Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

Lack of Travel

Nothing like a handful of coinage.

Same days, some weeks, inspire a desire for travel.

Today the weather felt just like November in Paris when I was there a few years ago. Cold, crisp and sunny.

At least as far as I could tell from my office window.

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Travel Inspiration



A path leading where?

I found this video on Succeed Blog about an awesome travelogue. It is from The Longest Way.

This is the sort of video that makes we want to go travel again, but this time without a set plan. Something like walking/biking from Inverness to Istanbul. At this point that needs to wait until I finish graduate school. I would want to do it with a large amount of saved up money, a plan and no time limitations.

This is the sort of dream worth fostering and working towards.


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Seven Feather Casino and Resort

Run little salmon, run!

Run little salmon, run!

Driving up from California to Seattle presented an opportunity, the chance to keep driving until a decent or entertaining hotel is found. It was right around the River Rock Casino that my Mom and I had the great idea: if we were staying in a hotel we should make it an Indian Casino.

Our quest was born. In a Carl’s Jr. right near the Oregon border I picked up a guide to hotels, motels and resorts of Oregon, Washington and Idaho. Directly on our path with a coupon available was the Seven Feathers Casino and Resort. We had to stay there.

First we price checked other nearby hotels and found that the casino was actually a bit cheaper then the Travelodges and similar hotels. Finding it was dead easy, just right off of I-5.

The casino greeted us with a large eagle statue swooping down and grabbing an also large salmon statue. A good start to an evenings entertainment.

This was my first time in a Casino I was surprised in some ways and underwhelmed in others. Surprise came upon seeing the clientele, the patrons made me realize what sort of bubbles I have grown up in and that I had never really experienced a real cross section of Americans. The extra wide seats characterized the cross section.

The biggest disappointment of the entire escapade was the gambling itself. I looked forward to a popcorn cup full of nickels and some quality time with a slot machine lever arm. Alas the entire casino was electronic. Cash monies are put into the machines where they store the credit and cashing out just prints out a receipt with a bar code. There are not even lever arms it is all buttons and touch screens. I must say this was a big let down.

The hotel itself was wonderful. It was completed in June, the rooms still had that new room smell. Five dollars upgraded from a standard to deluxe room and they were nice. New soft towels, comfy beds with lots of pillows, large bathroom, flat panel TV, free wifi and windows that opened. If I have to drive that route again and need a hotel in southern Oregon I will probably turn to Seven Feathers.

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Back from Seattle

An oil platform off of the Santa Barbara coast.

An oil platform off of the Santa Barbara coast.

Oddly my trip to Seattle had relatively little internet connectivity. I was staying at a house with no wifi and no gracious neighbor with an open connection. My internet was limited to an hour or less a day at a Starbucks and someone else’s iPhone. It was odd to have my laptop the whole time and yet not be connected.

My trip up was a complete success though. Relying on the power of Craigslist combined with e-mail, instant messaging, Facebook, text messages and mobile phones all led to my soon to be current housing situation. Interestingly enough the final decision that got me into the house was decided by three coin flips. Sometimes luck is favorable.

This was my first time really driving around Seattle (well I was navigating since I am too young for a rental car) and I must say two things struck me: the traffic and the street names. The traffic is what it is. However the street names have an almost failed logic about them. I see the reasoning, north-south streets are avenues while east-west streets are streets. Then there are quadrants and numbers with the origin set in downtown Seattle. But once we get to 193 St. Ct. NW Private it starts to become a little concerning. Then there is the occasional named street thrown in just for kicks.

I feel the idea was that even if you are new to the city a sensible sense of direction and the ability to count could easily help anyone navigate around. In practice it does not quite work that way. If the city remained on a solid grid without large freeways, tunnels or raised roads it would work. However it is not a grid and there are many roads with only a few designated ways onto or off of the road.

Also I would like to note that despite what any tour book will tell you Pioneer Square is not a very good place to go. There were two parking lots across from each other completely empty, nothing is more suspicious then an empty parking lot. That and the flocks of homeless just shuffling about in worn boots and threadbare slippers.

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Bad Person

Sadly his sword was lost long ago.

Sadly his sword was lost long ago.

For this trip up to Seattle (which I am currently in the middle of but scheduled these posts) I feel like a bad person. I usually only fly with carry-on, I make a strong point to do so. For this flight with my Mom we are checking the maximum allowed by both of us.

I am checking four bags full of my stuff for a flight. I really feel like a bad person doing this. On the way back it should be all carryon again with the bags collapsed inside of themselves or left at my Uncle’s.

Before starting to pack I looked up Southwest’s checked baggage policy, two bags each under fifty pounds and less then 62″ in linear dimensions. What could anyone pack that weighs fifty pounds in that small size? I was shocked that there were people bringing more as they had a provision for a fee for heavier bags.

Then I put four years of undergraduate physics books (and three math books) into one bag and realized: it was fifty pounds.

That showed me.

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My lenses were perfectly clean for this photo.

My lenses were perfectly clean for this photo.

I just spent the week in Pasadena in Southern California. Several of the jaunts made during the week were into Los Angeles.

