Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Local Artists, PMAs, Baby Guinness, Design Software and Motorcycles

I've had quite a busy week!
Last week, I hunkered down and wrote my PMA (post-module assignment) for the Collaborative Product Development module I took at the end of January, just before I got Tonsillitis.  I probably put too much effort into it, but I've sent the draft to Steve and Jay to take a look at and hopefully give me some good feedback on.  It isn't due until March 19, so I have lots of time....
I went to the pub on Friday night to celebrate being done and catch up with Steve and everyone else, since I hadn't been there in ages.  Aurelie had made a nice soup for dinner, so I told her I was just going to have one pint.  I *may* have had more than that and stayed much later than I had planned.  (Made me think of this Gaelic Storm song:

Anyway, I had a good time talking with everyone in the pub about Kindles and American politics.  I chatted with a lovely local artist, Karen Pittaway, who does local artwork in Kenilworth.  (Check out her stuff here: http://www.karenpittaway.co.uk/Karen_Pittaway/Home_page.html).  I also was trying to slow my drinking down towards the end, so the bartender was kind enough to pour me a shot of Guinness (a Baby Guinness...which I am actually told is something else, that I will probably need to try soon)
My last drink of the evening...a "me-sized" Guinness
Saturday, Aurelie and I went to Leamington Spa to do some shopping (I needed to go to the Body Shop, of course).  She got a very cute top at a little clothing boutique and we stopped by her old flat to work out some bills with her former room mates.
The weather was fantastic this weekend, so one of the guys from the Formula Student team, Sagar, offered to take me out on his Honda CBR.  It's been ages since I've been on a motorcycle, so I was really excited to go.  He had a spare helmet and leathers for me, so I was very safe.  We went to Stratford-upon-Avon.  I went there in August and noticed a huge motorcycle population there, so that was really awesome.  The roads here are a bit different, more curvy.  I know some of my friends from home would love to come over here and ride.  :)
Sunday, the weather was again fantastic, so I decided to get my long run in for the week.  I ran all the way to my building on campus and back, and then went out again with Diresh and Aurelie to do another ~5k, so I think I ran somewhere between 10-11 miles.  The sun was out and I am noticing a slight tan coming on.... spring is on it's way!  Sunday evening, Aurelie and I made my Guinness Cupcakes (getting ready for St. Patrick's Day next month!!) and Diresh came over and helped.  They turned out really good, and I think I got Aurelie addicted to the recipe.  That's ok though, she's got me addicted to crumpets.
Yesterday, I met with one of the marketing people for WMG and I am going to write my first guest blog posting for the center soon!  I will let everyone know when that is up.
I've also been working on learning Creo, the design software put out by my sponsoring company, PTC.  I have a meeting with my contact there this afternoon.
I've still got lots of work to do with the Formula Student website as well, going to work on archiving old material and reorganizing it.
Post more soon!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Shortcuts, Writing, House Mates and Ale Festivals

I've had quite a busy weekend!
Friday, I went to the Ale Festival on campus with the Formula Student group, which was essentially a collection of microbreweries that had kegs.  I got a variety of half pints and got to taste a bunch of different beers (mostly porters and stouts, of course).  It was tasty.   It was nice to have some fun, now that I feel better and am catching up.
On Saturday, Aurelie and I hosted a pitch-in dinner with some of the guys that live in our house.  Well, really we only had it with Diresh and Shei-Wei from across the hall, but both of them cooked some really good food.  Aurelie made an apple crumble and I got vanilla ice cream to go with it.  Afonso, a Portugese student from down the hall, and Harris, the Greek student also from down the hall, came and hang out for a while too.  We all then decided to check out the Saturday Kenilworth nightlife and go out.  We ended up at the Almanack, where we had a beer each and hung out for about an hour.
Sunday, the weather was nice and sunny when I woke up for church.  The service was nice and I got to chat with Anne a bit afterwards.  Then I headed home, ate some lunch and got a few things done around the house before heading out for a run to enjoy the sun.  I ran almost to campus and back, and around the park in Kenilworth, felt like about 6 miles.  If I keep up with my training, I will definitely be ready for a half-marathon by April, and hopefully a full marathon by May or June.  Now I just need to find some races!
I decided to bike into campus this morning and try out a shortcut.  Unfortunately, the roads here curve and while I used to just pick a direction I needed to go in back home when I commuted back and forth from work, I didn't have such luck this morning.  I ended up totally turned around, and then it started raining.  I got out my phone and map and figured out where I needed to go.  The map doesn't tell you where the hill are though, and I think I may have found the worst hill in Kenilworth...but I didn't walk!  I even got some encouragement from a dog walker at the top that was very British, "Keep it going!"  All I could do was huff at him, but I did appreciate it.  The bike path to campus off of Gibbet Hill Road was much better, because I ran it on Friday, so I knew where I was going better.  I decided not to try the shortcut on the way home.  I may try it again after studying a map better BEFORE I leave home later this week though.  I like learning different ways to get places.
I've been working a lot on my PMA for the Module I took at the end of last month, and I have about a third of it written, and the rest of it outlined.  I hope to have it done by March.  I am also going to work on the multimedia section for the Formula Student group and get on learning Creo for PTC.
I've also introduced Aurelie to P90X.  :)  She's on her second DVD.  I think I may check out the track tomorrow because it's about time to start up some speed workouts....races are happening this spring!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Looking at Rankings and Project Brainstorming

