I fail at shopping

(alternate title: Why I really need a girlfriend)

I finally have a cell phone -- but no SIM card. I finally found a third place to have lunch -- after two and a half weeks. And I'm still no closer to finding a pair of slippers.

Yesterday morning, I went walking along Byers street looking for a cell phone. As I passed each store, I glanced in to see how many salespeople and customers there were. If there were more salespeople than customers, I kept on walking. I don't like sales people.

Eventually I found a relatively big store with -- it seemed -- an acceptably low ratio of staff to customers. Unfortunately, it turned out that one of them was free, and he began talking to me as I was looking at the display of "pay as you go" cell phones. I stated that I wanted a cheap phone with minimal camera capabilities, so he pointed at the cheapest one with a camera. I started looking at the difference between that one and other slightly more expensive ones, but he just stood there, so I got flustered and took the cheapest one. It was only £25, so I figured it couldn't be too bad a buy. I also got £10 of airtime.

Upon later examination, I found that this provider was more expensive than others (£0.25/minute for local calls, compared to £0.10/minute for another one!). And I also I discovered that the phone didn't come with a SIM card. Huh.

The SIM card thing was annoying, but the provider was offering a free SIM card online, so I ordered that. And to be fair, I suppose the same thing could happen in other domains -- somebody could buy an ultra-cheap violin without getting a bow, or buying a cheap desktop computer without a monitor. So I don't blame anything but my own ignorance for the lack of a SIM card.

The poor deal for the provider was also a matter of ignorance, but a less acceptible form -- I'd already been looking at cell phones from two famous providers in the UK. I should have gone with one of them and ordered the whole thing online.

As previously mentioned, the cell phone has a camera. When I first used it, I was amazed at the poor quality. Then I realized that 1) I was viewing a 640x480 (I think) picture on a 200x135 (or something like that) screen, and 2) there was a bit of protective plastic wrap over the camera. I'd taken the plastic wrap off the main display, but missed that tiny bit on the back of the phone.

(as a completely uninteresting side-note, my ipod nano (won from a opinion survey submission to UVic) still has the plastic wrap on the cover. I've had it for 3 years now!)

Now, the phone has bluetooth -- but neither my netbook nor my desktop has bluetooth. One can theoretically get a USB cable for the phone, but one end is a propriatary connector, and various discussions online state that nobody (including official stores!) has such a connector.

So I ended up buying a micro-SD card. It's a bit annoying to transfer photos, since I need to take the entire back of the cell phone off to get at the card, but it works. And I won't need to do that change often -- I wanted to get a 128 or 256-meg card, but the smallest one offered by the next store I went to was 1 gig. That'll hold thousands of VGA-resolution photos! Especially since it seems that even the "High quality" pictures on this phone use jpeg compression.

Pictures of my room, university, and surrounding area will be coming, but I'll spend a few days taking everything I can think of, then do a mass upload.

As for lunch... as previously noted, I hate going to a new eating establishment. Oh, I definitely dislike shopping in general, but interacting with food places merits a whole new level of feeling. It's ok if I'm with another person, since I can let them go first (in all things -- even just walking through the door. People probably think I'm being polite, but it's really that I want whatever dangers are in the restaurant to focus on them, while I get adjusted to the new environment).

As a result, until yesterday there were precisely two places I could have lunch: a small custom-made sandwich place (which my supervisor frequents), and Subway. The joy of franchises is that you know what to expect, no matter which country you're in.

Anyway, I noticed a small "mom and pop"-style place selling kebabs, pizzas, burgers, etc. We went to one at the ICMC conference, and I've seen a fair number of them around Glasgow. The middle eastern accent was slightly difficult to hear, but in an odd way, it was comforting to have difficulty with a non-English accent -- yes, some Glaswegians are hard to understand, but they have more of a claim to be speaking "proper English" than I do. So I had some much-needed meat (a burger) for lunch, and added a third place to my lunch options.

It's a shame that the "lab culture" here doesn't include having lunch together; I'm sure that there's loads of other (better?) places to eat within walking distance of our building.

