Recording, Fashion and Ringo Star

Regular followers of this blog will have to forgive us for not posting in a while, Needless to say, we have been busy living the American dream and working hard so have not had much to report until now:

Recording

Being over here is really wonderful, however one big thing I have missed is music. Previous to coming across, I think I was constantly in at least one band / musical ensemble (and at one point 5) since about 2002.

To be fair, I have picked up new hobbies and haven’t really had the time go out and search for new bands here, but then over Christmas, I treated myself to a basic set of recording equipment (the Fousrite Scarlett 2i2 studio bundle)
41mmqooasjl-_sx300_

Not only does this allow me to record drums here to finish albums I was working on with old bands back in the UK (With These Machines, Tritonic, Cloudfleet and PaPa RoRo), but it allows me to take part in a long standing feud / joke.

Back in about 2004, myself and the bandmates of my first band (Redfall) joked that one day we would all go and make out own solo albums. The joke part was that I could play the drums and could do a poor impression of guitars and vocals, so that I could make an album where I played everything, a bit like this guy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXMuWi0dUBc
redfall-emo

Well… what started out as a joke is slowly coming to fruition. Already Pete (the bassist) has formed his own band (Tritonic) and recorded an album and Jonno (vocals / 747 impersonator) has started working on material for his own band (Bearzilla). Now is my turn, I have some ideas and a name (Garden of Hollies), which is a start…

Fashion

Anyone that knows me will not I am not a fashionable man. I still have 10-year-old t-shirts and I tend to buy new clothes when my old ones get holes in them rather than whatever is ‘hip’ in vogue right now.

A great example of this is a fluorescent lime green long sleeved running top that was a finishers prize for completing my first half marathon about 4 years ago. It’s great if you want cars to avoid you when running in the dark, but has a drastic effect on normal eyes in broad daylight:

scanners-head-explosion
5 Rob points if you can name the film

Luckily, Cat didn’t sneakily throw it out as by pure chance I now have a matching lime green outfit made from: The top, an old skiing headband from when I was little, some new cycling gloves (Christmas present from David Peck) and some new running shoes to replace my old fluorescent orange ones.
20170122_095359

dsc_0001
Horsetooth half marathon training week 2: Hills with Kat at 8 am

I think you will agree it is quite a sight. I can definitely confirm that the – buy new running shoes after 6 months or 300 miles – saying is absolutely true (mine were about 3 years old), and that anyone who tells you not to hoard is clearly not playing the long game and you will win like the tortoise in the end!

Ringo Star

I know I have mentioned this before on the blog, but American English is really really different to UK English (never mind about Bristolian!). I have been having problems where American cannot understand me saying my name. I have tried saying it normally (Rob), saying it in an American accent (Rab), clear pronunciation (R.O.B) and have been called Rope, and most recently Will.

So, with help from my office friends at work, we have come up with a new name that Americans should understand, I can apparently pronounce like Americans say it, and it should be fairly well known.

Ringo.
ringo1

It helps that the Beatles are so popular here, even now, and family and old friends will remember when I had the dreaded bowl hair cut. I actually tried it today, and sure enough:
img_20170122_092251

Rob / Ringo

Dublin

Last month, I was lucky to go on a work trip to Dublin / IRE, to present a poster at the 2016 MicroTAS conference. My boss Chuck, and my work friends Kat (not to be confused with wife-Cat) and Jaruwan also came along to present posters, and they were especially excited, having never been to Europe before.

utas-selfie
Kat is in the middle, Jaruwan the back right, and the conference centre is the background

Our boss Chuck does lots of traveling to conferences, which is awesome as he can get extra people in to the fancy United Airlines members lounge at airports. It’s surprising how much of a difference it makes having comfy chairs, free wifi, free drinks and free food when waiting for a flight. Our original flight ended up being cancelled due to a hurricane down in Florida at the time, but Chuck managed to get us on the next flight AND get us upgraded seating (more legroom) which was very kind.

However, this is where it all went wrong…

For some reason, 50% of my flights for work conferences involve sitting by enormous people. I don’t know why, and the stereotypes of ALL Americans being obese are very untrue, but this is a genuine problem for me now. I think these two pictures below sum up how much space I had and my expression for the 8 hour flight that I couldn’t sleep on, as the person next to me was about 4 inches over our shared arm rest:
fat-300x204

We arrived early on the Saturday morning and as the conference didn’t start till the Sunday night, I got to spend some time with Mum and Dad who flew over to see me. Unfortunately, they didn’t get my message about the flight being delayed, so they waited at the airport from a stupidly early hour of the morning before I actually arrived, but they were still happy to see me.
1476021654401

We did lots of exploring, and saw castles and parks, though the highlight was probably having an Italian dinner with them, my work friends and a Professor (Barry Lutz) from Washington DC. Barry, Barry and Margaret spent the whole evening learning about each other’s countries (such questions as why don’t you swim in Washington DC? Because the sea is too cold). I think Professor Barry was impressed that English Barry new about American football, and English Barry was impressed that professors are very easy to talk to and have good social skills.

