Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hello from Houston

This is my son Chris' latest update to his grandparents... he'll be home May 6th for 20 days!

Hello from Houston. I just wanted to update you on what's going on in my life.
I have finished with my classes and am currently working through my finals. I have finished two and have two left to go. I am excited that the year is coming to an end but also sad because it means I only have two left. I have really enjoyed my classes this semester and am sad to be finishing a few of them. Next year will be a very academically tricky year as junior year is a notoriously difficult year for physics majors. I am trying to finish my finals by this Thursday in time to celebrate my birthday with my friends (on Friday). They are taking me to a Houston Astros baseball game I think, but they being sparing on the details as they are trying to maintain a semblance of surprise.
I have made a good group of three friends--my roommate, his girlfriend, and her roommate--and that has made this year very enjoyable. I will tell you one interesting thing the four of us did together. In the South, there is a very popular fast food restaurant called Chick-Fil-A. I don't know if you have ever heard of it, but they are an interesting company. They aren't open on Sundays and have lots of weird promotional activities. One of them is that, whenever a Chick-Fil-A opens anywhere, there is a large party called "The First 100." The first 100 people to camp in the parking lot the day before the restaurant opens are rewarded with 52 free chicken sandwich combos. The four of us drove an hour from Houston and slept on sleeping bags on the concrete (most other people slept in tents but we were tentless). We arrived around noon the day before; the opening was 6 in the morning the next day. 100 people had shown up by around 2 in the afternoon.
While there, people bring lots of board games, guitars, frisbees, etc. It is largely college kids because responsible people can't really spend a whole day in a parking lot for some free chicken sandwich meals.
Chick-Fil-A hires a bunch of marketing people to provide entertainment, such as games for the 100 people to play (musical chairs, karaoke, etc.) and a DJ. They also feed us lunch, dinner, and breakfast. In the end, we got the 52 meals. I am planning to eat quite a lot of chicken over the summer.
Which brings me to my summer. For one thing, I am really looking forward to coming home and seeing "sweetest Oregon", as I usually refer to it while I am in Houston. I miss my parents and my sisters and Evergreens and Portland music stations and Sunset Presbyterian. But once that is over, I will be flying back to Houston and working with a group of three faculty members and three other students on a math research project. It should be a very good experience and should tell me some things about my future, but I am mostly nervous about the whole thing because I will be working on a topic that I am not really an expert in.
Actually, I don't really know it at all.
Another highlight is that Patrick, my current roommate and good friend is also staying in Houston over the summer (he is working with an economics professor) and we will be rooming with each other. After that, I may fly back to Oregon or I may drive with Patrick to Atlanta, his hometown.
Another interesting part of this semester happened only two days ago. Rice is currently undergoing massive construction (seven new
buildings: the new president is very construction-oriented). The first building finished is right in the center of campus and is a very modern-looking "student center", i.e. a coffee house type of thing. It is a pretty building--all glass walls with tons of natural lighting. The day before it opened, the building was unveiled to the donors by the president and some other high-up people. They wanted a jazz band of professionals to be hired to play schmoozing music as the donors talked to each other about how great they all were.
In a panic on the part of the band leader, I ended up being the guitar player for this band of professionals. It was a very humbling experience. 2 of the 3 had studied jazz in college and all three played all throughout Houston many nights a week. As we were waiting to play, they were all sharing their stories of whom they had played with. They were very "jazz"-type people: they ended every sentence with "man" and things like that. In the end it went ok, although it was clear that I held the band back a bit. But I am thankful for the experience which has encouraged me to practice harder.
As a final story that I think is funny: my physics professor was talking about the energy crisis because energy is a topic that comes up a lot in physics. He mentioned the term and then said, "You know, here in Houston, when people mention 'the energy crisis', they are talking about the 80's when gas was plentiful and cheap." The joke is that nearly everyone in Houston works in geophysics or oil, so the energy crisis is having too much oil.
Ok that's pretty much all that is going on with me. I would love to hear from you guys and will try calling soon.


Melinda said...

I am so glad Chris will be home for awhile! I imagine a bit of belated birthday celebrating is in the plans!

Marta said...

Well written article.