Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2014 Was Weird

But weird in a cool way. As I begin my last semester, I can't imagine what 2015 might hold. Funny though: even when you think you know the storyline there are unexpected things that happen. Here are 2014 things that happened in my year:

Went to four time zones*
Helped build an android app
Commuted across state lines every day
Celebrated Tesla's birthday
Gave a talk at one of the biggest geoscience conference in the world
Spent more on coffee than food...probably
Helped start a club on campus
Gained more elevation than a popular 14'er in four hours*
Spent more money on Red Sox tickets than Rockies tickets*
Got chosen by the Grav Lyfe*...multiple times
Decided what I want to do with the next part of my life
Traveled out of the country for the first time
Applied to grad school
Became able to run for ten straight minutes
Started a band that has fans
Drove a vibroseis truck
Started learning Dutch
Drove 85 in a 55
Drove 100 in  a 75
Traveled to eight states*
Had six flights
Learned about magnetotellurics, exponential filters, total electron content, and the method of Frobenius, and many other things
Watched two lunar eclipses...well, one. Does working in Eclipse count?
Fell in love with Maine black bear ice cream, poutine, and london fogs
Saw fireflies for the first time


*:

- I had a layover in Chicago. So that counts. But not as a state visited.
- Mount Yamnuska in Alberta has more elevation gain (base to peak) than Mount Bierstadt.
- I payed ~$35 for a Red Sox vs. Cubs ticket at Fenway Park. I went to two Rockies games all season, both in April, which cost me $20.
- Remember: we don't choose the Grav Lyfe, the Grav Lyfe chooses us.
- My layover in Chicago doesn't count.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Pressure Gradients and Uncertainty

Lately, I've been losing sleep. Part of it is Nyquil withdrawal. I was sick for two weeks straight (since Thanksgiving week), so I was on Nyquil cough syrup for those same two weeks so the cough attacks would have a less chance of shaking me from my sleep. Unfortunately for my sleep schedule, the end of the semester also coincides with me pumping caffeine into my blood system.

The other part of it are the things that take up my thoughts. Thoughts of mostly uncertainty in data analysis and uncertainty in life. At least the semester is almost over.

Oh. The semester is almost over.

The M on Mount Zion in Golden has a countdown each semester to the number of days until graduation for the last nine days. We've now seen it seven times.

"Look at the M. Next time it will be for us."

***
A rallying cry for the Geophysics Junior's hardest class that we Seniors stumbled into

It is during the last ten minutes of a last final of the week that one probably is the most unmotivated. I was particularly unmotivated during this semester's last one, for it was an open computer final and had concepts that contradicted fundamentals from the final I just took an hour earlier.

Plus my hand hurt from writing so much. Even though I stayed up until 2AM studying on accident, I wasn't stressed out about finals. I have done it so many times by now. I was more stressed out about getting my talk finished and everything else. After Tuesday...I would be relaxed.


***

The semester is now over, and the tail end of the year quickly following after it. My sources of December stress are resolved, but uncertainty carries into 2015.

The year I graduate college. The year I start grad school...somewhere.

I was able to reset my sleeping schedule at the AGU Fall Meeting, ironically. Usually people don't get much sleep at giant earth science conferences, but the first two days had me waking up at 6:30AM to prepare for my talk, which was on Tuesday afternoon.

This AGU Fall Meeting was my second, but already was very different from my first, when I was overwhelmed by the bigness of geoscience and taking in the amazing facets of our field of study. This year, my Fall Meeting was defined by prep for my talk and networking. And sushi. I ate sushi twice. (Can I just say how much I love that NSF supports my caffeine and food habit?)

Networking is actually cool because these are my kind of nerds: from people who sing and write poems about geoscience to people who I might be working with in the future. My week was also busy catching up with multiple circles of friends that converged at AGU: Mines Geophysics peeps, 2014 REU friends, and 2013 REU friends. 

My talk went well, and though it was a lot of pressure, it was a huge honor and actually a lot of fun to give. I ended up being up a lot less nervous than I expected it being my first AGU talk. Probably because I was singing in my head the entire talk before mine.

"Ain't no mountain high enough..."

***

It's my last trip of the year. From my first trip of driving through the Arizona desert during Spring Break and receiving the email that I was accepted to the Haystack REU, to the drive to Field Camp, DEN to BOS, BOS to SEA, SEA to BOS, BOS to YYC, driving back from Calgary, DEN to SFO, SFO to DEN.

