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Spring Break in Boston

So it’s 3rd term at Caltech. This term is full of events – from PF2 (prefrosh friday) to PFW (prefrosh weekend) to MAD Day (Make-A-Difference day) to the Ruddock Camping trip. Adventure abounds! For those of you who don’t know already – PF2 was April 8th, PFW is April 14th – 16th. Please note: there ARE activities on April 16th (Saturday) which we call ‘Student Life Saturday’ so you don’t need to leave until 5pm when all events for the day end [unless you already booked your plane tickets or w/e]. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me or Admissions (for PFW information, ask for Karly!)

For those of you who are attending PFW 2011 and you have a bunch of pictures (please share :D) to share with the rest of Caltech – send them to Undergraduate Admissions Media Submissions group via the email address ugmedia@caltech.edu ! It would also help if you identified as many people in any photo you have or provide brief comments to make it easier for the rest of us when we post them online. I hope everyone enjoys PFW and I’ll see you all tomorrow at 1pm!

Alright alright. Before I get started in reliving the past for you folks – let me quickly talk about OPI.

Jurassic Park OPI

So it’s happened! I’ll keep this section pretty short but I’ll sum up some things. After 3 months of slaving, sweating, and bleeding all over – we built it. Here’s some pictures of what we’ve built!

This is the upper level along the East side of the courtyard.

As you can see – here’s the trusty table saw we used for everything. Poor thing suffered – it was starting to break >.<

We angled some lights at the T-rex in the most intimidating way… I can’t even look at this picture directly – it still gives me the creeps.

And Franz is sitting on it… Yeah. What a beast.

.. Oh – I meant the T-rex.

And then we had the party the next night. Here’s a guest (one of my favorite Ruddock Alums)

Anton! He’s with his girlfriend. Here’s my story – They came to the party separately and were embarrassed that they were wearing the same outfit!

That’s all the pictures I’ll post really – most of the other bloggers will have talked more about the actual OPI party.

Also, during the construction, I mentioned we had a camera which was taking a timelapse video of it (a picture every 30 seconds of the courtyard). Here’s the video:

Watch on YouTube

If you pause randomly – you might find me in a maroon-ish shirt [The Fifth Element Ditch Day Stack 2009] or a blue shirt. I was particularly amused by the inflatable pool inflating/deflating and I loved the trippy-epic lights at the end that signified the actual party we had. Awesome, no? We also had a virtual OPI flash video made here <https://www.its.caltech.edu/%7Eajgong/OPI/2011opipano.swf&gt; which allowed you to click+drag the mouse around to view a 3D reconstruction of the party when it was finished being built.

Now? Well – we’re deconstructing. If you don’t understand what that means – just read my blog page of posts from top to bottom and see how the pictures start from ‘finished’ to ‘dismantled’? That’s what we’re doing.. OPI construction – but in reverse.

Now on to the main event of this post…

Spring Break in Boston and MIT

(sing this in the tune of ‘Springtime for Hitler and Germany’)

Caltech’s spring break was from March 17th to March 27th [a whole 10 days]! For those who are lucky (or determined) enough to finish all their exams earlier… spring break could start on March 10th!

So – I flew over to Logan Airport in Boston and stayed with my girlfriend (Sheila) for the week at MIT. Obviously, a reason was to see Sheila – but I also wanted to meet a couple of researchers at LIGO MIT (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatory) about doing research there over the summer. Before I get ahead of myself here, I’ll start from the beginning.

Day 1 – 7:00 am

I get in the airport and I’m simply waiting to get my luggage. Also waiting for…

Sheila! <3 We get on the bus to get to the subway to get to MIT…

There I am! Anyway, we get to MIT and we’re off to meet some of Sheila’s friends before they leave for their spring break too! Here’s a couple of pictures of the area around the dorm which I’m staying in:

And that’s the student center straight in the back – it contains a grocery store, lots of places to eat, and a reading room to study [among other things]. So we meet up with Rahul, Sheila’s friend who is also deaf [like the both of us], and they take me around to see the sights of MIT! So – the following sequence of pictures represent the areas we walked down so enjoy the ride.

