Wednesday, December 12, 2012


It's 12-12-12 and my day to become another year older :-)
Birthday balloons and goodies!
Last week I went to another concert put on by Bill Kirchen, my cousin once removed (he's really my Dad's cousin), and had a great time.
Bill and Me
This week I am wrapping things up in Michigan with GM and am looking forward to what the next phase of my LGO experience brings.

Prospective students - you will soon celebrate that your LGO applications are done, first years will soon  celebrate that finals are over and, in the coming weeks, we can all celebrate our friends and family and the days beginning to get lighter again.
Happy December!

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Heritage Center and Thanksgiving

Last Wednesday, I got a huge treat.  My work group went to see the GM Heritage Center.  We had to make reservations since the Heritage Center paces their guests throughout the day and year.  Since they have this policy, between our group and a few other visitors, we had ~150 cars for only about 15 people.  Excellent!  One of the standouts, the Cadillac Sixteen, was a concept car featured on an episode of Top Gear (Series 2, Episode 10 for those of you who want to go look it up), but the Heritage Center also had the  1931 Cadillac V16 that it pays homage to.
The 2003 Cadillac Sixteen - giant and pretty amazing - my arms, spread, are around 6 feet
The 1931 version - V16, the lower large headlights turn when you turn the steering wheel!
The Heritage Center basically manages GM’s history – besides a fleet of ~450 cars (only a selection are shown at one time), they also have more of a standard library of old advertisements, manuals, photos, etc.  We spent basically the entire time in the warehouse/garage space where all the cars were though, looking at everything from 1900s to 2000s as well as quite a number of concept cars that never made it to production.  After seeing a video earlier in the internship of a 1959 car crashing head on into a 2009 car, I will never have an antique for my daily driver.  Those cars were definitely cool, but much more suited for art than commuting.
An experimental 1987 Oldsmobile, yes, Oldsmobile, that could go over 290 MPH in a straight line and came in a twin turbo version with 1000 HP 
A 1938  Buick Concept estimated to be worth $20M, not only because it's rare just because it wasn't scrapped for WWII, but also because it had an automatic transmission - 3 years before it was available in vehicles for sale
Unfortunately, this is blurry, but the 1969 512 Gasoline Experimental is pretty much the opposite of the Cadillac Sixteen - seems like a good alternative to a golf cart
There were more cool cars, but I wasn't sure when to stop :-)

For Thanksgiving, I flew back to Massachusetts and so I saw my family for the second time in less than a month.  It was nice.  I slept in, ate well and gave and received a large number of hugs!  In addition to spending time with my immediate and extended family, I was invited to an east coast party/reception for one of my high school friends who got married in August in Seattle.  Hooray!

Flew back to Michigan on Sunday, came to work and gave my final presentation on Monday even though I have three weeks left.  Interns and co-ops always present at the staff meeting of someone one level above their boss and so it worked out that Monday was when the Executive Director’s staff meeting was.  There was little guarantee of good attendance at the December one, so we figured I’d just do it now.  One step closer to the next phase of things.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Iceland Highlights - Part 2

Day 3
Sunday was another day filled with planned tours.  We hopped on another bus and headed to see the rift valley between the North American and Eurasian techtonic plates.
This is looking down into the valley - at first we thought this impressive split in the rocks was the divide,  and maybe it was long ago, but this was cooled, solid, split rock - the valley is the whole lower area
From the rift valley, we drove to the Geysir area (that's how they spell it in Iceland; however, geyser is one of the few English words that comes from Icelandic).  The main spout in this area goes higher than Old Faithful of Yellowstone and does so, on average, every 7 minutes.  However, geysers can turn on and off due to earthquakes and other land movement, so this one only started erupting recently in the mid 2000s.  Before that it had been dormant for decades.

