Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Magnificent Rose Parade

This year we decided we wanted to get out of snowy St. Louis for New Years and decided to spend the day in Los Angeles!  My parents both flew out and stayed with me in my apartment.  It was fun having my parents stay with me, especially since it was the first time they had seen the apartment since I moved in and a lot had changed.  I picked up my parents on the 31st early in the morning of a beautiful, crisp day.

On a totally unrelated side note, I happen to love the view when coming off the 105 E onto the 110 N when driving home from LAX.  On a clear morning, you get a great view of the downtown skyline straight ahead and the Hollywood sign off to the left.  Beneath is a great view of the complex concrete structure which supports all the myriad freeways.  At the same time, it reminds me of the beauty of civil engineering and the excitement of a vibrant, urban city.  But I digress.

I'm not entirely sure how they managed it, but Ethan's parents arrived just on time around 6:15 in the morning.  Somehow, they left San Diego at a grisly 4:30 am and were still cheerful when they made it to Los Angeles.

 Ethan and his brother getting ready to go to their seats. 

We arrived around 7 am to make sure that we got into our parking spot before they started closing the roads.  The parade started around 8 but didn't reach us until about 9:15.  Our tickets were in one of the scaffolding grandstands near the end of the parade route.  This turned out to be a great decision since many people had camped on the street the night before in order to get their seats!  As it turned out, we were a few feet above the ground and ended up having a great view of the floats.  We took a few early morning shots before the floats showed up.

Here we are standing at the front of the grandstand with my mom, Ethan, me, and my dad from left to right. 

Ethan and I early in the morning before it started to warm up. 

When the floats finally showed up, they did not disappoint!  I've always enjoyed seeing the parade on TV but the images really cannot compare to seeing them up close.  Not only are they extraordinarily intricate, they smell amazing!  Each new float brought with it an amazing new cornucopia of smells.  My favorites were, not surprisingly, the float with giraffes on it and the wine float.  

My personal favorite float - giraffes made out of flowers!! Incredible!

A close second for favorite float.  Stellabrate! 

After the parade, we went to see the floats up close at a local high school.  It was great getting closer to the floats but it was really ridiculously crowded.  For those wishing to see the parade in the future, I would recommend waiting until early the next morning to go.  By the time we got to the floats, I couldn't believe how much it had warmed up!  The forecast predicting a high of 81 was not kidding around.  I was wishing I was in short sleeves like my better prepared mother.

 A rare photo of my mom and me together.  The weather was amazing!

Overall, getting to see the parade was great fun!  I'm really glad I got to see (and smell!) the floats up close and personal.  Now that's two years in a row I've traveled for NYE - who knows where I'll be next year!

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Year - New Blog! (ish)

So - long time no post eh?  Yeah - we all know that I'm terrible at keeping a blog.  But it is the beginning of a new year, after all, so along with "working out more" and "eating healthier," this year I'll be committing myself to blogging more!  One blog post per week doesn't seem too unreasonable, so I shall henceforth commit myself to blogging at least once a week.

Since I never blogged last semester, you might be wondering what happened.  Well, it was a rough semester for me in a lot of ways, not the least of which was my grades.  Somehow everything turned out okay in the end, however, and I managed to maintain a transcript free of C's!  This semester things are looking like they'll be a little lighter as I'm only taking four classes.  In fact, my schedule seems so light it's almost as though I'm not an engineer!

My classes are as follows:
AME 451: Linear Control Systems - This is the study of how to control systems with dynamic response.  A common example is how to control the temperature inside an oven.  First, you must heat the system to the desired temperature, then apply the right amount of heat to maintain a constant temperature.  Control systems is a highly mathematical field of study and the methods used can be extremely complex considering how simple the concept seems.  Needless to say, this will be one of my harder classes.

WRIT 340: Advanced Writing for Engineers- This is the second of the two writing classes required by the university of all students.  Typically taken by juniors, I put this class off as long as I could.  Thankfully it is a writing class only of engineers and focusing on technical writing, but from what I hear the course varies widely from professor to professor.  This class could be a toss up.

AME 481: Aircraft Design - This class is fairly straightforward from the title - it focuses on the methods used in designing aircraft.  It includes a capstone project which is to design an aircraft to given specifications.  From what I learned in flight mechanics last semester, this class is not going to be easy or fun.  There is a lot of cross over between linear controls and flight mechanics and it involves a lot of complex math called differential equations.  This class will also be hard.

ASTE 280: Astronautics and Space Environment - This course is the one astronautical engineering class required for aerospace engineering majors.  It covers "Solar system, two-body problem, orbits, Hohmann transfer, rocket equation, space environment and its effects on space systems, sun, solar wind, geomagnetic field, atmosphere, ionosphere, magnetosphere" according to the course description but really it's just a catch-all introduction to space dynamics.  It is typically taken by sophomores, but I was abroad spring of my sophomore year and I haven't been able to fit it into my schedule since.  From what I hear it is a fun, interesting class, so should be a nice reprieve.  It also happens to be taught by the adviser of Rocket Lab so that should be fun.

As far as my classes go, it looks like I've got my work cut out for me.  Thankfully, I have plenty of time outside of class to get all the work done :)

Anyway, I'll be posting soon about our trip to the Rose Parade on New Year's Day!  It was really quite spectacular.