Week Seven: Running Joke

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Monday, July 15, 2019


Joseph Tibbs

This week (well, Saturday specifically) I decided to scratch something off the D.C. bucket list: running on the Mall.  Lots of the other interns seem to enjoy getting out and jogging now and again, but I hadn’t tried it here.  Now, I can’t actually remember the last time I decided to run for the sake of running (as opposed to trying to catch the metro) but I hadn’t been out of the apartment all day and the humid, sunny day was calling to me.  I put on my least nerdy t-shirt—I’d hate to get my Pi shirt all sweaty—and went for it, like some kind of street-wise Hercules-in-training. 

I have to say, it was kind of exhilarating.  As I descended the hill outside of Shenkman, I saw the landscape opening up, with the Lincoln Memorial before me and the Washington Monument peeking around the corner.  With David Garrett’s “Cry Me a River” in my brain (I didn’t have earbuds, it was just stuck in my head) I passed by such landmarks as the Institute of Peace, National Academy of Sciences, World War II Memorial, and the Ranger Station (?).  I said hello to some ducks, and on the way back I took a minute to rest next to the larger-than-life bronze statue of Albert Einstein. 

But the rest of the journey back wasn’t so easy.  It turns out climbing up a hill is considerably harder than running down it, especially when the two activities are at the end and beginning of a journey, respectively.  Walking up the hill did give me some time to pause and reflect on my experiences here, though.  As the end of this internship approaches, is it more like the downhill sprint or the uphill slog? 

Work this week certainly felt like an uphill battle.  Minor setbacks continue to dog the task I was placed at NIST to do, making it feel like every step forward is two steps back.  Some of the modeling work is bearing fruit, but our physical circuits might not carry the voltage they need to in order to be visible on the microscope. 

However, when I’m being honest, I know that these last three weeks will feel like flying toward a finish line that none of us quite want to cross.  We’ll be busy wrapping things up, getting ready to present the hard-earned results and conclusions of our internships[6], getting ready to bid D.C.—and each other—a farewell for now.  But those are sentiments for week ten’s blog.  If running has taught me anything (other than the pain of sore thighs) it’s that you should enjoy where you are, because you won’t be there long. 

At the end of the run, I was definitely no longer running.  As I said, I'm not used to long-distance jogging.  But I did bring my phone along for the ride, so naturally it recorded my route, pace, distance, and calories burned.  The last time I ran seriously was in middle school track, and I was a little disappointed to note that I would, in my current state, be completely left in the dust of a fourteen-year-old me.  But maybe that's okay.  We don't always achieve what we want first time around, and learning from our shortcomings is one of the best ways to improve.  Even if I don't accomplish all I set out to in this internship, I'm confident that the experience has brought me closer to my goals--or at least closer to understanding my goals.  And besides: you don't have to be the fastest to finish the race.

It seems I’ve once again run out of space to do justice to the many things we did this week—and it certainly was a busy one!  We had two tours this week: one of Capitol Hill, led by Gia, and one of the Goddard Space Flight Center, led by the NASA boys.  Both of those were incredibly full days, with full evenings and more days in between.  There simply is no other solution but to once again resort to a massively run-on and unreasonably protracted sentence full of clauses that won’t make sense even to people who were there for the events they describe.  But it’s fun to write.  So.

This week, we fostered a relationship with Dr. Bill Foster, stuck a sticky note to an already overflowing wall, escaped a room, built a cantilever which just managed to hold out until the end of the night, found a Cathedral, sat on Einstein’s lap, dipped our feet into history, began a quest, had a picnic with Brad (and the rest!), learned Wonderwall, failed to learn Small World after all, watched the full moon’s reflection, bought (or borrowed or stole) Sapiens, spun a superconducting magnet, weathered a flood, ate at a tavern, defeated five wolves and came out fresh from the fight, found some tardigrades at NASA, visited the monuments—at night[7], and saved Matt Damon.

I don’t know if I’ll get around to running again this summer[e].  But it did provide a nice extended metaphor for this week's blog.  Who knows, maybe this week will provide more opportunities for new experiences.  Actually, I’m sure it will.  The other weeks certainly haven’t failed there.

Here’s to the next new experience—and I’m sure it’s gotta be soon in this larger-than-life city.

Joseph Tibbs


P.S. The Community Dinner this week was probably the SPS picnic on Thursday, but we did get a few takers on a last-minute personal pizza night on Friday.  Using the naan I bought for pizza crusts, I just made a flatbread sandwich filled with peppers and chicken, and I couldn’t help thinking of the song by Bonnie Tyler made so famous in the movie Shrek 2—you know, “I Need a Gyro”. 

I’m still not sorry.

Jackie and I next to our friend, Barry Goldwater in the Statuary Hall of the Capitol
A full-size mock-up of a satellite being developed by NASA
This has to be my favorite statue in Washington D.C.: Albert Einstein, outside of the National Academy of Sciences
The waxing moon over the Lincoln Memorial

Joseph Tibbs