As for slippers... in the morning, I went to a few clothes shops to look for shoes. They did have some... but only a dozen or so. These stores are tiny!

Based on my misadventures with shopping, I think I'll order them online, rather than continuing to walk around hoping to stumble upon a decent shoe store. Or maybe I shouldn't be looking in shoe stores at all... I must admit that in Canada, I'd check in the Bay or Zellers instead of going to a shoe store. Of course, at a mall, going to various stores is much, much easier. I never thought that I'd say this, but I miss malls. :(

So... can anybody recommend a place to buy slippers online? What do I want, you ask? Well, think about a sleeping cat curled up in the winter. Now imagine sticking your feet into the cat.

Yes, I want cat caracass slippers. I want to have a shower at night, put on my pygamas, shove my bare feet into something furry, and sit at my computer for a few hours without getting cold. Note that my room temperature is about 15C, because the heat still isn't working. (although we have hot water again!)

In honor of the name of the blog, I'll give bonus points for suggestions of stores which include bunny slippers.

Posted at 2009-09-27 12:22 | Permanent link | Comments

Officially a student

I'm now officially a student. Postgraduate research students (i.e. PhDs) registered / matriculated at the very end of the registration period.

In addition to having a student card, this marks the first time I went to the main university building. The EE&E building (ok, the civil engineers share it too) was built in the 1960s. It actually reminds me more of the Chemistry department at SFU than anything else... the building has a wonderful grey concrete exterior (I honestly like the SFU architecture!), and the inside has a certain smell that you only get from various gasses leaking out of experiments.

Ok, the smell is actually probably just from the type of floor wax they use, or the particular brand of rubber grips on the stairs, or whatever. But I'm going to ignore that. In my mind, the smell comes from Real Experiments happening. I think the terawatt laser is in the other engineering building, but there's still plenty of Real Science (albeit applied science) happening here.

The fact that I just sit at my desk programming all day is irrelevant. I'm in a lab in a building with real sciency stuff, where people can kill themselves by inhaling certain gasses used in some experimental processes. (sorry, I can't remember the particular chemical it was, but my supervisor was warning me about it. I think it's also two floors away from our lab, but that's still cool.)

They're also serious about restricting out-of-hours access. You need a keycard, need to sign in, etc. Yesterday, I left my desk at about 5:25, and the front door was locked by the time I got there. I had to exit through the side "out of hours" (also "smoking area") door.

In other news, I finally managed to build and upload lilypond 2.13.4. I've officially been the release manager for months, but the build process was a bit out of date, and requires a lot of CPU time to compile. It took me a week and a half, but I (and Jan, one of the core developers... actually, it was mostly Jan; I just send him error messages) finally managed to cross-compile the lilypond binaries for all 8 platforms. As fate would have it, we finished this task about half an hour before my registration time, so it really did fit neatly into a "in Glasgow but not a student" task.

In mundane matters, I have my bank account, and the bank card, pin, and online banking registration stuff have arrived. My Sainsbury's club card (it's called net-something, but I can't remember what it is) has arrived. The Tesco card hasn't arrived yet, which is weird since I signed up for that before the Sainsbury's card, but I have a paper "temporary" card, so it doesn't matter if the long-term plastic one hasn't arrived yet.

The only major remaining (necessary) task is to get a cell phone, which I'm still putting off. I have no excuse, though, so on Saturday I'll get it done. I should probably also try riding the subway (it's above-ground for some of the way, so it might be a nice sight-seeing thing), looking at downtown, looking at the Glasgow equivalent of the Sydney opera house (I can't remember what they do there), etc.

I'm also thinking about buying a bike. I can't claim that I need one; the 15-minute walk isn't all that long. (in fact, it's 15 minutes long!) But it would be even nicer if it were a 5-minute bike instead. Besides, I miss being a biker.

However, the prices are insane! Maybe I'm just looking in all the wrong places (google search "uk bike store"), but the lowest prices I'm seeing is £pound;200. I can get a new bike in Canada for $100 -- one quarter of that price! Granted, it doesn't help that I don't know what type of bike I want... mountain, hybrid, hardtail, bmw, road, triathlon, cross-country, folding, tandem, trailer... ok, some of those are easy to eliminate (such as triathlon). But fundamentally, I just want something that moves forward when I push down on the pedal. I don't care if it's mountain, hybrid, road, cross-country, or hardtail.

