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.

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

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.

Joe Week!

Friday Evening

On Friday, Nutsinee took me to the airport to pick him up. He was understandable grumpy, his flight had been delayed, and he hadn’t had the easiest time navigating Seattle Airport. So after an 11:20pm pickup, Nutsinee dropped us off at home, and I took Joe straight to bed. He was way too tired.

But on Saturday, he woke up bright and early at about 6am. I, on the other hand, did not. After a slow morning, we walked down to Fred Meyer to pick up this and that, and then back. In the evening, we cooked a big meal, and chilled out in the apartment.

Sunday

Sunday was the big fun day. We had to pick up a new fellow, C, from the airport, and Ross wanted to go buy some new  shoes. A plan was forming! We took the morning nice and slow, cooking breakfast and waking up slowly. At about midday, we headed out to the mall in Kennewick to do some shopping.

Joe bought a game for his Vita, and Ross picked up some vans. I grabbed a new pair of sunglasses, then we were off to the airport. I had met C at the LVC a few weeks prior, so we knew who to look for there. Darkhan had told me that when he and Evan came to pick me up, they were just looking for ‘someone who looked lost’ – but C had been here before, and we had met. He knew what was going on. We took him straight home, and made plans to head down to Fred Meyer that afternoon.

Joe didn’t join us to Fred Meyer. He slept instead. C had to buy groceries, I think Ross and Tega had some bits and bobs to buy, and I was meeting a man about a bike. We met near the gas pumps, and he introduced himself as Angel. He showed me to the bike – it looked good. There was a flat tyre, but when I jumped on it, the gears worked, the full suspension was silky, and it pedaled – all checks. And a tire is easy to change. It even came with a lock and kickstand. The lock, however didn’t have a key. That was with Angel’s son. I bought the bike for $80, and emailed Angel’s son about the key. He told me it would come in the mail.

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I put the bike next to the others’ car, and ran inside to pick up a pair of swimming shorts – Joe and I were planning to use the pool and hot tub while he was here. Then, I rode the bike back to the apartments, with a head start over the others. I beat them back.

The plan for the evening was to get to the cinema in West Richland to see Batman v Superman. I booked the tickets online for all 5 of us, and woke up Joe. We had opted for an early viewing, because of Joe’s jetlag. We ended up leaving late, and missing all the previews, and the first two minutes of the film. It was not a good film. It wasn’t as bad a film as all the reviews made out. Too much going on, no humour, and a bad Lex Luthor.

After than, we came home and almost straight to bed. It had been a long, hot day.

Monday

On Monday, it was my first day off at Hanford. I had taken the week off to spend with Joe. So naturally, we went into LIGO in the morning. Nutsinee was operating, and the detector was not planning to lock for the day, as they were preparing to vent HAM6 – one of the suspension chambers. It was a great chance to show Joe around.

We went first through the offices – not much to show, then the control room. From there into the EBAY and LVEA in the corner. We weren’t allowed to approach HAM6, but we crept around everything else. From there, we left for the roof. The wind was blowing really strong that day, and through the railings on the roof, it was making this spooky metallic wailing sound. It was kinda beautiful.

For there, we started a trek down the Y-arm. Walking into the wind, we were accosted by tumble weeds along the whole way. It was a fun game at first, trying to dodge the weeds, but it soon wore out. At Y-arm, I showed around for about fifteen minutes and explained this and that to him, before starting the walk back. The whole Y-arm excursion took about an hour and 45 minutes. After than, made our way back home. We just chilled out. Joe got on with some revision, and I tried to write some blog, but through a headache, I decided to nap instead. Monday evening was slow, we just cooked and ate.

Tuesday

On Tuesday, I had plans. II had to go and do some things in town, and it was a chance to show Joe the local wildlife. We left the apartment at about 10.30am, and headed straight towards AT&T. From there, we walked up the Columbia. It was busier there than I had expected, as this week was spring break, and all of the schools were out. From there, we went into the bike shop, and I bought a new hlemet for my bike. (Safety first), and went for lunch at the Porter’s Barbecue. They pretty much just serve meat there, but its tender, tasty and greasy. A nice treat.

