Posts Tagged ‘Life’

A Single Left Turn

Giant TCR2

A life changing bicycle.

It began on a sunny summer day in Santa Barbara. October had just begun, not a cloud flew free in the skies, a light breeze from the ocean blew down the street as I walked into the bicycle shop. I was nervous, this was the first time I was doing this on my own.

The weeks leading up to this day I had gone out a few times with the university cycling team. I felt I had found a sport that I could thoroughly, going around on my mountain bike, struggling to keep up, I knew I just needed a good road bike to make it all come together.

In the store I had a list of several potential bike my Dad, who had owned a bike store for eleven year, had given me. I told the sales guy that I was looking to buy a new road bike and that I was joining the UCSB cycling team (there was a discount), I also said that I was thinking of these bikes. He assumed that since I was thinking of joining the cycling team that I needed a really fast competition level bike, I of course did not know this at the time.

Instead of getting a more entry level road bike I wound up with a more serious bike. I was also sold some accessories that I probably did not need. I put on my freshly purchase cycling gear, cinched down my backpack and took off back towards campus on my shiny red bike.

I was still nervous and a touch shaken up by making such a big purchase, the biggest I have ever made up to that point in fact. But I rode on, enjoying the lovely fall day, using the dedicated bike paths, this just felt right.

For the next few weeks I took care of my bike, keeping it clean, taking it out and biking around. I fell down a few times as I adjusted to clip in pedals. One time I came to a stop at a stop sign and could not unclip my shoes, I slowly tipped over onto the concrete. No one was around to see me.

Halloween weekend rolled around and the club had an outing. It was a morning ride that was to last into early afternoon. In the afternoon I had a study session planned for an upcoming paper that was due in my comparative literature class.

Halfway through the bike ride we came to a T intersection. Right took us back to campus and left onward to Hope Ranch. I felt that it was getting late and I should head back to campus for my study session. But I thought that might be rude, leaving mid-ride. I was not yet confident enough in myself to be that independent. I went left with everyone else.

It was a steady climb up to the top of the small sea-side cliff, I was getting pretty winded as I fell behind. I realized I should have turned back. But then we started going downhill, downhill? Easy. Trying to catch up I sped up down the big hill, a gentle turn was coming up. I checked my speedometer, 32 MPH, pretty fast. On my right the ocean spread out under a blue sky, just beautiful.

It was not a gentle turn. It was a hairpin turn that I did not know about. I tried to break and make the turn. I could not make. Some unconscious part of my mind must have realized the options: slide out or hit the railing and plunge a hundred feet into the sea. I started to slide out. I just remember that moment of tilting downward.

Next thing I knew I was on my back with people over me. They said an ambulance had been called. I wiggled my toes and fingers, all working, good. Next I asked if my glasses and bike were okay, they said they were. Someone had my glasses and they took my bike as an ambulance arrived.

In the ambulance they asked what hurt the most. I managed to reply “My pride”. They did not laugh, I thought it was funny. In the hospital they cleaned a gash on my leg, from the bike spokes as the bike flipped over me. The only other injury was my front teeth, it seems I used them to break.

A little lost without my glasses (someone had them) I called my roommate asking for help. He found someone in the hall with a car and picked me up.

The next day I got my glasses and bike back from a cycling club member. I was heartbroken at seeing my bike scratched up.

I spent the next few weeks recovering, not really biking anywhere. I went to the doctors and started a long procedure to get crown’s made to replace my lost teeth.

Throughout that year I tried several times to get back into cycling but I could not enjoy it. I still rode my mountain bike around campus but the road bike became a source of regret. I could not get back on.

This all happened within the first few months of my freshman year.

Sophomore year I brought my bike back to school and tried riding it again to no avail. I could not ride it but I could not sell it, I felt I had invested too much into the whole enterprise.

Junior year I spent in Scotland while my bike rested in my parents garage.
Senior year it remained in the garage while I found a more appropriate physical pursuit in fencing.

