Wolf 359

Apr. 17th, 2019 05:32 pm
[personal profile] swaldman
I just finished listening to the finale of the Wolf 359 podcast. It's been quite a ride.

61 episodes (plus some minisodes and so forth) over 3.5 years, all of which had finished before I even heard of the show, so I've been listening at my own pace, over perhaps six months. The blurb says,

WOLF 359 is a radio drama in the tradition of Golden Age of Radio shows. Set on board the U.S.S. Hephaestus space station, the dysfunctional crew deals with daily life-or-death emergencies, while searching for signs of alien life and discovering there might be more to their mission than they thought.

Tune into your home away from home... seven and a half light years away from Earth...

That's a reasonable start. It begins as "hapless, lazy protagonist is somehow on a deep space mission" comedy. Slightly cringy, mostly good, reminded me quite a lot of Final Space. It morphed into mystery, and at times horror and psychodrama... it's had entire episodes where the crew are stuck in one room together... and then the stakes increased, and it became more of an adventure tale. And then it reached a conclusion and ended, which is something that I feel Night Vale should have had the courage to do some time ago. And all the while, it maintained a nice sense of humour.

Highly recommended. I'm even considering buying a t-shirt, years after the show stopped actually needing support :-)

Well, that was a shame.

Apr. 17th, 2019 05:15 pm
[personal profile] swaldman
When not househunting, I've been using some of my time to look at e-bikes. I'm hoping to make one my main means of commuting, at least for the summer months. I heard that a local store was having a closing down sale, so I went over to take a look.

The only "normal" bike (not a tandem, not a cargo bike) that they had left was one that I'd been looking at online and was interested in! It had over $1200 taken off the price!

I took it for a test ride, and liked it. Unfortunately... it was also very slightly too big. By maybe an inch, or even less. And it couldn't be adjusted any smaller. I needed the next frame size down. I could ride it, but it wasn't quite right, and I wasn't about to spend $3400 on something that wasn't quite right, even if was a bargin.

So I passed. And I shall go look in other shops once I'm more settled (and, let's face it, once I've had a paycheque or two), and probably spend more, but for something that fits.


 


mixed bags with silver linings

Apr. 17th, 2019 08:59 pm
kaberett: Reflections of a bare tree in river ice in Stockholm somehow end up clad in light. (tree-of-light)
[personal profile] kaberett
  • On Tuesday evening, my laptop ran out of battery, put itself to sleep, and lost its hard drive. I have successfully (1) not panicked much, (2) got on with my life or at least the mass spec, (3) got A to help me do some simple diagnostics, (4) taken it back to the place I got it less than a year ago and got them to order replacement parts because alas they couldn't sell me something on the spot so I could just go home and spend this evening sorting myself back out, which means that (5) I had the opportunity to dig out the 12-month repair warranty and set it to one side to take with me when I go to pick the thing back up, meaning that this Ought To Be Free.
  • On Monday, we had [personal profile] alexwlchan around. I got some of the spinach-and-butternut-squash-and-roast-garlic-and-ricotta pasta out of the freezer, portioned out the amount we were going to want to eat for dinner, and then absent-mindedly put the remainder back into... the fridge, not the freezer. Which means that dinner tonight -- I got in a little before eight -- is that pasta, along with the leftover tomato-and-mascarpone-sauce, only I'm the only one eating it tonight so it now also contains a slightly obnoxious quantity of chilli, plus bonus nutmeg.
  • The non-existence of buses between Green Park and South Ken due to the Extinction Rebellion protest (which, yes, is very worthy, but this means there is no reasonable accessible route for me to get into work and I had machine time booked and I'm just quite augh about the ways in which this specifically fucks over disabled people massively disproportionately to the effect on people using public transport who don't need level access) led to me getting up ridiculously early this morning and then pushing from Green Park to lab via Hyde Park. This involved two pairs of Egyptian geese with three spotty little balls of fluff each. (Also there were some Loudly Beeping Moorhens, and a lot of yell birds in general.)

Labyrinth Roleplaying, Sessions 2, 3

Apr. 17th, 2019 01:36 pm
jack: (Default)
[personal profile] jack
What Went Well

Playing some DnD where building an effective character and achieving things effectively actually matters has been very nice. I don't want to play that style too much, it's a big investment of effort, but I was missing it.

The mechanics for navigating an expansive underground maze worked almost perfectly. It really feels like feeling your way through routes you partially know but might shift any time. And generating a big batch of layout and bringing it up as people stumble across it has been very satisfying.

The characters and players are really great. The inquisitive, acquisitive, goblin. The impulsive, swashbuckling cat-bard. The dour blood hunter. The rogue with a mysterious history. The players have generally been great even though I didn't know them well before.

