Sand Castles at Hilton Head

Last Saturday, I helped my younger brother Noah move into college. He started classes on Monday. Since moving, I think I’ve talked to him more in the past five days than I did all of July!

Noah and I have been buds for a long, long time. When we were younger, we often went to the cabin, just us and my dad. There we played all sorts of games. We were fairy tale travelers while we were hiking. Naturally, we all have to come up with names and weapons to defend ourselves from the bad guys. We played king and queen of the river, and wrote nonsensical stories on the porch.

Over the years, we played pretend less and less, but we do still play. Noah likes to rope me into playing a video game with him now and then when I visit home. If we have several people about, we often play board games. And of course we still play when we go to the beach!

Noah and I enjoy playing in the waves, especially if they are a bit rougher and stronger. My favorite is to boogie board. It’s so fun when you catch the wave just right and away you go! Our other favorite is to make sandcastles. We like to build them and test out different fortification methods to see how long they last against the incoming tide.

Check out the sand castle we built earlier this summer! I did the seashell road and the driftstraw sticks. Noah made the awesome tunnel moat. We even enlisted the help of mom and dad for moving sand about and collecting items. We had many admirers. In particular there was a little boy and his sister who watched the demolition with us. The little boy was so curious, asking us all sorts of questions. This is definitely one of my favorite sandcastles that we’ve built. I like all the details and our moat and wall construction did well too!

My mom teased me while I worked on the sandcastle. She said that people walking by would think I was a teenager playing in the sand, not a 23 year old who is married and working on a Ph.D. Even though I’m not a kid anymore, I enjoy playing and exploring. Noah is growing up. He’s off to college, but I’m not worried about him losing his desire to play. He’s majoring in game design after all!

Our sandcastle from the front... or side depending on if you count the entrance or the side facing the ocean the front.
Our sandcastle from the front… or side depending on if you count the entrance or the side facing the ocean the front.
The center moat drains into the ocean.
The center moat drains into the ocean.

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Those seashells took a long time to collect!
Those seashells took a long time to collect!
Noah dug out this awesome tunnel moat.
Noah dug out this awesome tunnel moat.
Master Builders: Noah and me
Master Builders: Noah and me
Apprentices: Mom and Dad
Apprentices: Mom and Dad
The tunnel was the first thing to fail. As the tide rose, so did the water table. Since the tunnel moat was dug down a bit the rising water weakened the sand.
The tunnel was the first thing to fail. As the tide rose, so did the water table. Since the tunnel moat was dug down a bit the rising water weakened the sand.
The first seawater encounters our moat.
The first seawater encounters our moat.
Our split moat doing in action, directing the incoming water away from our walls.
Our split moat in action, directing the incoming water away from our walls.
The tide rose too high! The waves overcame our moat and walls.
The tide rose too high! The waves overcame our moat and walls.
Our inner moat does its job protecting the towers.
Our inner moat does its job protecting the towers.
Our castle grounds are swamped...
Our castle grounds are swamped…
... but our jolly green flag still stands!
… but our jolly green flag still stands!
The sea raged on, finally felling our green flag. The castle is defeated.
The sea raged on, finally felling our green flag. The castle is defeated.

California Trip Day Seven

Tyler, Noah, and I having fun with one of the exhibits.
Tyler, Noah, and I having fun with one of the exhibits.

On our last day in California, Tyler, Noah, Mom, Dad, and I explored the Exploratorium, a hands-on science museum.

I had a good time at the museum. However, it was much more crowded than I would have liked. There were little kids everywhere, which is good because that’s the target audience, but it meant that I didn’t take my time with the exhibits when there was a crowd of kids waiting their turn (or in many cases not waiting their turn and messing up the exhibit while I was using it). Also, I felt bad taking up space, because to be honest, I knew what was going to happen in most of the exhibits and could easily explain the theory behind them. To the point that Tyler and I often did explain what was going on to curious children and their parents. Just because I understand what’s going on does not mean that I didn’t still enjoy the wonder that comes with playing. So, if we had gone a bit earlier, or not during holidays, I could have happily spent hours playing and exploring all the exhibits.

Despite the crowds, I did have some favorite experiments. I think my all time favorite was the large camera obscura on the roof. The lenses focused the nearby Bay Bridge on a table in a dark tent. It was pretty cool to see the cars moving along the Bay Bridge, without actually looking at the bridge itself. It was also pretty cool to see how well it was focused, because you could see fuzzy birds flying by on the table, since they weren’t at the same distance as the bridge.

There was a pretty cool window display that Tyler enjoyed a lot. There is a stained glass window of sorts, but rather than stained glass, the differences in what you were seeing were due to polarized sections of the window. Facing the window was a polarized wheel. As you spun the wheel, different parts of the window became dark and the polarized wheel became perpendicular to the polarized sections of the window.

Sometimes I forget that I’m a real life scientist. At one of the optics displays there were mirrors and lights, demonstrating that you can use mirrors to direct the beams of light, but the beams were so weak! Its funny because I get to work with lasers and direct the laser beams over larger distances and carefully aligned. Most of the time I forget that as a kid I always wanted to have a powerful enough light source that I could actually use mirrors and direct the light like I saw on TV all the time. Its pretty cool that I often get to “play” with lasers at work.

Overall I had a good day. I got to be nerdy and play, which is always pretty cool. I wish there was someplace like this closer to me, that way I could go play during off hours. Who knows, maybe I would wind up volunteering there! Ah well.

I had tons of fun during my time in California, but I was also very ready to be home. The next day, we flew out, ending our Christmas vacation. And thus, ending this California Trip Series!