The past two days have been very, very good (and there's still one more today!) So I drove down Thursday morning, and got to the 'Briar around 2. Had an hour to kill before I could check into my hotel, so I decided to see who I could find. I ended up talking to Chaplain Brewer, John Beck (Chemistry) and Dave Orvos, my old research advisor. He was very pleased to see the copies of the two journal articles I had published.
After that, I headed to Lynchburg to check in and had about an hour or so of downtime before I had to head back. I was extremely pleased to find out that Super 8 now offers high-speed wireless internet! So I've had internet access the whole time I've been here without having to seek out a computer lab on campus. Very nice.
I went back for the opening dinner, which was a Mediterranian-themed appetizer spread - shrimp, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, tomato bruchetta, seasoned finger potatoes, etc. It was super. Then the Brian Greene lecture was that evening, and he is an incredible speaker. I hadn't read any of his books, but it turned out that I had seen some of his NOVA special (because I recognized some of the graphics he used). He was also funny, which I didn't expect from a quantum physicist. Basically, his work deals with string theory (the idea that matter has smaller definable parts than quarks that are called "strings," and that the different vibrations of the strings cause them to be different quarks). String theory (yet unproved, as he was very clear to point out) solves the problem of unifying quantum mechanics with Newtonian physics (I think I'm getting this right...) under *all* conditions, but requires that our universe has 9+ dimensions. Very interesting stuff.
Friday I got up at 8am (I'm trying to maintain some semblance of a schedule) and forced myself to work out. While the internet connection was good, the exercise room left something to be desired. The options were a stair-stepper, a bike, and a treadmill. Now I love me some treadmill, but the motor was broken so the belt didn't move. And I am completely inept at the stair-stepper (I don't know what's wrong with me...I start out okay for about 10 seconds and then just sink, and it's embarassing to be clanking against the bottom with each step). So that left the bike, but it ended up being an okay workout.
I had my only official "workshop" on Friday morning - training for Alumnae Admissions Representatives (of which I am one for my state). Then another swanky lunch to honor the Silver Rose Society (people who have given consistantly to the college for 25 years...I only have 23 more to go!) and the Williams Associates (people that have named Sweet Briar in their wills).
Founders Day convocation was next, and it was okay. The speaker was meh, and it was sooooo hot outside for the walk up to the monument. But it was nice, and there was a picnic afterwards. Then they had cocktails and an open house out in Guion (for the uninitiated, that's the science building where I spent a good portion of my life from Sept. 99 - May 03). It was neat to see all the new equipment and labs, and learn about all the research that's going on there now. They still talk about us recent grads as well :-)
The last thing I did on Friday was a magic show, and boy was it awesome. This guy, Nate Staniforth (who is younger than me!) wants to be Harry Houdini...he's been doing magic since he was like, 10. So he did a bunch of sleight-of-hand tricks (the first one was swallowing string and needles and then pulling out a string with 5 threaded needles on it) and a straightjacket escape right on stage. The two coolest ones were a dollar bill trick and a card trick that I (and Matt, which I'll explain in a minute) got to participate in.
So the dollar bill trick went like this - he asked a girl in the audience to hold something until the end of the trick but not to look at it. After he put it into her hands, he asked people to hold up dollar bills and picked one randomly. He had the audience memorize the serial number (in portions), had someone sign the bill, and then he tore off a corner and gave it to someone else to hold (in plain view). Then he put the (extremely marked) bill into an envelope and burned it. After that, he asked the first girl to open her hands, and she was holding the signed, torn dollar bill with the serial number we had memorized.
The card trick was cool too (although Matt figured out a possible explanation for it). First, he set a deck of cards on a chair in plain view and stepped away. Then he told everyone in the audience with a cell phone to call someone, anyone as long as it wasn't another person in the room, and for the first 4 people who got someone on the line to stand up. Naturally I called Matt and I was the fourth person. Then he asked the audience to pick someone by applause, and we "won." He told me to ask Matt to pick any card and tell me the number and suit. Matt picked the 6 of hearts. He told me to tell Matt I would call him back later. Then he asked me to tell the audience what card Matt had picked. I said it, he picked up the deck off of the chair right in front of me, opened it, and fanned the cards out. All of them were face up except one...you guessed it, the 6 of hearts.
I didn't make it to bed until after midnight last night (I needed another shower after that sticky day and to blowdry my hair in preparation for today) but I forced myself to get up at 8 again. Today I have breakfast, an alumnae college lecture about the Sweet Briar dam, a picnic lunch at the boathouse, the Nature Center dedication, and the engineering program's cardboard boat race at the lake. I may swing by one of the athletic games for a bit before I leave, and then it's off to SC (Kim was surprised when I told her I was visiting my in-laws sans hubby. Do people not do this?)
Other '03-ers I've spent time with this weekend: Nicole Crowder, Hilary Pool, and Tara Conte. I also got to spend time with Kim Wilson, who is such a cutie - I've known her since she was a prospective student, and as far as I can remember she's wanted to be like me (academically, that is). She's a senior now (sniff) and she ended up picking up my old honors thesis project. And she wants to apply to Hopkins for grad school! Except in Biophysics, but I can forgive that :-) I told her I would be happy to help in any way possible. We Sweet Briar girls are tight like that.
Not related to SBC, but the fact that the FDA director is resigning makes me very happy. He's done a crappy job so far (and he was only confirmed two months ago!!) You know it's bad when both the Dems and Repubs are happy that you're gone. Here's hoping that the next guy gets it right.
Just when I thought that I never would have believed that paying $2.50 for a gallon of gas would make me *happy* the experts are predicting that, due to the second Gulf Coast hurricane, prices could top $4 a gallon. That would bring my gas expenditures to $65+ per week (only me...not including Matt). That makes me want to cry.
Gotta go finish getting ready and packing everything back up now. I was going to try for some yoga this morning before I left, but I seem to have used up all my free time typing this post. Something is also very wrong with my knee today...rawr.