I’m coming home!

Today is the day I leave America, flying home to arrive tomorrow. I’m still packing everything up.

I’ve had a fun few days seeing friends that I’ve made here, closing my bank account (the banker remembered me from my face, it’s a small town), taking extra clothes to the thrift store, wrapping up some work things and neglecting to pack.

I have only a few hours left before my flight. So I’m going to finish packing now.

I’ll update this on the way home maybe. Wish me luck!

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I’m coming home!

Today is the day I leave America, flying home to arrive tomorrow. I’m still packing everything up.

I’ve had a fun few days seeing friends that I’ve made here, closing my bank account (the banker remembered me from my face, it’s a small town), taking extra clothes to the thrift store, wrapping up some work things and neglecting to pack.

I have only a few hours left before my flight. So I’m going to finish packing now.

I’ll update this on the way home maybe. Wish me luck!

Travel summary!

I’m done writing in depth travel blogs. Here’s a bullet listed run down, with a photodump of each place. Sorry about that!

April:

New York!

  • Stayed with my Uncle/Aunt/Cousin
  • Spent time with them catching up – nice

Thursday

  • Walked through Central Park
  • Met with friend Alexis in Williamsburg
  • Ate a rainbow bagel
  • Walked around China Town, Little Italy, Times Square
  • Lots of walking ~14mi

Friday

  • Explored Greenwich Village (gay area)
  • Empire States Building was cool
  • New headphones
  • Pooped in Trump Tower (on purpose) #DumpOnTrump
  • Seder with family friends – good fun!
  • Looked around Columbia University at night

Saturday

  • Visited Wall Street
  • Met friend Danielle
  • Freedom tower was cool
  • Ground Zero was kinda haunting
  • Lunch in Chelsea – The Cantena (or something)
  • Hung out w/ cousin & boyfriend – good to catch up
  • Second Seder night with family!

Sunday

  • Arrived home relatively late, watched Game of Thrones

 

Portland!

  • The dreams of the nineties are alive in Portland!

Saturday

  • Stayed in hostel/airbnb with Ross
  • Craig, T, Darkhan stayed elsewhere
  • Made friends with bunk mate, Mariko, tourist from Japan! She’s so lovely
  • Journey down was beautiful, pine forests, Columbia river gorge(ous)
  • Portland is a spontaneous terrarium – life is everywhere!
  • Saturday markets, great crafts, good fun
  • Walk over to the zoo, rose garden (only 1 rose) and japanese garden
  • Ate with another hostel made, Dane, owned 2 guns
  • Went to Burnside Brewery, some weird and some delicious beers
  • Accidentally ended up at a gig of Asher Fulero Band

Sunday

  • Revisited Saturday market to see more
  • Wandered around the mean streets of Portland
  • Visited Powells – a bookstore a whole city block big!
  • Headed to Deschutes Brewpub for lunch
  • Drive home with Evan
  • Stopped at Multnomah Falls
  • Arrived home relatively late
  • Watched Game of Thrones!

May

Seattle

Saturday

  • Drove down with Ross, Nutsinee
  • Met Craig, Darkhan, Dave (new flatmate I might have failed to mention)
  • Started at coffee shop, bussed to Pike Place Market
  • Food – Gyro (they spelled it “Yurro” just to be safe!)
  • Walked over to Space needle, long line, so straight to gift shop
  • EMP closed.
  • Go for food again – Jamjuree (same place ass comicon day)
  • Elysium Bar – Played 3 or 4 rounds of Avalon
  • Back to airbnb – nice place for 3 people!

Sunday

  • Wake, breakfast, finally meet hosts!
  • Go out for breakfast
  • Drive back into the Capitol Hill, meet other at coffee shop
  • EMP! Big museum (Experience Music Project)
  • Indie game exhibit – played a bunch of indie games
  • Experience music – a bunch of instruments to play. No talent -> I didn’t stay long!
  • Star Trek exhibit! More my speed
  • Sci-Fi exhibit, cool
  • Horror exhibit – interesting
  • Fantasy exhibit – kinda insulting
  • Food – the Armory, meat pie (with Brown Sauce!)
  • Uwajimaya, huge asian goods shop – includes a bank and a book shop.
  • Drive home with Ross, Nutsinee. Listen to Harmontown podcast

 

Happy digesting! Maybe one day, I’ll go through these in more detail.

Midweek Stargazing!

Right! You probably don’t care about my free time travelling, and it’s a lot to write up. Have something else instead today.

