Friday, April 30, 2010
However, there are lasts that I am not looking forward to: the last hugs, the last meals with friends, the last adventures, the last Sunday worship services with my family. To be honest, it really hasn't set in yet that I'm leaving, possibly never to return, possibly to never see certain people again. It's still normal to hit the road at the end of the Spring Semester and go home to Montana for the summer, the abnormality is not having to prepare for school again in the Fall. But at some point next week, even though I've never been an emotional person, I'm worried that the clash of emotions going on inside me is going to come out; sentimentality and nostalgia will rise to the surface and might even induce some tears.
I don't really know what kind of conclusion I'm trying to come to with this post. It's nice to try and express this inner struggle with wanting to "cut loose" of undergrad, ACU, and dry, flat, brown, west Texas and not leaving the friends, family, and "home" that I've come to enjoy so much here in this place. Thankfully I still have a week to wrestle with it, say my goodbyes, and put off as many of the painful "lasts" as possible.
Monday, April 26, 2010
For a brief foray into the realm of Quantum Mechanics, let's consider an example. Let's say that my paper can be in one of two states, completed or not started. Classically speaking (as opposed to Quantum-ly) the paper must exist in one state or the other. However, in QM it exists in both states at the same time. There is a certain probability that it is completed and a certain probability that it is unfinished represented by some probability distribution function. It's not until you "probe" the particle (in this case, my paper) that the wave function "collapses" into a certain state.
So as I sit here in total procrastination mode, I find myself justifying the avoidance of my paper based on the fact that it is already finished. Never mind the probability of that particular state being the one that I will find when I actually go and open the document happens to be extremely low...
Thursday, April 22, 2010
I have to give a big thanks to all the volunteers for making this event possible. We had an amazing planning/organizational team that was willing to put in a lot of time and effort. Thanks to my good friend Laura for the phenomenal pictures. Enjoy the colorful montage:
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
The next morning was crisp, people were showing their St. Patrick's color, and Spring felt like is was in the air: a good day to be outside. Unfortunately we faced a long drive. To combat the boredom, we made sure and take a morning walk with Grandy and the mandatory stop at the REI store before we left town. Thankfully the roads were dry and the weather nice and we just rolled along without any trouble out of Texas, straight through the "Natural State" of Arkansas, and over the Mississippi River into Memphis, Tennessee on route to meet up with friends Nick and Sarah Moore.
That first evening we took a walk along the River (Nick and Sarah live really close to a riverside park) catching up on each others' lives. It was very cool to visit with them about their lives outside of undergraduate college life especially since I'm facing the same transition in the near future. The rest of the evening held more conversation over some good food ("Mighty Migas") and a climbing flick called "Progression."
On Thursday, upon Sarah's recommendation Nathan and I spent the day in Otherlands, a very eclectic coffee shop with an extreme "hippy" vibe. Very fun. I guess if you call sitting at a table working on homework all day fun. That evening we decided to change plans a little bit and head further east into Tennessee for our climbing adventures, avoiding some bad weather projected for Arkansas. Before trucking off to Nashville to stay at Sarah's aunt's house that night, our friends took us out to eat at Porky's BBQ where I gorged myself on some outstanding dry-rub ribs.
Friday began our actual climbing adventures. Stay tuned...
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Friday, April 9, 2010
I never took advantage of the opportunity to do summer research while here at ACU, mostly because I felt like I had a better offer working for the Engineering Department of the Flathead National Forest back home in Kalispell. Thankfully my friend Nathan and I were able to do some work outside of class in the Optics laboratory as part of a Honors Contract. The picture above is us presenting our poster last Wednesday.
Nathan and I, along with 4 others, were in an Optics course together which had a lab component to it. For our final projects in the lab, we had the opportunity to construct tunable, infrared diode lasers over the course of the last 6 weeks of the spring semester 2009. After much toil none of the three groups finished their respective lasers. However, Nathan and I really wanted to finish two lasers for the department so as to facilitate the assembly of a magneto-optical trap (MOT).
You are probably wondering, "What's a tunable, infrared diody-thingy and how does it make a trap?" We purchased diode lasers, which are a little smaller than the size of a pencil eraser, from a manufacturer and built an apparatus to hold it and make it easier to use. The diode uses semiconducting technology to produce light when a current is put across the leads, emitting them from a small aperture. The light coming from this little hole has a big divergence (meaning it spreads out really fast) and a range of frequencies of light, all in the infrared (meaning they're "too red" to see with the naked eye). Our apparatus solves the former by putting a lens to focus the light down to a usable beam and the latter by using a reflection grating to set up some optical feedback thus locking in a desired frequency. Now, I appreciate you've suffered through my "geek speak" here long enough so I won't go into greater detail here. Just think about us having the ability to control the output frequency of light with some external controls.
Our goal was to complete the two lasers and be able to use them in a MOT, another larger assembly of optical components used to trap and "cool" atoms. Some experiments with MOTs have been able to cool atoms very near absolute zero where all atomic motion stops. When it's this cold, "temperature" is essentially the internal vibrational energy of the atom. Although we were unable to finish the lasers and see the MOT constructed ourselves, we laid some important groundwork for students to follow behind us. As I mentioned earlier, many ACU students are able to pursue research at big national labs, but having some optical research capabilities on campus is exciting.