I guess I need to *shudder* talk to a salesperson. I feel a bit cheap -- no pun intended -- marching in and saying "I'd like the least expensive bicycle you have, because I'm going to ride it for 15 minutes a day along almost-completely flat roads". But hey, that's what I do want, and I'm not going to buy anything else.

On the home front, I'm getting my just desserts. A few days ago, I was quite smug about having (almost) everything set up, having my sleep schedule finally adjusted, etc. So two day ago, the hot water broke. As a related investigation, one flatmate and I have determined that either the central heater is broken, or it requires some special trick to enable. We'll check with our other flatmates later. And finally, last night I had a normal insomnia night, taking over an hour to fall asleep, and then waking up 3 hours later and taking another hour to return to sleep.

Still, I remain in good cheer. The water is kind-of like camping. Besides, I'm a Canadian. I just think of the times that my igloo collapsed because I didn't shape the ice chunks at the right angle, or that time I dropped my seal-hunting spear into the water and dove into the icy ocean to retrieve it. And about my wilderness ranger training, where they deliberately give you hypothermia, so you'll recognize the symptoms if you get them later.

... ok, none of those actually happened. But I'm sure they have happened. To some Canadians. So I channel those imaginary Canadians and embrace the cold water. Besides, after the first 2 or 3 minutes (during which I tend to jump up and down... hey, it helps, if only psychologically!) the water doesn't seem so bad.

The cold room isn't anything new; I'm used to my basement room being 15 degrees. My brother blasts a heater, but I just pile on more clothes and/or snuggle in bed. Admittedly, the quilt in the resident isn't very good, but I bought an extra blanket / "luxury throw" (for £pound;3 -- it can't be all that luxurious!), so I'll double-blanket the bed.

Finally, I'm vaguely regretting buying a new netbook in August. Don't get me wrong; I love this machine. But switching keyboard layouts between US and UK is slightly inconvenient. I mean, the @ and " keys are swapped, for no apparent reason. If I'd waited and bought a netbook in the UK, then I could have gotten adjusted once, rather than continually switching between the two layouts.

Oh well. I'll probably buy an ARM netbook next spring, and reserve this machine for my "powerful laptop". I mean, given the price of netbooks now, and the amount of time I spend on them, buying one each year isn't a bad bargain.

Posted at 2009-09-24 19:41 | Permanent link | Comments

Glaswegians are a bunch of wimps (?)

There was a light dusting of mist yesterday. It wasn't rain -- the ground was wet, and there were puddles, but the precipitation wasn't enough to put up my hood, let alone use an umbrella. But the complaints people made!

"What terrible weather" was the most common. "Terrible start to the new year" (classes started that day). "They never show this in the admissions photos".

Huh? That's the famous Glasgow rain? I know that people joke about it raining a lot, but if that's what passes for rain around here, I'm distinctly unimpressed. I'm from Vancouver, dude. We like it when the rain is that light!

Of all the ways that culture shock can come into play, I think that boasting about your home town's rain is a fairly nice one. :)

(yes, I was probably seeing the famed UK "talking about the weather", rather than actual complaints about the weather. I remain distinctly unimpressed with the "poorness" of the weather so far)

Posted at 2009-09-22 19:09 | Permanent link | Comments

Fancy eating: Graham re-learns how to use a fork

While I was putting away utensils and dishes this morning, I discovered an odd implement in my drawer. It was approximately the size of a spoon, but it had four long pointy things at the end. Yes, it took me a whole second to recognize a fork.

Sandwiches are really common in the UK. I mean, really, really common. I remember one person from Singapore asking me if I really ate bread for every meal [in Canada], and I replied that I generally had it for lunch, but ate potatoes or rice for dinner. Over here? Nothing but bread. And, if one stretches the definition of "sandwich" slightly to include burgers... actually, I can't think of a sensible definition of "sandwich" which doesn't include hamburgers... then I can lay claim to eating nothing but sandwiches for a whole week!

