Thursday, June 25, 2009

if you keep your eyes open

I see a lot of weird things biking to the boathouse at 5:45am for rowing. There aren't many cars on the roads, so I can sort of space out about my cycling and observe my surroundings.

Today I passed a woman who appeared to have left the house without her pants - she was just wearing black underwear, a jacket, and hiking boots. Weird.

Then a baby squirrel tried to play chicken with me. I managed to dodge him without a scrape.

I biked past the candy factory, which usually smells like Junior Mints or Tootsie Rolls. Today it smelled distinctly like french toast! Oh, how torturous for someone who had not yet eaten breakfast, and would not be eating for another three hours.

In a dumpster near the MIT Museum, a giant seagull was foraging for food, and found a whole slice of pizza which he prepared to fly off with. Gross... seagulls are like giant flying monsters.

The river was foggy this morning, and our row was full of snafus (one missing rower, a coach boat that ran out of gas), but I did see a red-wing blackbird hopping around on shore, looking for food. And a mama mallard duck and 5 baby ducklings swimming around after her! The biggest bummer of this prolonged cold weather is the noticeable lack of baby ducks. Other typical sightings on the Charles include cormorants, which are black birds that seem to swim under the water with only their head sticking up, and frequently dive underwater like stealth mode. Canadian geese abound - they would be kind of beautiful if they didn't poop everywhere. My favorite early-morning sighting is the black-crowned night heron. It took me forever to figure out what this guy was called! They always stand alone, without moving, on some log at the edge of the river, showing us their long white torsos and short spindly legs. They wear a black cap and cape, and I saw a long white plume feather one time. Coolio.

Monday, June 15, 2009

where am i now

I just came back from a full week out of town - PV conference in Philly, stopover in NYC on the way back, party in Connecticut for Ammamma's 90th birthday, and a little shopping in Natick before arriving at home. Man, that is a nice mall - I wish I had the money to shop in some of the fancy stores! I walked around 5th Avenue in NY on Friday before meeting a friend for lunch, drooling over the gorgeous dresses and luxe purses in the window displays, sparkling jewelry and stacked heels. I could tell by the suit-bedecked salesmen waiting with smiles in the doorway that I could not afford any of their wares. But I definitely enjoyed looking! Even the people walking around Manhattan are beautiful and stylish, in polished businesswear or perfectly-draped dresses, big sunglasses, and gorgeous skin. I would be so inspired daily from just people-watching if I lived there. I made a mental note to visit more often. Wouldn't be hard to accomplish that since my current frequency is like once in two years.

The conference in Philly was pretty fun, and I'm glad I went. I learned a lot about why people make different kinds of solar cells, and how. It definitely helped me to understand the state of the industry, as far as achievable efficiencies and standard manufacturing processes. I also learned how secretive everyone is with the specific details of their processes, and how much I dislike that. I mean, I attend the conference in order to increase my understanding of solar cells and how they are made, but if nobody wants to share their gritty details and struggles to improve performance, then how are any of us supposed to learn? Maybe if we all just shared all our secrets, we could truly overtake the world energy scene with solar power. Just an idea.

Anyway, Philly seemed like a great city with lots of good food and interesting bars to check out. There's a cool area of South Street where many building sides and alleyways are covered with amazing mosaics of tile and mirror, including the "Magic Garden" with bike parts and colored bottles too. Unique and interesting. I did see the Liberty Bell, briefly, from outside its glass enclosure. Not that exciting I guess... it's a giant bell.

On Saturday I made it to Connecticut for Ammamma's birthday party, which was almost a full-day affair including three cakes, catered Thai food eaten under an outdoor tent, giant pink peonies in vases, cold margaritas, a bounce house for the little kids, and some groan-worthy karaoke to end the day. I loved hearing stories of the old days, about how Ammamma met Grandpapa, and how he followed her rickshaw on his bike before they were married. My cousin made a great slide show of old pictures with a dramatic soundtrack that brought tears to many people's eyes. Mine included. Aiyo!