Thursday, January 31, 2013

Project 365: Day 342

well, staying out until 6am on Wednesday evening AND making it to the first talk of the day on Thursday morning (yes, I was shocked myself!) rendered me absolutely POOPED on Thursday! After morning meetings and lunch, I was headed to Switzerland to spend my final night in Europe at a hotel near the airport. Needless to say, I slept the entire 2.5 hour drive.... got to my hotel room, napped for over an hour, ate dinner, was in bed by 8:30pm, and got 12 hours of sleep!! International sales meetings are tough work!

And so I share with you a picture of a remnant from Wednesday night which I found in my purse when I got to Zurich:

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Project 365: Day 341

Wednesday night was our formal dinner! My Australian colleague, Peter, didn't have anything fancy to wear, so I let him borrow my scarf to add a little flare to his ensamble.
after a great dinner, which included an entire course of nothing but cheese! (gotta love france!)
a group of us went out on the town for some late-night dancing. All I can say is, this is how it started:
and it didn't end until the sun was coming up!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Project 365: Day 340

After a looooong day of meetings, we had a company sponsored event on Tuesday night: Bowling!
Not exactly what one might think of doing when you're in France, but it was actually SUPER fun, I had a blast (even though I bowled like sh*t!)
Hanging out with my boss, Alan, and the head of our CryoProbe group in Switzerland, Klemens.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Project 365: Day 339

In Strasbourg, France for a week-long meeting for work. The days are LOOONG and happen completely within the confines of a Hilton hotel which might as well be anywhere in the world, but for the evening, we get to escape! Tonight, we made our way through the town of Strasbourg to find a FABULOUS local restaurant near the cathedral in the center of town. So... we got a little lost on our way....
 But even in the dark, the town is gorgeous: 
 The best part of the walk was getting lost around the cathedral - I could walk around this thing all day (or all night) long! It is because of this cathedral that the entire city center was designated a world heritage site. It was breathtaking:

We finally did find the restaurant and had a FABULOUS meal (ok vegetarians and animal rights activists stop reading now). I had fois gras for the first time ever, and it was ah-mazing! Then for my main course I just asked the waiter to bring me his favorite dish and he brought me veal cordon creme, which is basically veal wrapped around a creamy french cheese and then breaded and fried. It was an amazing meal and I was lucky to share it with a bunch of great US, German, and Canadian colleagues... good times were had by all.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Project 365: Day 338

First: Skiing in the Alps
Next: a couple of bottles of champagne to celebrate my big day. The only thing that would have made it better would have been if Nick was here to celebrate with me.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Project 365: Day 337

Today was my first full day in Europe, and it was spent on the slopes.
We could NOT have asked for a more beautiful day on the mountain. There was not a cloud in the sky and it was all I could do not to just take photographs the entire day.
The thing about the alps is that the tree line is much lower than in the rockies, so where in Colorado the tree line is something between 10,000 and 11,000 feet above sea level here the tree line is something like 5-6,000 feet above sea level (about the height of Denver) so the entire ski mountains are completely open bowls.
 It is a totally different experience then skiing through heavily wooded areas, and offers some spectacular views because there are no trees blocking your views!
(check out these awesome little hammocks at the top of one of the lifts!)
The great thing about skiing in Switzerland (from my own perspective) is that it's really not about the skiing, its about the experience. While the American way is get as many runs in as possible, the Swiss way is just to enjoy the mountains, and if that means stopping mid-mountain for a coffee and schnapps every hour or so, then that's what you do!  
my colleagues and I taking a break for lunch
After a full day of skiing we headed back down the mountain at about 4pm and had one hour to shower and change and make it back to our meeting point for dinner. My colleague, Thomas, who organized the weekend, had told all of us that we would need snow boots for our "event" on Saturday night. So, I went back to my room, showered, did my make-up (including mascara), put on my skinny jeans and snow boots with a cute sweater, and my nice jacket and headed to dinner.
I showed up at the meeting point and about 85% of my colleagues were all still in their ski gear! Turns out, the plan for our "surprise" event was to snow shoe ONE HOUR up the mountain to a mid-mountain restuarnt to have fondu for dinner. All of the conversation throughout the day had been in German so while everyone else figured out the "surprise," myself and my Australian colleague were completely unaware that this was the plan, and thus completely under-dressed!!!!
I was a little upset about the whole thing, figuring I would freeze my butt off, but at this point it was too late to do anything about it, so I just went along for the ride. We all took the gondola up to the mid-mountain station and then strapped into our snow shoes, and we were off!

