Look at who can FOCUS ON ONE TOPIC!!!!!!!

Hahaha just kidding. I’ll break this down.

This is basically a ‘ahhh… surviving WORK’ post and a ‘I spent too much time on the internet yesterday!’ post in one. But also a Life List Club and ROW 80 -related post. I was going to have links here to each different part of this post but am having trouble with the HTML… =/ Feel free to skip or skim!

Work + Concentration

Today I had a reaaaaalllly hard time concentrating at work. This is my eleventh and last week of my internship, in which I’ve organized this Metro bus wash monitoring project – largely independently, doing research and visiting sites on my own without too much orientation (except for one very helpful mentor who knows all about controllers!). Sometimes I had reports or a presentation to do, oftentimes I was on the phone asking salespeople for specifications or quotes, and at one point I was even doing water testing – in our three-foot square temporary kitchen in the office… =)

However this week I just have two deliverables – a last project report with instructions on how the project should be continued when I’m gone, and a Powerpoint presentation with that same information. I was planning to have that report done by today… but I. could. not. focus. It was really strange. I usually work with my headphones on, my email accounts open, and maybe before 9 or around lunch check out a fun site for a few minutes or chat (we have an hour for ‘lunch’ and we can adjust our hours… well, by ‘we’ I mean ‘I’ as I’m now the only intern in the office, with just two project managers…). But I have goals for the day in mind, write them down, break them down, and get them done. Each day.

Maybe the ‘finishing up’ part is the hard part for me. If I was going to continue to be involved in the project, I think I would be getting this out-of-the-way faster so that I could… DO STUFF! Like PROGRAM! INSTALL THINGS! Find INTERESTING data and ANALYZE IT! But this isn’t really a ‘final report’ as much as a ‘progress report,’ but it’s my own ‘final report’ – I guess I find it hard to finish something that doesn’t seem finished to me. Even though what would count as ‘finished’ (or at least result-worthy) to me will need even more weeks of time and installation – weeks after I leave. And if I finished that report today, and that presentation Tuesday, what would I do for the rest of the week? (Edit them. Add to them. Discuss them with my supervisor and mentor. Duhhh. Tell that to my subconscious or whoever calls the shots around here.)

Finishing things has ALWAYS been difficult for me, though. I kind of wonder why. Whether it’s taking a social research project past the research level, planning an environmental club at MIT, designing posters for the UA Sustainability Committee at MIT, getting exercise groups at my living group organized – I’ve entered each with enthusiasm and found my feet stuck in cement when it came to pulling them through. If there’s a ‘Just FINISH IT Group’ in the blogger-sphere… take me THERE.

Well, I am finishing my report TOMORROW (Tuesday – leaving early to FINALLY get my visa to China as well!), and the presentation by Wednesday/Thursday. Despite my short time here, it will feel AMAZING when I am finished with my part of the project!

Internet + Goals (update!) This weekend I somehow had too much time on my hands, and wandered all around the internet. Around blogs, in particular. This is how I discovered the “Life List Club” and “ROW 80” – two groups that encourage people to make goals and give support in the forms of posts and comments. And that’s why I went a little crazy yesterday and started my own “Life List Club” page and “ROW 80” page (the latter is a writing challenge). And I don’t regret it one single bit. That statement will probably have more weight when I say it on say September 22nd (the end of ROW 80) or July 31st, 2012 (the end of the first 12 months of my “Life List” – and my first set of goals). I encourage everyone to check out both clubs – Life List Club and ROW 80 – and try them out!

I thought I’d just give an update for my first day for both, not that I’ll be updating these lists daily:

Life List Club – I’m planning to add ‘drink 8 glasses of water a day’ and ‘sleep 8 hours a day.’ I think in junior (or senior?) year in one class, when my English (or government?) teacher asked what the most valuable lesson we had learned over the summer was, one girl said “Drink water. Trust me. It is SO important. It CHANGES YOUR LIFE.” Did I listen? Of course not. But I remembered. Water has helped me soooooo much here – every day is better with enough water.