Strange – at Caltech, our bikes stay on the ground.

That’s Boston over there – across the bridge.

See it clearly? So we cross the intersection to get over to the main MIT buildings.

We walked through the MIT MechE building and come outside to see…

The dome! So, we’re on the lawn in front of the MIT dome right now. The place is pretty beautiful.

And of course – I just HAD to have a picture of the MIT dome with the Caltech shirt I’m wearing… Yeah…. yeah…

Here’s a picture of Rahul, Sheila’s finger, and myself. She’s not used to the iPhone camera ๐Ÿ˜›

So we continue walking through the MIT buildings – one of them had a series of demotivational posters which apparently represents MIT students? I’m unclear on the story behind this… but I most likely represent the ‘laziness’ one in the middle of the top row.

After walking through a series of mazes within buildings – we come outside and I see the Stata center I’ve heard so much about the architecture of!

Directly outside of the Stata center.

The surfaces were super-shiny and reflective!

We stood under it and looked up to see ourselves. So – we entered the Stata center now. The whole place seemed to be built for laboratory research in computer science as well as attracting tourists.

Police Cruiser, 1994: "As with most of the great hacks, this installation was both more and less than it appeared to be. Those on the ground could not see, for example, the dummy police officer was cooling her heels behind the wheel with a toy gun, a cup of coffee, and a box of donuts. Neither from the ground nor from the air could spectators appreciate the details: fuzzy dice hanging from the rear-view mirror, a yellow sign on the back window warning ‘I Break for Donuts’, a parking ticket affixed to the windshield saying ‘No permit for this location,’ and the IHTFP license plate, or the car number being Pi. But details, seen or unseen, are a point of honor with hackers."

House Cow, 1979: "A life-size fiberglass steer ‘borrowed’ from the Hilltop Steak House in Saugus, Massachusetts found its way to the top of the great dome. When ‘Ferdi’ returned home, the Hilltop’s management placed a mortar board on its head and a diploma in its mouth."

The building itself on the inside was painted a wide variety of spring-type colors which made the whole place seem bright and happy!

Here’s an actual lab within the building. It looks so playful… But I’m totally sure they’re hard at work… or hardly working.

And there was a giant parabolic mirror sculpture at the bottom floor in the front entrance of the Stata center. For those who know your optics – if you stand far outside the focal point, you see yourself upside down. If you stand inside the focal point, you see yourself right side up. And if you stand at the focal point – you don’t see yourself at all!

Again, I just had to have a picture of MIT and Caltech. Next to this was…

The famous infinite corridor! It’s pretty long. Now, some of you might be like.. "Well, I’ve seen longer corridors." Basically – it’s not just the length of it but also the width of it (IE: the total area of the corridor) that makes it famous and biggest of its time.

As we leave the building…

We saw a busload of asian tourists come to visit MIT. From what Sheila tells me – they come EVERYDAY.

Those are some big columns – if you know what I mean.

Let’s play "Find Giordon!"

As I was walking across the street – I noticed an interesting structure.

And I just had to get a closer look. Turns out it’s a structure of mathematical symbols and greek letters and whatnot.

This concludes the end of the first day at MIT!

Day 2 – 9:00 am

So day 2 – we totally slept in late since it was the weekend. Another one of Sheila’s friends was leaving today so we had brunch with her over at Flour (https://flourbakery.com/). Minshu (the soon-to-depart friend), Sheila, and I had a delicious brunch:

I believe I ordered something with brie, apples, roast turkey, cranberries, and avocado – it was pretty darn good. We also took the time for some photo ops

After all the fun and games – we left Minshu so she could get going for spring break. Meanwhile, Sheila and I kept walking off campus and headed towards the MIT Museum. After about 2 hours wandering around inside the museum and taking pictures of stuff – we left. Apparently – there were a whole bunch of signs saying not to take pictures or videos of things… that I apparently missed… so I can’t post them for public consumption (oops!) However, I can post the facade of the building!

