Monday, May 30, 2011

Days Three-Seven: Camp and Cockroaches

Explanation for the four-day spread: lack of internet leads to lack of blog entries leads to lack of motivation to re-update when internet is finally found, and it's actually really, very comical watching a group of 15-odd physicists stuck in the woods, internet-less. Some people actually begin to lose their minds.

Anyway, the other REU interns from all over the map came together to Clemson's outdoor lab for the weekend, and we got to know and like each other very much so that we could essentially part ways for the rest of the summer. Thanks a billion, for that. Seriously, though, we ended up learning and doing a lot together. Each of the professors gave a talk on his specific field of research, and gave a snippet of what exactly each student might choose as his or her research project so that we each have something of interest to write about for JSARA.

In between the talks and cookouts, we did quite intrepid things like going on a canoe trip. I think that my canoe was clearly the most adventurous one, as Ninos, Tom and I only wanted to explore the bays and inlets in front of everybody else. Hence, we were out there way longer than everybody else; but the explorer's spirit paid off in a way that neither Ninos nor I really expected. Upon taking a swim to a distant bay when we returned, I stumbled upon a wooden crate on the deserted shore. (Honestly, I didn't see it at first because we were watching all of the fire ants do their thing. Physicists also enjoy insects.) Anyway, there was a rubber snake draped over the tree, and I was almost positive that I was going to find a severed head or some kind of dead animal when I opened the lid. Upon opening the crate, I jumped back in surprise, so those watching me from the far-off dock probably assumed that I had found a severed head. In reality, there was definitely a wasp's nest in there...but the angry wasps flew off and I stole their treasure. Mardi-gras beads and plastic reptiles. Ninos and I collected enough beads for all of the students, and swam back triumphantly. Honest-to-God buried treasure on an otherwise remote shore. Oh. Yes.

We tried, momentarily, to figure out what the crate was for. One of us suggested that it might be a geo-cache, but again, we were internet-less and couldn't look it up. (Update: just looked up geo-caching in Clemson. A few good candidates, but all in the wrong location. Also, there was no logbook in the crate. Sigh.)

That night, we all celebrated with a grill and a few guitars. Sausages and a jam session with Dr. Wood and Dr. Webb? I think so. We had a marvelous time, and I learned a couple of new chords (since I only know about three and a half.) And grilled corn? A revelation.

Anyhow, the four of us Clemson kids returned back on Sunday morning, and I absolutely kept in bed basically all day and watched season four of The Office. It's nice to be lazy every so often.

Today, though, I finally got my gym membership and worked out (hooray!) and stuffed my brain full of more gamma-ray-burst knowledge than it had ever consumed before. Made dinner for the guys, and won a game of HORSE later. Successfully captured my first non-Madagascar-hissing cockroach, released it outside, and realized that, oh, this is South Carolina and they are climbing underneath the crack in my door. So gross. I do not try to kill them because 1. That is a mess. 2. I maintain that they represent a species that cannot be killed; perhaps even by a gamma ray burst. So, I sealed my door (I hope) and am not going to think about it while I try to sleep.

For now, ice cream and Big Bang Theory.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day Two: Lexington to Clemson

I should probably begin with a disclaimer that further solidifies the last post's claim regarding Lady Antebellum: I AM ADDICTED. (And seriously, don't tell my brother.) There is something about hitting Kentucky (I love that state) and dripping down into Tennessee and the Carolinas that actually brings out my country lovin' soul (which I was completely unaware that I possessed.)

So, I may or may not have belted out American Honey pretty much from Berea to Seneca (you pick the two states that make the most sense) and have fallen back in love with the Smokies, and also have found a new infatuation with mountain tunnels and the fact that given one slight miscalculation, they could crush me. I like that. Not being crushed, of course, but the notion that I could be. I like these winding highways and misty roads...and being mountain-hugged. I enjoy not being sure exactly which state I am in but having a map inside of my head. I like adventure. And being alone for a bit. And going somewhere. And using common sense.

Anyhow, I eventually found my way to Clemson (even though the very last road that I was meant to turn on absolutely does not exist) and found that my roommate-less, spacious-yet-basement-esque apartment is way more air-conditioned than I had thought, which makes sense, because I would otherwise die. It's rough out there...and it's May. Really, South Carolina? I'm from Michigan. Take it easy.

The apartment is big but it's pretty dirty, which to me just makes it Becca-friendly. I don't have to feel bad that I already put a huge gash in the paint carrying the top bunk out to the living room as a makeshift couch, or that my blinds have already snapped in half. No big deal. It's air-conditioned. It's got a kitchen. I'm in heaven.