For the past number of days, I've had sliced cheese (it was on sale) between two slices of white bread (also on sale), microwaved for a minute. When I go for lunch, my professor always gets a sandwich. When I'm alone, so far I've gone to Subway because I don't like going to unfamiliar eateries by myself. I never know whether to order and wait for the food, order and sit down, or just sit down! And the one time when I went with a labmate, I wanted a burger anyway.

I started expanding my diet last night, though. Tesco's was selling pizza at half price, so of course I bought a few. It took me ten minutes to figure out how to turn on the oven -- and even now I'm not completely certain how it's done -- but I had a wonderful dinner for £pound;1.74. (not counting the fraction of a bottle of diet coke)

But that still didn't re-aquaint myself with a fork. So for lunch, I tried the "cheesey [sic] pasta". It's still made by Kraft, but it comes in a red box. The pasta is thinner and slightly longer than regular macaroni, and there's less of it. That's not a bad thing; there's too much in a normal packet for one person. The cheese mixture is much sharper, and lumps together much more than the North American variant. Next time, I might try adding a bit of butter and/or milk.

All in all, I seem to have adjusted well. I have a bank account, I've done clothes washing twice, and I'm now waking up at 6am. My first full week wasn't as productive as I had hoped; I was working on some lilypond stuff but didn't get it finished. Oh well; such is life.

There's only three remaining chores: getting a keycard for the building (since there's terrawatt lasers and deadly gasses and whatnot, I need to have a safety lecture), officially registering as a student (my assigned day is the 24th), and getting a cell phone. I mean, a mobile phone. I'm quite reluctant to do the latter, but then again, I suppose that they can't be any worse than Canadian mobile phone companies.

I used to have "buy a keyring" on my list, since I forgot to bring one from home. But I don't have a clue where to buy them -- at home, we just seem to accumilate them. However, when I was just about to throw a twist-tie away, I realized that I could use this as an improvised keyring. What an engineer I am!

PS: since Tesco's was having a "meal deal" -- £pound;2 for a sandwich, drink, and chips -- I'll be eating a mostly-fresh sandwich for dinner.

Posted at 2009-09-19 15:46 | Permanent link | Comments

A towel! A towel! My kingdom for a towel!

The following is a story about towels with a happy end. As with the previous post, I shall recount the story chronologically. Unlike the previous post, the "payoff" occurs somewhere in the middle of the story, so you can't simply skim to the bottom.

Our previous story, gentle reader, left me nude from the waist up in the kitchen of my new flat, holding a damp t-shirt, listening anxiously for the promised female flatmates to walk in the door. Sadly, it appears that the whims of fate did not support the comedic (and quite possibly romantic... or at least sexual) script which was clearly written for such an event.

I finished my meal and retired to my room. I had a shower, then spent the next half hour shivering in my room as I slowly dried. I had know that my room did not come with any towels, and therefore brought a small hand towel, but could not fit a bath towel into my luggage. My brother had assured me that it would be easy to find a towel in the fair Kingdom of Unitedness.

Did you hear thunder in the background, gentle reader? You should have, although as previously noted, the whims of fate do not always follow the proper comedic script. I must confess, a chill ran down my spin and I wrote those fateful words, despite knowing that a "happy end" was in store for me.

In the morn, I dilly-dallied my route to the university. I still lacked a key to the lab, so I did not want to arrive before others. I marvelled at the Kelvingrove art museum history thingie, with its intricate gothic arches and pointy bits. I revelled in the gentle parkway promenade, with its explosion of green and gentle brook. I smiled at a broken-down graffiti-covered building -- in this country, even structures slated for demolition are incredibly charming!

I stopped at a cafe. I stumbled a bit with the protocol -- I never known whether to get food at the counter, order food at the counter and sit down, or sit down and wait for a server. I thought this was the first kind of establishment, but apparently it was the third.

I had some most agreeable English breakfast tea with a ginger icing'd thing. At two pounds fifty, though, I began to wonder about the university's claim that students should budget seventy and one hundred pounds per month for meals. By that measure, I had just blown half my day's food allocation breakfast!

