成程 (Naru Hodo) - IC in Japan^H^H Cote d'Azur^H^H USA

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Explorer Tour to Seattle

To keep us interns happy, Sarah organized an "Explorer Tour" to Seattle. The first stop after crossing the longest floating bridge in the US (or even the world?) was the Seattle Arboretum. Btw. it is already the second bridge. The first one sunk and the lake is too deep to salvage it. That was also the reason for a floating bridge in the first place: The lake is too deep to anchor concrete pillars...

Anyways the Arboretum is gorgeous and we were told that it is the start of a connected system of parks stretching for miles.

Including various forms of wildlife...

Even wildlife that is considered a pest elsewhere like beavers (notice the gnawed tree in the middle).

After an extended walk through the amazing park we visited downtown Seattle and learned that Seattle burned down in 1889. It was rebuilt one story higher then the previous city in order to solve various problems, foremost problems with the sewer system during high tide... As this happened fairly quickly, most buildings simply moved there entrance to the first floor. At some places you (read tourists) can still go underground.

After a quick drive-by of the first Starbucks store ever (besieged by countless tourists) ...

we stopped to get an overview over Seattle and the famous Space Needle...

... before we went to the ship canal locks to watch the fish ladder.

The pictures do reality no justice however. The Salmon are huge and glittering and just impressive to watch as they swim by :D. I definitely need to go diving again. But maybe not in that cold water with those huge Salmon around... :P

Oh and we came by a bakery that has almost real bread :D.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rubys Diner and Bridal Trails

As it was Sunday, we planned to go out and have great breakfast at some fancy restaurant. After a thorough internet search we decided to go to Rubys Diner.

After you enter you are instantly teleported 50 years back in time. It is difficult and probably impossible to capture the impressions, but you just have to simile instantly. Everything matched the idea you get from old movies (or that scene from back to the future) perfectly. From seats, old bicycles on display to the dresses of the waitresses (who were actually friendly and helpful unlike the people on Friday). There was even a model train running on his tracks right under the ceiling. If someone told me about the place I would have considered it quite cheesy, but in reality it was really really cool and I will definitely go there again.

Even the menus were brought back from a long forgotten past :D.

Unfortunately we arrived late so they didn't have breakfast anymore (1 p.m. is a little bit late for breakfast :D). The waitress girl assured us, that their breakfast is probably the best breakfast you could get in the whole state and joined us in being sad: Apparently she had planned to take a break to get breakfast herself, but couldn't as the diner was packed full with guests. So we changed our plans and I had the "Classic Ruby Burger Combo" with a handmade Oreo-cookie-fantasy milk shake. It was great and probably had one million calories.

Therefore I went for a run around Bridal Trails. Which, as the Yoga teacher girl promised, is indeed a great place to run around. It is like a jungle in the middle of the city. No real ways and paths, just little trails going left and right and up and down and all the time you need to star alert and jump over roots and horse droppings and dodge branches from the trees. Simply great :D.

Company Picnic

Thanks to our almost perfect arrival time, the next big company even was right on the next day: The company picnic. Imagine a farm in the country side with really nice nature. Green grassland, a little lake, a mountain overlooking everything.

Now add 5000+ people, quite a few attractions and food booths. Not exactly what I expected from a"picnic" but kind of interesting once you overcome the first shock :). They did't let us onto the "KrakenSlide" (apparently we are "too old"), but we raced RC-cars, rode a mechanical bull, climbed the wall and and made fools of ourselves by volunteering for a "stage hypnosis show" :D.

A popular thing on the same stage was the "Rock-A-raoke": Like with Karaoke you sing while reading the lyrics on a small display However here you do not sing to music from a record but with your very own rock band :D.

Apart from all the entertainment there was, of course, a lot of free food and I tried a lot of it. Most food was ok (meaning I ate it but didn't go for seconds) but the burgers were great. Really great :D. On a funny side note, the sanitary cubicles are called "honey buckets" around here. Not exactly what I would connect with a honey bucket :P.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Wine down and Clubbing - not so much... :(

It seems like we arrived here at the right time. Today was "wine down". I.e down in the basement was wine and food for all the researchers to meets and talk :D. We met some other interns and finalized the plans for our clubbing tour. Our target was the trinity club in Seattle and we managed to get onto the guest list (i.e. trading our e-mail addresses for free entry) :).

So we went there, freshly showered nicely dressed, found a parking spot nearby and made it into the queue just in time. The free entrance offer was valid until 11 pm, which is a reasonable time to start the party, as the clubs will close around 2 am. Everything was fine until we had to show our IDs...

I don't exactly look like 20 anymore, but apparently the local regulations require the clubs to check the ID and I don't mind them checking my ID. What was not fine, is that the personal at the entrance refused to accept any ID other than a Washington state driving license! Come on! I understand that it is convenient to put that ID into a electronic reader, wait for a confirming "beep" and let people enter. What I do not understand is, that the staff was unable to look at my official German ID and read the text field that says "Date and place of birth" in plain English (and a few other languages)! Talk about declining literacy... :(.
Apparently we "non-resident aliens" can get some similar Washington state ID. But it will take quite a while... and even when we have it, I don't think we will try to go back to Trinity club...

