Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas Vacation Recap

My Christmas vacation was really nice with a lot of relaxing with Dem and our families. Since I'm still not interested in writing I will make use of my pictures to recap what we did over the vacation.

The only bad part of the trip was the driving...basically everyday that we had to drive the weather was horrible. I didn't actually get to drive the speed limit until we were driving from Pigeon back to Ann Arbor at the end of our trip. There was a ton of snow and quite a bit of wind during the drive, but we made it every where we needed to go safe and sound in relatively good time considering the conditions.

View of the snow piling up in front of Dem's parent's house.

While up by Traverse City we spent most of the time playing wii, watching tv (Freaks & Geeks, Red Wings, football, etc), celebrating Dem's mom's (dinner and bowling), and relaxing. We had an early Christmas at their house opening gifts. Not too many pictures were taken of this but I did capture Cal (the family dog) opening his gift.

Cal opening his gift.

The last night Dem's parents and us played a very close game of Scrabble.

For most of the game I thought I was totally out of it, but then I was able to go out first resulting in everyone else having to subtract their tiles and giving me those points. In the end I won by a very narrow margin...Dem's dad = 135; Dem and her mom = 136; Me = 137.

The Scrabble score sheet.

We then made the difficult drive to my parent's house. We got there in the evening of Christmas eve giving us just enough time to go to the Christmas Eve Service at St. John's Berne. I really wanted to go to that, but thought that with the weather there was no way we could the end we decided that it was a miracle that we arrived when we did.

Dem and I after the Christmas Eve Service.

I don't really have any pictures from my stay there so there isn't much to recap. But the time was really great with us basically doing the same thing we did at Dem's parents. We watched a lot of tv (House, NCIS, Red Wings), went to church (got 3 services in), did some exercise (played some bball and ran at the gym), opened gifts for Christmas (with parents, TC, and Chad), spent time with family, played Wits & Wagers with my parents (super fun game) and got some wii playing in. Overall our time was very relaxing and enjoyable.

Dem I think had a good time...looks like she did.

In the end we got some well needed relaxation time, spent some quality time with families, and got some great gifts.

Some of the gifts I got, clockwise from top left: toolbox, wii accessories, Michigan football book, Wits & Wagers, and a new box spring for my bed (curtousy of my dad's gift).

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Weekend

My first post-defense weekend was very relaxing and enjoyable, which was just what I needed. Plus I finally got my replacement battery for my camera, which means once again I can take pictures and post them on my blog. Thus it is only fitting that I have a picture post recapping some of the highlights from the weekend.

Friday - Dem and I finally setup my Christmas tree since it was due time and we were going to have a Christmas/Elf/Brian's done with his PhD celebration at my place on Saturday.

The naked tree

Me doing some tree decorating.

Dem putting hooks on some ornaments.

Finished product.

We then got to work on making additional preparations for the party.

Dem went to work in the kitchen making cookies and other goodness.

Including my favorite holiday snack...puppy chow.

I on the other hand disassembled my entire home entertainment setup...and then put it back together.

Saturday - In the morning we went to the funeral of the father of one of my best friends. It was pretty sad obviously, but quite impressive to see the strength of that family.

Once we got back to Ann Arbor we made the final preparations for the party (by we I mean Dem since I really did nothing). It was fun getting together with friends, watching Elf, eating deliciousness, and playing some "games".

Mike leading the dictionary game...he reads the definition we try to guess the word...its surprisingly more fun then one might think.

Sunday - not many pictures from this day. Highlights included sleeping in, attending a Christmas concert (which was really well done), and relaxing with my lady.

Isn't she cute.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


I think I'm now UNOFFICIALLY a doctor...I have the thumbs up from the gatekeepers but I have to fill out paper work and what not before I'm officially a doctor. It is really nice to be done, but what made it super nice is that a good portion of my family was able to come and get to see what I really do and celebrate the completion of this phase of my life. Then the day was topped off with a nice quiet evening with Dem eating pizza, watching Arrested Development, and playing a little bit of tetris....oh yeah, life doesn't get much better. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures from yesterday to share due to the lack of a camera. However, today I got a picture from the talk I gave in Korea and as luck would have it I'm wearing the exact same thing (so just picture it in a much smaller room with less people).

