Long ago (1988) I moved to Berkeley and started sending a monthly "newsletter" to my Boston friends. When I returned to Boston (1993), I continued the tradition for about five more years (or until I had kids). Looking back, I realize that I was actually blogging. Each newsletter contained anywhere from a few to several blog posts. Having been silent for the past decade or so, I've decided to resume these activities. Don't expect anything profound -- I tend to focus on what I find entertaining or amusing and perhaps sometimes informative. We shall see!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Charming Traditions

One of the fun things of moving to a new school is that you get to learn a whole new set of traditions. For example, while there are three things every Harvard student is supposed to do before graduating, there are ninety-nine that UBC undergrads are supposed to do.

Anyway, UBC is big. As in really big. As in 55,000 students (65,000 if you include our Okanagan campus). For comparison, Harvard has about 22,000 (according to here). Many of the big US schools aren't this big. University of Michigan and UCLA have 45,000, Berkeley has 43,000; but there are some that are even bigger. The University of Central Florida has 66,000 students, Texas A&M has about 65,000, and Ohio State has about 60,000.

Anyway, I digress (because I was kind of curious how big some of those schools were). One relatively new tradition is the Harvest Feastival -- yes, that's spelled correctly.  It's basically a fall celebration that started about three years ago and appears to be open to faculty, staff, and students. It's a seasonal dinner with some light programming and multiple performances around campus afterwards. The faculty and staff relocation office reserved a table for new arrivals, which is how I found out about this. Sounded like a good time and better food than my pre-kitchen-arrival self was likely to make.  I was glad I went.

Imagine almost 2000 people seated under a rather large tent (because Vancouver). It was roughly 40 tables of 24 each and our table was all relatively recently arrived faculty and staff -- I was seated across from two postdocs in CS, one a woman who got her PhD at CMU and joined UBC a year ago and the other a man who'd just arrived from his PhD in Korea about four weeks ago.

There were a pair of MCs who engaged the assembled crowd in various "games" and announcements. The meal was outstanding -- lines of servers approached each table alternating two different dishes for each course: salad, mains, and dessert. Everything served was relatively local, a lot of it from our very own UBC farm (located just a block or two from my apartment). I was somewhat stunned to imagine just how one prepares risotto for 2000, but indeed, the vegetarian main course was a butternut risotto, served in butternut halves -- very tasty!  (The non-vegetarian main was salmon, because Vancouver). The dessert courses were spectacular apple fritters and chocolate and pumpkin cake. (The fritters were vastly superior to the cake, but the cake was actually pretty darned good.)

On the tables we had menus and also a bit of an advertisement for two faculty/staff singing opportunities -- drop-in choir, and a slightly more serious choir. Kind of looked like fun. I couldn't quite figure out why the words to Mamma Mia were printed on the back, but I thought that perhaps it was just supposed to give us a sense of the kinds of stuff they sang? Not exactly...they were there so we could ALL participate in the after dinner sing-along. So yeah, we got to hear 2000 sing Mamma Mia -- it was pretty awesome.

And then, of course, we were serenaded by the UBC Thunderbird Marching Band gig band. It was a small ensemble (maybe 20), but reminded me of many a similar gig played when I was a young Harvard bandie. Best of all, they introduced the "chef's parade" whereby all the chefs who'd produced dinner for 2000 paraded around the tent to a standing ovation.  It was really lovely (and well deserved).

So, that's the Harvest Feastival UBC style -- I might have to make this an annual event.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Good Chair Hunting

The name for this post is credited to my new colleague, Bruce Shepherd, who pointed out that since I was coming from Boston, it seemed most suitable.

Anyway, I had carefully planned for two weeks in Vancouver without furniture by bringing one checked bag (my dive bag) containing a nice air mattress and bedding (not to mention soccer cleats). So, I had a place to sleep. I had not, however, thought about what I would be doing when I was in my apartment but not sleeping. That is, I hadn't thought about sitting. It didn't actually take that many days here for me to realize that having a place to sit, other than the floor, would be really nice.

