Sunday, November 27, 2011

Top Gear Live!

Saturday was one of the best, if not the best, days of my adult life. The Top Gear Live Event was the coolest thing I have ever been to. Super cars were everywhere, tires could be heard squealing against the tarmac in the Track Event stage, trinkets were aplenty, it was a great day.

My train to London left on Friday at 11:40pm and I arrived in London, quite groggy, before the sun had even woke. I promptly took a cab to the ExCel Center and sat in coffee shop to eat my breakfast bar and drink my extra large can of Redbull to wake myself up a little bit. Arriving at the ExCel center about an hour and a half before the doors would open to the main convention center room, I read my Top Gear magazine and waited. As soon as a small queue began to form I walked over. About 5th in line to enter the main hall. When the doors opened at 9:30 I was one of the first to enter, and I immediately was awe-struck as 2 lovely Ferraris greeted me at the door. The 599 GTO and the 458 Italia. After taking some pictures I moved to the "Top Gear TV stage" area where there was a recreation of the chairs and stage the presenters sit at during the TV show. I got my picture taken in Jeremy Clarkson's usual seat, but was a little sad to realize hours later the gentleman I asked to take the picture captured this wonderful moment in a blurry fashion. But by the time I had realized it the queue was far to long to attempt another shot. No matter, blurry image is better than no image.

I spent the next few hours walking around the showroom floor taking pictures of various supercars, and Top Gear Challenge cars, including the 100% electric "Hammer-Head iEagle Thrust." As 1 o'clock rolled around it was time for my Track Event. I made my way to the entrance, had my ticket checked and had a seat in the grandstands. For the next hour and a half I was presented with a variety of cars driven around the track at high speeds, including a personal favorite of mine the Caterham 7 Super Sport, driven by none other than Top Gear's tame racing driver... "Some say that he is terrified the BBC will reveal his salary because he is paid in strong pornography. And that his discharge is luminous. All we know is, he's called The Stig." The Stig put this wonderful little car around the track at breakneck speeds, punishing the tires at every corner. It was a beautiful sight. However the Track Event was not all good, because the main presenters, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May were otherwise occupied with the Live Arena Event, there were unable to present the Track Event. Which left it to three other English people I had never heard of, who were quite boring. Thinking themselves to be very interesting and amusing when in actuality... they weren't. The whole crowd knew it and they must have been daft to not know it themselves. However luckily not too much time was wasted with their speaking, and even when time was wasted I was sitting next to the car entrance so I just looked at the next wonderful machine that was preparing to enter the track. After several interesting events including a stunt driver who drove a whole lap on two wheels (it was amazing), and a light drifting competition, the Track Event ended. Which was good news, not because it wasn't entertaining by any means but because it meant that my Live Arena Event with three proper presenters began in a short 40 minutes. I spent the next 20 minutes making sure there was nothing else of any interest in the showroom, then made my way to the Arena. Locating my seat, I waited patiently for the main event. And it did not disappoint. 

The Live Arena event was like being at an actual episode of Top Gear, the news was done, as the presenters drove out the large gear shaped stage, notice i said they drove it out, as if it were a parade float, and the challenge was presented. Having agreed that the Olympics were rather boring the presenters wanted to create a more interesting automotive version of the Olympics. There was an opening ceremony, complete with flaming cars, motorcycle jumps over fire with riders dressed as Beef-eaters, London Taxis doing donuts, and of course an Aston Martin. A true showing of England. The events then started. Starting with motocross limbo. Beef-eater dressed riders took turns jumping though a smaller and smaller gap at the top of a ramp, it was quite exciting. Next was chariot racing, mind you in true Top Gear form this was no ordinary chariot race. The chariots were pulled by 4 Vespas mounted together, controls to all 4 vespas were mounted in the chariot, and cornering was performed by braking either the 2 right most scooters or the two leftmost scooters. It was again quite amazing, and rather comical. The next event, which was my favorite was car curling. In true curling form there was a brusher, which in this case was a quad bike driven by James May with several brooms and circular brushes sweeping the floor infront of it. And the two curling stones, which in this case were two small cars driven by Jeremy and Richard. Now in order to recreate the presence of ice when the car's e-brakes were pulled they were lifted onto 4 wheels rather like the wheels on the bottom of a shopping cart. Which allowed the cars to drift along like they were on ice. When the e-brake was released they were dropped back onto the normal wheels and came to a stop. The cars were aiming for a target area just like in real curling. And also like in real curling they went one after another so you could knock the other stone out of the target. What ensued was a fantastic display of mayhem with several crashes. One of which injured Jeremy's shoulder, but he soldiered on.  The next event was synchronized swimming, but with cars. Which was quite lovely. Followed by another synchronized driving event with Morgan 3-wheelers which was again, very impressive. The final event was a beauty contest, where about 16 of the best, most expensive, and most properly beautiful cars in the world were driven out parked. The presenters then chose their favorites and awarded medals to them. This concluded the show, and it was amazing. I'm not sure if the brief descriptions I gave, got that point across, but let me assure you, it was incredible. I felt like the neighbor kid in The Incredibles:

