Saturday, June 30, 2012

I only test drive cars when it's over 90 degrees out :-)

Hi!  More cars to talk about.  I safely and smoothly made it from MI to PA in about 8 hours which is around what I expected.  Before I left though, I strolled through the GM Employee Car Show.  Note: this car show was just from people who work in MY location, not from all over the place, and there was still a huge selection.  Here are some highlights from the day:

One of the interns who sits across from me worked on and off for two years on the suspension for this one
After a stroll around the parking lot to take it all in, I hopped in the now charged Volt and took off for PA.  Last post I wrote that I was excited and curious to see how the Volt would drive in all-electric mode.  Turns out, for better or worse depending on what you expect coming into it, driving a Volt in charged electric mode isn't all that different from driving it while it's running on gas - smooth and quiet.  When it switched from battery to gas (in the middle of while I was driving down the highway!), I didn't notice anything other than a changed icon on the dash (the battery icon is minimized and the fuel pump icon gets bigger to show which power source is being used).

From flipping through the manual, I found out that there is a sport driving mode which makes acceleration more responsive.  I think it does indeed add some extra kick.  I've now used the navigation system, On-star, hooked my phone up to Bluetooth, listened to music from my iPod via the USB port in the center console and found out that it takes longer than I expected (?at least in this hot weather?, to charge the batteries using a standard 120V outlet).

I left PA this morning, and stopped in New Jersey...for more driving and to complete my "at least one car from each of the big 3" June test driving experience.  This event was a Ford Focus ST test drive that was free that we had found registration for online.  They're coming to Boston later this summer, but the event might be "sold" out already (as I said before this was no cost other than getting there).  Here's the one thing though...The Focus ST is a manual car and I'd only ever driven a manual once before.  I can now say I've driven a manual a couple times more albeit for short periods of time.

The younger, more aggressive sibling of my own yellow '05 ZX3 Ford Focus - the ST
The event was set up as an autocross and you got two laps to learn and then three time trial laps.  I was way slower than many of the folks who showed up but I managed to complete the laps in manual mode (luckily autocross is as much about handling as it is about speed and so you only needed to be in 1st or 2nd gear to do the whole thing).
Lined up to get ready to go - drive smoothly
I made it - despite a few stalls at the start I was proud of myself - need to keep learning though
Tonight I continued on to NYC and will be seeing some friends from undergrad in the city.  Tomorrow, off to Vermont!  Definitely taking advantage of GM's shut-down week.

Friday, June 29, 2012

My ride for the next week

Hi!  We are wrapping things up for a week of shutdown and I had the amazing luck to get a student rental vehicle over the break (Rental #2 of 5 I'll have by the time the internship is done).  Student rentals are for one week whereas most of the regular employee rentals are for the work week, or the weekend, not both.  With the holday, I'm actually getting it for 10 days!  What car did I get this time you ask?  What I managed to get was...a VOLT.

The area in the middle above the Chevy logo is actually more window so you have better visibility
When I picked it up yesterday the battery was not charged, but it still was super quiet.  The brakes and acceleration were both quite responsive (you can even pick sport as opposed to economy driving mode) and the body design is kind of a mix between a sedan and a hatchback.  The back seats fold down and the trunk is open to the interior of the car, but the roof slopes down more than I think a normal hatchback would.  You can still definitely fit a lot of stuff in it which is always useful for vacations.

Today and yesterday have been another pair of 95+ degree days so something extra special came with driving the Volt into work today.  The only charging stations currently (haha, currently, ok, I'll stop), installed at my office happen to be in the "executive garage."  Having a Volt is your "in" to the garage whether you are an exec or not though, so not only will I finally get to drive the car in full-electric mode, but it won't be quite so scorching hot inside compared to if it had been sitting in the sun in the regular parking lot all day.

Volt Charging Station #2!
 There are eight charging stations in the executive garage, and all are 220V units.  At 220V, the Volt charges in approximately four hours and via a normal home outlet it takes approximately ten hours.  The Volt's electric charging port is on the front left of the car and the gas cap is on the back right.  One thing I did not know before receiving the vehicle is that when it uses gas, the Volt takes only premium fuel.

