Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Birthday! and Madison Protests

I wanted to share what Lindsey and I did for my birthday. It was far from what I would consider a traditional birthday celebration but it was really memorable!
First off, when we woke up on Saturday the place we were scheduled to get pedicures called to inform us that sadly they no longer had hot water. :( But Lindsey was on it and called places and got us an appointment for 4 o'clock which left us with some extra time for lunch and exploration of downtown.
We started the day with lunch at Fugu, an awesome Chinese restaurant that has an americanized and traditional Chinese menu.  We both ordered main dishes from the Chinese menu, and they were two of the best chinese meals I have ever had the joy to eat.
The dish Lindsey ordered was a twice fried fish, that is shown to the side. I ordered a sour and spicy chicken dish. They both were the perfect amount of spicy and really truly amazing. On the left you can see Lindsey enjoying lunch (oh ya, we had edamame to start, and it reminded us of our pei wei wednesdays!!).

Next we decided to walk around and check out the downtown, we didn't realize we were walking into the heart of the protests, well that the protests were happening today in massive numbers, but as we got closer to the state capital it was impossible to ignore the number of people around us with signs. Most of them protesting the actions that Governor Scott Walker had taken in the past week in order to stop the ability for Unions to form and negotiate within the state of Wisconsin. (If you haven't been following this I suggest you start, it really is crazy, but the people of Wisconsin have truly done a great job having peaceful protests and working together to ensure that their voices are heard.)
Some of the signs that people had were very funny, while still some others were present showing support for the Governor. I did not see one person get angry or out of hand, they were all very respectful. Not knowing that we would be present for a protest Lindsey and I obviously did not bring signs with us, but we quickly were given signs to show our support for the people of Madison and Wisconsin in general in trying to recall the Governor as soon as possible (which isn't until he has served a year.)
The entire town has an opinion on this - we saw signs in every store window, and even on this marquee for the local cinema. 
We also say signs calling for a strike. It is scary what this might be coming to - I wouldn't want to be a resident of this town and especially not in the position to decide whether to strike or not. There have already been many walk outs by teachers. I think this will be very interesting to watch the development of, and Lindsey I hope things don't get too out of hand and that the Governor finally decides to negotiate and listen to his residents.

After the protests and working our way out of the crowds, we made our way over to get our pedicures. I had never had a pedicure before so was slightly nervous, but was very happy with the experience.  The chairs in the waiting room were massaging us as we waited, and the chairs in the room for our pedicure also had massaging functions. So it was a relaxing experience for the entire body! I got my toes painted in a nice purple and Lindsey did a fun silverish/blueish/purplish color that changes depending on the lighting. Overall I was very happy (so much so that I am wearing sandals today to show off my great new toes and overhauled feet!)
After the manicures we went home to get ready to go out for the night. We started the night at "The Great Dane" with Wisconsin cheese curds and a fantastic artichoke dips. Lindsey introduced me to an Old Fashioned Sour and I tried one of the beers they brew at restaurant/brewery, the Old Glory American Pale Ale. 
After The Great Dane, we went to join Lindseys' friends at the Whiskey River. As it was my birthday, whenever gentlemen heard so they requested to buy me a drink, or have a dance with me, with some experiences ending better than others. Lindsey even convinced one of the "nice" gentlemen to give me a birthday dance, as you can probably tell.. I was slightly uncomfortable, but it was truly a hilarious experience.  After a while we were joined by Chantel and Annette, (lab mates) and we spent the rest of the evening singing (or screaming, I had no voice Sunday morning) and dancing. I had a great time, thanks everybody! 
This trip to Madison and the awesome weekend with Lindsey made turning 24 a fun experience, and I think this birthday will be hard to match.

Road Trip!

Ann Arbor, does a good job of being positioned a distance from any place o finteerest for a graduate student.
The only great thing is that is more than half of the way to Madison, WI if I was to travel from the east coast, and it is just my luck that one of my great friends from undergraduate lives there, Ms. Lindsey Roper. It has been too long since I was able to see her and I knew that she would be the perfect person to share my birthday weekend with... 
And so, I rented my first rental car - which also happened to be my first time driving a new car. The car had less than 30 miles when I started my trip and all the tags that come from the factory were still present in the car. It was an 2011 Nissan Versa, a great little car, with pretty good gas mileage.. only negative was I drove approximately 900 miles this weekend.. without cruise control. UGH!
One of the pros of driving in this part of the country is that the states realize the drive is boring and that there isn't much of anything to look at so the speed limit is 70, meaning most people are going at least 80 mph. (Not me dad ;) don't worry)
Traffic moved well most of the time, and I thought I was being smart by starting out here late enough in the day to miss the real brunt of the traffic rush hour in Chicago, much to my surprise however, when you cross into Indiana, you also cross into central time zone, meaning I hit smack in the middle of Chicago rush hour! Here you can see my first views of Chicago as I passed from Indiana into Illinois.
Driving through Chicago, they have decided requires you to pay over $10 dollars in tolls. Which wouldn't be so bad if they made you stop once at the beginning and one at the end. But instead they would rather have multiple toll stations, SEVEN to be exact! The one I've pictured here is the nicest looking on, but also the most expensive one.The toll road also led to the most expensive gasoline of the trip, not surprisingly, I paid 3.89 a gallon!

