Spring Break

Our week-long break is wrapping up and, surprisingly, I’ve accomplished some things. Unfortunately, not much of what I have gotten done is school related. Saturday, my friend, Brody, and I drove to San Diego in my car. We left at 5am and made fairly good time, arriving around 11:30 with some traffic around Riverside. The rest of the day was spent hanging out with friends and accomplishing absolutely nothing. Sunday we had a brunch for my dad’s birthday, which included an amazing black forest cake and later that day I met a couple of people at Starbucks.

Monday morning is when the pace started picking up. It started with me getting up very early (7:30am) to take my dad to drop his z3 off for repair. Then we took my macbook to the Apple store next so it could get repaired; I just got it back and they ended up replacing the display and magsafe board (battery charging thing). It all works great and I had dented the display before so I’m not complaining that I have a new one 🙂  After dropping off my computer, I went to visit General Atomics. I have a friend who works there and he wanted to give me a tour/have me meet his bosses since I applied for an internship there. It was really cool because although cubicles are always nice, I got to see the predator drones being built one building over. They have several versions and the small one is smaller than I expected. The biggest predator, Reaper, is used in the Air Force, NASA, and several other nations. The things run off of a modified snowmobile engine and you can tell that there’s a lot of engineering in each one, including the material used for the landing gear so it can flex without breaking.

Tuesday, I visited a few teachers and my old work group at Northrop Grumman. It was good to see some of them that I hadn’t seen in years. Later in the day, I decided to go for a bike ride. I ended up at the beach and decided to go swimming. The water was pretty cold but still not as cold as it’s been in Prescott. Luckily it was sunny, but I wasn’t completely dry until I was almost home, so it was a little chilly for the ride back. Besides that and visiting some other people, my week has been relaxed.

Granite Mountain

Things have been very slow, yet fast-paced recently. What I mean by that is a lot is going on, however, not much to mention. Probably the most interesting thing since my last post was a hike my friend, Brody, and I went on two weeks ago. We left the school at 11:00 am for Granite Mountain, a 10 minute drive. Once we got there, it was about a mile or so hike from the parking lot to the base of the mountain. What we didn’t realize was that we went over a ridge that would confuse us a lot on our way back. We started out strong, hiking up at a quick pace since there was no brush obstructing our path.

Granite Mountain is about 2500 feet vertical and depending on how you go, the horizontal distance can range from a mile to a mile and a half. There is also a trail on the backside.

Brody and I wanted to get up and down the mountain as quickly as possible, so we went up the side that’s most vertical. We decided that it would be easiest to get to the top if we followed streams up. Now, at the time, I didn’t even give thought to the fact that I couldn’t see any snow and yet, there were flowing streams on the mountain. The school is almost directly south of Granite Mountain, and when it snows or rains, the wind is generally going south. We got to a point where we had to cross between toes on the mountain when we were about half way up. We rounded a corner – until that point, we had seen only two four foot patches of snow – and suddenly we were staring at two feet of snow solid along the mountain. We figured it wasn’t too bad further along so we crawled across the snow (so we wouldn’t sink) and crossed the stream to the other toe. We made much less progress now that we were hiking in snow, but continued on. We got to what we thought was going to be the top and realized we had reached one of three summits. Unfortunately, ours was about 500 ft short of the others and require hiking down quite a ways before being able to reach the others.

It was four o’clock at this point and I told Brody that we really needed to go to make it down before dark (I’d been bugging him for a while and he insisted that we had kept going). To make matters worse, it began to snow and then we were in a blizzard. We began our descent, through the snow, and I realized that we were taking a completely different path down than we had up. Due to our lack of time, we had to do this to make sure we were off the mountain in time. Our largest problem was that since Brody and I had not seen the snow from the school’s vantage point, we only had light gloves and jackets. My hands and feet quickly became cold as we walked down along a stream. The temperature had dropped significantly both because we were so high up and since the sun was slowly going down. There’s not too much more to say about the walk through the bushes…ah, actually, almost the whole way up and the entire way down was through very dense brush to make our trek harder.