Plugged into the grid :-)  The charging stations at Warren, MI are solar powered, which is extra cool.
I'll try and add more info about it as the week goes along.  Should be fun.  I can't wait to try in it electric only mode.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Places to Go and People to See

This past week, Michigan turned the heat on...High.  Therefore, on Tuesday, amidst 95 degree heat, I checked out a new area around my apartment and stopped on the way for some soft serve.  This place had a raspberry and vanilla swirl option, so I had to try it.  Life was uncertain, so I had dessert first, got gas and then went home for dinner. is super handy for finding places around town.

Dairy Treat - $ and rated highly - it hit the spot in the heat, but I had to eat quickly
Righ across from a school, this place was staffed by teens and had parents with kids in baseball uniforms as customers that evening.
So, that was Tuesday's highlight.

Wednesday, I left work a little early, then met up with interns who lived in my complex and we drove to Detroit to see a Tigers baseball game. Five of us packed into my car and managed to find on-street parking for free!  They played the St. Louis Cardinals that evening and the game ended up being pretty low scoring due to good pitching.

GM not only got us tickets to the game, but they provided food for us beforehand, too.  Between interns, co-ops and then some folks from GM's leadership team, over 200 GM affiliated folks were invited to the game.  Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to talk to him, but further down in my row sat Eric Stevens, my project champion's boss's boss.  He's a VP.

The view!
Looking to the right, past the Pure Michigan ad, you can see GM's Renaissance Center (Ren Cen)

Even though we had seats in the upper deck, we were on the side of the stadium that was not in the sun.  This was a huge relief since at 7PM, at the beginning of the game, it was 93 out.  By the end of the game, around 10, I think it had dropped to maybe 87.

Thursday, I don't have photos, but I met up with my MIT Alumni Club folks for a casual happy hour gathering.  It was great to see familiar faces from a year ago as well as meet new people, even a few who fall into the MIT10 group like me.  It will be funny to graduate next year and then go to my five year reunion at the same time.

Friday, I had a nice meeting with a Sloan Alum who I had actually met at a 'Sloan on the Road' event in Dearborn, MI, before I applied to LGO.  She works for GM downtown in more of a strategy role and so it was cool to talk to someone doing something completely different at the company than what I'm doing now.

When I got home, I met up with one other intern and went to a concert right near by.  We managed to avoid the rain (only got dripped on a little bit) while we watched all the opening bands and then the Counting Crows from our lawn seats.  Because we got there near the beginning of the whole show, our spot on the lawn turned out to be pretty good (and I managed to get the tickets off of Craigslist for $10 under list per person!).

Not a bad view for lawn seats - and far enough away that we were not deafened
It filled up quite a bit behind us
The show!
After all the running around during the week, this weekend, I've nested a bunch more - slept, organized - and am looking forward to vacation during GM's week of shutdown over July 4th.  I'll write more about that (and another company vehicle I've secured!) in a little bit.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Two weeks in - how did this happen?  I cannot believe I'm 8% or something done with my internship (scary!).  Though I don't have photos of them, this week I made banana bread and strawberry pie in addition to trying to eat most of the stuff I made earlier (probably was a little over-exuberant on the cooking last weekend).

In the world of work, I visited another casting plant this week in Indiana which was a seven hour drive down on Monday and a seven hour drive to return on Tuesday.  We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express which had a pool, so, in the future, I need to remember to bring a swim suit on any overnight business travel, just in case.  In Indiana, I sat through another set of project meetings like I did in Ohio and got to see more of their casting  equipment installations as well as a die-cast area.  Basically my internship is trying to help them improve the system of project management and status reporting that they are currently using for these casting plants.

Wednesday and Thursday were spent doing self-paced required GM training for new employees, setting up meetings, and starting to look at org charts and to think about the stakeholder map I need to create for the end of July.