I've had lots of lovely ideas which have gone into sessions.

Playing a not-too-long session every too weeks has gone reasonably.

What Didn't Live up to Expectations

As always, my skills cat-herding players to turn up, and making sure everyone's clear on what's going on, have been a bit rusty.

The sessions have all been quite slow, partly because I've been getting used to the sort of prep that works well in this kind of campaign, and partly just because there's a lot of players, and everyone is still getting used to what their characters can do.

All the sessions left me feeling a bit like they were missing something but I wasn't sure what. That's not unexpected when I try to run a sort of game I haven't run before, but after some thought I think I got some idea.

One problem is, a dnd game is typically a stream of small decisions: explore the hut or the cave? talk or fight? search casually or thoroughly? Often not even decisions spelled out, but formed implicitly from what the players naturally do. In this game, my hope is that the choice of routes through the labyrinth would often serve in this role, but because progress has been slower than I hoped, most of the navigation decisions haven't really had a lot of decision to make.

Also, because I started off planning broadly, a lot of the individual things the characters encounter in one session are less well fleshed through than they might otherwise be, if I'd spent prep time thinking through what they were most likely to meet specifically. I've been doing more of this, even though it's more prep, but only needed to "top up" the places they're most likely going next, and hopefully can be reused if I use the same setting in future.

And there just haven't been enough NPCs who've often brought games to life. The idea was, NPCs in the castle would interact with the PCs in advance, through rumours and quests offered, and slowly build up a relationship. But so far, every delve has taken multiple sessions, and it's taken two sessions to complete what I intended as the original starter goal, so no-one has had time to pursue "extra" leads. I need some more of this to happen in session so people engage with it more, even if that takes time.

Dnd games that I've run well have always had fights designed well enough to be somewhat interesting, but have been brought to life by the ideas and npcs, the richness of the immediate setting as I've spent lots of prep time dwelling on it, and the characters have interacted with NPCs and environments in unexpected ways that have worked out because I've fleshed out characters and places to explore even if I wasn't sure if they'd be able to or not. I always used to think of myself as really analytical and less creative, so it's an adjustment to realise that's something that I can count as a success, and should expect to build up and rely on. But Liv's face when I talked about adding more NPCs made me realise it was well worth it.

Looking forward to

If possible, bringing more of the lore I worked out to the fore, it's been surprisingly hard to make it relevant, but it's come up a few times so I hope that works out.

Running a second group in the same setting, and seeing how they interact with the same spaces. And using the weirdness of the labyrinth to justify it if it seems like sometimes they leave somewhere in an impossible chronological order because of the order of the sessions :)

No Responsibility Saturdays

Apr. 17th, 2019 01:11 pm
jack: (Default)
[personal profile] jack
I've recently been experimenting with "no responsibility saturdays". I've toyed with similar things before, but partly I hadn't reached a point where the trade-offs were useful to me, and partly I think I tried variants that didn't draw the line on what to exclude in the right place.

Specifically, my rule is, I can do anything I feel like, be it collapsing in front of the TV, playing games with Liv, getting on with a hobby project, going out to socialise or walk, exercise, or catching up on a behind todo list. But stuff I *need* to do, I'll set aside time some other time, so I don't have anything I *have* to do.

Mostly, it's a rule that says I can ignore the voice in my head saying, "oh, but you really need to do X, you shouldn't do other stuff until you've done that". Which, well, maybe I should ignore that most of the time, The Voice isn't very good at choosing the right things to worry about. But I've always found it really hard to let go, and this helps.

It hasn't made that much difference to what I've actually been doing, I've done some social things I knew I would enjoy, I've enjoyed time with R, I've done tidying, I've done books and tv. But I've felt a *lot* more relaxed about it.

I guess "not have to do anything" is what weekends are supposed to be, and I just got the message late. But I always struggled with that: even when I didn't actually do much, it always felt like I *should* be doing something, that if I had time I should make the most of it by doing something really fun, or I should deal with one of hundreds of things I should "get to one day", or if I'm not doing that I should start a new project of some sort, etc, etc. I always felt like I had to do *everything*, so I tended to do *nothing*.

I had to get over several hurdles to get to the point where I could try this. Likely I will get to the point where I don't *need* to do it. But in the meantime it's been surprisingly helpful, not just for that day, the uplifted spirits have carried over to more of the week too.
wildeabandon: A silhouette in the dark, with the text "So tired of being here" (tired)
[personal profile] wildeabandon
The last couple of days I've been trying to fit some chin-ups into my exercise routine, to start building strength again, and probably not unrelatedly I've had a bit more upper back/neck/shoulder pain than I sometimes do. I'm currently hoping that reason I'm awake after only about three hours sleep is that pain waking me up and not insomnia brought on by the increased dose of my ADHD meds. (I do think this is reasonably likely, since I got off to sleep with very little difficulty).

