Thursday, May 6, 2010

every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end...

Our time in Santa Fe came to a close on Sunday May 2nd at 8AM when we boarded the shuttle that would take us to the Albuquerque Airport. The shuttle took about an hour and a half or maybe two hours to get to ABQ because it stopped at several places in Santa Fe to pick up other travelers. This marked the end of our IQP, which had begun about 15 weeks prior to stepping onto that shuttle.

The people we met, the places we saw, and the things we did while in Santa Fe will forever have an influence on our lives in the future; they have shaped us into the people we are today in a way that an on campus IQP could never have done for us. After arriving fresh off the plane in ABQ on March 13th, we learned new things and matured into more well-rounded individuals.

Of course we had some ups and downs along the way... like getting robbed, missing buses, visiting the ABQ Zoo... but without those challenges and fun excursions we would not have been forced to change and mature.

I wish everyone we left behind in Santa Fe the best of luck in all of your future endeavors.  "Live Long and Prosper"

I will now leave you with some lyrics from Semisonic's 'Closing Time' song:
"Closing time - time for you to go out, go out into the world.
Closing time - turn the lights up over every boy and every girl.
Closing time - one last call for alcohol, so finish your whiskey or beer.
Closing time - you don't have to go home but you can't stay here.

I know who I want to take me home.
I know who I want to take me home.
I know who I want to take me home.
Take me home...

Closing time - time for you to go back to the places you will be from.
Closing time - this room won't be open 'til your brothers or you sisters come.
So gather up your jackets, and move it to the exits - I hope you have found a friend.
Closing time - every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.

Yeah, I know who I want to take me home.
I know who I want to take me home.
I know who I want to take me home.
Take me home...

Closing time - time for you to go back to the places you will be from...

I know who I want to take me home.
I know who I want to take me home.
I know who I want to take me home.
Take me home...

Closing time - every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end... "

Farewell Santa Fe, I will return in the future.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The 24 Hours of ABQ: A Photo Journal

“All suffering has one thing in common. It ends.” This is what I thought on Wednesday April 28, 2010. The end of our project was finally in sight, after the team had burnt the midnight oil for three days in a row. I believe Andrew slept less than 5 hours over three days, a feat that I could not match even with the aid of Excedrin. It was on that Wednesday that we realized that the presentation was going to be what it was going to be. Even if it wasn’t perfect, we still had a viable presentation scattered across the WPI mail server courtesy of Andrew. I was going to get some sleep that night.

Moments after my mind engendered that truism from The Zen of Motorcycle Maintenance, I made a shocking discovery: I mistakenly booked my flight for Monday May 3, 2010, one day after all the others were leaving and one day after the rental contract on our house expired. For the next three hours, sleep did not come. Out of a humanistic need for consolation, I told Andrew of my tragedy over AIM, but I tried to suppress the feeling in my gut. I stayed up trying to rationalize the self-incurred suffering. “Am I going to be angry about it? No, it wouldn’t help to be angry at myself. What’s one more day out of 50? Only 2% more suffering, right?” It was then that I made the decision to leave on the same shuttle as some of the guys leaving on Sunday, and spend a whole day waiting to check in. I was no stranger to sleeping at an airport. Coincidentally, I wrote about the other time I was stranded at an airport for a ninth grade writing assignment.

The following pictures and words detail the experience of the day I spent at Albuquerque International “Sunport” (pretentious, are we not?).

I arrived at the Sunport at about 10:30 on Sunday May 2, 2010 and bade farewell to Jack, Andrew, Joel, and Steve, all of whom were leaving on the same American Airlines flight. I then went over to the Southwest ticket counter and sat on one of the brown vinyl benches to engage in what I call a series of prolonged blinks. I tried to sleep, but the thought of being robbed haunted me. I attempted to check in my bags at 12:25PM, within the allotted 24 hour check-in window for flights. To my dismay, bag check-in must take place within 4 hours of departure. I was able to print my boarding pass, but I would now be burdened with the two large suitcases like two heavy, clothing-filled extraneous appendages. Until 8:00 AM the next day, I would be dragging these bags to the bathroom every time nature called. Sit-down meals were out of the question. Does suffering really end?