Giving my talk in Korea wearing the same thing I wore for my defense.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Almost Time

Showtime in 11.5 hours...can't wait.

It's interesting that I have the same feelings that I use to have the night before a big game in high school. It's a weird mix of anxiety, excitement and confidence. Anywho, time to practice the talk one last time, relax and try to get a good night sleep.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Looking Back

I visited PhD Comics for the first time in a very long time (besides when Sherry passes a good one on to me), and it just captures the life of a grad student so well. So I decided to recap my graduate studies with several comics that I think capture something that can only fully be appreciated by those that have been through the fire...but I hope everyone enjoys them (click on images for larger versions).

The Early Days (years?)

Middle Ages

The Past Year

The successful representation of my past academic career gives confidence that we can use PhDcomic to extrapolate even into the future...

This Coming Wednesday

My Life as a Postdoc

Friday, December 05, 2008

PhD Defense Countdown

5 days to go...I'm ready to be finished.

The month and a half of nonstop writing and thinking was so much easier (in terms of motivation to work) than this period of trying to make my presentation...motivation seems to have significantly dropped ever since I distributed my dissertation.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Another Hoop

Today I made the leap through one of so many hoops necessary to obtain my doctorate. This was a very important one...I distributed my dissertation to my committee. Bonus, I got to learn how to spiral bind papers since my dissertation was too large for binder clips. I'm super exhausted and in need of a break, so I will take the next two days to do only like work before getting to work on making the presentation for defense in less than 10 days.

Friday, November 28, 2008


Since the holidays are a time to spend with the family I figured I would finally do some updating on my blog with some classic family pictures (actually slides that my mom digitized).

Mom and dad in 1978

Rey and TC hanging out in1979.

Me in 1982 having a pretty good day...apparently.

The siblings hanging out at Christmas 1982.

The family in 1981.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

APS Meeting

I'm sitting in San Antonio at the 2008 Applied Physics Society - Division of Fluid Dynamics (APS-DFD) conference and figured instead of going to more talks I would update my blog. The meeting has been pretty good and while I haven't gone to too many talks, the ones I've gone to have been good. More importantly I have been able to talk with a few people in person that I've tried communicating through email with minimal success. The highlight so far has been visiting the Alamo, which is right behind our hotel. It isn't super exciting, but its always cool to visit a historical site and from what I've heard its important to "remember the Alamo".

photos courtesy of Sherry

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


No I didn't invent the Tracy Jordan Meat Machine...but I did solve a problem that has plagued our research group for over four years...nothing like a good old diffusion length to help you out :)


I'm still alive even though I seem absent from just about everyone on the face of the earth...besides Dem who comes over to feed me, make sure I'm not living in complete filth, and keep me encouraged. The deadline is approaching and the continuous work has been completely necessary, but I'm glad to say that by the time I go to bed tonight I should have a working rough copy of my entire dissertation...cover to cover. There is still a lot of work to be done with it, but now its fine tuning and and trying to better explain some of the physics in the results. Several parts I think need to be improved and it would be nice to incorporate more results from other studies, but I'm getting there. Now back home (I left the apartment only because when I went to grade some homeworks I found out I didn't have to solutions...opps) where I will do the grading and then read the 70 new pages written for the final part of my dissertation.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Becoming a Doctor

Sorry I haven't been updating much anymore. The reason is that I have neither time nor content to write. I'm in all out dissertation writing mode. Each week I have to submit a rough draft version of one quarter of my dissertation and each section is pretty much independent of the other its like write a publication each week. Anyone that has written a publication knows how crazy that really is. Typically a publication takes a few months of back and forth between two of the authors, and that is usually starting with like a conference paper or something. But I'm getting there now that I've submitted rough draft versions of 75% of my dissertation and 25% is pretty much in a final version. In order to get this done I've had to keep a rather simple schedule:

10am: wake up
10am-1am : shower, get cleaned up, read bible
11am-noon: go to the internet cafe, check my email, say hi to Dem
noon-7pm: think/analyze/write
7pm-7:30pm: find dinner (or eat what Dem has given me to eat)
7:30pm-11pm : think/analyze/write
11pm-11:30pm : talk with Dem on the phone
11:30pm-4am : think/analyze/write
4am-10am: sleep

