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Suitable for Vegetarians

Started: 2005-06-28 22:13:50

Submitted: 2005-06-28 23:22:11.698782

Visibility: World-readable

Everywhere I went in the UK last week, whenever it came mealtime, all I had to do was search for the magic phrase "Suitable for Vegetarians", which was sprinkled liberally on packaged sandwiches (which typically bore green labels) and menus. My conclusion is that the British version of the FDA sat down and did their herbivore residents a favor by creating some standards to guarantee the suitability of one's food. Very handy.


Wednesday

Unlike the previous morning, I actually managed to get up in time to eat the hotel's provided breakfast. (I didn't know it yet, but this buffet breakfast cost £15.35 -- US$28.25, at my credit card's exchange rate. It wasn't worth that much.) At Xaar, I was able to capitalize on my successes from yesterday; I identified and fixed a few obnoxious drop-centering bugs (the code didn't handle the error condition when no drop could be found; instead of doing nothing, it stepped off into oblivion) and finally was able to get a good measurement across the entire print head, albeit only on one channel group.

For lunch, a subset of the engineering staff headed to a nearby pub for lunch as a last get-together before one engineer headed off to some other European country for some indeterminate amount of time. (I probably heard more of the details, but I can't remember any of them.) This included the IT guy and his new-this-week assistant, an American woman whose husband was in the US Air Force doing IT at a nearby air base. (She mentioned the existence (and identify) of her husband in the second full sentence she spoke, which made me think of Kiesa's similar tendencies.) After being completely surrounded by Brits all week long, it was nice to talk to an American again.

(I may have done more at Xaar, but this isn't my trip report (which I've already written and submitted, although no one has seen fit to give me any feedback on), so I'll spare you the gory details. Although if I had my trip report in front of me I'd probably include more of the details than strictly necessary.)

Keith dropped me off at my hotel, heading home for an appointment that never showed up, and I contemplated my evening options. Before leaving my Internet connection, I spent some time looking up my options for getting a wireless Ethernet connection in town and thought I knew what to do. I gathered the nameless travel notebook in its carrying case and headed to the bus stop. I was short on cash, though, so I walked across the A14 to a bus stop closer to town where it would cost me only £1.40 to get into town, instead of £1.80 from my nearest stop.

In Cambridge, I successfully located a Starbucks embedded within Borders, although I felt exceedingly silly visiting a pair of icons associated with American corporate sprawl -- especially since I was in the UK. I drank chai and ate a scone but failed to find an access point (even for money -- I would have happily paid), leaving me no choice but to write an epic changelog. On my way out, I purchased a postcard, two pictures, and a UK driving handbook. I wandered around Cambridge a bit and managed to see another queue for a May Ball before successfully catching the Citi 7 bus back to Impington and my hotel. (It helped that I knew in advance what time the bus came -- hourly, ten minutes before the hour.)


Thursday

Early the previous week, when Eric and I tried to figure out what I was going to do in Cambridge and how much time it would take me, we concluded it'd take me four days. This implied I should return home on Friday, but it seemed a great shame to fly all the way to London and not get to see anything, so I proposed staying until Saturday so I could go all rabid-tourist on Friday. Unfortunately, I forgot to communicate this with Xaar, who looked at my arrival and departure dates and concluded I was going to be working with them the entire week.

Before going into Cambridge the previous night, I spent a few minutes adding an important new feature to the Drop Watcher software: the ability to interleave the measurements into the output spreadsheet, allowing Xaar to measure the A, B, and C channel groups at separate times and have the measurements be recorded properly. Once the ink system was up and running, I tested this feature; to my surprise, it actually worked correctly the first time.

At the scheduled 1500 BST (0800 MDT) conference call, Bruce asked Xaar what else they wanted me to do, trying to get me out of there earlier, although without much success. I did manage to leave a few minutes early; I walked a few blocks and caught the Citi 1 bus to the Cambridge City Centre for some quality after-hours sight-seeing.

(Once it became apparent that my original day-in-London plan had failed, the thought crossed my mind to try to change my plane ticket so I could fly back on Sunday, giving me all of Saturday to see London. I wasn't sure how much it would cost, if it were possible at all, since we bought non-changeable tickets, and I wanted Sunday at home to recover from my trip before heading back to work on Monday, so ultimately I decided not to try. It also shouldn't surprise anyone that I simply didn't want to call them.)

My first stop was King's College, site of the famous King's College Chapel. The general public -- including mad camcorder-wielding engineer-by-day, tourist-by-night Americans -- were allowed to wander through the college, provided we didn't deviate from the straight and narrow path. The college backed up to the River Cam, complete with students and tourists punting -- propelling themselves along the river in flat-bottom boats with long poles pushing against the river bottom.

I wandered around the Colleges, through Clare College, and learned that the King's College Chapel was already closed for tourism. I located a punt operator and handed over £12 for a punt tour. If I had been in Cambridge with more people, it might have been amusing to rent a punt (for £14/hour) and try my hand, but I decided I'd rather take the tour and get some history on the side.

My tour turned out to be a private tour; even though the punt would hold twelve people, it was just me and my driver. (Punter?) We punted up the river, towards the backs of the colleges, and saw the river side of St. John's College, Trinity College, Clare College, King's College, and Queen's College. When we reached the Mathematical Bridge, we turned around and it finally occurred to me that I should do the silly tourist thing with my camcorder; I videoed random things as they passed, but generally managed to avoid filming anything I could see at home. I'm not sure the punt tour was worth US$22.56, but it was entertaining.

I caught the Citi 7 bus back to Impington, watched the BBC, and prepared myself for one last day at Xaar, and as much of London as I could see. But that story will have to wait, since it's way past my bedtime.

Bitscape, age 26, is a highly sought white hat hacker and an agent of
social subversion. An avid fan of salsa, developer-centric web design,
and cheesy pop music, Bitscape co-creates a world of love and
acceptance by sharing his vision. He enjoys helping low-tech firms
define their offline strategy, and he's advised many anonymous
unknowns, including the homeless on Pearl Street, escaped mental
patients, and hookers on East Colfax. As an aspiring web bum, he
applies his knowledge to a community venture, the Content Collective.
Bitscape resides in Westminster, Colorado, but may soon be moving into
a van down by the river. For speaking arrangements, don't bother
calling. Your bits will be lost in the noise.
- Bitscape's Lounge splash screen, October 2002