Margaux Rhymes with Fargo

Mirthful Musings, Ridiculous Ramblings, and Comical Codswallop

Adulting at its finest

I’ve been doing a number of things recently that I would posit qualify me as a real adult:

  • Used the word “posit”
  • Turned 24 and thus officially entered my mid-twenties
  • Changed my own engine oil and only spilled a little bit
  • Submitted an offer on a house, and got rejected, and then found another exciting one to submit an offer on
  • Dealt with dragging a rancid broken freezer out of my garage that was literally dripping neon green-yellow liquid, which was hands-down the worst smell I’ve ever experienced, and that is coming from someone who grew up in a state with more chickens than people, and who went to an elementary school next to a chicken farm
  • Amended my tax return because I got all excited and submitted early but forgot about one 1099 form that I received later
  • Snaked the shower drain because I shed like a dog
  • Snuck out on a stupendous solo sojourn to the snowy Sierras for a secretly saucy celebration but mostly some seriously superb skiing
    • (I am simultaneously proud of and revolted by the pretentiousness of the previous phrase, and I have no idea what an actual saucy celebration entails but mine mostly involved tiger chai lattes and an entire sleeve of thin mints, because calories don’t count on your birthday, obviously)
  • Remembered to buy toilet paper before we ran out (super happy about this one)
  • Actually vacuumed the living room and dining room before having people over for game night
  • Upgraded from a twin bed to a queen bed and then immediately replaced my princess blanket on it, because adulting all the time is boring
Yes, Teddy sleeps with me every night, as do Belle, Cinderella, Aurora, and Snow White

So, progress, right?!


Chairlift conversation topics by popularity

On Friday I skied down the equivalent of Mt. Everest, which also includes riding chairlifts up the equivalent of Mt. Everest. So, I spent a lot of time making small talk with randoms on the lifts, and the conversation topics ranged from normal to strange, including the following, in order of frequency:

  • The lack of snow
  • Last season’s snow was amazing
  • Is Kirkwood any better? (About the same right now, but I did see Heavenly people there on Thursday, so there’s that)
  • The fact that this is still better than east coast skiing
  • Where everyone on the lift is from, including Santa Cruz, upstate Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maine, Nevada, Pittsburgh, and Colorado (in which case, why are you here?! The snow is so much better over there right now!)
  • Absurd traffic driving to Tahoe
  • Does Yosemite in summer get as crazy as Tahoe during ski season? (Yes, and more, minus the weather complications)
  • We want to leave the Bay Area but it’s got so much going for it
  • Are different brands of skis really that different from each other after all? (Probably, but I’m not good enough to tell, plus I’ve been skiing on the same pair for the past four years)
  • The Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in northern Spain
  • That guy looks kinda like Gumby
Mt. Everest is tall

Springtime in February {Tahoe ski trip}

I booked this solo birthday trip to Tahoe a few months ago, hoping for some powder. Twas not to be. I got particularly worried about the lack of snow as I was playing soccer at lunchtime in 70+ degree weather this week. That’s not conducive to frozen things staying frozen.

Luckily, some of the snow did stay behind, and it wasn’t as slushy as I anticipated. Plus, I got away with wearing just a long sleeve shirt and a windbreaker, and I even spotted a few guys in t-shirts. No cold fingers this time, unlike the -16 F weather that I encountered skiing in Canada over Christmas. Who knew that in California you could go springtime skiing at the beginning of February?!

Obnoxiously teal and proud of it. Plus I match my skis, obviously, because why not?
Solid half-day, powered by an entire sleeve of thin mint girl scout cookies for lunch. It’s my birthday and I can eat what I want. I had quinoa for dinner so it all evens out, right?!
Celebrating in style. Thanks, Trader Joe’s!

Happy birthday to me!

Chile isn’t chilly or cheesy

At least not in the winter. I mean, summer. I mean, January. You see how this gets confusing. And the jokes get pretty cheesy.