And the same goes for sleep. When I was trying out rugby last spring at school, even though I wasn’t quite in shape, with ten hours of sleep I had enough energy to be involved for my whole B-side game (and awkwardly block the forwards while I was at it because I was a n00b and didn’t know where to go… ANYWAY…)

Got to work half an hour late (one of my goals is to be on time) – we technically do not have strict hours so it did not realllly matter – the reason was that I packed my food and left it and had to buy food on the way >.< New goal: ‘REMEMBER YO STUFF?’

ROW 80 – I planned for 500 words a day and have 287 from yesterday. Plus (not including) this snippet I wrote while trying to get started:

Hello world…

Today be the first day this girl woman specimen thing here err-writes for this here err-challenge-err when she’ll be writing 500 words a day. 500 words a day folks? That right there is almost as frightenin’ as that ol’ Jack Sparrow thinger come to life agi’n man. But she insists she c’ do it, ’tis only a paaai~ge (or two paiges double spaced methinks laddie?). So what can I tell ya. Notin’ I can do ‘ere ‘cept sit ‘n watch ‘n wince ‘n chew me tabacco or bark cause they’re cheap ’round these isles an’… “SHUT UP I’M ACTUALLY DOING THIS!!!”

So anyway… I got work done, but I still need to get in the habit of creating SCENES. And writing all the back-story. Without just barfing out exposition. How does 723 words tonight sound? Possible? Feasible? Maybe not really… since I have an oovoo call with friends, and am getting out of work early tomorrow, I’ll do some tonight and catch up tomorrow. WooHOO!

(Just started using this wordpress spell-check thing and it doesn’t like me much at all, especially my talking to myself and my WooHOO’s, oops…)

All right, end of updates! MUSIC TIMEEEEEEE

End of Hiatus! Penitentiary + Energy Conference + China!

Hello! After practically two weeks of inactivity (would have been 10 days but my computer fan broke and Apple kept my computer for FOUR DAYS) I am BACK!!!!!!!

I’m not really sure how to catch up on everything that’s been happening since I last wrote. It’s week 8 out of 11 or 12 in DC.

I’m going to keep it simple because simple posts are fun, and also I started watching this drama called City Hunter like 15 minutes ago… and it looks REALLY good so far… (yes, I did my running today, I’m making a rule of no dramas before exercise… like right now…)

(If these pictures are all different sizes… blame the uploading and “server maintenance!” You had two weeks to do that, wordpress!)

I’ll start off with some snapshots of what’s been happening.

First off…

I’m going to this place…

For an ‘energy trip’, from August 17 to 27th, with other students from MIT and elsewhere. We’ll visit an offshore wind farm, a coal mine, an electric vehicle charging station, the Terracotta Army (there’s some Chinese culture involved), take classes at Xi’an University…

Expect a CHINA feature on this blog, at that time! We’ll see if there’s time to do daily posts about ENERGY! And FOOD! (And err… the rest of China!) And just a shoutout – if anyone has advice on perfecting Chinese vowels in a month, let me know. Maybe I’ll just karaoke Jay Chou songs and be fine since no one Chinese understands what he says anyway. (Like at MIT! Good times!)

All right, more on that later on, now for other news…

July 4th – went to the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. It was a jail meant to ‘reform’ prisoners by keeping them in solo cells… for two years. So they could meditate on their sins. Did it work? Well… (what do you think?)

Here’s a typical cell (inmates stayed in it for 23 hours and got an hour to ‘exercise’ in a field (through the door) the same size about as their cell…:


Al Capone was kept here. Look at his cell!

There was also a prisoner that DUG his way out, and several prisoners escaped through the tunnel… (but they were all found pretty soon)

Oh and I learned that what I’m learning at work is RELEVANT in the real world… controllers, anyone? If they can control a bus wash, they can control Death Row too, right? (By the time death row was added, the “penitentiary” had abandoned all pretenses of being one.)