We were seriously hiking in these snow shoes, walking UP down-hill ski runs, so I actually was pretty warm for the hike. It was a good thing too, because I spent the first 15 minutes of the hike (until i warmed up) plotting how I would get Thomas back for this "surprise!"  In the end I guess I had the perfect ammount of clothing on for the event and I really enjoyed the hike (and it's always nice to feel like you're really earning your dinner!).  The best part of the entire trip was watching the full moon rise over the alps - it was one of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen.
When we got to the top, we had swiss fondu for dinner (talk about cheese overload!) accompanied by lots of wine and of course schnapps for dessert and then after a couple hours, we made our way back down the mountain.
Once we made it back to the Gondola we had the option to ride the gondola back down or go sled riding down to the bottom! Now, being an american, I haven't been sledding since I was about 10 years old, but here in Switzerland it is a very common thing for ski resorts to have groomed tracks for people of all ages to go sled riding!  Of course, never being one who wants to miss out on anything, I grabbed a sled and set off! 
Let me tell you, this was not the sled riding of your youth! This was ~1,200 vertical feet and 4 kilometers long! It twists and turns all the way down the mountain and all you have is your feet to steer you along the way - these things can get some SERIOUS speed!  Thankfully the 30 minute hike down from dinner had us all relatively sobered up before the ride, because it was absolutely insane. Some of the turns were so sharp that people were running right into them and bouncing off the embankments. There were about 4 lights along the entire run, so we were lucky for the full moon, otherwise we would have been sledding in complete dark! it was crazy. Even with the moonlight there were plenty of bumps and dips that we couldn't see coming, so we all just braced ourselves and held on tight!
I was screeching and yelping the entire way down and having a blast all the while. But whereas it really was OK to be wearing jeans for the snowshoeing, it was NOT ok to be wearing them for sledding! Snow was shooting up from under my boots (as I was steering and breaking) and landing all over my jeans and piling up in between my legs.  I literally had a popsicle for an ass by the time the whole thing was done, my jeans were completely soaked my crotch was absolutely FREEZING!!! There were several times when I actually had to stop and scoop the snow out from my seat because I was so cold - and 4km is quite a ways to go on a sled!!!! But, it was completely worth it!
It was definitely one of the most amazing and ridiculous things I have ever done! What a great way to top off the perfect day in the Swiss Alps!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Project 365: Day 336

Friday evening in Elm, Switzerland, enjoying a beer with my colleagues

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Project 365: Day 335

On the road again.......

on my way to our international sales and service meeting in Strausbourg, France. First, though, I'll spend the weekend skiing in switzerland!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Project 365: Day 334

Only two days at home between the trip to Billerica + Bachelorette and my next 9-day trip to Europe for work, so my amazing fiance cooked me a gourmet meal of tacos for dinner. I miss him when I'm gone!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Project 365: Day 333

First day back and it was back to wedding planning - Nick and I were on a mission to find our wedding bands and surprisingly, it was pretty painless. Our favorite bands turned out to be pretty affordable, AND it only took us about an hour to purchase both of them. One more thing off the list!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Project 365: Day 332

ok, i'm going to have to come back to my bachelorette party, but for now i'll pick up at the end of the weekend.... so here is my picture of the day for Monday, January 21 - on my way home from my bachelorette party... and the craziest weekend of my life! All i could muster for the day was a picture out the window of the plane. Shit... I was BEAT!!!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Project 365: Day 331

By Sunday morning, we were all feeling a bit haggered, but we had to buck up, because the 49ers were playing in the playoffs and Katie was stoked to watch the game. We found a bar called Happy's and hunkered down for a long afternoon. What started as a low-key afternoon watching the game quickly turned into one of the absolute most RIDICULOUS days/nights we have all ever had (don't even ask why allie has an eye patch on). Let's just say, what happens in NOLA stays in NOLA, haha!
I know everyone probably says this, but I really do believe I had the absolute BEST BACHELORETTE PARTY EVER!!! AHHHHHH-MAZING!!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Project 365: Day 330

Saturday morning we were up bright and early (11am) for a breakfast of po boys and crawfish.
 (katie had oysters at almost every meal!)
 And then we were off to our swamp tour. Crazily we ended up on a bus and boat with 15-person bachelor party who had brought a case of beer onto the bus with them! The day was about to begin! We hopped onto a boat and headed into the swamp.
The swamp was absolutely gorgeous and it was great to get outside for the day for some fresh air and sunshine

 Although we didn't see any aligators (cuz they are all hibernating in January) we did see some pretty neat wildlife:
 After the swamp tour, we headed out to a nice dinner and then hit the town again... craziness ensued!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Project 365: Day 329

It's my bachelorette party!!!
And I am soo lucky to have such an AMAZING group of girlfriends (especially my sister and MOH allie) who all flew across the country with me to celebrate
Friday night my girlfriends jacked me up in ridiculous gear and for dinner at Desire before we hit Burbon street!
(how to you wear these things!?)

