Tomorrow marks the last day NASA will try to get ahold of Spirit, the eldest of the pair of Mars Exploration Rovers.
Dad and I listened to the landings way back when I was just one semester through high school; Spirit's end-of-life is just days before I'm due to graduate from college. The discoveries of both Spirit and Opportunity have provided Martian wonders to observe and ponder throughout the last seven years: dust devils, panoramic landscapes, portraits (both self- and otherwise), meteorites, and many more.
It's hard not to anthropomorphize Spirit and Opportunity, as they've been such good friends for so long. Randall, as usual, does it best. Still, when they landed, we were promised 90 sols. Ninety. Spirit's official death will be after 2,628 sols... I'd say that's a life to be proud of.
I wrote about six "perfect" albums about a year and a half ago, and added another to my list in August. Using the same definition, I have four more to share! These are different because they're all recent — all four were released long after I was born; three of the four were released within the last decade.
None of these will be a surprise to anyone even remotely familiar with modern music... quite the opposite; at least three of these are considered by many people to be among the best albums of their year (or decade, in one case). But some people (Dad!) might not be familiar with new stuff but might still want to listen...
Without further ado:
Wilco — Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
This was initially "The Mike Album" to me, but it's taken on a life of its own over the course of the last few years. It's almost impossible to listen to just one song, it's a start-to-finish-style epic album.
Phoenix — Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009)
I recently stumbled upon this album accidentally, and have listened to it with ridiculous frequency since then, something which seems to perplex Nate — who also loves the album, but doesn't expect me to — constantly pointing out that Phoenix has other albums (someday, Nate, someday!). Countdown and 1901 are my favorites, if you make me choose, but the whole album is fabulous.
Sufjan Stevens — Illinois (2005)
The second album in Sufjan Steven's now-defunct Fifty States Project, this is one of the few albums I've experienced with songs (click the link, listen to the lyrics, it's a beautiful song — but only if you're alone) that can quite literally make you cry. I got into it through Chicago, like most people probably did...
Oasis — (What's the Story) Morning Glory? (1995)
One of the stereotypical albums of the decade of my childhood (99.999% due to Wonderwall), I didn't even acnowledge the existence of the other songs until Carol played the last track for me one day; since then, I've listened to the album in its entirety many times, convinced each time that I've heard the whole thing somewhere before — I think that's the 90s calling!
I took thousands of pictures this year (not including well over 20,000 timelapse stills for my final video project). I've pulled a few out of that batch which represent particular moments (unfortunately there are no pictures of Kaitlyn and I, something I'll have to remedy for next year!). A lot of these have already been posted here; this is to collect them together to make myself realize that these are all moments from the last year. Also, you'll have to differentiate between the two Amys yourself (it should be obvious in most cases); every time I add initials like we do in real life, the words look funny on the screen! They're in almost-chronological order (the vertical pictures mix this up a bit):
rms came and stayed with Matt (right down the hall from us) while at the RPI stop on his lecture circuit. It was quite an enlightening evening, to say the least. I've also been told there's a semi-significant possibility it's going to happen again this year! The picture is of Matt's signed ThinkPad lid. bigger
I finally gave up on Jayne mk. I (because of heat and expandability issues) and built a monster mk. II to replace it. Currently has a total of 6TB of storage, 8GB of RAM, and a nice 4890. Good, solid machine! bigger
RPI's administration had their share of issues this year, with the student body protesting over transparency within the 'tute's decision-making process. I'm afraid the issue is far from resolved at the moment, and I don't expect to see anything change during my stay in Troy. Luckily, I'm in the group of people affected the least by all of the decisions (I don't want to take foreign language classes, I don't eat at Commons, I live off campus, I don't want to be an RA, etc.), but I feel bad for those who are! bigger
Dad and I made a spur of the moment trip down to Cape Canaveral in hopes of seeing one of the last few shuttle launches. Unfortunately, some sort of leak caused a delay, and we weren't able to see the launch. There are still a few left, but I'm afraid we're going to have to settle for a Constellation/Orion/Ares launch instead. bigger
On the left, Matt sits depressed (not really, I promise!) in the hall in Davison as his Welcome Wagon and plastic flowers fail to lure Amy away from Nate. Not that that was his intent, or anything! bigger
On the right is the Girellis' dog, Bongo, who we all became good friends with while he stayed with his grandparents, across the street from us. He's grown to a slightly-less adorable size at this point, but we have lots of pictures of him from the good old days — and he's still very friendly! bigger
This remains one of my favorite pictures from my big lens — a happy, adorable Carol waving to us on a gloomy Troy day. She's the only one besides Matt who'll ever pose for pictures, so I take every opportunity! Hi, Carol! bigger
Some manner of hat epidemic broke out late in the spring semester; Matt, Nate, and Robb together purchased enough hats for a few small families! (this might be a slight exaggeration, depending on your definition of a family, but there was more than one hat per person) Matt, of course, acquired a red fedora. bigger