Friday...was spent off-site, but not visiting a plant this time.  This past Friday was the anniversary event for GM JumpStart which is a program they have to integrate interns, co-ops and new hires into the company and help them get excited and learn more about GM.
The Design Dome in Warren, where the conference part of Friday was held

The name of almost everything at GM has some fun play on vehicle terms, the main hall of conference rooms is called Gasoline Alley
The anniversary event was all held at the Tech Center in Warren, MI and consisted of a morning of speeches and panels (kind of like a conference).  These included a speech from Mark Reuss, GM President (fun fact: his Dad was also GM president) as well as a panel mixed between GM employees and other innovators.  Outside employees were included because this year HR had a chance to partner with MTV Scratch (a consulting arm of MTV/Viacom which helps companies make sure they stay in touch with the young people of today (in this case Millenials)).

In the afternoon, we had a ride and drive (where I drove only one car since you had to sign up for a driving slot).  Riding was fun, but driving the Sonic was more fun.  I thought it was a good little car.  Riding in the CTS-V was impressive, but would have been a lot cooler if I weren't crammed in the backseat with very little headroom.

Over 500 HP in this buggy - the CTS-V
I also rode in the XRS, Escalade, Terrain and Camaro and got to sit in both the Spark and the ATS that were stationed in the parking lot.  They had a Corvette, but all the driver sign-up spots were full by the time I got there and there had to be a staff member in the passenger seat, so no riding for me either.

The Spark is similar to the Fiat 500, but less expensive and with a good set of standard features

A baby blue grand sport corvette - could only look at this one unfortunately
Finally, after an afternoon in the hot sun, we had a break and then headed to the next town over for an afterparty.  At the party, which was co-sponsored by Scratch, we had dinner and time to mingle and then a local indie band called Dale Earnhart Jr. Jr. (don't know why they picked the name), played for us for an hour or so.  Their backdrop was a white sheet with a changing slide show of Detroit related photos - both modern and older.  It was cool.

One of the backdrops before they started playing

The three of them playing for us
I've been thinking a little bit more about why I like Michigan.  Yes, it has lots of companies and a variety of things to do and people are friendly (they say hi to you or at least nod when they go past - how nice! - I had forgotten that I did this to people when I came back to Boston from three years of working in Michigan and people looked at me kind of strangely), but I feel like it's got something which isn't nearly as present in Massachusetts which is what I'll call modern history.

Related to that note, click on this link for some really interesting stuff about the Motor City:
The Six Facts All Detroiters Should Know About Their Hometown

Massachusetts, but Boston especially, has so many ties to and artifacts of 200+ years ago, that sometimes I feel like we forget the cool stuff that went on recently, whereas the famous aspects of Detroit are primarily associated with the last 100, if not the last 50 years.  People are alive who've seen the changes, who've invented new technology, who've captured it on records and video and everything.  I don't know.  I'm not sure how else to describe it, but it just feels more dynamic here in certain ways (it doesn't hurt that everyone drives 75+ on 70 MPH highways either).

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A packed weekend

I cannot tell you exactly what I drove and rode in, per the rule at the bottom of my registration form, but I can tell you that I woke up on Saturday almost as early as I do on a weekday to drive an hour and a half to go to a Chrysler facility in Chelsea, MI.

Chrysler Parking lot with their flags and water tower in the background
That day, Detroit chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) held a conference for its young professionals.  From what I could understand this conference happens every year but rotates for which of the "Big 3" it's hosted at.  This year, as you read, it was Chrysler.  We met at their proving grounds for a morning of talks and a panel discussion and then an afternoon of interaction with vehicles.  I'm not sure exactly how much more I can say.  What I will say was that that afternoon, in cars, I went over 100 MPH five times.  I was behind the wheel for none of those (of the vehicles we could drive as opposed to ride in, the max MPH we could go was 70), but it was still impressive and lots of fun.  Thanks to some freebies, I've now got a picture to go above my mantle (yes, I have a mantle!).