That is the typical schedule though on Tuesdays and Thursdays Dem and I typically go running in the evening and Sunday I go to church and spend some time with Dem. Also I've been able to spend a little time with friends here and there (drove to Pigeon to vote, short visits for birthdays, hospital visits, taught some advanced fluid mechanics, and the Red Wings tonight!). Hopefully a week from now I will have a rough version of my entire dissertation, and if I'm able to do that then I have a reasonable chance of defending in early December...wish me luck.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A New President

First, I have to thank President Bush for his past eight years of service and sacrifice for the United States of America. He has made unpopular decisions because he thought they were the right decisions and has lead us through a historic period of time. Perhaps now since everyone is weary of the war and concerned about the economy that we forget how well loved and respected he was after 9/11. So thank you President Bush and hope that your accomplishments aren't forgotten in history.

Also I say congratulations President-elect Obama. I find his views on abortion revolting and disagree with his economic policies, but I will never show him the disrespect that has been shown Bush over the past 6 years-ish. Furthermore I'm glad to be able to see the first black President elected and will always show in the respect he deserves as the President of the United States of America...even if I passionately disagree with his positions.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Asia Trip: Final Thoughts

Well I think I've covered most of the major parts of my trip but to wrap things up I'll give a short list of random things I haven't shared yet.

1) The Conference
Yeah I didn't go to Asia for 10 days just to go but to attend the 27th Symposium on Naval Hydrodynamics. I gave my 30 minute talk on the second to last day of the conference and was a little surprised how nervous I was. I think it was mainly because I hadn't actually practiced my talk out loud once before I gave it and by my estimate I had too many slides for the 30 minute time slot. So I got up there and started talking way too fast and actually finished early. Fortunately I was the only person giving a talk on drag-reducing polymers so no one in the audience really cared...perhaps that should be unfortunately since I really like the Q&A part when people are interested.

2) Friendly People
I was told to not worry about feeling welcomed over there and I see why now. In both Japan and Korea everyone was so friendly and helpful. Once at a Starbucks I was trying to get internet and could so one of the guys working there noticed and insisted on helping me. After working on it for nearly an hour with two Starbuck workers and some random guy that joined in we(they) finally got me internet access by purchasing it through the other guys computer and one of the workers phones and then having me pay the guy in cash...try having that happen in USA.

3) Beware of 2 Barber Poles
I was told (never went to any barber) that in Seoul if you go to a barber that has one barber pole in front it is a normal barber. However, if there are two poles on the front then it means that you get a haircut and a "happy ending". Specifics of what that entails I didn't ask but was amazed at how common knowledge this was...however I never saw one in Seoul, though there is a chance that there was one in the basement of the last hotel I stayed was open at like 10pm, was in the back corner, and had frosted windows so no one can see in.

4) Korean Folk Music
We had a show of several styles of Korean Folk music, which I absolutely loved and kind of totally forgot about until I started writing this entry. Below are some samples of very similar music to what I heard...sadly I couldn't find anything that was like my favorite performance but this is a good sample of the rest.






Friday, October 24, 2008

Asia Trip: Visiting the DMZ

Sorry for the very slow recap of my trip, but trying to get caught up and hopefully graduate in the very near future severely limits the amount of time for blogging. I think that I will write this post and one more on the trip and that will be all.

Visiting the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea was the highlight of the trip for me. I was asked on the first day in Seoul if I wanted to visit it and at first I was indifferent, but the more I thought about it the more I wanted to go. Choi (one of my adviser's former students that lives in S. Korea) arranged for the trip and got us tickets to enter the DMZ. Unfortunately S. Koreans aren't allowed to go to Panmunjom because they claim that S. Koreans may try to defect to N. Korea if they get that this Choi just laughed at the thought of a S. Korean wanting to do that. Also a problem with recapping this visit is that we were only allowed to take pictures in very specific spots. However, thankfully people that have broken the rules and took video have posted many on YouTube...including the video below from the border through Panmunjom with N. Korean soldiers marching quickly to the border.