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After lunch, we made our way up George Washington Way towards Adventure Underground. It’s a bit of a long walk though. When we got there, Joe spent a long time looking through the graphic novels, and I had another look at the board games. From there, we went into the cafe next door, and introduced Alex to Joe, and picked up a cup of tea. My last task for the day was to go to a printing shop to print out the questions and answers for tomorrow’s pub quiz. Alex told me where to go, so we went.

Around the corner, at Eagle Printing, I popped into the back to go over the specifics of the printing. We ran into a hitch where I had set up the page on A4 paper, but the printers only had letter sized paper. I had to re-jig some stuff on the page, but it all got printed eventually. In the mean time, Joe was busy nattering away with the woman on the front desk, discussing what it’s like living in a radioactive town. It looked like they were getting along. After that, we began the long walk home. All in all, we walked about 9 miles that day, and got home at about 4.30pm.

On Tuesday evening, I had planned to run Mouse Guard. Joe had created a charsacter, and was going to jump in one time, but by the evening, he wasn’t feeling well. It had been a hot day, with a lot of time in the sun. So he went to bed early. Nevertheless, the others came around for mouse guard, and we played a good session for a few hours. And then, after that, to bed.

Wednesday

Wednesday was planned to be our slow day. We started out with a very slow morning, watching telly, and doing our own thing. By about midday, I knew that I needed to get out of the apartment, so Joe and I went to explore the path heading south along the Yakima river. When we got back in an hour later, we decided that we needed to go to the 7/11, to get some groceries.

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In the evening, I had offered to start the pub quiz. Joe and I walked to McKays, and Ross joined us there. It turned out, though, that too few teams had showed up for the quiz, so the landlady there said not to do it. Instead, we stayed to eat our food. At about 7.30, C came in, with a whole load of others in sports gear. It turns out that he had joined a local Ultimate group, who, it turns out, come to the bar after each practice.

Ross, Joe and I joined in with them all, and got to meet and chat to a whole load of them. Some were scientists at the PNNL, and we got chatting about LIGO and the Hanford site, where much of Richland works. After a while though, it was time to go home.

And to bed.

Thursday

On Thursday, we had big plans. I  had bought 2 tickets to the Emerald City Comic Con, in Seattle. We were going in with Nutsinee, so we woke up and got ready for a long day out. Nutsinee told us that she would be over to pick us up at about 10am.

From Richland, we first went to Yakima, just over an hour down the road. There, we stopped in at a 50s themed diner, Mel’s Diner, for eggs, bacon, pancakes, and a lot of coffee. Afterwards, in the car park, Nutsinee dug in her car for some maps around Washington, declaring that “We’re taking the scenic route today”. And boy did we. Our first long-way-round was through the Yakima River Canyon.

The canyon runs, well, along the Yakima river, north from Yakima, right through to near Ellensburg, on Route 90. It was a really pretty route through the landscape. Along route 240, you end up following the Columbia river along, and pass by farmlands. On the way to Yakima, we got the farmlands, and through the valleys, we got beautiful slopes and rocky outcrops.

From there, we rejoined with Route 90, and followed through Snoqualmie Pass, through to Seattle. I think that this drive might be my favourite route, the scenery is great. The big difference this time, compared to my last trip through Snoqualmie pass, is that now there is very little snow. With it all being melted, the pass looks quite different.

When we arrived in Seattle at the convention centre at about 3pm (by this point, my phone’s battery was almost flat, too much sat-nav), we went straight through to grab our tickets, and onto the convention floor. It was decided almost immediately that Joe and I will do our thing, while Nutsinee does her own thing.

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Here are some highlights from the con.

