Thursday, August 20, 2015

Millau Viaduct

Sold the motorcycle
Sleeping in the back of a rented Peugeot wagon (nicknamed Joe Pewgit)
Drove 10000 kilometers in the last two weeks
Got a ticket in München
Went to Fucking, Austria
Got towed in Prag
Florence is beautiful
Driving in Italy is insane
Lost my GoPro and 32 gigs of images
All worth it for the sunrise over the world's tallest bridge

Happy roller coaster building

Monday, August 3, 2015

Subway Putz

Is it just me being immature, or does the Hong Kong subway map look like a big Putz?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Free Food in Hong Kong

So I didn't expect there to be free food in Hong Kong. There's no tech talks, no free food mailing list, etc. In fact, I budgeted to spend USD$1500/month for food while I'm there. But recently, I discovered that there is food at Arup, the company I'm working at.

Every so often, building equipment suppliers come in to pitch their product to engineers and persuade them to install them in the buildings they design. And often, these suppliers also bring food to bribe engineers to come and listen. I attended one of these talks and they had fancy salmon sandwiches that were really good. Its just that one boxed lunch isn't enough for me.

So I waited for leftovers. But when the talk ended, I realized I wasn't the only one waiting for free food. 5 completely shameless people jumped out of their chair and ran straight for the food. I was a bit too slow and polite to get any.

Apparently, the different teams at the office send delegates to these talks to haul back the free food and share it amongst themselves. Sounds a lot like EC....

Here's the guy that brought back 8 boxes of food for my team. I think I need to learn some free food tricks from him.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Katie Goes to SoCal

Hi Putz!
I took advantage of 4th of July weekend by going to San Diego.
Unlike Ben and Jaguar, I fully embrace millennial selfie culture.
See, my friend Ryan from high school is there for the summer, so I thought I’d go visit him and see what all the SoCal hype is about. It's a pretty neat area. Beaches, deserts, zoos, Disneyland. I tried to get the full experience.
Easily the coolest thing I did in San Diego was hike. The terrain there is so awesome! We went on a trail I heard about from someone on my team at Google who used to live in San Diego: "Oh, you should totally do the Three Sisters hike! Uh, or maybe not. People die on it kind of often? Be careful, I guess."
Looks super cool! Totally worth maybe dying for.
Sounded like a rave review to me! Turns out hikers die/get injured there pretty often. But it has 4.5 stars on Yelp, so how bad could it be?
After arming ourselves with advice from the internet (tl;dr bring lots of water and don’t bring your dog), we set off to Cleveland National Forest. The landscape on the drive over was pretty cool.
I kept picturing scenes from Blood Meridian happening around me.
Shout out to putz 2013 book club, woop woop.

Sharing the road with some bikers.
Aaaand then we got to the hike! No one else was there, it was totally empty. I guess most people don't start this hike at 1 PM when it's already 90˚?

The start of the hike was a wide, flat dirt road. I was like, "What gives? I thought this was supposed to be hard. Maybe I'm just a really awesome hiker."
But eventually it turns into a typical, narrow hiking trail.
So it’s a normal trail for a while, and then, BAM. Suddenly you are on what feels like a 60 degree incline, covered in super slippery dust. I didn’t take many pictures of this because I was too busy trying not to fall.
It's hard to tell, but TRUST ME this is really steep.

Anyway, after hiking (read: tripping) down the mountain face (and becoming sufficiently caked in dirt), we got below the tree line. This part of the hike was the most fun. You kinda just climb up and down giant boulders and short, rocky cliffs.

Then we found water. That was pretty exciting, because it meant the waterfalls weren't too far.
For the rest of the hike, you follow the tiny stream back up the mountainside until you hit the waterfalls. After an hour or so of boulder climbin’, Ryan goes “Look! The waterfalls!”
“Huh?! Where?”
“Over there!”
“You’re kidding.”
Nope, not kidding. The drought is real. The totally awesome "waterfalls" were reduced to these faint, green slime trails.

This is not a waterfall.
So sad.
Well. The photos above are the first two sisters, but we couldn't see the third yet. We figured we might as well hike up and see if the last one was any better.
And it was! The third sister was not a total disappointment! It actually involved some falling water. Like, not a lot of water; it was like an EC shower on the lowest pressure setting. But hey, better than nothing.
The water fell into this little pond-like alcove, which was totally a paradise. After a few hours of hiking in hot weather, being in the shade was amazing. Swimming in the pond was also great.
You can see the trail we hiked down in the distance.

The third waterfall was so great I forgot to take a picture of it, but here's someone else’s photo.

