Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Olympics are almost here!!!

I'm so excited about the Olympics!! I love playing sports, watching sports, and wishing I was to that level in sports! This year they are showing TONS of events online, so even if your favorite sport isn't shown on TV you can still watch!

This momentous change is great for me, as my favorite sport is fencing. I fenced in college, and ever since have been frustrated with how little we see on TV. During the last Olympics they did at least show the semifinal and final rounds in sabre (which was my weapon), which is better than nothing. This year it appears that is all they are showing as well, but at least now I can watch more of it online anyway!

Of course, the bummer is that I'm out of town during the sabre final, which will be shown at 2AM! What horrible luck. Last time I believe it was at least shown at a decent time (although then it wasn't live). I wonder if my friends will want to stay up until 2AM to watch fencing on TV? Somehow I doubt it.

But still, I'm excited. I suspect I will be able to find the events online somewhere after they happen, even if it's not via the NBC website. I noticed via Windows Media Center that they will have channels that allow you to watch Olympic events after they have happened (so not live). I don't how much it costs (or if it costs) to subscribe to that, but it may end up being worth it. I don't understand how other people can not care about the Olympics at all, I'm already giddy with excitement and it's still a week away!

Another big problem is the Olympic opening is during a concert I was planning to attend. I think I might still go to the concert, but it's actually a hard decision!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Lauren's Wedding

me, lighting the candles

A month after Jaclyn's wedding we had Lauren's wedding. It's been a busy summer! I was not, however, in this wedding until about a week before when I was asked to be the candle lighter. That's a job I've never had before!

bride and groom listening to speeches, while wearing their paper crowns

recently wedded couple wearing their crowns as well

The first activity of the weekend was of course the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner. Fabulous speeches were given by family and friends, hilarious and adorable photos were shown, and delicious food was served. We were also given fun favors, including paper crowns we were expected to wear for the duration of the event.

some of the delectable food at the brunch

the aunts, mending the dress

The next morning we had a bridal luncheon for all of the female relatives and bridal party. It was hosted by my grandmother, aunt, and cousin (who was a bridesmaid) at Lauren's parents' house. The food was all fabulous, with a nice variety of cold, hot, salty, and sweet. Probably the most exciting event of the morning was the hemming of my cousin's dress (the very pregnant maid-of-honor), as it had only come in from the store a few days before the wedding. Luckily it was finished in time!

bride and groom kissing

The wedding was great, partially because the minister joked some about Lauren and Alex (the groom), and thus the overall feeling was light-hearted. Yes, it was a serious wedding in the fact that they are serious about their devotion to each other and God, but it was not as serious feeling as many of the other weddings I've been to the past few years. It probably didn't hurt either that the "Imperial March" from Star Wars was played after they were introduced as "Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong" at the end of the ceremony.

bride and groom reacting to the Thriller dance by the bride's family

groom has just removed the garter!

After the wedding, the reception was held at a local museum. There was delicious food, and very entertaining dancing. For instance, many of my relatives danced to Thriller as a surprise for the bride, which they practiced for about a month. Did I mention that the garter retrieval was also done to music from Jaws?

bride and groom drinking their champagne

Lauren and Alex are both very expressive people, and thus help us take many great photos. They can be quite a pair of goofs, which is one of the reasons it was so fun to be at their wedding!

bride and groom

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Thunderstorms -- one of my favorite things

I love thunderstorms, I think they are fun to watch. I've never lived anywhere that had frequent thunderstorms, so they have always been a treat. Ironically, we have had thunderstorms almost every night for the past week. Actually, this entire summer has given us more thunderstorms than I've experienced since moving to MA three years ago. It seems that almost every day the Weather Channel calls for thunderstorms, although they don't always happen.

Friday I enjoyed a thunderstorm from the covered balcony of a restaurant, Saturday a thunderstorm ruined the outdoor plans for my party, and Tuesday it canceled our playoff softball game against the #1 seed. It looks as though storms will also cancel volleyball practice today (we play outside), and quite possibly the re-scheduled softball game tomorrow.

The heavy rain we received last night actually flooded our department's first floor! The atrium, the conference rooms, and classrooms all had an inch or two of water in them. There is a single lab on the first floor, but they were far enough away from the water entry-point that they were spared. However, we are expected an afternoon and evening full of rain again today, so they may not be OK this time! It's rather scary to think that your research or electronics could be ruined due to rain in an area that is not prone to floods.

Hopefully I can continue to enjoy thunderstorms this summer without it causing too much damage. I don't know if it's global warming or some other phenomena that's screwing with our weather, but for the moment I mostly enjoy it. If we're lucky no more problems will come from it all.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Why the outrage?

According to, people are outraged that there will be pro-Islam posters on New York City subway trains in September. The ads are very simple black and white ads with a simple phrase related to Islam, and a web address where you can find out more about the religion. The dates were chosen to correspond with one of their holy holidays.

