!

I learned many different things tonight. The first one being that Paducah, KY was the glue that holds all of us together (who would have thought that such a small town would have independently come up in four different conversations). By the end of the night, we had established that Paducah was central in many critical points in the world's history.

Another thing that we all learned was that the best way of getting a good rent while in town is to "get to know" your landlord/lady a little bit better.

I learned that Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are separated by about 60 miles, and 2000 years, and reminded of the story of Isaac's birthrights, teaching me that one should never judge a son by the hairyness of his arm.

Finally, I learned about freecycle.org, which is apparently a great way of getting rid of stuff that you don't want, don't know how to get rid of, and don't necessarily want/need to sell. I will have to check out this site, see if there is anything that a poor grad student such as myself can get my grubby little hands on.

Weather: Cloudy

Went to an April Fool's wine & cheese party out on the east side of town last night. I got back home at 6AM, and I have photographic evidence that Keith is a wine fiend!

Daylight saving's time. Bah. It's 1 PM and I'm just starting out the day.