Definitely the least disappointing waterfall.
Good stuff! If you're ever in the area, definitely check out Cleveland National Forest (especially if there isn't a drought anymore!)

One thing I noticed while hiking, and also while walking around San Diego's suburbs, is that desert trees are super funky.

I kept thinking, "These are straight out of a Dr. Seuss book."

And it turns out they are! Dr. Seuss spent the second half of his life in La Jolla (a coastal suburb of San Diego), and based the animals and trees in his books on what was in the area.
Pretty cool, huh? Well, that's all I got for now. Hope you guys had an awesome 4th of July too!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Ich habe mir einem Motorrad gekauft

About a month after arriving in Germany, I got my hands butt on a Yamaha Diversion S 600 (1992). It only took about two weeks to track down a motorcycle and complete all the insurance and registration paperwork to get a license plate. 

Coolest souvenir ever...

The only kind of selfies you'll get from me. 

The guy I bought it from, Tycho, is super cool. He graduated from the Informatiks department at the Universität Stuttgart (the department I have my internship with) and has a HAM Radio license. He also teaches at an Aerospace Lab that offers robotics classes for kids from elementary to high school ages. I've been helping out there ever since (they had a German astronaut who helped with the Philae/Rosetta comet landing mission give a lecture! It was awesome). But yeah, we rode down to a HAM radio convention down near Bodensee.  

It's actually not that far away (like most things in Europe). It was only 200km to Bodensee/Switzerland area (about a 2 hour drive). Though, we took the back roads through beautiful tiny German towns which took about 4 hours. 

CASTLES ARE EVERYWHERE! It's so COOL! I'm driving along, and just glance over at the top of some hill, and there's a CASTLE! What!? Cool! It's so old! And it's still there! Probably because it's on a hill... easy to defend. Whoa, just think of all those super old people. Cool. 

Bodensee is just beautiful. Hopefully these pictures can do it justice. 

The drive back through the sunset was also super pretty. I still can't get over the fact that I read about all these places in my AP European History text book "big jack". 

We took the autobahn back. The autobahn is basically what you think it is. A freeway without a speed limit. After you see the greyed out 120kmh sign with three stripes through it, the cars take off. Most go around 140kmh (84mph), but every now and then a car goes screaming past on the left. At first it was pretty scary. In the states, I'm used to checking my mirror once or twice before changing lanes, but on the autobahn I have to check three times to get a sense for the acceleration of the objects in my mirror. 

Not sure if you can tell, but the cars passing definitely sound much faster on the side of the autobahn compared to US interstate highway. If you look closely, some of the cars in the back are going really insanely fast. The slowest car you see in the foreground is going faster than the top speed limits in the US (which is 75mph in Texas).  It's pretty crazy, but also kind of relieving. I don't get a shot of adrenaline every time I see the polizei; perfectly legal :). 

Oh and the roads are so good! They're very well maintained, unlike Connecticut. 

The next weekend I drove down to Zurich to hang out with Sara Falcone. But before I left, I had a little chat with the polizei. 

Derp. I parked in front of some old guys driveway coming back from the Uni at 3AM. I arrived just in time to catch the police officer writing my ticket for 15 Euros. 

I got a nice sarcastic sticky note though :) (Exact translation: Thank you very much that you me parked in have. This is a drive way and not parking spot!)

Unfortunately Switzerland has speed limits on all their roads. On the way, I got flashed by a stationary radar detector. Usually they capture the front license plate and bill you in the mail, but lucky for me, motorcycles only have a rear license plate. :3

Sara had a crazy good view of downtown Zurich!

The first day we swam in the lake and grilled delicious Würste with a few friends, and caught the Germany vs. England Women's World Cup game. Unfortunately, Germany lost (the game was actually really bad with England winning in overtime on a penalty kick and dragging out the game with delays. I definitely would never want to win a soccer game like that. Was not impressed by England). 

The next day we swam in the river. It was great. Zurich is a very expensive city, but there were a lot of fun free things to try that locals do over the weekend. 

Right before I got on the slack-line, the guy said, "Make sure you get far enough away from the bridge, and if you fall, don't fall towards the bridge. Otherwise; you'll hit your head on the steel... lots of blood." :3

Yep, I jumped off a 12m bridge 4 times.

WHOA! They have beer from Alaska! I didn't know people outside the state actually drank this stuff! 

Thought you guys would enjoy this. Practically every car has a putz. I've thought about hanging some big truck nuts around them too many times. Not sure how the Germans would take it. 

After my internship ends on July 31st, I'm roaming around Europe sleeping on people's couches. Planning 6,000 kilometers in 18 days. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Fahren mit dem Flugzeug, Zug und Motorrad nach Deutschland

I thought about writing this in German, but decided you guys would be too lazy to copy and paste it into google translate. So here it is in English. You (Here would be a great place to write Johnny's phrase, but I'm writing to larger audience). 

