Tuesday, July 31, 2012

on tour part 2: pranks and shared bathrooms

My dad, aunt and uncle all went to Caltech in the '80s and lived in the same house, which I hear is the best house. Last time I visited Caltech, I was only 12 years old and was mainly focused on playing in the fountains with my sister and cousins.

This time around, it was all business. First, we went on a tour of the campus. My dad and aunt came on the tour too, so it was interesting hearing the perspectives of some alumni. Unfortunately, I don't have my own pictures of the campus because our camera broke at the beach. :(

The tour guide talked a lot about Caltech pranks. Two of the most famous pranks were the changing of the Hollywood sign to read "Caltech" in 1987 and the rewiring of the scoreboard during the 1984 Rose Bowl game to show that Caltech was leading MIT 38 to 9 when, actually, UCLA was playing the University of Illinois. My aunt commented that she must have been at Caltech during the Golden Age of pranks because both of these pranks happened when she was there.


Then, the tour guide showed us his dorm room in Dabney House, which was nice to see since most tours don't show housing. It was a single with a loft bed, desk, sink and closet, and looked like a reasonable size for a single. In the hallways, there were shared bathrooms for men and women which seemed a little too progressive.

We also went into the lobby of the GALCIT lab, which is where my dad did his graduate research! The tour guide said that it's really easy for undergrads to find research opportunities, which is awesome! He said that the SURF (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship) program was just like real research in that the students write proposals that get reviewed, and that 99.9% of them get funded. At that point, my mom whispered to me, "Yeah, except that 99.9% of grants don't get funded in the real world."

After the tour, we went to the information session. It was interesting, the admissions officer said that as long as your test scores are between their 25th and 75th percentile you should stop trying. What he didn't explicitly say is that their 25th percentile numbers are already insanely high.

Afterwards, we had lunch with my grandma at Green Street, which is near Caltech. I loved it! The zucchini bread was so good, and the dishes we had were fresh and delicious. I thought the flavor combinations were interesting, like papaya in chicken quesadillas.

Friday, July 6, 2012

what temperature do humans melt at?

It has been a hot and sweaty week at Chez Atsavapranee. We always lose power at the worst of times. First, during the snowpocalypse, when there was more snow than I had ever seen in my life, and now during the heat wave, which has set a new record of nine days for the number of days above 95°F. In fact, the heat index for tomorrow is 110°F! I'm definitely going to be spending my day indoors. I hate extreme weather!

There was an insane storm on Friday, called a derecho. I don't understand the name, because it means "right" in Spanish... but I'm proud to say that I remember that from Spanish class. It spread all the way from the midwest to the east coast! The news said that it was the worst non-hurricane storm in Maryland history. In my area, the wind uprooted a bunch of gigantic trees, which pulled down power lines and crushed a few cars and roofs. The radio was saying that in Ohio, the wind was so strong that it was separating families who were outside!

On Friday night, I was with my friends Peter and Laura. We were sort of nervous because of the storm warning, but it was getting late. Right after Peter dropped me off at my house and I walked inside, it started pouring... and then there was thunder and lightning... and then falling branches. I was getting anxious looking out the window and also feeling guilty for sitting on my bed while they were driving through sheets of rain. I called after a while to make sure they were okay.

I had just turned on the TV in my room when a storm warning came on. It said to be prepared to lose power, so I yelled to my family downstairs, "Prepare to lose power!" And what do you know. A second later... no power. My dad was like, "Ok, you can turn it back on now!"

So there was some funny timing during the storm.

One million people lost power, but I think we were one of the last to get it back. It was miserable at our house. The heat just makes you tired and unmotivated to do anything. Interestingly, it also takes away your appetite. Even my cat wasn't eating much.

We spent many hours at the library, the bookstore, and anywhere else with air conditioning and WiFi. At night we played cards by the lantern and fanned each other. Other than that, there was really nothing to do. How did people survive without electricity for thousands of years?

On Saturday, I had to finish an essay for a scholarship and an application at the library. The WiFi was unbearably slow. It took almost an hour to join the crowded WiFi network and then another half an hour to open my email. Then I had to borrow a guy's flash drive a couple of times. But it all worked out in the end.

Two days ago, over 75% of people had their power back, which unfortunately did not include us. But, luckily, we got our power back yesterday around noon, just in time to survive the hot weekend! I got the news while working in the lab, and I couldn't help but jump with happiness. :) Since then, I've been overdosing on TV, internet, and refrigerated food. Times like this make you really, really appreciate AC. A lot.


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