Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

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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A Lensbaby view of a closed door.

A Lensbaby view of a closed door.

I spent the weekend at my grandmother’s house in Nevada City.

Nevada City is an interested town for me to visit, it sits in the middle of the Gold Country in California Sierra Nevadas (it is not in Nevada) about an hour from Lake Tahoe. It is very much a tourist destination with a very quaint main street lined with stores and architecture. There are a lot of things for a tourist to see and do there.

Since I grew up there (at least spent summers) I never viewed it as a tourist destination or looked at it as a traveler. This time around I tried to see it through new eyes and a new lens. I took my Lensbaby through the main street and up around looking at houses. 

I find that walking around taking travel-esque photos with my Lensbaby to be somewhat difficult. With the Lensbaby I need to keep in mind most things that are automated with other lenses, this in turn made me take more time to consider a photo before taking it, I had a lot fewer random photos and more thoughtful ones. 

Nevada City had a lot of natural beauty in its forests, streams and mountains. I never considered this as they formed the backdrop to my childhood, it is only in comparison to other regions that I realize how heavily forested it is. For one of my photos this provided a good bokah backdrop to the foreground. As most of the trees are evergreen the background persists even if one is visiting in late December.

Next time I will be there will be in the summer and I hope to finally do some long exposure water photography.

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Packing Heavy


A curious pelican.

A curious pelican.

For the first time my immediate family was broken apart for Christmas. It was not from a divorce, rather it was my brother going to Colorado with his girlfriend (her family) for Christmas. What shocked me about this revelation was the packing.

My brother grew up in the same household as I so he knows how to pack light and all of that good travel stuff. However his girlfriend has not traveled that much and so she was never taught how to pack light or the benefits therein. 

She could fit inside of her suitcase and zip it up.

My family and I were shocked at the size of the luggage and the shear amount of stuff. I realize that Colorado is a particularly cold place this time of year but I was nonetheless amazed. They were weighing their bags for the flight. Not their carry-on bags but their checked luggage. The maximum allowance was checked, several jackets were worn on. It was a lot of stuff.

They were only going for nine days.

We were worried about the trip since my brother does not have a current passport. It had to be pointed out to us that a passport is not needed to go to Colorado. We are not used to flying domestic.

One week or one month I pack the same carry-on amount of stuff (except going to Edinburgh to live for a year). So seeing the ginormous bags for the week startled me. I see now why there are websites dedicated to packing light.

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Mud hens are not the safest form of travel.

Mud hens are not the safest form of travel.

When I heard about this I was morally and physically conflicted. 

On one hand the mere idea of it revolted me, I mean I could do it for a few hours here and there. Thirteen hours though? That is a little intense and thinking of the long term affects on my body was not pleasant.

On the other hand — the price. Something this cheap and this easy is hard to reject. I mean I survived over night in East Midlands Airport without much physical pain. I have even slept before on Ryanair planes.

Ten euros to get from San Francisco to Stansted is so irresistible. For that price I am willing to eat only food I bring, take some heavy medication and sleep myself there. I am sure that the base price is so basic that it will be impossible to actually achieve. Even if after airport fees and the like a round trip cost around two hundred dollars I would still do it.

Two hundred dollars is a paid trip home from Santa Barbara, that same price to get to England would have me traveling back there a lot more.

It just feels so wrong to consider that much time with Ryanair.


Oh, and go vote!

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Heilan Coo

The Revered Heilan Coo, Hamish.

The Revered Heilan Coo, Hamish.


Before a trip out of Edinburgh to Loch Lomond I had never heard of the Heilan Coo. Then I found out from a friend that we were going to meet the most famous of the Heilan Coo, Hamish. The tour guide told all of his background information, his age, where he was from, what he does now. When we finally reached his home he did not come out. Everyone on the tour tried everything to plead him out to see us.

It failed.

I gave up ever meeting Hamish.

Then, half a year later, I found myself on my way to the House of Hamish. At first he would not come out. Cajoles, jeers, and pleads fell onto deaf ears. He was having nothing to do with us. Again.

It took the women of the tour group to successfully call him out. And out he came! He was covered in long flowing golden hair. An affectionate greeting was given to all who came forward. 

There was jubilation amidst the tour.

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