Softball; almost the classic underdog victory

For a while now, my friends Jaclyn and Mike have been trying to convince me to play softball with them. After 9 months of avoiding the question with such excuses as “I have old man knees” and “well, it’s just not cricket is it?” I finally gave in last night.

I played for the Scared Hitless team (which I initially thought said Scared Hitlers and was quite confused by the name) who were seeded last in the league and were thus playing the top of the league – who are undefeated – in the playoffs. Coupled to this, our team were missing 7 of our usual 10 players, meaning we had myself and two other people who have never played softball before. It is little exaggeration to say the other team were like:

Vetsports 2013 team picture
The Wounded Warriors national Softball team

… and we were like:

Notice the wrong clothes and bats – this is an apt analogy.

We even looked like what I would call a ‘village team’, as only four of our co-ed team had the team jersey on and I managed to wear my Denver Broncos top – just to get across mixed sport messages.

The thing I found most difficult was catching with the glove (on your left or non-throwing hand) as I’m used to using both hands from cricket. Fortunately my team refused as they didn’t want to deal with broken fingers.

Suprisingly, this didn’t happen

I (and we) actually did ok. I got told off once for blocking one of the runners running between bases (I had my back turned so had no idea I was even in the way!), and at one point heard somebody shout ‘back’ (they actually said bag), and I stopped just before reaching home base, so almost screwed that up, but I did get a catch, an out (on 2nd base – pun intended) and make it round to home base twice so wasn’t a massive burden to the team.

This didn’t happen either

The best bit was, the league has a rule that if one team is destroying another (e.g. 20 to 0 after 20 minutes), the umpires will call the game early to save embarrassment. But after 4 innings each, we were winning 5-4. Nobody quite understood how this had happened, especially the really good team who seemed quite annoyed that a bunch of randomers were winning. They then brought there A-game and ended up winning 15-8 after 6 innings each just before time ran out, but this is apparently very respectable against a far better team when half of your team thought you were playing basketball not softball (I made this pun last night and nobody thought it was funny 😦

We were so happy at not being crushed, we went out after for post-match beers.

Dramatic re-imagining

My favorite bit though has to be when a batter on the other team hit the ball behind him over the safety fence. Another teammate of his near me commented “you hit it the wrong way” to which I countered “he should have hit it over the other fence” (a home run – what you are supposed to do – I think). The guy then said “yea, ha! Who does he think he is, a Mets batter?” which I am assuming is a baseball joke, though I just did what anyone would and laughed nervously whilst nodding.


American Independence Day (Best Birthday Ever?)

It will come as no surprise that my birthday (a British person) being on independence day (America’s moving out party for British people) was both wonderful and amusing to our new American friends. Me and Cat ended up having a very busy day.

In order to start my birthday off in style, I ‘decided’ to take part in the Fort Collins 4th July 5 km Firecracker race (though if I’m being honest, a certain Harry-Potter-loving, anti-clapping office friend talked me into it!). Despite the early start (7.30 am), the race was really good fun with a trumpet lead national anthem (I still don’t know the words), and some great fancy dress. This was about the median level of America-loving clothing:

Thanks Twitter for the pic

Cat felt this was exactly how not to spend a birthday, so organized a birthday/4th July pool party/bbq at our friend John’s house (thank you John!). It was sunny, hot (36 °C), the pool was warm (29 °C), the food was obviously excellent, the craft beer tasty, and my friends Rachel and Morgan got me some strong American clothing to let everyone know how much I loved the 4th:

The glasses and neckace both lit up at night.

Now you might think that the fact the pool was full of inflatables such as a grumpy-looking turtle would not matter to a bunch of serious 20-somethings, and we would just sit around drinking beer, throwing an american football around…


… and you would be wrong:

Though to be fair, I think the turtle won in the end.

We also played some disk dunk, which is like a cross between Frisbee and basketball. Your teammate throws the Frisbee towards your bin and you have to dunk it in for points. Check me out below inventing the reverse dunk and doing a celebratory lap hi-5 lap of the pool:

To finish off the evening, the whole of Fort Collins decided to throw me a fireworks show to make me feel welcome (is a solid joke and I’m sticking by it). It’s quite hard to put into perspective how impressive the fireworks show was, but needless to say they did not hold back, and my eyes and ears hurt afterwards:

Happy American Independence day you guys!


Gordon and his conference

Last week, I went to visit Salve Regina University / Rhode Island for the Bioanlaytical Sensors Gordon Conference (translation: making devices to measure and understand biology stuff, to help fight diseases and things ). This is by far the best work-conference I have ever been on, even though the science was out of my specialty. I will do my best to explain:


In order to make it to the conference on time, I took an overnight flight to Boston / Massachusetts (arguably the most stupidly spelt state). I shared half my seat with a well built, leather jacket clad biker, who seemed very friendly. Although, unfortunately we did not become friends quick enough to let me sleep on his shoulder! The highlight of the journey was probably taking the train to Kinston train station in Rhode Island. It had a very western feel to it and was lovely and quiet at 7am on a Sunday, with just little robins for company.

P1030035So to give you some idea, Rhode Island is in the top right of the US:

RI mapThe University is on the southwest coast of RI, right by the Atlantic Ocean and it’s very pretty. The middle brown building in the middle of this picture below is where we had our poster sessions:


The Science

This particular conference is fairly high profile, with about half the people attending being professors (though you would not guess it from the casual picture below), and everyone talking about their latest crazy ideas:

grc big picture.jpgAs I’m fairly new to research level biology, I was quite lucky to get accepted. I managed to employ two main faces during conversations,  firstly, the “hmm, yes, I see, very science-y, have you considered science scince science?” face:

IMG-20160628-WA0007And of course, the “I hope you didn’t notice most of that going straight over my head” face:

IMG-20160628-WA0009There were some great posters and some mind blowingly good talks (for the scientists: Elizabeth Hillman, John Rodgers, Kevin Plaxco and James Ajioka), also, very interesting evening discussions in the bar.

The digs

One of the nice things about this particular conference is that everyone stays together in student halls. This means everyone eats all their meals together and you make friends fast. The food was absolutely 10/10 (for example, we had fresh lobster on the last day), but the rooms were… interesting. It has been a few years since I lived in student accommodation, and I loved it at the time… but it was strange going back to being Harry Potter and living in a cupboard under the stairs.

P1030043P1030042At least the outside looked very pretty, maybe that’s how they get you…


The non-science

Another nice aspect about the Gordon conferences is that you do science talks and posters from 9 am till 9.30 pm, but get a 3h break in the middle of the day. This is great for the professors as most of them get about 1 week holiday a year, so this is like a backup holiday / work outing for them. This also meant we could explore Rhode Island / do team building in the day.

I’ll be honest, the first activity break I just went to bed (after 2 hours sleep the night before), but during the rest of the week I did manage to do a Boat trip around Newport harbor:

Newport bridge and Rose Island Lighthouse,

I also played football (Soccer) the day after Iceland knocked England out of the Euros (leading to many good jokes like the Italian professor diving, the German Postdoc pushing other guys of the ball, and every time I managed a pass / save, i’d get comments like “Hey maybe you should drop Roy Hodgeson a call, he could do with people who know the basics of Football”)

Best of all, I went for a swim in the sea with some Postdocs and Professors from around the world. It’s strangely nice to have swam in both sides of eth Atlantic Ocean, and given that Fort Collins is 15 hours from the sea, it was very refreshing.

About 25’C for those who want to be jealous.