7/9/18

Well, it’s a Monday again, and thankfully a cooler one. Last week the temperature stayed above 90 with high humidity the entire time. Of course, this was also the one week there was a bunch of stuff we were scheduled to do outside. I ended up with pretty nasty heat stress and exhaustion, so I wasn’t able to do really anything after work but lie down. I had planned to go up to Niagara for pirate’s weekend, but by the time the weekend rolled around I knew I didn’t have the energy for it yet. The heat also impacted my experiment, as last week was the first time I adjusted to the timer, turning it up to 15 seconds on and 6 minutes off. I’ve thrown another recovery day in for them at 3 minutes off, but tomorrow will up it to 9 minutes off. No new info on the large chamber, it’s still stuck outside. Abby and I constructed a few tents with a  sprayer system and heat mats for some new cuttings, and we’ll prepping those today.

There’s a very nice pier by the lake I’ve been going to when it’s too hot to stay home. Lots of other people show up too, and so It’s my favorite spot to head for a few hours when the weekend makes the apartment feel miserable. Besides that, I’ll also occasionally camp out in McDonald’s for the AC. I’ve also been boating twice recently! On the fourth of July to see some fireworks, and then after work as an outing for our division. It’s a sailboat belonging to my boss, Dr. Fazio, and I’ve managed to pick up a fact or two about sailing so I can be helpful when we use the jib.

Beyond that nothing else is really happening. The succulents are doing fantastic and we have a new critter come around for food: a pretty brave pigeon. It’s funny to watch it waddle out of the way of bikers and golf carts without a care in the world. I’m having to stop buying chicken as it keeps going bad very quickly, even in the fridge or freezer. After a few instances of food poisoning, I may just make the jump to beef. There’s always pork, but frankly, there’s almost nothing fresh out here, and I haven’t seen a single packet of chops that doesn’t look like buying it would mean a battle to the death to see who gets to eat who. I’m going to update my lab manual then get to helping Abby now.

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6/27/18

I’m currently sitting dripping wet in the office, as today I got to bike in heavy rain. I managed to stay mostly dry, but unfortunately, my pants got the brunt of it.

Last week I helped Abby prepare new media for planting. What that entails is basically following a recipe for plant jello. Water, nutrients, and a gelling substance are the most important ingredients. After mixing and heating it, we poured it into tubes and used an autoclave to heat and sterilize them. A few hours later they would set and be ready for planting. Yesterday we went and collected the plants to be used. Abby calls this step “Initiation”, and honestly, it’s easy to see why. To collect samples, we clipped off healthy, budding branches and stripped them of all leaves, putting them in marked plastic bags. The outsides of the bags were coated in Lysol and filled with dish soap and water to clean. After washing out the soap, the twigs were scrubbed with Lysol and a toothbrush, before being cut into smaller pieces and mixed for 10 minutes in bleach and soap. Finally, they were soaked in the sterile water we had run through the autoclave, before being carefully placed in media. I believe Abby that they’ll be fine and grow, but the process was so brutal it’s hard to imagine them eventually flourishing. Assuming the rain hasn’t made me too dirty to enter the lab, I’ll be helping with setting the plants in media today.

Last week I was working on my experiment when disaster struck. I decided to move my plants to a quieter, less crowded greenhouse. With permission from Abby to use her’s, I got my co-worker Jake to help me roll it through the aisles. It made it to the first intersection before the stand collapsed entirely. Jake managed to keep it from crushing the plants  (and his leg), but one was thrown clear and the stand was kindling. We managed to get it up on a wheelbarrow and into a temporary spot in the greenhouse, but it was at a severe tilt and pretty precarious. 2 plants died, and one is sick from the stress. I only have a few weeks left to run my procedure so this could be a huge problem. I’ve been running damage control, and we’ve replaced the dead saplings as well as thrown together a new stand (thanks again, Jake!). Everything has been rebuilt with a camera mount installed, so I should be able to start in the next day or so. In the meantime, I need to update my lab journal and start taking records and measurements, as well as figuring out how to work the camera and what parameters I’ll be working with.

In other news, we’ve also hit a major snag in the construction of the large aeroponics chamber. It turns out the container empty weighs nearly a ton, so we can’t budge it with forklifts. Jake has commisioned a local construction company to rig us some sort of cart so we can wheel it, but until all the parts come in the whole operation has been grinding to a halt. We have all of the internal valves and systems set up and checked, so all there’s left to do is actually install everything. With that being said, it seems like everyone here is running out of things to do left and right. I know 3 other interns who have completed everything they were assigned with about a month still to go. While it’s nice to know we’ve been helpful, the workday is quickly shifting into the game “how I can seem to be busy”. Luckily for me, Abby always has something to do, so I don’t have to worry about making the time creep by through sweeping and cleaning rooms that are already pristine.