And on that bombshell it's time to end, thanks for reading, Good Night!

I took lots and lots of pictures which you can view here. Some of them are a little blurry as my camera was struggling to find its focus. But I switched to my phone which worked much better.

I hope you all had a nice weekend, and will see most of you in less than a month.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Weekend Update

This has been a pretty productive weekend. I meet up with a friend at the library and together we finished our last Thermodynamics assignment due before the end of the semester, which was nice. Today I've started my math homework for the week, and plan on finishing one of the two assignments tonight. Meaning I will only have to finish the other this week and start reviewing for my exam. Then I will be getting ready for my trip to London this weekend, for Top Gear Live! Then after 2 more math assignments and a solid final week of lectures I will be off to Paris. Things are looking up out here. School is finally starting to wind down, and with the exception on my exam on the 13th, and the 3 assignments I will have to do before heading home, I have little left to worry about.

As for today I had a pretty nice day. I woke up had breakfast and then went for a walk into town. Not for any particular reason, except that after being beaten for the 1st time in weekly steps on my fitbit by my father, I needed to make up for my usual low numbered weekends. I assure all of you that this momentary lapse will be corrected and I will return to my rightful place of fitbit champion. On a related note I'm down to 235lbs which brings me to a total of down about 35lbs in the past 10 or 11 weeks. Not too bad if I say so myself. I took some picture on my walk today, having walked in a few new places. I also saw a gorilla playing the drums... Quite an interesting day.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

39 Days and Counting

As it seems I only have time to write new posts on the weekends, a statement on how busy school is keeping me during the week. But with only 21 days left of regular class, I'm closing in on the final straight. Which is just fantastic news if I can voice my opinion. Which I believe I am entitled to do, seeing as this is my blog. In the next 3 weeks I will be rather busy however, with I believe, 8 more homework hand-ins. But before the last week I have a nice single day trip to London. Then it's back on the grind for the final week. However after that final week I get a nice 4 day vacation in France, with two of my mates Sam and Luka, which will be nice. I'll have a few busy days of studying after that and then a final exam. After that final, as it seems, things will become busy again, as most of my classes have assigned homework assignments to be finished over Christmas break and I have no intention of bringing any work home with me. Which means in the 9 days between my final exam and my flight home I will have 3 assignments and a paper to write. Which shouldn't be too bad in 9 full days, with nothing else to do, but obviously isn't ideal.

School, while being the source of a great deal of work and some mild stress, is going pretty well. I seem to be doing pretty well for myself over here. If things continue this way my grades will transfer over quite well back to UW. I should be maintaining my average in physics, which is really all I ask of myself at a foreign university, let alone a foreign university world known for its physics department.

I would like to say that apart from school things are progressing just as well, but honestly there isn't really a lot going on for me apart from school. I only have a few spare hours during the week, most of which are spent in the gym, leaving very little for me to explore or discover anything here. A bit of a bummer but I suppose college needed to take over like this at one point or another right? My second semester should allow me some more free time with only 3 classes, and I assume much less homework. But I think a lot of the free time then will be eaten by reviewing my classes from this semester to prepare for the exams in May. Leaving me with less free time that I might expect, but hopefully enough to get out and about a little more.

It's a good thing I'm getting closer to Christmas break because I believe it will provide a much needed battery recharge before I head back over here to close out this school year. If all goes according to plan and I manage to finish all of my homework in those 9 days before my return, I will have a solid 24 days or so, with no cares in the world. Which sounds very very nice.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Remember Remember the Fifth of November...

