Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Safety Shoes, Long Runs, Creativity, Poker (and Euchre!)

I finally got some safety shoes for myself last week for working in the Pits!  Hooray for not having to borrow shoes way too big for my feet!  Plus, they are super stylish.  (And no one will steal them...)

My safety shoes.  Size 4 UK sizes.  The tag for them read "Safety for Ladies"

Last Thursday, I hosted Poker night at my place for some of the Formula Student team.  Sagar made some Indian/Mexican fusion dish and I made guacamole.  While he was cooking, I taught Quirin, Ryan and Richard how to play Euchre.  Quirin was my partner, and he and I won the game.  It was fun to bring a bit of the Midwest to the UK.  Then, they taught me how to play Texas Hold 'Em Poker, which I never really learned at home.  It was fun, but dragged on (kinda like Monopoly).  I had fun though, and I think I have a better idea of how to play for next time.... (yeah, I totally lost).
Quirin shuffles the cards for poker.  He won overall.

The poker game

On Saturday, I went with Ruth from work to Leamington to go shopping.  We walked around for a few hours, and I tried on some clothes and got a couple of tank tops for the warmer weather we've been having!  Saturday afternoon, I went for about a 5 mile run on some trails in Kenilworth that I discovered from biking home from campus last week.  Some people at church had told me about them, but I hadn't gone out to find them until last week.  The weather has been ABSOLUTELY gorgeous these past few days, so I plan on biking to and from campus as much as I can.

On Sunday, I went to church and got some Rocket from Jan that she grew in her allotment.  I've looked up a pesto recipe for it and I am planning on trying it this week sometime!  I also did a 12 mile long run (last 9 miles with Diresh).  The middle 10K I ran with Diresh we did in about 46 minutes, which is a good sign for the Leamington 10K on the 15th of April.   I also just heard about a possible 20K race on April 21 that I might try to do....

 Sunday night, Jim and Andy from the Formula Student team had a BBQ at their place, near campus in Coventry, so I went there and hung out, and played video games for a bit.
Andy watches while Jim and Sagar race.
I've also been working on my EngD as well!  I've been having meetings with three other first year EngD students, Claire, Nick and Matt, about some group projects that are required.  We have tentatively decided to research the area of fuel cells and try to find ideas there.  We are signed up for an Engineering competition in May as a group and we need to have an idea solidified by then.  I'm excited at the prospect of being able to use some of my previous Master's degree knowledge for a part of my EngD.

I did a webinar last week on PTC's Windchill software, which is a PLM package that has a lot of exciting features I could see working for the Formula Student group.  I am working now on trying to figure a way to work with this as part of my research for my EngD.  I've been inspired a bit by this blog posting this week : http://www.gwarlingo.com/2012/how-creativity-works-jonah-lehrer/ on how creativity works.  I am trying to take some of the points to heart as I think about where I am going with my research.

Overall, I'm keeping pretty busy!  Aurelie is home in Switzerland for the next month, so the flat is a bit lonely, but I don't think I'm going to get bored.  That rarely happens... :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Shadow Cabinets, Electric Go Carts, The British Museum, Pub Quizzes and St. Patrick's Day in London

So, I have a lot to post about!
On Friday, the University was hosting some political event and as a group of us from my office went for tea, we noticed that the Shadow Cabinet (like the minority party in the legislature here) was all arriving in the parking lot by IMC.  So we all took pictures and I got to hear some opinions of what my co-workers thought of British politics.  Tom said these were the people that were mostly responsible for the economic downfall of UK.  It was really interesting.
The UK Shadow Cabinet outside the building I work in

Also on Friday, the evGP team here test drove their cart, which was shipped to Purdue yesterday in a big crate for the competition next month at the Indy 500 track.  I think they've got a pretty sweet cart that will give good competition for the folks back home.

Testing the electric go-cart before shipping it to the States
On Friday, I also was able to get a ride (on a motorcycle!) with Sagar to London to visit Justin and Leslie before they left.  I got in late Friday to where they were staying, and enjoyed spending Saturday with them, even though the weather was lame.  (drizzle all day).  We went to the library and the British Museum, which was really really cool.  I got a lot of neat pictures of stuff in there, like the Rosetta Stone.  I had a lot of fun, walking around with Justin and Leslie, being a tourist.  It was great to have them visit!
We went here, looking for Platform 9 3/4, but we couldn't find it.  :(

Outside the British Museum.  Don't climb...it's a bad fall!