Carol, Connor, Ben, Andrew, and I (along with dozens of classmates) spent a good chunk of the semester toying with 8051s in hopes of stabilizing one of the LITEC blimps; this is a shot of some of the blimps resting on their moorings. We all eventually succeeded (some *ahem*Carol*ahem* with only moments to spare) — yay! bigger
Matt went to visit Mary at Amherst; he decided that he didn't know the way to the bus station, so I accompanied him to Albany. Unfortunately, we were very, very short on time, so we ended up running down the hill from Empire State Plaza (to shouts of "run, Forrest, run!" from bystanders) to the Greyhound station. Ended up succeeding, and Matt (I hear) had a nice weekend with Mary. I had to climb back up the hill to get to my bus home, so I took some more pictures around the Plaza while catching my breath and waiting for said bus. bigger
ISS became the third brightest object in the sky (after the Sun and Moon) this year; shortly afterwards, I made it my mission to capture it on its way overhead. This is my best shot of many as it streaked across the Colchester sky. bigger
In June, I traveled further from home than I'd ever been — and alone! I attended the Ubuntu Developer Summit for the Karmic Koala release, in Barcelona. I had a lot of fun, and (unlike some people who were there with me...) toured around the city in my free time. Sitting at my desk right now I have a hard time believing that I actually made it there and back and was outgoing enough when I needed to be and didn't die on any of my solo treks into the city... certainly a learning experience! bigger
For whatever reason, I took Amy's senior picture this year. I think it came out quite well; there are a bunch of alternatives, too, but this is the one she used. At the time, Mom was trying to pose Amy on various rocks and things around Airport Park; we saw this post and just had to run off and take some shots there; and they stuck! bigger
On the left is some of Amy's beading, which she's been spending a good bit of time on this year, as she makes all sorts of awesome little things for various people. It's also fun to grab the macro lens and take pictures of tiny little beads and intricate wire patterns! bigger
Another example of Amy's increasing craftiness; she made a beautiful rendition of the BSG logo out of chocolate on my birthday cake; she has since made many, many more awesome chocolate-based cake designs for various occasions. bigger
Over the summer, the four of us visited Boston to tour various colleges for Amy (and to hang out in Boston!). She got totally sold on MCPHS while we were there, and has since been accepted! So hopefully (the only roadblock being Mom, worried about her being so far away) by the next time I'm writing a wrapping-up-the-year blog post, Amy will have had a whole semester cozily settled into a dorm on The Fenway. bigger
Matt, Mike, Nate, Robb, and I all moved out of RPI's dorms and into an apartment; we've been there for a whole semester now, and it's been great! We've got a lot of space now, and best of all, a kitchen! The lack of dining halls is a little strange, sometimes, but I can't say that I miss Commons' food. bigger
A very significant part of my time during the fall semester was spent working on projects for Intermediate Video (1, 2, 3); it was well worth it, for sure — I had a lot of fun, got an A, and only irritated Matt a little bit with the constant (every 30 seconds) shutter clattering for two or three weeks on end. bigger
Matt acquired ants to fill an ant farm he'd had sitting around from a few Christmases ago; someone (Mike, I believe) got the great idea to set up a webcam on the ants and post it to reddit. Nate then plopped his laptop on its side behind the webcam and the ants, blaring Cascada and running the iTunes visualizer as a backdrop for the dancing ants (unfortunately, this part is not pictured). Amy was visiting at the time, so she might have gotten a slightly skewed idea of college life. Two or three weeks, a few thousand justin.tv viewers, and hours of — quite literally — laughing out loud later, we ended up shutting off the webcam. Some clips appear to remain on the site, and we have a nice reddit thread, too. bigger
"Get up, get out of bed, and get in the car." "O...K...?". Carol and Hana dragged me to Larkfest, Albany's (apparently) annual street fair. I wasn't sure what was up at first, but ended up having a great (if slightly shy, at times) day out with the girls, wandering the street (and hiding, while they shopped for jewelry) and consuming gigantic burritos. More pictures on Flickr, and there's a picture of the three of us on the Times Union website, too! bigger
Matt had a particularly unhappy day, so Nate and Mike went out and bought him a tiny orange betta fish, named Wanda (after the Gnome mascot, not the movie, though I'm sure there's a relation there!). Wanda's still happily swimming (though she took quite a long car ride home to Boston for both Thanksgiving and Christmas break, she survived somehow!) and providing Matt with dozens of hours of entertainment. bigger
Every year, Gnome holds a developer summit at MIT in Boston; this was the second year that Matt and I were in attendance. We spent a significant part of this conference hanging out (and discussing the finer points of the future of Gnome) with Jason, who I worked with over the summer on gnome-games. The picture is of after the conference (I'm too shy to take lots of pictures of people I only know from the internet!), when we went to visit Amy in Davis Square. It's got a little of everything; a classic Matt pose, Amy ignoring Matt, random strange bystanders, etc. bigger
Awwwwwwwwww. 'nuff said. All things grow with love! bigger
And that's it! The end of the year; a Christmas Poinsettia! bigger
What a great year :-)
How'd you know I really like green?