I finally made it to Madison though, with it taking just shortly longer than predicted. (I was able to make up some lost time once I hit the normal highway in Wisconsin) Lindsey had an amaretto sour and delicious chicken tacos waiting for me when I got to her house. And we had a great first evening talking and catching up. Below is a picture that I took on Saturday in downtown Madison - seeing the sheer number of people participating in the protests here was a really moving experience.
I hung out in Madison until Monday morning and then drove back to Ann Arbor to continue working here for slightly longer than one week.
I can't wait to get back to Hanover but it was really a great experience to travel to see Lindsey. She is a great friend and made sure I had a great time!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The City

Ann Arbor is a great city.  But it loves that the school is here. Even the city buses are tagged with the school's colors. Looking around it is impossible to forget that the school is here, there are 4 or 5 different stores selling school merchandise all on the same block.
The city has a population of slightly over 100 thousand with 32% of the population made up of the students attending the university. The city was founded in 1824 and the University moved from Detroit to Ann Arbor in 1837. The university and the city has a reputation as an important political center, and served as such during the civil-rights and anti-Vietnam war movements. 

A lot of the buildings in downtown have beautiful architecture and seem to have aged well with time. There are two theaters in town, and you can tell just from the signs, that they have been around for quite some time.  The image to the left shows an interesting indoor pathway that cuts between two of the main roads in downtown. It reminds me of an alleyway but businesses exist within the walkway, and the roof makes for a place to be saved from the elements.

There exist many different alleys in the town, even in the downtown area. I took some images from one alley that is full of all sorts of graffiti.  You can tell that in the past it was painted nicely with lots of murals and that a lot of attention went into creating a work of art. Over time the artwork has been covered with some tagging, but you can still see much of the underlying murals.  I will upload an album to facebook showing more of the images, and highlighting the wall of gum that exists as well.

Sal, the Italian

This place has good coffee shops - 2 different Starbucks (one is 2 stories!) within walking distance but a host of other local coffee shops that create great locations for studying and caffeinating.

Two Fridays ago, I was sitting at Starbucks drinking a Chai Latte and trying to read a pretty complicated paper on data analysis, but I digress, and as I'm sitting in a wonderfully comfortable chair two younger guys come and sit on the coach right next to me.
I continue reading but quickly notice through their chatter that they have very pronounced accents. Every time I look up from my paper, I make awkward contact with the one sitting closer to me. (I'm still not really sure what kept his interest, but it made for an interesting evening.)
Eventually the one with the awkward eye contact starts to talk to me while his friend, Sal, is on the phone with a girl trying to figure out when and where it was they were supposed to meet up.  After Sal gets off the phone he also makes mild attempts to talk to me, but is much more interested in his phone. (What can I say, I'm not as interesting as a smart phone.)
I am not really into this discussion, they seem young.. and like they are trolling - and I didn't come to Starbucks to get hit on, rather I'd like to read my paper. 
Eventually Sal gets another call, and sadly for him the girl isn't going to show but they make plans to meet up after spring break. So the boys leave with hopes of finding a party or something to do with the rest of their night..

Fast forward to the following week - I come back to Starbucks to get a coffee in the middle of the workday and who do I see? You guessed it, SAL. And he is sitting with a girl at a table having a very serious looking conversation. Apparently, Starbucks in Ann Arbor is the place to hit on girls.

Now the best part is that one day while waiting for my coffee I find this hanging on the posting board.

Notice how all the tabs are ripped off.  It seems Sal has a pretty fool proof method for getting the girls. I'll keep an eye out for him and his Italian friend again. 

The Students

In my last post, I talked about the sheer number of students that attend UoM. Spring break was last week, and you can definitely tell that it is over, back to lines everywhere-  coffee shops, convenience stores, restaurants, to get on buses, to get off buses-  I'm not joking, lines everywhere.

The students here, walk around with headphones constantly blaring music, and typically with their head down. But I've noticed some trends in both fashion and life style while here.
I think he has sweat pants & a bag with Michigan on them.

First, a love for Michigan - everyone owns something that shows their school pride. I've seen the whole spectrum, from backpacks, and other assorted bags, to umbrellas (when its raining or snowing), shirts and sweatshirts, but also hats, winter hats, gloves, sweatpants, jackets.  I know that they sell similar merchandise with the Dartmouth logo, but you don't see it thrown in your face nearly as much.