Yesteraday, I filed a work permit in order to turn off the car park lights at night. At 10pm, Nutsinee and I returned to the site with her DSLR camera, a tripod, and a sheet of paper with all of the site light fuse locations. We spend half an hour running around in the dark, her in her Totoro blanket, me in shorts and a tshirt. We found the breakers in the LSB. Bam. We went into the staging building and found the brerakers in there. Bam We found the breaker in the car park. Kerchunk. Now only one set of lights were left on. We found the breaker in the OSB. Bam.

Ed, the operator du jour, whipped out the binoculars. Tonight, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are all on display. He pointed me towards Jupiter and assured me that, if your hands are still enough, you can see some of the moons. Not with these eyes!

Then, Nutsinee and I headed to the roof! We headed out towards the Y arm, set up the tripod, and porgrammed her camera for 30 second exposures! While she was setting it up (her camera, her rules) I just lay back and looked up at the stars! It’s not often you get to be so remote.

I was surprised by how bright the various sources were around us. To the north, at the end of the X arm, was the Hanford site, with the vit plant and various other plants for controlling the hazards that lie there. To the south-west was Richland. That was bright and sprawling. LIGO sits on a little rise in the ground (as I discovered when I cycled here!) so even though it’s a long way away, much of Richland’s bright lights can be seen. Even to the south-east, beyond the Y arm  behind Rattlesnake Mountain lies Benton City. On a 30 second exposure, the glow from Benton City can be seen over the mountain.

After setting up, we left. I’ll put the pictures up here once Nutsi has finished vetting them! Until them, have the pictures from last night’s setting up!

 

 

 

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New York Day 1 – Alexis

Tuesday came around and, worrying that I would sleep in really late (remember, I’m 3 hours behind the curve now), I set an alarm to get up. I ended up waking up at 9 NY time, 6am Hanford time. I spent a couple of hours in the morning getting ready, catching up with my uncle. We chatted about this and that, work, TV, family, the works, but before long, he had to get to work, and I had to get out the door.

My friend, who I know from Glasgow, Alexis, was in town for the afternoon, so naturally, we decided to meet up. But she was coming in from Conneticut with family, later in the day. So first on my list was to walk around the nearby Cathedral, and get a coffee before heading into Central Park. The cathedral looked like it had some construction work going on, so I walked around in and into Morningside Park, with the dulcet tones of CGPGrey podcasting in my head.

After Morningside, Yelp (thank the lord for Yelp, right?) led me to a little cafe with not-bad coffee. I got one to go, and headed towards Central Park. At least, I thought I did. The streets in NYC are very regular – a grid. If you don’t know your way around, then it can be very easy to get turned around and head the wrong way. I did make it to the park though – it’s kind of hard to miss.

In the park, there was an awful lot going on. Let’s begin by saying that the park in huge – a few square miles. I walked the length of the park, but not in a straight line. I saw an awful lot of runners and cyclists running its length. At first, I thought that there might have been a race, or something, going on. Later, I realised that just by the law of large numbers, there probably wasn’t anything special going on. Just individual people doing individual things. Lots of them.

Along my walk through Central Park, it kinda felt like I wasn’t really in the city any more, but that it was just looming the the distance, beyond some trees, over the pond, and past the shouts of the kids. I got a little bit turned around in a section of the park near to the south end of the park. The area there is landscaped to look like a wild forest, with winding paths and, dense trees and a rugged looking pond. I wanted to walk across the path’s width but ended up at ceaseless dead ends. The park was really nice to walk through, but by the end of it, Alexis was close approaching the city, and if I wanted to make ti to 14th St at a good time, then I had to make a shake.

I strode off purposefully along what I had assumed to be 7th Ave, but turned out to be 57th St. Oops, I was heading west, not SE. So eventually I made it back to where I needed to be. Walking through mid-town was something of an experience – everything so tall, reflective, impressive. I didn’t take the time to stop and admire though, I had somewhere to be.

I made it to the 14th St subway, and from there, to Williamsburg, where I was greeted by Alexis and her family. I had never had perogies, so it was decided that was to be our first stop. By now, it was maybe 3pm, and I hadn’t eaten a bite since breakfast. Where we stopped for food, we had a beer (nice Polish stuff), and 3 courses (lunchtime deal) of soup, perogies, and apple pie. Alexis and I had a really good chance to catch up on what she’s been doing since Glasgow and how I’ve been doing stateside.

From the perogies place, Alexis’ sister suggested they show me to this hipster (it is Williamsburg) place which sells rainbow coloured bagels. I didn’t know what to expect. Walking there, you could see from the people in the streets, wearing tight trousers and faded denim and fur jackets, that this really was a strange place for strange people, which just so happens to be in-vogue, always.