Cool cosplays:

  • Steven Universe’s Rose Quartz (wearing a Mr. Universe tee)
  • Steven Universe Peridot and Lapis Lazuli
  • Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)
  • A few Kylo Rens
  • A load of Jedi
  • A heap of Storm Troopers
  • Some Deadpools

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Cool stalls::

  • A few big t-shirt shops including this tower of tees
  • A whole load of indy comic artists
  • One RuPaul’s Drag Race art stall
  • A LARPing armour shop
  • Mouse Guard stall, selling artwork and books
  • Star Trek stall, settling bags, badges and t-shirts and TOS-style short dresses.
  • Person scanner and 3D printer

and for me, the highlights were:

  • I got a signed copy of Tales from the Guard (Mouse Guard) volume 1, and spoke to the author
  • Bought Joe a set of comics from Avatar: The Last Airbender
  • Picked up a mystery bag including a tshirt, figuring and collectibles
  • Bought a star trek t-shirt (Blue for Science and Medical), and a communicator badge.
  • Joe picked up a few cool tshirts from Persona 4

After a few hours, we were just about done, and just then, the floor closed, and we were ushered out. We made our way back to Nutsinee’s car. Next stop: Dinner. Nutsinee wanted to take us to a Thai restaurant that she had found on Yelp.

The food there was good. Tasty Thai food, but I had ordered mine to be too spicy. It was nice though, and I was hungry. So I ate it all. For the rest of the day, though, my burps were quite painful. After food, we walked half a block to find a coffee shop. Seattle coffee is fantastic! It’s strong and rich, and smooth. I suspect that the worst Seattle coffee can contend with the average British coffee. Easily. I like Seattle.

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With hot things in our hands, we were, once more, back into Nutsinee’s car, heading home. With the outside being dark, there was no nice scenery to keep Joe awake, and he fell into short naps along the route. As we were just into the Snowqualmie pass, I nnoticed that the petrol metre in the car was well into its lower half. With my phone out of action, and Nutsinee’s car not having enough fuel to get us back, we had to find a gas station sooner, rather than later. After about 30 miles, we did come across one. It was closed though. In the USA, pay at the pump is everywhere, so we got gas, but we couldn’t use the bathroom. Back to the car.

The rest of the drive was quite uneventful. The scenery was nice, but in the dark, there wasn’t much to see. Nutsinee doesn’t like to listen to the radio, so we only had conversation and the hum of the engine. When the conversation died, there was only so much that we could do to stay up. Poor Nutsinee had the task of driving the wholee way. We got back to the apartments in Richland at about 12.30am.

This evening was the last evening with Joe in America, and he’d be gone by 10am the next morning. So after he was packed up, and sorted his bags out, we slept.

Friday

On Friday morning, Evan had promised us a lift to the airport. He was off on a road trip with Miriam today, and he didn’t mind. After the busy day that was Thursday, I hadn’t made a concrete plan with Evan about the logistics of the morning. In the end, though, it worked out. He knocked on the apartment door a little later than I expected, but he had gone to get a rental car to take.

We put Joe’s bags into the car, and got to the airport. Evan gave us a moment to say goodbye, and he was gone. From there, Evan dropped me back home, and I spent the rest of the day there.

A Week

 

I’m behind on the blogs, so I’ll keep the next few posts brief.

Monday

At work on Monday morning, I had felt like my search for the combs was exhausted, so I asked Robert for advice. While waiting for him to get back to me, I got on with some work for Glasgow – making a start on the progression report. The report much be in at the end of April, and I need it in order to get into third year at Glasgow. It needs doing while I’m here. In the afternoon, all the fellows, including Ross and Tega met with Mike for our weekly meeting. This week, Miriam was giving a long presentation on her investigation into blip glitches.It wasn’t until the end of the day that Robert got back to me with some advice. That was to come next.

In the evening, I spent some time putting together the pub quiz for Wednesday, and chatting with Tega. I went over to Evan’s flat and, on request, looked through Vinny’s old room for his lost item, but only found some old McDonalds bag.

Tuesday

Robert got back to me with something to do over the evening, and I got straight to it on Tuesday, firstly with some follow up work on some transient truck noise coupling into the detector. It was just creating a series of plots, but there were a lot of them. I spent some time in the afternoon thinking about the mouse guard campaign, and what to do next, and wrote some notes – that’s all I needed.

