May 2007


It appears that I understand physics better than I thought. Although I get tripped up still sometimes by the online homework format, the concepts and most of the work come pretty naturally. Also, lab is first rate! Today we had our projectile motion lab. After agonizing over proving why, in a “perfect” world (i.e. one sans air resistance, something to which I myself have always been partial), a projectile can be fired at either one of 2 angles and still travel the same distance, I did not enter the lab with high expectations. As with lectures at 8 am, proofs were not made to be done after midnight. Despite my initial frame of mind, however, I had a fantastic time. First of all, it’s nice just to be back in a lab. This was a far cry from a biotech setup, but instead of ethidium bromide and pipettes, today we got pea shooters! One end of the table was a thick plastic tub taped down on its side and padded to catch the metal bearings that we shot at it from a little spring-loaded canon clamped opposite. The canon had a plumb line to measure the angle of initial velocity, a spring with three ratcheted compression settings, and two photogates to capture time. When one released the little thing, it could make quite an impressive thunk in the tub. Since my partner (a cs major) is bad with machinery, I got to do all of the loading and firing, which meant that, for this lab, I reverted to somewhere below a fifth grade maturity level. The guy who told me I was having too much fun obviously doesn’t understand Feynman; honestly, what does a kid need other than a box, a ball, and a spring that makes them go crackthunkdididit? I think physics and I like one another.

So, apparently there are more ways to solve for force, velocity, and acceleration than I ever dreamed of during calculus. We didn’t even discuss our lovely friend, the integral, until this morning, and then only to dismiss her in most of the practical situations we handle. Don’t worry, Sabrina, you are still awesome and curvaceous, and you acquire new fans daily wherever calculus is taught. No other can limit and sum with such precise grace as yours, no sign can describe the avs relationships with such tact, and none, none has such economical notation. Give my regards to your body guards – dx, dt, and the lot; I am certain we shall meet again soon.

Just so that you know, physics is eating me alive right now. It didn’t even have the decency to anesthetize me first, much less use any salt. Some classes were not made to meet at 8am, and I resent any course that wants me to do homework before our first session, but I’ll survive, and at least the labs are fun. So, please do not worry if I disappear for a while; I’ll be curled up somewhere, studying.

I admit that I’ve been lazy for the past few days. I could post regularly, but so many other engaging things happen and make my life both interesting and busy that I seldom have quality material ready more than once or twice a week. I’ve had several musical events – two volunteer gigs and a jam – recently, and am preparing for a few more. I also got a pickup for my instrument, so I can now plug in and imitate Hendrix and Ponty to my heart’s content. While this, unpacking, encryption, and dogs have held my attention for the past week, I have rediscovered an older pastime which has kept me happily diverted for some time. The great sleuth walked again this spring as a part of Stanford’s continuing studies program, and I chanced upon their reissues of The Strand magazine earlier this year. The project is complete, but one can still get the 12 issues mailed in bulk. Of course, one could read them online for free, but for any true Sherlockian, this reincarnation requires paper copies, tea, and a comfortably decadent armchair. Howling nighttime gales and McVittie’s biscuits are optional. Whichever way your tastes run, go check out Stanford’s site: http://sherlockholmes.stanford.edu. Now, back to the armchair; the game is afoot!

This is still in need of editing, but I did get to add another verse. I’m debating another in my head, but it may or may not make it to paper. Also, happy mothers’ day to everyone; I don’t know what we’d do without you!

A berth on the low seas moored
between two giants
erstwhile masts
of greening oak
stretch
and swing.
The storm pounds down
around its gunwhales
shed and
pooling to surge up again
dip
and creak.
The small grey craft scrabbling
vainly for a foothold
on the steep slopes
of a pending liquid avalanche
groan
and swish.
The feathered limb of the crows nest
illuminated
stark against the frothy sky
in a single spar of light
slap
and tumble.
And the little ship sails
on into the deep embracing night
tack
and thunder.

It rained last night, so I stayed out in one of the hammocks for the first hour or so. It was wonderful! When I came inside, drenched to the bone in front and dry as a bone in back, I began thinking of the hammock in a nautical light, and jotted down a few lines about it. This is nowhere near finished (it needs another stanza, at least, not to mention editing), but I thought I’d share the poem at this stage, since I won’t have time to work on it for a while:

A berth on the low seas moored
between two giants
erstwhile masts
of greening oak
stretch
and swing.
The storm pounds down
around its gunwhales
shed and
pooling to surge up again
dip
and creak.
The small grey craft scrabbling
vainly for a foothold
on the steep slopes
of a pending liquid avalanche
groan
and swish.

That’s pronounced /wa’let:e/, by the way, not /’valete/.

It’s rather disorienting, since I remember so little time passing since January, but it is now the end of the school year. When did that happen? I finished with exams, I handed in my research paper, I packed, and still leaving seems an alien concept. I don’t think it quite sunk in until I waved goodbye to one of my good friends this afternoon, but even now I expect to see her if only I walk a few doors down.

My boss is horrible with goodbyes. While I’m grounded enough that I can leave and reunite easily, she gets very emotional. It will be a grand total of just three and a half months before we see each other again (not to mention that I will continue to work for her throughout university), but it was a close call her not crying. I had to hightail it out of the shop after a quick hug. Drama aside, she must be the best boss ever.

Getting ready to leave has reminded me that I really have two homes and two families now. We have different things in common, different locations, but it’s a good feeling. Take care, everyone. May the force be with you!

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