This post continues the homage to the Huntington Library and Gardens with a sample of the library displays. These are a mere fraction of what the library itself actually archives, although one needs a vetted research proposal in order to gain full access to its contents.

We begin with, er, light bulbs. Because if you were absurdly wealthy, why wouldn’t you amass a collection of historic lightbulbs.

“The Huntington’s collection of historical lamps consists of nearly 400 light bulbs, about half of which are on display here. The light bulbs range from the 1890s to the 1960s. They include examples of the variety of bases, filaments and globes in use before the development of current incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs.”

More light bulbs and then some actual, y'know, books )
I have many photos to share of my one full tourist day in Pasadena, as I spent most of the day at the Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino. It is quite expensive to get in, so you want to make the most of it. Fortunately there is enough to see both in the gardens and the library that it is well worth the money, assuming you’ve given yourself the entire day to explore it.

I begin with a post dedicated to the section of the Japanese garden that is devoted to bonsai.

When I am retired, I shall build myself one of these, and the carefully placed bench to sit in contemplation of it at precisely the right distance.

More tiiiiiiny trees )
[personal profile] emelbe and I set our alarms for 02:30 and 02:35 respectively, just to be sure we got up in time to walk over to Caltech for the end of mission. We dressed and poured coffee into ourselves, made sure we had our badges, and got out the door in plenty of time to arrive before 04:00, the official start of the event and NASA TV coverage.

Walking up to Beckman Auditorium (aka the wedding cake) from the south.

As it happened. )
Thursday was meant to be a quiet day, since we all knew we had to be up and at Caltech by 4 AM for the thing we’d all been preparing for: the actual end of mission.

In reality, there were some impromptu science meetings at Caltech, one of which I attended in the morning. I slipped out just before noon, because I had someone to meet.

I headed down from Beckman to South Mudd to see my former JPL postdoctoral supervisor, from back in those heady days when I was still a lab scientist, for lunch. I hadn’t seen him since 2006. I eventually remembered where his Caltech office was. I could’ve found the JPL one much more easily, but it would have required me to check in and get a badge, which seemed a lot of faff for lunch. Besides, there are nicer places to eat in Pasadena. Once in the correct corridor, I spotted his technician hovering outside the door, plus another UK person from the physical chemistry community whom I’d never met but knows the bloke pretty well. There were lots of smiles and hugs, and we decided to head down to a restaurant over on Lake Street.

We had a very pleasant hour of conversation, reminiscing and catching up. I had a shock on hearing that their children, whom I remembered as children or young teenagers, were now grown up and had careers of their own. Of course I knew that would have happened in the intervening decade-plus, but it’s not until you actually speak together about these things that they’re driven home to you. They were equally shocked on learning that Humuhumu has started school - and has a younger sibling! The bloke and I had been remiss in our communication, clearly. We talked of science, of course, and of politics and its effects on research direction, and of our worries about the future due to Brexit and the current US administration.

I am still kicking myself for forgetting to take a photo. You must instead picture me with a group of men: one starting to disappear into the frailty of old age, peering out earnestly from large-framed glasses, one solid and grey-haired and mostly silent with twinkling blue eyes, and one cheeky-grinned middle-aged bear of a chap with a shock of brown hair and a beard. All sitting together in a booth of a Japanese restaurant, eagerly shoveling the contents of bento boxes into our faces, occasionally bursting into roars of laughter while cheesy ‘90s music played in the background.

We parted with promises not to let another eleven years pass before we met again. I was left with the warm glow you get from (re)connecting with friendly, kind, intelligent people. It was a lovely way to buffer against the excitement and strain of what was to come on Friday morning.

Chilling out in my JPL t-shirt before the end of mission.
On Wednesday morning, [personal profile] emelbe and I saddled up and drove over to the Jet Propulsion Lab for a tour. We put her trusty sat nav on, and I noticed that instead of a car, the little icon was an x-wing. She turned the audio on. “Driven well you have,” said Yoda. “In a quarter of a mile, turn left. It is your destiny.”

It was decided that it was fitting for Yoda to be allowed to direct us to JPL.

JPL tour badge with Curiosity on the front. We got to keep these.

Tour, with side trips down memory lane )
I flew into Los Angeles on the Sunday before the last-while-Cassini-is-still-in-orbit-around-Saturn Project Science Group meeting began. I was feeling dodgy when I got up at 6 AM, but I napped in the taxi and took some ibuprofen, and hoped that the feeling would go away.

It did not.

I made sure my usual mobile pharmacy (ibuprofen, paracetamol, Rennie) was stocked in my rucksack before I boarded the plane, and was glad I'd done so about three hours into the flight when my fever started spiking. I alternated ibuprofen and paracetamol every two hours. The flight attendants kindly granted all of my requests for cold water/cans of ginger ale, which were frequent. It was one of the most miserable long-haul flights I've ever had.