That evening, Evan, Miriam and I went to Woo’s Teriyaki to pick up some food and make aa move back to my place to start playing mouse guard. I had planned to make food, but I didn’t want to leave until too late. Nutsinee arrived an hour later anyway, so we could have waited anyhow. The game was good, but the party ended in a weird place that will be hard to pick up from.

Wednesday

At work, Ed mentioned that, while I was here, I should get involved with doing some work on the detector itself. He’s right, I should, but there’s quite a steep learning curve. In the evening, I went over to the bike shop on Lee Blvd to pick up a bike I had seen there, but they had already sold it. So on the walk home, I made some inquiries on craigslist about bikes in the area.

Thursday

After work on Thurday, a bunch of us went out to a greek place in West Richland, as a last meal for Ed before he headed back to Sheffield. It was a good chance for Ross and I to chat, and for me to get be British again. After the food, Ross came back with me and Tega to the apartment for a few beers. It was nice.

Friday

All day Friday at work, I was in a good mood, because that night, I was picking up Joe from the airport! I muddled my way through the day before leaving early with Evan. One of my plans for the evening was to meet a guy about a bike. The hitch was that the night before I had lost my phone.I had to find it before I could arrange a meeting place. Once I found it, the guy texted me a meeting place way out in the sticks.

Ross didn’t come back until relatively late, so Mr. Bike agreed to meet me in Richlasnd on Sunday.

Then, all I had to do was tidy the flat before Joe arrived at 11, jetlagged and well travelled.

Bluffs and Board games, Cars and cafes

Saturday started with a groggy feeling. I had agreed to go on a hike today with Terra, out to a place called White Bluffs. That meant meeting Ed at about 8:30 this morning by the office in the centre of the complex. I think that Ed was a little worse for wear than I was though! We headed down to the strip mall where AT&T is, where we had planned to meet whoever else might be coming.

Whilst Ed went in search of a hat to cover his head from the sun, I went in to Starbucks and got some sweet, sweet coffee. T texted ahead to say she would be late, and that it might just be the three of us, and Jamie. Either way, a walk is a walk. We gathered in the Starbucks, one by one, and all sat with a coffee, a pastry and our heads in our hands. Once Jamie was done, we all piled into his car and made our way north to the White Bluffs. We passed mostly through farmlands on the way there. Long straight roads.

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We arrived about 45 minutes later, after one or two wrong turns, and unenthusiastically left the car for the cold morning air. The White Bluffs are north, next ot the Columbia River, just across from the site that used to be Hanford town, before it was knocked down to make room for the Hanford plants. All except the school building, the only concrete structure in the town.

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We started walking up towards the bluffs along the gravel road, and continued for about ten or fifteen minutes before turning off the beaten track to head upwards. The soil here was more like a compacted sand, but was so loose underfoot that, when walking up a steep side, you could just make your own footing. The bluffs were sort of tiered, topping the first layer only revealed more up above. At the top of each layer though, there were shelves of green grass. It was a little strange to see.

At the top of the second tier, instead of a shelf right there, it was down below us a little – a rich, vast meadow in the middle of the desert, built up at the sides. T bolted downwards. Ed carefully made his way down, Jamie confidently descended, and I sort of clung to the side and inched uneasily towards the bowl. Still on the side, I could hear clearly the conversation that the others were having as though they were right next to me. The still air, the silence of the bluffs and the natural amphitheatre were really quite a combination.

The grass was a nice break, and we stopped for water before heading up the third tier. This time, it was a little steeper, a little softer underfoot, and exhausting. But it was the last layer. At the top, we stopped for water and to admire the view over the river. Carrying on behind us was a small rise. Ed and I explored that direction to see what lay that way. On the other side, we could see a whole load of specks in the desert – all old nuclear plants, now decommissioned. Ed told me about how he had visited them once, and how they would have worked without computer controls, no event logging, and no sort of digital readout. It sounded like a job to plan and build, and certainly stressful to work in. Over the river, looking back where we walked, we could see the roads that used to define Hanford, and off in the distance, we could see the vitrification plant – a big block on the desert, trying to redefine the area. We could (well, not me, I’m kinda blind) see one of the LIGO end stations too (X-arm). I couldn’t see, but I had hoped that my camera could do a better job. By now, the day had warmed up, and the sky was all blue, and reflected in the deep blue of the river.

