After escaping from the clutches of the pacific cattle shuttle and drooling my way through customs and immigration I started the exciting game of find the plane. My strategy is simple - keep asking people where my plane is until I find the place to sit and twiddle my thumbs. This is a very effective strategy and usually gets me very directly to the right place, making for very relaxing and stress free travel.
On this trip I was flying American Eagle, which is some kind of regional airline, possibly just for california. All American Eagle flights leave from Terminal 44, carefully concealed behind a bus out on the tarmac. We hop in the shuttle bus, whose driver is more interested in talking to his mate than watching the road, and drive amongst the low flying aircraft and a occasionally between their wheels.
In the case that you are a little unsettled by the whole air travel thing, Terminal 44 reassures passengers that they really do know what they are talking about by including basic fluid dynamics equations on selected windows. I checked the equations carefully, and they were indeed correct. I was thus quite calm and collected about the fact that here was an airline whose Main Concern Was My Safety. They said so in big letters everywhere.
Here is my plane all ready to depart. Sadly, I'm not on it, instead, I'm on another plane. We sat on this other plane, which was in most respects identical. The seating on the plane was a seat either side of the walkway. I could tell who was a business class passenger because they had a curtain separating them from us second class citizens.
We spent some time on the ground with the engines cycling up and down. I was a little nervous, as I couldn't remember the sign on the v^2/2 term and thought perhaps they had got it wrong. My fears were corroborated when an electric cart came racing out from the little tin shed at the back of the hanger. I knew there was going to be a problem because not only did the passenger have a grey ponytail, but he was holding a roll of duct tape.
He hopped on board and played with the engines for a minute whilst the captain stood deferentially aside. The captain announced that there was an air bleed problem and that we would instead catch the other plane.
The rather less sophisticated jet-tunnel used for our plane had a gap at the bottom and one of the ground staff liked to put his hand through the gap, creating much excitement. As you can see, LAX's reputation for being intimidating is unjustified: here are some friendly ground staff. I was lucky and got a window seat so I took lots of photos, most of which looked like this: Here is some valley.
I caught a light rail from San Jose airport (after a nice lunch of burritos - requiring my best international travel diplomacy) to Mountainview.
On the walk from the light rail to my hotel I did get some helpful advice from a bloke promoting Scientology (they're not all evil). He found out exactly which direction I should walk (about halfway to the san jose airport he thought) and went as far as ringing the hotel for advice. In return I took his pamphlets and actually read them.
I took a rather poor picture of the giant black and white hangar at the Nasa/bayside base which features on mythbusters. I won't bore you with it, nor photos of my 5 star hotel, my 1 star resturant dinner or my most excellent friend I met and argued with for 5 hours in the lounge.
Instead, I'm going to show a set of fascinating photos of railway trains. Union pacific locos. Caltrains waiting. Minibullet caltrain - it goes fast, backwards... Typical older one.
I arrived in San Francisco and wandered the streets. A very nice homeless man and I had a cup of coffee and he told me of the best things to do with no money in SF. I declined his generous offer to meet his friends for dinner. I watched a white middle manager tear shreds off a chinese girl for not taking my order quickly enough (in fact, she was already preparing it). I watched people cross the road to avoid a 'black gang' and walked down to port 1.
In the UK I discovered that class makes a huge difference to the way that people treat you. In the US it's all about race instead. I wonder what the australian system is - being inside it I expect I can't see it. Americans make little remarks like 'it's much easier if you're a minority you know.' or 'latinos are good in their way'. Bizarre.
I found a genuine yarn shop for lynne where 50g of green merrino would cost not more than $50AU. I nearly bought her some yarn, but I realised that I might have to pay excess baggage on the trip home.
Lunch was some kind of seafood soupy thing. I ordered it and when the guy brought it out he was terribly appologetic because he'd made me the white one rather than the red one. I explained that it didn't really matter as I had no idea what they would taste like anyway.
Here is a bridge in SF. I spent an hour reading a new book (Optimal Control Theory, an excellent read) I'd bought and watching the seagulls land.
Even the sea gulls are bigger in the USA! A whole family of dumpsters.
The turtle moves! Whilst waiting for my excellent friend to meet me for a valentines day dinner I found a turtle window shopping. It was looking in a nice pet shop with lots of australian animals. Something I noticed about mountain view is that the plant life is pretty much exactly what you'd find in Melbourne. I don't think I saw a single species I couldn't identify.
The next day I went to the google campus for my day of interviews. Basically they locked me in a room and poked staff through the door to ask me questions. Some fun questions, but they all were work related - no Reuleaux triangle manholes :)
My last day I decided to go to Stanford, mainly with the intent of reading Plass's PhD thesis (widely cited, rarely read) as it was the one major reference I was missing for my thesis. I met a nice chap on the train who is a starting out IP lawyer. He directed me to a good+cheap cafe near Stanford Uni called 'University café'. Now I know why Stanford has a good reputation - it has nice food nearby! They take their coffee serously here - this machine is the coffee roasting machine, and the guy operating says he does a 30kg bag every few days.
I went to the 'Bill Gates computer science building to track down Plass's thesis - apparently they've never heard of him. But I went to the maths library and found it right next to my friend's PhD on holomorphic functions or something! I read through the whole thing thinking 'wow, some well cited papers clearly either didn't read this, or lifted the ideas without credit'.
I saw this nifty tensegrity structure. Note that every rod is only supported by wires. A cyclist killed by fedex. The standford archy bit Chapel? Closeup of the stanford archy bit. Sunset in san jose airport. The lush green dales of australia The lusher, greener algae of my pond