I've had a nice week so far, easing back into the swing of things.  I got two boxes on Monday morning, before heading to campus.  One was from my mom, with more of my crocheting stuff, so I am going to get started on some project ideas (Mobius strip gloves!) The other was from my best friend, Melissa, and it was simply a giant box of Lucky Charms, which, despite being magically delicious are difficult to obtain over here.
My box from Melissa!  <3
I also had a decent Valentine's day yesterday.  Aurelie made me the most delicious dinner and re-introduced me to brussel sprouts.  I had never liked them before, but she baked them, instead of boiled them, then sautéed them a bit with a rump steak and potatoes.  They came out tasting a bit like a combination of artichokes and cabbage, two vegetables I absolutely love, so it was great.  :)

In other news, I've been catching up with the Formula student team today, and I've volunteered to help them keep the website organized and updated (I can write one blog, why not another?)  I written one news article so far this week.  This will help me to understand the project more fully, and it also helps the team maintain their online presence, which helps with a number of things for them, including sponsorships.  You can check out the team's website here:
Warwick Formula Student
I just added a short article about the space frame for the chassis, under news.

I've also been noticing some rankings for universities that have been published online.
For Warwick, there was this guide published: The Complete University Guide for UK Schools
Overall, Warwick ranks 8th this year over all UK universities.  In business, they rank 4th, in general engineering, they rank 15th, and in physics and astronomy, they rank 11th.  I thought it was a really interesting report on all the universities here in the UK.

To give a shout out to the folks back home, US News released this report on Up-And-Coming Schools in the US: Up-and-Coming US Universities.  This list was a list of universities "that are making the most promising and innovative changes in the areas of academics, faculty and student life."  Who ranked #3?!?  That would be IUPUI!  The article notes the ranked master's programs at IUPUI, the specialization in motorsports, the law school and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) as some of the strengths of IUPUI.  My undergrad university, Ball State was also ranked 8th on this list!

This morning, I also met with three other International EngD students, Nick, Claire and Matt, to discuss some group projects.  I think we had a lot of good initial ideas.  We are looking at doing two projects, one "big" project (with 300 hours of work per person) and one "small" project with about 50 hours of work per person.  We tossed around some interesting ideas, sort of converging on looking at various engineering competitions we could look into, with a focus on sustainability, open source hardware design, and/or third world country applications.  The ideas were very broad, but we will be meeting next week to discuss more and see if we can plan something more solid soon.

Well, that's about it for now!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Recovering, Room mates and Proper Sunday Roasts

So I didn't do much this week, besides try to sleep, takes ridiculous amounts of penicillin (8 pills a day!  And I still have to take it for the next three days), read my Kindle and work on organizing my PMA (Post Module Assignment) for the module I took the week before.  The week flew by, but my discomfort did not, though I did notice an improvement in my symptoms by Tuesday (and I kept trying to tell myself happy thoughts that I wasn't as sick as I actually was- usually works, didn't work this time), the pain in my throat didn't fully go away until Friday morning (I was also taking a generous amount of Excedrin from the big bottle I brought from home).  By then, my sleep schedule had gotten all sorts of messed up, since I was trying to sleep for 1-2 hours each night, and not sleeping the best, I am sure, even once I got to sleep.  I was exhausted every day, though I still tried to keep myself busy, reading and getting ready for a new room mate to move into the second bedroom of the flat.
My new room mate, who officially moved in on Friday evening, is Aurelie!  (best way I can translate the pronunciation is Oh-really, but put a fancy French twist on the "r").  She's hilarious, and despite my best attempts to deter her (being sick, being American and her being French/Swiss, etc), we got along great.  We met for the first time the Saturday before I went to the GP (so I was feeling good and awful) and yet we managed to talk for a good three hours.  The following Tuesday, after beginning my medicine, and starting to feel a bit better, she came over to the flat, and we cooked dinner together and discussed the layout of the living room.  We got her all moved in Friday night from the Leamington Spa area (a town about 4 miles up the road) and we have enjoyed a nice weekend together.  She cooks, she cleans, she's teaching me French.  I can't complain.  She even went for a run with Diresh (the guy from Singapore who lives across the hall) and me around Kenilworth tonight.  I think we will get along just fine.  :)

Today, I also finally went back to church.  A lovely couple, Jon and Anne, invited me over to their house for a proper Sunday roast which was DELICIOUS.  We had roast chicken, with potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and parsnips, all topped with gravy.  Jon teaches German and French at the University of Warwick, and Anne is a retired primary school teacher.  They have the cutest little home just about a 10 minute walk from church.  For desert, Anne had made a apple pie with apples they grew right in their back yard (garden).  I enjoyed very much chatting with them about all sorts of things- politics, cultural differences, the solar panels they have on their house and the UK feed-in-tariffs.  We got out an atlas and I showed them where I was from back home, and Jon showed me all of the places that they had traveled around Europe, in the northern parts and such.