The bagels themselves were strikingly vibrant, though that did not make them particularly appetising. Or maybe that was the kilo of food sat in my stomach. Anyway, we held onto the bagel for later. For now, we had a bridge to cross. We had planned to walk across the Williamsburg bridge! Back onto Manhattan. We walked on the wrong side (we weren’t to know) meant only for bikes. I t wasn’t until half way across that we could get back to the right side! The bridge was nice, it was a bridge. It had tains, cars, bikes, and pedestrians, each with their own little path.

Over the bridge, we headed into Little Italy for a wander, and something to drink. We didn’t spend long in Little Italy before moseying on down to China Town, where, again, we didn’t stay long. By this point, I was getting tired. Walking about ten miles will do that to you. So I walked with Alexis back to Union Square, and said goodbye. I decided to look at Union Square in the failing light, and spotted the Empire State Building looming over all.

I decided that the wisest thing to do, no phone battery, no map, dying light, and tired from walking, was to walk to the building and scope it out. I ended up making it to the base of the Empire State building before long, but thought it best to get back. Well, a few detours first. I made a bee-line, albeit unknowingly, for Times Square. It was bright and pretty and so busy. From there, I continued along Broadway, through Columbus Center, and up the west side of Manhattan before getting back to my Uncle’s apartment.

It was maybe 8pm when I got back, and after a long day of walking (maybe 14 miles, I dunno), I just needed to sit down with the family and watch the telly!

 

3 weeks to go!

This is the third week before I come back to Glasgow. At some point, I hope that I’ll have time to catch up on blog posts that I need to write. But until then, I’ve been kept very busy indeed.

You might recall that back in April, I was yearning to start doing Mouseguard, and running a pub quiz. Well, that sort of destroyed any kind of my own time in the evenings. It’s been the case that Monday night is my own time, Tuesday, I write the quizzes, Wednesday, I run the quizzes, Thursday, I host Mouseguard, and Friday is again, my own time. Laterly, my weekends have also been pretty well booked out as well, between NYC, Portland, the B-reactor, and this weekend, I’m visiting a shooting range (I’m saving Sunday free though).

Additionally to that, at work I’ve been trying to plug away as best I can, but I had been stuck on a coding hurdle. Trying to learn python, I think, will prove to be worth the time. But it has made the coding relatively slow going. But now that I have the code working for making, comparing and plotting BLRMS values (it’s pretty versatile too), I can run off and do some actual studies.

Last night, at the pub where I host the quiz, there was low turnout for the umpteenth time in a row. Lindsay told me that they probably won’t run the quiz any more. That frees up two of my evenings in any given week.

On top of that, my Mouseguard campaign is coming to a close either this week or next. Hopefully with this extra evening time I’ll be able to better keep this blog.

It’s been warm here recently, and now that the pool at the apartment is open, I might use some of this free time to take a dip, get back on the treadmill, or go running outside. Then again, maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

Time is ticking away, and I’m ok with it.

See you soon, Glasgow!

New York Day 0 – There

Nutsinee was working the late shift, 4pm til midnight. I had to fly out early in the afternoon, at 1pm, so I asked her for a lift, over the other fellows who would be dutifully working hard. I still got to the airport with a lot of time to spare, so I grabbed a coffee. I had 8 hours of travelling ahead of me, which after 3 hours of time zone shifts looks like 11 hours on paper.

As ever, the plane out of Pasco was small, and United offered double snacks, as they have to go somewhere, right? Yum. After a brief flight over the Rockies, we land in Denver, the city that missed the memo that winter has passed. There was snow everywhere, and I could see the snow falling off in the distance. Weird, huh? I had an hour here, a gate to find, and a seat to get. (It wasn’t printed on the boarding pass). After grabbing my seat, I had time to grab an airport burrito. Airport burritos are simultaneously the worst food and the best food. It’s a paradox, but it’s true.

Shortly after, I was aboard the next plane, from Denver to LaGuardia. Once more, at the last minute, a man in a nice looking business suit takes the free window seat next to me. He has an interesting phone, one that I’ve never seen before, and he doesn’t switch it to aeroplane mode, even as we’re taxiing. He eventually comes off the phone and turns to me to tell me that he hates flying *commercially*. I engage him a bit. Turns out, he’s kinda loaded, and afraid of flying. There are stories to come, hold on. But for context, he wanted a drinking buddy on the flight, and if he was buying, I was his buddy!