A non-erupting but steaming thermal pool in the foreground with the biggest geyser in the background
After seeing Geysir, we drove to a giant dual water fall called Gullfoss - the lower falls is around 20 meters high and the upper one is around 10.  What's amazing is that everything that is down wind of the walls, since it's cold, gets coated with ice from the mist.  So all the white on the land isn't snow, but more of a super heavy frost.
Note the people on the left-hand side for scale - this was a very pretty set of waterfalls and yet other than a parking lot and a coffee and gift shop, there was literally nothing around this area
Finally, from Gullfoss, we drove to where the road became impassable for the bus, impassable in Icelandic, not kidding is pronounced "O fart" [photo evidence below]
Click on the photo to zoom in - the road was gravel from here on out
Our bus stopped here and we waited for another mode of transportation to take us to our next destination

The off-road truck/bus un-heated giant thing! (Complete with Iceland flags)
This vehicle drove us on the impassable road for a while, where we stopped, put on snow suits and then drove again, further, up onto a glacier.  We were going snowmobiling!

That's me, on a snowmobile on a glacier in Iceland, wearing five layers on my torso and four pairs of pants - woohoo!
The view down the glacier - most of the light is from our headlights (it was pretty dark), but in the center you can see a sliver of sky below the cloud cover, lit up by the setting sun.
Even though we had already been touring around a lot, we had a nice dinner planned, but since we were running late, we didn't have a chance to go back to the hotel first.  Instead, we went straight to The Pearl restaurant on the top of a hill in Reykjavik, and had a buffet dinner where we tried a few new foods - moose, reindeer and whale (no puffin, though it is eaten in Iceland, it just wasn't on the menu).

Inside The Pearl under it's glass dome ceiling - the restaurant also rotates 
The outside of The Pearl during the day
Day 4
On day 4, since we didn't get back from dinner the night before until almost midnight, and because it was raining when we woke up, my sister and I slept in, then walked around our hotel checking out more of the neighborhood by daylight and doing some final souvenir and gift shopping.

Rainy day view from our room
After that we drove to the airport and waited for our five hour flight back to Boston.

Vik must mean village or something, because it was the ending of many of the town names
The awesome thing was, since there was a five hour difference between the locations of take off and touchdown, we arrived in the US remarkably soon after we left Reykjavik.  All in all, it was great to visit Iceland.  If I were to go back a second time, I'd see more of the north of the country (most of our tours went south) and try going in the summer when there would be lots more daylight.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Iceland Highlights - Part 1

Ok, even though it took me weeks now to put them up (partially because there were so many to choose from), here are some highlights from 64° N...

Day 1
Land in Iceland at 6:30 in the morning their time, grab something that looks like breakfast while marveling at other products in the food kiosk store thing at the airport.

Got to have the Cool American flavor
Leave right from the airport on a bus for an all-day tour.  On this tour we saw...
A waterfall we were able to walk behind - Skogafoss
Waves crashing on the black sand beach that could have come all the way from Antarctica (that's the only thing south of where we were in Iceland)
Crazy basalt formations off-shore - the legend is that those are trolls that were frozen by still being out at dawn
An amazing lagoon filled with icebergs - I think this may have been my favorite thing we did (no, I did not alter the coloring on this photo)
The iceberg lagoon was quite far from our hotel, so, including stopping on our way back for a nice dinner, we did not get to our hotel until around midnight.

Day 2
The weather was very windy and rather cold (we were told 14°F after the windchill was taken into account), so many of the tours (this was going to be a choose your own adventure day) were cancelled.  However, we were able to switch our days' plans around and still able to do some neat things.

We visited the Blue Lagoon
My sister and the rest of the group and I relaxed in the Blue Lagoon (the temperature in it varied from warm pool to toasty hot tub), but the air temp was still really cold!  You wanted to have as much of your body be under the water as possible
We took another bus tour, this time around Reykjavik, and took this photo of Bjork's house (no joke)
Finally, this was one of the few meals where we were on our own, so we tried a fish & chips place not too far from the hotel - YUM
After dinner we wandered around a little, but since it was still cold and windy and we had had a long Day 1, we headed back to the hotel pretty quickly to use the marvels of Google Talk to call the US for free and to go to bed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

November = Travel

Hi!  I'm finally back in Michigan after being away for over two weeks.  I left on Friday 10/26 and returned to Michigan this morning.  In that intervening time I...