Everywhere I looked, I saw chairs, but none were in my apartment.
But wait, Amazon is my friend. But wait -- I also have furniture coming, so I don't want to buy more furniture. However, I had cleverly NOT shipped any counter stools and I have this nice kitchen counter, so how about buying stools for that?  Excellent. And these appear to even match the dining room table and chairs I have coming. Score!

But wait, what happens to packages that get delivered while I'm not home?  Who knows (not even my colleague, Trevor Campbell, who also moved from Cambridge, is in the stat department here, and lives in the same building)?  I'll wing it. I order said stools.

Good news!  A few days later I find two boxes outside my apartment door! Bad news: There is a nasty note on the top explaining that boxes cannot be left in the mailroom or hallway; they must be moved into my apartment or (underlined) disposed of. This is very un-Canadian!  First off, I had no idea that they had arrived (it seems that my name is not listed at the front of the building). Second, the boxes appeared during a 30-minute window during which I was in my apartment, but whoever brought them up didn't even see fit to knock. I was not amused.

But hey -- now I have chairs! It turns out that the instructions were 100% accurate, but in my attempt to figure this out, I convinced myself that I had faulty chairs. While I found it IMPOSSIBLE to get the chair to swivel, before it was attached to the base (i.e., I could not hold the two plates of the swivel and get them to rotate), once I even seated two of the four bolts, it swiveled like a champ. So, first chair took a bit to assemble; second one assembled in about a minute and a half.

So, now I can sit, stand, and lay down in my apartment -- what more could a girl want?

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Soccer, Vancouver Style

As many of you know, finding a soccer team in Vancouver was high on my list of things that needed to be done to facilitate the move. Most of the leagues I found were in the Metro area, which seems to have meant either one or two bodies of water to cross, which seemed suboptimal. Then I found an over-30's league in Burnaby, about 30 minutes from campus (when there is no traffic, like at 6:30 AM on Sunday morning, but we'll come back to that). And the Burnaby Strikers took pity on this Boston transplant and let her join their team.

However, they used some words that were only vaguely familiar to me -- things like "practice," "coach," and "45 minutes before game time for warm-up." This had me terrified.

Now our season opener was scheduled at 8:00 AM (remember 30 minutes away), and this "coach" person wanted us there 45 minutes early. I trust you can all do the math.

Next, recall that this is Vancouver, and the greeting I received was a week of rain upon my arrival. Fortunately, rain Vancouver style seems to be periodic drizzles followed by no drizzles, followed by drizzles, lather, rinse repeat.  So, as I'm driving to the game, I'm thinking, "You know, in this weather, having some kind of tent/awning would be really helpful..."

I get to the field around 7:05 and there are 3-4 players there already. I get my cleats on and head down to the field. People are nicely friendly and don't look quite as young as the picture made them seem (the manager sent me a picture so I'd recognize the team and the person who had my shirt). That said, I'm pretty sure I have a decade on most everyone and maybe two on many of them. By 7:15, we have ten players or so and this "coach" person has not shown up.  So, we take a lap together -- very slowly. I am greatly relieved -- I can handle this.

By 7:30, this "coach" person, hereafter referred to as Byron, shows up and I start to get nervous. However, it turns out that part of the reason for the early start is to A) put up a net, B) put out the corner flags, and C) raise the tent!  Hey -- I like these women!

Better yet, this warm up thing is actually mostly another term I have almost forgotten called "stretching" (Susan Boyle, this one's for you). We take a half lap together as a team (another nice slow one) and then do a bunch of 10-yard out and back stretching and warmup and then finally some jogging and sprinting. It wasn't nearly as terrifying as I had imagined (i.e., way mellower than Bruiser warmups back in the day, and perhaps much better suited for my "well-over-30" self).

I learn that the team was basically rebooted two years ago with Byron and some of the players hadn't played before, although some are clearly quite experienced. By the time the game starts, I'm feeling pretty comfortable. We are playing a team that traditionally clobbers us, but they remind me a lot of the Breakers from EMSWL -- on the older side, but highly trained and familiar with one another's play. Nonetheless, we do well against them. I am alternating in 5-minute shifts with a wing fullback, so I'll play roughly half a game -- seems perfect for my first time out with the crew.

