LVC Part 0 – Prologue

Physicists like to count from 0. It kinda makes sense. In this case, LVC Part 0 describes the events related to, but before the start of, the LVCere’s the map. Pan south to California for more locations from today/yesterday

On Saturday, after spending a few hours on site helping out with some outreach stuff, it was time for md to mapd to mape to head home. A friendly guy, very chatty and enthusiastic, Chris gave me a ride each way, which was nice of him. After a few hours at home gather my thoughts and things, Vinny came a-knocking. He had agreed to give me a ride to the airport. Bags in back, chatting up front. Twenty minutes later, he drops me off.

Pasco airport is a small operation, I overheard the people at the checking desk discussing who would load the luggage onto the plane. It’s a small operation. The TSA agents didn’t mind that I had a little bit of toothpaste in my bag. It’s a small operation. This was the plane that was to take me over the Cascades and into Seattle.

It’s a small operation. Yes, those are propellors. Yes, I was sat right next to them. Yes, the whole way, I was terrified that one would shake lose and tear through the plane’s cabin.

Needless to say, it didn’t. It did make a nicer noise than a jet engine though. The ride was surprisingly smoothe, and quite pretty (though cameras didn’t capture it too well.

Arriving in Seattle, I had about half an hour to find my next gate. Seattle Tacoma airport is quite big. I had to take a subway from one block of gates to another. That was different. But I made the plane in good time. It was a much bigger plane, and I was sat inbetween two others.

With the woma

n to my right, I had some decent chat. She had moved around the states a lot, and had some friends acting as missionaries in Africa, and had once gone on a two or three day date to the Bahamas. Two hours later, and a few pages of my book (The Princess Bride) later, and we were coming down over LA. From the sky, I could see its sprawls in all directions. From the tall buildings of downtown out to the Pasadena hills. But bear in mind, this was at 10.30 at night, so I couldn’t really see anything except for the lights of the city.


On getting off at LAX, I had arranged for a taxi to pick me up. I called the number they supplied, but through the furore at the taxi stand, I couldn’t hear him. After twenty (20) minutes of striding back and forth and shouting into a cheap phone, I finally found my driver. He said to look out for a Toyota Prius – every other taxi here is a Toyota Prius. But anyway, eventually i get into my prepaid taxi and after ten minutes of him faffing about with the slowest typing into google maps, logging my pickup into a tablet, we leave for Pasadena. His car makes funny noises, the accelerator makes us lurch forwards whenever he steps on it, very regularly, and more than once, we nearly cut into another car’s path as we wander out of our lane. I knew when he took the wrong turning at a roundabout – twice – that this man was not getting tipped.

I did, however, arrive to the hotel in one piece, I made a bee line to the room that I would be sharing with Jennie and Daniel, and knocked to be let in. By this point it’s about 11:50, they both flew west to come here today, and were almost certainly jet lagged. I was not. It was only fair for me to go straight to bed and not disturb them any more than I needed to.

Morning came.


And with it, a chance to catch up with my friends, explore m


y surroundings (the room), and prepare for the day. After a wee chat with the pair of them, Jennie handed me something she’d been holding onto for a while – a Christmas present.



Thanks, Jennie! Following that, we exchanged stories, took turns showering, and hchristmaseaded out to find something to eat, and some coffee at Starbucks around the corner. The three of us sat there soon amassed a larger greoup, first one of Jennie’s friends, Holger, for AEI in Germany, the Cao, from LHO, and then some other Aussies who had found permanent positions at Caltech. After about an hour of chatting about this and that, we made waves back towards the Hilton. I had to pick some things up from Nutsinee.

Ok, this is where things start getting a bit involved – are you ready? On Saturday, I was notified that someone had used my bank account fraudulently, and Chase had stopped that payment and cancelled my card. I couldn’t get a new card any time soon. The working plan for the time being is to survive off cash until Monday, when I can creep out pf the meeting to go d to mapget a new card printed at a bank (some places do that here). So if I want to go sightseeing with Nutsinee (which I did, and did), I had to warn her of my situation (which I did). She was very good at covering all the necessary costs, though honestly, it was all made easier by online centralised payment. .