After fifteen minutes of rest, we headed along the top of the bluffs. There was a track skirting the top, and we just walked. It wasn’t exactly clear as to how, or where we were going to get back down, but that was a worry for later. The rocks up here that cropped out of the side were not stable at all. We stayed well away. I used this chance to catch up and chat with Ed, which was nice. He’s a lovely guy. We carried along the top of the bluffs for about half an hour before deciding that we needed to get down.

The sides were pretty steep, and now the soft sand only served to loosen the footing. Slowly, we all made it down to the basin on the second tier, where we found a slightly more shallow path down.

Back at the car, we just all piled in and tired and hot, we sat quietly as Jamie took us all home. It emerged, though, that TJ, one of the operators at LHO was having an Easter beer hunt – each person brings a 6-pack of beer and hides them around. Then, everyone runs around and picks up beers they find that others hid to fill their 6-pack back up, followed by a barbecue. That was on my to do list for the afternoon.

Back in Richland, we all got dropped off at the car park. Terra gave me a lift as far as a bike shop in  town that I’d been eyeing up. I inquired about a used bike, so that I could ride it into LIGO, then ride to and from the arms, without having to hassle others for a ride. They had a bike for $150, but my bank was awaiting an injection of dollars, so I had to leave it for the day, and walked home. Terra, Ed and Jamie had all headed back to the site for the afternoon while I was making my way home, so I used my afternoon to chill. Shower, food and make in roads about getting a lift to TJs this afterrnoon.

At some point, I got a call from Vinny, quite out of the blue. He said that he had lost something, and asked me to look for it in his room once I could get into his apartment. Before long, Nutsinee came by to take me over to TJ’s. There, TJ’s we arrived late for the hunt and the barbecue, but there was still food left. Everyone had settled into board games – and TJ and Christine had  more than just a couple! We started off by playing Pirate Munchkin, the game of munchkin with a pirate theme. It was confusing, and it took an injection of Christine, a seasoned player, to really get the game moving.

At some point during that game, Ed excused himself to pick Tega up from the airport. Tega was Ed’s postdoc at Sheffield, who is going to be moving in with me, and staying until June. We carried on playing in Ed’s absence, substituting somebody in his place. After that game was won, we started watching the other table playing Observe!, the LIGO game created by Jamie. It’s a long game, and it’s still in beta, but it looked playable. And ultimately enjoyable. TJ had one of those Amazon Alexa devices, that responds to voice commands. It proved good for entertainment during the evening, but I still think they’re a little creepy.

Then, at last, we moved on to Quelf, described as the awkward game. I will always remember Jeff playing the one eyed mime, trapped in an invisible box with two feral weasels. It was a very fun game, and we didn’t finish until about 1am. Ross and I both got a lift back from Nutsinee, and went back to our own apartments.

Sunday

Thanksfully, Sunday was a much shorter day. Joe couldn’t skype, because he was with his family for Easter Sunday. Instead, I stayed in bed until about 10am, before heading out to breakfast with Nutsinee. At JD’s Diner in West Richland. I had waffles, se had grits. I tried grits. I  do not like grits. I stuck with my waffles. Then, we visited the neighbouring town of Prosser. It was only about 30 minutes away, and a pretty drive, especially on the return journey.

 

 

I maintain that I am not a good photographer.

When we got back to Richland, Nutsinee wanted to head to the Caterpillar Cafe to study, and I fancied that. We stopped by the apartment to grab my laptop, and grabbed Hang in the process. Then, off to Nutsinee’s to grab her things.

We were at the cafe all afternoon. I used the time to write the blog, the others studied.Time passed, wavy lines, doobly doo music. At about 6, we jumped in the car and went for dinner at the chinese place down the road, and headed back to the cafe.

At about 8, Nutsinee dropped Hang and I back home to call it a day. At home, we got a chance to talk to our new housemate, Tega. He seems like a really nice guy. I guess you’ll read more on him over time.

Not all days have to be exciting.