June 2004

May 2004 -- 2004 -- July 2004

June 8, 2004

Well it's been almost a week since my 21st birthday, and I'm just updating now, so you can figure out what happened.... Nah, I'm just kidding. I had a fun one though, and all the other interns up here are really cool and made it a lot of fun even if I couldn't be with my Tampa and Gainesville friends. I'm using my birthday funds to get a TIVO, though I'm not exactly sure when that'll happen. Well one of those, as well as finally getting the second season of The West Wing on DVD, Season 3 of Futurama on DVD, and a movie that I've been told "is just as good as Amelie" called Im Juli (In July). Anyways, here's some pictures from my birthday:
I really am 21
The other interns
I am the best singer EVER
Remember: Water is key

Tampa won the Stanley Cup last night in Game 7 of the NHL Finals, which is really cool since I'm from there. I went to one of their games last year and sat way up in cheap seats, but it was a lot of fun. I haven't followed it at all this year, and didn't even relieze it was already the finals until Game 5, but I think everyone in Tampa has Lightning fever at the moment (well except maybe the editorial page). Now if only we can turn our baseball team around and win the World Series, then Tampa Bay would have gone from horrible to great in three sports.

It's been 50 years since the father of modern computing, Alan Turing died. He made a lot of important contributions to the field of computer science and it's tragic that the social conditions of the 1950's led to his early demise. Here's some more on him.

June 15, 2004

I finally did it! This past weekend I went skydiving for the first time ever, and it was one of the coolest things I've ever done.

I've always wanted to skydive, but I've just never gotten around to actually forking over the cash and doing it. However one of my friends up here in Huntsville skydives a lot, and sent out an email last week saying she found a great deal on tandem jumps (only $120, compared to the normal $180) and that we could go this past weekend, and invited all the other interns to come as well. So I of course went for it, and we ended up getting 10 first time jumpers to try it out. A few of them were sorta nervous, but I was excited the entire time. We also decided to camp out then that night at the drop zone, since skydivers are (as you would expect) pretty crazy people and the after parties are pretty cool.

Anyways, after an early start on Saturday we drive about 3 and a half hours to get to the drop zone, which consists of a main large building where you can repack chutes inside and where you register and wait around and things. Then there's a few houses for the workers, and a hanger and runway for the plane. We got there about 1, and began the massive amounts of legal paperwork to basically say that they aren't responsible for anything no matter what. And then the repeated warnings about death and dismemberment. You also watch a video that reiterates what you're signing, which the guy speaking on it has a ZZ Top type beard that's incredibly long. But you just keeping initialing and signing and eventually it's all over with, and you pretty much legally signed away all your rights. Then the waiting began. We thought that since we had an appointment and it was a large facility (as skydiving places go) that we would be done in a few hours. However it was REALLY busy so I personally didn't get to go till almost 7:30. In the meantime we just all hung outside and watched the other jumpers come down. Some of them are pretty fancy with the landings, so that when theyr'e coming in, it really looks like they're out of control and will slam into the ground, but at the last second they flair their chutes and end up just skimming a foot above the ground until they make a soft landing so that they pretty much just "walk" to a landing. The tandems however for the most part slide to a stop.

For those of you not familiar with tandem skydiving, or skydiving in general, we fly in a tiny little plane to 14,000 feet and then, well, jump out. I myself don't really do anything, I'm literally just along for the ride. Finally they put my name up on the board for the next flight, so I met my tandem master (which by the way, has over 8,200 jumps) and he put me in a the harness (which goes under you legs and under your arms, and tightened it most of the way. He then has 4 metal hooks on the front of his harness, and I had 4 on the back of mine, and thus you end up flying in front of him on the way down. The parachute is attached to him, and he's the one who decides when it's time to pull and controls it all the way down to the landing. So my "instruction" consisted entirely of about 30 seconds: Bend your knees on the way to the door, arch your back backwards when you jump out, and then left up your feet right before you land so you slide to a stop on the ground. And that was it. After a little bit more waiting the plane was ready and we began boarding. Tandems are put on first since they'll be the last one's out, since you jump according to how high you pull the chute. Tandems pull at about 6,000 feet while everyone else pulls around 3,000 feet. The plane itself is very simple, consisting of two long benches that go down the length of the plane so that there are two rows of people crammed in. All told it holds about 30 people each load. And I was still really excited about the whole thing, especially since everyone who had jumped already had said how awesome it was. Then the plane starts moving and the takeoff is like any other airplane. And then you climb and climb and climb. During the way up my tandem master finished tightning the straps so that there was no way I was going anywhere. I also paid for a film of it (figured I might as well do it once, since it wasn't cheap to do that either) and so he was asking me how I was feeling. They strap a videocamera and a regular camera to their helmet, and take pictures by biting down on a sensor they put in their mouth. Finally we reach altitude and they opend the back door and immediately a cold blast of wind starts ripping through. Once you start jumping the line moves really fast, and before I knew it I was at the door. However they had to wait a few seconds for the clouds to clear, so I was out there, staring out of a door 2 and a half miles above the ground, and knowing that in a few seconds I would be floating through it at 120 MPH. It was a cool feeling :)