Despite being rather scholastically unproductive this weekend, I had a good time. Strange, almost as though those things go hand in hand. Saturday was the 5th of November, which is Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night. It is an odd day, it celebrates the failure of the Gunpowder Plot in the 1605. Essentially some people wanted to bomb the British Parliament building, in order to kill King James the 1st and free Britain from tyranny. What really makes this day interesting is that in England it is a celebration of the plans failure, while here in Scotland and other countries that were once cruelly ruled over by the British, it seems like people celebrate a credible attempt to end British tyranny, by killing the King. Anyway enough of the history lesson. My friends and I went up to Arthur's Seat at around 8pm and watched the fireworks from the highest point in Edinburgh. Although we were a little let down because there was no real city funded firework show. We essentially watched people lighting off fireworks in their backyards, which was still pretty cool, because we could see the whole city. I tried to take some pictures but it was too dark to really capture anything substantial. We stayed up there for about an hour before the frigid air slowly began to freeze us. On the way down we got a wee bit lost, because none of us had been up there in the darkness, or maybe it was because we had been drinking a little. After a short team meeting to decide which path would be the least steep and therefor the easiest to descend, we left. The usual 30 minute decent from the top ended up taking about an hour but we all had a fun time slipping in the long, wet grass finding our way home. It was a fun night.

Today I had a few errands to run, like buying a new pair of pants that actually fit. The curse of shrinking whilst away from home I suppose. It seems I will have to slowly convert my wardrobe on the fly, making changes when necessary, but sparingly in order to conserve funds. This week will be relatively filled with school work, but I will simply take it one day at a time until the weekend begins again. And as each weekend comes and goes I become closer to home. With only 4 weeks of classes left, I'm reaching the final stretch. Which is comforting. 3 weeks of classes, 1 day in London, 1 last week of classes, 1 week in Paris, 1 week of studying, 1 day of test taking, and then 1 week of Scottish exploring until I return State-Side. When put that way it really doesn't seem that bad.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My Apologies

Last week I was very busy with school, and over the weekend I was experiencing some issues with my gmail account, and thus couldn't write a new post. That is all settled now and Google has deemed my gmail no longer suspicious, why it was ever suspicious in the first place I don't know.

I was swamped with school work last week, and will be pretty busy today with another assignment, but by tomorrow I will have an easy time for the remainder of the week. Next week will be a different story however, as I am going to receive 3 new assignments due in the next few weeks. With some careful planning however I might be able to simplify that work load by getting absolutely everything else out of the way this week/weekend.

On a non-school related note, I just bought plane tickets to Paris for December 4th to December 7th, to meet up with some friends who will be there. Got a crazy deal on airfare and only paid 48USD for the roundtrip. Granted I land in an airport that is about a hour bus ride outside of Paris but the bus only cost a few euros, and I am arriving much earlier than my friends. Who get in I think around 10 hours after I do. But I'd imagine Paris is an easy city to spend time just wandering around. I have to look into a hostel to stay at as well, but I can't imagine that will be too difficult. Especially since there are 3 of us. It should be an exciting trip. And when I return I will still have 6 days to study for my only exam on the 13th.

In a depressing note, my flight home is not until the 22nd of December so I will need to find something to do for those 9 free days I have after my final, and with Paris probably eating a healthy portion of my funds, I think I will have to stay pretty close by. I'm going to try to save the Edinburgh Zoo and Museum for that week, and maybe I'll plan a trip to Sterling to see the William Wallace Memorial, or to St. Andrews to see the course. Hopefully I can stretch those into a few days. I'll likely have to fight the urge to pack up all my stuff as soon as my final is over. With no scholastic hills between me and my trip home for Christmas I won't have much else to think about. And with the rest of my young freshman friends busy studying for their 3-5 finals I think they will be pretty busy and won't be able to join me in any adventures. Although I do know one of them wants to go to Amsterdam for a few days and maybe that would work out for us. But I'm not going to hold my breath on that. I'm sure I will find something to occupy my time those 216 hours before my return to the US.

Weight wise I am doing very well. I've dropped down to 242lbs from about 270lbs. Which is more than half way to my overall goal of 220lbs. The down side to this however is now all my pants are HUGE, and will continue to get larger as I continue this transition. I already had to buy a new belt, and will likely need to buy some new pants in the next few weeks. Such a tragedy, I really like these pants. I also had a very big day on Friday in terms of fitness. I traveled a total of 23 miles, and walked 43,000 steps. Not too bad for a days work.

That's all for now, let the good times roll my friends and remember, the Dude abides.