At the university, the lab was already occupied, so my lack of key was not a problem. We chatted for a bit, picked up my new desktop, and I occupied myself with setting it up.

Lunch was at a traditional pub (which apparently was the second kind of establishment; I thought it was the third). My supervisor warned me that my burger might not be up to North American standards, but I found it one of the tastier burgers I had consumed. Interestingly, the meat was not ground beef, but appeared to be a whole piece of beef. It was not at all tough, though.

I repaired to my room at 4pm, pleading jetlag. I enjoyed another post-shower shiver, and went to my bed with still-damp hair. I resolved to find a towel on the 'morrow.

Did you hear that, gentle reader? I most definitely heard some deep, ominous laughter from afar.

With the marvelous power of the Web which joins the whole Wide World, I determined that Sainsbury's operated two types of establishments: S and L. Amusingly, the Esses were "superstores", while the Ells were "local". These abbreviations must have been chosen deliberately to confuse foreigners accustomed to Small and Large drinks!

Anyway, having established that a "Superstore" operated by Sainsbury's would be open at 7am, I set off shortly after dawn. I discovered a most delightful walk across the countryside (just to the north and west of my residence), and found the store with only a small amount of detours. The walk was approximately one mile of length.

The "Superstore" was a mixed find. It was definitely not a superstore by North American standards; with approximately 8-10 checkout counters, it was definitely a normal residential market. It definitely was nowhere near a North American (or Singaporean) superstore, which would have upwards of 20 checkout counters (and in some cases, more than 40!).

However, it was oddly (or perhaps not oddly at all!) comforting. There was plenty of room to walk down the aisles, a large selection of items, and the whole store was brightly lit. The exterior was also familiar; this store was part of a mini-mall with a moderately-sized parking lot (200 stalls; again, a normal small lot by North American judgement). Other stores included Boots (which apparently sells cosmetics, not footwear), Marks and Spences, and a McDonalds.

Sadly, although the Sainsbury's website listed towels (and mobile phones), and although the North American Superstores would include such items as well, this store only had groceries. Or rather, what a North American would call "groceries"... I suspect that the term "groceries" has a more specific meaning here than merely "food and stuff".

Defeated, although much better provisioned, I walked home. There, I picked up a letter establishing my UK residence, then travelled to a bank...

... to be defeated again! Apparently, opening a bank account requires an appointment! I must admit that I was not unduly hopeful that I could open the account on Saturday morning (although the bank definitely was open), but I had expected to be told to return on Monday morning, rather than requiring a formal appointment.

After leaving the bank, I continued to walk in search of a store which sold towels.

And walk.

And walk.

And walk.

Finally, I spotted it! "The Bathroom Store". I crossed the street via an underpass created for a nearby underground station, entered the store... and discovered that it was for furniture only. I continued to walk.

And walk.

And walk.

Finally, I gave up and turned back. I have a good sense of direction, so in order to make the third side of a triangle, I began walking towards my residence.

And walk.

But then I discovered the most marvelous thing -- a store selling household goods (pillows and mats). What's more, it appeared to be fairly large (by normal street-side store standards). But the final sign, a most definite stamp of approval from the whims of fate -- they were having a sale! What could be more welcome news to me?!

I eagerly entered the store, and quickly located the items I sought. I pondered a bit between a bath towel on sale for £pound;5 and a fluffier bath towel for £pound;10... and decided to splurge. I had walked so far, spent so much time looking, that I deserved a good towel. I bought other items, though, which were on sale. A hand towel, plastic food containers, and a laundry bag.

Upon returning to my residence, I checked my route on google maps. All told, I had walked one and ten kilometers, or almost seven miles. Since I had been awake for twelve hours, I fell asleep before even having a shower.

I was woken around dinner-time by flatmates greeting each other. I wandered out to join in the greetings, then got dressed and went out to eat (I must admit, Subway for the third day in a row -- although in this case, it was merely because it was right next to the Tesco's Express) and buy some more groceries. When I returned, I filled out my Tesco membership point card, and indicated my special dietary preference: teetotal.