Today, July 13 – Went to the Department of Energy Quadrennial Conference, a series of workshops talking about their energy portfolio!

Most of the morning consisted of ‘we’re trying to make this public and transparent’ and ‘the number one goal here is to fund innovations’ and ‘we need an analysis of where technologies are at or will probably be in 5, 10 years’. There was less of that analysis. But there was a lot of ‘support for innovation!’ As well as talk about the general political barriers/slowness, questions as to how much the DOE can actually do with a shrinking budget, if it’s going to become the next NSF for Energy, etc.

One thing they mentioned was infrastructure – while other countries have ‘made their choice’ as to what infrastructure they want to support (like China, European countries…) we haven’t. Fuel cells, biofuels, electricity… one panelist said ‘we don’t want to pick a winner and have losers’ – which makes sense in an overall portfolio for an immature renewable energy group of technologies, perhaps… but the rest of the panelists said, ‘Hey, we’ve GOT to make some tough decisions here.’ My question is, when will those decisions be made?

Another thing I liked was that panelists said that carbon reduction was a top priority, not just national security or JUST efficiency or lower prices in the short-term or whatnot but CARBON… yes!!!

There are a few videos of the whole conference here!

At work – did a short presentation on my bus wash project, and think it went well!

Running – bought new, lighter shoes, tried to run on the balls of my feet and actually did, for 7 miles on Saturday at 6 on Sunday… (and maybe 4 today… went more ‘natural’ on the last .5 to keep up with my group) But the weekend was awesome because I got to run under this:

That’s my two week update! Now I’m off to figure out how to run Apache, MySQL, and Drupal for REAL, and and and but first watch CITY HUNTER!

Day 31 in DC

Whoa it’s been a month???

Anyway this’ll be a short post, as I got out of work at 6:30 and have had an average of 5 hours of sleep per night and realized that sleep, yes, is a crucial thing. Lack of sleep => more disjointed/rambly blog posts => steps that lead to burnout in all things => the end of the WORLD (there is a slight possibility that that last one is an exaggeration)

So why was I at work from 8 AM to 6:30 PM?


With this thing!

Continue reading

Day 28 in DC (or a story that kind of begins with banana bread)

Instead of paying $200-300 total for pool use, master’s registration, etc. etc. that you’d need to do this triathlon club in DC (and not realizing that until they had sent us more information – but I hadn’t paid anything yet! So there!), I thought I’d join this free running club Lululemon has. With free pastries from ‘Baked and Wired’, one of the most highly rated bakeries of its kind in the Georgetown area. I was ready to run 6 miles and get some chocolate chip banana bread =)

Continue reading

Day 24 in DC

Got to go to a bus garage at 10, learn a bit more about controllers and ladder logic and whatnot… and see a REAL BUS WASH!!!!!!

I’d post my video but it looks like I need an upgrade for that, I’ll find a way later, sorry! The cues in the following paragraph are for the video once I put it in…

One of the brushes wasn’t on the whole time it was supposed to be on (turned off after :11, and the wheel wash parts (around :50 – those grey things on the bottom) didn’t turn on. So I was like, “Is it safe to walk over here?” and my other supervisor that you couldn’t really hear was like “Um, there should be water spraying all over in that area but I guess there’s not, so why not.”

In any case, I’ve definitely got work to do this summer!

So after that, I get dropped off right outside the bus garage, at White Flint Station in Montgomery County, Maryland. Northwest of Washington. My office is like on the other end of the map.

It’s 1:30 and breakfast was an apple and half a pita and a Green Plus bar so I’m like FOOOOOOOOODDD

But, like, I’m seriously starving. Usually I have extra Green Plus bars when I can’t prepare stuff. (I edited out a part that sounded too much like unpaid advertising and was annoying to ME, but just want to say they’re my favorite energy bars so far! Yummmmy.)

So I’m out. I don’t have any food with me. And I’ve been hungry since like 12 or a little before then, when I was trying to concentrate but my tummy was putting all its strength into the competition for my attention right then. But I survived until 1:30. Almost ate my cell phone while trying to find places on yelp until I found an organic vegetarian Chinese place on the block across the street! Who knew?