Participated in LGO recruiting week
Managed to not lose power during Hurricane Sandy
Played in the LGO '13 v LGO '14 IM Hockey Game
Spent time with friends from undergrad and with my family (in addition to LGOs!)
Waited for second round interviews
Apartment hunted for next semester (might have something!)
Went with my sister and a bunch of Sloanies to Iceland for the Veteran's Day long weekend

Cool, huh?

This weekend I'll be driving to Pennsylvania and in a week I will be flying back to MA for Thanksgiving.  Yup, November is shaping up to be traveling month.

I'm still processing the photos from Iceland, but I will be sure to pick some highlights and post them soon.  Keep checking back!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Another life skill achieved!

This weekend I had a driving test of sorts.  Over the summer and fall I'd been learning to drive stick on someone else's car, mostly in large, empty parking lots and back-roads.  Last Friday, though, I picked up my final GM rental vehicle - a white, manual Sonic LS.  While this vehicle didn't have the 40k+ price tag that my other rentals have, I think the Sonic looks great and has been a perfect opportunity to prove my stick driving skills.

Nice, don't you think?
The LS is the base model sonic and runs $14,200.  It does not have cruise control or a power windows; it's got a smaller engine, but it has a CD player, AUX port and back seats that folded down for quite a bit of cargo space.  I also have a personal soft spot for hatchbacks.  Sonic is also made in a sedan version, but if I were to get one it would be a hatch for sure.

The wheel, dash and...gearshift!
Friday afternoon was the first time I went on the highway for an extended period of time with a manual, which should be fantastic if you can get up to cruising speed and stay there, but is a much more challenging experience in heavy traffic.  I made it home though with no stalls, no honks at me and both the Sonic and me intact.  I drove around for other errands - going to Trader Joe's, getting takeout - and so was able to add things like maneuvering in parking lots to my list of accomplished stick driving tasks.  In case you can't tell, I was super pleased with myself for being persistent in learning and finally driving a manual transmission car... in real life... by myself.  Yay!

Other things - the cider mill this weekend was good, though cider prices (except it seems at Trader Joe's) have skyrocketed.  The cider at the mill, made from only Michigan apples, was >$12 a gallon!  Darn dry, odd summer weather.  This week, I returned the Sonic with no problems and yesterday took my regular car to Dearborn (Ford territory!) to where MIT Sloan was having a Sloan on the Road (SOTR) event.  SOTR is an admissions outreach event, so people can learn more about the school before applying without having to travel to campus.  While a campus visit is definitely worth it to help seal the deal, I can understand people not wanting to pay for flights and take time off during the week at this early stage.  I was able to provide a current student perspective and got to meet two alums I had not run into before on our Q&A panel.  Cool!  One other thing that was nice was that a MIT undergrad I had met at GM's summer Jumpstart events was there and he remembered me, so we did a bit more catching up.

Last night, I listened to some of the debate on the radio, checked in on the Tigers game on the internet (take that Yankees!), but overall ended up having a relaxed evening when I came back home.  That was nice.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Making the most of it!