The poster says "Let Freedom Rev"
Besides the poster, I did manage to snap a picture of this car in the parking lot.

Normally cars aren't this ridiculous, but they are still definitely cooler (and sportier and of greater variety) out here in MI than what you'd see in MA.  For example, when I left my apartment complex today a car that was a couple decades old was coming through the gate.  Saturday night, I watched more of the Stanley Cup finals and made tabbouleh.  Lots of chopping in between periods.

Sunday, I slept in for the first time in about a week, had a tasty breakfast at home and I bought a comforter that actually fits my bed (I was getting by with a full blanket on the queen bed since it's only me).  Then I met up with a friend and former coworker to go strawberry picking.  I picked five pounds of strawberries in 90 degree heat (it was in the 90s basically the whole weekend).

Early June?  Strawberry Season!
After our farm time, we went to have dinner for Ann Arbor restaurant week at a place called Vinology.  The food there was tasty and pretty and creative (cheesecake with a pretzel crust!!), but a bit salty.  Still enjoyable and very enjoyable company.

Some strawberries ended up in these biscuits - it's amazing what you can make when you don't have homework
Once all the weekend stuff was done it was time to pack because I would be visiting another casting plant this week.  At least I could sleep in the car...

Friday, June 8, 2012

Hello from Michigan!

The housing that GM put me in, I have to say is great.  They have an office that assists students doing internships with the company and provide housing to anyone whose home is more than 36 miles away from their worksite (I think Cambridge qualifies!).  While they house four undergraduates in a 2-bedroom unit, their policy is to only put two graduate students of the same gender in the same place, so, for now at least, there are no other female graduate students working in Pontiac where I am, and so I've got a two bedroom mostly furnished place with A/C to myself.  The complex also has tennis courts, a gym, a sauna and a pool and hot tub all around the main leasing office/community building.  It feels like some strange cross between home and a hotel.  When I arrived the internet worked, the TV worked - everything!  Maybe in a future post I'll give more of a house tour.  That would mean I'd have to finish unpacking :-)

Kentucky Kasenga the Grand Prix outside of my unit (I also have a covered parking spot a little further away)
Sunday night, after running around to multiple places getting groceries and other things, I decided I really wanted to cook.  So, I made myself homemade broccoli cheddar soup and beer bread (used a bottle of Blue Moon and white flour, but I've heard you can use most any beer or flour).

All from scratch!
While I won't write in detail every week for sure, I thought I'd share some highlights of the first week of my internship with General Motors.

Day 1 of the internship the initial orientation was in Warren, MI, about a half hour from Pontiac.  Warren was also where I got my badge.  At the end someone who worked in Pontiac came down to Warren to meet me and I was able to follow her back to the plant.  In Pontiac, I got a phone, and a laptop, and started getting settled at my desk.  Everyone seemed quite prepared for my arrival and so I was pleased about that.

There aren't phones at cubes anymore - they just give you a cell phone - nicely they gave me a case and a car charger, too!
Day 2 - I spent 3/4 of the day at another building on the Pontiac campus going through lockout training.  Lockout is a way of stopping the flow of energy, anything from electricity to the full of gravity from harming anyone while they work to fix, repair or maintain equipment (usually involving going where people wouldn't normally go if they were just operating the machine).

The training, I thought, took longer than it needed to, but what was cool was that we ended by walking around this stamping building which also housed the training room.  I saw them making body parts for the Sonic, but the guy leading our training said that they also stamp Volt parts here and would soon be bringing Cruze stamps there too.  We walked by three huge presses and they were in the process of installing a fourth.  When the fourth one is up and running, our leader said that this would most likely be the biggest stamping plant in North America.  I do not know if this meant just in GM's portfolio or of all automakers.

Day 3 - Day trip to Ohio to sit through project progress meetings.  For my internship I will be going to one of these almost every week, just in different plants. On break in between morning and afternoon meetings I saw my first ever molten metal (Aluminum) and got to see some of the equipment working on the casting floor.  It was a long day though since we did all the driving in addition to the meetings - I was picked up from my place at 5:30AM and dropped back home around 6:15PM.