Eventually, I became frustrated enough by my dire situation to go find some food. I went to Hudson News, a chain newsstand that sells magazines, books, and snacks among other goods. There, I bought a copy of Motor Trend and the most caloric snack on the rack, pizza-flavored Combos (1190 calories per bag). What the hell, I might as well get Road and Track while I’m at it. After that, I relegated myself to corner farthest away from the entrance and alternated between reading, eating, and prolonged blinking while listening to music. The following are my sights for the next four hours:

Why is the MP3 player plugged into the mint box, you ask? It’s actually an amplifier housed inconspicuously in a mint box. The purpose of this device is to drive high-impedance headphones without distorting while boosting the bass of the music. It makes stuff louder.

Song of the moment: Metallica – Turn the Page

“Later in the evenin',
as you lie awake in bed
With the echoes of the amplifiers,
ringin' in your head…
Here I am, on the road again…”

Just when I was about to take a picture of the clouds outside for a metaphor, this happened:

Can anything go as planned today?

The three-step routine continued for a while, until I became bored of reading and eating Combos. I decided to look for greener pastures, lugging my suitcases along the way. I settled at one of the benches about 30 feet away that had a wall outlet for my laptop power supply. The next chunk of hours consisted of Family Guy, House, Kino’s Journey, and the Conan O’Brien interview from 60 Minutes. I looked up from my computer and noticed the evening sky and thinning crowds. It was dinner time.

Song of the Moment: Michael Jackson – Who is it?

“And It Doesn't Seem To Matter
And It Doesn't Seem Right
'Cause The Will Has Brought
No Fortune”

The dinner I had was a far cry from the celebratory dining experience just 24 hours before that both project teams and Professor Carerra attended. It was sustenance, at least. After “dinner” I surfed the internet for a while, reading blogs that I forgot about during the project and perusing Facebook. I read the Corvette ZR1 vs. Nissan GT-R vs. Porsche 911 Turbo comparison in Road and Track. I listened to some Disney music that Joel gave me as a gift to combat my boredom at ABQ Sunport.

Song of the Moment: I Won't Say (I'm in Love) [From Hercules]
“If there's a prize for rotten judgement
I guess I've already won that”

Before I knew it, 2:00 AM arrived and the place was empty. An empty airport is a rare sight. It made me feel like I lived in a huge house. It also looked like a scene out of Zombieland or Dead Rising, devoid of people but with evidence of civilization. The intercom still looped with the same message about air travel safety or the one forbidding parking at the terminal entrance, but it was creepy to listen to now. So, I turned up my amplifier to compromise between drowning out the announcements and blowing out my eardrums.

Without people around, I felt that I could be more risky about leaving my stuff unattended. I explored a bit and looked at some art pieces.

The next five hours consisted of writing for the IQP blog and this:

After a somewhat lengthy nap, I woke up to catch the sunrise. The airport sunrise has become a sight for my sore eyes, because it always meant that I would be leaving the airport soon after it.

After catching the sunrise, I finally liberated myself from my luggage and went through the security checkpoint. I grabbed my first real meal since the dinner at Maria’s on Saturday. I asked for sausage on my sandwich and got ham, but it didn't bother me at the time.

Well, that’s it. Four hours after that sandwich and a cherry Italian soda, I was 10,000 feet above Albuquerque. I was tired and lacking in personal hygiene, but I was finally on my way home.

Song of the Moment: Ikimono-gakari – Bluebird

“tsukinuketara mitsukaru to shitte
furikiru hodo aoi aoi ano sora
aoi aoi ano sora
aoi aoi ano sora”

“You know if you can break through, you’ll find what you seek
So break free, and towards that blue, blue sky
Towards that blue, blue sky
Towards that blue, blue sky”

Saturday, May 1, 2010


And the our time in Santa Fe comes to a close. This past week has been the week of no sleep, our group was working almost completely through every night getting very little sleep. The problem was that even after the long time we would spend, the amount of visible difference was tiny. However, the time to give the presentation came and we were ready despite just two practices. Regardless we dressed up in suits and gave our presentation; despite me screwing up one answer and a few perhaps stronger than needed comments we did well. The other group also did very well. With those presentations done, most of our project was completed we just have to finish up the report and our IQP will come to end. We have felt extremely welcomed here and the people are extraordinarily kind to us.  