You don't actually feel a falling sensation when you leave the plane, since you're already going 100 MPH, so you're really only accelerating 20 MPH, so you only feel it a little bit for the first split second. I also tilted my head to see the plane flying away as I fell from it, which was really cool. And from then on it's just the amazing sensation of floating. It's REALLY loud since the wind is rushing past you, and it's a little chilly, but it was absolutly amazing. The camera guy was playing around and flying upside down, and since I had told my tandem master I wanted a "crazy" ride, we did some spins and stuff too in the air (no flips or anything like that since you have a pilot chute open and trailing behind you during free fall so you don't fall too fast). Before you know it the 60 seconds of free fall are over and it's time to pull the cord. He gave me the signal, so I got to pull the ripcord (which was off to my right and bright orange). The chute opening was sorta harsh, and if you happened to be going really fast it can actually be dangerous. However it wasn't bad at all for me, and it's a pretty cool sensation to be floating idly a mile above the earth. He loosened the harness a little bit so that it wasn't so tight, and then he decided it'd be fun to start doing huge crazy turns that pulled some big G's. It was like an inverted rollercoaster, except instead of only for half a second, it's for 10's of seconds. Which I think next time I'll just go with a much slower and easier canopy ride, but it was pretty cool anyways.

Before you know it though the ground is looking awfully close (and you can read the sign painted on top of the building: "PULL!") and then he says when to pull up your legs, and ended up going into a long sliding stop. It wasn't rough at all though, and then he unhooks you for his harness and it's all over with. All in all it takes about 5 minutes to do, but it's one of the best 5 minutes of your life.

After that there were only a few more loads (that's what they call each ride up, there are about 25 on an average day) before the sun went down, and while you can skydive at night if you've done enough jumps, it's only on special occasions. There was a fun afterparty then with all the professional skydivers, and I ended up spending the night squashed in a tent with 9 other people. Needless to say not much sleep happened, but it was a lot of fun. One of the more interesting footnotes is the girl who was the most scared of us all to do it, ended up loving it the most and wanted to jump again that same day, and is going to go ahead and get her certification to jump alone. So who knows, even if you think it's crazy, try it, and you might just end up loving it! I'll definitely be doing it again, but not for a while just because it's so expenisve.

And finally, because you know you want it:

June 29, 2004

My crazy crazy summer continues, this time going white water rafting on the Ocoee river with a bunch of the other interns. It was actually organized by the company this time, and there was a lot more instruction than skydiving had. Now I think we're just trying to figure out what other extreme sports we can get in this summer since we seem to be doing everything else. If all else fails there's the old stand by, Extreme Ironing.

It was a lot of fun though, the rafting company supplied us with life vests, a paddle, and a helmet, and our guide was really good. We all got soaking wet, and none of us fell out (purposely at least, we did flip the boat once for fun on a smooth section). They were class 3 and 4 rapids, out of a scale of 6 with 6 being the most dangerous.

Afterwards we went to the Tennessee Aquarium which was really cool as well. They had a big turtle exhibit which I liked, and then we saw a 3D IMAX movie about the ocean. Not a bad Saturday at all I'd say.

Also last weekend I went to the Huntsville Space and Rocket center for a fund-raiser banquet for the Saturn V rocket they have over there, and go to see Buzz Aldrin (second man ever on the moon) give a speech, which was really cool. He's still very active in promoting space exploration, and they also had the mayor of Huntsville and the governor of Alabama there too. He wants permanent settlements on the moon and Mars, and believe that the future of humanity lies in the vast reaches of space. If only I could be alive to see it. Though... with the world's first manned private spaceflight taking place last week, perhaps that future isn't so far off. It may be quite feasible that by the time I retire, spaceflight won't be uncommon though still very expensive, and that by the time my kids are that age, it may even be affordable to normal people. Of course if I had the money, I'd pay whatever they wanted to be able fly into space. Whoever produces the first commercial regular spaceflights is going to make a fortune.

The full length trailer for Garden State was released online, and it makes me want to see it even more. And not just because it has the hottest celebrity ever, Natalie Portman, in it. And speaking of movies, I've seen a lot of good foreign one's lately, including Im Juli (which my friend recommended to me, it's really good), L' Auberge Espagnol, and the winner of this year's Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film, Osama which was really powerful and sad. And I saw the 3rd Harry Potter movie, which was the first one I liked. I LOVE the books, but didn't like the first two movies very much. But the 3rd one doesn't try to cram in every little detail, and so it flows a lot better, and perhaps the new director had something to do with it too. Next on my list to see is Spiderman 2, which has already been getting really good reviews.

This summer has continued to fly by, and shows no signs of getting slower. Work is keeping me busy, and as I get more tasks put on me, it's getting busier. But I enjoy it a lot, and I've learned so much. And then the other interns are a blast, it almost feels like college sometimes because you do your "class and homework" and then you can just hang out and have fun. I still miss college though, only 2 more months!

May 2004 -- 2004 -- July 2004