Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Major League Baseball: Red Sox vs A's

After having caught a few baseball matches on the TV and enduring a 2 hour commentary debate about why the pitchers mound should be raised 6 inches just like the good ole days - I finally thought I had a basic enough understanding to pass as a fan so it was time to go watch a live game!

One of my colleagues is a big Boston Red Sox's fan so a group of us went to watch them play the Oakland Athletics in Oakland! I am sad to say that weak wee like beer has now passed my lips (though it wasn't budweiser) - I had no choice, it was Miller or nothing! The game was class, although the Red Sox did get completed annihilated (it was 9-0 when we left at the bottom of the 8th innings) - a continuation of one of their worse seasons ever!



Saturday, August 26, 2006

Lassen Volcanic National Park

I spent the last four days camping and hiking in Lassen Volcanic National Park (North East California, near Reno)! It was an ear popping five hour uphill drive (>7000 feet) from Berkeley, by the end of which I was just about coping with driving on the WRONG side of the road! The weather was absolutely perfect for the whole four days with clear blue skies and lots and lots of sun!

Lassen Peak at 10497 feet (see photos 1 and 2) is the highest in the Park and allegedly the largest plug dome volcano in the world. It is actually still classified as an active Volcano....well in the sense that it last erupted quite recently - at the beginning of the 2oth Century (1914 - 1921). A photograph (taken from 50 miles away) of the largest eruption during this spell showed a huge mushroom cloud. The volcanic ash and gas produced in the eruption reached some 30000 feet into the atmosphere and was visible from over 200 miles away. Lassen Peak is the Southern most terminus of the Cascade Mountain chain that includes Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainer in Washington State. The rough terrain, intense sunlight (not aided by the fact that i left my suncream at the campsite, whoops!) and the altitude made for a tough trek but the Summit with views across the park and of Mount Shasta (14162 feet; also in the Cascades) to the North making it all worth while.

It was one of those Summit bagging kind of trips and the day after conquering Lassen Peak I bagged Brokeoff Mountain (9235 feet; photo 3) - thats BrokeOFF Mountain not Brokeback Mountain - there was not a gay cowboy in sight! The view from the Summit was great (photo 2) although as a result of the haze Mount Shasta was not visible. The haze is only good for one thing - keeping me in paid employment!

In the far North East of the park is the Cinder Cone a 6907 feet pile of cinder! Fairly self explanatory really and and its cone shaped. The hike up though it is not particularly long is made hard work due to the path being composed of fine scree, so it is not unlike ascending a 45 degree beach! The view from the Summit down onto the 'painted dunes and fantastic lava beds' (that's the name no additional adjectives from me; photo 4) was breathtaking! All this area was the result of one eruption from a magma chamber beneath the Cinder Cone - the painted dunes resulted from oxidation reactions of the newly erupted ash with the hot molten lava.

Photograph 5 is of Bumpass Hell (the main geothermal area) named after or by some guy who fell through the thin crust and boiled one of his legs - nice! Finally, photograph 6 is of sunset over Manzanita lake in the North West part of the park. For more information on the park check out the website (see in the links opposite).



Supplemental: The Saga of the Spare Tyre
Should just add that the trip was far from a smooth operation. To cut a long story short I had to change the rear right tyre TWICE. Which was annoying enough if not confounded by the fact that the previous renter had left everything but the kitchen sink in the boot! The good news is I got the rental for 1/2 price and a free days rental next time - a sweet deal!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Arrival in California

Arrived safely in California after two long flights (well actually that was 2.5 weeks ago but i have only just worked out how to do this blog thing!). The large hangover, from the Putney send off - cheers the Londonites, seeing me through the first flight nicely -even slept straight through the safety briefing! On arrival in Minneapolis, navigating immigration was actually fairly straight forward relative to other trips and the official was even quite pleasant - surely unheard of! The whole travelling process was made so much easier by being collected at the airport by one of the new housemates! Great views of San Francisco by night as we crossed the bay bridge to Berkeley.

Last week I met the new boss and various colleagues at UC Berkeley or Cal as it is known here. The campus is fantastic, a real mix of new and old and some 60's architecture. Apparently, the old and the very new are earthquake proof and the others well they might fall down but i doubt they would be missed the 60's obsession with concrete hasn't really passed the test of time (some parts of the UEA campus in Norwich are testament to this!). Fortunately, i will be based in one of the old safe buildings so no need to panic when the allegedly overdue cataclysmic earthquake strikes! The view from the roof, which i can access from my office, is great - the golden gate bridge, the SF bay, Marin Headlands and Alcatraz are all visible although its not the best idea to spend to much time up there since thats were all the fume hoods vent to!

Spent a week apartment hunting since the current housemates are leaving Berkeley at the end of the month and found a great place sharing with two grad students, Anna and Julia, in downtown Berkeley in an area called the 'Gourmet Ghetto' near all the food and bar action! Talking of bars, you'd be pleased to hear that not a drop of Budweiser has been anywhere near me since i got here, the microbrewies are good and in plentiful supply - quite a relief i can tell you! I am looking forward to expanding my local knowledge of both bars and beers after i move at the end of the month!

Taking the next few days off, to relax before i start work proper next monday, and heading to Lassen Volcanic National Park for a spot of hiking and camping!