I hate video/audio/wi-fi on linux
Two very quick things before I go to bed; class tomorrow! Amy was here this weekend... we had a great deal of fun recording some video for class, playing with the ants (more on that in a minute), losing my keys, and seeing Deerhunter and Boredoms at EMPAC!
She & Him
After seeing (500) Days of Summer with Mom and Amy, I found a music video of Zooey Deschanel (if you follow that link, disregard her IMDB profile picture...) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (the two stars of the movie, the former being the über-adorable actress from the recent Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie, Elf, and Tin Man, among other awesome things, the latter being one of the leads in 3rd Rock from the Sun, and her costar in (500) Days of Summer), dancing to a song which was clearly recorded by Zooey. I'd known she could sing since Elf, but was quite happy to find out she's actually recorded a whole album, as the band She & Him, along with 'him', producer M. Ward.
She & Him, Volume One is a really awesome album. I guess I was a little surprised that I could enjoy music that sounds so... old. It really sounds like it's from the 40s or 50s or so, mostly in the way that it's slow and very vocal-centric, but even recording-quality wise (which is a little unfortunate, but other than that, really awesome). In any case, Zooey's voice makes this a really cheery album (even if some of the songs are sadder in nature), and definitely one that everyone should at least give a chance, because it's so pretty!
EDIT: apparently there's ANOTHER music video for this song; I'll watch it tomorrow when Matt's not asleep and I can have music!
EDITx2: and one for my favorite of their songs, too... actually apparently that's someone's drawings along with the song, but whatever... still awesome!
The ants for Matt's ant farm arrived this weekend; as such, we spent a good part of the weekend doing entertaining things with ants. Most entertainingly, we put a live webcam on the ants, at least for a little while. This resulted in some insanity when we decided to spice up the ant's living environment, and even more insanity when we started to get viewers from around the internet. We ended up staying up an extra two hours to talk to people on the internet watching our ants, and taking requests for music to play to them! Good fun...
Last Friday, I left Colchester for Troy once again; this time, instead of heading for an RPI-run dorm, I'm living in my first apartment, along with Matt, Mike, Nate, and Robb (surprise!). There are some random pictures of us around the apartment at Flickr, of course.
Classes started this Monday; my schedule doesn't look too bad (no class before 10, and even that's only two days a week):
I've been to one session of each class by this point, and they all seem pretty reasonable. Our Machine Learning professor seems to be one of the most coherent computer science professors I've ever met, but we'll see what I'm saying in a few more weeks! Intermediate Video is taught by a relatively recent (2004) graduate of RPI, which should be interesting (besides the always-interesting CS-major-in-an-EMAC-class dynamic).
The walk to campus isn't nearly as bad as I was expecting it to be. Ten minutes or so, which isn't that much worse than the 7-10 it took the last two years. Also, Carol's (and Kim/Zarin/Christine/Jillian and Gino/Marcus/Nick/Andrew's) place (I feel like that's one-too-many-girls or one-too-few-boys, but I can't imagine who I'm including that doesn't belong/forgetting that does belong... it's confusing because there's always so many extra people there!) is on the way to campus from here (which also provides a great place to hang out in the gaps between classes).
Anyway, there's lots of other little things to talk about, but I'll write about them later. I'm just glad that we're all back to Troy, Kaitlyn's happily back in school, and Amy is (somewhat less happily) back at school too! (Amy's coming to Troy this weekend with her new Mini 9 to OS-X-ify!!)
Another WWDC three thousand plus miles away :-) I'm happy with the new laptops and Snow Leopard stuff (30$!); sad about the severe lack of Steve; angry about the fact that upgrading my phone at some point in the future might be a very expensive operation; and completely confused about what UI book the Safari team was reading when they came up with the blue widget in the following image (which, by the way, is not a progress bar):
There are lots of pictures at Flickr. There are some below, interspersed throughout the words, too...
On Saturday, just after 10PM, Delta flight 6372 from JFK to BTV landed on the tarmac in Burlington, and I was able to breathe a sigh of relief! I was finally home, after my first solo trip, my first trip across the Atlantic, and my first UDS.
