When last I posted it was the first week day of my second week in Tassie. At the time I rather expected that I would continue to check in each day and record my adventures. Nope. Been home for the better part of a week, and haven't posted any of that, either. So, what can I remember...
Ok, the training week was both really, really useful, and a bit disappointing. The latter because, while I know I learned lots, I am also aware of just how much more I am going to need to learn to be able to do my job well, once our lab actually exists. I did wind up making a rater long list of stuff that our lab will need to acquire, preferably by the time we are operational. Did you know that there exists a hand-held meter for measuring the energy of a laser beam? Neither did I. The model of laser they have in Tasie has two different places one can measure it--once at the beginning, right after it gets generated, and again at the end before it gets focused and goes into the sample analysis chamber. The way the tool works is that it has a little round bit of (glass?) in a frame that gets slotted into a gap in the machine, blocking the laser path. The laser beam travels right through the gas, and sensors built into the frame send a message up the wire to the hand-held unit, which converts the information to an number, which it displays on the screen. If everything is working properly then that number will match the one you entered into the controlling computer saying how much energy the laser is supposed to be firing at today. It will also be the same both at the beginning of its path, and after traveling through the machine (and being bent around corners by the mirrors). A good lab checks this daily. Oh, and that gap into which one puts the sensor? One can stick ones finger in there--at that point in the process the laser hasn't been focused--it is still a fairly wide beam, and you can't feel anything more than what you would feel to have any other beam of light shining upon you. Yes, the laboratory analysis demonstrated this for me.
The adventures I did during my second week in Tassie included:
Monday: Contra dance. So much fun! I have missed contra dancing. I did my best to convince my friends D & C who run the contra dances there to come to Sweden and teach a contra dance workshop here.
Tuesday: SCA dance practice: More fun! It was good to practice a bit of Italian Ren dances--we don't tend to do them up here, and I will need to do some at the Known World Dance event in Germany in April. Held at the home of a friend who has a lovely house built in a really pretty farming valley about a half a hour south of Hobart. His cow had a new calf, and the flock of wallabies which graze in his paddock includes an albino wallaby.
Wednesday: Walked into town and met my dance friend C, then drove to a home on the other side of the river, where lives a man who has been making and selling leather hats at the Salamanca Market in Hobart for more than 40 years. I bought two hats from him--one for lord_kjar
, and one for me. Then we did a walk along a lovely sandy beach, and after that we drove a bit further down the road and walked along another beach, which was muddier, had lots more plant life, and a fair bit of wildlife (crabs, etc.). She showed me one of the plants along the shore, which is mostly green, but it has red bits, which start low and gradually work their way to the tips, and then the red bit falls off. The red part is where the plant is concentrating all of the salt it takes up, and getting rid of it when it falls off. She then plucked up a bit of red end and bit it to taste the salt. Since she didn't seem hurt by doing this, I tried it. Yup, really salty. I only tasted, I didn't eat any--I don't tend to use salt in my cooking, so strong salty taste isn't appealing.
Thursday: The only evening I spent in my hotel room instead of adventuring with people (I needed it by then!) I had thought to catch up on posting to livejournal (I do my reading on the phone during my morning situps, but it isn't practical to post then), but instead spend the time on a skype call to my sweetie at home, and showed him the hat and other stuff I had gotten for him. I also showed him the SCA stuff we had gotten from clovis_t
's mum, and he surprised me by saying that he wanted more of the armour and shields and costumes than I had expected. This complicated things, since my luggage on the way down was already 15 kg of my 30 kg limit, and it took a bit of effort to manage to make it all fit. In fact, I wound up leaving behind the aluminium heater shield with metal basket hand protection, and only brought home the aluminium round shield--it wouldn't have been worth paying the excess baggage fees for that last 4 kg. So an SCA friend kept it and said she would sell it and give clovis_t
the money for it.
Friday: met up with my friend E, with whom I had done adventures the first weekend, and we did one final adventure, walking on a beach (it was a hot day, so that sea breeze was really welcome). I gave her the last bit of food I had purchased and not yet eaten (a little bit of flour, 4 eggs, and part of a pack of butter--I did alright guessing how much to buy, I think), and then she took me to the airport for my flight to Melbourne to visit my step-sister, K and her husband and their sons. I had only met the boys once before, back in 2011. Now the oldest is almost 10 and his brother about 6.
