Trip to the Northwest

Recently I made a trip to the Northwest to see a friend who runs two restaurant franchises. He and his wife welcomed us warmly! Since they work long hours, we were left to our own devices, which mainly meant our rental car and my GPS unit. Despite the haze from the many forest fires, the skies were pleasantly overcast, the air was refreshingly moist, and there was green everywhere but in the grass.

We drove around the Bremerton area but visited just two state parks: Scenic Beach and Illahee. Both had ample forest filled with tall trees and curious ferns. Views across still bodies of water are plentiful, but I did not smell the omnipresent faint turpentine that marked my first trip up there. We strolled the short main drag of Poulsbo and bought tasty breads at its Scandinavian bakery. The tiny town's Safeway has a fireplace!

After a few days we were ready for the ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria, British Columbia. Just two hours long, the ferry was very dull as the weather left little to see. There was also minimal space in the hold, so getting in and out of my car was miserable. However, Canadian immigration was speedy and we made our way to our hotel at the foot of Craigdarroch Castle with no trouble. We visited the Royal Museum after a tasty late seafood lunch downtown. The next day we visited the Castle and chatted with a well-travelled photographer. That was followed with a trip to Butchart Gardens, which was truly delightful and loaded with international visitors. After dinner at Fishhook, where our waitress was a sweet lass from Regina, an odd fellow asked if I would continue being loud on his bus, to which I replied I would not. He then asked if we were tourists and apologized on the behalf of Victoria. The next day we drove about until it was time to queue for the ferry back. A trio of women from Astoria, Oregon, made the 90 minute wait go quickly. Our return trip was under a blue sky with broad views of the Sound and its encircling mountains. US immigration was astoundingly fast!

Soon we were in Port Townsend, with its nifty Victorian buildings and superb views over the Windmere Islands. I was miffed at missing the Hoosier owner of the 1020 Café but we did eat a bit at Aldritch's before returning to my friend's house.

Construction and accidents did not prevent our making our flight home to Arizona.

Arrival in Brazil

On Christmas Day, I flew out of O'Hare to reach Recife, Brazil, the following day. My friend Eduardo and his family were waiting for me. I spent three very pleasant weeks with them until flying out of Recife on January 14th for a grueling return trip of 28 hours total plus another 11 hours of waiting combined with a swell Amtrak ride from Chicago to Indianapolis.

My arrival in São Paulo, at Guarulhos International Airport, was uneventful. The immigration official, a coy young woman, asked me no questions. I got my bags and changed $100 at the exchange near the baggage carousel, which was a bad idea: The fees were high—R$60 conversion fee, I think—and the rate was around $1=R$2.5 instead of the current R$3.3. However, I finally had some Brazilian cash, which I had not been able to arrange beforehand in the US. I cleared customs without a problem then walked through the doors into São Paulo. There were people milling about, a large exit where buses and taxis were coming and going, and a couple small stands selling food.

Not sure where to go to put my luggage for it to continue its domestic journey, I wandered about, gawking at everything. Eventually I happened across an information booth, where a young woman amused by my feeble Portuguese told me in English she where to check my bags. After doing so, I queued for the domestic flights. After feeding my ticket through a wicket, I passed the airport employee and moved down a glass hallway for the passenger inspection, essentially the same as what the TSA does. The signs were fairly clear, so I walked to my gate through an airport that felt more like a bus station because of the somewhat monotonous grey concrete, all very public and functional in feel. There were nice eateries and stores along the way.

At my gate, there were very few people, so I connected to the airport's free WiFi to use Skype to call my friend in João Pessoa. He said his family would meet me at Recife's airport then we hung up. For the next couple of hours, I walked about my gate, watching and listening to passengers, watching the TV screens with their alternating headline news and ads, and occasionally reading my Portuguese materials. 

For breakfast, I bought dark coffee, unsweetened juice, and warm soft bread from the Casa do Pão de Queijo chain, which started in São Paulo, near my gate. The prices were high, what I expect in every international airport. The girl waiting on my was very charming, but she asked for meal options that I could not understand. Eventually a young man came up and translated. He was originally from Brazil but living in the US doing HVAC work in Connecticut. What a coincidence!

My flight to Recife was uneventful, but clouds obscured much of the Brazil passing beneath me. About 30 minutes from Recife, the clouds vanished and the Northeast spread inland. It looked rather hilly, largely brownish with yellow roads, not the red dirt roads of the tropics that I had expected. Then Recife began to appear, large areas of favelas one or two stories high. The city's core high rises gleamed white with the blue ocean beyond them.

Recife's airport had clearly been recently renovated. It was shiny and clean, plenty of glass and natural light. Everything moved well, and it took little time for my baggage to appear. While waiting for it, a young man approached me to ask about why I had arrived in Recife: He was doing research for the state tourism board. Then I gathered my stuff, walked through the opaque doors, and immediately found my friend's family waiting for me—superb! We were quickly out of the airport, in tropical sounds and smells, and on our way.

