Nashville: The City

I hate saying anything negative about Nashville as I had a great time while there, but the city itself was not pleasant.

As typical of large cities, there are tons of one-way streets downtown that we weren’t familiar with AND that weren’t marked on maps.

Compounding that confusion, a number of streets were blocked off due to the July 4th event.

EVEN MORE! A lot of streets were blocked off by construction work and what one tour guide called, “Tennessee’s state bird, the crane!” (It’s actually the mockingbird if you were curious).

Crane's so tall I needed to do a collage!
Crane’s so tall I needed to do a collage!

Additionally, parking was… difficult, but at least we expected that. Parking in the Gulch neighborhood on the edge of downtown and walking in over the railroad was the way to go for us.

Second major problem with the city was the smell.

There was a faint garbage stench throughout downtown. Not exactly sure why.

Obviously it got stronger when we got close to dumpsters, but I’ve never experienced a problem like this in any major city. Seems like the dumpsters just don’t trap smells in Tennessee’s humidity.

Final issue with Nashville was the myth of Southern hospitality. I’ve heard of, experienced it, and expected it in Nashville, but it was not so!

Not that anybody was particularly rude, just people were notably less polite than what I’d experienced in Davis, CA.

Maybe it’s because Nashville is a tourist town and the locals hate tourists? Maybe it was due to the extra stress of the downtown construction and July 4th? Maybe something in the local news had everyone on edge?

Whatever it was, the people there just weren’t as nice as I expected them to be.

Like I said, all of these things by no means ruined the vacation. There were just… noticeable.

-GoCorral

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Mother’s Day 2015

My mother passed away a few years ago, but I am lucky to have a wonderful step-mother to spend Mother’s Day with.

My wife and I drove back home in the morning to visit our mothers. I dropped her off and spent a little bit of time with my parents-in-law before going over to my parents’ house (they live in the same city).

My parents were out at the farmer’s market when I got there (a Sunday tradition for them). I played with their dog a little bit and puzzled over the mail I was receiving there. Apprently I now have a subscription to Car and Driver magazine for some unknown reason.

When they got back they announced a surprise, my best friend would be visiting as well! Apparently his parents were spending some time in the Netherlands so he’d been hanging out with my parents for company.

We chatted a bunch and made snickerdoodles. The cookie baking was a Mother’s Day activity so we joked non-stop about it. My friend and I got on our knees to be “children.” We pretended to mess up the recipe by adding “one and a half eggs.” The usual stuff.

The cookies turned out really good, obviously due to adding one and a half eggs.

We went on a walk up to “the dish.” Everyone in Palo Alto already knows what that is but I will explain for those of you who don’t know.

A lot of Palo Alto attractions are remnants of the two big owners of the land around there, Stanford and Coutts. Stanford owned a huge amount of land in the hills behind Palo Alto.

That land was never developed or turned into part of the college. Instead it is an open space preserve where you can go walking up in the hills.

At the top of one of the steep hills behind a chain-link fence is a giant satelitte dish, probably about 100 feet in diameter.

“The dish,” as everyone calls it, is part of the program to contact alien life. It sends signals out and listens for responses. Nothing yet!

We came back after the walk and opened presents. I got my step-mom a Ursula K. Le Guin interpretation of Lao-Tzu’s poetry. She likes Le Guin and both her and my dad are fans of Eastern philosophy. She seemed excited to read it and I hope it is as good as her expectations.

We hugged goodbye and I took half the cookies with me. My friend took the other half.

I went back to my in-laws house and picked up my wife there after taking some pictures. We drove back home through the heavy Mother’s Day traffic.

Happy belated Mother’s Day to everyone else’s mothers who I didn’t see yesterday!

-GoCorral

First Day of Graduate School

Woo! Yesterday I had my first day of graduate school and it was amazing!

For awhile I’d been worried that I wouldn’t like going back to school once the semester started. All of those worries went away once I stepped out of my car onto campus.

I unfortunately arrived late to my first class. I live in Davis and driving to Sacramento has never taken this long in the past.

I thought I’d budgeted enough for rush hour traffic. I guessed the time accurately except for the time to leave the freeway.

