Oh, The Places You’ll Go…

Greetings from Long Beach! After a long night on the Greyhound, I’m at Cal State Long Beach for a few days to help a friend stay sane through her last thesis writing days. Hopefully, my own thesis will progress as well.

If you followed my #bustweets on Twitter, you already know what an adventure the past day has been. I consider myself lucky to have arrived sane and vomit-free. Any complaints aside, I was able to travel via mass transit for cheap (way less than airfare) in a reasonable amount of time. I even  slept for a few hours here and there. So why on Earth don’t more people travel by bus?

This wasn’t my first rodeo. Ok, so it’s my second. Last summer, I took those first teetering steps onto a Greyhound to attend a Surprise Birthday Party in Dallas, TX. Another smooth trip, with some characters along the way. I had planned to attempt to travel the West  this summer with the Greyhound Discovery Pass, but unfortunately there is some distance between National Park entrance gates and the nearest bus stations. An adventure for another time, perhaps.

Have you ever traveled between cities by bus?

My mother is a self-proclaimed expert in the fields of ‘Worrying’, ‘Things That Can Go Wrong’ and ‘Worst Case Disaster Scenarios’, so if anyone has insight into this quandary, it would be her.
Her telling text message advice before my departure:

“Don’t talk to strangers, wash your hands, and put a towel down on the seat!!!”

She hits some pretty pertinent points.

  • Bus safety is questionable. These people didn’t go through rigorous scanning, frisking, and searching.
  • Sanitation is not a high priority on buses.
  • Always travel with a towel.

But how do buses compare to planes and cars in terms of speed, price, safety, and environmental impact?

I turned to the Internet for some quick answers. (Sidenote: always question what you read on the Internet, including here!)

Speed: Plane
For all but the shortest trips, planes are the obvious choice. There is no way that I am capable of driving by myself for 12 hours, so bus takes 2nd, leaving car in 3rd
I bought my round trip tickets a week before departure. No airline could dream of matching the price and gas for a single passenger car would also add up quickly.
Safety: Plane
Buses follow closely after. If one bus can carry 100 people, it would take at LEAST 25 cars to carry the same load. That’s 24 more opportunities to get into accidents.
Environmental Impact: Bus
Lot of passengers and less fuel needed compared with air travel.


As a grad student exploring new energy sources, I place importance on price and environmental impact. For me, taking the 17 hour bus ride is a no-brainer. I can spend riding time reading, sleeping, or people-watching. I can bring my own snacks and drinks. I can confirm that at the very least, the Phoenix station has goldfish crackers. Also, when I’m lucky the buses have free WiFi, another advantage over most airports.

Safety and time would be useful to consider for families and business travelers. The young mother with three little girls (including The Vomiter) was mostly likely grateful that she didn’t have to drive and handle her crew.  But once the eldest can entertain and watch over her sisters, then perhaps traveling by car will once more be practical.

Travel is always going to be give and take with time, money, safety and comfort, but when the destination is worthy you will find a way. Luckily, I don’t have to depend on funding from the government, international cooperation, and years of innovation to visit my friend. If we as a global community truly want to explore and visit Mars, we’ll find a way. We may have to pick and choose our priorities, and exhibit endless patience, but the destination is a reward like no other.

Question of The Day:
What is your favorite form of travel?
What is your limit for time spent traveling by bus?
What are your favorite travel snacks?


A Challenge for Creative Minds

Scientific research is very rewarding. You are on a quest for that little bit of knowledge that has, to date, evaded others. Your hard work and investigations could potentially lead to advancements in your field. Notoriety. Articles in Science AND Nature! Fame. Nobel Peace Prize!

Even so, there is only so long that you can count algae cells under a microscope before needing a break.

Crew-members of the Hi-SEAS study need to be prepared to provide their own fun and frivolity during their time spent in the habitat. Space and resource limitations could put a damper on options, but once more we’ll just have to accept the challenge and get creative!

Here are just a few of my favorite games:

Liars Dice
A great bonding game that requires only dice and a piece of paper. Since this was a pirate game, it’s not surprising that the objective is to out sneak, lie, and trick the other players to be the last one standing. Each player starts with 5 dice and a cup, after an initial roll, they takes turns ‘bidding’ on the number of a certain die value that exists in all hands. (e.g. “I believe there are six 2’s”) The next player can either change the bid (“I believe there are seven 2’s/I believe there are six [other value]”) or CHALLENGE. Then all dice are uncovered and the true liar is revealed. The game becomes trickier when “1’s” are considered wild. More rules and explanations can be found here.