The Rosetta Stone

Inside the British Museum

Outside the library

Buddha at the British Museum

London 2012 Olympic Medals

Afterwards, we went back to the hotel and watched a bit of the England versus Ireland rugby match, which was intense.  England won.  Later Saturday night, Sagar and I went out for St. Patrick's Day.  Justin and Leslie didn't join us because they had to get up early for their flight home.  We started at the London Irish Centre, which was sort of depressing, I think, because Ireland lost the rugby game.
Band at the London Irish Centre
Then, we ended up in an area of London called Camden, which is a district of London in the Northwest area.  We hung out at a bar and ended up talking to a bunch of international people- I met two guys from Ireland, who were hilarious, a guy from Boston, a guy from Australia and two girls from Italy, along with several other Brits.  It was a fun evening, that ended with having Lebanese food at 4am and heading back to the hotel for 3 hours of sleep and then riding back to Kenilworth in the morning.  Sagar was nice enough to give me a bit of a tour around London on the bike on Sunday, which was really really awesome.  The weather was much better, the sun was out, and I got to see a bunch of areas I didn't get to see when I was there on my own last August.  We stopped at a motorcycle cafe just outside of London for some breakfast and I got to see all sorts of motorcycles.  I'm tempted to be getting my own bike here soon....
Traditional Breakfast, vegetarian style.

Ace Cafe, so many motorcycles!!!
Last night, I ran about 10 miles around Kenilworth and campus after working in the pits on the lathe for a bit.  When I got back, Steve had left me a voicemail to come down to the Virgins & Castle for a Monday night pub quiz, which I've been wanting to do since I've been here, so I was really excited to go.  I wasn't much help, unfortunately, but I did really enjoy it and I want to start going to more!

This morning, the weather was SO NICE that I decided to ride my bicycle to campus and I was able to find a new route as well, that avoids a lot of traffic!  I also saw the most beautiful Blue Heron, just chilling on a tree branch, enjoying the sun as well.
Blue Heron on my ride to work.
I am excited that spring is coming, Diresh and I are running my first 10K here on April 15!  I'm hoping to beat my old 10K record of 48:00, which I think is totally possible, with all the training I've been doing.
I hope everyone back home is doing well!  :)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

School visits, clubs, American visitors and public transit

On Friday, I went out some of the Formula Student to Leamington Spa, a town about 4 miles away from Kenilworth.  It's bigger than Kenilworth and has a great deal of shops (I've been here for shopping a couple of times in the daytime) but never at night.  It was an interesting experience, and I went to my first European club, Smack.  I've not gone clubbing much.  In fact, I think I've only ever really gone one other time, when I visited Vancouver and Seattle in December of 2010.  The inside of the club was covered in a flooring with words (see picture).  We also went to another bar/pub where we were able to hang out in a booth and play video games on a PS3, which was also fun.  Overall, a fun experience and I finally got to try a for real Baby Guinness, which is Kahlua with Bailey's Irish Cream on top (a very tasty shot).  However, I think I still prefer my standard Friday evening at the Virgins and Castle in Kenilworth (which I have now renamed with my room mate, Aurelie, "K-Town!")
The floor of the club, Smack, in Leamington Spa

On Saturday, two of my friends from home, Leslie and Justin Mason came for a visit for a few days before heading to London on their honeymoon.  I took them to the Virgins and Castle with the guys that live in my house to give them a truly international experience.  It was a great time, drinking Guinness, talking politics and culture.  Sunday, we went to campus to catch an American football game for a bit and showed them around.  On Monday, I had to get some work done on campus, so Leslie and Justin explored Kenilworth.  Meanwhile, on my way to campus, the bus broke down halfway and I got to wait for a second bus to come.  I much prefer carpooling, when I can, from Kenilworth, but I am definitely saving up to get my own transportation soon (hopefully by summer!).
On Tuesday, Leslie, Justin and I caught a bus to Stratford-upon-Avon and walked around for a few hours.  I had been there over the summer and just a couple of weeks ago on a short motorcycle trip, but it was fun to go with them and walk around.  The weather wasn't great, but it still fun!
Today, I had to be in early to be the "adult" on a school visit for the Formula Student, eVGP and Robotics groups to give presentations to school children on projects they could get involved with in engineering.  I have been a part of outreach a lot back home (Fisiks is Phun at Ball State, some school visits at Toledo, MEAP at IUPUI) so it was interesting to see the difference between British children (middle school age:12-14).  I was amazed at the level of interest and the quality of questions the students were asking about the projects.  It was a very cool experience.
Anyway, I've got lots to do the rest of the week- got to go through my PMA one more time before I turn it in on Monday and I really want to finish up my primer for the Creo parametric design program I've been working on for PTC!  I've decided not to join Justin and Leslie in London for the weekend, but I'm sure they will have fun without me and it was awesome to see them!
Post again soon!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


