Friday, April 30, 2010

What a week!

This week has just been crazy....I thought that once I passed my dissertation defense, that I would feel a little less stressed, and definitely less rushed, but that has not proven to be true. This week has been a whirlwind of activity.

Monday: 9 am--Pick up rental vehicles. 1 pm--First team meeting. Spent the better part of the afternoon getting the Sprint internet cards functioning in all 6 vehicles. Intermittently--tried to correct some of the figures in my dissertation.

Tuesday: 9 am--Team member Ian Giammanco's (my boyfriend) dissertation defense. 1 pm--team meeting to do a CPR refresher and discuss the experimental plans for this year's project. Intermittently--tried to correct some of the figures in my dissertation.

Wednesday: 9 am--hooked up truck & trailer for media event. 10 am--Brian Hirth, Jerry Guynes, Chris Weiss and I gave interviews and demonstrations for members of the local media.,, 12 pm & on--random prep tasks, plus more dissertation figure correcting. 6 pm--arrive at home, start some laundry, start packing.

Thursday: 9 am--hook up the trucks and trailers to pull outside for mass test. 10 am--StickNet mass test. 11 am--luggage staging. We have to fit 18 people's 7-week luggage into 7 rubbermaid tubs in the back of our trucks. Pretty tough. Looked OK for now, but people's bags are bound to be fatter come Saturday. Hopefully we can manage until our University of Michigan partners join us in a few days. 12 pm--packed up truck toolboxes and spare parts. 2 pm--tried to get the GPS in my truck to function. 4 pm--communications tests for all 6 vehicles, testing radio communications, internet, and SASSI capabilities. My truck receives a big, fat fail! Still couldn't get GPS to interface with SASSI. Thought we had a major issue with our Sprint internet, but turns out the other 5 trucks were hogging all the bandwidth. A simple jog down the runway cleared up that problem. But still, no GPS. 6 pm--trip to RadioShack to return USB/serial converter that did NOT solve my GPS problems. 6:30 pm--trip to Best Buy to try to get my serial port fixed. They basically laughed and said buy a new laptop. They did give another suggestion....PCMCIA/serial adaptor. 7 pm--call with Chris to determine the next day's plan of meeting at RadioShack to try to find said PCMCIA/serial adaptor. Intermittently--more dissertation figures.

Friday: 8:30 am--Chris calls to cancel our RadioShack trip, turns out we already have some of the desired parts. 9 am--Target shopping trip to get some books for the trip, and to get cards/gifts for Mother's Day. 10 am--arrive at Reese and start some more dissertation figures. 11 am--sit with Brian in my truck & his truck, still trying to troubleshoot GPS issues. After many hours, I gave up. He is much better at these kinds of issues, and me sitting there staring at him working did neither of us any good. He ended up giving up several hours after I did, and we're ordering some new GPS units. 12 pm--pack up drills. 12:30 pm--back to dissertation figures. I finally finished making figures for each of my 144 statistical models. 2 pm--straighten up desk. The 40th anniversary of the Wind Science & Engineering Research Center is taking place while we are on the road, so wanted to leave things tidy. 3 pm--pick up my dogs and head home, then head out to post office to mail Mother's Day items (never know when you'll have a chance to go to the post office on the road!). 4 pm--start laundry, mow backyard, sweep floors. Rounding off this evening by watering the lawn, and typing this blog.

All-in-all a productive week, but still, seems like I spent more time walking between my office, the lab, and the hanger than I did actually working. Although I'm excited to get started, my feelings would certainly NOT be hurt if we managed to have tomorrow off. Did I mention that I'm selling my house? Making sure its clean every night and every morning before I leave for work is tiring too.

Monday, April 26, 2010

I go to store (For 45 days)

A big hello to both of our followers and anyone else who is reading this blog! I'm Pat Skinner, a first-year PhD student in Wind Science and Engineering at Texas Tech and I'll be blogging about our two Ka-band mobile radars over the coming weeks. However, to start things off, I thought I'd talk about some of the more practical preparations members of V2 need to make before hitting the road.