As a Jew in Nazi-era Germany, Einstein knew well the harsh realities of racism. Thus when he came to Princeton in 1933 he immediately felt a connection to the black community in a town well known at that time for being socially segregated. He took walks in the streets holding the hands of young black school children, visited with his black neighbors, and otherwise treated them with kindness and respect. Jerome and Taylor do a wonderful job incorporating quotations from people who actually knew him during this period in his life. During the latter part of his life, Einstein became an active anti-racist, using his influence gained from being a renowned scientist to condemn racism on local, national, and international levels.
Monday, April 5, 2010
I imagine this practice started when good ol' farm boys with beat-up pick-ups or equipment needed to use the road and they were trying to be nice and allow faster moving vehicles room to pass. Then it is fueled by the incredibly wide shoulders of Texas highways (I'm not kidding, they have to be wider than a regular lane in some places). But the potential for accidents is too high with people driving on the shoulder: three cars abreast while passing on a highway spells disaster, the car on the shoulder could get "trapped" right before a bridge or dead animal or stalled vehicle suddenly appears, even a bicyclist could be using the road for transportation or training. They just aren't maintained to be used as a lane of traffic.
I'll get off my soapbox now. Thanks for hearing me out. Just remember to think twice about the implications of driving on the shoulder in the future.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Plans for our trip had begun a very early in the semester and actually much before that if you count the initial whispering of thoughts that eventually led to full blown scheming. However, if our plans were analogous to a Constitution then they received many Amendments over the course of the week. Thankfully we were only a crew of two, making it far easier to reach a unanimous vote and in a much faster time than the US legislature deciding the future of health care.
Hopefully I’ve been able to pique your curiosity. Expect more posts and updates concerning the adventure in the near future.
Friday, April 2, 2010
When we were on Spring Break I had the opportunity to watch the climbing video "Progression" and feel that the title sums up what climbing is all about. The sport progresses as it becomes more accessible or more popular as well as when the limits of what we thought were possible are exceeded. In the beginning of climbing route ratings, the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) was scaled so that 5.10 were the hardest routes that would ever be climbed. These days the grades have surpassed that 5.10 limit and are pushing into the 5.14 and even 5.15 range. On the video mentioned earlier, professional climber Chris Sharma finishes a project that took him years to climb calling it Jumbo Love. It has a proposed rating of 5.15a making it the hardest in the world (of course in the spirit of progression, Sharma has now climbed a 5.15b).
I will most likely never climb a 5.15, or even a 5.13 for that matter, but I don’t think that’s the point of climbing. My progress needs to be measured in pushing my limits: the difficulty of routes that I am able to climb and the skills needed to scale more and more technical routes. My friends and I have our own personal projects: routes that are at the limits of our ability level, but for whatever reason seem to call to us. The past couple of times traveling to Brownwood have been really special. I’ve been able to see Ben, Mary, Laura, and Eric all climb lines that we have desired to scale for a long time. In particular, I finally got to the top of a climb called Burlfest that I have been attempting since I was a Freshman at ACU. It was such a cool feeling of accomplishment and relief, and I loved being able to share it with my companions. Eric also sent a route that he has wanted to climb since he first began climbing at the lake. You can see how pumped he was at the top of Jack in the Box in the video at Abilene Climbers.
It’s a very powerful thing to be able to set a goal and see it through all the frustration, difficulty, and disappointment until you reach success. When you have to work for something it has more meaning. And when you look back on where you started and realize where you are now, your confidence soars. Like an avalanche you are then able to surmount bigger obstacles, gain more confidence, etc. Makes you want to go and do great things doesn’t it?
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Rock climbing is an activity in particular that exemplifies this categorization because of its inherent nature to be a partner oriented activity. There are plenty of examples of famous climbers, such as John Gill, John Bachar, and Dean Potter, who have avoided climbing with others both as a way to push themselves and in a search for spiritual enlightenment. However, for those of us who don’t push the limits of what is safe and sane in the climbing world (I mean who wouldn’t want to use a rope to protect you while you’re 100 ft above the ground?) a partnership with at least one other climber to share belaying duty is a necessity. So I find myself climbing with the same types of friends that I do any activity with: those who are better than me, those whom I can outperform, and those who have similar abilities.
These categories of friendship and partnership carry over to all aspects of our lives, not just in sports and recreation. Making a Biblical parallel, these different groups of people remind me a lot of the relationships between Paul, Barnabus, and Timothy. Paul was a great leader of the early church, making grand journeys across the known world at that time, converting many, establishing churches, and writing many letters of encouragement. He was an excellent mentor, especially to the young man named Timothy, and passed on his wisdom and knowledge of the grace of God. From the other point of view, I believe that Timothy became an amazing church leader mainly because of the instruction and guidance that he received from Paul. Barnabus, worked with Paul in several missionary journeys and seemed to have a special knack for encouraging people, as his nickname the “Son of Encouragement” suggests. Paul most likely owes much of his success preaching the word of God to the relationship that he had with Barnabus. Having a contemporary doing the same thing beside you and encouraging you to give your all is a powerful thing. It is from these men of God that I label the three categories of people that I have mentioned several times earlier.
Mentorship is very important, as is having friends that walk beside us encouraging us all along the way. I am extremely thankful for the “Paul(s)” and “Barnabus(es)” that have been a part of my life over the years and I hope that I am able to adequately give back to the “Timothy(s)” that I get to spend time with. Take this time to identify in your mind the people that have been mentors and positive friends in your life and then think about people you could be mentoring, passing on the blessings that you have received from others.