We play a 4-4-2 with a flat back line (as opposed to a sweeper/stopper formation).  And we play zone, instead of man to man -- this takes me awhile to fully embrace. In any case, it feels pretty good on the field, and we come away with a 1-0 win. I think I know names of perhaps over half the players -- maybe even two-thirds or three-quarters. The team is friendly and supportive, and feels almost chuck-like in some ways.

Feeling much, much better about my soccer career here. Now I just have to work out the transportation thing. Fortunately, there are multiple car-sharing services ... stay tuned for automotive adventures!

Friday, September 7, 2018

Live from Vancouver

I've now been in Vancouver just a bit over 24 hours. It seems that I've accomplished a fair bit. If only I had a chair, I'd be all set.

Flew Boston to Chicago to Vancouver, departing 7:15 AM and arriving 12:53 PM. Flights were uneventful and on time. Got to click the "Immigration" button when I came through customs. Very exciting -- never done that before.  This meant I got to talk to an extra person who pretty much asked me what I did and then told me to get my luggage and go to the door marked Immigration.

OK, that sounds pretty straight forward.

Sadly, the line for work permits and student entry was loooong and slow. It took an hour and a half to get to the guy who basically takes your paperwork and gives you a number. Then it took another half hour to get to the (incredibly friendly and helpful) guy who looks at the paperwork, asks a few questions, and tells you to sit back down while he creates your work permit. Then a half hour later you have your work permit. You go pay the cashier and voila, you are now a US Citizen who is allowed to work -- in my case, at UBC.

Next it was off to Hertz to pick up my rental car (I figured a car this week would be super handy as I bought all the necessities that I wasn't having shipped and/or couldn't live without for the next one to two weeks). That too was uneventful, and then I headed "home" (aka, the postage stamp sized apartment).

Note to self: always bring toilet paper.

Was very dehydrated and hungry (hadn't realized how long the work permit was going to take and once you start, there is no where to go and by the time I finished, I just wanted to get out of the airport). So, five minute walk to the store to buy water in lots of different form factors, water bottle (since I cleverly forgot mine in Lincoln), and something I could eat with out utensils and/or plates -- I do however have a paring knife and a cutting board. I bought cheese and an avocado; haven't touched the avocado yet.  Drank a lot of water and fizzy water.

Then I did some unpacking -- also somewhat tricky since I have no where to put the things I was unpacking. However, I did put my bed together -- yes, I brought a bed with me -- a nice queen size inflatable Aerobed with bedding, but no pillows. So, the local costco (there are two Costcos within about a 25 minute drive) is open until 8:30. What better way to spend my first evening then a trip to Costco! Turns out that Thursday night at Costco is a big deal -- it was super busy, but the checkout lines were of reasonable length. I bought a bunch of other household things including pillows and a blanket and then food. Continuing in the, "What can I eat with no utensils?" game, we settled on: salmon jerky, smoked salmon (I am in Canada after all), cherries, blackberries, and raspberries, granola (which can be eaten out of the glasses I bought), almond milk, tuna snacks, and more cheese. I managed to turn that into something resembling dinner when I got back.

Rest of the evening involved trips to the car, arranging stuff and then falling to sleep reasonably quickly.

Woke up too late this morning to join my 6 am conference call with my Harvard Forest/Mt. Holyoke peeps, but I think they'll forgive me. Wandered out for coffee and Internet (I was getting sporadic Internet in the apartment from eduroam and ubcguest, but wanted something a bit more reliable). Then off to the community center for my community ID and gym membership and then my next shopping spree: Bed, Bath, and Beyond -- a store I had never set foot in until a couple of weeks ago when I took Teagan for dorm stuff. Picked up a few more apartment essentials there, came back, and then immediately headed out to a research group reading group meeting!

After that, I grabbed poke for lunch with a colleague (at the poke place in our building ;-), checked out my office (pictures next time), and dashed back to meet the Internet installer. She too was amazingly pleasant and helpful and before I knew it, I had 5G working from the comfort of my apartment.

So, it feels like it's been a rather productive 24 hours. Now it's off to Friday afternoon social with the networking and secure systems research group.