I shall hold off on doing any more chin-ups for a while and see if the sleep gets better once the aches fade, and in the meantime I shall start doing some pilates again, which I've been neglecting, and then try again once I've built up a bit more core strength.

I did feel quite a lot more focused and productive yesterday, so whilst that may just be normal fluctuations or placebo effect, if it is the result of the drugs I would really like it if the effective dose wasn't also a dose that gives me ongoing insomnia...

Seattle, Days 4 & 5

Apr. 16th, 2019 11:20 am
[personal profile] swaldman
On Sunday (day 4), I looked at four houses. There was a lot of trekking around the city, and now I have blisters! But, I am delighted to be in a city that is mostly navigable by buses and feet. Yesterday, day 5, I looked at a couple more.

I'm at a stage now where I have an order of preference, and I've told my first choice, but I'm waiting for them to figure things out (complicated as they have more than one room to fill), yet I need to start responding to others... it's a bit stressful, but hard to avoid.
I have a few really nice community houses as possibles, and I've also seen a few that simply won't work for me. One of the latter I saw yesterday afternoon, and it had the most amazing view - with the first clear day since I've been here, the mountains had appeared: (excuse the zoomed-in phonecam quality):

View of a lake, with city beyond, and distant mountains beyond that


Today's my last day in this nice hotel, and I plan to mostly use it to catch up on work etc (sure, nobody's paying me, but I still have a paper to review). I'm going to a second viewing / meet the remaining housemates session in the evening.

Apropos of nothing above, but more of what's happening outside my window right now: Hotel balconies are an odd mix of public and private space. They're obviously private, as demonstrated by the woman in the dressing gown having a smoke over there; but they're also extremely publicly visible, as evidenced by the four lane road and busy car park that she's on display to.

Nokia 7.1 : First thoughts

Apr. 16th, 2019 08:20 am
[personal profile] swaldman
I got my first mobile phone in 1999, which made me a moderately late adopter amongst my peers. It was a Motorola in a world of ubiquitous Nokias. That was by chance, but it soon became a "thing" for me - Nokia was the "default phone", so I ended up with something else, and I'd never owned a Nokia - until yesterday. Now, of course, they're no longer the default phone (that would probably be Samsung, or maybe the Moto G series, at least on the Android side), and they're a quirky choice. I don't like to think that I'm driven by that, but I'm also honest enough to admit that there's probably an aspect of that involved....

Anyway. Nokia 7.1, and Android 9.0 Pie, first impressions:
  • After a string of under-£200 phones, this one isn't. But, in many ways it's equivalent. There is a £190 version in the UK, but I paid extra for 4Gb of RAM and a dual SIM version, and (probably most importantly) in the US the Nokia 8.1 hasn't appeared above it in the range to push the 7.1 price's down as it has in Europe - so I paid about $380.
  • It's a pretty phone, in a simple and understated way. It's metal and glass where my last one was plastic. As a result it's chunkier and heavier, but it feels solid and well-built. It's almost exactly the same size, which is a delight in a world where every phone is bigger than the one before. It's a little smaller than the Moto G7, which was one of the deciding factors in choosing it.
  • It still has a headphone port, which is good. It's USB-C, which is bad for me but good for some (all my other USB-charged things still use micro-B. If I had newer and/or more expensive accessories, they'd probably use -C as well and I'd be in favour)
  • It's my first phone with a notch. I'm ambivalent. I don't like being unable to display more than 2 notification icons at once, but I like gaining the space that the notification bar would otherwise take up below the sensors.
  • I'm liking Android 9 so far. Most of the changes seem to be improvements, and there's been a lot of polishing. I tried turning on the new "home button gestures" thing, but after a couple of hours I couldn't see the point so I turned it off again. If the right-hand spot on that bar were used for something else, I'd see the gain; but as it is it's taken the functions of two buttons, put them on one button, and left a space where the other button used to be. I'm not wild about the horizontally-scrolling "recently used apps" view, because without them overlapping it's harder to quickly scroll to something and stop in the right place.
  • Initial setup requires wifi (or a data connection that doesn't mind a gigabyte-scale out-of-the-box update), but can't handle captive portals. I was able to work around it, but this is a problem that really shouldn't exist.
  • The new fixed widget at the top of the Google Launcher seems like it might be a more useful replacement for Google Now - it defaults to showing time, date and weather, but when you have a calender event coming up it switches to that, and is tappable in useful ways. It's already handy, and I think it has a lot of potential to improve (e.g. if the Google Now "time to leave for x" used it as well). Usually I don't like big default widgets (looking at you, HTC), but it's only one row high, it's actually useful, and the screen is huge, so *shrug*.
So far, I like it. I would say "more after I've used it for a while", but from past experience it'll just become part of normal life so I won't mention it again ;-)


vital functions

Apr. 14th, 2019 11:26 pm
kaberett: Photo of a pile of old leather-bound books. (books)
[personal profile] kaberett
Reading. Got out of the library this week, because they were right there when I was waiting for a loo to come free: Head On, which I had not yet got around to, and record of a spaceborn few, because [personal profile] alexwlchan particularly recommended it. (I was indifferent to the first book and found the second book very soothing and iddy.)

