Sunday, September 30, 2012

I just found me a brand new box of matches

I've been yearning for these glossy babes since last fall, when I reluctantly concluded that they were too costly for my budget. Today, I'm delighted by that decision, as I just bought them for less than two thirds of the Swedish price.

But it wasn't just economics that made my day. No, the deal was sweetened by yet another encounter with the generous Seattle spirit, and I left the store with a big smile on my face and a blanket around my heart. (I love this city.)

Are you ready boots? Start walkin'!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Monopoly money

Got my first pay check today! Literally: a real pay check. Made out of paper. Ehm. Not sure of how comfortable I feel walking around with a full month's pay on a fragile little piece of paper. I think I'd better head straight for the bank (without passing GO). After beer hour, that is.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Do you hear that buzz...?

This aint no joke, folks! State's first case of 'zombie bees' reported in Kent.

And yes, they call them zombees; makes me feel quite at home, despite being thousands of miles away from Gothenburg witicisms.

Under the neon lights

Went to the movies last night (The Master), at the Guild 45th Theatre in Wallingford. Originally built in 1919, it has been chosen by Francis Ford Coppola for test audience screenings at several occations. A cool place with a gorgeous neon sign.

The movie? Well. It was, um... Long. Occasionally capturing, but mostly just long.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

On getting home in one piece

The party last night was great fun; cheap drinks, good music, friendly people, and lots of karaoke (!) at a place in Queen Anne called Ozzie's. Because of massive ambivalence regarding choice of song I never made any performance myself, but I'll make sure not to miss out on the next opportunity... After switching location to the more laidback Manhattan in Capitol Hill, I felt like going home when closing time approached. My initial plan was to take the bus, but one of the guys in the group offered to drive me; an offer I accepted after some deliberation, as I was tired and also knew that there were no direct bus routes to Fremont from where we were.

Still, I find it really hard to accustom myself with the American drinking and driving habits. In Sweden, I would never get into a car with a driver that had been drinking. Here, it's completely ordinary. The guy was obviously far from drunk, but I knew that he had finished at least two drinks at Ozzie's and I just don't like the idea of putting my life in the hands of semi intoxicated people; commonly accepted or not.

Of course, I got home safe and sound; there were no problems whatsoever. But next time, I just might wait for the bus anyway.

The end of the world as we know it

Point taken.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The times they are a-changin'

At last, I think that fall is approaching. Although the sun still offers warmth in the afternoon, the crisp morning air reveals that a new season has snuck up on us. I brought my camera on my way to the grocery store, and found (among other things) a good match for my nails.

Tonight I'm invited to a birthday party by a girl I hardly know at I bar I've never been to. The honoree himself is completely unknown to me. Of course I accepted!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Praise to the postdoc

Apparently, September 17-21 has been the fourth annual National Postdoc Appreciation Week. It was first established in 2009 and officially recognized by the U.S. House of Representatives a year later. In 2011, the "significant contributions that postdoctoral scholars make to U.S. research and discovery" were acknowledged during 171 events in 30 states (and Canada). Neat!

The FHCRC contributes to the festivities by throwing us a party tonight, with light dinner, dessert and beer. This postdoc approves!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

That summer feeling

Tonight, there is an almost tropical quality to the air. I just got back from an evening stroll along the lake, sweating in my sleeveless shirt although the sun was setting. The path was crowded with people; jogging, walking, talking, laughing. Others relaxed in sidewalk cafes, having drinks or ice cream. Someone passed me on a unicycle. A cockatoo sat on a fence, gazing out over the darkening sky.

A dreamlike evening on the other side of the world.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Food for thought

Alright, this is not going to be one of those blogs where I randomly post images of my food. Seriously: that is not going to happen.

That being said, I simply couldn't resist taking a snapshot of the brunch I had at the Portage Bay Café in Ballard...

No, I actually couldn't finish the whole plate. The waste! Oh, the waste...

Indulgence, for body and mind. I believe I must make this into some sort of recurring habit.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The grapes of what?

My second Saturday in Seattle and the alarm was set on 04:55 am... Even I thought that it was rather on the ungodly side of sunrise, but was nonetheless happily picked up by Shani and Scott at 05:20 for a 3.5 hour drive across the Cascades to yet another adventure in the Washington Wine Country. Our destination this time was Red Mountain, or more precisely the Force Majeure Vineyards, where we were about to help out with the grape harvest. Why? I quote from the vineyard's website:
Inspired by the vineyards of Hermitage, Priorat, and Cote Rotie, we challenged existing viticulture practices and embarked on an ambitious plan to pioneer the very first vineyard on the steep, upper slopes of Red Mountain.
Due to the rough, rocky nature of the acreage and elevations ranging from 960 to 1,230 feet, mechanization is virtually impossible in the higher portion of Force Majeure, requiring true "farming by hand." This extreme viticulture has led some blocks to receive the nicknames El Terror and The Devil's Playground.
Our base camp in the middle of the hill.