Overall, a good week, but I am looking forward to getting back to campus tomorrow and getting back to work.  I am feeling better, though still a little tired, so I am not going to push it too hard the next few days, but I've got to get back to cycling to campus.
Post again soon!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Tonsillitis and the UK Health System

My prescription....and my 1L water bottle.  My 4th in 3 days...trying to stay hydrated!
So I tried to take it easy this weekend in hopes that whatever was making me feel awful would magically go away.  It didn't, no matter how much vitamin C with Zinc (thanks for the tip, Leslie!) I took, how much water I drank, or how much sleep I got.  When I woke up this morning with the same pain I've had since Thursday in my throat, I thought it was time to finally try to get it checked out.  I called the clinic I registered at just a little over a week ago.  I was on hold for about 5 minutes (with updates about where in the cue or line I was in).  I was able to get right in- I called at 8:30  and got an appointment for 8:50.  Fortunately, the clinic is literally just around the corner, so I was able to jump in the shower and make it there by 8:45.    I was in the waiting room until about 9:10, and then I was called in to see Dr. John.  I explained my symptoms and he took a look at my throat and noticed a lot of puss.  He diagnosed it right away as Tonsillitis and prescribed penicillin.  I was told to take it over the course of this week (2 pills, four times a day).  and to come back if my symptoms have not improved.  I took my prescription across the street to the pharmacy, where I waited about 10 minutes to get it filled.  Every prescription, unless you are exempt in the UK, costs £7.40 no matter what.  
So to recap:
Total time, including seeing doctor and getting prescription, less than one hour from phone call to make appointment.  
Total cost to me: £7.40 (~$10USD)
Still need to see if I get better, but overall a very nice experience with the UK health system.  I don't think I would get much better back home, and it would have probably been much more expensive.
Now, to get better!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Graham's Birthday and the end of the Week!

Today is my little brother's 18th birthday!  I remember the day he was born...was slightly disappointed that he wasn't a girl...but I'm over that now.  Mostly.  :)  (I kid, I kid!).  Anyway, I mailed his gift on Tuesday, was supposed to take 4 days to get there, so I'm guessing that he will get the box either tomorrow or Monday.  Today is officially his birthday, so I'm going to go ahead and post what I got him:
My brother's birthday present!  I got him Doctor Who cufflinks from the local gentlemen's clothing store here in Kenilworth.  :)  I'm so excited!

The module went well this week, I found the topics quite interesting and I will get to explore the post module assignment.  We had a group assignment over the week that was quite interesting.  We had representation in our group from almost every continent, except for South America (and Antarctica, of course).  It was quite a fun project, there was Madhav from India, Ikpeh from Nigeria, Zhong and Fiona from Taiwan, Luke from Switzerland (but with British parents), Ergun from Turkey and me from the US.  We had to work together to propose an addition to the professor's house.  It was a lot of fun, working through all the cultural and language barriers.  The funniest moment was when Fiona (from Taiwan) told me that I spoke very good English, considering that I was from Mexico.  Apparently, when I said I was from Michigan, she heard Mexico, and assumed my native language was Spanish.  And you know, because I also look Mexican.  lol.

I was also lucky to be able to catch a ride (lift) from an EngD student who is writing up her portfolio at the moment, Nikki.  She was staying in Kenilworth this week.  It was great to talk to another student at the other end of where I am at with things and I really enjoyed chatting with her.

I unfortunately am battling a really bad cold/flu/I have no idea this week as well.  It started Sunday morning with my eyes swelling up in the morning, and progressed to feeling generally sick (congested, aches, etc).  Today, the latest symptom has been a sore and swollen throat.  I think I may be taking advantage of the health care system here, if it keeps up.  Right now, I'm trying to keep up on my water intact and I'm taking copious amounts of vitamin C, drinking water and just monitoring.  I hoping that now the stress of the module is over, I can just sleep tonight and maybe feel a bit better tomorrow.  Otherwise, I'll be making a appointment to get it checked out and I can blog about my experience with the health care system over here!

Well- I'm going to have an exciting Friday night, drinking water and tea, reading my Kindle and probably falling asleep at about 8pm.

Happy birthday, Graham!!  I hope you enjoy the box when it comes! <3