Thing is, fifteen minutes later when I have the takeout in my hand, I can’t eat it because there’s no park to sit at, and they don’t let you eat food in the metro stations. And I’m kind of an employee for the metro so…

Anyway I’m sitting with my organic veggie moo shu in the train, still looking for a stray energy bar every other stop. Get to have that moo shu one paper bag away from being in my stomach for an hour.

2:30 PM – Bus Station! 15 minutes till my bus was going to arrive sooo…


No hand sanitizer? Avoided eating the wrapping parts of the moo shu. And then ate them anyway. Not bad, although the vegetables were bland without the sauce. Suppose that’s what makes it healthy?

3 PM – At the office

*incredulous stare from the guy that’s not quite my “supervisor”, the latter of whom was somewhere far away*

“Why’d you come all the way back here? You could’ve just gone home…”

4:30 PM – Only have two hours of work to make up, rather than 3 and a half! Woot!

Pilates and swimming, pilates and swimming… due to finances and time I might have to choose between the triathlon trainings, which I could probably replicate at my gym and save on travel time, and pilates which is right in Georgetown…

Oh I need to register with Masters Swimming before swimming and crap and… OK, just pilates it is! Classes at 6:30 and 7:45…

6:30 – *gets off of bus at around O street where the computer said the pilates place was*

But where IS it?

*looks up place with phone*

It’s on M street?

6:42 – *at M street*

You’re joking.

7ish – *grabs a veggie wrap and eats half, waiting for later class*

7:35 – “Sorry, our classes are full for today, why don’t I reserve you a space for tomorrow?”

8 – *walking back to the dorm*

But I HAVE to exercise! And the gym closes at 9! And I need FOOD because I NEVER WANT TO STARVE LIKE THAT AGAIN

8:45 – *gets back to dorm with soups and energy bars*

“Hey roommate let’s go running!”

“I’m sorry, I still have work to do…”


9 – *running in the dusk/dark trying to do 6 miles*

Shit… I’ve got to…

Whoa did I become Yoda?

I think this is gonna be like 2 or something cause I’m turning back here.

10 – Did this whole day happen because I ran 5 hilly miles and then didn’t really fuel or hydrate myself well afterwards?


But hey I spent like almost FOUR HOURS wandering around for the SAKE OF EXERCISE and got some done OKAY

I actually went running in the evening (even though my parents are going to kill me if they read this) because I wanted to make sure I had something to blog about =)

The reflecting pool I ran past to the east of the Lincoln Memorial Circle was BEAUTIFUL! Out of this world. I would have taken pictures if I’d had my camera/phone. Definitely checking it out again =)

Yayyy resolutions!

Video of the day: best Scotch Mist song!

Day 23 and Some Insanity

Today I went to a partnering meeting at work, which is when the company working on a project (WMATA) and its contractors/other involved parties (the engineers that carry out the construction, power, etc.) meet and talk about any issues with the project, communication, etc. and brainstorm solutions. We broke out into tables at one point during the three hour meeting to talk about different parts of the project. I was at the SCADA table because I had some questions about it in regards to my own bus wash project. And then one person from each table presented their own concerns about each part of the project, and possible solutions and action items.

So I go up from my table to post the large paper I had taken our notes on SCADA on onto the wall, turned back to see who would present from our table… and they were all looking at ME. The facilitator said, “I’m gonna put you on the spot! Now you get to know how it feels to be an intern!”

So… tried to sidesweep the awkwardness and read the points. Started out awkwardly still because since everyone was from a different team, not everyone knew what SCADA was. So I had to describe it. “System… systematic… synchronized control and data acquisition…”

Well after that it went by much less awkwardly. When we broke for lunch, people said “Great job,” and “Your forte is public speaking.” Take THAT naysayers that say I’m the worst public speaker in…! ANYWAY…

Someone asked me about whether I wanted to stay with WMATA or not in the long term. I said “I don’t know at this point… I’m exploring to see what I want to do and what works and doesn’t work for me.” Or something like that.