We finally reached the base of the mountain just as the daylight faded and that’s when we saw the ridge I mentioned earlier. We were both very confused since we didn’t remember it. Hiking toward it, we jumped on a trail that we thought would take us to the car. It was pitch dark at this point and after hiking on the trail for a while, I told Brody we should just turn off the trail and go over the ridge to try to find the car. It turns out this was a good idea since that trail just went along the base of the mountain forever (or a really long time). Once we got to the top of the ridge we saw the main road and we were home free. Walking through very dense mud, each of our shoes accumulated 5-6 pounds as we continued. After crossing through two barbed wire fences (not illegal at all) we finally reached the road.

Now it was almost 7:30 pm and pouring. Brody had a heavier jacket so he gave me a poncho he had in his bag. We walked across the street to figure out where we were and called my roommate, Trevor, to pick us up. After standing there for fifteen minutes, we figured out he had already passed us and so we made our way toward the parking lot. It turns out that the trail we hiked on the ridge made us over-shoot the car. We were almost at the lot by the time Trevor came back, but he took us the rest of the way.

Brody and I finally made it back to the school around 8 or 8:30…it’s all a blur now. We were both fine except some scratches and I had very mild frostbite on my fingers that’s almost completely healed by now since it wasn’t much below freezing (30 F) on the mountain. The lesson in that story was to either wait until the snow is completely gone or take the trail up the back side instead next time. Here are some photos/video of the mountain from our trip:

Video 1: Climbing Up the Mountain Video 2: Snowing at the top

Winter Break…belated

Let’s pretend I had this post written 2 weeks ago 😉

It’s been a super long time since I last wrote a blog post. That isn’t to say that I haven’t had time to…it just never feels like the right time. In my last post, I wrote about most of my Christmas Break. One of the few things I left out was seeing Avatar, twice (which still wasn’t enough), once in regular 3D and then the next day in IMAX 3D. Needless to say, I’m obsessed with the movie. I even found a 30 page book on the Navi language, including Phonology and grammar rules. It’s amazing to me that someone spent years of research and development to create a language for a movie! I guess it makes sense once you’ve seen the credits roll by twice; I’m pretty sure there’s several thousand names. I later found out that Avatar is literally the movie Pocahontas with different names and some insanely good graphics. Here’s a link to the plot duplication, ahem…coincidence: http://bit.ly/7Yb7TS.

I also went to the San Diego International Auto Show over the break. I think I’ve gone every year for the past four or so years, and there’s always a surprising amount of change every year. Some cool feature cars were ones with solar panel roofs, the same Lamborghini’s that never need to change because they’re just that awesome, and the indoor jeep track was neat. It’s entertaining to watch people freak out when the car they’re driving is balancing on 3 wheels on a 45 degree left-right slope. They also had a section with about 20 Camaros covering over a 40 year span. One of my favorite “vehicles” was an off-road wheelchair with…tank tread! I’ll try to write another post in the next couple days to cover our amazing snow days.

Here are a couple of pictures:

Is an explanation needed?

Is an explanation needed?

Off-Road Tread Wheelchair

Off-Road Tread Wheelchair


Wow! it has been a loonnngggg time since I last wrote a post. I guess I’ll start off where I left off 4 weeks ago. On Monday of finals week, we had a crazy storm; 80 mile/hour winds and sleet/snow. That was the one night that we had snow, which started falling around midnight. Naturally, all of the California kids ran outside (including myself) while anyone from elsewhere in the country sat inside and laughed at the amount of joy that came from…snow. We were outside from 12:30am until about 3:00am, which probably wasn’t the best thing to do on the first day we had finals. Here are a couple pictures:

Unfortunately, I was stuck at school 3 days after my last final since my flight was Saturday. I was able to hang out with the few people who were there and Saturday rolled around soon enough. The flight started well; we took off from Prescott on time and, after flying for 20 minutes made a stop in Flagstaff to pick people up. That’s where things started going awry. After we loaded our extra passengers, the pilots soon realized that with the small amount of ice that had built up while we were there (there was a lot of snow in Flagstaff) was making the plane overweight. After recalculating the weight and balance sheet, the captain decided that we would need another thousand gallons of fuel. After the adjustment was made, the plane was again too heavy, so we needed to ditch nine passengers. After nine reluctant people stepped off the plane for the hotel, travel, and extra $300 bonus, the plane was de-iced and we were on our way. At that point, our flight had been delayed by a couple hours and I missed two of the commuter flights from LA to San Diego. I was lucky enough to make the last commuter flight home and arrived in San Diego two an half hours late, but there none the less.