After a few final coffee / pub breaks, they went on back to England and I went to the conference.
wp_20161008_15_54_57_prowp_20161008_15_29_01_pro

The conference itself was awesome. I saw some great talks, (particularly Sam Lunte (University of Kansas, USA) and Christine Klapperich (University of Boston, USA)) and successfully presented and defended my poster.

edited-poster
Posters edited for copyright reasons

I also got to do some outreach with local school kids from around Dublin. My experiment, was a simplified version of the pregancy test, where the student put samples (water or lemon juice) on a paper test strip and if the sample turned orange (lemon juice pH reaction), they were ‘pregnant‘.

N16227
Even slightly grumpy Irish teenagers think it’s fun to play with crayons, paper and lemon juice to make paper-based microfluidic devices

The first group of students were all 15 year old boys and all accidently put lemon juice on their test strips, and looked quite scared / unimpressed when I informed them they were all pregnant. I wish you could see the looks on their faces, it was very funny.

We did lots of socialising with different students and professors from around the world in the evenings after the conference. My two highlights are probably taking some Americans and South Africans out for a proper English curry, and getting kicked out of the famous Temple bar at approx. 2 am due to them closing early, whilst we wanted to carry on drinking whiskey and chatting, followed by post-drinking ice-creams and biscuits.

We also met up with David, a previous student of Chuck’s at the conference, and did some great sightseeing, including a whiskey tour,
dsc_0020

… a visit to an Irish pub, run by a man from Bristol that served Fort Collins beer,
dsc_0021

… a visit to a nice old cathedral,
img_3975

… and dinner by the canal at sunset
img_3952

All in all, a cracking conference / holiday.

Rob

Tigers in the flat – part 2

Adjusting from no animals to Crazy Cat ladies takes very little time. So even though we only had Chewie and Grant with us for 5 days, they got very settled and decided to thank us for our care by helping us with our daily routines:

Firstly, it’s important to wake up when your alarm goes off, so once one of us is up, Chewie and Grant helped wake us up by pulling the covers off.
039068

It’s also important after a morning run to warm down and rest your legs. Put them up on a sofa for the length of time it takes a kitten to settle, nap and escape.
046

Being productive is important and luckily Cat had some good feedback and revisions on her wedding planning business website (http://www.makeityours.wedding/). It’s a good thing kitten paws are the same size as keyboard keys!
035

Being in Colorado, it’s important for kittens to show their support of the Broncos. Apparently, selective napping is the way to show support.
045

When waiting for Cat to get home, it’s important to guard the flat from any intruders, so nap at a high vantage point for good scouting veiws.
009

Finally, if you find Cat on the sofa after work, you should sleep on her for 3 hours until Rob gets home with dinner, then look grumpy and snoozly when he gets home to show your dissapointment at his lateness.
015
dsc_0001

Rob x

TIGERS IN THE FLAT!!!

For some strange reason, the British accent suggests trustworthiness and intelligence to Americans. So rather than the usual reaction to the Brissle accent,

li-mcdonald-jamie-20130507
“Alright my darlin’, fetch us a Thatchers will ye?” – Jamie MacDonald

my sounds are translated to,

Sean Connery as James Bond
“Martini, shaken not stirred”

Anyway, long story short our friends Jaclyn and Willie have let us look after their two 10 week old kittens for 4 days, whilst they celebrate their grandparents 60th wedding anniversary. Meet Grant and Chewie:
20161001_104731

Whilst they were a bit shy at first, especially looking around for Jaclyn and Willie after they dropped them off (as, where are they hiding?), they have now taken to us.

And here I am tickling the belly of a snoozly ‘the-kitten-currently-known-as-Grant’:
img-20160929-wa0002

In fact, when I went to pick something up from the floor just before bedtime the first night, Grant leapt up on my lap for a nap / to give me squatting practice.

img-20160930-wa0000
I have a Cat top, soley for greeting Cats

Part 2 coming soon

Rob, Cat, Chewie & Grant x
kitten-prints

Tailgate

On Saturday, I managed to tick another item of our US to do list, namely see an American Football game and tailgate.