And one guy asked “Would you rather work in the government or in the private sector?”

And I said, “I don’t know. If I had some kind of influential position in the government, like a powerful advisor position, I’d consider it.

“But even though environmental engineers are typically known for doing water quality-type work, I’m interested in climate models, and I’d like to have a place in the process from research that gets you the numbers you put in those models to the policy-making that uses those models to choose an optimal solution. Whether it’s making the models, making the policy, or both. It would be cool to do a startup that provides those services, but I may have to gain more experience first – I’m not sure at this point.”

WHOA look Marcela has CAREER GOALS!!!!!!!!

And by climate models, I mean sources of emissions/emissions cuts and capture, which new technologies would have the least impact on the environment or, conversely, do the most to address our current issues.

Anyone want to do a startup with me? Accepting all takers!

(Seriously, even if nothing happens now, networking is AWESOME!!!)

Oh and I also wanted to start an environmental club last fall, mainly for discussion about philosophy and the environment and current issues, but also as a resource and community for members to do community service events, go on outdoor trips, etc. And now I want to try that again. Started a club out of nothing in high school junior year – why not in my MIT junior year?

The absolute MINIMUM I want to do (which would be a prerequisite for getting this club out of the ground, if it happens) is to make a fun, interactive, interesting site about the environment for MIT students. Maybe for people in the Cambridge area too – local events?

With like GAMES and cool GRAPHICS and ANIMATION and… (hold it right there Marcela)

OK so I want to make a website this summer, and then possibly a club. And then possibly a startup.

And take classes in other majors, and do D-Lab, and do a sport/continue working out 6 days a week


Wow I was going to write about the rest of my DAY IN DC.

One sentence: after the meeting at work and some more work left to do running with the Triathlon group (Team Z) I joined and took a cue sheet thinking that we were going to do four miles but it was actually five and everyone but the guy ahead of me decided to cut their run to like 3 something miles but it was still fun and I came home and found this 5 star “Fuel Pilates” place on Yelp and now on top of two workouts a day I want to take Pilates at least twice a week starting tomorrow.

Hello, my name is Marcela and I have no sense of reality and don’t care.


Day 22 in DC

Bought some magazines to read on the treadmill!

Including this one. Talk about multi-tasking.

I was going to go to the swim equipment clinic, but was sleepy and it was kinda far (like an hour away?). So I just read the notes from former clinics online. And bought a swimsuit. The smaller size, like the “clinics” advised. And goggles. (And forgot a cap…)

Then I was GOING to go to the actual swim clinic, where they have some kind of orientation about how to be safe in the water and lanes, but I had read the notes for those online (lane on the far right is slowest and far left is fastest, dah dee dah) and it was late when I got to the bus stop. (Had gotten too involved in reading some programming books… oops)

So I decided to go to a clinic later (they offer multiple ones since there are at least 200+ active Z members or so) and came back to the gym at GWU. Did 35 minutes of treadmill trying to read about Navigation and HTML5 and whether it would be a “Flash-killer” or not (couldn’t read the smaller print that was the ARTICLE), and “15 Ways to Make Great Sites for Less,” climbed an indoor climbing wall (which is actually a TREADWALL that rotates as you use it, you can adjust the angle and speed – so cool!) and then abs for a combined 15ish minutes, and then 10 minutes of elliptical while trying to see whether the kid in Law and Order that was like 16 and said he was a pedophile, turning himself in so he wouldn’t do anything bad, was lying or traumatized by someone else, and what would happen to this coach that showed the kid sexual stuff and gave him that idea on Law and Order, and then the kid was KILLED, perhaps by one of his PARENTS, and I left at 8:45 but I left kind of confused and unsatisfied. Maybe they’ll arrest the coach that seemed to imprint his ideas on the kid, but, y’know, wouldn’t it be nice to see them at least try to treat the kid like a human and get him help or counseling, and not just make the police hate him and his parents disown him, when the police admitted that he was a victim too? Or at least say that you could look at the problem in two ways? I was just very confused.