So I haven't gotten on to my camera in a while, so here are some pics from the last month that I've been meaning to post.  Enjoy!  :)
Pork Scratchings!  Typical British pub food down at the Virgins and Castle

More pub food, spiced peanuts.  I liked these MUCH better than the pork scratchings...


Queen Victoria statue in Leamington Spa

Making Guinness chocolate cupcakes with Aurelie and Diresh

Diresh was having too much fun.

Pool with Andy and Jim from the Formula Student team.  And weird balls.

No, no, I still suck at pool too.  Coming across an ocean didn't change my complete lack of coordination.

Sagar playing pool while Jim and Andy watch.

Ale Festival with Quirin from the Formula Student team.  Obviously, he is on his knees because he's like 6'5" in real life.

First Year Presentation, Formula Student, Running and Renewable Energy Club

So I am getting more and more remiss about updating!  I need to get back on it!
Last week I did a lot of work with the Formula Student team- I got re-trained on the Lathe in the Engineering building and worked on some parts for the car.  I've also been re-organizing the media section for the website, which you can check out here: Formula Student Website .
I also spent time last week working more on my literature review and preparing a presentation for the first year EngD presentations that were yesterday.  I started later than any of the other 6 students, so my project wasn't as clearly defined as everyone else's.  I was starting to feel a little bad about it as I watched everyone else go, but I got decent feedback on it.  I just feel like I have a lot of catching up to do!
Last Friday I hung out with some of the Formula Student group and we went to the Student Union and played pool.  The pool balls are a little different here- rather than solids and stripes, they just have red and yellow balls.  Also, it seemed that the balls were a bit smaller than what we play with at home.  I have pictures, but I haven't looked at them yet.  I need to do a whole post with just pictures I keep forgetting to look at!
On Saturday, I went to a Renewable Energy Club meeting with Jan from church.  It was really interesting to see what local people are doing to their homes to be more sustainable here.  There were two speakers, one was an architect discussing the benefits of using lime as a much better substitute to concrete in structural construction, because it allows for the right levels of permeability and it has much less embodied energy.  The second speaker was a guy from Leamington who was making what is called a Super Home, where he had fitted all sorts of renewables and sustainable ideas to his older British home (built around the time of the US Civil War- 1850s/60s).  There is a whole network here, that can be seen at http://www.superhomes.org.uk/ where people work together to learn about ways to improve their homes to be more efficient and use renewables.  I think it is definitely more prevalent here than back in the US, but the Brits still are not up to what countries like Germany are doing with this.  This group meets monthly, so I hope to get more involved with that.
I also got a hair cut on Saturday...so much lighter!  I got about 4-5 inches off, so nothing too drastic, but it looks pretty good.  Also need to get a picture of that soon.  :)
Sunday I went for a long run again, doing the last 5k with Diresh and Afonso from my house (neighbours).  Diresh and I have signed up for a 10k in Leamington next month, so we need to train hardcore!  I've also signed up for a 10k in June with a small group that work at WMG as a team, so we get to compete!  I've been getting better!  I did 800 meter interval training with Ben Wood last night (one of the guys from WMG and probably one of the main reasons why I ended up in the UK.  Ben was responsible for organizing the conference in August).  Anyway, I ran my first 800 m interval in 3 minutes flat, which is about 5 seconds faster than I've ever run that distance before.  I was pretty excited...my next two intervals weren't as good, but I'm still happy with my times.  My best time on a 10k is 48:00, so I am hoping to improve that on the 10ks coming up.
I'm also really excited- this Saturday my first visitors from the States are coming!  Justin and Leslie are coming Saturday afternoon and are staying with me in Kenilworth until they head to London the following Wednesday.  I'll be headed down to London on Friday to meet up with them, and spend St. Patrick's Day.
I'm going to have to post a lot of pictures then!