The first place we went was on the south border of the DMZ where there is a bridge that connects North and South Korea and was built to exchange prisoners after the Korean War...well actually the war is still going on. There is no formal peace deal between the two sides and there has just been an informal truce for the past 50 years. It is called Freedom Bridge because S. Korean prisoners screamed freedom when they crossed it. However, interestingly Choi told us that they refer to it as the Bridge of No Return because which ever way you were heading on it you weren't coming back (click here for video I took of area).

Me on the observation deck to view Freedom Bridge.

We then drove into the DMZ and visited the third infiltration tunnel that was dug from the N. Korean side to the South to try and attack them. This tunnel was dug 70 meters (230 ft) below ground and dug through granite! There was a fourth tunnel dug that was 140 meters deep, but you can't visit it because its very difficult to get breathable air down there. The tunnel we visited was painted black by the N. Koreans because after they were caught they claimed it was just a coal mine. It was in this tunnel that I got the closest to N. Korea (about 50 yards from their border). The tunnel is barred off with three separate barriers as can be seen in the video I found on YouTube by someone who took the same tour (click here to view...embedding is disabled on this video). At the end of that video is the observation point over Panmunjom where I took the pictures below.

Me at the observation point over Panmunjom.

It is super difficult to get any decent pictures (or video) of the area because you are only allowed to take pictures from behind this yellow line that is back away from the edge. Luckily I'm tall and they don't care if you stand on your tiptoes, hold the camera over your head, and snap pictures...nothing too great turned out from it but I got a good view of the landscape along the border.

The best picture I got from the DMZ.

There are a ton of stories about this place that makes it such a weird place to be. Bill Clinton once described it as the "scariest place on earth" and after hearing some of the stories you quickly realize why. It is the most heavily fortified border in the world with watchtowers, razor wire, landmines (lots of these), tank-traps, and heavy weaponry everywhere...ironic for a "demilitarized zone". Earlier this year on a tour that allowed S. Koreans on the N. Korean side a 53 year old woman was shot and killed because she was in a restricted zone. They claim that she was running away but they shot her first in the leg and then shot her in the chest.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Asia Trip: Touring Seoul

I saw a lot of cool things driving around Seoul, but unfortunately I was unable to find an English map while I was there and that significantly hindered my ability to have any idea what I was looking at. Because of that I really don't have all that much to share though I took a bunch of pictures from our car...but they don't look good and I don't know what they are of. The one exception is the picture below of Seoul Station.

Seoul Station

The one spot where we visited in Seoul that I actually have a decent idea of what I was looking at got some good pictures is Gyeongbokgung Palace. Basically it was the King and Queen's palace during the Joseon Dynasty, and on the back side of it is the current Presidential House, "The Blue House".

Me touring Gyeongbokgung Palace...we got headphones and a map that you just touch the spot on the map and it would tell us what we were looking at.

Video of the changing of the guard cermony at Gyeongbokgung Palace.

One of the buildings that is part of Gyeongbokgung Palace...shown is a reenactment of people taking the cival service exam for Korea in the 1400s.

A pond in Gyeongbokgung Palace with the "Blue House" located just beyond it.

I went running a few times through Seoul and for the most part saw nothing to interesting with the exception of a tomb of some 1400 king and queen. It was located about a mile or so from our hotel and I could see the big opening of trees from our hotel room (see picture below). So not having a map I just ran there (it actually took two attempts because I got turned around the first time I tried) and hoped to actually have a woods to run in. Sadly you have to pay to get in and I didn't bring any money with me on my I was left to just run around the outer parameter of the tomb, which was still pretty nice.

Tomb area of some king and queen from the 1400s as viewed from our hotel room.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Asia Trip: Touring Tokyo

I was able to do a little bit of touring around Tokyo during my short stay there. Ryo (Japanese student of Steve's) took us out to eat near the Tokyo equivalent of Times Square, Sheboya square (shown below), the second night that I was in Tokyo. This wasn't too bad, but it was one of those times during my trip where I was reminded that I really like non-crowded places. The dinner was pretty good...I had some kind of Duck/Noodle/Soup thing in the cheater sitting on the floor restaurant for Westerners (below the table was a whole which allows us to sight normally at the short table)

Sheboya Square in Tokyo.