Then I moved to Seattle for graduate school. Okay, alright, now was the time for me to dust off this bike and get back into the cycling game. I could even use it to commute to campus now that I lived a few miles away, Seattle is bike friendly this is perfect!I rode it a few times around Greenlake before realizing it was not to be. I considered converting it into a commuter bike, I even went into a local bike shop to check out panniers. Then winter came and my ideas of commuting to work fell to the wayside.

I knew what I had to do.

I had to sell the bike.

I pulled it out of storage, cleaned it off and looked at it. I replaced it all back to stock parts, removed the speedometer that fatefully read that final speed, made sure the scratches were at least cleaned up, took a few photos and posted to craigslist.

I started posting four weeks ago.

I sold it this weekend.

I now feel a bike shaped hole in my life. When I had someone coming by to look at it.

I felt all of the potential that it represented, an entire new aspect of myself unexplored, lost, gone.

A UCSB alumni ended up buying the bike from me, that helped make the loss a little bit easier.

Making that single left turn drastically altered the course of my life. I have always wondered what would have happened if I turned right.

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The east coast likes their "Pop".

The east coast likes their "Pop".

A lot of heat has been coming into the Bay Area recently, in particular near my house it has been getting into the high 90’s and perhaps low 100’s (roughly mid to high 30’s (305’s) for those fans of Celsius (or Kelvin)).

That sort of heat starts to greatly limit the options of what to do. They are sadly reduced down to activities like siting inside a cool house with a computer and sitting around a cool pool with a book. Sometimes there are radical activities in the heat like getting up to get a drink and (rarely) moving around deck furniture.

However as I am soon to be in Seattle for a bit of time I am doing my best to embrace these arduous activities of summer, I must make sure I contribute to the appreciation of the heat.

Of course my opinion of the warm weather would drastically changed if I had to work or do anything in it. Let us hope that does not happen anytime soon.

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Complex tasks require us to start at the beginning.

The drive home was a bit longer then normal. There was noticeable traffic after Prunedale passing the swap meet at Disneyena then again several miles from the 101/85 junction due to an accident. This last one caused the freeway to stop, we got out and walked around a bit, enjoyed the scenery.

Now that I am home I have the daunting task of unpacking a year and a rooms worth of belongings into a room already filled with stuff.

I am trying to start with clearing a path to all parts of the room, currently the doorway is a bit full and a corner is packed. Once that is done my goal is to use this as an opportunity to downsize my belongings by giving away some old clothes, throwing out some old papers (recycling actually) and perhaps sell some of my books. Also I want to clean my room to the point where I can put everything away without piles on the floor.

The goal being to be able to fit all of my stuff comfortably into one car so when I move up to Seattle I can do it without any sort of trailer or shipping.

This is one of my monumental tasks of the summer.

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A College Night at Super Cucas in Isla Vista,

A College Night at Super Cucas in Isla Vista,

It is often said that college is the best four years of your life. Now that it is ending for me I can see why this is. It is a time where your financially stable, you are content with living with bare minimums, there are no debts to pay, no long term careers to worry about, relatively buffered from the economy, can choose what you want to do and when you want to do it, you are immediately part of a larger community that offers tons of programs and clubs, friends from all sorts of background and ideally you spend your days learning what you want to learn.

And then it ends.

My friends are looking into what jobs they can get, where they are going to live. Some are decide to stay near the University for as long as they can, others move home where it is cheaper and some take a year off before deciding anything.

I know a lot of people would love to relive their college years, in a way this is evidences with the tons of college based movies glorifying the highlights of a year within an hour and a half.

So I recall something my first physics TA and friends told us the first week he taught us:

This is my first year as a graduate student and it is like my freshman year all over again.