Aside from the technical preparations of getting the communications equipment in order and performing mass tests/mock deployments of the StickNet and Ka-band radars, each member has to deal with how to essentially put their life on hold for a month and a half while they are in the field. The problems range from the mundane (who's going to pick up my mail/pay my rent?) to the much, much more difficult (saying goodbye to children/spouses/significant others). Though it's mainly an excuse to post a picture of my dog, I'll try to detail a couple of specific problems below:

One of the great advantages of the TTU team is that we're able to deploy a tremendous amount of assets (24 StickNet probes and two mobile radars) using only six vehicles. While this setup is fantastic for keeping the gas costs of driving 11000+ miles down, it doesn't leave much room for the possesions of the 18 team members. Luckily, we have some help from two vehicles from the University of Michigan that serve primarily as radar scouts, but just as importantly (for our well-being at least) as porters for our luggage. Still, each member has to cram everything they'll need on the 45 day trip into luggage that would pass the carry-on requirements for airlines. After about a week on the road this results in a mad rush for available hotel washing mashines and spare quarters becoming a precious commodity.

Secondly, since we can't bring a few mascots along with us, we have to find someone to take care of our pets. That's why I spent last weekend driving up to Denver to drop my dog (and VORTEX2-2009 good luck charm) L.C. (pictured on the right) off at my parent's place. Fortunately she seems to be getting along great with my parents new dog Stringer Belle (on the left), so no last minute doggy-day-care reservations are necessary. I'm told that she spent her first day without her beloved owner going on a 3-mile walk and chasing squirrels in the backyard. I guess dogs express their grief in different ways.

That's all I've got for now, I look forward to interacting with everyone over the course of the project. In the meantime, I'll be scrounging quarters from around the house.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Why do I do what I do?

To kick off the VORTEX 2 season, I thought I'd start with some stories about why I'm interested in weather, and tornadoes in particular. I am Tanya Brown, a PhD candidate in Wind Science and Engineering at Texas Tech, and I just successfully defended my dissertation yesterday (so after 10 years in college, I will finally hang em up in August)! I have a B.S. in Atmospheric Science and a M.S. in Water Resources Science both from the University of Kansas. But my interest in weather began far before my first year of college.

When I was a young child, I lived in Kansas and Oklahoma until I was 9 years old. Living there, you either grow up terrified or fascinated by severe weather. I was on the fascinated side. I can remember many times being woken up in the middle of the night by my mom, and driving to a nearby church, friend's house, or Grandma's, where we could find safety in the basement. But I don't ever remember being really scared. I thought storms were beautiful and powerful.

My interest really kicked into gear when I was about 10 or 11. My dad called one evening in May to tell my sister and I that his house in northern Oklahoma had been destroyed by a tornado, and that he had escaped by driving the 2 mile drive to my grandma's to seek shelter in her storm cellar shortly before the storm hit. These were the kinds of things that happened to other people, not my family. At the time, we were living in Hawaii, as my stepdad had recently been assigned to an Army post there. So this didn't even affect my daily life, yet it is the moment that I consider to have permanently set me on my course, even though I didn't know it at the time.

It was in Hawaii that I got my first taste of another kind of threatening weather....hurricanes. We lived on the island when Hurricane Iniki made landfall in 1992. As fate would have it, we left Hawaii in 1995 to move to North Carolina, which was pounded by hurricanes multiple times in the late 90's. Again, I never remember there being a fear, but more a respect and fascination.

It was in high school that I really decided my career course. A lot of my friends knew they wanted to be doctors or lawyers or teachers or join the military. I wasn't so sure, but it was a high school boyfriend that suggested looking into studying meteorology. And that was it.....I never for a second considered doing anything else. I spent four years at KU learning about and teaching students about the weather. When my four years were up, I knew I wasn't done learning, and I definitely wasn't ready to stop teaching lab classes, so I applied for and was admitted to the Water Resources graduate program through the School of Engineering. The majority of my studies focused on flooding hazards, but I got a real taste of some of the true civil engineering courses. And I realized that it was possible to not only study weather, but to study how to keep people safer from destructive storms.

This realization brought me to Texas Tech in 2006. I was admitted to the PhD program, and I knew from the beginning that I wanted to study wind damage. I wanted to understand not only the events, but how they damaged structures, so that one day we could make them even safer, and so people like my dad wouldn't lose their homes, and would have more time to get to safety. I've spent the past 4 years working towards this goal. I've completed several ground damage surveys, and have used aerial and satellite photos to assess windstorm damage as well. This year marks the 4th year that I've participated in Tech's severe storm field research programs. And it all feeds back to the idea of making people safer from severe weather, by giving better forecasts and warnings and building better structures.

I believe in fate. And for me, it all started with a tornado in Burbank, OK in the early 90's......