Indeed, this country considers people who refrain from drinking alcohol to be in the same category as those seeking vegans, halal, kosher, or diabetic diets. I begin to suspect that my brother was not overstating his warnings about alcohol consumption in this country!

Awake for merely two hours, I fell asleep again.

I woke some time after midnight, having slept for over eleven hours (after subtracting the dinnertime shopping). I remain amazed at those who travel to other continents for vacations and conferences -- how do they adjust to the new daylight so quickly? There is not much to see in an unfamiliar country at 3am!

Sunday morning was occupied with academic work. Eight o'clock found me back at Sainsbury's, this time purchasing garbage bags for the flat, along with more food. I returned, did more work, and tried to find a pub or cafe for lunch -- to no avail. Almost every store was closed on Sunday!

I returned to my flat and ate bread, cheese (orange Cheddar, just like home!), and strawberries (tiny ones). After this, I occupied myself with chores (washing dishes, vacuuming), then went to bed again.

My pattern seems to be established: sleep from 3pm to midnight. It may not be the most convenient pattern, especially for any kind of social life, but at least it's stable -- for the first few days here, I could not sleep for longer than 4 hours at a time.

Perhaps more importantly... and quite possibly closely linked to my sleep... I have finally caught up on my fluids. Flights leave me extremely thirsty, and I must admit that I did not drink sufficiently on my first two days here. All the drinks are so small! Even the Subway -- a North American franchise -- had tiny cups, with no larger sizes of cups visible. I should have asked for two drinks.

Anyway, I have regained my health. Walking was somewhat painful for the first few days but this is now pleasurable. In retrospect, I should have spent more time walking before coming here -- in part because walking uses slightly different muscles than running, but mostly because I had not "broken in" my new non-running shoes.

I have time for four more hours of work, quite possibly while doing laundry, and then I depart for my first full week of university. My first task shall be to get a keycard for the building: it is locked outside of normal business hours.

PS: if you don't know what a "happy end" is, then... err... actually, don't worry about it. I'm not going to spoil your innocence. :)

Posted at 2009-09-14 02:56 | Permanent link | Comments

Topless party with fizzy drinks!

Wow, Glasgow's reputation for being a trendy, exciting place is certainly true. I've been here for slightly over 12 hours, and already had a memorial (later correction: memorable) event! Of course, I'm going to make you read the entire blog post before I talk about that event.

After the airport, I went straight to my residence. No problems "checking in" at 8:30am. The residence has a gate around it; if you look at it on google maps (I put a link in an earlier post on the blog), the entire cul-de-sac is gated. I'm at the western end of the cul-de-sac, on the north side of the north-south west end.

... well, I'm sure that somebody understood what I meant there. Not that it actually matters whether or not anybody can pinpoint me to within 10 meters on google maps. If anybody comes to visit me, we'd probably meet elsewhere, and anybody targeting a missile at me doesn't need to be that accurate. :) Unless it's a small missile. But I'd hope that I would merit a big missile.

Ok, tangents of dubious comedic value aside, I'm on the ground floor. The flat consists of a relatively narrow corridor, with institution-off-white walls, institution off-gray-brown carpets, and institution thick metal doors. There's 5 bedrooms and one kitchen/lounge.

The room was slightly larger than I expected, which is nice. Of course, I had very small expectations (pun intended). There's plenty of storage space -- maybe twice the "drawer" (well, shelves in a closet) space as I had at home. I can now afford to have my underwear on a separate shelf than my socks!! Are you guys as excited as I am?!~! LOLBBQ :-)

My bathroom initially stuck me as small -- there isn't enough room to stretch out my arms and turn around. But then again, how often do you need to twirl around in your bathroom flapping your arms?

That was a rhetorical question. Please don't answer. Especially not you. (you know who you are)

Anyway, it comes with a shower "area" (with a curtain, but no door) and no paper. That somewhat annoyed me. Or rather, it would have annoyed me, if I wasn't overwhelmed with the newness of everything. But really, I know that they want to save money, but they couldn't give everybody one roll of industrial cardboard-like toilet paper? I mean, looking for a Tesco's or Sainsbury's so I can buy toilet paper shouldn't be a top priority when moving to a new continent. :(

This annoyance was mollified somewhat by a package (I think from the Student Representative Council, although I wouldn't swear to that) with various introductionary materials, flyers, coupons, plus a packet of tissues, soaps, shampoo, some candies, and an energy drink (boost).