I think it was around 1pm by now and we headed back towards MIT. It was somewhat cold but rather windy (which makes it feel much colder!). Given that I’ve lived in Florida (where everything is flat) and near Los Angeles (where everything is foggy and smoggy) – I haven’t seen any sort of city skyline in person really… that I remember seeing. So I told Sheila that I wanted to see the Boston skyline. We went to the top of the McCormick Dorm and stood out on the patio – also, I’m not very photogenic… ๐Ÿ˜›

And in this picture – I’m merely frowning at how cold my face feels and how it’s taking Sheila to take the picture… ๐Ÿ˜› We go back to the room so Sheila can talk to a couple of her friends to make plans to meet up with them tonight.

some finite time passes

It’s nighttime and we’ve traveled to Harvard Square along the super-awesome Metropolitan Boston Transportation Authority (MBTA) vehicles (subway, bus, etc). Honestly – this has to be one of the best ways to get anywhere within a city using cards with RFIDs that swipe and being super-fast and cheap as well.

This is a somewhat blurry picture of Harvard Square. On the left is the back of Sheila – on the right is the back of Jenny (Sheila’s friend). Guess where we ate? Hint: they’re both total asians.

Hong Kong Restaurant in Harvard Square!

We ordered a lot of different things. From what I recall – there was chicken with tofu and black bean sauce, white rice, barbeque pork, lo mein noodles, and this lobster daily special.

Jenny certainly loves her food.

She also loves taking pictures.

We certainly had a lot of fun hanging out in Harvard Square and talking about all sorts of things. Jenny’s a CS major and happened to know about the Penny Auction when I asked her (I was trying to sound all smart… but turns out you can’t do that with MIT students either :P)

The Penny Auction goes like this – there’s a dollar bill being auctioned off. It’s worth $1.00 – you value it at $1.00. We each bid – the highest bid pays and gets the dollar. The losing bid pays and gets nothing. Now, you and I are playing in this auction and the goal is to make the most money possible. I bid a single penny. Now, because you can make 98 cents instead of nothing, you bid 2 cents. Continuing in this fashion, I bid 99 cents. But since you had already bid at most 98 cents – you would be paying 98 cents and losing all that money! So you bid $1.00 . However, since I bid 99 cents, I will lose 99 cents, and so on. As you can see – there’s no clear winner. Moral: don’t ever play this game with a competitive friend!

So we’re back to Harvard Square and it’s like 10pm. As we discover, (for whatever reason), the buses stop running so we went to look for a taxi to take us back. Across the street – you can see a gated entrance to Harvard Yard where all the freshman live.

Here’s a better picture – the bus that goes between MIT and Harvard stops here, directly in front of Harvard. As you probably guessed, if you went to either Harvard or MIT, it’s super-easy to travel back and forth between the two w/o having to drive a car. So, back to our lack-of-transportation-cause-its-late-for-non-college-people: we get on the subway and travel back to Kendall square (on the wrong side of MIT campus relative to where the dorms actually are [most dorms, at least the ones we’re staying in for spring break]). Here are some pictures of the walls of the Kendall Square subway station – a ‘square’ grid of the timeline of MIT by year:

This ends Day 2.

Day 3: The Tourist Travel Travesty

I tried to get an awesome alliteration that kind of sums up what today was all about ๐Ÿ˜› So, when I was in high school – I watched a lot of Food Network because, seriously, who doesn’t love Alton Brown? In a few of the shows, they visited Boston’s famous Quincy Market which is a haven for those who love shopping and food (IE: Sheila, Jenny, etc…). So I told Sheila I wanted to go there so we did.

We woke up late again as usual but both of us had to do some quick work before we went anywhere. I had to finish up proofreading the first problem set for IST4 – a class I’m TAing in 3rd term. I’ll talk more about this in future blog posts!

