Yay! A nerdy astronomy post!

As I am writing this, Venus is currently transiting the sun! Unfortunately, us folks on the west coast are part of the 25% of the Earth’s surface that won’t be able to see the transit. That doesn’t stop geeks like me though! Using a program I love called Celestia, I can create what the current situation is right at this very moment as I write! Here is a screen shot from Celestia. The black dot on the face of the sun in the lower left is Venus:

Venus Transit

Cassini also goes into orbit around Saturn at the beginning of next month. That is going to be another exciting mission that will return tons of amazing data. This is shaping up to be an awesome year in astronomy. Especially on the heals of losing the Galileo spacecraft back in December.

I went home this weekend, which is nice to be able to do. Got to hang out with my parents, see the animals, do laundry for free as well as grocery shopping. Just a nice time to relax. Even got a chance to hang out with Dan as well. I’ll probably be heading back into Redlands almost every weekend while I am down here. Not too bad, since it’s only an hour and a half drive.

UCLA is a nice campus! Their geology building is by far the nicest that I have ever been in. Lots of well lit displays, even interactive stuff, like what we tried to setup at CSUSB (on a limited scale) last year. I have keys to the geology building, keys to my office (which I share with a grad student), a UCLA ID-Card and my own UCLA email address! I’m set to go here! ๐Ÿ™‚ We’ll have to see if I get accepted here for grad school, that is still a ways off yet though.

Last night and today, I’ve been designing a database to sort through about 35,000 earthquakes (M2.0 and greater) that have happened since 1990. Since I don’t want to sort through these quakes by hand to find the data I need, I decided to put my geek skills to use and make a computer do it for me! The database is almost complete, and I can sort earthquakes by size, location, depth and even date they occurred. The second part I need to implement is a system to determine what stations were able to record the earthquake, as well as a system that lets me choose one station and show all earthquakes it recorded from a certain area. It is some pretty complex stuff, but I’ll probably have that done within the next few days, then I can start actually LOOKING at earthquakes. I’ll probably post the database online. It’s a version based on what is available at www.data.scec.org, but you’ll be able to do slightly more complex stuff with this version.

On Friday, the Cal State San Berdo geology club is having an end of the year banquet. I’m going to be able to attend. I’m excited to see a lot of these folks again, many for possibly the last time since they are graduating! ๐Ÿ™ What a great group of people though.

The last thing I wanted to write about was an awesome website called Wikipedia. It dubs itself as an “open content” encyclopedia, which basically means that it is fully user editable. See a subject that needs modification or has some incorrect material? You can add to it, or even create new articles! This openness leaves it prone to some vandalism, but they have thousands of users who are constantly tooling around. Overall, it is a great community website. I’ve been getting quite involved in it recently… you can check out my contributions on my user contributions page. I’ve added some rudimentary articles on the Santa Ana River, Salt Domes and Mt. San Gorgonio. Maybe in the future people will go back and add more content to them. Wikipedia already boasts more entries than the Encyclopedia Britannica! (However, average word counts per article are different. Britannica has roughly 600 words per article while Wikipedia only has 350). Definitely check it out and try looking up some articles, I think you’ll be pretty impressed overall!

It’s easier to find parking in San Francisco

Besides the current situation involving parking, things are going splendidly. I just got home, after driving around Westwood for the last hour to look for a parking spot. Luckily, I should have my parking permit for UCLA by next week, so I’ll be able to keep my car in the parking garage overnight.

My internship deals with “scattering, attenuation and caustics on seismograms in the Southern California seismic network.” A few years ago, researchers carried out some experiments that involved setting off explosions to map below the surface. They noticed some weird anomalies about 20km below the surface that caused reflections to show up on the seismograms that were monitoring these experiments. Possible explanations for this ranged from a magma chamber (unlikely) to a piece of the old Farallon Plate that subducted under North America 10 million years ago. Anyway, my assignment is to basically look through data from years and years of individual seismograms and see if I can find any of these reflections from actual earthquakes. If so, we can do some simple math to find out where the wave reflected from and get a better grasp on the size of this “high velocity zone” as it is called. It’s quite interesting since it holds possible implications for determining how the San Andreas fault moves through Southern California too.

Another project I will be helping on is creating a radio network of seismograms that transmits data by line of site back to a central locations. This allows real time recording of a huge array of seismograms. Evidentially, a graduate student is going to use this on a large scale in Mexico next year. The distance they want to cover is nearly 50km, with the signal hopping between stations that are anywhere from 5 – 10 km apart. We’re going to setup a small scale version of this by trying to hop a signal from the UCLA campus, over the Santa Monica Mountains and into San Fernando Valley to test if this works. This involves putting together all the equipment, finding suitable locations, and even getting permission from owners of the properties that we want to set stuff up on.

Pretty intense stuff overall, but fascinating nonetheless. I think I am definitely going to put UCLA down on my list of schools to consider going to for graduate school. It’s a beautiful campus, and the geology department is absolutely incredible. Lots of cutting edge research going on.