Enough of my underwear and bathroom fixation. Let's move on to important matters: so far, I'd say that UVic has better-looking girls. I'm even tempted to say that NUS has more attractive girls than Glasgow, although the comparison is a bit dubious since Singapore weather suggests body paint as adequate insulation, while Scottish weather suggests wool.

No, I never saw anybody wearing body paint in Singapore. Although the climate suggested it, the culture did not. Instead, the culture suggested jeans or shorts which imitated body paint. The tops were relatively loose. I mean, in the "breezy" sense. Not the "coming off" sense. At least, not during university hours. I don't know what happened after that. (hey, Yang, Yinsheng, and Dillion? Are you still reading my blog? I remember you guys being interested at my observational abilities when we visited Sentosa Island and were at the airport, so I figured that you'd be interested in more observations)

Ok, I'll get back to serious stuff now. Otherwise I'll never get to my topless story.

The walk to the university was fine; I cross one somewhat well-used street at an intersection, but the rest has very light traffic. The park and river have plenty of trees, bushes, and ivy. That's a relief to me; I was half-expecting to see a bunch of lifeless, carefully mowed lawns and sculpted trees. I'm sure that those exist -- actually, I recall seeing some squash or croquet or cricket or whatever courts -- but there's at least some patches of natural-seeming overgrown trees and ivy. The creek moves along at a decent clip, too. It's definitely a pleasant walk.

I wandered around for a bit, then had breakfast/supper at a Subway restaurant. That's my total comfort food, but this particular one didn't turn out well. They were out of tomatoes, didn't have barbecue sauce (although the paper taped to the display case listed it), and the diet coke was inexpertly mixed. To be fair, part of the reason that Subway tasted so fantastic in Singapore was that I was almost always starving when I went there, whereas this time I was merely hungry. Still, three strikes is a substantial burden. I'll try a different location next time. (I've already found two others... no, I wasn't actively looking for them. :)

I met with my supervisor. There were three other students in the lab at the time, and I met two others later. My supervisor then took me on a tour of the building, meeting various academic assistants, the IT guys to get my engineering computer account, various labs, etc.

After that, I followed a map that one of my lab-mates drew for me to find the UK equivalent of radio shack. Unfortunately they were out of US->UK physical power adaptors (£pound;2.99), so I ended up buying a US->UK transformer power adaptor. Thankfully it was only sale for £pound;11 off, so it was only £pound;8.99. It makes a bit of noise, and is much heavier, but I definitely needed one. I'll go back there in a week or two and see if they have the physical adaptors, since they make no noise and are far lighter. Hopefully I can give it to somebody who visits from Canada.

I got some pizza on the way home, then went to sleep. The bed and sheets are the most uncomfortable sleeping things I've ever seen, including the camping gear I used as a youngster. I've never given much thought to beds in the past, but I'm actually considering buying new sheets. It would be difficult to do something about the actual mattress, much as I'd love to junk it.

Anywya, I think this was around 1 or 2pm. I woke up at 7:30pm, and after a bit of debate I decided I was too thirsty to try to get back to sleep. I should have drank much more during the morning, since I was dehydrated from the flight.

I found a nearby Tesco express, where I bought some packaged sandwiches with a deal for chips (or crisps) and bottled water. I saved £pound;0.76, and got 10 Tesco points. Along with the toilet paper. It's probably a toss-up as to which is worth more.

On the way back, I decided that I wanted to try proper UK food, so I stopped at two pubs. The first stopped serving food at 8pm, and the next stopped serving food at 9pm. Hmph.

I think I've discovered why the UK has a reputation for binge drinkers -- you can't get bloody food by the time you get to a bloody pub, so everybody ends up drinking alcohol with no food. I've heard that alcohol hits you harder when you don't have food to digest it with.

