Friday, September 25, 2009

Germans and their Bratwurst

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Photos from 93,000 feet

My mentee is famous! :)

The first year MechE who was assigned to me as my mentee this year told me about his cool weather ballon/camera side project a few weeks ago (right before their latest launch). And I just now found out that this project has been making it into quite a few online sites.

Ahh these MIT kids impress me. Just wait til you hear about the OTHER side projects they're working on.

Basically, they've carried out a launch on the very low budget of $150, took some amazing pics, and hope to spread this launch know-how to younger students to inspire interest in science.

The weather balloon launch reminds me of the Mars Plane project I worked on in undergrad :) so this was all really exciting for me!

Their website:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Human Space Flight Committee

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Long time no update

Lots to update on. Not enough time :(

Suffice it to say: summer is awesome. I've been soaking up the sun, eating a lot, doing a lot, spending a lot of money, spending a lot of hours in lab building stuff, and enjoying everything!

I'm now going to hide in a hole for the next semester and hunker down to study for the qualifying exams...

Monday, June 1, 2009

JP Winter Retreat

We, the outdoorsy :) Joint Program students organized a retreat to New Hampshire in February. We rented a huge house and ~50 of us stayed there over a long weekend. Activities like this are the reason that winters in New England can still be fun!
We split up into different groups on Saturday, and I joined the group that went skiing at Attitash. It was sooooo icy that day. I guess by this time of year, very little fresh powder can be found. Yay east coast......
The conditions were so different that it was as if you had to use different techniques to work your way down the slopes.
I was surprised that only one other person out of this group would go up to the top of any of the mountains with me (I don't understand how some of them already shelled out lots of money for their own gear if they aren't brave enough to go on blues.....) Thankfully for Allison, I got to go on some of the tougher trails with a buddy. And....she convinced me to go on a double black. This one went much more smoothly than the double black at Tahoe. That's just because the NE mountains are smaller and therefore easier though.

Check out the huge ice patch!

On Sunday, a group of us tried to find a hill to go sledding on. We ended up driving to someone's property that included an old ski lift (this was the plan proposed when guys were put in charge). We asked the owner for permission to go down it, but he said no. So, we found a small hill to hike up (still hard to do in the snow without snowshoes, especially when going at a fast pace set by a super tall guy).

At the top:

Some of us tried to sled down this hill anyways, even though there were trees EVERYWHERE. Certain people were less successful than others.....

Lunch afterwards:

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Boston Symphony Orchestra

Now that classes are done for the semester, it's time to catch up on posting pictures from this semester.....

Went to hear the Boston Symphony Orchestra perform for the first time in February.
They played a couple Mozart arias, a premiere of a modern piece by Schuller, and Brahm's Symphony No. 2 :)

I didn't realize that MIT completely payed for student tickets, so I spent $25 on the College Card like other college students have to. When I went to pick up my tickets, I realized the mistake I'd made. The guy felt sorry for me (maybe just because he thought i was dumb) and gave our group seats REALLY close to the front and in the middle. They were fantastic! I was actually close enough to see detailed finger movement on the strings.

Having seen a few other cities' professional orchestras play, I really enjoyed the atmosphere at the BSO. Holding true to the "college town" setting of this city, many in the audience were young and informally dressed. I found this much more enjoyable than the super-dressy, stuffy, old/rich person atmosphere that other places have.

On our way to getting tickets, Jaime (my Spaniard friend) and I decided to check out a few other things in the area. First was the Church of Christian Science's huge building, which we went inside and got an on-the-spot tour of.

Then we went to a music store and I took a goofy picture with the huge Elvis head
Pretty views from the Harvard Bridge

Monday, May 18, 2009

More on Carbon Fiber!

Ok this is really dangerous.
I now know the major steps taken to make a carbon fiber string instrument....

I have a ridiculous amount of experience in laying-up composite materials from my senior design project (in fact, if there's one skill I feel the best at having completed DBF, its that I can lay up stuff all day long). Now that I know they literally just lay-up layers of carbon fiber to make the instruments, I really want to try and make one myself!
All I need is the extra components you add on at the end (fingerboard, bridge, sound post, etc), and a few trials of making a full system that meets my desired sound, and I'm good to go!
This would cost at least an order of magnitude less than what they're being sold for.

