Thursday, July 30, 2015

So, Why Are You Here Again?

This summer, in the name of sediment transport modeling, I find myself in the Netherlands.

I have no one else to blame for this turn of events, which is both empowering and frightening. Whatever thesis progress I make this summer will be my own. Whatever paper-worthy endeavors, if any, will be entirely self-driven.

In other words, if I screw up it is all on me. With that cheery note, you might be wondering what exactly I could screw up in a couple months' time. You might remember, from previous posts, that I am studying the dynamics of a particularly interesting inlet system in Martha's Vineyard, MA. I've written about some of the field work my lab (PVLAB) works on during the summer months. My goal, as an individual PhD student, is to use this field work and numerical model(s) to tease out the precise combination of physical factors that cause the inlet to behave in the way it does.

A truly successful simulation would capture both the hydrodynamics (waves, currents) and the sediment transport (i.e. where the sand goes) of the system. My model as it stands does a pretty good job with the former (paper forthcoming, with any luck!) but not quite as much with the latter. I have relocated myself across the Atlantic for the summer with the intention of fixing this. In short:

Goal: sediment transport simulations
Tools: TU Delft and all the people inside
Project direction: getting there. Slowly.

During the weekdays, you'll find me holed up here:

1960's monstrosity behind me (and my father) -- if you can't make out either of us, I've done my job right.

drinking americano (...I miss real American drip coffee. Small sacrifices, I suppose) or tea and sifting through mounds of code I did not write or trying to run an entirely new model for research purposes. Occasionally I poke my head into the office of the wonderful professor hosting me and annoy him for a half hour or so with myriads of questions.

During the weekends, things get a little more interesting. The way I see it, I've already done the hardest leg of any journey from American to Europe. I might as well take advantage of the fact that I am a mere train journey away from many interesting European cities, even if that means taking some time out of my head and my computer.

Let's begin with the Netherlands, because that is where all good things start.

Delft is an adorable little city with bike lanes and short, very old architectural marvels everywhere. Oh, and canals.

Apparently it is not uncommon for drunk students to drive their bikes into these things in the wee hours of the night. Heheheh.
If you want to spend a day in Delft, visits should certainly include the two gorgeous churches at the center of the city. Otherwise, get lots of walking in and see where it takes you.

More canals. And yes, everything looks about this beautiful.
Big, beautiful church. Lots of these around.
Rotterdam is a nice hour bike ride to the south. On the way, you have a canal to your right and a rural scenes to your left. I've seen cows, sheeps, tiny little stone towns, beautiful houses with moats, horses...the Netherlands ebbs and flows from city to rural so quickly that there is barely any chance for suburbs to exist. Y'know, I could get use to this.

Izza lonely pony (or something). Of all the pictures I could have taken, for some reason this is the only one I wanted.
Finally, the Hague. Den Haag, as I should be pronouncing it (turns out a Spanish language elective simply makes my default foreign accent entirely incorrect for the Dutch language). A half hour bike ride to the north, and way more hectic than I was anticipating. There are lovely museums, about a block and a half of a Chinatown (the Netherlands is trying. But I will go back to Boston for my true Chinatown experience, thanks all the same), a beach somewhere north, and too many little neighborhoods in between to count. I was told by some TU students that Den Haag does not appear to have a city center, and they were very correct on that account. The city is akin to what happens when you take the urban planners who auditioned for the job of organizing Delft, and then picked the one that was on the bottom of everyone's list to work with Den Haag.

Not Den Haag. No pictures from that place (was too busy getting lost!) Instead, have a kitty. They are everywhere.

One thing that strikes me about this city is how...trusting it is. You'll notice there are no signs warning people not to dive into the canals. There are all sorts of imaginary ways parents carry their children on bikes. No one wears helmets. People lock the back wheel of their bikes, and not much else. This feels very much like a society where the powers-that-be trust their citizens to be intelligent. Which is kind of mind-blowing, coming from America where every little thing has a disclaimer.

I intend to figure out how this mentality came about. I have about two months left.

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