I mean, seriously. It shouldn't be that hard to find food at 9pm. That's not late. I saw some Asian take-out places that were open, but I definitely wasn't in the mood to try such food. So I went home. I noticed a vending machine in the general reception lounge, so I eagerly went there to get coke. Unfortunately, it was only stocked with energy drinks (?!?!). After some debate, I got some flourescent orange stuff. I also got a mars bar, although the vending machine didn't deep-fry it.

In my flat, I discovered that the internet connection no longer worked. Previously, I'd just plugged in the cable and DHCP worked; now I had to go through a web-interface login thing. I had the login information, so this was no problem. And after doing this, I could send email.

Anyway, I downloaded email, then sat in the kitchen to eat my cold sandwiches with orange energy drink and salt and vinegar chips as a private party. I finished the orange thingie, then opened one of the bottled waters.

Except this was no ordinary bottled water -- this was MUTANT BOTTLED SPRING WATER FROM THE NETHERWORLD!!~! Otherwise known as "disgusting fizzy garbage".

My laptop was quickly sprinkled by sparkling disgusting fizzy garbage. So what did I do? Well, I obviously grabbed the kitchen tissue which the residence provided for us... not. I took of my t-shirt and used it to soak up the spill.

Memorial (later correction: memorable) event: check if bottled water is actually disgusting fizzy garbage. Do this before buying it (whee, I saved £pound;0.76... by purchasing £pound;1.04 of undrinkable disgusting fizzy garbage), but most importantly before opening it next to a laptop.

PS: I thought about beginning the last paragraph with "... and that's when two of my flatmates, a pair of female gymnastics students from Sweeden, walked in the door. They politely followed my example, and soon..." but then I figured that since I haven't met any of my flatmates yet, I shouldn't make such jokes.

PPS: I now have met one flatmate: he's from Luxemburg. I thought he was Scottish (from the accent), but apparently everybody here thinks he's from America. I have no idea how anybody can confuse his accent with American, but I guess that just goes to show how confusing accents can be...

Posted at 2009-09-11 00:10 | Permanent link | Comments

Arrived at GLA

I've arrived safely at Glasgow.

Check-in and security were uneventful. Flight included LCD displays, but no power sockets for laptops. I watched a lot of TV shows. No problems at the border, picking up luggage, or the taxi ride here.

I just discovered that my power converter only works for 2 sockets. My laptop plug has 3 sockets. What a monumental mistake! I could have easily spotted this at home, but I didn't bother to check, since my previous netbook had a 2-prong power socket.

I also discovered that I forgot to bring a keyring. Oh well; those aren't hard to find.

I'm keeping this message brief because I don't want to run out of power. I'm sure that it won't be hard to find an electronics shop that has a converter, but this isn't the kind of thing I wanted to be doing as soon as I arrived. :(

PS: email isn't working, so if somebody sees this message and knows people that desperately want to know that I've arrived safely, please send an email on my behalf.

Posted at 2009-09-10 15:00 | Permanent link | Comments

Great Graham Giveaway

Great deals! 50% off! I'm leaving for Glasgow in 13.5 hours, so (almost) everything must go!

Before going, I tried to sort out my affairs -- decide what to take, clean up anything I want to keep but not take, and get rid of the rest. It's worked out to almost exactly 50% of my worldly possessions!

I gave away 2 of my 4 laptops. One to a very worthy cause (an open-source developer in the US with an astonishingly underpowered computer), and the other to my brother to test FreeBSD stuff.

Clothes received the same treatment... taking 12 t-shirts, giving 13 away. Taking 3 sweaters, giving 4 away. I now have a garbage bag completely full of clothes.

I have no idea how I ended up with 25 t-shirts, BTW. Or rather, I do: everybody kept on giving my t-shirts, and (before now) I only got rid of clothes when there were holes the size of pennies in them. What if there's smaller holes? Hey, that just means that the cloth has adapted itself to my body, so they're more comfortable to wear!

Anyway, my check-in bags are packed, and in the morning I only need to slip my laptop inside my handbag. I'm all set!

Posted at 2009-09-09 01:01 | Permanent link | Comments

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