Thursday, September 29, 2005

Go Green!

So if you're a 22-year-old girl, here some telltale signs that he's just not right for you:
1. He's divorced.
2. He served in Kuwait in 1991. (At which time, you were eight years old)
3. He says you remind him of Maggie Gyllenhaal in "The Secretary" and makes a comment about spanking.
So needless to say, I've decided that a second date just isn't a good idea.
On a better note, I'm driving to East Lansing this weekend for the Michigan/Michigan State game. It should be a good one, with a good possibility for a victory. And I can't wait to see my old friends, even if it's just for a couple days.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Photo update

Here's a photo of me, Siri and Leo in Chicago. I thought it would be nice to put faces with the names.
I'm getting into a regular routine here. Work until 5 p.m., gym, dinner, maybe a little TV or a couple phone calls and then reading a couple chapters of a book before I fall asleep. It's great to have time to read for fun, not because I have a test the next morning.
On top of writing my usual stories for the lab Web site, I'm starting to get some assignments for Symmetry, a magazine published jointly by Fermilab and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. Today, I started working on my first piece, for a section of the magazine called "Deconstruction." The idea is to take a graphic of something, a map, an accelerator, a painting, and explain what parts of it do through breakout boxes. The November issue is all about super computing, so I was handed a flow chart of a computer program and asked to explain it. Now, I'm really no better at deciphering computer language, than I am at deciphering physics, so this was no easy task. The diagram itself is covered in arrows and colors and strange command code that you might have seen on the old Radio Shack computers with the green screens. Luckily, I was able to talk with a scientist pretty familiar with the program and he gave me the down-low. I won't bore you with the details, which there are a lot of, so just read it when it's published.
I need to do something exciting, preferably off of Fermilab's site, so I can write about it. Until then...

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Learning ASAP

As if particle physics wasn't hard enough to understand, I've learned that the masters of the trade like to speak in acronyms.
Take, for instance, the ILC, or the International Linear Collider. It's the newest project that Fermilab, and the rest of the world, is backing as the next big thing in the field. The ILC would look into discoveries made at the LHC (Large Haldron Collider), which is at CERN (not sure what that stands for yet), and lead to SID (super important discoveries) by crashing electrons into positrons at 99 percent of the speed of light. OK, I made that last acronym up, but you get the idea.
That's where I'm at right now in deciphering the language of those I work with. Hopefully, I'll get the hang of it soon.
On another note, I visited the city on Saturday for the first time since I arrived. I went with Siri, who's technically my boss but also turning into a good friend, and Leonardo, a visiting scientist from Italy who just arrived on a one-year contract. We ate pizza: stuffed crust, of course, although Leonardo ordered a regular one because eating pizza that's more like a casserole would be a disgrace to his country. Plus, if an Italian friend saw him indulging in it, they'd never let him live it down, he says.
Then we stopped for a drink and walked around the lakefront. Chicago is such a great city, so active and exciting. It was a warm night, and people walked around everywhere, sipping martinis at restaurant windows (like Amy and I once tried to do), posing for wedding pictures at Navy Pier and drinking on bar patios. I'll definitely be making more visits there.
Tonight, Leonardo made Siri and I real Italian food: pasta with homemade tomato sauce, which was delicious, and ice cream, not necessarily Italian but good. It sure beats my version of the meal, made from a box and a glass jar.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The view

Here are some pictures from here. The first is the outside of my dorm. To me, the word "dorm" brings back memories of tall, drab buildings with highly condensed living quarters. So the sight of the Fermilab dorms was quite a surprise. The condensed living quarters part holds true, but my dorm has more of an up-north cottage feel to it.
The second is Wilson Hall, the building I work at. You can pretty much see it from anywhere on the Fermilab site.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


The red light on the government-issued emergency announcement box in my room is blinking. It's interesting that these rooms are equipped with the radio-like units, complete with a label warning against unplugging or altering the device. Yet, there's no handbook explaining what the signals mean. I'm assuming that because the red light has been blinking since I got home from work, and there haven't been any fires, explosions, terrorist threats, etc., I'm safe.
It's still a bit unnerving.
Today was my first day at work. I spent the first couple hours filling out emergency contact sheets, W-4 forms (which I hate, I never know whether to fill in a 1 or a 0), laboratory policy sheets and many others. I then had the quickest physical of my life. I sat in one of the lab's medical offices with a nurse for no longer than 2 minutes, while she scanned at the one-page medical history sheet I had filled out.
I met some of the people I'll be working with and got a short tour of the building and the immense amount of technology that surrounds it. From the top floor of Wilson Hall, named after the lab's founder Robert Wilson, you can see the Chicago skyline on a clear day. You also can see the facility's equipment, from the vats that store antimatter to the outline of the tevatron, a particle accelerator made up of underground tubes and magnets with a four-mile diameter.
I still don't understand how everything works. Today's quick tour was way over my head, but I hope to catch on soon.
Other than that, I've been pretty bored. I spent my weekend checking out the on-site marvels -- a herd of nearly 50 buffalo and beautiful bike and running trails -- as well as the off-site marvels -- the mall, and after days of searching for one, a video store.
But at $4.75 a DVD, I also learned that I won't be renting many more movies from that Blockbuster.

Friday, September 02, 2005

New home, for now

I'm sitting in the room I'll live in for the next three months.
I'm tired, both emotionally and physically. I'm lonely and already missing my parents who left less than 30 minutes ago. And I'm excited for the future and the possibilities.
My room is small to say the least. It's one of many dorms in "The Village" on the hundreds of acres of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill. It smells like an up-north cottage, old and musty from sitting unused for the winter. It's one single room, with a community bathroom across the hall and a shared kitchen on the other side of the building.
I won't lie, it was a scary sight at first. The furniture, straight out of the 1970s or earlier decades, was covered with dust and and the bed sheets, which maids supposedly clean weekly, felt dingy with dirt you might find in a sleazy hotel. But after several hours of cleaning, rearranging and moving in my familiar "school" stuff with my mom, it feels a little more like home. But I still feel like I'm back in my freshman year of college.
The plus side to living on site is the possibility of making new friends. However, that seems more difficult by the second. Many of the others in the dorms are international students or visitors. I introduced myself to a couple of my neighbors in the kitchen today and started to ask them questions about the place. A girl concentrating on making lunch smiled slightly without a response and ducked her head back in the fridge. From the other side of the kitchen, a Japanese guy tried his hardest to answer my questions with really broken English. It's going to be a challenge.
I'm pretty close to Chicago, about 40 minutes west. I've got a pretty long weekend ahead of me and I'd love to make a visit to the windy city, but I don't want to go by myself. I guess my biggest fear during this internship is being alone. It's not like this is the first time I've been away from home. Quite the opposite, actually. But whether it's a fellow State Newser, a whole class of interns or other students, there's always been someone there with me. Not this time.
Who do I go to the movies with? Do I go to the museums by myself? You get the idea.
Now I'll reel myself back in. It is only my first night here, and I'm sure I'll meet someone to hang out with. I hope there are people at work who are close to my age. And maybe we'll speak the same language.