The Push micro-liveblog. )

From the library, via the magic of ebooks: Normal People, Sally Rooney, enthusiastically recced to me by Waterstones staff the other week. I was wary and it's full of triggers but oh dear no actually I love this a lot and have promptly placed a hold on her first book. (It's vivid and intense and evocative and I spent the entire thing feeling kind of breathless, and -- oh dear, children, oh dear.) The thing is, though, that I know why I love it! I just can't quite wrap my head around why everyone else does. (It is A LitFic Phenomenon, if you have thus far failed to come across it.)

Bonus slow progress through my current Shaun Tan, Tales from the Inner City, which is slow mostly because they're incredibly dense and I want to savour them and also their art.

Film/TV. Leverage continues... Leverage. We are just sitting down to watch The Grand Budapest Hotel along with dinner and cocktails, because Date Night; I have never seen it before, but A is fond. (We were going to watch Amélie, and indeed I have got crème brûlée in the fridge to eat with, but we were mysteriously unable to find a copy despite being pretty sure the house ought to contain at least one, so A Different Film It Is and... we will just have to eat more crème brûlée in future.) -- right okay yes I enjoyed that.

Growth. Mysteriously, only one row of cherry tomatoes has hatched. Probably they need to be Planted up but I'm still quite ??? at them. (Okay no wait between writing this on about Thursday and... Saturday evening...? some more started hatching, HURRAH.) Meanwhile, my LEMON TREE has arrived.

Further points: A, who has The Patience Of Several Saints, spent this afternoon on glazing the greenhouse with me. The greenhouse is now done. I am Very Excited??? I need to work out why my bin got a bit sort of sad (mostly because I didn't feed it for a bit over a week, I suspect) and make it happy again, and actually pull up all the dandelions, but the next major project is in fact now finalising my raised beds aaaaaaaaaah.

And! One more chilli! Which may or may not survive, who knows, but chilli-the-largest has A Third Leaf and so does passion fruit-the-largest, so, fingers crossed.

Notable Pokémon. Last week: shiny Articuno traded from A (because he! had a spare!!! this is most unfair!), plus a wild-caught shiny Pineco. HATCHED A PERFECT TURTWIG. Also wild-caught a perfect Weedle, which is actually my second, but I sent the first one to the professor Back In The Day before we had TMs because its moveset wasn't ~perfect~ and I needed the storage space. This week: shiny Lotad shiny Lotad shiny Lotad. Wednesday morning -- right after the bug-type event ended -- SHINY CATERPIE as first Pokémon of the day.

Additionaly and furthermore, hatched BABY SNORLAX and BABY SUDOWOODO (Munchlax; Bonsly) and am Very Excited about their little faces.

... and a shiny Taillow because this is Frankly Ridiculous, and then on Community Day I... got two shinies (neither of them any good) and more importantly traded a bunch of the Bagon I'd caught with A and ended up with a 100% lucky Bagon, aaaaah.

Language. Still attempting to blitz the end of FutureLearn Irish 101; still annoyed by the lack of explanation of pronunciation and especially by the insistence that we watch a video of two speakers in a language we don't yet know repeatedly while... perky upbeat music has been edited into the background. That is a Hard No from me, friends.

What I did in March 2019

Apr. 14th, 2019 10:08 pm
squirmelia: (Default)
[personal profile] squirmelia
Bridging Home

I caught a glimpse of a Korean house that had landed on a bridge above a busy road.

I ran around Bristol wearing cat ears, while playing Ingress. An Anomaly was happening and I was a Media Moggy. My team, the Enlightened, won the Anomaly! I also did some missions for Mission Day, and some other missions that took me around Bristol to stare at some of the graffiti. I also tried some tatratea liqueur and met some fun new people.

I walked on the pier in Herne Bay, and along the beach, past beach huts. I stared at the sea. I played Dance Dance Revolution in the arcade, and air hockey with my mum.

Back in London, my shadow was captured at the Science Museum, which I visited with family, and we marvelled at rockets.