I gave them an OK sign, but it wasn't until some days later that Eduardo told me that the US gesture for OK is a rude gesture in Brazil. We shared a laugh about it.

Finals Finally Final

Today at 12:30 I finished my last final exam for my BS EE. Now I wait to see what grades will come back. There is a good chance of two As and a C, but we'll see. I have some grading of my own to do for the course I assisted.

What is curious is that I feel neither joy nor satisfaction at having completed everything. Rather I just feel exhausted from the stress of finals now in the past.

My girl and I celebrated at the Indianapolis Rock Bottom Brewery with some fellow engineering students, recent or current graduates. The bison burger was tasty!

On December 22, 2016, the last grade was submitted to the registrar, with the following results:

  1. ECE 321: Electromechanical Motion Devices, B
  2. ECE 421: Advanced Digital Logic Design, A
  3. ECE 463: Introduction to Computer Communications Networks, A

Now I wait for someone to sign off that my degree is indeed complete. My program GPA wound up 3.612, but my degree GPA was 3.803.

Make Metallica Great Again

When I was younger, I was something of a metalhead. While I never cared for Iron Maiden or Megadeth, I did like Metallica. When I finished college, whether because I was that much older or because they had tuned that much lamer, or both, I quit listening to Metallica with frequency. I haven't bought anything from them since ...And Justice for All. Metallica just kept decaying, so I moved on.

Then I stumbled across this Photoshopped bit of fun: James Hetfield of Metallica with a Trump swoop and "Make Metallica Great Again,"  because they sure aren't now.

Remy on CNN

After returning to the US in 2011, I decided to pay for cable TV. After a few years of it, however, I dumped it because it was:

  1. a needless time-waster for an engineering student
  2. expensive for a college student not in a dorm
  3. a ton of worthless channels out of which I typically watched just 3 or 4.

Initially I thought it would be interesting to have live news, like CNN, except what CNN deems to be news is tripe, aptly skewered below.

Final Semester

The first week of classes has ended, with both relief and repudiation. Since returning from my internship in Arizona, there has been much to do here in Indiana. I have also spent three days taking a Japanese friend to a doctor for a dangerous eye infection. My 2011 Honda Fit has all-electrical steering, no hydraulics, that has begun failing briefly and intermittently, so that is in the shop to be examined.

In addition to doing a final section of the assembly programming lab for ECE 362, I have three electives:

  1. ECE 321: Electromechanical Motion Devices about motors, generators, magnets, inductors, and such.
  2. ECE 463: Fundamentals of Computer Communications about networking, which looks to be quite interesting.
  3. ECE 421: Advanced Digital Logic Design, a VHDL course that requires much work with Xilinx' Vivado.

Trip to San Carlos, Sonora State, Mexico

My current internship began May 23rd, but It began with PTO (Personal Time Off) for my expected period, so I took some to have a five-day Memorial Day weekend in San Carlos, Mexico. My friend and I had planned it months before I came to Tucson. We loaded his truck and 16.5-foot boat with everything we could and set off for the border at 5:30 am. Around 8, we exchanged money on the US side then crossed over.

The drive was on much better roads than I had expected, but there were very few shoulders along the way. We passed a road crew assaulting a section with a pick axe, picked up a hitchhiker and let him sit in the truck bed, saw a fatal traffic accident with the dead body covered with a blanket, and were accosted by squeegee boys in Hermasillo. Some towns looked quite decent, while others were bleak. I heard how the Federal police patrol the highway during the day and conceal their faces to avoid being identified and killed; at night, the gangs control the road.

Arrival in San Carlos was uneventful until we started to make a wrong turn. The police car behind us honked but my friend the driver kept going anyway, whereupon the police pulled us over. They said we were going downtown, but 200 pesos solved that problem. My friend did make a mistake, so it was not a simple shakedown. We then launched the boat in the marina without incident.

Over the next couple of days, we made five dives and cruised up and down the coastline. While he spent every night sleeping on his boat, I slept on the back of a larger boat owned by one of his friends. In the course of my dives, I saw a sea lion swim about us, watching; many small beige rays and one large manta ray that had not tried to cover itself in sand; countless spires of kelp around 8'–10' tall; a lamprey eel in its recess and another large leopard-like eel; many starfish and various sea fans and other things. Perhaps the most amazing encounter was with two breaching orcas that later followed our boat, one approaching so class to the small boat's rear ladder that it seemed as if it wanted to come aboard; it rolled onto its side so we could see it eyeballing us, after which it slipped beneath the waves and disappeared.

It was a very good time, and I look forward to returning once more.