So, this guy had been, over the last weekend, on a private island in the Bahamas for a fishing trip. On the first day, though, he stepped on a razor shell and cut his foot open. His trip was ruined, and the island didn’t have much in the way of medical supplies. He came back to Colorado to see doctors who gave him a course of industrial strength antibiotics. Now he was flying last minute to New York to talk business (he own, or manages a hotel chain), begrudgingly. So we drank a few. He asked what I did, so I explained about LIGO (#SpontaneousOutreach), and subtly mentioned that for every dollar invested in science, there’s a very steady and relatively good return. When he heard that, he got interested. “How do I invest in science?” and “What are the avenues for profit in the field?” These are things I didn’t have answers too. He wasn’t particularly scientifically minded – he believed that people had been abducted by aliens.

So after that bizarre flight, I arrive in LaGuardia at about 11.30. My uncle, who I was visiting with, cleverly ordered me an Uber to get me from the airport. However, Uber knows the location of the phone from which it was ordered, and that phone can see that Uber’s GPS location. It wasn’t on my phone. I had to wild goose chase with an Uber . Fifteen minutes later, after texts, phone calls to my uncle, and a 3-way call with the driver, I eventually find him, sitting still in traffic in the middle of the road. And presto, twenty minutes later, I had arrived at the apartment on the upper west side of Manhattan. It was late, but in PDT, it was still only 8pm!

I stayed up a few hours with my cousin, Ben, who was finishing up his calculus homework due for the next day. We chatted about this and that, and eventually, at 2am, I retreated to bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plane journey, landing etc. See notes

I’m still alive, guys!

Sorry to not have updated this for so long! I’ve been really busy working to get some things out for Glasgow university, and when I’ve not been working on that, I’ve been getting on some fun things.

Stay tuned. I’ll keep you up to date soon, about new York city at Passover, about our weekend in Portland, about our new flat mate, about the pub quiz I’ve been running, and about the daily grind of writing.

Reddit Meetup!

Last Sunday (More than a week ago from this posting) I attended a reddit meetup! Organised by the lovely folks at http://www.reddit.com/r/TriCitiesWA the meet up is an annual chance to meet people of like mind.

The plan for the meeting was to go to the Atomic Bowl at 3 and play a few games. Sounds nice, right? No obligation, eaasy to leave if everyone was a bit weird, and relatively cheap, fun and nearby! No reason not to go.

I decided that, as nobody else in meatspace (real life) wanted to go, that I would cycle the mile or so to the alleys. It was quite a warm day (it always is here) but the warm breeze in my face was nice.

I arrived to the bowling alley, not knowing who to look for, so I just approached a group of twenty-somethings who weren’t a family or bowling team. Bingo. That was them. Tentatively, at first, I said hello to everyone. I’m not going to name names here, just initials as they become relevant. A few of the redditors were PNNL employees, one a postdoc new to town. There were a few transplants, moved here from the east, and a few local boys, born and bred here. R was from New Zealand, and I asked him his thoughts on their recent flag referendum.

After a wee trip to the bar (32oz for $6, I’m told that’s about 2 pints), I was entered into a game of bowling with M, T, Jo and Ja, and let me tell you. Out of the possible points (10 frames of ten pins plus a strike bonus), out of the (more than) 100 pins, I didn’t even make it to 40. But I wasn’t here to bowl. I was here to meet people. People like Jo, who had been in town for about a year, and was a web developer, or a programmer, or something like that.

The rest of the group, excluding B, all seemed to know each other. It sounds like they tend to go out together regularly, to pub quizzes, or karaoke. (I have to go to kararoke with relative strangers. It’s so much fun). But nevertheless, everyone was welcoming, encouraging, and good chat.

The second game finished about an hour later, and I managed to not lose! I beat T. I was so proud of that! And only a little ashamed. Pardon the awful picture.

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After the game finished, we toyed with plans of food and a drink. McKays? the Emerald? In the end, we settled on Kimo’s in Kennewick. I came over on my bike, and Kennewick was too far to cycle, and on busy roads. And besides, it was too hot out to ride that far. But R stepped up. He said that he had a truck that my bike could go in the back of. So with that, we went to Kennewick.

We all had a drink (or two) and most of us had a meal (my ‘steak fries’ were thin and overdone, poor show, Kimo’s) and some chat. We compared stories of where we used to live, compared different states and countries IDs, and joked a lot. We sat outside, looking over the river. I don’t remember who brought up ‘rriver stuff’, but river stuff in the summer sounds great. It’s taking a car upriver, picking up a floataion device (inner tube etc) and a few beers, and sitting back while we float down to a prearranged location. Sounds good, right?DSC03836.JPG

We stayed there for a couple of hours, until it was time to call it a day, and head home. R drove me back in his truck, back to Mosaic, and dropped me off home. On the way, we talked about our experiences with discrimination in the USA. We didn’t really come to any conclusion, but that wasn’t exactly the point.