 As we walked out of the restaurant, a parade came through Burbon Street - just for me! (hehe)
Afterwards we headed to see Fat Al, Allison's favorite New Orleans musician. He was a blast, and he even let us all come on stage during the break for a group picture!
Next stop was Karaoke! It honestly wouldn't have occured to me to do karaoke in New Orleans - with all the amazing local musicians in the city - but my girlfriends knowing me the way they do, took me straight to a karaoke bar and waited with me for over an hour and a half so that I could have my moment in the spotlight, it was amazing!!
And then it was out on the town for dancing!
All in all it was a solid first night, we all had a blast!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Project 365: Day 328

Last night in Billerica, before my big bachelorette party in New Orleans tomorrow!!! Just a quiet night in my hotel room and a date with Grey's Anatomy.
Although I have to say, room service isn't nearly as fun when you don't have someone to share it with!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Project 365: Day 327

Let it Snow!!!
Or don't! Because I wasn't properly attired and my rental car company forgot to give me a snow brush in my car! This morning I had to walk through several inches of snow to get to my car (in heels!! i didn't bring my boots!). Then, I had to use my arm to brush off all the snow. It got all over my feet and my pants, so I only did the front and back windows and figured I could just get the sides by rolling down the windows. BUT instead of falling off the windows, the snow fell into my car!!! So everything was just covered with snow. My feet were wet and cold the ENTIRE day! And after 9 hours at the office, I got back in my car and there was still snow in it!!! It hadn't even melted!!! booo! Snow on the slopes: GOOD. Snow in my high heels: NOT GOOD!!!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Project 365: Day 326

No that I've shown you what the little guys look like, here is what one of our bigger guys looks like:
This is a 600MHz magnet with lots and lots of accessories (sample changer, cryogenically cooled probes....) and a system like this would cost over $1,000,000.  This type of system is typically used by biochemists who are studying proteins.  You can see that the magnet is much bigger than the 300MHz magnet. This is because the more turns you have in a coil, the more current it can hold, so if you want a stronger magnet, you need a bigger coil. (Also, the material in the wires is different as well, bigger the magnets require wire that can hold more current than the smaller magnets).

Cool stuff, huh? ok, well I think it is!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Project 365: Day 325

Question of the day: Uhhh what is it that you sell again?

Answer: NMR Spectrometers of course!

So what exactly is an NMR? Well I'm not going to go into all of the details but it's basically a big magnet with a box of electronics. You take your test tube and put it in the magnet, then use the electronics to "zap" your sample and then the result is that the sample then emits a signal that you record. The signal tell you lots and lots of information about whatever you have in your test tube.

The most special part of the whole machine is the magnet. Our magnets are super conducting magnets that are made from taking miles and miles of very special (and expensive wire) and winding it into a coil. Then we cool the coil down to ~ 4K (that's Kelvin, as 4 degrees above absolute zero or about -450F!!) using liquid helium. Once the coil is cold we run electricity through it - slowly ramping up the current - until we fill the wire with as much current as it can take. Then we remove the power supply, close a switch (so the coil becomes a closed circuit loop) and essentially the current just goes around and around forever creating a persistant super conducting magnet. 

Ok so now that I've lost all of you with my completely non-technical and non-eloquent description, it's time to show you the magnet! This is what we call a 300MHz magnet which has a magnetic field strength of ~ 7 Tesla. This is the smallest magnet that we manufacture and sell. This magnet has been cut open so that you can see what it looks like inside.  
So at the very inside (the white thing) is the magnet coil (there is also one on the floor to the left of the magnet). The coil is sitting inside a thermally insulated container called a cryostat which consists of several dewars. OK, so the coil is sitting inside a dewar (painted yellow) that is filled with liquid helium. Then there is an empty section (blue) that is a vacuum to prevent thermal conduction (this is how a thermos works!). The next dewar (red) is the liquid nitrogen bath (at about 77K or -321F). The liquid nitrogen helps to slow down the rate of evaporation of the helium (because helium is expensive and non-renewable and nitrogen is cheap and easy to produce).  Then there is another vacuume section that also has tons of thin foil-like sheets again to help to prevent thermal conduction. And then there is the final outter casing.

A typical modern superconducting magnet needs to be filled with nitrogen once per week and filled with helium a couple times per year.  A standard 300MHz NMR Spectrometer (with a magnet like the one above) will cost about $150-200,000 (of course that includes all of the electronics as well).

And so now you know a little bit more about what I do... not that you asked!