Not that devilish, if you ask me. More heavenly, actually.

The actual picking of the grapes was performed by local workers, but a crew of approximately 30 volunteers of varying age and composition was gathered to assist by carrying the full crates and dumping their content into larger trays, as well as sorting out leaves, bugs and other unwanted material. I did both chores but spent most of my time as a "runner", i.e. carrying boxes with grapes up and down the steep hill. A good workout!

Before setting off we were warned about both rattlesnakes and scorpions, not to mention the black widows that were supposedly "all over the place". Although I saw a whole lot of spiderweb, I was almost a bit disappointed by not seeing any actual spiders... Maybe next year?

A happy runner.
Hello, I'm Syrah!

All in all, we had a lot of fun together, and after about three hours of hard work in the scorching sun we got back in the car, sweaty and dusty, to head back towards Seattle. (Our rural apperance did not stop us from taking a short break for some quick wine tasting on the way home, however.)

A snapshot of the landscape we passed on the way back from Red Mountain. The smoke in the background comes from forest fires, which have been troublesome all summer long because of the draught. Still no rain!

The terrain in the state of Washington has really impressed me with its beauty, and I feel mighty lucky to already have been able to see so much of its versatility. And yet there is so much left to explore.

Friday, September 14, 2012

From one chick to another

Homegrown free-range happy happy eggs!
Got the sweetest gift at work: a pack of beautiful, fresh little eggs from Shani's backyard chickens. Apparently, she and Scott get more eggs than they can consume and she will bring more whenever I need it. I was specifically told: "From now on, don't buy eggs!". Um, okay... Lucky me!

Eating from the tree of knowledge

Completed part II of the radiation safety training yesterday; great fun, just like part I! Among the more memorable lessons learned was that the FHCRC is not particularly fond of employees deliberately misusing radioactive substances, for instance by mixing radioiodine into their ex-lovers' food. This is apparently "Not tolerated by the Center". Glad we cleared that out!

I myself probably made an interesting impression on the rest of the group as I attempted to discreetly eat what must have been the noisiest apple on this side of the Pacific during class. I tried to remain poker faced as the sounds of my chewing echoed across the room, but I'm not sure how well that worked out.

Although this training was intended mainly for people with little or no experience of working with radiation, it was still useful to me as it included information on the routines, rules and regulations at the FHCRC. I must say that they really have an excellent program for radiation safety here, and the responsible staff seems extremely helpful and competent. That is a truly great asset!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Season of the witch

Somebody out there knows me too well.
Americans seem to love the changing of the seasons almost as much as I do. How could I, a fall loving, Halloween crazy cinnamon addict, possibly resist buying this? I couldn't, that's how.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hit me with your best shot

Ouch x 2.
Had another mandatory training class today; this time regarding blood borne pathogens. It seemed like an easy one-hour class, and my plan was just to go there and do the time. Ended up being vaccinated against hepatitis B, tetanus (lockjaw), diphteria and pertussis (whooping cough). Not quite sure what happened, but I distinctly remember myself telling the nurse to "hook me up with whatever you've got".

In the future, I should probably try not to get so carried away when things are offered for free. (Especially if they're served in syringes.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Savoring those last moments of summer

Soon, this shall be but a memory.

Taking notes like crazy

Today I spent all afternoon on a mandatory class for new employees at the FHCRC: Radiation Safety Basics for Radiation Workers (part I).

Among other things, I learned that fear is a gift (thank you), that running away may not always be the best answer (really?), that Americans are lazy (I knew that!), that I mustn't store my beer keg in the lab freezer (uh-oh) and that 1 mCi is not the same as 1 MCi (jaw dropped).

I can't wait until Thursday when I get four more hours of this!

Monday, September 10, 2012

A nice Russian face

My administrative adventures are still far from over, and today's mission was to head down to the Social Security Office to apply for a social security card. Let me tell you this: I was far from disappointed by the diverse characters joining me in the waiting room. I won't bore you with details on aggressive men, toothless women, metal detectors and armed security officers, but instead focus on a handsome, suit-clad old man who set his eyes on me as soon as I entered the room. I sat down next to him, and he leaned over and asked me (with a very Hollywoodesque Russian accent) "Do you speak any Russian?" "No, I'm afraid not", I answered apologetically. He then excused himself, saying that he thought I was Russian and added "You have a nice Russian face".