Why are people so against this idea? One man claimed it was due to the fact that one of the backers may have been involved in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. This man has not been sent to trial or convicted, however. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? It seems that as long as the website is promoting the religion and not extremism then the ads should be fine.

The point that the ads would be up during the anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy was also used. Does that really matter though? Extremists and terrorists were behind that event. Granted, many (or all?) of them can be linked to Islam. But does that mean that all Muslims are terrorists? NO! If people get worried during the anniversary because there is a simple add asking you to learn more about Islam, then that is their own narrow-minded problem. I see no reason for the city of New York to keep a religious group from simple advertising. They should keep the ads up specifically for this reason, to make people think twice about stereotyping and fearing an entire religion.

Computer Problems

Back in June, my Dell Inspiron E1405 stopped working. Just plain wouldn't turn on. No whirring of the fan, no starting of the harddrive, no sound at all when the power button was pushed. As some of you may remember, I am absolutely in love with that laptop. I loved the media buttons and speaker on the front edge, I loved the gray and white combination that so many other people hate, and I loved the photo sticker I put on the cover.

So, of course, we spent a good deal of time taking it apart and trying to figure out what was wrong. We tried so many things, including trying with and without battery and A/C power, pushing the button below the button you see on the laptop, taking RAM out and putting it back in, using a multimeter to test if power was being sent, etc. It was fun to take the thing apart, so I had to share some pictures. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures from when it was completely apart. All pictures were taken with the camera on my phone, but I think they came out rather well anyway.

detached screen

main part of laptop without keyboard

In the end, we were not able to fix it. It appears that the motherboard is dead. How annoying! Luckily, my officemate has a harddrive dock that lets you plug it in to another computer via USB. So at least I had all of my files at my fingertips, which is the more important thing.

I searched for awhile for another laptop of the same model that I could just stick my harddrive in and call it a day. The cheapest I could find was $600, but for all I knew that motherboard would die in the next year as well! So that entire search was quite frustrating. I tried to get people to sell the laptop to me without most of the pieces (like no memory, harddrive, optical drive) since I already had those and they worked, but no one was interested.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Happy Birthday to me!

I just celebrated by 25th birthday this weekend! Although we had planned an outdoor event, a short thunderstorm managed to soak everything enough to halt those plans. It was still fun though! We made some stuffed mushrooms; bought some fruit, hummus, chips, and salsa; and mixed up a few delicious sangrias!

cake in progress

I also made myself a chocolate cake, with raspberry filling between the layers. I cooked two layers but cut them in half to make four shorter ones.

finished cake, after the candles are taken out

The real frustration was icing the cake. It was so hot and humid all day, that the icing would just fall off! I ended up freezing both the cake and the icing (thank goodness our freezer was only half full) so that the icing would be thick enough to stay in place. This did, however, mean that I had to ice in batches, as the icing warmed up rather quickly. Usually no A/C is not a huge problem, but for decorating this cake it was a big issue!

me, cutting the first slice of cake

The cake turned out well enough though, I finished decorating it about 30 minutes before everyone was supposed to arrive. Everyone was impressed with the decorations (I just used a piping tip, and sprinkles for the blue inside flowers), and said it tasted delicious. I think the tartness of the raspberry really did give a nice contrast to the chocolate. yum!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Powerful and Energy Efficient go Hand in Hand

There is apparently a list called "Green500" that ranks supercomputers based on their energy efficiency, as I read about in this article: The Green500 List: Good things come in threes. According to the article, the world's current fasted super computer named Roadrunner is also the third most energy efficient!

It's really great to see that we are making progressing in decreasing the energy consumption of computing. These energy savings are apparently due at least in some part to IBM's BladeCenter QS22.

Hopefully technology can continue to become more environmentally friendly, but this success seems like a great step in the right direction.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Stimulus Package

Someone I know recently received her economic stimulus check from the government. She is married, and they have a 1 year old daughter. They are currently living off of the husband's salary only, use WIC to help pay for groceries and their daughter's needs (diapers, food), and have debts they are trying to pay down (he brought credit card debt to the marriage, she brought student loan debt).

One would think that the stimulus payment was really meant for them; they need it more than most people I know. That money would go to bills and debt payments. But when they received the check, it was not for the full amount! They were given the full $300 for their daughter, but because they don't make enough money they were not given the full $600 each.

This knowledge makes me think about the point of this stimulus package. Obviously, it's not meant to help people who really need it, who are struggling even though they do their best. They always worry about money like this not being used; but of course people with low incomes will use it! They can't afford to save money, everything has to go to something. It's so sad that people who need it aren't getting as much as those who could easily live without.

I know that people who make over a certain amount receive a smaller check, but I still find it shocking that low income families also receive less money than the middle class.