It almost seems like a different state, except that I have not really been to many other states so I can’t necessarily compare. While I have lived in Santa Barbara for three years it is not quite at the same level as Pasadena/LA.

There were some definite surprises while I was there, the Huntington Library (and gardens) were very nice. They had some good exhibits (one on science) and nice green gardens. I don’t think they conserve as much as residents. Also the Griffith Park Observatory was really fun. Aside from being all about astrophysics it was really cool to see a lot of kids and adults interested in science.

They did have a large tesla coil that I could not find the on switch for, one day.

Also Southern California has a lot of frozen yoghurt places that sell the whole thing (including toppings) by the ounce. Either they do not exist or I have not found them around Sonoma county. I think it is a really good idea but do not know the extent or viability of the business model outside of Southern California.

The biggest surprise of the trip was the free wifi on the Airport Express bus from Oakland Airport. Stream the Colbert Report in traffic is just flat out neat.

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Spring Break

I should make a macro lens for flowers, if only I had time.

I should make a macro lens for flowers, if only I had time.

From now until the 29th I am on Spring Break. Usually this means I go home for a week of rest between quarters but this year I am going to visit some graduate schools. To start I am flying to Boston (I should be there now), visiting the University of New Hampshire, spending a few more days in Boston, flying and visiting the University of Wisconsin Madison and returning to Santa Barbara.

And all the airfare and half the lodgings/food is paid for by the Universities. But because I am traveling I don’t know if I will able to post anything, the next week or so will be short automated posts unless I can find time to change one.

I hope that everyone enjoys their own version of spring break or at least the coming of sunny skies.

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Flying Out

I will probably be in a very similar plane.

I will probably be in a very similar plane.

I am flying out to Seattle today for my first graduate school visit, this one to the University of Washington Earth and Space Science department.

It should be fun, I am already liking it as they are flying me out, housing and providing food.

After this I have a handful of weeks until my next set of visits to Wisconsin and New Hampshire.

Weather is going to be an issue.

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It tells time just as accurately as one would expect.

It tells time just as accurately as one would expect.

While traveling bartering can either be a chore or a fun exercise. When I was traveling in China I enjoyed bartering with the street vendors over small souvenirs and gifts. I know that others who went on a similar trip did not have such a good experience bartering as I did.

It really comes down to how it is done. If you are bartering to get the lowest possible price, at perhaps a loss to the merchant, they will probably cheat you in the end. Some people bartered down to the lowest price on some scarves in Tibet, the owner went back to wrap them up and ended giving them some dirty/ripped scarves instead of the new ones. However when I bartered I kept in mind that the merchants are just trying to make a living and a few dollars to me means relatively nothing while to them it can mean a lot. I just bartered to a reasonable price, never to the point where the merchant stopped smiling.

A key point I realized is that there was no language barrier in bartering. Instead of me using broken chinese or the merchants using broken english they simply had a large format Casio calculator where we input our offers back and forth. This way there was no ambiguity in the price.

Usually one of us would start with a basic price that was either half or double what the final price would be. Some general tips to help with good prices:

  • Look disinterested in the product or don’t show that it is exactly what you want.
  • Start looking at another merchants goods with more interest.
  • Try to bundle items together, like 3 for 100 monies instead of 2 for 40 monies.
  • Walk away.

The last one is really helpful. If you either know that the item is available elsewhere or you really are not set on it, start to walk away. It may be hard to do but it is part of the game of bartering. 

Also bartering at the end of the day could result in better prices if they want to move the products, on the other hand the merchant may have had a bad day or not want to barter with a traveler.

Always keep in mind that in the bartering is really just a game.

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Congratulations to the JPL team for five years on Mars with Opportunity today.

Congratulations to the JPL team for five years on Mars with Opportunity today.

After finishing it all it may be wise to consider options if there are no acceptance letters waiting. 

Here is a list of ideas that I have gathered from what my friends (physics majors) are considering or what I have considered as an alternative:

Teach for America

I applied for Teach for America and got in, but when I received my first acceptance I weighed the options and my dedication to each one and withdrew my Teach for America application. I was excited to do it but I feel that graduate school is a better choice for me right now.

Teach Abroad (I wanted to do Japan)

I wanted to teach in Japan. Actual any excuse that would allow me to live in Japan for a year would have been awesome.

Travel for a year

Taking a year off to travel as a gap year seems like another viable option. It would be a definite breather before plunging into graduate school.

Get a non-academic job

I did not want to get an actual job, several of my friends (in physics) however want to make this thing called “money”. Some of the things I have heard being considered:

  • Engineering job
  • Weapons research
  • Nuclear Technician for the Navy
  • Pilot in the Air Force
  • Product testing for a Telecom company

The best thing to do for this is to go to a Science and Technology Career fair, especially since these jobs will be geared towards jobs in the local area. Unless of course you don’t want to stay in the area. For the jobs as engineers it depends on what type of background you have in physics, for me I have had a good course in Electronics and have also learned how to do accurate machining in a machine shop. I would probably apply to be an electrical engineer if was to choose. 

After any one of these there is always the option to re-apply to graduate school or defer acceptance to follow a particular dream (like living in Japan). Of course there are innumerable options out there.

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