Last night, I met up with Grace (LFM/LGO '08) at her place right near the University of Michigan.  I write LFM/LGO because, prior to being called Leaders for Global Operations, LGO was Leaders for Manufacturing (LFM).  We had dinner with her kids and husband, and then the two of us went to a U of M Hockey Game at Yost Arena.  I was excited to my hockey fix since the NHL is still under lockout ::sigh:: the Red Wings' home opener would have been tonight...  Anyway, although U of M ended up losing to RIT last night, it was a great chance to talk to Grace more in depth - both about her experiences while in the program and her experience working at GM.
Front facing phone camera photos are grainy, but they also make sure your heads show up in the picture :-)
Grace, other LGO alumni, Sloan alumni and MIT alumni that I have run into here have all been great.  I had lunch with four MIT folks at the building here in Pontiac where I work (one now always says hi if he sees me around the buildings), Mike Peterson (LFM/LGO '94) came by for lunch and I have had meetings with Kurt Wiese (Sloan Exec MBA alum, now executive director of vehicle body at GM).  I even reconnected with a Sloan alum here who I met at a Sloan on the Road event when I was applying!  Finally, I have scheduled some time to talk with Diana Tremblay (also Sloan Exec MBA alum).  Diana is the person who makes sure LGO internships at GM get funded and she came to our future of manufacturing conference in May.  A huge thank you will be going out to her.

Other both literally and figuratively cool things that have been happening since I got back are:

It's gotten much more fall like - had one morning this week where I scraped off frost on my car
Nevertheless this yellow convertible corvette owner was still making the most of it (even though the cloth top was definitely up)
Saw this Asian badged Chevy in the parking lot
The left half of the car says Sail and the right half is a bunch of Chinese characters -  hopefully meaning something like  you should drive this lucky awesome car.  Perhaps though, it just means sail, plus some other trim or feature information...
And, on Tuesday the 9th, we had a visit and presentation from Chevrolet's team of Indy Car drivers.  I wasn't able to be there for the whole thing (or for the poster signing), but having them show up and talk was still pretty cool.  I have not watched car racing by myself/for myself, but, due to living for almost two years with people who did, I was familiar with a number of the driver's names due to those previous trips through the living room while races were on.  No joke - one driver's name is Will Power.  I'm sure his parents loved choosing that one.

Since the Red Sox are on beyond out of contention in baseball this year, I'm rooting for my local "home" team.  I'm excited that the Tigers have advanced to the ALCS and also that their next opponent will be from the eastern time zone, because watching them play a three hour+ game in California starting at 9:30 PM EST when you need to wake up early is just kind of miserable.

Headed to a Cider Mill this weekend to celebrate fall!  Yay!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sights and sounds of Cambridge

This past week, I went back to MIT for mid-stream. I left Michigan on Friday evening, flew direct on Delta (be warned, they’re the only ones who go non-stop between Detroit and Boston), stayed with my parents for part of the weekend, then stayed with two sets of friends during the week (one set are the people I stayed with when I applied to LGO and the other are my roommates from my first year of LGO), then wrapped things up by staying with my folks again. The people I stayed with when I applied to LGO had gone apple picking before I showed up and so I was treated to some pie.

It has been both fun and strange to be walking so much again. While out and about in Cambridge I saw this distinctive vehicle:

Yes, this is a car covered in floppy disks - both the 3 and 5 inch kinds
Even though the license plate 'DISKDRV' showed that the car was from Washington State, it still felt very appropriate for Cambridge and I ended up seeing it around twice during my visit.  I suppose I might see other cars more than once on a trip, but this car was, of course, way more obvious.

At first I thought it might be strange getting reacquainted with everyone, after seeing no LGO's for three months (there are no other LGO interns at GM or even within a few hundred miles), but it actually felt great and like very little time had passed. Many people remarked about how nice to was to be back together with everyone and there have been subsequent notes repeating that sentiment now that we’re back at work again.

While on campus, I made the most of my time at MIT – LGO had mandatory sessions about graduation and thesis requirements, facts about job hunting and recruiting; I gave my mid-stream presentation, met with my academic advisers, went out to dinner with my supervisor from GM, went to company presentations, had a mock interview, got my flu shot, had dinner with a partner company and another awesome dinner with the ‘13s in the Eastgate penthouse. Phew! A couple of the days that week, I left where I was staying between 8 and 9 AM and did not get back until after 10 PM. Life is good.