Anyway – we got on the subway and prepared to make a few switches at different stations… here’s a map showing what we had to do:

The Red Line was through MIT/Harvard into Boston. From there – we switched over to the Blue Line which only went for one stop. As it turns out, there was a large amount of construction so we got rerouted onto a series of buses which took us to the blue line station after the next one. From here – we got back on the subway which took us to an airport… which was totally in the wrong direction of where we needed to go. We quickly got off this subway, ran up 2 flights of stairs, across the subway platform to the other side. We got back on to the subway station the bus dropped us off at (which turned out to only work in the one direction). So we got out of the subway station and BACK on the bus. Another 20 minutes later, we were finally at Quincy Market. Sheila admitted that she had never really gone on Blue Line much… and I could see why – it was a little confusing – but that was probably because of the construction… but we’re finally there!

For those of you who are seafood lovers – Quincy Market is located within 5 miles from all the fisherman wharfs – I suggest going here if you want to taste some cheap, delicious Boston Clam Chowder (I’m talking to you Brian [my roommate]). Enjoy a photo montage of Quincy Market

On the left is a whole series of shopping centers. On the right (middle of three long buildings) is the food market. To the right of that would be another series of shopping centers.

South Market – the shopping center on the left. First thing we do is go into the Crocs store as Sheila needed a comfy pair of high heels to dance in because she’s on the Asian Dance Team at MIT.

Afterwards – we went inside the food market just to take a look around before we went shopping. We planned to do a lot of window shopping on the left and right shopping centers and then eat afterwards.

If you look really closely in the distance – you see a short, horizontal blue line. Just under this was another shorter, horizontal blue line with a white area under it. This area here was the center:

This is where you would go to sit and eat after getting your food.

Continuing through to the other end presents us with even more food restaurants and varieties to pick from! (Holy crap, there was a LOT). We passed by a candy/sweets/bakery which I thought had a lot of clever (and probably delicious) treats!

And cute pacman-like cupcakes and chipwiches. Sheila and I decided to try some of the Boba from one of the shops. I got a pineapple boba, she got jasmine boba.

So then, we went around to the far-right shopping center and walked up along the side of it to see what shops there were. We saw some really interesting things like a super-cute dress

Can you spot my face in this picture?!

And so we kept going up towards the front end. Then we approached a comic book store which was one of those super-trendy (maybe nerdy at times) stores filled with gag toys, music, dvds, cds, t-shirts, and all sorts of fan-based items. But the sign for the front of the store was pretty hilarious…

And inside, they had a great selection of books…

This last book is dedicated towards my Russian friend Alexandre (Sasha). We found some super-awesome items within the store…

If I have to tell you what the shirt says – you don’t deserve Seinfeld!

Like FireFly, this show was canceled way too soon.

They even had a cup with Dexter on it! Thanks to Viola Rose for introducing this show into my life.

Dear Tom Hanks, you are an idiot. You found a machine that grants ultimate powers. Why not ask for World Peace or advanced superior technology? Sincerely, Giordon Stark.

Dear Tom Hanks’ Mother, you are a horrible mother. Your kid was missing for weeks. Why did you not contact the police? Sincerely, Giordon Stark.

After going through the whole store – we headed over to the other shopping center and into another store (I believe Urban Outfitters). This store was somewhat unique, but it was shaped like an ‘n’. The second floor connected the two separated bottom floors.

Some books they were selling – Dirty Language! Don’t try and use these to translate your way in other countries, I’m sure you’ll be arrested in no time flat.

Sheila decided to try on a lot of hats – she wanted one for the cold weather.

She got this one – I liked it a lot ๐Ÿ˜€ After shopping more – we got a photo op to prove we were actually at Quincy Market ๐Ÿ˜›

I’m seriously really bad at smiling for the camera. Anyhow – it was nearly 5pm so we went inside to get food to bring back to MIT dorm. Sheila wanted to shop more. So we went back on the subway over to Downtown Crossing. More photos!

A four-story Borders! Everything in Boston is at least 3 stories. I’ll soon learn of this (somewhat strange) rule when I visit other places in Boston.

Even the fast-food restaurants were pretty fancy-looking.