This weekend Jake’s family invited Sarah and me to their cabin that’s only 30 minutes from Niagara Falls. At the last second, Sarah decided not to go, but I decided to go on anyway. Their cabin was cute and nestled by Lake Ontario. Upon getting there, I helped them with a bit of repair and some landscaping. They’re cleaning up a cliff face down to the water, and after removing bristle bushes and saplings seeded it and covered it in burlap to prevent erosion. My job was to basically grapple/slide down the cliff and staple the burlap into the soil.  With that done, there was a large enough break in the rainy and cold weather to go see the Falls. It was a beautiful area, and the water rushing by at nearly 30 mph was a bit unsettling. We walked around and I got some nice pictures, as well as a few souvenirs for back home. When I got back to Geneva, I must have gained a pound or two from the amount of food over the weekend, but I still worked myself up a nice dinner after splurging on some steak at the store.

Lately, I’ve been putting out seed for the birds and critters around our apartment. We’ve gotten quite a collection of visitors every day, but last night I learned my lesson about leaving it out after dark when a skunk loitered outside my window for a few hours. Sarah also learned how much I love succulents, and picked up a gorgeous hanging basket at the store. I doubt I’ll be able to bring it home, but it’s so nice I might have to try anyway. We’ve been working on a 500 piece puzzle after work, and have it getting pretty close to completion. Beyond that though, I honestly just love to lay down after work. The other night I was asleep by 8 and slept for almost 11 hours. Between the biking and occasional hard days outside, I’m getting pretty fit, but also am usually pretty drained. In the next few weeks Jake, Sarah, and another friend of mine called Cameron plan on scheduling a trip to Watkins Glen for a hike, and both Cameron and I still want to try and make it down to the city at some point. Last week our group went and saw The Incredibles 2, and we usually meet up for scary movies on the weekends.

With everything summed up, I’m off to work in the lab sticking more plants in media, and hopefully getting some more work in on my camera setup. I just hope the rain will stop before I have to ride home.

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6/18/18

Well, I’m out and about and behind on my writing yet again. This time I’m a little closer to home at Hobart and Williams college in Geneva, New York! I’ve been here for about 3 weeks, so there’s a lot to sum up, but I’ll give it my best shot.

So, having successfully traveled halfway around the world on my own, I figured across the country would be a piece of cake. However, I proved to be a bit too cocky and waited at the wrong terminal, missing my last flight in Detroit to Ithica. I was scrambling to find a flight to at least get me into the correct state without having to wait 20 hours for the next one. I was pleading with customer service in the terminal when suddenly the desk agents for a different flight shouted for me to come over. Apparently, the flight was to a place called Binghamton about an hour south of Ithica, and there was an empty seat. They told me they had 8 minutes to transfer my ticket, but they thought I could make it. With two people working the computer while I gave my information and desperately tried to work out how I could get to Ithica upon landing, I barely managed to slide into my seat before departure. The flight was stressful, but I decided that if I could get an Uber or taxi, I wouldn’t need a hotel room. When we landed I had no baggage to collect since my one duffle bag was in Ithica, but I managed to find an uber who was willing to pick me up and was on the road in half an hour. It was about 60 miles through dark and winding roads, but the driver was polite and I was so worn out from the stress and travel it passed quickly. He dropped me off at the Ithica airport, where some very nice agents who were closing for the night helped me get my bag, and my boss and his wife, the Fazios, picked me up to take me the rest of the way.

My first few days working with Cornell Agritech at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station were slow since I first had to learn what I would be working with as well as some of the site’s history and current projects. What that means is I basically had a giant binder of info to read. It was pretty straightforward, but I needed to learn a whole new set of jargon since I’ve never worked with trees before. After that, I worked out all my information and toured around to see what my projects would be. I was assigned 3 tasks; To perform my own experiment in drought testing aeroponic trees, to assemble a much larger aeroponics tank with another intern, and to assist Abby in the lab. For those who are unfamiliar, aeroponics is an alternative to soil farming, much like aquaponics and hydroponics. The difference is that instead of being grown with the roots suspended in water, roots hang free and unanchored while being regularly misted to keep wet.

Since that first week its been a whirlwind of being bounced around to anywhere I can help. I have my experiment set up and am now just waiting for my trees to grow a bit before starting the procedure. The internal pipes for the large system have been assembled, and now we’re waiting for shipments of supplies to come in. Out of all the projects I’ve learned the most working with Abby. She’s in charge of micropropagation, which involves taking tiny buds off of desirable trees, and growing them into independent plants. There’s a lot of steps to it, and lots of them are very precise and time-consuming as the buds are extremely delicate. The buds are first sorted and carefully placed in sterile plates of specialized agar, which are sealed and left to incubate. After to cuttings have begun to develop and grow, they’re removed, sorted again, and carefully placed in soil containers to be sealed and kept carefully temperature, light, and moisture controlled. Eventually, they can be transported to larger containers and shifted to a general greenhouse, where they stay until they’re able to survive outside in the heat. There’s a lot of work to do for this, including careful sterilization of equipment, transporting plants and materials, filling pots with soil, watering and fertilizing, record keeping, sorting the buds, and of course planting them. One thing is for certain, work keeps me busy.