I spent nearly all of Monday in bed apart from a brief foray out to get a hot Thai curry into my belly for lunch. This paid off on Tuesday, and I was able to spend half a day at Caltech to dial into the penultimate operations meeting. (There will be one more after the crash, but obviously we’ll no longer have an instrument status to report.) I was excited about this, because I had been saving up something for a very long time.

In fine fettle was the other option )

to be continued

[Me in black-framed glasses, with brown, purple and blue synthetic dreads.]

OK, I know I posted a dreadlock picture already, but those were with natural dreads (and some synthetic extenders). This is the first time I had dreads (synthetic ones) and wearing them inspired me to dread my own hair.

Also, I've been watching Orphan Black and every time I see Cosima I think, "I WANT MY DREADS BACK." Yes, in CAPSLOCK. I was a dreadlocked postgrad scientist ten years ago. *sniff*
Okay, I finally have a firm schedule for my trip to the States. Which is good, because I leave tomorrow.

I will be spending five (5) days in Olympia, Washington with my parents. I don't think I'll be available Saturday night (1 September) because I'm pretty sure my parents will want me to spend it with them. [ profile] becala has me booked for Monday 3 September. If you wish to see me on any other evening, text me on my UK mobile* (e-mail me or comment - they're all screened - if you need the number) and I'll ring you back to make plans. I won't have net access during this period.

Then, on 6 September, I will be flying to LA, picking up a car and driving to Carlsbad to get a bunch of stuff out of storage and mail it. I don't have a firm idea of how long this will take me but I imagine it'll be some hours. I'm reluctant to make firm plans with anyone for the evening since I may well be knackered and just want to go to Josh's house and pass out, but if you want to kick me into going somewhere in San Diego, or are willing to trek to La Jolla, you can reach me on my UK mobile. Again, e-mail me or comment if you don't have the number.

I will be in Los Angeles from 7 to 9 September. I plan to meet up with a couple of my ex-colleagues at Lucky Baldwin's in Pasadena on the evening of Friday 7 September and then go to Das Bunker with [ profile] angelcityblues. All are welcome to come and play with me at either! I'm spending the day (8 September) with the aforementioned sexy red-head. In the evening I plan to stuff myself with sushi. Please let me know if you would care to join in the raw fish consumption.

One small note: I'm not drinking (booze) at the moment. I hope you'll understand if I don't go into the reasons right now.

Finally, my body has decided to celebrate my imminent holiday by going into meltdown, which I'm sure will make the 11-hour flight a real treat. I have a bad head cold. So if you do see me, I suggest you greet me with air kisses. From about ten feet away.

Comments are and will remain screened.

* It's the same number I've had since I moved to London.
I never thought I'd experience culture shock on returning home, but dear sweet baby Jesus, everything in this damned country is so freaking huge. I've never been overwhelmed by flying into LA before but looking out the window of a Boeing 747 today astonished me. The cars! The twelve-lane motorways! The containers of milk/juice/water! The people! By that I don't mean that they're overweight, although lots of them are. We're just...huge. Americans are enormous. And so effusive. I was taken aback today when dealing with cashiers and taxi drivers. Why is everybody smiling at me, I thought suspiciously, while failing to smile back promptly. When people say "Excuse me," here, they actually mean it, as opposed to London, where the tone of voice clearly tells you, "Get the fuck out of my way." The pavements are so wide, so clean and so empty that nobody needs to move aside anyway. The traffic signals change promptly for pedestrians and most of the streets take half a minute to cross, so no one jaywalks. Jaywalking is almost a religious ritual in London. I love it when I walk up to a pedestrian crossing to find that of the twenty people who are already standing off the pavement on a busy street, looking angrily into the windows of the passing cars, exactly none of them have pressed the button to activate the traffic signal.

The icing on the cake, though, was getting carded when I went to buy beer.
I'm normally not a link poster, but this made me laugh out loud.

B-boys vs. Cybergoths: Fight! (Requires Quicktime)

The ending, it slays me. Krumping uber alles. Sometimes I miss LA.

I find krumping a fascinating phenomenon. It reminds me of capoeira, a style of Brazilian martial art that looks like more like dancing than combat, except the other way around. Krumping looks like combat, mixed with elaborate spazzing out, more than dancing. The evolutionary process of krumping is almost the reverse of many martial arts, as well, since it's intended as an alternative to rules-free street-fighting, rather than as a training method for it. Not that that's the sole purpose of martial arts training, but it certainly is one of them, and most of the instructors I've ever had have spent at least some time stressing the potential applications of certain moves for use in such situations.

ETA: I'm saddened because, while it has entries for krumping, b-boy, and cybergoth, Wikipedia doesn't appear to have an entry for "graver" (goth-raver).