This was very dangerous information for me to get a hold of....

Lunchtime Concert Series

The Whitehead Institute (biomedical research center right next to my lab) puts on a free concert about once a month for an hour during lunch.

It's a fantastically refreshing thing to attend in the middle of the day. The artists that come are quite high class too (seems like they all either went to Juilliard, played in the Boston Symphony, or did both). The arts are so alive in Boston!

The first one I went to had the following program:

Performers: Christina Wright, piano, and Sharon Cohen, violin.
Pieces: Brahms' Sonata for Piano and Violin, Op. 47, "Kreutzer"; Janacek's Piano Sonata "From the Street"; J.S. Bach's Partita for Solo Violin in d minor; Franck's Sonata for Piano and Violin in A Major

The one today was outstanding:
Performers: Carmen Rodriguez-Peralta, piano, and Luis Leguia, cello.
Rayner Taylor's Solo for Cello and Piano;
Luis Leguia's Memories;
Heitor Villa-Lobos' O Canto Do Cysne Negro (Song of the Black Swan);
Brahms' Sonata No. 1 E Min, Op. 38;
Alberto Ginastera's Pampeana No. 2 Rapsodia para Violincello y Piano

All of these were great! I find myself often thinking that the cello gets my pick for the most beautiful instrument.
The last piece was my favorite: diverse in sound and style throughout. It unabashedly explored the FULL extent of the fingerboard, and it had really beautiful harmonic chords. I've got to convince Jennifer to learn this one!!!

So, this cellist also makes instruments. Apparently, he desired a more "beautiful and penetrating cello"than those he had played for a long time, so he eventually ended up building CARBON FIBER CELLOS. You can read more about them at
It's quite apparent that the one he played with gave a fuller, bolder, more resounding sound than a traditional wooden one. It is quite a distinct sound to hear, but one that I certainly was impressed with.
The instruments look realllly sleek too! All black and shiny like a sweet airplane part :)
(I wonder why he doesn't play with a carbon fiber bow though, since those are quite common....)

I'm in the middle of selecting a new violin for purchase and now I really want to try and play one of their carbon fiber violins!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(I didn't actually get to see Yo-Yo Ma playing a carbon fiber cello. But I can dream....)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

NY Times Reports on Ultimate Frisbee

Women's Ultimate is undoubtedly getting exponentially more recognition, as proven by the NY Times' interest in reporting on the sport.

Indeed, it is true that this sport beautifully combines gracefulness, agility, endurance, and speed- qualities that draw top-notch players, making the sport a much more intensely athletic activity than most envision.

In response to some of the concern that ultimate has become "too competitive" in relation to what started out as a very laid-back, informal activity, I'd like to point out that Frisbee can be played in a variety of settings and manners- that's one of the great aspects of the sport.
The highly competitive level of play, however, does not at all degrade from the original mentality that the sport was created on. Refer to the UPA's description of the "Spirit of the Game" to see that the sport is solidly founded on the notion that players are required to play with positive spirit. The fact that no referees are involved in the games ensures that teams are fair and honest, treating each other as they wish to be treated.

One of the best parts about Frisbee is that the level of intensity of the game can raise to an adrenaline-racing level, where you're running through your last breath, laying out and hitting the ground hard to grab that almost-out-of-reach pass, and soaring through the air to snatch a disc high above your defender, and do all of that without ever physically bullying your defender (which is the case in many other sports: basketball, soccer etc. where games quickly turn into a "bullying" contest instead of an athelticism, teamwork and skill competition)

:) :) :) *sigh* Frisbee!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Number One!



Our team's airplane last year was much cooler (and more innovative!) of course, but I'm still proud to see OSU dominating the DBF competition :)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Get your genome sequenced

If you have $68,000, you can put in an eBay bid to get your genome sequenced.

XPrize at work again!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Out with the old, in with the new

Everybody knows that I'm a cheap-o, but recently I've been forced to make a couple new purchases.

