Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Desmond Tutu is being honoured today in Michigan. Tutu will be awarded the Wallenberg Medal and deliver the 18th Wallenberg Lecture in honour of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg (U-M graduate) who saved thousands of Jews in WWII. It turns out that Tutu is the second South African to receive the medal, Helen Suzman being the first.
The press conference in the afternoon was jammed full of reporters but I managed to talk to the organisers and was allowed to sit in on part of it and be introduced to him. Apparently someone forgot to mention that Michigan is cold in October as Tutu arrived with summer suits. The organisers had to scramble to find him a coat and scarf to keep warm.
The Wallenberg Lecture itself was packed, all 3500 seats filled and an overflow hall set up. Archbishop Tutu spoke about the award going to all the people who made the end of apartheid possible. He has an incredible sense of humour that shines through on lighter moments. He encouraged the youth to dream and keep dreaming of peace and freedom globally. He critised Darfur and how rape has become a weapon of war. He finished his address with a metaphor. That an eagle should be taken and nutured and then set free from the mountain tops to soar.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Finally a themed ballroom social! With Halloween fast approaching, many a place is decked in various Halloween decor. Open dance happens every Sunday and we all came kitted out in costume. Some notable costumes included Cat in the Hat, Poison Ivy, Tinkerbell and the assortment of nurses etc. It was nice to see nearly everyone dress up, though it made me miss UCT Ballroom socials. I dressed up with my limited resources as a Hawaiian girl, though I think I ended up more tribal given that my sarong is covered in elephants. Oh well. Some of the team did the Thriller dance, very funny to watch and I managed to convince people to start a Congo line. That was fun, lots of people joined in.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
The seminar in AOSS this afternoon included preliminary work and results from the Phoenix Mars Mission. The speaker, Professor Nilton Renno, reviewed the mission goals of the Phoenix Mars Mission and the procedures involved in selecting a landing sight. Never trust interpolation of images was the take home message, an apparently flat surface from satellite imagery contained 10m diameter boulders. He went on to show some of his students, notably Manish Mehta whose doctoral thesis investigated the effects of the lowering rockets on the surface dust of Mars. Pretty cool work. Renno proceded to show some of the images from the Lander (inset picture) and explained some of the experiments run. It appears if you look at the images closely that there is sublimation happening on the legs of the lander with saline water settling on the mud kicked up from the landing on Mars. Apparently not everyone in the program which is shared between JPL, University of Arizona and Locklead Martin Space Systems. It is going to be interesting to see what research is published and what happens when NASA releases the data to the public in February next year.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
The next speaker Dan Atkins from the University of Michigan and NSF spoke on the "Role of Data in the National Science Foundation Cyberinfrastructure for 21st Century Discovery". He touched on data stewardship, curation, federation, openness(over the long-haul). He stated that providing information a geographical-based entry to data is natural and compelling as we all have an inherent geographical frame of reference. I learnt a new word: nomenclature. Not sure I will ever use it though. Three project he reviewed were interesting:
TeraGrid: an integrating infrastructure
Blue Waters - look into tech specs
The third speaker and possibly the most compelling was Michael Weiss-Malik from Google. He is a KML Product Manager and explained the design of Google Earth and the need for it. To use the analogy "to most users, the interface is the computer" he pointed out that with any paper we read the figure is the thing one remembers most and so the philosophy "to most viewers the presentation is the data". Something definitely worth remembering. KML is a standardised format derived from XML that encodes the Google Earth files.
The last two speakers, Sean Askay and Trey Smith, are both users of Google Earth to represent scientific data and presented a series of KMLs already developed that emphasized this point. The topics ranged from Appalachian Mountaintop mining to Geothermal resources, the global climate temperatures to Google Moon. The coolest thing I learnt about was actually GigaPan. Definitely worth viewing.