My university team the CSU Rams (Colorado State University) played against the Northern Colorado bears, who are a slightly weaker team in the same league. But as good as the game was (I will come to that), the pre-game was even better.
img_4284

Before the football game, lots of people tailgate, whereby they park up outside the stadium early and setup a grill on the back of a pickup tailgate (hence the name), drink some beer, play some music and play pretend quarterback (I now know how to throw a football properly). Basically, it’s an informal hype up party and is somewhat of an American tradition.
dsc_0142

This was a special game for three reasons:

  1. It was celebrating Ag day, when the team and fans all wear orange to celebrate the school’s original colors of pumpkin and alfalfa. So the stadium was awash with orange.
    dsc_0147
    dsc_0145
    dsc_0146
  1. The current stadium is on outskirts of Fort Collins (between the town and the reservoir / foothills) in a beautiful location, but the facilities are quite basic. Over the coming months the team will moving to their new 36,000 capacity stadium right next to the Chemistry Department on main campus (260 meters / 0.2 miles away):
    hughes
    hughes-2

Hopefully this won’t disrupt campus too much and won’t mess up our experiments. Here is an artists representation of the new one:
new-stadium-2

  1. The Rams had a starting quarterback who is a freshman (1st year undergraduate) who had a great game (QB Collin Hill was 21-of-27 for 315 yards and four touchdown passes – to four different receivers – plus a 51-yard touchdown run!)

    hughes-6
    15 (Collin hill) is practicing his squats, whilst 59 just wants to hug and be friends

It really is quite some experience seeing a live match. Even though this was just a university match, 27,000 people turned up. This is about the same average home turn out for Southampton or Crystal Palace in the English Premiership. We ended up sat right behind the CSU marching band who had different songs for every different event (e.g. one for 1st down, one for 3rd down, one for time outs etc.).
dsc_0144

The touchdown song was really quite something up close behind the Euphoniums, especially when accompanied by an artillery cannon and cam the ram (our team mascot) doing a lap of the pitch.
hughes-4

Colorado State v Colorado
(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The final excellent bit of trivia is that how popular football in the US is and how the system works. The students get great scholarships and get their tuition free, but do not get paid. The coach however earns more than the head of the University, such is the love of sports here. And his name is coach bobo!

mike-bobo
“Hey, you’re running the wrong way”

All that remains is to thank Mike for taking me, and for those who want to see a very funny, quite biased, British comedians view on student athletes and coaches; I recommend John Oliver’s show ‘last week tonight’ on HBO.

Rob

 

Graduates are hot, because they have more degrees

Last week, we journeyed back to England for family, food, fun and my graduation ceremony.

graduation

Food might sound like the odd one on the list so I will tackle it first. We love it here, like a lot, but there are some things we miss and certain British/European/Asian delicacies are one of them:
food montageLuckily, the Pecks and Cheethams took us to play badminton later in the week, so we did work some of the tasty meals off.

We were fortunate to be able to catch up with the Channons, Marchs, Boultons, Pecks, Cheethams and various Warwick University friends at the graduation and afterwards at the pub. We also managed to sticker-ise some twins (sorry but also not sorry Kat and Chris) and I went for a slow run at sea level (Parkrun #33).

Best of all, check out this hat:

P1010709 adg
Only the most gangster of graduates wear their ‘hood’ on an angle

We (Cat, Mum, Dad, Nan, Nan & Grampy) spent a fair amount of time at the graduation trying to figure out what my stupid hat was called, turns out Cloth Bonnet (although Tam or Square Academic Cap are also acceptable apparently). Of course everyone had a go and I think you’ll agree it adds a certain je ne sais quoi to most outfits:
hatsHere I am below in various family formations. You may notice I look quite warm / like a professor of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It was about 29 °C (84 F, 302.15 K) and humid, so we all were pretty cooked by the time Simon picked us up to take us to Three Ponds / Derby.
P1010708

We had a lovely time in Derby though didn’t manage to win either the pub quiz (we came 4th ish) or the best Russian-Olympics-doping-scandal-themed team name (Stop Putin the drugs in me).

We finished off the holiday with a trip to the Blue Lagoon spa in Iceland, but more on that in a later blog post.

Rob

bison joke

 

 

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:

StarWarsNerds
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.

baseball-catch-fail
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.

571bfa6b4db4b54d023b3fb02fc97d8f
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.

10628876
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.

Rob