I didn't have any finals, so I left the day classes ended to help coach my younger sisters' FLL team in the 2014 FLL World Class Open National Championship at Lego Land.

Our team's pit table was next to a team from Turkey.

It was great! It reminded me of the good old days. Now that I'm older and helping out with running the program, I realize how little the adults knows what's going on. It's a lot less structured than I imagined it as a kid. 

But the kids had fun, they were in Lego Land after all. 

!!!!! This was great! Stäubli rides!

Hollywood sign

San Francisco

And New York City... all made out of Legos, all of which I would see, drive across, and gawk at before flying to Germany...

We stayed in this super nice hotel suite thing with a nice view of the Pacific Ocean. 

We also got silly caricatures. Here's a gif. I was a bit surprised by how old I looked; I got one of those done when I was in Mexico ~6 years ago (it looked a bit younger).


After the robotics competition we drove up to Los Angeles, saw the Hollywood sign and took a stroll on the Walk of Fame. 

La Brea Tar Pits. 

The Fam flew back to Alaska, and I stayed in LAX and finished writing up a late paper :3. Then I took a sleeper bus to San Fransisco and arrived at 7AM. 

Those skyscrapers weren't there last summer. I guess they can build faster without the hardships of building during a real winter

I didn't really have any plans at this point. I was still quite disoriented from MIT, robot competitions, crazy all-nighter sleep schedule fun stress just ending. So, I didn't have a solid plan when I arrived in San Francisco. I felt like I was living on the streets at Starbucks with all my backpacking gear. I eventually made it over to the storage unit where I left the motorcycle I drove around California last summer after a few naps on the SF public transportation system. 

Yep. I had done derped. I left the keys to my storage unit back in M203. I had a few hours before the facility closed for the day, so I ran down to an O'Reilly Auto Parts and bought some random tools that I turned into lock picking tools. 

I spent a good hour trying to pick the lock to no avail. Running out of time, I decided to drill it out. I ran back to O'Reilly's and attempted to by a drill, but they were all $50+. :/

Luckily, the manager of the Public Storage facility dropped by just before they closed, and he used his lock picking drill and destroyed the lock in seconds. (It was really quite impressive. He just attacked the lock with the drill and the door opened. He's gotten quite good at it...)

So yeah. There it was :) sittin there all alone for a year.  

I had to figure out a way to ride (safely) with a huge backpacking back pack, a back pack, and some other little bags to hold my crocs (I didn't drive barefoot...). I ended up leaving that tank of gas at an auto shop down the road.

And then... BATTLEBOTS! I drove up to Vallejo and met up with Charles, Dane, Adam and the crew for dinner at a little Italian pizza place. It was super cool! They had a flat Pac-Man arcade game from back in the day, and Adam's older brother beat it's high score :P. It was fun, we ended up eating our dinner on it, and continued to play.

But yeah! BATTLEBOTS! It's premier is TOMORROW and the trailer looks amazing!

Battlebots was pretty awesome! But it was also a robot competition. There were quite a few sparks, hour long waits, and dead robots... and a few just absolutely beautiful KOs. They had candy to tide the audience camera crew and robot builder people over during the filming lulls.  

They actually had an infinite supply of candy. You could eat all those red vines and they would magically reappear. 

I tested it... Had this for lunch one day. No ragrets.

I got to practice my "act like you're an important person who belongs there and shouldn't get checked at the gate" face. It worked a few times, but after I found a crew pass it was just too easy. 

After most of the battlebots were dead, I took a plane over to NYC. 

While waiting for a shuttle to Katie's house, this guy made a comment about the book I was reading. Turns out he's written a few best seller mysteries... 

Looks like there's an IDC in New York City too...

I got to hang out with Katie and her parents for a day. It was great! Thanks Katie!

Then, I was off to LaGuardia for a flight to Frankfurt with a pit stop in Montreal. 

I didn't realize Montreal was the heart of the French speaking Canada. All the Canadians I had met over near Alaska didn't speak any French and said "eh" all the time. So that was pretty cool. I felt like I was already in Europe. 

This confirmed it... I think French Canada is Europe (or at least France). They had a condom dispenser in the bathroom of an airport...

The plane was super big: 3 rows of seats with 5 seats in the middle. It was great! Germans speaking german and Canadians speaking French. 

Free wine... oh yeah.

Der Flugzeug.

I landed in Germany, after flying all night, and caught a train down to the Swiss border where I stayed with my host Family from a High School exchange program I did 5 years ago. More on that later...