I ate purple carrot cake flavour nitro ice-cream, went to Pub Standards for drinks with web folk, and visited the Photographer's Gallery and saw some challenging exhibitions.

I celebrated [personal profile] sbp's 50th birthday in an unusually decorated pub.

I ate lunch with [personal profile] jacquic at Stem + Glory. Aubergine, mmm.

I had drinks with Frood.

I visited the Riverside Gallery in Richmond and saw the Imprinted Memories exhibition and ate ice-cream at Danieli's.

I saw a performance of the Myth of the Singular Moment at the Vaults Festival. Must try to go to see more things next year!

I walked on Wimbledon Common, but didn't see any Wombles.

I think I ate goujons for the first time. I'm not sure what the difference between goujons and fish fingers is though really.

I ate a sweet marked “surreal” and thought perhaps it would make my day more surreal. Rainbow bagels appeared after that. I went to the Barbican and watched a video of a game based on the artist's grandmother's dream diaries. I went to the Wellcome Collection Late on Cyborgs and listened to a talk by people who have designed objects such as a scarf that confuses facial recognition systems and VR experiences. I played a VR experience that started in a salon and ended up by some goddesses who had some words of wisdom. I watched a video of cyborgs dancing.

I ate a Lego biscuit and stared at the wonders of the world made from Lego, and twanged a few instruments.

I gazed out over London from 120 Fenchurch Street and bumped into friends there briefly. I enjoyed the view. It snowed very briefly then also.

I wandered through Camden and went to ChinChin Labs and ate a St Patrick's Day sundae which had lucky clover ice cream, chocolate potato cake and stout chocolate sauce. I headed to the British Library and went to an exhibition on Cats on Page, which was about books that contain cats. I listened to sounds of cats and guessed what the cats were doing. I listened to Adrian Edmondson reading The Cat in the Hat. I read about cats that are detectives and cats with magical powers and poems about cats. I listened to the Top Cat theme and then to Lovecats and danced a little bit in the library then. After that, I went to Japan House and saw an exhibition on Prototyping in Tokyo and saw robot tardigrades and artificial limbs and 3D printed structures that moved pleasantly when you picked them up.

I met up with a friend and tried a taste of durian ice cream, but the taste still makes me feel nauseous, so then I opted for Hong Kong Milk Tea ice cream in a green macaron.

I wandered into Selfridge's to look at a skip, but the art wasn't that exciting and the performances were not that often.

I went to Ladies that UX and listened to lightning talks. The moon looked beautiful on my way home.

I helped create cross-faction field art in Ingress – making a picture of the EU flag in the game by walking to different locations around London.

I went to a video game dating event!
squirmelia: (Default)
[personal profile] squirmelia
My notebooks fell off my shelf and I started looking through them and there were journeys I'd been on by bus written in some of them, that I never got around to writing up. Here is one such journey:

I did June Challenge I.(c) Buses, but which June I did it in, I am unsure now. Maybe I have photos and tracks to accompany it somewhere. Anyway, for this challenge, I got on the first bus that came along, then got off after 9 stops.

Read more... )

(Cross-posted to [community profile] flaneurs)

Seattle, Day 3 : Space Needle

Apr. 13th, 2019 09:21 pm
[personal profile] swaldman
This morning I put the local SIM card that I've obtained into my phone, and watched as it refused to manage anything better than 2G EDGE. Turns out that "not supporting the right bands for America" is another disadvantage of sub-£200 European phones. So I ordered a new cheapish mobile phone, to be delivered to an Amazon locker in the lobby of an Amazon building. I was amused to see that the fastest delivery option to the Amazon HQ campus is two days - slower than they managed for Orkney sometimes. I guess the size of the US doesn't make cheap next day delivery a realistic proposition.

After that I mostly stayed in my hotel suite today, chilling, writing up blog posts, and doing some paperwork about benefits, health plans, etc., in advance of starting work. After the activity levels of the last two days since I landed, it was probably a good thing.

By late afternoon the sun had appeared, so I grabbed my bag and my Lonely Planet guide and headed off to be a tourist. Obviously, the first tourist thing that one has to do in Seattle is the Space Needle... so I did that. Via the monorail. The view from the top was definitely pretty, and was the first time I'd seen Lake Washington and the first time I'd seen the Sound properly. It was also quite helpful in getting a more intuitive understanding of how the city is laid out - for some reason it sinks in faster from a high-place view than from a map. Reading about the building of the Needle was interesting too, because although we take such structures for granted now, it was really quite daring and innovative back in the day. On the way down I was delighted that the entire ground floor is a gift shop devoted to taking "souvenier tat" to a new level, where it becomes an admirable artform. Unfortunately I don't think they see it that way, but I liked it even so.