Today I attended a presentation by a team member of the Mars Exploration Rovers Mission. He presented material on the latest findings and current status. I’ve been checking up on these things every few days, using the official site. They are still ticking! What incredible pieces of engineering.

In other news, the room mate situation is pretty great. A very nice group of people and they are completely accommodating. We all went out to dinner last night along with some of their friends, so that was nice getting to meet even more new people.

Anyway, the last group of postings was getting pretty long, so I went ahead and threw it into the archive section. Interestingly enough, it seems like the archive section is divided up by significant points in my life. The start of school at CSUSB, then moving to SF, and now the internship at UCLA. This was completely unintentional too! Nice coincidence. ๐Ÿ™‚

“The Boys are back in town…”

Back home in Southern California! I made fairly decent time, completing the trip in about 7 and a half hours. Though I also spent nearly $95 in gas. Ugh! I do have to say that iPod’s are the BEST invention ever for road trips though. On the way down, I blasted through 192 songs. Nice! Anyway, after spending 6 hours on the road, mainly driving through nothing but farm fields, the following view just makes me think, “almost home!” The Tehachapi Mountains are basically the border between Central California and Southern California, and when you see them towards the bottom of the San Joaquin Valley, there is still about 2 hours left before you’re home. Still, Southern California is almost within reach!

Tehachapi Mountains

Of course, once you cross over the Tehachapis and San Gabriels, you *should* see the San Fernando Valley/LA. Instead, I saw:

Where did LA go?

Ah yes, smog! How I missed it. This view almost made me turn around and drive straight back to San Francisco! What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Besides, during the last four months I’ve missed not having a fine coating of particulate matter all over my lungs.

After I got home, Nic, Nate and I went out to eat at TGI Friday’s to catch up on old times. We called Dan to see if he wanted to go, but he was sick. I’ve never been there, evidentially that is the happening spot for the college crowd in this area. The food is okay, but I can think of much better places to spend my time and money at.

I also have to say that I absolutely love craigslist.org. In the last 4 months, I have used it to buy a desk for my room, sell a guitar, find an apartment, find someone to sublet my room and now find a place to stay near UCLA. Starting Tuesday, I will be staying in an apartment with 4 ladies from UCLA during my internship, subletting while someone else is moving out during the summer. At $500/mo, it isn’t that bad of a deal, especially for being right across the street from UCLA.

I went down to check the place out last night and it was a nifty little apartment. It seems like a decent place to spend the next 11 weeks or so and a friendly group of people too. After this, I walked around campus for a bit to get my bearings. It is a very awesome campus, but I still think UC Berkeley is probably the most beautiful university I have ever seen. I walked through their massive geology building and found the office I am supposed to go to on Wednesday. Right down the hall is the office of Dr. Keilis-Borok, who’s team predicted the San Simeon earthquake and is predicting an earthquake this summer in So. Cal. Being the geeky person that I am, I kind of wanted to take a picture in front of his door. Ah well, maybe next time! =]

Finals are over

Today (Yesterday) was my last day of classes this semester. It started off great. All I had to do was give a presentation in my paleontology on “Methane Driven Mass Extinctions – A Possible Cause for the Permian Extinction?” Class started at 8am. No problem with that. Except for the fact that I woke up at 9:45! Oh yes. I screamed, jumped out of bed, threw some clothes on and ran out the door. I got there right as the last presentation was going on. Luckily, my professor let me go after he was finished. How did that happen? Evidentially I set my alarm for 7PM instead of 7AM! That was nearly catastrophic.

My plan is to leave tomorrow at some point. Still have some stuff to take care of around town and need to finish packing up everything. Then I go to U-Haul to rent a truck and off I go! I should be back down in Redlands late tomorrow night. I’m not anticipating leaving here until nearly 12pm or 1. It’s about an 8 hour drive, so I should be in town by maybe 9:30 at the latest.

The last few days have been incredibly tedious, but it’s over! I found someone to sublet my room, finals are done, transportation back home seems to be arranged. I still need to get a place in Westwood, but I don’t have to worry about that until this weekend. Anyway, thanks to all the great people I’ve met up here in the past four months. Despite the stressful academic life, it has been an absolute blast.

Summer time… and the living is easy…

I just got back home from my going-away/summer-is-here party I had with people from work. Not that many people there, but I was definitely happy with who showed up. It was quite a fun experience and we talked until quite late. It’s kind of a bummer to have to take off when I’m just starting to really get to know people. Ah well, in 3 more months I’ll be back and things can pick up where they left off. Anyway, to Emily, Harmony, Julie, Katherine and Ben, I thank you guys!

Interestingly enough, as I was riding the bus home tonight, this guys leans over and quietly says something to me. I didn’t understand, so I asked him, “what was that?” His response was:
I hope I see you again.

!!

So, it’s 2 o’clock in the morning, I’m on a crowded bus in the middle of San Francisco and a guy is hitting on me. What do I do? I turn and flash him a smile and say “thanks!” He tells me to have a goodnight and gets off the bus.