Everyone and their mother wanted to get off the freeway at the Howe Ave exit right by Sacramento State.

Next time I go in the morning I’ll get off at an earlier exit and dodge all that traffic. Hopefully that will get me to school with time to spare.

Anyways! I got approved to be a TA in a lab course which meets Tuesday mornings. This semester I’m in training, but in the future I’ll be paid.

The lab class is a GE fulfilling course, so its filled with students who are not biology majors.

The course is also taught by my graduate adviser, which is a huge plus. We’ll get to know more about each through teaching together which will help a lot later in the graduate school process.

I assisted the students with a simple discussion lab which tried to define what life is.

After the discussion each student took a sterile swabbed and rubbed it onĀ something before rubbing it on a petri dish. Whatever they rubbed onto it will grow over the week and we can take a look at it next Tuesday.

When the lab finished I walked around campus. I found the bookstore, the activities fair (no I don’t want to join a fraternity), the student union, and the library. I at my lunch on the quad and then went to read in the library til my next class.

I have two other classes on Tuesday. The first was about how to be a better TA. I met the other students and the teacher told us a little bit about herself, her teaching style, and some resources we could use to improve ourselves as teachers.

My last class, Molecular Biology, was in the same room as the class on how to be a TA. I was surprised when the teacher walked in because I recognized him!

The teacher for my Molecular Biology class is also the post-doc who works in the same worm lab as me at Davis!

It was a pretty cool coincidence. Apparently he had already known for awhile, but hadn’t told me yet.

I was unfortunately the only person who consistently raised my hand to answer questions in his class. I’m hoping that will change in the future. Maybe everyone else was just shy because they hadn’t met the instructor yet.

At the end of the day the instructor and I discussed carpooling together.

Turns out that won’t work because he lives in Sacramento and I live in Davis. At the end of the day we want to be in different places.

Altogether it was a great day. I loved being back on campus as a student and as a teacher. I love learning and helping other people learn. I’m looking forward to the next two or three years at Sac State!

-Mister Ed

Solar Freaking Roadways

My wife showed me this cool new technology called Solar Roadways this morning.

She showed me with a Youtube video you can look at here.

The technology is a new type of pavement made out of solar panels.

The video describes it quite well in a funny way (Solar Freaking Roadways!).

Solar panels cover the road. On top of the panels are a few LED lights and then a strong shield of glass.

The glass can support up to 250,000 pound (113,000kg) trucks. The inventor of Solar Roadways, Scott Brusaw, chose that researched weight becauseĀ the transportation of oil refinery equipment is done at weights of around 230,000 pounds (104,000kg).

The LEDs are used to create lane lines or for other necessary road paint (Pedestrian Xing, Slow Down, etc.).

If every paved surface in the USA were covered with these panels they would generate three times the current energy consumption of the USA.

Other energy sources would still be needed as solar panels don’t operate at night.

The panels can also heat themselves to melt snow and prevent dangerous driving conditions in colder states.

Two underground channels are planned to run along side the Roadway. One will hold water runoff. The other will hold electrical wires.

The wires carry the electricity off the solar panels to consumers.

The channel could also hold telephone lines, fiberoptic internet cables, etc. By placing them underground, storms are less likely to cause outages.

Mr. Brusaw, pictured above in a tractor on the prototype driveway of Solar Roadways, seemed particularly proud of the traction of Solar Roadways.

Some people worry that cars won’t be able to stop on glass, but Solar Roadways glass panels are textured in a way that cars going 80mph (130kph) on a wet panel could stop just as fast as on wet asphalt.

My worry upon seeing the giant textured panels was that bikes would not be able to go on them.

Fortunately, Mr. Brusaw has an answer for that too. Another variety of the panels has a smoother texture that bikes can ride over comfortably.

The smoother texture allows cars to stop in times similar to wet asphalt at speeds of only 40mph (65kph) though. You can’t have everything.

It would be easy enough to build a bike lane out of the smoother panels next to a road made of the textured panels to accommodate both types of vehicles.

If you’re interested in learning more about Solar Roadways you can check out their website or fund them using Indiegogo. The fundraiser is until June 20th 2014.

-Mister Ed