Today, I am back in Michigan and sitting here, in the office, now wearing three layers. This seems to be a symptom of corporate America – ridiculously cold offices – and so is a reason why I need to find a job where I can be up and down and active at least part of the time...or one where they don’t cool too much in the summer, but heat like crazy in the winter..OR I should be awesome, earn my own office and thus control the thermostat that way, ha HA!

Yesterday morning I tested out the Grand Prix’s remote start for the first time. I did not realize remote starts usually had a shut off timer, but even though it had timed out by the time I was ready to go, the windshield had defrosted and the inside of the vehicle was not chilly. Yay! Between that and heated seats, I am set. This morning was 39 instead of yesterday's 35 and so the frost type stuff on the windshield came off just with the application of wiper fluid.  Fall is definitely here.

See you again soon MIT - I'll be back in a few weeks for recruiting!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Not just internships anymore

Even though most of the LGOs are still on internship and so off-campus for fall semester, we have begun to feel an increased workload in the days following labor day.  Assignments for leadership and preparation for our mid-stream review have started coming due AND the job hunt has begun.

While we have partner company recruiting at the end of October, the Sloan Career Development Office (CDO) has begun posting jobs from other companies participating regular MBA on-campus recruiting.  We've also had workshops from the CDO on writing cover letters, to review our resumes and there are more sessions, like mock-interviews on the horizon.  Given all this thinking about jobs, many of us have started looking at companies that are not coming to MIT in addition to partner companies and on-campus recruiters to fill out our portfolio of options for full-time.  I have no idea how many jobs I will end up applying to, but my goal is to have multiple offers!

This is a time at roughly the middle of our internships (for us it's next week), when all the LGOs come back to campus (Take me back to Tech!) and spend a few days filling each other and our advisers and company supervisors on what we've been up to.  For fun, the video below is the MIT Logarhythms singing Take Me Back to Tech with alumni from 1949-1999 for their 50th anniversary celebration.  I'll have to post, at a minimum, the lyrics to the alma mater before graduation if I can't find a recording.

Internships on different topics like supply chain management, process improvement and project management (that would be me) are grouped together within the presentation sessions so that the audience can stay in a similar frame of mind.  It works pretty well.  Along with our presentations, there will be sessions with the Career Development Office, Alumni and partner companies as we begin the dance toward recruitment.

Even though I knew we had our own separate recruiting sessions with partner companies, I realized recently, that I didn't know how that system worked.  To give a preview to the '14s, jobs will be posted on the intranet site the week after mid-stream or so and you sign up for which ones you'd like to interview for.  Cover letters are optional (but, as always, recommended) for these sessions.  I've heard that there will be a cap on the # of people a company will interview for a position, but that's more of a scheduling thing and that usually if there is more demand than slots, the LGO staff and the company will try and work something out.

LGO recruiting is in addition to the on-campus recruiting through the CDO and the two can overlap.  So, hopefully, when October 29 - Nov 2 rolls around, we'll be busy with all kinds of interviews.  We've been given advice to maybe stick around the following week for other interviews and second rounds, so I'm probably going to do that.

Since recruiting is over Halloween this year, I will be on campus for the annual Pumpkin Drop.  It's about like what the title implies - around midnight, students drop a bunch of pumpkins off of the tallest building on campus and round-orange-squash-carnage ensues.  I've got my fingers crossed for good weather and lots of pumpkins.

In the meantime, work is now proceeding on parallel paths - internship stuff and job applications.  Wish me luck on both!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Outreach and Reaching Out

This weekend, I spent an afternoon with GM working as a volunteer at a Ride and Drive as part of their Vehicle Advocate Program.  We coordinated visiting GM employees and their guests by matching them up with the vehicles they wanted to drive, explaining more about the vehicles if they had questions and, yes, calling OnStar when they sometimes locked the keys in the car (yep, it happened and yes, if you can prove you're the actual owner and not stealing the car, OnStar can send a signal to unlock your vehicle - how cool?!?).  Since this time I was volunteering, the only driving I did was to help put the vehicles away at the end of the day (I worked the afternoon shift, ~4 hours).  We had a good turn out despite it being overcast and chilly on Saturday.