The backpack I was using for a long time started falling apart. If you can't tell from the picture, one of the straps was hanging on by only a few strands.
It lasted through hiking the Alps and up Half Dome in Yosemite, so I guess a new backpack was deserved.In its place, I got a Patagonia Half Mass Messenger Bag (got a sweet deal on it), which is moving me one step closer to completing my transformation into a true urbanite (HA!). It's made out of recycled material, came with a laptop insert and water bottle holder unlike the Timbuk2 bags that everyone else buys.

The other major purchase was a new laptop!!! After several difficulties with the Acer I got 3 years ago (which I was holding onto dearly, since it was my main form of payment from my internship in Taiwan that I worked so hard on), it crashed for the second time and I decided it would be more beneficial in all aspects to just buy a new system.
I bought basically the cheapest thing I could find that wasn't a mini.
Dell Inspiron 1300
13.3" screen
4.9 lbs
160 GB hard drive
Processor: Celeron 560, 2.13 GHz
Need to buy more memory for it

Nothing fancy, but should hopefully prove to be cheap and reliable. It's also thinner and sleeker than most Dells, so that's nice.

Next up: Buy a new bike. Mine has been stolen, despite the fact that it was locked to a rack with a heavy duty U-Lock.....

Buy a new violin. More details on that to come!

My cheap-o ways are being forced out of me at the moment..............

Saturday, April 11, 2009

My First New England Winter

I guess it is officially spring now, so perhaps it is time to reflect on my journey through a "real" winter for the first time.

Before starting school here, I viewed the idea of a harsh Boston winter very negatively, going so far as to even consider not choosing this school because of that fact alone. However, having survived one round of it, I've learned a few things.

- As long as you wear enough layers (not just on your upper body), most of the cold feeling goes away. (Amazing how I wasn't aware of this simple concept)
- Experiencing different seasons is a wonderful thing! (I didn't understand this until I experienced it myself.....)
-Learn to go skiing early in the winter season. It's great to have something to look forward to in the winter months (ice hockey and ice skating are also great fun)
-Feeling crisp air on your face as you walk to class can be quite a refreshing way to start the day.
-People (myself included) wear shorts on the first day that 50 degree weather arrives.

Now, having said those positive things, I must admit that I am quite ready for warmer days to come now. Seriously.... it is April and I still have to wear gloves and a hat at night. Not to mention, at our frisbee tournament today in Rhode Island, it SNOWED. The conditions were far more rainy and cold than I have ever experienced while playing frisbee. I'm not used to this: in Oklahoma it might unexpectedly start raining, but nothing there (in weather terms) lasts more than a couple hours. This was unrelenting.

Ahhhh sweaty summer months, hurry up and get here so I can start wearing T-shirts outside again and play frisbee under the SUN.

Friday, April 3, 2009

New NASA Policy

"NASA has taken action to rebalance the aging workforce and adopted a policy and goal that 50% of all new civil servant hires will be fresh-out hires."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Terrafugia, the company started by MIT grads to make a fly-able car, had its first succesful flight!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Fun Links

Check out the following sites for pictures on neat stuff:

Constellation Program:
I got to sit in a mock-up of the crew vehicle this summer.

Out of the ones shown here, I have seen ATHLETE, Toyota's trumpet playing 'bot, and Mars Science Lab in person.

I will soon be making one even cooler than all the ones seen on that site :)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ice Hockey and Smoothies

Here are some more pictures from a bit earlier in the semester when some friends and I went to the MIT v. WPI Ice Hockey game and then got smoothies at the Tang Smoothie Night.

Apparently, ice hockey is the most popular varsity sport at MIT to watch. This was the second game that we went to and they're quite fun! Before this year, I'd never seen a whole game of hockey (unless watching Mighty Ducks counts....) and I enjoy the intensity of the sport. I didn't realize that people would do full body dives (think frisbee layout + subsequent sliding on the ice) to block the puck!

But to put things in perspective: when I say this is the most well-attended varsity sport at MIT, there are a max of 50ish people in the stands. Compare this to football at OSU, where the stadium holds 50,000 spectators (more than twice the number of actual Stillwater residents). Needless to say, the cheering fans here can be considered cute as best, in comparison to ocean of sound that surrounds you in the football or basketball stadiums back home. Don't get me wrong though- I do enjoy the cheers here. The dedicated front line of about 10 fans consistently yells out witty, nerdy banter.