As the evening was over before it started we decided to make the best of it and went into the bar next door. Imagine us in our nicely ironed button shirts entering a place like the dark biker bar from dusk till dawn to anticipate how we felt...
The security guard with all his tattoos was almost scary, but he had a very friendly simile (with some missing teeth), was helpful and could actually read and understand our IDs :). Much to our surprise the place was filled with our fellow interns from Macedonia, India and Israel, drinking beer and being equally frustrated by their failed attempts to enter trinity club :). So after all it still became a nice evening.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

First day

Today we got our legal introduction (quite scary stuff) and I still don't know what I am allowed to write, but apparently there is a special website in the intranet informing about the legal requirements of employees blogs. After legal we finally got (a part of) our badges and met with our future boss(es) to talk about projects and ideas they have. Quite impressive people. Its almost scary to be there :).

After a very very long day I dropped into the gym to try one of the Yoga classes. Quite different from the style I am used to. Using props, different sequences and postures, no adjustments and comments on the details of postures, and in general too much focus on "entertainment". Probably you cannot do what I would like in such a gym environment with people (with very different physical abilities) dropping in and out every lecture...
However the teacher girl is nice (and instructed me do some extra poses to prevent me from getting bored ;-) ) so I think I will stick with her class. The location of the gym is just too convenient (the next "real" yoga school is a one hour drive away!) and without a class I will become too lazy to practice ;-). As a bonus the girl gave me some tips about places to go running: "Redmond watershed" and "bridal trails" sound interesting and I will check them out on the weekend.

Monday, July 21, 2008

NEO, cars and working out.

Today we had our first day at the little company starting with M. I don't know what I am allowed to blog about it, as we get our introduction from the legal department tomorrow, but I think it is OK to say that the first one and a half days are spent with NEO the "new employee orientation". This means that all people starting that week come together and are told about how things work around here. It was quite a bit a of (rather boring but necessary) information to digest but we got free food and the girl doing the presentations was amazing to watch. Not exactly my type, but she had complete control over the rather large crowd all the time and made them keep attention despite the boring topics. Really impressive and I wish I could have that kind of presentation skills back home for giving lectures ;-).

After NEO we finally got our "mid sized" rental cars :D. I expected a rather small car, but boy was I wrong. I got a Pontiac G6 GT, and this thing is huge. I have no idea about its actual power, but wikipedia tells me, that the smallest(!) engine has around 180 horse powers :D. Too bad the speed limits are 35 to 45 miles per hour (55 or 72 km/h)... ;-)
So far the low speeds allowed me to keep the gasoline consumption at 20 miles per gallon (12 l/100km) according to the board computer but gasoline is comparably cheap at UST 4 per gallon (0.67 EUR per liter). Oh, and the units at the super market are even more confusing ... ;)

First thing we did with our new mobility was of course to go shopping (for large steaks) and visit the local gym to fight all the junk food we already ate ;-). I think the gym tries a bit too hard to appear exclusive, but is is rather close to our flat and has two 50m swimming pools :D. After all that sitting around (plane, NEO, ...) I went for a quick run on a treadmill - at nine minutes per mile, just to demonstrate another wired unit of measurement around here. After that we met with Diego, one of our future coworkers and a good friend of Quirin on the parking lot and talked about cars (he has an Audi A3)... ;-)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Arrived in Seattle

After some 10+ hours in the plane and feeling like a canned fish, we are finally in Seattle. At least I was able to use the time to watch 3 children movies and read half of my latest Christopher Moore book ("A Dirty Job"). Its not as good as "You Suck: A Love Story" but both stories interconnect and there are incredibly hilarious moments :). Using the airport express shuttle we went to our apartment without any problems. Everything just worked perfect and we have WiFi a huge fridge and a swimming pool. Overall I am very impressed with the work of the relocation specialists.

On the downside I lost my digital camera in the express shuttle :(. I will try to call them but in the meantime I will only be able to post pictures from the mobile phone...

Anyway. We unpacked and went for a walk to the nearest supermarket to buy dinner. This is an almost impossible task as there is way too much variety to choose from. Think about two 50m aisles of potato crisps alone...
On our way back we dared to cross a road without using the pedestrian traffic light. The button didn't work anyway, as we learned on our way to the supermarket and the traffic on late Sunday afternoon was very low. Just when we finished passing the road we were scared by a cop turing on his police horn for a brief moment and informing us to "Use the traffic lights in the future. Thank you!" using his car mounted megaphone from about 100m away... Quite wired :/.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Out into the world again :D

After sitting around in Germany for over one year (except for a little holiday trip, a conference and partying with Jose and Guillaume in Paris - see picture with lower back of Notre Dame :P), the time has come to get some fresh air again.

Sitting at the Saine and looking at the lower back of Notre Dame

This time I will go to Seattle, Redmond to be exact and do a three month internship at the research branch of a small local company starting with M ;-). It is great to see how all the paperwork for getting J1-Visa finally worked and just in time we are ready to go. We means my college Quirin (Q) and me (IC).

Obviously the first thing to do when you go abroad is having a farewell party with your friends. As we were quite busy having that party, cooking and eating Chili, drinking beer, eating Tiramisu, ... we didn't take pictures and the only one available is one of the empty beer barrel on the next day. There are lots of "mirco breweries" in the Seattle area, but you never know ;-).