Welcome to Dell

Photos (from left to right): Deepak’s potluck, Portland, Oregon, Midnight Madness Cycle ride, walking along the Thames in Oxford.

Welcome to Dell, in association with the United States and Logitech.

I flew from London Heathrow (LHR) to Los Angeles (LAX) on Thursday lunchtime and arrived in time for the afternoon. Virgin Atlantic have a reasonable service and I was very impressed with the in-flight packs and entertainment options – I’d fly with them again on another trip. I sat next to a guy from Ireland who used to be in IT but is now planning to persue sustainable development after studying at either a US or UK college/University. Sounds interesting. Upon my arrival in LA, I was greeted by the Dell immigration officials – I’d say “US” but the first obvious markings at eye level are the Dell TFTs and (presumably) Logitech webcams from their silly anti-witch fingerprinting and automated privacy violation system. Rather familiar, from my previous trip to the US back in February, I fear Dell did a deal with the immigration folks to sell this pointless system’s much unneeded hardware, and are getting such advertising as a result. The food and agriculture folks also did an excellent job – with the aid of a sniffer dog (who also greeted us as we arrived straight from a ten hour flight across the Atlantic) – confiscating three apples from fellow travellers. We really wouldn’t want them consuming all that vitamin C.

So, having been immediately pissed off by a badly considered welcome lobby (staffed with very nice people though) which sends all the wrong messages (or perhaps the right ones if you’re not a citizen and are already not a fan of their government) about the US, I headed out to catch my second flight of the day – to Portland, OR.

Democracy is alive and well in Portland

Having just written the above, you’re probably expecting me to say similar things about Portland. However, Portland is magical and different – a blue town amongst many other Oregon towns which apparently are not – and it would seem to be an excellent place to live. Not only does Portland have a good number of hybrid cars (and realtively few SUVs), environmentally friendly programmes and cycle paths around the city, but it is also a very friendly town indeed. I arrived at the “International Airport” (it has very few international flights and you almost always end up getting connections) and took a TriMet metro/tram-like service to downtown. At PGE park, I disembarked and headed in to the “Alphabet District” (streets named in asscending alphabetical order) to find my friend Deepak’s appartment building. Incidentally, I don’t think I’d appreciated how useful the US number/street intersection addressing system is – although I’m very much not in favour of rigidly unpleasant blocky shapes, when it’s done right then it’s pretty cool.

Deepak and I exchanged greetings, I said hi to his two cats (hello India and Roosevelt), and then we immediately headed out for some late night drinking around the town. It was gone 22:00 when we started, and probably after 02:00 when we finally got back to his place – but, as per usual, the first night wasn’t the point where the jetlag caught up with me. The next morning, we went to a local pattiserie and boulangerie and had some breakfast (the proprietor had apparently studied in France before setting up the shop – and it’s pretty damn good too), then headed out on bikes for some cycling around the city with Matt Philips. We had lunch on the University campus in a (I think) student run coffee shop which sells only locally grown fresh produce. We had some excellent Veggie food and fantastic local juices from a farm at the nearby Columbia Gorge.

We found Powell’s bookstore and had coffee, before heading back to Deepak’s place. Portland is one town with a car hire concept called Flexcar – a hire-on-demand car hire system which aims to handle occasional demand for cars. They have car parking locations around the city, where one can simply pick up a car and drive it away. We decided to try it out and – after hiring a car for a couple of hours – Matt drove us to CompUSA in a Honda hybrid. I bought another iPod mic device, this time called “VoiceNote”, as it came with an external mic also and looks reasonable (the last mic was an iTalk). I hope that it will not get lost quite so quickly this time around. Matt wanted to buy a printer to work on a sustainable development DVD label for a forthcoming event event he’s involved with. Overall, I think CompUSA probably rates similarly to the UK PC World, although it’s a little bigger and just slightly more obnoxious initially – but then, I hardly ever to go PC World, so it might be just as bad by this point. Somwhere along the line, we probably swung by Deepak’s local coffee shop, just around the corner from his appartment since it’s a hive of local friendships.

We had some excellent dinner in the evening, especially the steamed bread, and I enjoyed a mild curry dish with some strong chilli. We returned to Deepak’s place for a few hours, before heading out for the Midnight Mystery Cycle Ride across town. Meeting at the pub starting point, and finishing less than a block away, we cycled around for a bit and then hung around for a few hours, chatting away. One of the folks at the ride works for WindRiver and had a birthday, so we enjoyed some of his “0×20th” cake, printed with a cycle on it. That icing was fantastic. I left with Matt and Joy (who was just a little incapacitated) in the early hours, but some stayed out even later. Apparently, the cops finally showed up just as the group was naturally dispersing and the evening ended without incident.

The next morning, Deepak and I went cycling around the downtown area, along the waterfront itself (nice view) and picked up some stuff for a potluck which was spontaneously organised for the evening. We had some more excellent local beer at a brew pub and some coffee in a “coffee people” coffeehouse (possibly slightly less evil than Starbucks). I don’t usually drink so much beer, but Portland is famous for its variety of good microbrews and brewpubs (the name can only be used if you brew onsite) – and I’ve got some excellent IPA here to take with me, or just drink before I get back home. After some lunch in another pub, we went to a local supermarket called “Trader Joes” to buy some organically grown groceries and other bits (this kind of chain store is impressive to see). These were used to make bits of our evening Potluck with some of Deepak’s friends each bringing random food along for us to enjoy eating. We enjoyed eating it in large quantities too.

On Sunday morning, a group of us met up for breakfast at Ken’s pattiserie (same place as before) and I tried a Portland Croissant (with berries) as well as another Cinnamon bun (I still think the widespread use of cinnamon is a difference from the UK – I would prefer it if we had more cakes, pasteries and even gum with such flavouring options) and then headed over to the coffeeshop around the corner to find some more space, and to play Go. I played with Joy for a few minutes and we both found it quite useful – I’ve photographed the board state so we can continue at a later date online/personally as I had to go get a flight. After an enjoyable stay in Portland, I took a flight back to LAX.

I’ve been meat-free for over two weeks now. Still eating fish and dairy products.


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