Friday, April 30, 2010

Santa Fe Bus System & The Walk of Doom

Last Saturday we decided to go to the movie theater to watch "Kick-Ass" the movie. Getting to the movie theater went smoothly, and we had some time to spare when we arrived at the movie theater. We got on the route 2 bus near the train station and took it until the Olive Garden stop near the movie theater. The map below shows where the movie theater (B) is compared to where we live (A). The distance is about 4.5 miles.

The movie started at 5pm, and ended at roughly 7:05pm. We left the theater and at 7:10 we were just leaving the parking lot when I noticed a route 2 bus coming down the road, and knew that we needed to get on that bus. I told Joel and Ho Fong, and they didn't believe I had actually seen the bus, until it was far too close to be able to get to the bus stop in time to board the bus. In any case, we hoped we could make it to the next stop before it left, so we sprinted across 7 lanes of heavy traffic. We ended up getting to about 50 feet behind the bus while it was stopped at the next stop, when it tragically pulled away, leaving us behind.

Upon inspection of the bus schedule at that stop, we found out that the bus that had just pulled away was in fact the last bus of the night (at 7:12pm). How could a city have their last bus running only until 7:12 on the weekend???

In any case, we decided to begin the walk home. As we were walking we saw several buses that said "not in service" on their screen. The walk took forever, and took us through some fairly seedy feeling areas of the city. We got home at about 8:50pm, roughly 90 minutes to 100 minutes from when that bus had pulled away from the bus stop.

For future students:
do not rely on public transportation to get around Santa Fe on the weekends. The weekdays aren't even that good either, I think they end around 9pm.

Cost of the Santa Fe IQP

Airfare: 422
Rent: 1250
Overweight Luggage Fee: 50
Shuttle from ABQ to SF and the Taxi Ride that Followed: 45
Replacement Suit Cases after Southwest Airlines Abused My Old One: 50
Having Three Pairs of Pants Sent to Me After I Found Out that I Only Packed Three Pairs: 20
Food: 500
Household Items (cleaning and sanitation): 50
Train Rides to ABQ with Student Discount: 12
Zoo Entrance: 7
Car Magazines that Allowed Me to Keep My Sanity: 50
Cold Medicine:5
Soar Throat Medicine:5
Excedrin that Allowed Me to Work 40 hours in 3 days: 5
Drinks: 80
Bus Rides: 20
Movies: 40
Getting Robbed: 219
Charitable Donation: -200
Cowboy Hat: 52
Shuttle back to ABQ Airport: 25

Total: 2707

WPI, please use this as the estimated costs for the Santa Fe IQP, even the cowboy hat.

Monday, April 26, 2010

In a world that doesn't, neither does one of the Verizon stores in Santa Fe

One of the advertisement slogans for the new Motorola Droid that Verizon has is "In a world that doesn't, Droid does!" I couldn't agree more, as that phone does more than I thought a phone could, however, one of the Verizon stores in this area does not live up to the standards of the phone they sell. So I got the Droid at the beginning of April at the Verizon wireless store near the Santa Fe Depot. I couldn't speak any more highly of this store if I tried. They were EXTREMELY helpful, however today I discovered my phone was apparently defective. All at once it went from working perfectly to not at all what so ever. I went back where I bought it from, however they told me at that branch they were unable to do exchanges as they were only authorized to do sales at that branch, they gave me the location of the place where I needed to go and I left with no hard feelings. I still claim that that store is fantastic. I then stopped by the other store, just off of Cerillos Rd., where they could make the exchange, this is where I started having problems. I started talking to one of their technicians and he immediately accused me of "abusing my phone" because the screen protector had been scratched by my keys. I calmly explained that if he were to peel it off he would see that the screen had no damage what so ever on it, he stormed off to get his manager saying my warranty was void and that I would need to pay to replace the phone I had just bought 3 weeks ago. When the manager came over, he immediately said that his employee was wrong and that my warranty was fine. The issue was he left me with that employee. The entire time I was there he was extremely condescending and talked to me as if I had no clue what I was talking about when I clearly knew more about how the phone functioned considering the fact that it would not even turn on meant there was clearly a hardware issue with the phone, and he tried restoring it to factory settings. Any time I showed that I knew what I was talking about, I was instantly told I was wrong, and was later shown i was correct. This employee also claimed that he had held his position for 6 years, I very highly doubt that as if that were the case I would not have outsmarted him so easily. The final problem I had here was the fact that after a 40 minuet argument with this man just to get access to my warentee neither he nor his manager could find me a replacement Droid in the entirety of the country! They claimed they called the corporate office and that they said that every single warehouse in the nation has zero available. I don't know if what they said was true or not, but I do know I find it very hard to believe that there is not a single one available anywhere, especially where there are other stores other than the designated Verizon owned stores, such as Best Buy that sell their phones. As far as I'm concerned they should be assuring that they can take care of their customers whom they have sold defective products to before they are selling more phones to other stores. Any way the moral of the story is my experience at the Verizon store by the intersection of Cerillos and Zafarano was less than acceptable.