After the Needle I consulted Lonely Planet and discovered a truly excellent restaurant that not only served innovative pizzas on communal tables, but is a place in America where they pay the staff well and tipping is not expected. Sadly they still add this onto the bill as an additional 20% charge, rather than rolling it into the menu prices, but I guess it's progress.

Receipt with explanation fo the 20% charge that's added to the bill to provide staff pay and benefits.

Tomorrow, it's back to the house viewings. The first is at 0830......

tiny adventure!

Apr. 13th, 2019 10:54 pm
kaberett: photograph of the Moon taken from the northern hemisphere by GH Revera (moon)
[personal profile] kaberett
Astronomy Photographer of the Year, which this year included a retrospective of the ten years the award had been running.

Of immediate interest to me: a lot of the photographs are fundamentally of The Same Thing (the Milky Way; the sun; the moon), so quite a lot of everything is in the composition and -- and this really surprised me -- the processing. Because it is absolutely accepted that post-processing is necessary for a bunch of these (not simply compositing exposures but straight-up colourising them, and of course having to process different types of exposure (infra-red; H-alpha and HII; ...). This is in stark contrast to the rules for Wildlife Photographer of the Year, where in addition to the final image the raw files off the camera have to be submitted and enhancement is right out -- and, of course, to some extent WPY has a much greater range of subjects.

I'm glad I went to see this, to be clear, but especially given that it featured highlights from the last decade I doubt I'm likely to make regular trips to Greenwich for this (in the way that I'm happy to take a minor detour to the NHM on my way to work for the sake of WPY). Nevertheless, some favourites! From the People and Space category I particularly enjoyed Me versus the Galaxy and Expedition to Infinity (this is one A & I disagreed about re the merits of humans for scale); looking at the online gallery, I am also very taken by Keeper of the Light, which was not on display. From Skyscapes: Eclipsed Moon Trail, Holding Due North, Circles and Spirals (not on display!). And also Galaxy Curtain Call, Speeding on the Aurorae Lane.

Seattle, Day 2

Apr. 13th, 2019 11:20 am
[personal profile] swaldman
Up and sending emails at 5am, not 3am. This is a definite improvement!

Continuing to watch TV from time to time, I've noticed one thing that threatens to outnumber the ads for drugs related to penises: ads trying to recruit me to various branches of the US military. I'm not sure what, if anything, that tells us.

This morning I tried an online solution to the "can't buy transport fares using credit cards" inconvenience. I registered my Orca card online, and bought a day pass using the website. Then I boarded a bus, touched my card, and was charged $2.75. Huh?

Since I was travelling to near the transit office anyway, I walked in, explained what had happened, and asked what I had done wrong. They informed me that passes added to cards online take 24-48 hours to be applied. Even the day pass. So I checked my understanding with them: that if you buy a day pass online, it will either apply to the day after you buy it, or to the day after that, and there's no way to tell which. They thought for a moment, and confirmed this understanding to be correct. Apparently nobody had pointed this out before. I.... errrr... I have nothing useful to say about this, except that maybe they should not offer day passes on the website.
 
I had a wander around the area called "Pioneer Square", which is where the city was founded. After a day of newness it was nice to see some fairly old buildings, with a definite port feel. This is an interesting, and complex, place. It's clearly gentrified by lunchtime and evening, with posh bakeries, outdoor seating areas, comedy clubs, and the like, but in the morning it shows a very different face. There were a lot of homeless people about, packing up and drinking coffee after a night in the area; the abundance of outdoor seating seems to work well for this. I found an area with lines of tents on the pavement - some with their occupants getting ready for the day, some with people still sleeping inside. There were queues of people outside a couple of diners, and a couple of mission buildings.
A random woman, with a big friendly dog, told me that I was from Scotland. Apparently she could tell because I've perfected the accent........

On Day 2 I saw two houses, one of which I liked a lot. I spent much of the day on buses, zooming all over, but I still managed 17,000 steps. I'm starting to get a feel for how public transport works, and even for how some individual bus routes link together.

I also spent some time trying out e-bikes. It's clear that these ones, which I really liked when I tried them in London, would be totally inappropriate for a city as hilly as Seattle. Sadly my current favourites are kinda expensive... but I'm not doing any more on this until I know where I'm living. And possibly until after my first paycheque has cleared ;-)
Doing test rides, I noticed that Seattle road layouts don't always have a lot of markings, which can leave some junctions ambiguous. In the picture below, if one vehicle is approaching from behind the camera on the left, and another is approaching from the right, and both want to go down the slope towards the white truck... who has priority?

Ambiguous road junction.
 