But outside of work, I have found that I really enjoy New York. The heat and humidity can be a pain, but after Taiwan, I can handle it easily enough. The buildings are old and usually beautiful brick Victorians. The people have all been kind and the lake and town offer lots of things to do. I’ve rented a bike this summer that I use to travel over 3 miles of hilly streets to and from work, but I also sometimes go to the store or downtown to look around. My apartment is extremely nice. Built for 4 housemates, each with a single room, it’s just me and a girl from BYU, Sarah, who have 2 bathrooms, a living room, a kitchen, 4 rooms, and a porch all set up over two stories to ourselves. It’s settled right next to Odell’s pond, which is a gorgeous little body of water overrun with wildlife. Already I’ve seen whitetails, gophers, squirrels, chipmunks, frogs, songbirds, herons, and have heard lots of creatures I don’t recognize. I have met a few neighbors, one who has pitbull puppies with a standing invite to play with them whenever. I even got to bike down to the lake and attend Pride fest, which was busy with people and vendors and a ton of fun.

Well, with that lengthy summary out of the way, I’ll probably be better able to keep up. My internet is on the fritz at home, but hopefully, they’ll have it fixed by the weekend.

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8/14/17

I remember thinking that the way time flowed on my flights to Taiwan was strange, but that was nothing compared to this. I woke up at 4 am Monday morning, departed, and arrived in Tokyo nearly 5 hours later, where I spent over 5 hours on a layover. From there, I had a flight that was almost 9 hours to Vancouver, and am now sitting here in front of a fountain on Monday morning.

Technically, this blog has pretty much ended, since my trip has. But, I guess I’m desperate enough for something to do without many options because I’m pretty glad to be able to write while I wait for my plane. I still have one more stop in L.A. before I make it home to SLC. Honestly, though, I already feel more at home here in Canada than I have for the past two months. I still don’t speak French, but the behaviors and foods are more familar than Taiwan or Tokyo, and English is finally common again.

Airports are like time machines, and not just because of the time zones. I’ve been sitting and people watching for a few hours now, and it’s incredible what you can see people wearing to travel. From formal suits to matching pajama sets, high heels to Heelys, there’s everything. It’s almost noon here, but people are eating breakfast, dessert, and dinner at any time of the day. I actually really like it. It’s interesting, and there’s a lot of stories all in one place. Thousands of people all moving to and from for their own reasons, some of them incredible. Most people look grumpy, but there are kids that are clearly thrilled to be here, tourists taking photos of everything, and huge families rushing to make their connections. I should pack up and move around a bit, but it’s getting increasingly strange to think that this has ended

8/14/17

Well, my time is up. I’m typing this from an airport in Tokyo, on my way home. This last week has been so hectic I’m afraid I’m behind in writing, but since I have about 5 hours on this layover, I figured I could catch up easily enough.

Last weekend, I went for a three day trip with a few coworkers to southeast Taiwan. We toured the beaches and then went to the mountains to see the daylily blossoms. The way down went pretty well, with everyone not driving dozing off to keep from getting carsick. We stopped at 4 separate beaches, taking pictures at each one. The day was hot, but there was a very nice ocean breeze that helped keep it from being unbearable. That night, we drove up 60 rock mountain. We checked into a hostel at the top of the mountain and took a tour of the mountain top in the dark. We found out that the blooming of the daylilies had been delayed for about 11 days, but there were still a few here and there blooming. The next morning we slept in a bit, before walking all over the mountainside. It was a beautiful view of the valley, with lots of butterflies and dragonflies everywhere. Later, we made it to another nearby mountain top, where we got to see a hot air balloon festival. By late afternoon, we had descended and made it to our stop for the night. The last day, we attempted to go up another mountain, but the trails and roads were so narrow, we didn’t dare try to make it farther than about halfway. After that, I had to take some motion sickness pills and dozed the entire way back to worldveg.

On Tuesday we packed up and went to some of the south central mountains to see different hydropic set ups that were growing tomatoes and peppers. The scale was impressive and how they managed to protect them from the huge amounts of insects that live in the mountains. Even though they spoke pretty much exclusively in Mandarin, I still had a great time touring the facilities.

I gave a practice run of my seminar a week before I was due to present it. Dr. Hansen sat in and gave me some tips, which was incredibly helpful. Hank helped my set up some of the slides, but then he took leave to Egypt. I was really nervous about presenting, but I was ready by Friday. I think it went very well, and am glad that I was able to get help before I presented. I talked about my background and told everyone about Mackay and Idaho and my old greenhouse experience. From there I touched briefly on how I helped in the experiment and finished with what I thought of Taiwan and my time there. When I had finished, they presented me with a certificate confirming my time there, and I spent the rest of the day returning my bike and signing out.

