Wednesday, August 23, 2017


These aren't the best picture of the total solar eclipse but it is mine.

Totality was out of this world. At 95%, the sky darkens all around the horizon. The sky is dark but shadows are sharp. Contrast is ramped up in your vision. Shadows started being distorted, and the temperature drops. Venus starts to appear in the sky.

Then, the Moon completely swallows the Sun up - and that's when the Sun shows its true brilliance with its corona. Jets of the solar corona shines magnificent in defiance of the Moon stealing his glow. The sky is dark with stars, and where the sun was there is now a hole in the sky! This was a scene that I heard and seen pictures about multiple times, but to experience it firsthand is a totally different encounter. Finally, the Diamond Rings appear, and thunderous applause fill the air while the moon exits the Sun and the sky brightens up again.

I wasn't going to try imaging but changed my mind at the last minute. I have a very rudimentary setup but all that matters is that I saw the total eclipse. My faithful Canon 550D and kit lens was zoomed way up - making the scenery shot impossible as I realized halfway through the eclipse, so I had to make do with some heavily cropped zoom-ins. Not that I'm complaining - Grand Island Nebraska was heavily clouded on the south the whole partial phase, and we got a very lucky break in the clouds during the critical time of totality. It's nothing short of a miracle that we get to see the eclipse at all.

My eyes welled up at the sight of the total solar eclipse, and my heart was crying out loud - here it is! For how many years I've longed for this sight, reading and listening about the experience short of seeing it on my own. The hole in the sky, the alien landscape, Baily's Beads, Diamond Ring, Coronal Jets, it's like a fairytale come to life. In the vast emptiness of the Universe, three bodies formed a line with the correct spacing between one another, and I am heartily treated to the most amazing sight of the Solar System.

The Moon's shadow has left me, and I returned to daily life and its struggles. But the memory of that day still uplifts me and helps me to welcome equally that which delights and that which crushes. In the middle of darkness the Sun reveals its invincible corona, with temperatures of a million degrees and jets that dwarfs any planets or Earthly innovations. I shall persist, for I have now gained a burning determination as strong as the magnificent Sun.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

There's still no way I can sleep before midnight

Despite how I try, even if I wake up super early in the morning, which doesn't happen very often, I still find myself having the biggest trouble going to sleep between the hours of 10pm-2am. If anything my brain is on fireworks, I get real hot and keep tossing and turning on the bed until I give up and head to the kitchen for another glass of water. This is me, it hasn't changed since ten years ago, and not five years ago either.

Speaking of five years ago it would make exactly five years now since I've stepped foot on another continent that was gonna be my home for five years now. The tune of Gangnam Style filled the air, as thousands of freshmen and transfer students started thronging the campus including me and my fellow friends, some who are still here and some who have completed their journey here and moved on to the next step. Five years! That was how long it took to finish high school, and I just spent the same amount of time in this chilly state of Minnesota now. I can still smell the late summer air of the first days I was here; the sounds of new friends, new adventures, new furniture; everything was new and exciting and the future bright and limitless as the dazzling sun shining on the plains. Right now, as I sit here typing late into the night again, it really does seem like nothing much has changed. Knowledge and memories are obtained - but habits stay the same.

The last of the siblings is also finally leaving to start his own journey, his choice being the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Remembering how much excitement it was to start anew in a new place, I wish that my brother would also find this welcoming excitement too!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


I wonder if it's coincidence that the day of the Total Solar Eclipse is almost exactly five years after my arrival in Minnesota. It's like, I have to endure five winters before I am granted a *chance* to witness the spectacle of a lifetime.

Eclipse fever also brings me back to the days of frantically chasing stars and celestial objects. I especially had some interest in the Sun itself, it's subject having the uber-cool long title of magnetohydrodynamics. For several months I hounded on a textbook from the library but never really got past the first chapter. Nevertheless, I still think the topic of observing, researching, modelling the Sun and coming up with new solar theories would be the greatest job ever.

Strolling in the library this evening, I also chanced upon the space exploration books that I just absolutely adored during my undergraduate life. Looking back five years ago I was a young, beaming 20 year old so eager to learn all about space and orbits and all that's​ out of the world. I would have read the books cover to cover despite not understanding a single word probably. But over the years I've​ for better or for worse, have returned to Earth and down to Physics - the reason supposedly being that all this space stuff just involves a lot of controls which is not 'the real science' to me. In fact I would not call myself an engineer really because of my reluctance for controls and optimization - I'm more of a scientist, seeking equations and theories, and sometimes tinkering in the lab.

However, the Sun is out there, and it also has fluids, which is my job and also what I deal with day to day. Choosing between computers and big computers was also a challenge, but eventually I decided that tinkering is more my thing. Just like how I decided that I really don't like accounting back in 2008 despite not having learnt shit about it. But I can't have a rotating reacting ball of plasma in Room 9 Akerman, so I have no choice but to leave it to the big computer guys. Also something I learnt over the years is even your most favorite subject becomes a drag if you have it as a class, or even as your full-time research topic. For now, I am quite fine being secretly in love with MHD and the Sun - without even having used Maxwell's equations for real before.

I think I have finally made peace with myself over school. Sure it sucks right now, but it would suck just as much at any research lab that I could've be in - some advisor horror stories are way worse. And it would suck ten times more if I'm in some jackass industry, five times if I'm working on airplanes. Of course spacex or jpl would be bomb, but to do that I need to get real lucky too. For what's it worth right now and in the future, I work and study in a university, I'm a scientist working on physics, I work in a basement laboratory - isn't this what I have always dreamed of since like forever? Plus I get to stay up late, I can still play the piano and read and write books in my free time, as well as rant into this blog of mine.

Looking at the stars that illuminated my path and guided where I am today, I must say that I am kind of a lucky bastard. I explored and chose my own path mostly, with the help of a few coincidences and helpful people. Speaking of coincidences for the last time, in seven days I'll be at a magical place with the Sun and the Moon lining up upon me, which is the most amazing of coincidences - a syzygy.

Friday, August 4, 2017

A New Beginning

A new home, in an actually quiet part of town away from campus, with more than one room to accommodate a study and a bedroom separate from the living room. 

A swanky new kitchen, with brand new appliances we found to our delight, and enough room to fit a dining table which I've always longed for. 

A new life, centered around nature, neighbors and nourishment; not just a place to sleep and eat, but also to heal, meditate and enjoy. 

I am still a cranky graduate student, but for this moment I am satisfied.