Seattle, Day 1

Apr. 13th, 2019 10:47 am
swaldman: A zebra (zebra)
[personal profile] swaldman
First full day in Seattle (I'm not counting the day I arrived). I was up at 3am and sending emails. Apparently people find this disconcerting, but when it comes to jet lag my attitude is that if I'm going to be awake, I'd rather use the time than lie in bed feeling frustrated. It probably means I take a little longer to fully adjust, but I'm less miserable until then!

The hotel's breakfasts are impressive. I mean, it's reminded me that the American idea of what constitutes a high-end cooked breakfast is terrible - mostly due to "American bacon" - but the scrambled egg with spinach and parmesan is nice, as are the freshly-baked waffles.

I started the day with two main objectives in my quest log: "Obtain state ID", and "apply for a social security number". A necessary prerequisite was "get an Orca card". That's the equivalent to Oyster in London, except that it isn't sold in hotels... and the woman at the front desk wasn't sure how I could get one, short of paying cash to get to a single office on the opposite side of the city. Fortunately the internet knew better, and I paid cash to ride to a light rail station[1], where I could allegedly buy a new card from a ticket vending machine.

That turned out to be true, but buying anything from a ticket machine with a credit card required me to enter the ZIP code that the card is registered to - which was impossible as I was only allowed to enter numbers[2]. So I started the subquest "go to an ATM and return". I did that; paid $5 for the card, $20 to put that much credit on it, and $8 for an all-day pass for that day (it functions much like Oyster, but there's no daily cap, so you have to figure out how many journeys you'll make that day and buy a pass if you want. Or, just buy a montly pass, which I'll probably do from May - it runs for calendar months, so buying mid-month is poor value).

By this time it was about 9am (jet lag, remember?), and I walked a couple of blocks to join the pre-opening queue outside the state licensing authority ("the DMV"). Such queues are infamous, and known worldwide from sitcoms, but 15 minutes before opening I was 8th in line. I got seen about half an hour later, and established that I can't get state ID until I have proof of residency in the state - and an offer letter from a federal lab in the state doesn't do this for them.

I turned to the other live quest, that for a SSN. I turned up to the federal government building a few blocks away, went through airport-style security, and took a lift to a waiting area on the 9th floor. It was much like the state licensing office except that it was fast and efficient, there were lots of large flags everywhere, and instead of the large, friendly guy called Gary who was supervising everything there was a Very Polite (and actually helpful) young woman of military bearing with a gun. I was seen in ten minutes, and a further quarter hour later my applicaton form had been dispatched and I was told to expect my SSN card within two weeks. Win! Quest completed.

It looked as though most other things that I needed to do were locked behind the gateway quest "find somewhere to live". To that end, in the evening I dosed on caffeine and went to the first viewing I had arranged. Nice people, nice house, but not available until June. They didn't mention that in the advert. Also, at the top of a MASSIVE hill but without a view ;-) I walked down the hill and back to my hotel, capturing this on phone-cam on the way:

Nighttime view of the Seattle skyline, with downtown to the left and the Space Needle to the right.


[1] Not the same as a streetcar station, to my surprise, even though both of them run on streets using basically the same vehicles. It's the same "is it light rail or is it a tram" conundrum that causes nerds to argue, but in this case they seem to be operated by different companies and hence given different names. Seattle seems to have little bit of a lot of different modes of transport, almost as though the city has been testing them out.
[2] People have subsequently given me some suggestions on workarounds.

Tube Walk reminder

Apr. 12th, 2019 05:54 pm
miss_newham: (Default)
[personal profile] miss_newham posting in [community profile] tubewalks
The next Tube Walk will be on Sunday 14th April - this Sunday! We'll be walking from South Quay to Crossharbour and meeting EARLY at 1pm. Hope to see you there!

American TV adverts

Apr. 11th, 2019 01:29 pm
swaldman: A zebra (zebra)
[personal profile] swaldman
It's 5:30 in the morning. I have eight time zones of jet lag. I did have a long, thoughtful, post about my feelings about this trip, how it's different from previous ones, my hopes, etc., etc., which I wrote on the flight. Unfortunately it got eaten by a buggy sync system that may have become confused by time zone changes, so instead you get last nght's observations of a jet-lagged zombie about American TV.

The stories (and my memories of a decade ago) are true. Within half an hour of switching on my hotel TV yesterday evening, I'd seen:
  • Many, many ads for medical treatments, including two for erectile dysfunction.
  • One ad asking me to sign up to a class actoin
The oddest thing about the "Ask your doctor if $drug is right for you" ads is that the majority of the airtime is spent reading out a horrifying list of side-effects, while we look at joyous happy people. Is this actually supposed to sell the product?