Speaking of sweatpants - they LOVE them here. I would guess that 1/3 to 1/2 of the students I see are wearing sweatpants - usually with Michigan down the leg.

And with their sweatpants they also love to wear their decorative boots.
Well.. the girls at least. I've seen sequined UGGs and basically any other decorative boot imaginable The students here alone could keep UGG and Sorel in business.

The students seem pretty laid back, but I haven't had too much of a need to interact with them. Its different than Utah in that people don't just start talking to you - rather everyone is very involved in their own world.

Well I guess I did have a little bit of an interaction with Sal.. but I think he deserves a post of his own.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The University

 The University of Michigan was founded in 1817 about 20 years before the Michigan territory was acknowledged as a state. I'm not really sure what made people settle in this part of the country, I've heard rumors that the trapping of animals for furs did a fair bit for the economy in the past.

UofM is a large school, much bigger than any other school I've attended, with an undergraduate population of 26,000+ and a graduate population of 15,000+.  In comparison with Westminster College, there are approximately 12 undergraduates at UofM for every 1 at Westminster.  As far as Dartmouth goes, there are approximately 9 graduate students at UofM for every 1 at Dartmouth.  Participating in the activities at UofM for the last week, I am definitely happy with my choices to attend smaller private colleges, I can only imagine I would always feel lost with so many students around.  Each graduating class has over 6,000 students in it, there is no way you would ever know all those people, or get to know everyone in the years above and below you.

Students here definitely have school pride.  I think you can buy any item you desire and it would be labeled with the M and available in either the yellow or blue colors of the university.  The school mascot is a wolverine, (which I didn't know until I looked at the Wikipedia article), however I am aware that one of their rivals is the Ohio State Buckeye (Go BUCKEYES!!! - that's for you Kaitlin).  Football is big here, the stadium, also known as "The Big House" is the largest football stadium in the world! Maybe sometime I'll get to come here while it's still football season.

While here, I will do research in the Chemistry Building which has a large beautiful atrium that lets sunlight into the building, (on the few days that it isn't cloudy and snowing), as well as the BSRB which is newly opened and also has a lot of natural light entering the building.  The bottom floor of the chemistry building is for the undergraduate laboratory sections and the first floor has a variety of different size lecture halls.  I saw a lecture hall that was equivalent or larger than 3 of the largest halls at Thayer or Westminster - crazy to think of learning GenChem in that atmosphere. The second floor and higher are reserved for research labs.

The construction of the BSRB allows for offices to exist on one side of the building and the labs on the other side. The two sides are connected by foot bridges that can be cool to watch when the knowledge and people move from the offices to the labs or vice versa. To the best of my knowledge there aren't lecture halls in the BSRB, rather just professor and researchers offices and the laboratories. The bottom level that can be seen slightly in the photo contains a coffee shop and some seating, as well as meeting rooms. The basement levels are where a lot of the animal components are kept, and the security is quite tight.

Both of the buildings that I work at are located on central campus, which is the closest to my house, but the school has expanded to the point that it has 3 campuses in Ann Arbor, South, North and Central as well as two satellite campuses in Flint and Dearborn, MI.

My Apartment

I live about 1 mile from the building where I generally work, which is the chemistry department, but I also will do work at the Biomedical Science Research Building (BSRB) that is being showcased as my background to this blog.
In the summer time the walk would be great, you walk across the river and it's a pretty open scenery with the hospital in front of you until you hit the edge of town, but in the winter it means that you have no protection from the winds that blow the snow around.
I'm told that the winter had been pretty mild before I got here, but in the 6 days that I've been here we've had snow on about half of the days - the post docs joke that I brought the bad weather with me. My hope is that the weather becomes more spring like while I'm here and that I can bring that weather with me back to Hanover!

I already talked a little about the suite that I have for my stay but I thought I would show some pics. The two bedrooms are nice with full beds and sparse decorations. The kitchen is tiny, but fine for one person, there are 4 place settings and a table for 4, a couch and a wide chair (that's nearly a love seat) as well as a TV with cable and a land line telephone.  It's weird to have a TV after living for so long without one, but it's nice to have something to turn on while I'm cooking, working, or writing.

The first day that I got here, when I was looking around I found this cute surprise in the freezer. I sadly had to destroy it as soon as I had some food to put in the freezer.
Home.. for a month or so at least
Overall, it's a nice place to stay though, there is a fitness center and study lounge in close buildings and the public transit is convenient to use, and multiple stops are within walking distance from my apartment.
Let me know if you want my address and I will email it to you. I think that's all I have to say for now about the apartment.