As a result I am not sad or worried that my years as an undergraduate are ending. Instead I see them as evolving into my years as a graduate students. Eventually I am may have to join the workforce of the real world, but I don’t think I will ever need too. I am going to spend the next half a dozen years with rockets, balloons, lightning and space. Afterwards I plan to work at pushing at the edges of space.

If college are the best years why do we stop what makes them great?

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Freeb!rds, the standard destination of Isla Vista.

Freeb!rds, the standard destination of Isla Vista.

Nothing make you feel more like a slacker then sitting a table with friends at a departmental awards ceremony and being the only one to not get highest academic honors, just normal academic honors.

This is of course a recurring problem that I have faced throughout my college career. I happen to hang out with science majors (physics mostly) who are the very top of the class, consequently I use them as a benchmark for what is to be considered normal. I feel like a slacker since I have no papers published, only one year of basic research, don’t know complex mathematical techniques and have not spent summers working in labs.

The only reference I have to what the average student does is the guys I live with. If I did not live with seven random people (always a roll of the dice) then I would assume that everyone has the same standards and dedication as physics majors. Still it is hard to undo perceptions of normal built up over the last four years.

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These are probably some critical component of the Madison Symmetric Torus.

These are probably some critical component of the Madison Symmetric Torus.

Sometimes working in an experimental research lab as an undergraduate is not a fun experience. Lately (since getting into graduate school) I have not been motivated to work on or even care about the project I am working on. Simple tasks take much longer then they actually should and I often feel that our project is not welcomed in the lab. Part of it is that I came in sort of in the middle/beginning so I have no personal attachment to the project. The other is that most of my time is spent scavenging parts or trying to get the necessary equipment to do what needs to be done.

The main problem is that I hardly see the connection between our project and actual research, and even if there was a connection the research is not at the top of my list for what I find interesting. I guess that is a problem when my area of interest is a particularly narrow one.

Then again starting out in a situation like this makes Washington next year seem so much better in comparison.

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A New Year: 2009


A new path.

A new path.

2009 is finally hear and with it comes a slew of possibilities and new starts. 

For me it signals the end of my time at UC Santa Barbara and the start of a new career when I graduate. 

And with the new year comes resolution for the new year, I have some very simple but very difficult ones:

  • Proofread my articles more often.
  • Go out and take more photos whenever the opportunity arises.
  • Eat more green vegetables. 
  • Eventually spend less time procrastinating.
  • Cut back on Kitten Juggling.

That last one will be the hardest.

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Holidays revolve around food.

Holidays revolve around food.

Returning home after several months at college is such a strange experience. Especially Thanksgiving. It is a three day taste of home before returning to not only the intensity of school but dead and finals weeks as well. After the two hardest weeks of the quarter the journey home begins again. This is probably not as strange for those who live close enough to home to return on weekends, for those of us who chose to be a good distance away home is a place only visited for Thanksgiving, Christmas break, Spring Break and Summer. Aside from those four time periods home is our rooms at school.

The transition may seem radical: a college dorm or apartment to a house you grew up in. The norms and habits are so very different. Except childhood muscle memory always kicks in. Chores that were done growing up become standard once again, eating with the family something to look forward too, even the hours awake change back to those growing up. At school getting tired at around midnight seems slightly odd while not being in bed by midnight is strange at home. 

The strangest part is the subtle changes. Fixtures around the house change, door handles are replaced, curtains disappear and occasionally a wall changes color. Pets grow slightly or become better behaved (that is actually a rare occurrence). Seasons are weird also. Santa Barbara has no seasons aside form Sun and Rain while going home thrusts me into the normal (for me growing up) cycle of the seasons. I went from a slightly rainy Santa Barbara to the winter of my youth. The clouds, the temperature and the smells bring back the middle of winter. Oddly I miss real winter when I am in Santa Barbara. 

There is also the slow encroachment of space. Some of my friends have completely lost their rooms to siblings or parents. In my case my room is rapidly turning into a second office and a guest room, me as the guest. I mean my posters and books and stuff are all there, but ever slowly more filing boxes appear and a few more shelves are requisitions for business use.

