Trip To Cleveland

Cornell’s Fall Break occur(red) yesterday and today, and I chose to take a trip over to Cleveland to visit those of my friends still there as well as some of my former professors. I left early on Saturday and had a pretty nice, quiet six hour drive. The roads across most of New York were empty, and between patches of dense fog, I got great views of the leaves changing in the Alleghanies. I really wish someone else had been in the car with me–there would have been pictures then. Traffic got iffy once I reached the eastern side of Cleveland, but, thankfully, I made it to Megan and Tim‘s place without any serious problems.

We grilled steaks and burgers Saturday night and ate them outside well after dark, which was rather entertaining. Chris joined us in time for coconut rum and Cokes and Firefly. And, being silly, silly people, Megan, Tim, and I were still up talking around 2:30 that morning.

Sunday was fairly quiet; I tried to stay out of their collective hair so that they could get some work done. Mark came up from southern Ohio–I’ve seen him twice in as many weekends, so, obviously, I’m getting spoiled. We crashed the biorobotics lab to chat with Brian and Rich for a few hours. Brian’s got quals in January, so he’s riled up about that. I told him that I’ve got them in May, so I feel his pain.

Megan, Mark, and I had a late dinner at the Turkish restaurant. I was amused when the host recognized me when I came in. I had my favorite, lamb saute and Turkish apple tea, and it was very welcome. Well worth the drive, ha.

Monday was an absolute whirlwind. I got to campus around 8:30 (the same time, unfortunately, as the ABET accreditors) and was pretty much busy visiting people from that point onward. While Mark and I were grabbing breakfast in Nord, one of the deans saw me and said ‘hi’ in a manner that suggested that she didn’t remember that I’d graduated. Mark seemed to find this unsurprising in my case.

My first swing through the EMAE department gave me a chance to chat with Prof. Alexander and to find that Jorge Cham is visiting Case later this month (can you say jealousy?). Unfortunately, ABET were closeted with Dr. White, so Mark and I wandered off to Allen Memorial to see Mano Singham for a bit. I popped into Guilford long enough to say hello to Dr. Ittner and to find that Brad was missing, the rascal. Back on the main quad, I got a whole crowd of professors in the Glennan hallway. Dr. Greber informed me that the ABET aerospace accreditor was very impressed with my class’s aerospace design projects. Ironically, not fifteen minutes later, Prahl came over to inform me that another accreditor had apparently asked him where the design was in that “moth pheromone thing” amongst the senior project reports. He knew that was my report and started in on the guy about it apparently. I guess instead of taking the direction of how I designed experimental procedures or software, he told the guy, “She’s one of our best students! She’s doing her PhD at Cornell now!” Ohdearlord. Also, while Prahl was recounting this again later, he said that my report was “very well-written”, so that’s good, I suppose.

One of the big reasons that I decided to go to Cleveland over Fall Break was because Dr. White, my advisor, is leaving at the end of the semester. So I spent about a hour chatting with him–he declared when I came to his office that he knew that it was “inevitable” that I was going to stick my head in the door, so he was waiting for me. The poor man has obviously walked around the corner too many times and found me sitting outside his door. I found it kind of funny that, as I was on my way out the door, he said, “Talk to you later” just like he always did when I was a student. Except this time, ‘later’ will probably be a couple of years down the line at a conference. Sadness.

I hit the biorobotics lab, looking for Mark, and instead got into a conversation with Andy and Alex, a couple of the grad students there. Case is gearing up for the DARPA Urban Challenge since they just got a vehicle, and certain persons (who shall remain unnamed) tried to get me to funnel them information about Cornell’s car, especially since DARPA announced last week that Cornell is one of about a dozen teams to get a $1 million grant for the Challenge. Oh my poor, torn loyalties!

After finding Mark, we went to the SAGES cafe for lunch before I stuck my head into Peter Whiting’s office to say ‘hi’. Sounds like SAGES is doing very well, which makes me happy. I think it’s only going to improve from this point forward.

I stopped by Prahl’s office next and was quite amused when his first question was not about how graduate school was going but about how well my car handled the drive. There’s an engineering prof for you. He got onto the subject of ABET again when Dr. Davy stuck his head in, and Prahl suggested that the accreditors interview me since I happened to be in that day. Luckily for me, they weren’t in the room to take Prahl up on the offer.

Mark and I swung by Dr. Ritzmann’s office in biology next, ostensibly to tell him that he was right about me loving Cornell. Then we hiked one more time up to the eighth floor so that I could see Quinn in more than just passing. We ran into Christian while up there, too, which was excellent. He got onto the topic of graduate school applications (which both he and Mark need to be working on right now) and mentioned that Cornell is one of his target schools, so I made it clear that he was expected to come visit. He took us down to Bingham to visit Dexter, Case’s DARPA UC robot, and told us quite a bit more about the team. From the sound of things, quite a few of the graduate level classes in EECS and EMAE this year are being aimed toward work on the Urban Challenge. It sounds like Case has a strong group to work on it; the real problem is a lack of funds 🙁

We got back to Megan and Tim’s only to find that a water main had burst, so there was no clean water. Mark and I skipped out to Heinen’s to pick up a couple items (yummy bread, yay!) while Megan made taco soup for supper. ‘Twas very good. After dinner, we called up Kate, Chris, and Christian and met them at La Gelateria, because Mark and I simply couldn’t leave town with some gelato. I’m happy to say that the coconut and cinnamon gelatos are as excellent as ever. The real highlight of the day, though, was the conversation. We must have sat there for an hour-and-a-half or more talking about everything from Monty Python to jobs to ECIV 310. To sit around with friends I haven’t seen in months (and may never have together like that again) and share that dynamic was just fantastic. Also, Kate made me cry with laughter, and everyone needs a bit more of that in their lives.

The drive back to Ithaca was a bit more stressful, I think, partially because I was leaving Cleveland during the morning rush hour, but I made it alright. I had to stop for food this time–or more exactly, for the Coke I got with my food–because I was having trouble staying alert. Clearly I missed my morning tea this time.

All in all, I’m extremely happy that I went to Cleveland over break. It seemed a bit silly to go back less than six months after graduation, but, on the other hand, the longer I stay away, the fewer people I’ll know there. And the thing that surprised me about the visit is that, once the people are gone, there will be little familiarity or comfort left in visiting. Sure, I may get to have some of the food I can’t get in Ithaca, but University Circle doesn’t feel like home anymore. Walking across campus felt familiar, but it definitely didn’t feel like I belonged there the way I did a year ago. I hadn’t realized how much Ithaca and Cornell have become home to me. I didn’t really want to leave Case not that long ago, but, looking back on it now, I wouldn’t change a thing.

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