Sunday, I slept in and then drove about an hour to Ypsilanti, MI (a neighbor of Ann Arbor) for a MIT Alumni Club of Southeast Michigan event.  It was fun seeing a bunch of people who I had met back in 2009 again at another alumni event and I cannot recommend the alumni network highly enough. Ypsilanti annually hosts an orphaned car show (cars whose brand or make is no longer made and hasn't been for a certain minimum period of time - Oldsmobile just qualified, it will be another while before Pontiac, et. al. are included).  In conjunction with that, about 25 of us gathered at a nearby restaurant, noshed and chatted a bit and then listened to a quick talk from Csaba Csere, an editor-in-chief emeritus of Car and Driver magazine.
Csaba Csere: enthusiasm, notes and a wealth of experience
Csaba spoke about the electrification of vehicles currently, what drives it (much more CAFE regulations than the consumer), what the different varieties of hybrids are available now and where things might be heading.  He's a great speaker and was happy fielding questions from the audience.  His job is now freelancing and while he still works in much the same way, he said he's no longer first to drive the vehicles, unlike when he was with the magazine.  His recent rides, though, have still included the Camaro ZL1 (top of the line Camaro) and the Tesla S.  Not too shabby.

On an unrelated note, here's an awesome example of simple but effective design I encountered today.
What you see is that the tag on the teabag has a pre-cut slot in it, so that you can wedge the tag on the edge of your mug and not have the bag fall in if the mug is too deep.  This concept uses less material than the original design and yet is so much more functional.  Hats off to whoever thought of that one.

Monday, September 17, 2012

PA Bound

At the end of last week, I joined about 50 others from Powertrain and other GM groups in participating in a service activity for GM's Week of Caring.  We spent time boxing and sorting food items at the Eastern Michigan Food Bank in Flint, MI.  When the morning started, the warehouse wall was full of palettes to be sorted and, surprisingly quickly, our two assembly line teams broke the wall down into all the individual items and re-packed them into smaller, sorted boxes.  Random fun fact: during this event I met the Dad of the guy who founded both and (Hipmunk is an awesome travel site by the way) - he works at GM and was stationed right next to me!

This weekend was the second time I drove the eight or so hours down to Pennsylvania.  I did so in my fourth of five rental vehicles for GM (two for being an intern and one per quarter per the regular employee policy).  This one was the most ridiculous one I will have of the bunch - a 2011 Grand Sport Corvette.

In keeping with most of the other vehicles I have received from GM, it was silver (random, but true), and it was an automatic (I know, car purists, go ahead and sigh).  That model goes from 0 to 60 in just over 4 seconds (the 2013 Grand Sport, for reference, is now just under 4 sec for 0 to 60 MPH) and the Grand Sport is in the middle of the pack as far as Corvette offerings go.

Push button start on the left, Navigation and Audio system in the middle
On Saturday, since it was sunny and cool, we took the roof off of the Corvette (it's not a convertible but the panel over the seats is removable) and headed off for a few hours into the hilly, curvy roads of PA.

The roof off shot
Our path included turns tight enough to be marked 15 MPH and multiple 10% hill grades.  This is, approximately, the route we took.
So many winding roads!
Could not ask for a more gorgeous day for a drive
To get back to all you car purists, even though I had this fantastic Corvette this weekend, I did take some time to drive (or try to drive, or work at learning to drive) a manual VW Golf GTI.  I can proudly say that after some tribulations earlier in the weekend, I finished my visit to PA having driven that car under my own power on both back roads and highways.  I'll still be somewhat stressed to get behind the wheel of my final GM reservation (a manual Sonic in the middle of October), but I feel much more prepared now.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Another visitor to Michigan