An inability to do work arises as well. Over the summer I spent my time at home luxuriating in the lack of work that I needed to do. I read, I played video games and I took naps in the sun. Now when I return home with piles of work to do I cannot muster the motivation to do any of it. While at school I can easily work twelve hours straight I can barely do a hour of work without drifting off or finding a snack. Part of it is that I never had a dedicated work space growing up since I never had much homework in high school.

People change. It is not that bad now that I am a fourth year, but for my freshman year coming home for the first time was strange. I was no longest the same person who left two months before. The same thing happened after five months in Europe, people change. That is the point of college in the end, growing.

Going home is always a strange experience. The eight hour car ride is like a journey to another world. In a way it is relaxing but in a way there is always a sense of wonderment at the distinct world of home.

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School can be surprisingly busy, like this photo.

School can be surprisingly busy, like this photo.

Somewhere between High School and now weekends lost their appeal. During high school and even to some extent my freshman year weekends were this glorious time in which school was left aside and the days were thrown open to possibility.

That possibility is crushed now.

Weekends are now bastions of work and chores. Days lost to lab work and evenings devoured by applications.

Time lost to physics, time lost to school and time lost to keeping up.

The shift has been so gradual that I have not noticed till now. I suppose I started doing an hour or so at the beginning and now it has grown to become twelve hours of work every day of the week. A little respite at times of Thursday and Friday but always with the caveat in the back of the mind that there is more work to do.

It is really a challenge to just remain afloat.

Despite all of this, or maybe because of it, I enjoy it. I suppose if I was an accounting major I would not be happy but since I am doing physics it is worth it.

I guess I am trying to say that it is good to study what you love because towards the end it is all you have left.

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Serene Summer Schedule



Summer Vacation is tough.

Summer Vacation is tough.


Tomorrow is the end of a three week break in the middle of my greater summer break. Tomorrow I return to work at Think Tank Photo. My Dad works there and the company was looking for summer help organizing stock and taking out the cardboard. A very exciting job. But the hours are not bad, it is a good environment and I get lunch every day. It is also an inside job in an air conditioned building without a cubicle in sight. Three weeks ago I finished most of the jobs I needed to do at the job, so I took the week off (I went to the beach). The following two weeks my Dad was on a business trip to Hong Kong and Vietnam to view the factories and work with employees over there, since my Dad was also my ride to work I took those two weeks off also.

With my part time job back I will have to give up my intense summer schedule that I have developed over the past few weeks:

Wake up at around 8 in the morning, proceed to sit in bed with my laptop for a good hour or so. By the time I am out of my bed everyone else in the house has gone to work or started their day. Eat a healthy breakfast of cold cereal made mostly of sugar while reading headlines from The Wall Street Journal and The Press Democrat. Read or play video games to about 11:30 or so. About this time of day I either eat lunch or go outside and read in the sunlight for an hour. Eyes dazzled by staring at a sunlit page I come inside to scrounge up a lunch from food stuffs trapped in the refrigerator. From this point until about five I usually do any chores on my to do list followed by posting on this here blog. This is usually done from a couch while my brothers girlfriend watches sitcoms on TV. Either people start trickling in for the evening or they are all in busy, in either case I usually check back on the internet around this time (someone has to make sure it is still there) and do more strenuous work such as dealing with unplayed video games. The evening are not so structured since most people are finished with their jobs for the day (I finished mine by making sure no one broke into the house) though most of them have dinner sometime around eight.

It is a stressful and time consuming job not having work to do. On my night stand I have the most recent edition of Cracking the GRE by The Princeton Review. I have yet to crack it open. Well I have until September 20th to enjoy my (potentially) last summer vacation. Next year I might have responsibilities or series to decisions to consider. Until then I plan to enjoy the warm sunlight while I can.

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