Knowing now that the football team here has less than 50 attendees per game, I feel realllly bad for not going to support Tommy at any of his games :/
I literally just assumed that for a good portion of last semester that the season hadn't started since NO ONE talked about the games.....

Monday, February 16, 2009

Chinese New Year

Went with some friends to Chinatown for Dim Sum before the semester started. It just so happened that there was a big festival for Chinese New Year going on when we got there!

Drum welcoming the lion into the street (Reminded me of playing in the Malaysian Drum Group.....)

Lion stopping at each store to eat the cabbage and oranges

This is what Chinatown is supposed to look like every day!!!!

Haha...candid photo


A couple lions came into the restaurant while we were eating

Probably Lion #7 we'd seen that day. The firecrackers were LOUD.

Later that week, ATS put on a Chinese New Year's celebration. Mike and I cooked sticky rice so we got free admission :)
The food was delicious and I was really impressed by the quality of performances they had. I was expecting multiple violin performances and not much else (like what my Oklahoma experiences taught me to anticipate), but was quite pleasantly surprised to hear excellent music from several traditional Chinese instruments. By the way, how do ABCs learn to play those????
Also, they had a couple Chinese Yo-Yo shows (see video below), Chinese A Cappella (ok this one was not so great....), and other musical performances.

I'm really amazed by how much more ATS (the group of undergrad ABCs) organizes events that showcase Taiwanese culture than ROCSA (the group of grad Taiwanese students) does.....
I guess if you're an international grad student, you're less interested in "showing off" your culture?? Not quite sure...

Chinese Yo-Yo set to some great music :)
I hope Robert is this good when he gets back from Taiwan.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Singularity University

Here's Peter Diamandis' latest idea being put to work. This guy just doesn't rest!

Basically, it's the founding of a new "university" that consists of grad students from various disciplines coming together for the summer (at my beloved NASA Ames!), learning and working together across fields to develop solutions for the world's biggest problems. Many new start-ups are hoped to be spun off of what is created here.
I'm glad to see Pete Worden continuing to defy convention by insisting on backing new programs such as this that really utilize Silicon Valley's innovation to Ames' advantage (even beyond aerospace).

So......who wants to fund me to go? :)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

GSC Ski Trip

Now for the update on the Graduate Student Council Ski Trip to Sunday River, Maine!!

I and 500 other MIT graduate students went on a 3 day trip to ski some of New England's tallest slopes. What a blast!

Those of us who were hardcore :) would ski all morning, munch on a granola bar for lunch, ski until sunset, ski in to the condo (directly off one of the trails! I didnt even know this existed, but condos which you can ski in/out of are FANTASTIC!), relax in the hot tub, ski out from the condo and do a couple hours of night skiing, and then shower, eat and head out to the nightly MIT party.

Having just gotten back from skiing at some of Lake Tahoe's most powdery (and largest) slopes, I was a bit spoiled, but zooming down slopes of beautiful mountainsides can be made a fun experience anywhere.

Unfortunately, the group lessons we were offered as part of our package were not nearly as helpful as I had hoped, but I still think I'm improving well enough on my own. I feel completely comfortable on all the blue slopes I've gone on, but the jump from blue to black seems significant since many black trails are mogul-filled and therefore require a completely different set of skills. Don't worry- that didn't stop me from going on 3 or 4 of them anyways :)

Mike, Me, Satoru, and Charles (condo mates)

The trail leading directly onto the slopes from our condo

Mike and I at the top of Jordan Peak. You can't tell from this picture, but the coooold wind was blowing so hard it was almost impossible to stand up straight. That day was quite definitely the coldest I've ever felt in my life.

Night skiing! Although only very easy trails were open for night skiing, this was such a fun thing to do anyways. It was so peaceful and quiet. At this point, skiing truly felt like dancing with the mountain.

At the party. Mike ordered some fancy s'mores plate.

There was racing going on at one of the trails

I convinced Mike to go with me down our first black trail on free terrain. This was all-natural skiing with the addition of moguls. This was a lot of work (first time I've sweat when skiing), but really exciting!