Over all I love Verizon and the Droid phone, I understand that there are defective products sold occasionally, and I am fine with that. My issue was with the service I received today. I assure you I will avoid that Verizon store as much as possible for the rest of my time here!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What Does it Take to get a Paradigm Shift Around Here?

In the 2006 article, “From Recession to Renewables”, and in my own personal reflections paradigm shifts have always had the common denominator that is social suffering. Buddhism became one of the Chinese schools of thought after centuries of a stratified society encouraged by Confucianism, because in Buddhism societal place is rationalized and the ability to move upward is dictated by karma. In order to abolish the Jim Crow laws in America, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. took place. In “From Recession to Renewables”, a small Austrian town was on the verge of erasure (think Detroit, MI after the fallout experienced by the automotive industry) when a radical new economy was instituted to remodel Gussing, Austria into the world leader in renewable energy.

The industry in Gussing can be described as something alien to a capitalist. It takes a resource that is not the cheapest and not the most fruitful and uses it in an economy that is not centralized. Where is the middleman in all of this? He does not exist. The backbone of Gussing is its district heating system which takes cut-offs from local mills to provide heat for industry and residents. The cheap heat has enticed companies into relocating to Gussing, causing the job market to swell. As a result, 18 million extra Euros stay in Gussing when compared to the days of outsourced energy. In a town of four to five thousand, this makes a difference. Instead of allowing a select few to exercise decadence, the whole town lives comfortably. The extra money in the community has led to improvements such as the only successful biodiesel/heat/power cogeneration plant in the world.

In Santa Fe the electric utility is investor-owned and, as such, its operations are motivated by profit. Wherever profit exists for one party, sacrifice must exist for another. It is stated in the Sustainable Santa Fe plan that the community desires an 18.9% reduction in CO2 emissions by the year 2012. A significant portion of this reduction would be possible if more renewable energy was used in the energy generation mix, but that would require a significant capital investment in solar farms, wind turbines, and biomass boilers, all of which are less profitable than coal. Santa Feans have no control over their energy production, which means that they have no control over the biggest contributor to their CO2 emissions. PNM (the electric utility of Santa Fe) has even stated that it will not meet the state mandate to make 20% of its energy portfolio renewable by 2020. To top it off, PNM has demanded five electric rate increases in the last 27 months.

What lesson can be taken from Gussing and applied in Santa Fe? Any change in societal standards must begin with some kind of social suffering. Do Santa Fean’s have any of that? Certainly. It is the reason that my project team became a victim to a robbery, the reason that I was called a “chink” while walking down West Alameda Street, and the reason that the high-school graduation rate is only 50% in this city. There are people who find life dissatisfactory in Santa Fe. If the energy scheme in the City is to change, it must begin with the people who suffer most. For example, the city could offer low-cost district heating for low-income neighborhoods, or even microgrids in the same fashion. This would create the “green-collar” jobs everyone keeps talking about. In Santa Fe, where the sun shines everyday and the wind blows to the chagrin of pedestrians, renewable energy can become an industry.