After lunch we split into Working Groups, mine was Climate Change and we heard from Lisa Ballagh (NSIDC) and John Bailey (University of Alaska) about climate KMLs and Virtual Globes. The group talked about various research endeavours that would be favourable for Google Earth apps and I realised I could present my seasonal forecast stuff in GE eventually. After reviewing current KMLs we found various things we wished were possible in Google Earth such as being able to switch off labels on load or preferential loading of data and user notices to know what to do. The last thing we discussed was who owned data and what happens when you pubish papers with GE images and supply online KMLs. Google have written a guideline specifically for this and is available at: http://www.google.com/permissions/geoguidelines.html
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
I walked through the Historical District of Philadelphia. I think I learnt more in the walk than I did in school about American history. I saw the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. I walked past the US Mint and the National Constitution Center. I visited the Freedom Center and walked through the Franklin Park.
Walking back to City Hall I went through Chinatown and the Reading Terminal Market for lunch. The market is a huge room filled with a collection of various countries authentic food. It was packed and loud. City Hall is huge and the meeting point of the city roads in the gridded road system. The fountain at City Hall is pink for the Breast Cancer Awareness month. I wonder what they put in the water to make it pink like that? I walked away from City Hall and towards the Science Museum and came across a South African flag. Of course I had a picture!
Monday, October 20, 2008
After a major rush and running through Penn Station to get to the bus I boarded a Megabus to Philadelphia. Very pleasant ride with minimum of fuss. Arriving in Philadelphia at sunset was beautiful.
I started my Philadelphia experience with authentic Philly cheesesteaks. Heavy on the cheese from Geno's. I think I could get to love them. My second day dawned cold and clear with a trip to the Pumpkinland at Linvilla. Rachel and I matched by fluke and had photos with the pumpkins. Our haul included a baby pumpkin for Rachel and a large pumpkin for Kim and Steve.
The afternoon was spent in the Franklin Institute Science Museum and the Real Pirate exhibition from National Geographic. The exhibition included real pirate treasure from the Whydah ship. I thorougly enjoyed it and did the rest of the museum which included an electricity exhibit and an air exhibit. I missed the planetarium but I'm not sure if I missed much.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
My next day started at 8.30am. For those who know me well, this is very early but I survived. I walked across Brooklyn Bridge which has an amazing view of the river and Manhattan. The bridge is a steel wire suspension bridge, the first of its kind. Walking along and looking up feels like you are in a giant spiderweb. The bridge ends at the bottom of Manhattan right next to the courts. I think walked past the supreme court and criminal court. The architecture of the buildings in spectacular.
Walking along you start to realise the scale and height of the buildings. You cannot feel the sunlight at ground level, there are just too many buildings blocking the rays from ever reaching it. I started my exploration of the area in earnest in Chinatown and its confusing, I'm not going to lie. I think I circled the same block about 3 times to find what I was looking for. Everyone is very welcoming and the array of foods and goods is quite unreal.
Finally navigating my way out of Chinatown I managed to miss Little Italy on the way to Soho. Not quite sure how but I think I was expecting an Italian version of Chinatown and it turns out its not. Soho is weird and wonderful and has a number of nice shops. I was stopped and asked if I support Developing Nations, some charity for uplifting poverty in Africa. What a laugh, after their whole spiel about poverty etc I finally had to point out that I'm South African and hence live in the place.
Next on my list was Greenwich Village which seems less spectacular than I imagined. I made an effort and deviated from my target of Central Park for the Empire State building. The queue to get up to the observation deck was 1.5 hours. Not a chance! I decided I didn't really need to wait that long to pay $30+ to see the city from above.
I browsed Macy's but I didn't find anything that fitted within my price range :( The One Day Sale is on today and I think that will be true chaos. I ended up in Old Navy and I have to say I could quite happily spend a fortune in there.