The following morning I got up early (like I always did in Asia...I think 5am was the latest I ever slept in there) and went running. I wasn't sure where to go since I didn't have a map of the area and needed to be able to find my hotel without being able to talk to anyone. Fortunately there was a river that ran along the back side of our hotel (see picture below). So I just ran along the river mostly. Once I broke away from the river path and circled a block. When I did I saw a guy laying on his horn driving behind a truck. When he finally passed the truck he got in front, slammed on the brakes, stopped, and got out of his car to yell at the truck driver...that is a good way to get shot in the US.

River (blue arch is a bridge over the river) that ran behind our hotel in Tokyo.

After some breakfast and getting ready Ryo arrived and took Steve and I touring around Tokyo. We saw several locations with the main sights being a famous Buddhist temple, the Tokyo Tower (as seen in Godzilla), and the Emperor's Palace.

Steve and I in front of the Buddhist temple.

Tokyo Tower...location for numerous famous battles with Godzilla, King Kong, etc.

Emperor's Palace

One great story from our touring around involved Ryo running to get something. Basically since we were touring around Tokyo right before leaving for Seoul we stored our luggage in a locker in one of the many, many subway stations. We were at a different station after making a number of subway changes and Ryo took off to get something leaving Steve and I in the middle of this very busy station. It's at this point I noted that if Ryo has any hidden animosity for us this would be the perfect moment to exact his revenge...we didn't know where our stuff was (even if we found it Ryo had locked it himself and we didn't have access to it), had no idea where we were or how to get to the airport from it, and neither of us know Japanese. The only insurance we had in that moment was that Ryo doesn't have his degree yet.

Championship #3

I have to give a short interruption to the Asia trip recap because last night I won my third intramural basketball championship (first 3-on-3). This one was the most surprising since of the 6 games before the semi-final game that I played in we had a grand total of zero wins. It was without a doubt the worst season I've had. In spite the poor performances before hand we played quite well in the final two games doubling our opponents scores and bringing home the shirt!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Asia Trip: Japanese Navy

Since I'm trying to get caught up on work I figured I would make a bunch of short entries about my trip. Todays entry is focused on my visit to the Japanese Naval Systems Research Center, which is located in Tokyo, Japan. I visited this place on my first full day in Japan. We arrived the evening before and since the 14 hour flight had nothing to interesting to share I'll just jump to this visit. It was neat seeing their research facility since I am quite familar with the US Naval research facilities, which look pretty much the same. Below is a picture of the area and the main things I saw there: their headquarters, their towing tank, and the "junior" LCC. I'm dubbed it the "Junior" LCC because its smaller then the LCC (not by much), and we already have the mini-LCC here at Michigan. The towing tank was cool and there are two interesting stories about it; (1) this is the towing tank where the Japanese secretly designed Yamato before WWII, the largest and most heavily-armed battleship in history. (2) It was taken over by Australia and they drained it and used it for tennis courts, so to this day there are lines below the water for tennis courts. Then the headquarters is a very historical building. I've had a hard time finding out exactly what happened in there, but it was formerly the Imperial Japanese Navy Institute of Technology. I heard that this was the building where a lot of the Japanese planning for WWII was done. It was very weird to be having meetings in that building, but everyone we met were super friendly and welcoming.

Japanese Naval Systems Research Center - Tokyo, Japan

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Back from Asia

First off I have to give a special thanks to Dem for writing a couple great blogs for me while I was gone...well done!

This past Friday I made it back to Michigan from my trip to Tokyo and Seoul. There are a ton of pictures, videos, and stories to share, but with how busy I am right now I will just give a small taste of what I will write about later plus a few pictures. Highlights from the trip include visiting the DMZ (border between North and South Korea), visiting Gyeongbokgung Palace, visiting the Emperor's Palace in Tokyo, having some meetings at Japan's Naval Research facility in Tokyo (very historical location), attending and giving a talk at the Naval Conference in Seoul, and other miscellaneous stories are coming soon.

Picture taken from the center of Tokyo...near the Emperor's Palace.

View from one of the hotel rooms I stayed in of Seoul.

Me at Dorsan Station.