Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015 in review

With mere minutes remaining of 2014, I thought it a good time to reflect on the joy and wonder of the year.

2014 began with a flight in a blue Navion once owned by Errol Flynn to Catalina Island. This turned out to be an excellent summary (Russian style) for how the year would go. Two and four days later I completed my cross-country solos as part of my pilot's license. Both were incredible learning experiences that I none-the-less survived. On the latter I encountered the most severe turbulence I've ever experienced, as well as some intermittent mechanical problems. Props to my CFI RT for preparing me so well.

By the end of January I'd also made a quick jaunt to the old country - Australia - though I'm not certain when next I shall return. One highlight was exploring the innards of the Sydney Town Hall Organ, the largest non-electric pipe organ in the world, and one of only two with an actual 64' stop.

Three weeks later RENT opened, a terrific show largely orchestrated by MG, DS, and JLL, who later left me for Boston. Building set and singing and dancing and acting is some of the most fun.

I somehow found time to take a few field trips, with the geologists to Zion and Mono Lake, and with the Caltech Y to Yosemite, Washington DC, and a five day induction/indoctrination trip for incoming frosh in the Sierras.

Around Easter ET visited from sunny Seattle, and we did our best to go bananas, with trips to JPL, Catalina Island, and the Mt Wilson 60" telescope to coincide with Mars' opposition. We saw polar caps and the dark plains of Syrtis Major. 

Around this time I procrastinated on flying long enough to 3D print a bunch of jewelry and scientific models, and began a tradition of flying tiny quadcopter drones around TAPIR, the physics department. 

When the drone batteries were exhausted I reluctantly did some work, and went so far as to present it at the APS April meeting in Savannah, Georgia, followed by a few days break with KH in NY and JH in Philadelphia. While in NY I walked down Wall Street wearing my Occupy Mars teeshirt, which was pretty fun.

Back at Caltech I got stuck into satellite control software, eventually succeeding in getting the AAReST mirror to work with MD, T, YP, IH, et al.

The sublime tended to the ridiculous when on the third attempt I managed to outsmart weather and mechanical issues to sit, and pass, my private pilot license checkride, burning cash and old dinosaurs to coast serenely above the LA traffic while occasionally pulling 0gs.

The academic year wound to a close as Fluid Dynamics recorded a studio album (New Tones https://soundcloud.com/fdacappella/) featuring one of my less clunky arrangements. Summer was upon us. Work was completed at a feverish pace, some of it even related to my PhD. In the meantime my old housemate BM had finished his PhD(s) and was walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I flew in and intercepted him in Pamplona, walking for 6 days and also finding time to check in on TN, who was resting up in Gijon. 

Returning via a 9 hour layover in Belgium, I prepared feverishly for my first expedition to Burning Man. About this I will relate little except to flag my wonder and amazement when first the Coup de Foudre Tesla coil came to life beneath my fingers.

September saw a visit from LO, turning 27 = 3^3, and the publication at long last of a substantial paper representing the bulk of my academic work for the last three years. Read and cite, people: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1406.7029

October brought some sober reckoning and romantic reconfiguration, but ended promisingly as my outrageously talented brother MH dropped in for a few days, fresh from a big medical conference in SF. The weather was unkind but we managed to fit in a Tesla test drive, a JPL tour, a SpaceX tour, and about 6 hours in a tiny plane buzzing southern California.

In November I achieved the lifelong goal of stranding an ex on a desert island when I flew TK, S, and MB out to Catalina for a birthday camping trip. And, I might add, back the following day with an ad-hoc diversion to Hawthorne-Northrop airfield.

In December I had had enough and decided to spend the month in bed recuperating. Ha! I reveled in the wonders of Interstellar, bought my first thermal camera, and visited DC, Seattle, and Arizona in one of the more unusual trips I've ever done.

What will 2015 hold? My operational priorities include graduating, flying a lot, being mindfully (and mindlessly) generous and less mean, doing Burning Man again, learning much more about computers and quadcopters, and finding a real job doing something I love.

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