This weekend, I spent as much time as possible with the other interns. Anytime we weren’t out exploring or eating, I was cleaning up and packing. We went to Tainan on Friday night to be a part of Taiwan’s nightlife one last time and went to the night market on Sunday to get my favorite street foods and try a few more. Saturday we all just sat around and ate ice cream and listened to music. I said goodbye to most of them on Sunday, but when I woke up at 4:00 am this morning to leave at 5:00, I found Tony waiting to see me off. I’m going to miss them very much. When we said goodbye, we joked that the next time I was in Taiwan, or they came to America, we would have to see each other, but I think most of us knew we would probably never see each other again.

I managed to scrape through security in half an hour, which was good because I arrived just in time to board. I slept for the entirety of the 3-hour 45-minute flight, and straight through breakfast. Once I found my next gate here at the Tokyo airport, I grabbed some food and coffee in an attempt to wake up. I still have quite some time before my flight leaves, so I’m sitting in an empty boarding area, listening to an audiobook, typing up my last entry, and itching dozens of midge bites all over my legs. My next flight will be nearly 9 hours long to Vancouver. From there, I’ll be going to L.A. before finally getting to Salt Lake City.

8/2/17

Well, my time here is starting to come down to the wire, so I’ve been making some plans for the last few weeks. This weekend I’m going out for a few days to Hualien Daylily with a group of coworkers, and I’m still trying to make plans to go swimming.

Monday, work was canceled because of Typhoon Haitang. I was only expecting one, Typhoon Nesat, but it mostly only hit the East side, and all we got from it was a bit of rain. Apparently, its unusual for two typhoons to hit back to back like that. The campus is a little torn up from it all. There are tons of broken tree branches, lots of them larger than me, and all kinds of debris that got knocked around by the wind and rain. It’s been raining almost nonstop since then. It didn’t seem like such a bad storm as it was happening, and I’ve been told it was pretty small for a typhoon. It’s looking unlikely that I’ll see a big storm or an earthquake while I’m here, which honestly I kind of wanted to experience. We’ve been having a bit of trouble with the phones and wifi since a lightning storm earlier last week knocked them out. My phone and computer will randomly get kicked off or redirected, and some peoples’ work phones have had some trouble making connections.

Hank and I have been working on a choice whitefly experiment, which is a little different than what we usually do. Instead of releasing specific amounts of whiteflies into cages on the leaves, we just exposed the plants to a bunch of them in a tent. Then, instead of examining specific leaves, we had to check the entire plant under a microscope for eggs. I wouldn’t mind that much, but we worked in the Entomology Lab, and their microscope has always given me trouble. It refuses to focus correctly and the light randomly falls off, so you have to stop and fix it every few seconds. There was some pretty positive data from the test though, so it was worth it.

Work is slowing down for everyone, especially now that the rain has really started. Usually, in the afternoons we get together with the other interns in each others’ offices and hang out. Yesterday, those of us who weren’t from Taiwan used Google Maps to show what our homes and colleges looked like. We also attended another presentation by a high school student from Puerto Rico. I enjoyed it, but it also reminded me that my presentation is coming up, and I’m pretty nervous. 20590864_1599553906735317_1038852453_o.jpg

 

7/26/17

Today, the Malaysian students who have been here for 6 months gave their seminars. Since Monday marked me at three weeks left, I’m working on my own presentation. Since I’m only here for 2 months, my presentation only needs to be around 10-20 minutes, so I’m currently gathering pictures to put in it.

We went to check to see how the plants I grafted are doing today. Unsurprisingly, most, maybe more than half, died. A few made it through, and one looks great. Last week I helped remove acylsugars from tomato leaves. Acylsugars are chemicals produced by plants to kill or repel pests. We mixed leaf samples with alcohol, then took samples of the solution to test which, if any, acylsugars are present. We also attended a seed storage seminar yesterday, which was interesting as it talked about the various effective ways of drying seeds.

This weekend, we took the train South to tour. We visited a bookshop, saw the ocean, had dinner at a Korean restaurant, and wandered around a few shops. By the time we got on the train back, it was pretty late. I bought two books at the store, and discussed a few words in a classic with another intern called “Chuck”.

There’s not much else to write about. I’m still running, now sometimes with a group of other interns. Last week we had around 10. Funnily enough, the fastest is a smaller boy who goes by the name “Rabbit”. I think the name suits him very well. I’m back to feeling a bit under the weather, but it’s not too bad, and I think it will clear up in a few days. Honestly, I’m amazed at how healthy I’ve managed to stay so far.

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