My walking tour back on target I wandered around Broadway til Central Park. Central Park is gorgeous and still very green. Coming from a riot of Autumn colours in Ann Arbor it seems weird. The park as a beautiful tranquil feeling going for it, despite the activity in it. The Besthesda Fountain doesn't quite measure up to the hype but the lake itself is well worth the trek. There was a couple having their wedding pictures taken with the lake as their backdrop. I sat and absorbed the quietness after the noise of the city and then headed out to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. At $10 for students I appreciate the London ethos of free entry in museums. The museum is huge and you really do need the map they provide. The Chinese scrolls on display are worth the visit alone. I also enjoyed the Temple of Dendur in the Egyptian section which was rescued from the threat of submergence when the Egyptians built a new dam. I'm sad I didn't have time to do the Design and Photography section, I think that would also be worth a perusal.
Once back on the street, I ventured into the subway and down to Times Square. My god, its noisy and busy and an overload of screens. Started in ToysRUs which has a ferris wheel in the store and then went to TGIF for dinner. Next stop chocolate! The M&M store is huge and filled with every flavour M&M available. The Hersheys store added yet more chocolate to the list.
The last stop of the day was the Rockefeller Building which provides a view from above without the long queues to get in. The Empire State Building was lit up in purple and orange for the night as part of the Cat Fanciers Association Conference.
The end result of my whirlwind tour is bruised feet, lots of photos and a lot more information than I can possibly remember. My feet will hopefully recover enough to do Philadelphia :)
Thursday, October 16, 2008
I'm off to New York City in the morning and then onto Philadelphia over the weekend. I'm looking forward to seeing all the sights.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Sunday, October 12, 2008
I attended a Collegiate Ballroom Workshop with the Michigan coaches and students from Michigan and Penn State. The workshop ran over three days and included lessons on a number of dances and performance techniques.
The welcome night was an opportunity to meet the students from Penn State and learn some fun dances, the Hustle and the Paso Doble. We also learnt a Polka mixer. Girls start on the right of the guy holding his hand. Both take 3 walks forward starting with guys left, girls right. Tap foot. 3 walks back, tap foot. Separate with 3 sidewalks, tap and clap. 4 sidewalks back in. Do 2 full polka rotations and start again. The tricky part is doing this in a circle, when you come back together for the polka, the girl has to move to the guy in front to do the polka steps.
The actual workshop was from 12.30-8pm on saturday. This was tiring, we covered waltz, tango, quickstep, chacha, rumba and samba. In the ballroom we learnt ways to start in the middle of the floor, along the long side or from a short corner. All techniques needed when you have many couples fighting for space on the floor. We also learnt floorcraft, a technique often left out in classes. These included check steps, change of directions and promenade positions.
Latin however took on a rather unusual form. As a bronze/silver workshop, we have a set syllabus we can follow in competitions, however rumba started with an open routine to lose whatever modesty we might have had. Grinding into a guys crotch while clinging to him will do that :) The routine starts with a beckoning from the girl and a game of playing hard to get. The goal we found out is to translate a fancy routine story into a simple routine with the same story in syllabus steps. Same thing for chacha. I hope to get the routines on camera to bring home.
For those of you who often laugh at the ratio between girls and guys at ballroom. We had 4 more guys at the workshop than girls, quite a change from the usual surplus of girls. Now imagine the guys doubling up to learn the open rumba routine. Funny times.
Today is the competition preparation lesson which will probably take a lecture form. I'm hoping so at least as we still have social dancing this evening and my feet are killing me. They are battered and bruised.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Chair - Chris Warner
Vice Chair (VC): Lara Milne
VC Intervarsity: Hayley Mc Intosh
Treasurer: Zandile Makgatho
Socials: Chris Louw
Orientation Week: James Hu
Medal Tests: Adrienne Daniels
Intervarsity: Andrew Martens
Formal: Richard Parry
IT: Jonathon Page
This means I get to organise Intervarsity 09 hosted by UCT. I will be roping friends in to help over the year, so be warned! 303 days and counting...
Monday, October 6, 2008
I felt marginally better on Saturday and went to the football match between Michigan and Illinois. Michigan lost, badly. I left in the third quarter when the noise from the crowd made my headache worse. I dragged Oswald (the other UCT exchange student) along to the game.
In other news, I was shown what has got to be the nerdiest landscaping in history: A wave field, the ground is a 3D sinusoidal wave. We took our research group photos there