We started our tour of LA by stopping at a tea shop in Pasadena near to the Metro station, where Cao caught up to us. Then, the three of us jumped onto a train into the city. Then a train out of the city and towards the tar pits. There is a museum devoted to all of the fossil finds that have been pulled from the tar, and it really was fascinating. Generally ice aged mammals, giant sloths, mammoths, sabre-tooth tigers. And an entire wall of dire wolf skulls. Here are a bunch of photos from the museum:

Outdside of the museum, they have some tar pits that they’re still excavating. I did not realise how stinky tar was. It smells like hot tarmack. Big surprise there. In the open pits, they had displayed crates of finds, fully realised and potential alike. We wondered around a bit to see what was on offer.




We had more marks to hit for the day, and only limited time, as thatt’s how days work, so we stopped to get lunch at a burger van, before calling an Uber to take us to our next stop – the Natural History Museum.

The ride was longer than I had expected. I vastly underestimated the size of Los Angeles. Our driver for the day, Guy, made good chat, and got us there safely. Once there, we just got on with it, knowing we only had an hour and a half to see it all.

We started with the Still like moulds of animals room, a big dark room with still life moulds of animals positioned in windows to look realistic. Next, we moved on to what I call the bullshit room. It had rxhibits detailing the development of the city of LA, of technology, from simple tools until this gem:

Dear LA. I know that you like to stay on the cutting edge, ahead of the curve with global trends, but let me tell you this:  it is neither natural, nor is it history. This whole exhibit needs to go. Sincerely, Bryn.

Then we did the dinosaur bit. That was fun. There were halls full of dinosaur fossils, from a T-Rex diorama, to displays illustrating the difference off bone structure in different kinds of dinosaur. It was genuinely interesting, and quite informative. Surprising nobody, the bones were giant. Skulls that must have weighed tens of kilograms, vertebrae that I wouldn’t try to lift, and thigh bones to be reckoned with.

My favourite though, as they always have been, were the long necked Sauropods. As a kid, I treasured a plastic toy diplodocus from the NHM in London, and seeing it all again with adult eyes was fantastic.  Here are a few snaps:

After we were done with the Cretaceous pewriod, it was the time for the mammals. The NHM had a whole other wing devoted to early mammals, but having just come from the tar pits, it was all a little “been there, done that”, so we did a lightning round before going to find the fossil lab. Just like the tar pit had people behind plexiglass sorting fossils from dirt, the NHM had palaeontologists behind plexiglass tidying up fossil samples from the field. It was really cool, and the museum guide there had some good tidbits to shed on the subject matter. Photos!

After that, we were lagging, and it was fast approaching 5pm. This was our only day free in LA, and we had used it up, and it was time to head back and be adults. We made our way to the metro andmade the hour-and-a-half journey back to the hotel. Jennie and Vinny both were eager to make food plans, but I had to sort out some presentation work with Vinny first, so Jenny went off to do her own thing for dinner. In the ten minutes between getting to the hotel and getting to the room, I bumped into a whole host of familliar faces, some Detcharians (detector characteristic folks), some glasgow


people, some AEI people. The hotel was overflowing with familiar faces, it was great!

Vinny and I went through the presentation, clearing some slides, divvying up the speaking parts, and preparing ourselves for presenting tomorrow. It’s not all sorted yet, but it’s well on the way. Then, after a five minute recess, we went out to dinner ourselves. Marissa and Tara from LLO were to join us, but they had other matters to tend to first. But Cao joined us. And the three of us went out to eat.

We settled quickly on a nearby place – BJ’s Brewhouse (don’t giggle), and settled in for a meal and a drink. The waitress was very friendly, and indulged us in our silly arguments. Vinny got offended that I dipped my chips in mayonnaise, and I was offended that he ate pizza with a knife and form. We were both generally offended at Cao’s taste for beetroot in a burger. It was a really fun meal. Half way through, a host of faces showed up by our booth, including Karl Wette, Evan, Miriam, Jamie Scott and others. They decided to eat at the same place, but were sat far away, so that was the extent of our interaction for the evening.

On the way back to the hotel, we walked a few blocks out of the way, to aid with digestion, and carry on the rapport that we’d established. In the lobby, a LIGO crowd had amassed by the bar, so we mingled and settled for the evening.


All in all, it’s been a busy, fun, packed and great day. Day 0 of the conference is usually like that. It’s been fantastic seeing old faces, talking to people again and getting out to explore the city that’s hosting us for the next week.

Stay tuned for more! Tomorrow, CW Face to face meeting day 1! Nail biting stuff.


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