Anyways, I was in La Serena, Chile a few weeks ago to visit the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope construction site on Cerro Pachon, which is where we’ll ultimately install the giant camera we’re building at SLAC. Turns out it’s summer in the southern hemisphere. Also turns out the stars are different, and stargazing is pretty entertaining and illuminating (quite literally) when you’re on a dark mountaintop with a bunch of astronomers.

This is mostly going to be a dump of pictures with semi-relevant captions. Get excited.

First stop was the mountaintop next to Cerro Pachon, which is called Cerro Tololo and is the home to the Blanco Telescope as well as a bunch of other smaller robotic telescopes. This was right before sunset when us and the observers gathered outside to watch the sunset and hopefully catch a green flash.
Sadly, it was a little hazy for a green flash, but still beautiful.
View of the smaller telescopes on Cerro Tololo all starting to open up for the evening. It’s kinda weird seeing people start their work day after dinner. I’m not about that life.
View from the inside of the Blanco Telescope with the Dark Energy Cam installed.
Thermal camera view of the cooling coils in the floor of the Blanco Telscope. I don’t think LSST is quite that fancy, but that camera ipad app sure is.
I don’t know what a chopper bit is but I really want to. Also, this is a real instrument, just in case you have your doubts.
Get off your high horse!
The road up to Cerro Pachon was a little daunting, but we made it.
LSST is still missing a dome, but we’ll get there. Eventually. Maybe. Schedule is looking a little sketchy but it’s definitely going to happen at some point in the near future.
LSST in all its glory, plus some little people exploring around a weather station off to the right.

All in all it was a fun trip, minus the 24 hour travel time each way, and it was pretty exciting to see the project coming together. My favorite part? The LSST fire department mascot, obviously. Because where else would you see a cartoon telescope dome wielding a super awkward fire hose?!


It was a dark time [60 hours without a phone]

For the record, that photo has nothing to do with my story. It’s just the darkest photo I’ve taken recently, and these posts always look kind of bare without one. Also it’s from a mountaintop (well, really a plateau-top) in Chile, Cerro Tololo to be exact. The Blanco telescope is that big bump on the left-ish side of the photo, and all the smaller bumps are smaller telescopes, mostly robotic ones. I’m planning to post some more pictures from the trip once I recover from a full month of traveling (home for the holidays, then two back-to-back weeklong work trips).

Anyways, I was out running on Sunday morning, and just like that my phone rebooted itself. Or, at least, it tried, before failing and then trying again, ultimately getting stuck in an infinite bootloop that not even a factory reset could fix. The worst part is, I can’t even prove that I was out running because my Strava feed didn’t save. That’s five whole miles of my life I’ll never get back!

On the bright side, I bought the phone 11.5 months ago, so seredipitously, it was still under its original yearlong warranty and I received a newer replacement phone for free. Boom!

Speaking of serendipitous timing, not only did I barely eek into the warranty window, my phone also managed to work perfectly fine during two back-to-back weeklong work trips, during which I definitely needed a phone, and then died the day after I got back. The stars are aligned somewhere, that’s for sure. Maybe we’ll be able to see them with this giant telescope camera we’re building.

Things I learned from going without a phone for a few days:

  • A dumb phone is better than no phone. I had to chat with the Google Fi support specialists via the chat box in my browser, and when I say “specialists”, I do indeed mean more than one because man they are useless sometimes.
  • There’s this thing you can do when meeting up with friends where you pre-arrange a time and a place to meet (via email in my case), and then you actually show up on time at that place. Pretty revolutionary.
  • I couldn’t get money out of my venmo account. I went to log in to my account via the browser on my laptop, but needed duo authentication (i.e. a code that they wanted to text to me) in order to log in. I mean, if I had my phone, I wouldn’t be using my laptop in the first place. Duh!
  • I also needed duo authentication to get into some work accounts, which was annoying. There’s a workaround but it takes forever.
  • I would have gotten lost if I had tried to navigate anywhere more than five miles from my house. Luckily for me, my office is only 1.5 miles away.
  • I realized right before going to bed that I didn’t have a way to set an alarm for the morning, so I went digging in my closet and found an old-school alarm clock that I used in high school, before I had a smart phone. Man, those beeps are jarring in the morning. I am very excited to be back to waking up to nice and peaceful ocean-y sounds.
  • Trying to read a recipe off of a laptop while cooking dinner and also snacking on leftover trail mix leads to a sticky keyboard. Lesson learned. Next time I’ll skip the cooking and just stick to the trail mix.
  • I don’t actually talk to that many people anyways.

And I survived. So it worked out, I suppose.

That time I climbed Half Dome and never blogged about it

And by “climbed”, I mean with ropes and stuff. Back in May, my high school friend and her dad invited me along to climb Snake Dike, a technically easy but absolutely beautiful  climbing route up the side of Half Dome in Yosemite. It’s not quite the vertical section of the face (though I’ll admit I’m dreaming about that one…), but I still felt super legit scaling a part of the dome that many people don’t get to see.

As a bonus, before we started climbing we also scrambled a little past the base of the route over to the area where Ansel Adams took that iconic picture of the face of Half Dome (scroll to the bottom to see our recreation of said photo). Definitely worth the extra time and effort.


The casual mid-pitch photo op

The trip involved a few firsts for me:

  • camping in Yosemite (I know, I know, I’ve been there a few times before but it’s always been in a hotel or glamping)
  • getting absolutely soaked from the waterfall on the Mist Trail (I’ve been up this trail twice before but never with the water running this high. There was so much water and mist that I could have shampooed my hair and it would have all washed out no problem. In hindsidght, considering how sweaty and smelly I was, I probably should have done that.)
  • rock scrambling in the dark without my headlamp because I’m an idiot and forgot where I put it (I found it the next morning, much to my chagrin)
  • sleeping under the stars (wedged between some rocks on a mountainside)
  • climbing a multi-pitch route (i.e. a climbing route with more than one pitch, this one had eight) (I definitely didn’t need that explanation but this bullet point felt naked without it)
  • carrying two giant backpacks down the Half Dome cables – mine with all my climbing and camping gear on my back as well as another guy’s pack on my front, because he was injured and struggling to descend – and sliding/crashing/falling into multiple people (sorry everyone)

So. Much. Water.   And this is before the wet part.
Can you tell this is before a full (read: exhausting) day of climbing and hiking?
If I’m just chillin at the anchors, what else am I supposed to do besides take a selfie and almost drop my phone 2000 ft?
Ansel, how’d we do?

Soccer is not a photogenic sport

I play pickup soccer (almost) every day at lunchtime at the SLAC gym, and a couple of weeks ago one of our regulars left SLAC, so we took a group picture and some action shots of the game. Usually we have a bigger crew, but it was an ungodly temperature outside that day.

Turns out I look pretty silly in action. On the bright side, my socks match my shirt and I’m proud of it. Anyways, I’m just gonna leave these here for your enjoyment.

I’m looking very intense while everyone is super chill. 
Just smilin’ and squattin’
Again all smiles, but only an inch off the ground, if that. I missed the ball, in case you can’t quite tell.
One more leg in there should do the trick.
I’m not quite sure why I spend so much time bent in half, looking at the ground. It’s apparently a recurring thing.
Pretty sure I’m not supposed to be folded over so far. Weird habits indeed.

More fridge shenanigans

I just discovered in our work fridge a jar of strawberry preserves that expired in 2011 and I felt the need to share this fact with the world. SIX YEARS AGO PEOPLE. It is now in the hazardous waste bin.

This is worse than the Doritos incident, which was just weird, not gross.

My building is shared by engineers and theoretical physicists, and I know who I’m lookin at…

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