Last week, I didn’t do too much except visit my high school and hang out with friends here in San Diego. The few productive things I’ve done here so far include ordering a replacement shell for my Macbook Pro, having my Mac repaired, ordering a replacement remote, and…well, I guess playing PS2 doesn’t really count but I’m throwing it out there. Since Saturday, however, it’s been pretty busy. Our church does a Christmas show each year and we go all out. We already have about 10 moving/color changing lights, but we rented about 8 more of those and another 10 LED fixtures. I’ve operated a spot light for every show since they started doing it 5 or 6 years ago. This year we had rehearsal Saturday, shows on Sunday, one show each yesterday and today, and then three tomorrow since it’s Christmas Eve. I took a few photos with my phone so far, and here are few:

This (last) Week’s Festivities/Stress

Last week was my LTAV competition and a Matlab exam, both of which were very nerve racking beforehand. Luckily, both of them went fairly well in my opinion, although I won’t have my Matlab score for another few days. I first started this post 4 days ago, so I found out my Matlab score was an A 🙂

I guess I’ll start with the LTAV competition, which tested the emotional limits of our group for the past week as it continued to produce new flaws. Last Wednesday, for example, it had low batteries so we switched them out rather than waiting to charge the ones that were being used. Our LEGO “bricks” (control module) then proceeded to literally destroy any battery packs that we put in, rendering them all useless. Finally, we put the originals back in and flew around as best we could. On flight day, we forgot that we still had a bad battery in so for our first run we couldn’t get the machine off the ground very well. Instead of flying over the bucket to drop the ping pong balls, we backed in next to it and dropped them there as best we could without having our props fling them in all directions. On our second run, however, we put in a different battery pack and adjusted our ballast which ended up giving us full points and extra points for completing the course in under 4:00 mins. We forgot to film our real run, but I recorded one after…here’s the video:

LTAV Video


Today my friend Brenton and I took a free course here at the school covering CPR, AED, and First Aid skills. I wasn’t too keen on the fact that it was supposed to last from 8:30 am until 4:00 pm. Luckily, we got out by 2:30, but it was fairly interesting the whole way through. We covered a couple of hours of CPR with the dummies and then about one more on AED (Automatic External Defibrillator) usage. They are actually really neat and advanced devices…they deliver specific amounts of energy in each shock based on a computerized analysis via the shock patches. We were told that on one charge, an AED can deliver several hundred charges. After lunch, we covered first aid skills. The teaching covered many categories of first aid, each explained fairly briefly. We got to practice a few things such as changing positions of someone who may have a damaged spine or neck, or of course bandaging wounds. I’m glad I took the course because now I’m certified in first aid and CPR/AED for two years and I learned some neat skills that could help me in many situations.

Almost the Weekend

The week is finally winding down, which couldn’t have come any later. Yesterday was a very crazy day between Calculus and Matlab homework, flying our Lego LTAV (Lighter than Air Vehicle) and trying to eat meals somewhere in between. In all my classes, we have one or two more homework’s due next week, and then there are the last midterm exams and mere weeks later, finals week. Right now, I’m just looking forward to an all day hike a friend and I have planned. We don’t exactly know where we’re going, but we’re planning on walking until we get tired, walk a little further, and then head back to the school. I’m also counting down the days until thanksgiving break so I can finally see all my family and friends. It doesn’t feel like it’s been over three months!

I don’t know if I properly explained the LTAV project properly in my latest posts. We build an undercarriage using Legos and propellers attached to the Lego Mindstorm controllers and motors. That structure is then attached to a massive helium filled balloon and we have to drive it around an obstacle course. It gets very complicated controlling several props and having to gear them up to get adequate lift. The hardest part is matching your weight to the exact lift force of the balloon to achieve neutral buoyancy. Every group has a different ballast system whether it be coins, water, or tires. Controlling the vehicle is another story. My group will be using two Macbook Pro’s with free downloaded software. Other groups have written code, or downloaded similar programs. Many people are trying to use cell phones, XBOX controllers, or Wiimotes to control the vehicle through their laptop’s bluetooth connection. As of yesterday evening, our vehicle is finally working and we’ve decided that instead of flying the whole time, we plan on flying over the obstacles that we need to, but then driving it around the slalom and other obstacles to maintain more control. I also forgot to mention how many motors/props we have; there are two lift props, two front props, and in the back a helicopter style turning prop. Our whole vehicle has the props very spread out to allow for extra leverage. Before last night, the front props were very close together and so once you got in a turn, you could only get out of it by over-turning in the other direction. We fixed that and for the most part can control exactly where we want it to go. Here’s a couple of pictures of our LTAV (click for a larger view):