It’s around 8pm and we’re looking for a subway to take us back to MIT! The places look pretty good at nighttime. After getting back to Kendall Square at MIT, we take a shortcut through a bunch of buildings to avoid the cold weather. Along the way, we saw something interesting – architecturally.

Sheila was all "TADAAA!" and I’m like ".. this is pretty cool."

We get back to the MIT dorm, I get the Techer chat set-up. Afterwards, we watch a movie and eat our dinner… And that concludes the end of Day 3.

Day 4: Ha-ha-ha-ha-Harvard

So – day 4. I noticed in the previous days how easy it was to get to Harvard… so I wanted to go visit Harvard and look around really – so we spent most of our day there.

And we’re walking down the corridor to get to Kendall Square to go over to Harvard.

We’re here! "felices ter et amplius quos inrupta tenet copula nec malis" is a phrase which I believe refers to an Opera by the name of "Horace" or something similar. Anyone wanna google this and find out?

And we’re basically walking around Harvard Yard and checking out everything.

And so I touched John Harvard’s left shoe. I’m told it’s supposed to bring me good luck!

It’s said that so many tourists and visitors have rubbed John Harvard’s shoe that it turned gold!

And we’re heading towards the Harvard Science Center. They also have their classes in here as well. After walking around a bit, about an hour later, Sheila and I get pretty hungry for a burger. She heard about this famous burger place just outside in Harvard Square that we should go to. Basically – the restaurant has served lots of famous people – and every thing on their menu represents a burger that some celebrity has requested and then got named after in their honor (according to our waitress).

So Sheila ordered a shake and I got a diet coke. I ordered the Ted Kennedy and Sheila ordered the Drew Faust (Harvard President) which was also a veggie burger. While waiting – I noticed how interesting my surroundings were…

And then we got our food!

Afterwards – we paid in cash. Funny story here: this restaurant only accepts cash (no credit or debit at all) but luckily there was an ATM machine in the back one could use to get cash. We went back on the subway and headed back to the dorm to rest up.

Day I-lost-count: Visiting LIGO

So we come upon the second reason that I decided to visit MIT for spring break – meeting professors and looking for research opportunities. Sheila went to work at Volpe Transportation while I was left to explore MIT and find where the LIGO buildings were. Along the way, I saw some other interesting research laboratories I’ve heard about through my problem sets in Physics… such as the Nabisco lab.

On one of my Ph101 Problem Sets (Order Of Magnitude Physics [OOM]), we had to compute the energy required to cool a certain odd-tasting magnet: Francis Bitter Magnet. Strangely enough, it’s not named because of how it tastes – but after the man who came up with it. The super-awesome experiment of the magnets included levitating frogs! There’s some videos on the web if you Google for them.

And these were one of the few cooling tanks found around the lab. Getting back to the whole point of my wandering around campus: finding LIGO.

LIGO was contained here – inside the Plasma Science Fusion Center building (and they spanned two buildings as well as a large underground laboratory). Because it was mostly a research lab – I am not allowed to take pictures or reveal too much about what we talked about. For those of you who don’t know much about LIGO – it stands for Laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatory.

Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves as part of the theory of general relativity. He described space and time as different aspects of reality in which matter and energy are ultimately the same. Space-time can be thought of as a "fabric" defined by the measuring of distances by rulers and the measuring of time by clocks. The presence of large amounts of mass or energy distorts space-time — in essence causing the fabric to "warp" — and we observe this as gravity. Freely falling objects — whether a soccer ball, a satellite, or a beam of starlight — simply follow the most direct path in this curved space-time. When large masses move suddenly, some of this space-time curvature ripples outward, spreading in much the way ripples do the surface of an agitated pond. When dense objects orbit each other, space-time is stirred by their motion, and gravitational energy ripples throughout the universe.