I've been thriving on that comment all day.

Could it be the bun?

Oh, and I'll get my social security card in two weeks. Yay me!

Home is where the heart is

...and right now, my heart is located in a part of Seattle called Fremont. I'm currently renting a furnished room with a private bathroom in an old-fashioned (as in classic, not dowdy) green villa in a residential area with lots of beautiful old houses. The location is excellent, just a few minutes from Woodland Zoo and Green Lake and a fifteen minute walk from the cool shops and cozy cafés of downtown Fremont. Several bus lines pass through the area, so getting to work in the mornings is pretty painless.

The house on the corner of cozy and cool.

I must consider myself extremely lucky to have stumbled upon this place without knowing basically anything about the area; the rent is fair, the room is clean, the landlady is nice (and her dog well-behaved).

One end of the room...
...and the other. The bathroom is straight ahead, with a tub to the left and sink and toilet to the right. Fluffy towels are included in the price.

Still, I would really like to get a place of my own as soon as possible... Even though I have complete access to a fully-equipped kitchen, it's just not as fun or inspiring to be cooking or baking using someone elses pots and pans. In the long run, I'd much rather live in a small, crummy pad if it meant that it was all mine. (But it needs to have a proper stove! No silly kitchenettes, thankyouverymuch.)

The hunt for an own apartment has just begun, but if my luck continues it may not be too tiresome. Please hold your thumbs, my friends, as I already have set my sights on a couple of promising candidates to the desirable title home (away from home). On Wednesday we will know if they live up to my expectations...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Weekend wanderings

My first weekend in Seattle turned out to be top-notch. Saturday started out with a relaxed jog in Green Lake Park, a lovely place for enjoying the morning sun together with walkers and bikers - not to mention all the soccer kids who roam the nearby athletic fields. More exploring ensued after that, in Capitol Hill and downtown Seattle. The evening was spent with the head of the lab I'm working in, Oliver, and his adorable wife Nancy who invited me over for dinner at their house. Sitting on their terrace munching tacos, drinking wine and looking out over Lake Washington it felt more like July than September, and Nancy taught me a new word: sky-blue-pink, which perfectly described the color of the sky that surrounded us. A great evening with a great couple!

Sunday began in the same way with a jog around Green Lake. At noon, Shani and Scott - two married colleagues from the Press lab - picked me up to go wine tasting East of Lake Washington. The county is called Woodinville and holds over 90 wineries of which we visited 4. We started with the most exclusive one, Betz, and then moved on to JM Cellars, Chateau Ste Michelle and finally Woodinville Whiskey Co.

JM cellars. Really cozy!
I think I tried at least 12 different wines, and at the last location we knocked back some bourbon and vodka to really put the icing on the cake. (Well, Scott and I did - Shani was the designated driver and had to make do with cheese and snacks.)

Shani and I at Chateau Ste Michelle. I've obviously had enough wine to feel the need for holding on to my glass with two hands (and this was before the vodka). An unusual Sunday afternoon.

All in all, we had a really fun time and I learned a lot, not only about wine but also about American football, which we watched simultaneously on Scott's iphone. Hopefully, we'll do this again some time!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Being social

Today was a day of socializing with strangers. I started out with happy hour at the Hutch, where I was rescued by a mirthful bunch from Development as I stood bewildered on my own among closed groups of beer drinking postdocs. It turned out to be quite fun! Next, I went to the University District and got kissed on the cheek by a somewhat scruffy looking fella who insisted on escorting me across the street. He seemed happy, so I chose to laugh about it instead of being grossed out. After having dinner at the lovely Araya's place (alone, not with the scruffy guy) I headed home to Fremont. On the bus I was approached by an older man from Chile who kindly provided me with his best recipe for frying fish. Why, thank you sir, that will be useful.

What social interactions will tomorrow bring as I discover the allegedly "colorful" area known as Capitol Hill? My guess is I will enjoy myself.

Beginnings and aspirations

So, here we are. I wanted a forum where I could share my life in the New World with anyone who might be interested, and created this modest blog for that purpose. At this point, I have no idea of how often posts will appear but I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

I know that it is extremely pretentious of me to write in English, but I have this silly idea that I might one day get some friends in this strange land and would like my blog to be apprehensible also to them. Perhaps I will get tired of trying to express myself in a foreign language and return to the use of my mother tongue, but until then you'll just have to bear with me...

Oh, and welcome! I hope we'll have fun.