Front View of LTAV

Angled View of LTAV (Note the helicopter rotor in the back)

Finally Legal

You may have been able to guess from the title that I turned 18 last week. My roomate took me to Texas Roadhouse for dinner, which was a nice change from the usual here.  Unfortunately I had three exams last week also, but I was happy once Thursday rolled around and they were all over.

Last week I also got on the school’s new parking committee which is actually fairly interesting from a logistics standpoint. We went over how many spaces there are, the budget we have to work with, what needs to get done, etc. I’m looking forward to some good changes in the parking situation next year.

Last weekend, my friend Brody and I went on a hike through the Dells across the street from the school. We made it to the highest point in the dells which has  a great view of the school and the surrounding area.  I was really surprised when I saw sailboats on willow lake though. I’ve always seen the boat launch, but I didn’t know anyone used it.  Here are some pictures:

Sailboats on Willow LakeView of the Dells


Well…this blog post was supposed to be written exactly two weeks ago.  It doesn’t feel like I’ve been that busy but I guess every moment of downtime feels like it needs to be spent away from school-related activities.  For a couple days, I trained as a “telemarketing agent” for the admissions department asking people if they were planning on coming to our open house this weekend.  That’s where my Saturday will be spent.  I also have my first Air Force PFA (physical fitness assessment) on Friday.

If anyone is looking for a good TV show to watch, NCIS and House just started with a couple of very intense season premiere episodes.  I guess if sitting in front of a TV and just watching it isn’t your thing, you can try out Halo 3 ODST.  That’s pretty much the story of our hall for the past two weeks since it came out.  It has a feature called firefight where you just fight wave after wave of aliens.  It may not sound very fun but I think the XBOX in our lounge has logged more hours in these past few weeks than it had in its entire lifetime before then.

We had Friday off last week, which was coincidentally the day that NASA landed a probe on the far side of the moon to check for ice deposits.  Myself and about five others stayed up until 4:30 am and then drove down to the schools telescope to watch the event.  NASA predicted a several-mile-wide ice dust cloud…their prediction was wrong.  We lined up at the telescope and watched mission control reset the countdown timer several times as they recalculated the landing time, but in the end we saw nothing.  Needless to say we jumped into bed when we got back and didn’t wake up for a very long time.  My eyes opened briefly around 9:30 am, but drifted back into a slumber until 1:30 pm (my friend slept in until after 3:00 pm).  Later, a friend and I went geochaching on our bikes around Watson lake.  Geocaching is where you use GPS to find boxes that other people have hidden and sign your name in a log inside.  To make the day even better, when we got back we went to see Zombieland…it happens to be one of the BEST movies ever made.

You may be wondering why I’m writing this post at 1 in the morning on a Monday…wait, Tuesday.  I have an Air Force ROTC briefing in 8 hours that I have been preparing for and consulting friends for the past five hours.  We actually have PT in four and a half hours too.  Anyway, my briefing is on Air Force Organizational Structure, which luckily isn’t a hard topic.  I’ll probably post my results in my next blog, but right now I’m going to bed as soon as this post is live.

Chi Alpha

Last night, I went to my first chi alpha meeting, which was really cool. It’s the Christian organization on campus, and every couple of weeks, they have a dinner at the youth pastor’s house. It’s a great chance for everyone to hang out and get to know each other. Last weekend they went to Lake Powell and from the video, it looks like a lot of fun…hopefully I can make it next year. It was a great chance for me to take a break from schoolwork, the campus, and Chartwells food. The food is good here, much better than some other schools, but eating the same thing day after day can become tiring.

Later in the evening, they pulled out a pair of indo boards, which kept several of us, myself included, busy for a good half hour. The pictures below are of myself and Ken Stuart, who brought me to the Chi Alpha meeting, meditating while balanced on the indo boards. For anyone wondering if we actually balanced like that for more than one-second, the answer is…no. All we wanted was the picture, but we got it!

It was a good night to just get away from everything else and hang out with people I now know better.