I drove around the area in search of a food store, and it's like being in a foreign country (I miss Meijer!) But I eventually found a place and went absolutely nuts. First of all, I was a little faint from heat/lack of food/confusion/where am I again? So I'm pretty sure that I stumbled around the store for a good few minutes attempting to acclimate, and during this time I'm sure I resembled a paranoid, mentally-disturbed American apple pie, all dressed up in my 4th of July outfit. Once I gathered my wits, though, I did WORK, and by WORK I mean carefully selecting my new kitchen appliances and food to be cooked upon them. I didn't feel like doing that whole Lunchables thing again. Yes, I did get a couple of frozen pizzas, but I've got some ideas. Stir fry being one of them. Spinach feta omelet bruschetta with thyme being another. Ranch encrusted chicken another still. I can still think when I'm heat-stroking and fatigued, see?

Also: I need somebody to explain Collared Greens to me. What are they? What do they want from me? And who eats Okra?

Since my fluorescent lights flicker (and who wants fluorescent lighting anyway?) I bought a couple of small lamps until I can find a Medusa lamp, meaning until I can find the Walmart that is supposed to be nearby. It's nice in here. I still need to decorate, but all in good time.

I've met two of the guys in the SARA program with me, as well as my professor, so all things seem well so far. Honestly, though, I can't condemn this summer to comparison with last summer. There's just no way. So, slate completely blank, I'm about to go off camping with the other interns for the weekend. Somehow I'm quite aware that I will thrive here. Somehow.

And again...why do I live in Michigan? Couldn't tell ya. I'm missing all of this.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Day One: Lansing to Lexington

Since I’ve been busy (the usual amount, turns out) and have been spending all of my creative writing juices on writing my autobiography (which sounds more and more ridiculous the more I think about it, so I just won’t think about it), this blog has suffered a bit of a dry spell (and a moody spell, my goodness.) So, here I am, the Lansing to Lexington leg complete.

I did get the privilege to spend a quality six hours with myself, and I'll do the same tomorrow. I found out that I can get halfway through Ohio on half of a tank of gas (win) and could probably sputter on into Lexington on one very full tank if I wanted to be a super risky renegade. And my guess so far for the cheapest gas in America is some sixty miles north of Dayton at a minuscule $3.47-ish. It's disgusting that this fact causes me to yell at the other drivers and warn them to never go to Michigan. "Hey. HEY! DON'T GO TO MICHI---" whooosh as they pass me...and I do a little happy dance of insanity for my clever cheap-gas discovery.

I also discovered that I favor highway I-71 over highway I-75. Lovely Wife was right. There is nothing in Dayton. And I'd rather drive through Cinci than around it, wishing I were driving through it. And then being sandwiched between two semi trucks on the bridge to Kentucky (I love this state). Unfavorable. We will be fixing this route. Columbus, here I come, sweet beloved.

While driving through Kentucky (I love this state), I definitely got into one of those country-music moods that I absolutely never, ever, ever get into and just had to listen to Lady Antebellum. Problem is, I have exactly one Lady Antebellum song, which I listened to on repeat from at least Georgetown to Winchester. So, please excuse me while I download more Lady Antebellum for tomorrow's trip deeper south. (Also: please don't tell my brother.)

Alright, I'm back. I think I'm just succumbing to the inevitable: I will develop an annoying southern accent (which will sound ridiculous to actual southerners, and fascinating to people with nasally Michigan accents) so I might as well develop an irrational emotional attachment to Lady Antebellum songs.

Anyway, I'm side-tracking. I'm in Kentucky (I love this state) at Melissa's home, which she always so graciously offers to me and makes smell so good and decorates so nicely. After dinner and frozen yogurt, we actually took a walk through the actual heaven. Seriously, there were actual crosses and the whole nine yards. Really, it's only a grassy walking trail surrounding a lovely field of wildflowers, and oh, it only lines up in front of the loveliest Kentucky (I love this state) sunset ever. (And as for the crosses? The field is the future site of a church, so...that's why, I suppose.) I could hang here. I'm not sure if I mentioned this, but I love this state. However 'good' a person must be to live here, I'll be that good, and more.

Melissa and I then had the chance to chat about London airports, Dublin stalkers, being a city girl or a wide-open-spaces girl, the menfolk, the demonfolk, the regularfolk, being stubborn, being hit in the head with bricks, the usual. We are almost the same person. Thank you Jesus and internet, for instigating this friendship. I should also put a mandatory shout-out to the National Science Foundation here, but wait, no; that will go on my next publication. Silly me.

More camaraderie tomorrow then back on the road. I drove past so many blown tires today. (What do they pave these roads with? Needles and catfish bones?) Please, God, no blown tires while I have my entire life in the trunk of the car. Please. Also: please don't let my car get somehow stuck under a semi truck, which is what caused that huge backup in Florence, Kentucky (I love this state). Well, at least the traffic jam lent the opportunity to capture this lil' southern gem:

Oh yes, please and thank you.