Besides my parents, one of my roommates from my first year LGO apartment came out to visit me here in Michigan.  I picked her up after work three Fridays ago and we made broccoli cheddar soup and some brownies together and then hung out catching up.  Saturday, we had two outings - one to an open house at GM's proving grounds which included a ride and drive (no banked turns unfortunately), but where we could drive around part of their facilities in our own car.  She test drove the Chevy Equinox and Traverse (bot LTZ versions) and I test drove the GMC Acadia and the Chevy Malibu.  She liked the Traverse more than the Equinox and I found the Acadia seats to be super comfy (buttery leather).  On the whole I'm not a big SUV/Crossover person, but those seats were awesome (I joked that I'd pry them out of the Acadia and try and install them in a different car that was more my style).

From the Open House, we went to the Meadowbook Wine and Food Festival right by my house.  I expected the wine and food to be roughly 50:50, but there was much more wine than food (which could be good or bad, depending on how you look at it).  Either way, after two back-to-back events outside in 90F heat, we headed for a restaurant nearby to get more lunch of nice cold salad and WATER.  It tasted so good.  Once we got enough lunch, we came home and crashed.  It's wonderful how things like nap time are possible on Saturdays.

After we awoke, we got back to cooking, making 'Mediterranean Baked Feta with Tomatoes' from the blog Smitten Kitchen and roasting a chicken.  Those two with some crusty bread and wine were excellent.

One of the fruits of out labor
On Sunday, we went to the Detroit Zoo, a place even I had never been to before.  It was fun and we got to see a bunch of animals (In a zoo?  Go figure!).
Polar bear swimming in the distance
Lady lion just lazing around
The cutest tiniest turtle I have ever seen
Sunday night we cooked more, plus ate more tasty leftovers and got our fill of trashy TV.  NICE.  I didn't expect to have many visitors out here, so having another weekend to share Michigan with someone was pretty cool.  While GM put me in a two bedroom in case there were other female grad students working in the area (they usually put two grad students in a 2-bed apt), I have continued to be roommate-less through the summer (looking that way for fall, too).  In the meantime, I have been enjoying the flexibility having a spare bedroom has allowed.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Guitar master weekend

This labor day weekend was full of driving and music.  Driving, because I went to Pennsylvania again (only took 7 to 7.5 hours each way this time, rather than 8), and music because I went to not one but two concerts.

The first concert was in Ann Arbor, before I left.  Bill Kirchen, named "Titan of the Telecaster" by Guitar Player Magazine (a Telecaster is a type of electric guitar), performed .  Even if you have heard of him before, one thing I'm pretty sure you didn't know is that he is my cousin once removed (my Dad's first cousin).  In addition to getting to enjoy the show, meeting him (and his sister) for the first time ever was pretty cool.  I got  hugs!

Bill originally became famous from the song Hot Rod Lincoln when he was part of the band 'Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen' (begun in Ann Arbor, MI).  According to Wikipedia, Hot Rod Lincoln was "voted a Legendary Michigan Song in 2008" and "the following year [the band was] inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame."

For his show there was no opener, just a short break in between two halves of the almost three hours that he played.  His accompaniment was two guys - one on electric bass and one on a small drum kit.  A second electric guitar player, whose name eludes me, joined them for the second half of the show.  The sound was great and Bill was pretty funny even just talking to the audience.

After his show, I went home, finished packing and was up again at 7AM on Saturday to drive to Pennsylvania.  While the drive down there is long, it is not hard.  There are about three "turns" - I-75 to I-280 to I-80 then exit at the right town in PA.  The drive was smooth and fast and uneventful.

Saturday, we had an early dinner and then headed to a local pay to ride amusement park about a half hour away called Knoebels.  One of their claims to fame is having the #2 wooden coaster in the world.  We spent a couple of hours there: rode their two coasters, enjoyed a simpler but still really fun ride called the flyer (which you kind of controlled yourself) and then capped it off with a Ferris wheel ride.  While the Ferris wheel spun much faster than we expected, it was still nice.

