Vientiane to the 4000 Islands, the La(o)st of Laos

Hey there again! I guess last time I left off, I was about to leave Vang Vieng to head farther south in Laos, by way of Vientiane, first. The main goal was to do two motorbike loops in central and south Laos, but I’ll get to that later. If you want to go south, especially by common bus routes, you’ll almost certainly end up going through the capital, Vientiane. I had heard pretty dismal stuff about it, but figured I’d give it about a day’s worth of attention, which I think was a good choice. read more

Hoo boy, I’ve fallen behind: Luang Prabang to Vientiane

Welp, despite my promise to do this more frequently, here we are. Two months in and number three. Womp womp.

Let’s see, I guess I left off in Luang Prabang…

The next day was a big one. My two friends and I agreed to get up early to see the sun rise from Mount Phousi, which is a huge hill in the middle of Luang Prabang with a temple on top. I would’ve liked to see sunset there too, but one of my friends had gone the day before and said that it was a shitshow mob of tourists, and that you see more of a see of cellphones than the sun itself. However, get up at 5AM and…you’ll definitely have less company up there. So we did that, and were climbing the hill around 5.50AM or so. We actually passed some people and monks coming back from the giving of the alms ceremony thing they do on the streets in many Laos cities. Getting up that early to do pretty much anything always feels pretty cool. You can be doing something fairly mundane but it’ll feel like a mission because you’re awake when it’s dark, but on the “other side” of the day. But it felt especially cool climbing up these steep stairs through the trees before sunset. Anyway, we finally got there, panting from being out of shape travelers, and it was already getting light enough to make out the city. There were only maybe…2 or 3? other people already there, which was cool. We all sat in mostly silence, happily watching it get lighter, and occasionally whispering to each other. However, soon enough, a fairly large group of tourists came up talking pretty loudly and even shouting to each other. A girl, one of the ones who had been up there before us, noticeably winced and then moved away to a different area with a worse view, to get away from them. I…kind of don’t get it. I get if they want to talk to their friends, but they can still do that quietly, right? Anyway, enough kvetching. read more

A little catchup: the slow boat and beginning of Luang Prabang

Let’s see, where did my rambling last leave off…

Ahh, in Pai. Well. Let me actually finish up there. Pai is a cool place, but towards the end I had pretty much exhausted what you can do there and seen all the dreadlocks and elephant pants I needed to. There were a couple smaller things I hadn’t seen yet, but I was at the “diminishing returns” part of my stay there so it seemed like I should push on from there. To do that, there are a few options. Pai itself doesn’t have an airport (I think..? Maybe the jungle swallowed it or something..?), so if you want to make a big jump, you could go back to Chiang Mai and then fly pretty much anywhere. Otherwise, you can go by land. There are a few ways to go, but a common one is heading to Laos. read more

11.13.2017: First couple weeks in SEA

Hoooooo boy.

When I left, I pictured having enough time and energy that I would be writing little blog posts every two days or so. To be honest, I still have the time; I could definitely set aside 20 minutes every couple days and blast something out, but my laptop is usually locked away which adds another hurdle to getting myself to do anything.

So! Lemme try and run through things pretty quickly. The day I left, my mom (hi mom, my lone reader!) really helpfully drove me to the train station at some ungodly hour like 5AM, where I got the MTA train to GCT. From there I had to get a bus (the “Airporter”) to JFK. Despite being “from New York”, just going like, 2 blocks over from GCT to the bus stop somehow confused me and made me realize how little I know NYC at this point. read more

Off we go!

As I’ve alluded to in a few previous posts, I’m about to travel. On Wednesday morning, I’ll get a plane, via a layover in Doha, to Bangkok.