LIGO will detect these ripples in space-time by using a device called a laser interferometer, in which the time it takes light to travel between suspended mirrors is measured with high precision using controlled laser light. Two mirrors hang far apart, forming one "arm" of the interferometer, and two more mirrors make a second arm perpendicular to the first. Viewed from above, the two arms form an L shape. Laser light enters the arms through a beam splitter located at the corner of the L, dividing the light between the arms. The light is allowed to bounce between the mirrors repeatedly before it returns to the beam splitter. If the two arms have identical lengths, then interference between the light beams returning to the beam splitter will direct all of the light back toward the laser. But if there is any difference between the lengths of the two arms, some light will travel to where it can be recorded by a photodetector.The space-time ripples cause the distance measured by a light beam to change as the gravitational wave passes by, and the amount of light falling on the photodetector to vary. The photodetector then produces a signal defining how the light falling on it changes over time. The laser interferometer is like a microphone that converts gravitational waves into electrical signals. Three interferometers of this kind were built for LlGO — two near Richland, Washington, and the other near Baton Rouge. Louisiana. LlGO requires at least two widely separated detectors, operated in unison, to rule out false signals and confirm that a gravitational wave has passed through the earth.

That night, after Sheila got back – we visited Harvard Square again because there was an All-Deaf Conference for National Deaf Month at Harvard. We got there early and we were super hungry so we headed into this tavern to eat. I apologize in advance for my horribly bad memory with food names (and Sheila might be able to fill me in later). Here are pictures of foods we ate:

I believe this was a pizza with some form of sausage and brie.

These were bacon-wrapped figs.

This was kind of a play on deviled eggs.

And this was a warm coffee-style cake topped with blackberry and mint.

Afterwards – we headed over to Harvard for the talk. It was a discussion panel about (in my opinion) coping with deafness in academic settings from kindergarten to graduate school (and beyond). There were interpreters and real-time captions for everyone and it was a fantastic talk. After this, we met with Sheila’s friend Amy (at Harvard) who took us to play some Super Smash Brothers Melee in one of the freshmen houses in Harvard Yard. And this concludes Day ???.

Day near-end-of-spring-break: Deaf Meet-Up

So today, Sheila also went to work as well and I basically worked on things I had to do to get ready for 3rd term at Caltech including IST4 (a class I TA) and reading ahead on the material for my Analytical Magnetostatics class. So rather than bore you with the details of my studying… let’s skip ahead to Andy and Cena!

They’re just like us – only 5 years older – a deaf couple. Cena (on the left) only knows sign language and she signs like a boss [respect]. Andy on the right started learning sign language a couple of years ago and has been picking up on it pretty fast. Together, along with Sheila, I’ve been starting to learn some sign language as well. They’re both wonderful people and Andy is ridiculous ๐Ÿ˜› They drove down to MIT and we traveled over to UNOs in Harvard Square where the Deaf Meet-Up would be.

We were all hungry so we went upstairs to eat first. Sheila and I ordered the UNOs Classic Pizza for two (and it was the size of a pizza for one! How unfair…) Andy never stopped complaining about it ๐Ÿ˜ฎ We talked pretty much about everything and they all tried to teach me sign language, albeit somewhat unsuccesfully. I’m still a horrible beginner with moderate signs of improvement [get the pun?] and once I get more practice, I’ll be much better in no time. I met a lot of new people at the meet and greet including Andy, Cena, West [at Harvard], Jenny [from Wellesley], Paul [from Worcester Polytech], Alan and his wife [and many others]! I totally can’t wait to come next year and try out what sign-language skills I happen to have… hrmm… I’ll still suck, but not as bad as before ๐Ÿ˜€

Day All-my-bags-are-packed-and-I’m-ready-to-go…

At this point – I probably glossed over a day or something here… but I feel like I’ve hit all the high notes and quarter notes of my spring break. As you guessed from the title of the section – I like Peter, Paul, and Mary [and John Denver]… but today was the day I left to go back to Caltech. I had a great time visiting MIT and exploring Boston, Cambridge, Harvard, and all the other places.

I’m not completely sure what I’ll be doing for my next blog post – but if you have any suggestions… just let me know! I’ll talk about really anything ๐Ÿ˜€

Giordon Stark