Saturday was really hot (35 C). K and I went in the morning to a yoga studio near her house. She did the 1.5 hour beginning class, and sent me to the next room for the intermediate class. This is the first yoga class I have attended in many years, and it was rather nice to just follow what someone else was doing for a change. She also had a couple of poses I hadn't seen before, which was nice. In the afternoon we drove further up into the hills (they live in Belgrave, which is as far from the city as one can get and still be on the train line) to a park on a river, and we kids played in the river while K relaxed on the beach in the shade. Ok, I spent a bit of time on shore at first too, because the ankle-deep water next to our blanket was in the sun, but then I discovered that just down stream a bit there was a stretch where the river was in shadow and the water was deep enough in one spot (next to some lovely rock outcrop) that if I stood up in it only my head and shoulders would stick out.
Sunday we just hung out with one another, visited, and lounged around the house and tried to keep cool (went through a fair bit of ice in our water) until it was time to head to the airport for my long journey home.
The trip down had involved:
*~1.25 hour flight to Stockholm
*~2.25 hour wait at the airport in Stockholm
*~6.25 hour flight to Dubai
*~4.5 hour wait at the Dubai airport
*~7 hour flight to Kuala Lumpur
*~1.5 hour wait at the Kuala Lumpur airport
*~7 hour flight to Melbourne
By comparison the flight home was faster:
*~14 hour flight to Dubai
*~2.25 hour wait at the Dubai airport
*~6.25 hour flight to Stockholm
*~2.25 wait at the Stockholm airport
*~1.25 hour flight to Luleå
Luckily, that plane for the 14 hour flight is a huge one, which meant that the area at the base of the stairs and next to the toilets was large enough that it was possible to do yoga there. I did yoga and the physical therapy exercises they gave me to keep my hips from hurting when I sit three different times that flight! (and in every airport on the way,and the trip down included both yoga and physical therapy at every airport--next to a nice little waterfall in Dubai).
I arrived home to what seems to be a really early Spring. The temperatures here have been hovering around 0 C, and often warmer than that, and predicted to be mostly warmer than zero for at least the next nine days. This means that there has been a fair bit of melting--huge puddles in parking lots and on some roads. Slippery sidewalks. I remember complaining about this kind of weather last year around this time, or perhaps a bit later. I still don't like it much and would rather have the nice -15 C temps and fluffy snow, but I must confess that after two weeks of summer, which both begun and ended with temps of +35 C, and am really enjoying the comfort of temps ranging from -4 to +4. Though I shouldn't have worn that cotton sweater under my coat the other day for the walk home from work--I wound up sweating.
One advantage of the warm weather is that it has made it slightly easier to deal with one of the downsides of home ownership--the filter pump on our septic system has died (after many years of use). So lord_kjar
ordered a new one, and while waiting for it to arrive rigged up a temporary one run by an extension cord from the house (ok several of them to reach that far) with an attached hose he ran over the snow from the one tank to the next. Since it has, just, been freezing at night he has had to go out each evening after work to bring out the pump and turn it on for a few hours, then bring it back in before bed. But the new pump arrived Friday, and it has the correct fittings to attach to the underground hose (or pipes?) connecting the two tanks, so it can be just left out there. Tomorrow he will attach it to the underground electric cable that the old pump had been running from, and we will be able to bring back in those electric cables. If it had chosen a week of -20 for this I am not certain it would have worked to run the hose over the snow--at those temps perhaps it would have frozen even though the pump was running.
Now that I am home we finally have a date (17 April) for the arrival of the Argon gas canister, being shipped from the US, that is needed for the installation of our laser--it needs the Ar to make the plasma so we can analyze the samples, and apparently it isn't permitted to use European gas canisters with their different sized openings. Assuming nothing comes up between now and then we will have the laser installed promptly after the gas arrives, and my job as a laser operating mad scientist will properly begin. In the meantime my Master's student, who was supposed to finish up last spring, has finally returned from his holiday in Thailand and given me his latest draft to check, and a couple of my colleagues have given me a long manuscript they have been working on to check it for good use of the English language, so I have plenty to do to keep me busy at work.
I am certain there was more, but I have been typing quite long enough...