ANYWAY last week I mentioned a couple of post topics that would be coming up. One of them (World-Building!) requires that I finish reading this really small book about myths, but it’s more of an analysis of trends of myths over our history than awesome stories, so I’m 3/4 through but bored out of my mind. I’ll finish it book tomorrow. (Hint hint preview for that post… coming someday somehow)

Tomorrow: 6AM – is BOOTCAMP at Washington and Lee High School! 20 minutes away (…would I get to work on time if I went?) Honestly, I did not get enough sleep every day last week (nice would be 8 hours, but I’d sleep at 12:30-1 and wake up at 4 or 5 and try to sleep again) so I may or may not go, but if not I’ll make it up.

Next time I’ll just have to sleep earlier. And get in a routine to fit all this in so that I do make practices – or do bootcamp exercises at my gym if it’s impossible. Reality check, idealist. Definitely going to swim practice tomorrow evening though! Half-ironman, here I come!!!! (….what?)

Video of the just-after-midnight! (Just discovered this, like, right now!)

The Rest of The Bookstore (Day 21)

Well, today I went to the Politics and Prose bookstore that I had mentioned in the last post, and it was pretty amazing! There were TONS of staff recommendations that all looked awesome, including a book about a woman who lived with chimpanzees to join her researcher husband and what she learned through the experience. I also read the first few chapters of Ann Lamott’s “Bird by Bird,” which is a great book for anyone who gets writer’s block =) I’m sure later chapters will be good for down-to-earth story-telling advice as well.

Just reading Lamott’s sentences – “reading like a writer,” like Francine Prose advises us to do in a book of that name (which needs to be reread and reread to get the most out of it) – you can see how the author successfully keeps us interested. She split up her sentences so they are short and go by fast (hint hint, Marcela!). She likens each point she’s making (writing is a struggle, even for seasoned writers) and each piece of advice (get words on paper by getting in the mindset of filling “the next short assignment”) to a vignette, a life-filled description, both or either taken from her own life experiences with her family or as a writer or teacher. Her introduction is a semi-autobiography on its own. Basically, I love the way she ties her own story in to her book of advice.

The book reading was a little hard for me to sit through – unfortunately the author Ann McLaughlin had had throat damage from polio I think so she had difficulty speaking, and I had not read the book she was talking about yet. But all in all I think it’s worth the 45 minute journey there and hour and a half journey with a detour to Whole Foods (and then a decision to never go back there because Trader Joes is just >>> than it) back.

Been studying CSS on, but I should really start XML and Javascript – just some more reading/brushing up to do. Tomorrow I will go to a swim equipment clinic for the triathlon group I joined to decide what swimsuit to get, and swim in the evening! =D

That’s all for today (yesterday).

(Alt) Music!

New Bookstore!

I was trying to decide which bookstore to bury myself and be a hermit in I should go to around here, as there must be more than Barnes and Noble around DC… and I came across this one called “Politics and Prose”!

One great thing about their bookstore is that they have tons of author events – three left to go this weekend, so maybe I’ll catch one tonight about “A Trial in the Summer” by Ann McLaughlin (name sounds familiar… maybe?) – a girl who was going to go to law school but wants to be a photographer instead… and then somehow romance is involved? I’ll read as much of it as I can before 6 PM, when the event is.

The store even has event recordings and podcasts of author events!

And, well, they simply have an awesome website.

I like it when you find new bookstores that you can sit down in, that feel like places where people actually come for knowledge and that the first books you see walking in are relevant books that you’ve always wanted to read or that immediately look compelling, about current events or how things work or whatnot. And author events and a cafe are pluses. Strands in New York was great for finding books I wanted to buy and buy them at amazing prices, but I could never sit down and spend a day there. So having all of them at once…


I’ll share my impressions later! (I’m assuming they have wifi, but if not… late later! =D)