What's next?

I can't begin to think about going back to school right now and starting my final semester at Mines and all the uncertainty beyond that. I just want to stare at geology from thirty thousand miles above the ground.

The Sierra Nevadas

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Where Chalk-White Arrows Go

“There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we'll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.”


― Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends


My high school graduation speech was titled "Where the Sidewalk Begins", inspired by my kindergarten days of listening to "Where the Sidewalk Ends". I stood up there, ready to end high school and take on college, not fully comprehending the sheer stress (pun intended) and challenges and sheer joy of experiences that were ahead. I began:

The path of our education has led up to this day.
That path might have been bumpy, winding, or a joyous ride, but I know it was very long.
Yet, as weary as the walk might have been, here we stand.
We made it.
...
Now we are ready to look both ways,
cross to the other side of the street,
and go make prints in the wet cement with our bare feet.

This is where sidewalk begins.


It's so cheesy...I know. It's even more cheesy now that I laugh at my high school self who hadn't a clear picture of what bumpy, winding, and weary meant. Or even joyous. But if I thought graduating high school was where the sidewalk began, does that mean college is where it ends?

Silverstein seems to think that it is not so. Or does he?

Colorado School of Mines has been the place where the grass grows soft and white. It has also been the place where the smoke blows black and the dark street winds and bends.

Maybe this is before the street begins? And when did my life take on so many road, path, street, or sidewalk metaphors?

Funny...in college I stopped looking both ways before crossing streets and also started jaywalking across them. And some of my favorite times in Golden have been walking with a walk that is measured and slow in the middle of the campus streets in the late hours of the night when no one else is awake and around to crash their car into me. 

What does that have to do with life and paths? 

I don't know. I'm just going to miss it.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Dear Older Self

Dear Older Self,

What's the future like? Did I make the right choices about the future? So how 'bout that grad school thing, huh? What about the non-school stuff? What about spending senior year well? How did that go? What should I do better? What should I do?

Did I make the bright-eyed freshman proud?

So many questions...sorry.

Best regards,

Your senior self

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Four of Four

I look up from my phone. There’s a British man scribbling in chalk at the bottom of the  auditorium, pushing Fourier transforms into our reluctant brains, which are mushy from waking up a mere  ten minutes beforehand. I am utterly bored, for I already have learned to make functions as a product of sines and cosines the year before. My brain turns off. I try to turn it back on. It turns off again. I turn it on. It wanders…

I can’t do this.

The southwest stairwell of the Green Center fills with the echoes of my sandals climbing the ugly stairs. So many times I have climbed those same stairs up. Year One, for freshman Calculus. Year Two, for field theory. Year Three, for everything geophysically imaginable. And now, Year Four. For the end.

The days and nights spent in the Green Center blend together now. So many times I have climbed not knowing when I’d see the light of day again. So many descents after those long hours, with my brain relieved, tired, or both, my eyes tired from squinting at my code, laughing, or both.

These years have been piecewise continuous. Each has its own flavor. The setting is mostly the same, the cast of characters slightly adjusting with time, but the story has only one more chapter left to be written.

Chapter Four of four.

The room on the northwest corner and second floor of the Green Center is frigid.  The geophysics seniors have gathered there for guidance on the capstone of our undergraduate career: senior design. “This course is filled with pitfalls,” our professor and department head begins.

I can’t do this.

But after we walk out of the frigid room, maybe we feel slightly more prepared for the future. Or at least senior design.

Still, the future seems like a cold and scary place, and sometimes I’d much rather stay in my bed than travel towards it. But then the future nudges me, “Hey, it’s time to wake up and get dressed. You should probably read those scientific papers for senior design. And put together a spreadsheet of potential grad school advisors.”

I can’t be a senior. I still sleep in a bunk bed. And to think next year I’ll be a grad student?

My eyes are still blurry as I stare at errors in my code at the Linux Lab. Indices are funny things, my coffee-deprived brain remembers.

Chapter 0 of N. Where N is the number of years I am in grad school and is equal to about five or six. Or possibly more. I don’t know the setting or the cast of characters. But Chapter 0—the searching and application process—has me excited.

Chapter Four of four.

They overlap. One story wraps up, another waits to begin, despite my simultaneous resentment and welcoming of it all.