Day 4 - Not filled with training or driving, yesterday was a day to work on getting organized.  I sent a whole bunch of emails to get in preliminary contact with people, set up files (like starting an acronym glossary!), and went through some background PowerPoint files one of the managers shared with me.  I had lunch at my desk this time, rather than the cafeteria, but made an effort to talk to two interns that sit across the aisle from me.  They're both from Michigan and both going into their senior year in college.

Day 5 - I had lunch with LGO alum Mike Peterson, figured out how I will be getting to Indiana for another project meeting next week, a set of company wheels to use for the weekend!  GM has a vehicle ambassador program where employees can borrow fleet vehicles in order to promote them to friends and family or take them for their own personal test drive.  Interns get two over the course of the summer, but also qualify for the one-a-quarter regular employee program.  Since the 2nd quarter ends at the end of June, I checked out all the weekends til then and this weekend had the best selection: a Cadillac CTS Wagon.

Grand Prix?  Temporarily replaced :-)
The guy in line behind me to pick up a company vehicle told me that the particular paint color I have, black diamond triple coat is a 5k upgrade.  Crazy!  The coolest thing about it that I've come upon so far are the air-conditioned seats.  Not bad for when it's 80+ degrees outside.

Tonight, again I also cooked.  I made burritos to freeze (super easy to heat up for work lunches) and some of my spring veggie soup (I used alphabet pasta just for fun).  See the soup below.

Lots of green stuff, plus pasta, not much broth...

In summary, since it's summer currently, I'm going to bed when the sun goes down (which admittedly is after 9:30 - hooray western edge of EST!), but I'm having a good time, seeing a lot (everything from the plants I'm visiting to just the cool cars in the parking lots), and am happy to be in Michigan.

This is a non-altered photo out my bedroom window at 9:30PM -  9:30!  How cool is that?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

On my way (a retrospective post)

Note: The reason for the delay in posting this was in getting the photos onto my computer, so it's going to read a little oddly.  Pretend it's June 1st or so...

My internship with GM starts on Monday and so I'm in the process currently of moving to Michigan.  Thanks to the proximity of family, friends and people willing to lend me their car for six months (I suppose those are friends also!), the move will comprise having my stuff temporarily two places in Massachusetts, one place in Pennsylvania, one place in Indiana and then, finally, Michigan.  Luckily, GM has provided housing and so I do not have to take any furniture.  Between the mostly furnished place and buying a bed-in-a-bag when I get there, this has allowed me to move all of my stuff in...a VW Golf GTI.  Admittedly a stuffed GTI, but a GTI none the less.
The left back seat
The right back seat
And finally, the trunk
I had made a previous move in a jam packed Ford Focus, so this felt surprisingly familiar.

While the Mass Pike has been a common sight for me, and I've seen green mountains in Vermont, the rolling green hills and mountains of PA are less familiar and so I had many times when I realized I should have taken photos, but the moments were gone before I could take my camera out.  Here is one though.

So much green!
Along the way we passed the highest point on I-80 east of the Mississippi.  To honor this spot, there was a sign.  I took a photo :-)

Unfortunately, it was raining for a bunch of our drive through PA
After we left PA, we stopped in Toledo for a total of 5 hours (got in around 1AM and were on the road again by 6AM), then drove to Indiana where I was handed the keys to Kentucky Kasenga, the Pontiac Grand Prix belonging to Matt.  He's headed to Seattle for his internship and was going to borrow another student's car.  LGOs are very nice to share and swap things.

Once we picked up the car, it was time for another around five hour drive back in the direction we had come but more north - into Michigan.  One thing that was easy about basically all of this driving was once you got on a highway the GPS usually said something like, take this for X hundred miles, so other than dealing with occasional weather, the driving wasn't too challenging.

The trick was that I needed to get to the leasing office to pick up my apartment key by Saturday at 5PM.  Because we had woken up so early, I made it there by around 3:30.  Hooray!
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