I plan to blog about it a bit here, but I don’t want to turn this into a travel blog because, to be honest, I usually kind of loathe them. Don’t get me wrong, if it’s a personal thing (like a diary/journal/etc), or one that’s basically just for friends/family, that’s totally cool in my book. However, I get the feeling that with a lot of them, it’s someone who’s having great experiences and really, really wants you to be excited for them too. But…at the end of the day traveling is basically a thing that only the person doing it is experiencing, so it’s kind of lame to expect others to be as into it as they are. People trying to make it as actual travel bloggers for a living are often kind of the worst. I mean, I’m not gonna lie: on some level it’s definitely envy I have for them, and if they can pull it off, well, good for them I guess. But it does feel very self indulgent of them, and the market (of people wanting to essentially get paid to travel and write about it) is obviously so saturated that it seems like they often get a sleazy/annoying vibe. read more

A month of vegetarianism, afterthoughts

I’ll keep this one (relatively) short because I have lots to do and said most of the stuff in the first vegetarian post, when we just started.

Welp, we finished our month. We ended it with a massive meatfeast, eating (IIRC) about five different animals, so we pretty much undid any good we did for the world. Oops.

Anyway. The month wasn’t too hard at all. I didn’t “miss” meat at all, though I’ll say that my mouth may have watered a bit more than usual when I’d bike past Wings Over Providence on the way to my friend’s house. By far the hardest part was going to a restaurant, as I talked about before, where there would be just very few satisfying vegetarian options. read more

The Providence Phoenix’s “Nifty Fifty”

The Providence Phoenix was a Providence alternative newspaper that’s now defunct. It was in what I’d call the “alternative lite” category, definitely having some stuff you wouldn’t see in a more “official” newspaper like the Providence Journal, but also non-offensive enough to be in most businesses around town. To be honest, I think it was a pretty good representation of Providence as a whole.

I wouldn’t say I ever intentionally really read it, but on more than a few occasions I would be waiting somewhere or getting a quick slice of pizza alone (shoutout to Fellini’s for keeping my arteries clogged), and just pick up a copy (it was free) to see what was going on around town. read more

Manual ACKing with the nRF24L01

This one will be very basic to most people who have done this, but it would have been helpful to me when I started with this stuff, so I’m putting it here.

First, a little background:

In the past couple months I’ve been messing around with the nRF24L01 (just gonna call them nRF’s from now on) radio frequency (RF) modules. Arduino hobbyists love them because they’re cheap (it seems like their competitor in this arena were Zigbee chips, which people seem to say are good but very expensive) and relatively versatile and powerful. They operate in the 2.4GHz frequency range and can actually get a pretty hefty amount of range! My roommate and I did a “range test” where I took one nRF that was just spraying out a constant stream of data, and he took another nRF with an LCD attached that displayed the received data. We went to a nearby park, and literally couldn’t get far enough away from each other to make the data stop being collected, which was about 1000′ according to Google Maps. They’re a lot of fun and really open up some project possibilities, which I’ll put here as I do them. read more

“Safe” podcasts aren’t what people want

In the past year or two, I’ve begun listening to a lot of podcasts. I don’t know if it’s sustainable, but currently for my job I often have to do lots of tedious work that would otherwise be mind numbing (like sample fabrication, experiment setup, etc), but is perfect for listening to podcasts. I also go to the gym regularly, and walk or bike around everywhere, all more time to listen to them. In addition, I usually increase their speed: usually about 1.5x if it’s something I need to think about a little, and 2x if the speaker has a lethargic pace (cough, Sam Harris, cough) or spends a lot of time saying dopey stuff (cough, Joe Rogan, cough, gee, I must be getting sick). So my point is that I go through a lot of them. read more

Servo controller box

servobox

Woowee, this is a long one.

This is actually something I did for my job. Here’s the deal: I have this electrochemical bath that has a sample in it; one electrode is a piece of graphite, the other electrode is the sample itself. Don’t worry about what the bath does for now, but it’s important that the longer the sample is in the bath, the more the effect of the bath is on the sample. It’s pretty much linear with time.

Now, I often want to see the effect of different lengths of time in the bath, with all other variables staying the same. The way I’ve done this in the past was to paint nail polish over parts of the sample (nail polish protects the covered part of the sample from the effect of the bath), put it in the bath for some amount of time, then take it out, either remove that nail polish, or add more, and put the sample back in for more time, etc. So basically you can have different length times on the same piece, which is useful for consistency and visually looks good. read more