I hope that we all get to go out again at some point. Maybe karaoke, board games, some river stuff, if it gets warmer.

 

Walla Walla Wine Tasting

So, I’m just going to gloss over the fact that I’ve skipped an entire week. Here are some bullet pointed highlights:

  • Spent the previous weekend glued to the TV, and at a party at J’s house, and trying to change the tyre on my bike
  • Met with Greg, talked about Fscans, got shown around the LIGO-WA cluster
  • Hosted Mouse Guard, T played, and it didn’t end well for him.
  • Managed to change the tyre on my bike.
  • Hosted a pub quiz on Wednesday, 2 teams competed. Ross’ team got DESTROYED
  • Managed to successfully write a python code from scratch. It output what I want it to.

 

Wasn’t that so much less painful? So let’s just skip ahead to Saturday. It was a really very busy weekend. As it was Miriam’s last weekend in the states, she and Evan had invited us all out to go wine tasting in Walla Walla, a town about 45 minutes to the east. We left before midday, and 5 of us piled into the car. Of course, Walla Walla, much like many towns in this area, Yakima, Wallula, Umatilla etc, are native american names. In fact, the whole area has a rich history. We passed right be the Sacajawea State Park. Yes, that Sacajewea. See it on the map below:

We got into Walla Walla a little after midday, and parked up right outside of “Onion World”. It happens that Walla Walla is known for its onions. It’s a strange thing to be known for, but whatever works. As we walked around the corner onto Main St, some of the roads were barricaded, and there were stewards holding bells. Just after we had crossed the roads, about 50 cyclists came screaming round the corner, all in Lycra and hunched over their handlebars. Today, as it happens, is the Walla Walla bike race.

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We wandered up and down Main St for ten minutes, and decided that we should all get some lunch before going tasting. We came across this place called Olive. It seemed up-market from their menu: Duck confit salad, artisan pizzas, and warm sandwiches. I had a coconut and carrot curry soup, which was delicious. In Evan’s plate, there were some mystery unidentifiable vegetables. They were long and thin like a carrot, the colour was a deep pink, lighter than plum, and the taste was fruity, but with a carrot-y texture. If you have any thoughts on what that might be, feel free to comment below.

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Walla Walla is a college town, with (I think) 2 campuses, and so it has a much younger population than the Tri-cities, and a much more liberal outlook. More than that, Walla Walla is a haven for wineries. Even though many of the vineyards are west of Richland, near to Prosser, there are very few wineries based in the Tri-cities. Our first winery of the day was Mark Ryan winery. The five of us shared two sampling. The flight was a flight of 5, starting with a rose, a Chardonnay, then 3 reds, each deeper and richer than the last. Between Ross, T and I, we bought a bottle of red to take home.

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We asked the people at Mark Ryan where best to go for more wineries, and they pointed us to a street full of wineries. There, we stopped into a few to check what they had on offer. One of the places offered “$5 each glass, and 7 bottles to try” – I took that to mean $5 for a try of each bottle, and $35 for a full flight, an poo-pooed the idea. Outside, the others told me that it likely meant $5 for a physical cup, with which we coculd try the seven wines. Disgraced, we did not return. Instead, we headed to Trust, another flight of 5 for $10, this time with one white and 4 reds. The Riesling was way too sweet, and my favourite they had on offer was one of the two Syrahs on offer. But the other two wanted the other Syrah, so we settled on that one. After half an hour in there, and “can I try that one again” and “what would you put this one with?”, we stumbled again into the sun.

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We were almost ready to head home, but we decided that we ought to walk off the wine before Evan drives us home.  We walked along Main St for a while, and then back again, soaking in the sun. And then we were driving home.

The evening on Saturday saw the annual “Wisteria party” at one of the LIGO-ons house. This was, apparently, his chance in the year to have people from his whole life to get together and get to know each other, under the wisteria in full bloom on his terrace.. We all pulled up to his house in the evening in a very nice part of town, and got about mingling. There were people there from the local gliding group, from his street, old friends. Ross and I met one man who used to head up a research department at the old Hanford B-reactor. He had some interesting stories about research protocols then, about using interferometry to measure the length of carbon moderator rods, and going down to Los Alamos to do research for space travel. It really was a good time. Towards the end of the evening, the Black Hole Binary Bluegrass Band struck up again, and seemed to be having a good time. The rest of us certainly were. By 10, it was time to go home and call a close to the day.

And what a day.