I was in Barcelona attending the Ubuntu Developer Summit for the next release, Karmic Koala (that's 9.10, for those of you counting)... talking (mostly listening, actually) about GNOME, fast boot, X, mobile stuff (Android and Moblin), NM, prettiness, and who knows what else! I met lots of awesome people, saw lots of awesome sights and ate lots of awesome food (sometimes). I don't think it's possible to properly describe the last week, so I'm just going to write bulleted bits to the best of my ability, separated into UDS-things and Barcelona-things.
- Scott/Mark want boot in 10/12/15 seconds on a Mini 9.
- It's not clear if all of gnome-games is going to be in main (partially my fault; oops).
- Ekiga isn't going to be in main anymore, but WebKit will!
- GDM Face Browser? Maybe! (just like every year) That would mean Clutter in main, too.
- Non-KMS systems and wake-from-hibernate lose bootsplash.
- "OS switcher" during boot and GDM.
- Running a demo (Moblin) on alpha hardware is not a good idea, but it looked shiny anyway.
- KMS by default on Intel and ATI. Damn NVidia. (nouveau KMS maybe someday)
- Canonical has a design team; they all seemed very cool!
- Someone (design team?) wants to have a theme that has both dark and light bits which applications can request.
- Ryan wants windows to be able to display whether they have escalated privileges or not (PolicyKit).
- Client-side window decorations!! Also, discussions about what happens if you draw to (0, 0) now, and how to solve that...
- Some talk about putting Wayland between X and the video card, mostly for fast-user-switching and the like. Probably not Karmic? I really just want a system where Wayland is easy to install...
- 10.04 or 10.10 is going to be LTS, so we can't expect to change anything drastically after Karmic and before then... so this release is probably going to be very experimental..
- Compiz, gnome-panel, and nautilus (was it nautilus?) are the big problems with GNOME startup. Has anyone tried anything more intelligent and useful than printf? DTrace? If not, I'll do it, later this week...
- gobject-introspection is going to be packaged; I don't remember exactly what we decided on but it was mostly "make upstream get typelib generation out of gir-repository and into projects themselves".
- I started a Seed+Clutter+Cairo+DBus nm-applet mockup based off of a blog post about NM 0.8 which I can't find right now... just for fun!
- Got lots of work done on LO3 in the airports and stuff.
- The region around the airport is slightly frightening compared to the rest of the city; I was a little uneasy until I got off the metro at Zona Universitària. The fact that I'd just been dumped somewhere where it was really hard to understand everyone (even with 4 useless years of Spanish) certainly didn't help any either.
- The power is a lie. You need the grounded plug or it doesn't work, unless you're in the rooms (not the lobby) of the Hotel Rey Juan Carlos. The Palau and my hotel both require the big plug, somehow. This is a problem; a brand new 15" MBP battery only lasts 3-4 hours in a fresh install of Karmic.
- There's a train to Valencia about 2 minutes before the train to the airport, from the same platform. Far too tempting...
- Universitat de Barcelona students are significantly more kind and helpful than the average RPI student.
- It's a poor choice to schedule a conference during what is practically a national holiday (the Barça vs. Manchester United soccer game). The city was insane that night and the night after...
- Parc Güell is beautiful and crazy; Gaudi must have been insane, but that makes it all the more worth a trip.
- Apparently carrying around a DSLR suggests to people that you're qualified to use their strange point-'n-shoots; I took quite a few pictures for other people while wandering around the Parc.
- Sagrada Família is actually still under active construction (I didn't believe it until I got there)... going to finish in 2026!? But it's one of the most ridiculously complex and beautiful buildings I've ever seen...
- It's really hard to find Casa Batlló (I failed).
- The Mediterranean is pretty much the same as any other harbor-bearing sea, at least from the Paral•lel region. The sunset from down there is really nice, though!
- There are lots of street musicians, especially around the touristy parts, like Parc Güell. A good number of them were pretty good; then there were these subset who make the strangest noises with their mouths... they sound like irritating birds or something :-)
- The whole philosophy of tapas seems like a much better way to do dinner than what we do here in the States. I much enjoyed the various tapas bars, especially the night of the game, out with the GNOMEites.
I probably have a lot more things to say, but I can't keep writing in this post! Too many words! I'll probably tell more stories as the days go on or something...Transportation
I walked a lot
more than I usually do during the trip; I also rode the metro to many different places around the city. I totaled the distances of the walking and public-transit parts of my trip with Google Earth last night (approximations, of course), and discovered that I'd walked about 41 km (26 miles), and ridden (on the ubiquitous trams and metro) somewhere in the vicinity of 101 km (63 miles). I took notes
while I was measuring, too, detailing the trips of each day to the best of my ability.