Luckily, this event was cancelled out by a beach bonfire we had last night for the geology crew. Lot’s of hot dogs and drinks were provided for this end of the year bash. Musical instruments were even brought! I brought my guitar and jammed with one of my professors. Part way through the night, two girls from another bonfire came up and wanted to kidnap me and take me back to their bonfire. That was… interesting.

Anyway, it’s quite late/early, so I think I should head off for now. Goodnight.

Out with the cracka fro!

Well summer is almost upon us. You know what that means! Time to do away with the disheveled hair. My excuse for growing it out was basically because San Francisco is cold, and I need something to keep my head warm. In reality, I was just lazy and cheap! Anyway, here I am, all brand new and shiny! And a few pounds lighter now that all that hair is gone…

I’ve been taking a lot of pictures lately. Probably because I’m leaving for a few months and feeling like I’m already going to miss it up here. This is from Sunset Peak, which is basically our front yard. ๐Ÿ™‚ Our house is the green house in the lower left hand corner by the tree. You can just barely make out the towers for the Golden Gate in the distance. Here is another from the peak, looking towards downtown San Francisco.

One final down, one to go. Plus two labs I need to finish (late), two projects for geomorphology I need to finish and a presentation on methane-driven extinctions. Ah yes, nothing like 7 days left in the semester and a workload equivalent to a whole quarter. This weekend is going to be hectic too! Last day of work tomorrow, geology bonfire at the beach on Friday night, and a going away party on Saturday night. Bring it on! I work best when under insane pressure anyway! (Though that probably isn’t a healthy thing at all!)

I forgot to mention in earlier posts, I finally sold my Epiphone Les Paul Gothic the other day. Nice to get that out of the way. Now I need to get rid of the Gretsch and all will be well.

Anything but studying.

This is my “I-Should-Be-Studying-But-I’m-Going-To-Do-Everything-Else-First” post. My room is always the cleanest when I have a project due or things to study for. A favorite quote I’ve seen on a Despair poster about procrastination: “Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now.”

I’ve been getting quite a few emails lately about not buying gas on May 19th. I decided to visit a great site on the internet, entitled the Urban Legends Reference Pages to check this email out. I use it quite a bit and it is a great resource for anything that sounds too fishy (such as those “forward this to everyone you know and you will get $500 from Bill Gates!”). According to snopes, this May 19th “gas out” will have absolutely no effect. Basically what needs to happen is a boycott of larger proportions to send a message. As the snopes article states:

An event like a “gas out” can sometimes do some good by calling attention to a cause and sending a message. In this case, though, the only message being sent is: “We consumers are so desperate for gasoline that we can’t even do without it for a few days to demonstrate our dissatisfaction with its cost.” What supplier is going to respond to a message like that by lowering its prices?

David and I were jamming together the other day as well. Whenever we hang out, I get so inspired to play and write more music. He just has this awesome energy about him. I’m so happy my sister found such a rad guy. I showed him the latest on the song I was working on awhile ago and he was really excited about it. Perhaps I can actually finish this thing and do a good job recording. Our friend Phil is in New York working on an audio recording internship, so when he gets back, I’ll have to see if he’ll want to help out. Maybe by then, this thing will be done!

In astronomy news, there is some pretty rad stuff happening soon. On June 8th, Venus will transit across the face of the sun. Unfortunately, us living on the west coast won’t be able to see it. Doh! Of course if you are super geeky like me, you simulate it using a program called Celestia.

On my way back home from school today, I looked up as I was opening the door and discovered we evidentially have a new roommate!

Also, courtesy of my awesome friend Harmony, I came across an interesting website that talks about a photographic interview. It sounds like fun and once I find some time, I am going to try it! Well enough with the massive link propagation! Talk to you soon.

Two Weeks!

Things are quickly winding down. I really can’t believe how fast the past four months have flown by. What a wild trip it’s been. In two weeks, I should be back down in Southern California for a day, then Dan and I are going to head up for a quick hiking trip into the Sierras. After that, if things work out properly, I come back down and move into a new apartment in Westwood for the next 3 months. This time, I’ll only be an hour and a half from home, which isn’t too bad.

I finally had the real 90-day review yesterday at work. It went completely awesome! I scored a 30 cent raise and they told me to definitely come back at the end of summer. How awesome that went! My last day of work is on Thursday. I’m gonna miss that group of people.

On Wednesday there was a university-wide walkout that was supposed to be statewide, protesting the Guvernator’s fiscal policies that relate to the Cal State system. Not sure how well it went at other colleges, but there was quite a bit of noise at this one. I didn’t participate though. Way too much to do with finals coming up. However, the situation is pretty dire. They are cutting the engineering and dance programs here. The school can’t even afford to print up schedules for the fall semester! Some of us are worried that geology might be next on the hit list since we’re a fairly small program, but apparently we actually bring in quite a bit of money to the school with research grants.

I love this city!

Went to the beach yesterday to do some homework and took some pictures. It’s so awesome since there is a dune right there at the edge of the beach and you can just sit up on it and have an excellent view of everything. I also figured out the mileage and it is exactly two miles from my house.

Looking north
Looking south

This was taken in the evening a few weekends ago. Check out the famous fog. Yes, basically a picture of nothing: Fog!