Paper Rock Scissors
Perhaps the greatest of all games. Ever. You never know when a challenger may approach. I am a firm believe in the skill involved in PRS. Play often enough with an opponent and you start to pick up on some of their tricks and patterns. Watch out though, I can play with my left OR right hand! I challenge you! Best 2 outta 3, 2 outta 3, one-two-three-SHOOT!

Photo Booth Music Videos
Perhaps one of the sillier of my creative fun and frivolity suggestions, Photo Booth Music Videos may also be one of the more hilarious things you will ever do. All you need is an Apple computer or iPad with Photo Booth and danceable music. I recommend turning on the mirror effect. Then put your dance hats on and record an extra special home video to your favorite songs.

I’ll add a video later, so come back for my own ridiculous example!

Popcorn Reading
With the rise of the e-reader, it’s never been easier to cart around a small library of good reads. I don’t know if you were the type to be overjoyed to be chosen to read aloud to the class as a youngster, but I’ve found that it has gotten more and more amusing as I age. Road trips with my friends often includes at least a few chapters read by all.

I’ve been saving a few books on my e-reader apps for a time when I can read without worrying about what grad student responsibilities I’m supposed to be focusing on. Any strike your fancy?

The Time Machine – H.G. Wells
You are NOT so Smart – David McRaney
Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved
     the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time – Dave Sobel
A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos – Dava Sobel

Young Adult Sci-Fi books would also be perfect. Who else enjoys creating lots of different voices for the characters?

This may not be the most mind-blowing activity, but it certainly can relax and sooth. I picked up this craft in college and have phased in and out since then. Currently I’m in. I even have a special treat planned to create for all fellow crew-members and associated people should I be selected to participate. I could also teach others how to knit and follow a pattern, or create their own. 

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This game may require a bit more room than available, but I’m sure we can create a similar game for when we are space suited up and traveling out of the habitat. Any ideas for the rules for ‘Astronauts’?

It could be anything.

Card Games
With the vast number of games possible with simply a deck of cards, this section could probably fill its own blog post! In fact, I think I’ll just make this our…

Question of the Day:
What is your favorite card game? (And if it’s unique, how do you play?)
Any other game suggestions that meet our space and resource limitations?

20Zing! or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Listen to my Heart

Travel, explore, learn.

If I were one to have a mantra, I suppose that might be a contender. It certainly sums up a lot of what I have done in my life, and what I want to continue to do with my future. Since many of my closest friends follow a similar life approach, we moved forward from a tightly-knit Kentucky community to a nationally scattered support group. However, we’ve agreed that once a year we will re-join forces to bring in each new year together.

2010 – We kept warm with positivity, love, and cheer in Chicago, IL.

2011 – We kept cool with adventures, mountain hikes, and green chilies (ok, not so cool with that one) in Las Cruces, NM

 In lieu of new years resolutions, during our time together we complied the following list of phrases that we wanted to incorporate into our year. They became our 2012 Zing! Phrases.

1. Upfront & Flawless
2. No repeats
3. It’s a lot, but I like it
4. Experience the experience
5. Be a better person
6. No fear in the New Year
7. Elevate (AltiTUDE!)
8. Dark and Dirty!
9. Advance the night
10. Respect the process
11. Loose/Lucid/Limitless
12. One step ahead
13. Graduation or Death!

If this year was to have 13 mantras, I suppose these would be contenders.
I am trying to lead this post towards the eventual answering of the inevitable question on your mind:
“Why on Earth would you want to do such a thing?”

Short answer: so that one day people will be asking, “Why on Mars would you want to do such a thing?”
Why did I feel so inspired to apply? In yesterday’s video post, Dr. Tyson speaks about how we want to feel connected, feel relevant, feel like we are participating by just being alive. To add to this, I propose that we also want to able to make impacts, make changes, make things different by working hard and devoting our lives to doing. 

When I read that first article introducing me to the concepts of the study, my initial response was: I would be perfect for this. Close article. Back to thesis writing. Reopen article. This would be perfect for me. Close. Write. Reopen. I could help send a manned mission to Mars. It’s a lot, but I like it. Repeat. It’d be difficult, but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a lasting impact. No fear in the New Year. And so, exactly one month ago, I decided to apply.

2013 – We will be together once more in a currently undetermined location. Perhaps it will be my last hurrah before traveling to Hawaii and entering the analog habitat for the first of 120 days. Travel, explore, learn.

Questions of the Day:

Fellow applicants, what prompted you to apply?
Readers, is this project something you would consider? Why or why not?