After sleeping in on Sunday, we decided to drive the two hours to the Chameleon Club in Lancaster, PA to go to a different concert - a show by Steve Vai.  While the focal instrument for both of them is electric guitar, Steve Vai and Bill Kirchen do not have much else in common (other than I suppose, both also being recognized by Guitar Player magazine).
The guy loves wacky outfits, in addition to being an amazing guitar player.  The blue sign in front of him and amps behind him have his logo/name on them.
While Bill is a Titan, Steve has been described as a virtuoso and before he went solo, he played with a veritable who's who of 80s rock groups.  He's a master of the instrument and is always looking for new off-beat sounds and so, on this tour for example, had an electric harp as part of the band (you can see the harpist, who's from MA actually, on the right of the photo above).  Not sure how else to describe this guy and his band other than impressive.
So for this part of the set he's got a light-up suit thing
But wait, he's also got lasers on his guitar and on a glove to highlight his fingers (the diagonal rays coming away from the guitar in the photo)
All in all, the weekend was really good and like many really good weekends, much too short.  At least there's another one right around the corner.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Even more cars

Classic - sea foam green, while wall tires...
So, two weeks ago now, my parents drove from MA out to see me.  For those of you who don't know, before LGO, even though I'm originally from Massachusetts, I had lived in Michigan for three years.  So, having this internship was actually coming back to a different "home".

When I lived here before, my parents came out a few times, but most of our sightseeing then had been around the rest of the state.  We drove to Traverse City, drove up the middle of the state, over the Mackinaw Bridge to the Upper Peninsula (aka the U-P (you say each letter)).  We actually drove all around Lake Michigan, seeing bits of Wisconsin, Chicago and we also took a detour to finally see White Bear Lake, MN (just outside of St. Paul), where my Dad grew up.  The trip was great.

This time, I thought, it would be appropriate to fill in some gaps of their Michigan experience and have them see more of metro Detroit.  Their visit was shorter than the week+ we had before and coincided with a now 17 year old tradition called the Woodward Dream Cruise.  This trip would be filled with cars, rather than lakes and wilderness.

Woodward Avenue, "America's First Highway" runs diagonally out of Detroit, cutting through the grid of the mile roads.  It actually ends in Pontiac, the town I work in.  In 1995 they started a car show which has since grown into a yearly phenomenon of sorts with thousands of cars participating.  With my parents in town, I finally got a chance to see it and took them along for the ride.  Below are some highlights:

A shag carpet lined VW bus in the background
Most awesome paint job ever - sparkly blue-and purple
Red Wings pride!
Finally, even though we were no longer on Woodward, on the way home to my apartment, we drove behind this:

Besides being amused by the blue sparkle paint job (detecting a pattern?), I had no idea what it was.  After some research, I found that it's a Porsche 917 race car from the 1970s (either that or a high end replica).  Read about the crazy specs and history of the 917 here.

In addition to checking out all the cool vehicles on and around Woodward, we went to the farmer's market in Farmington Hills for the best peaches ever (no joke, just bought some on my trip to Ohio this week which were so disappointing), and had dinner at a restaurant 70 stories up in the Renaissance Center in Detroit (where GM has it's headquarters).  It's right on the Detroit river and from there you could see for miles.  If you're on the proper side of the building, on a good day you can see almost back to where I live which is about 30 miles away.  We sat on a side with a view of Canada, had an early birthday celebration for my mom and enjoyed watching the land turn colors as the sun set.  We kicked ourselves later that we didn't take any pictures from up there!

All in all, it was wonderful to have them come out and see my new place and drive by where I worked and spend time in Michigan again.  The weather was fantastic (dry and not too hot) and the company superb.  We blended going out and seeing things with just relaxing really well and the weekend felt nice and long.

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