I've also discovered that watching movies (or anything that isn't news) on TV is annoying, because of the incessant animated ads in the bottom right corner for something else that is on next/soon/elsechannel. I remember that the BBC tried this once in an episode of Dr Who, and the outcry reached national newspapers...
kaberett: A series of phrases commonly used in academic papers, accompanied by humourous "translations". (science!)
[personal profile] kaberett
As [personal profile] barrelofrain and I were getting properly into catching up, a family came in and sat down near us. (The King's Cross Ruby Violet has one long table with four chairs each side, plus some bars & bar stools.) One of the parents was talking excitedly about the pear sorbet and I Could Not Help but enthuse about How Good that flavour in specific and particular is.

A little while later, this same parent Explained How Do Science to a very solemn small child, which appeared to be being assumed to be a girl -- something to the tune of Ask Lots Of Questions, and trying things out and seeing what happens, and so on and so forth.

"Sorry for butting in again," I said, "but yes. That is How Science. I am A Scientist and I Approve This Message."

I proceeded to learn that (0) this small child and her sibling had recently Made a Volcano with food dye and vinegar and baking soda; (1) she likes volcanoes but doesn't love them; (2) she is entirely happy saying to strange adults that she doesn't want to share about what she loves; (3) she likes doing experiments; and (4) she's going on an adventure to see the Loch Ness Monster soon. (Probably some other bits, but they escape me.)

I, naturally, explained about (1) The Volcano That Erupts Baking Soda (And Is Why Flamingoes Are Pink), and slightly less comprehensibly that (2) wrapping her water glass in a paper towel would help keep it warm, like how I give my plants a coat over winter so their feet don't get cold.

There was also some back and forth about how I go to big-big-big-BIG-big school, The Biggest School You Can Go To, in response to which I cheerfully explained that it means I don't have to get an actual job.

I spent a lot of time thanking the child's parents for letting me interact and being generally cheerful and good-natured. They spent a lot of time thanking me for Giving Them Facts, and also Being An Example Grown-Up (Girl) for their small child to imprint on, because she is v interested in science and they want to encourage this. (Refreshingly, the wheelchair was not at any point mentioned.)

It was a lovely interaction, even though I am xkcd-crawling-under-my-metaphorical-bed after the fact.

Reading Wednesday, 10/04

Apr. 10th, 2019 06:39 pm
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
[personal profile] liv
Recently read: Two powerful pieces arguing that there is a systematic problem of violence in schools that needs to be addressed:
  • On Reforming Schools by [personal profile] slashmarks
  • violence is violence; the trick is making violence stop by [twitter.com profile] drakkinabrarian. CW for discussion of many forms of violence against children.

    I'm definitely mulling over [personal profile] siderea's recent post on [Marie] Kondo and the Bibliophibians. I haven't quite worked out what I think about all of it.

    Some is reminiscent of that Twitter or Tumblr thread that kept being quoted all over the place about how Millennials and younger generations buy and hoard luxury items, because living frugally doesn't allow you to save up enough to afford decent and stable housing, so why not own stuff? (But ignorant older people may assume that the reason younger people are poor is because they spent too much money on pointless luxuries, hence the much-mocked 'avocado toast causes the housing crisis' takes.)

    I'm not completely sold on blaming Marie Kondo for anti-intellectualism and the erosion of the middle class, and the idea of a Japanese woman being colonialist towards Americans doesn't sit well with me. Regarding books specifically, well, lots of people have opinions about whether you should or shouldn't own more physical books than you can read, but I didn't take that as the main point of the post. The bit that's striking to me is Section 6: Our TVs scrupulously taught us not to have sympathy for people of other classes, other industries, other ways of life. So I think it's not about books, it's about learning not to despise people from other cultural backgrounds.

    Currently reading: Moonwise by Greer Ilene Gilman. I'm appreciating this book, but it's hard work; it's written in a strange language that is almost Anglic (it's not quite, there are occasional Latinate words in it). Reading it reminds me of being a ridiculously hyperlexic child, and reading all kinds of adult books and only forming vague impressions of what was going on. It's not just the language, it's about a fantasy world that blends with an intrudes on this one, and the narration builds atmosphere by not making very clear distinctions between dream and reality, secondary world and this world.

    (I have read several articles about precocious readers being traumatized by reading stuff that they could decipher but where the emotions and events were beyond them, but I never really had that problem, I just felt confused a lot but still enjoyed what I could glean from my reading. I think the truth is I was never really gifted as a child; I was an exceptionally young reader and had a very good working memory, which led to measuring as gifted. But basically I accepted swimming in a sea of general adult weirdness and wasn't particularly bothered by it.)

    Up next: Something written in standard English, I think! [personal profile] angelofthenorth lent me Conversations with friends by Sally Rooney, which is apparently about young poly people in contemporary Ireland.
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