Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category


Vacation photos

August 18, 2013

Scenes from recent trips to Idaho and Oregon, as photographed by me, Leila, and Jimmy Knowles….

015_banjo_lesson McCall, Idaho: my dad gives Karen her first banjo lesson.

018_me_mom McCall: me and my mom.

Samick Bend, Oregon: I looked for famed ultramarathoner Kami Semick, but she had moved to Hong Kong, so this was as close as I got.

PK Bend: the Bolivian dish “pique a lo macho” (in progress), a favorite of Leila’s Peace Corps friends.

Kevin Bend: Kevin Tanksi, our charismatic, knowledgeable, and funny whitewater rafting guide.

Deschutes Bend: drenched but happy on the Deschutes River.

tree hugger Bend: a Willa Tree (on the trail to Blow Lake).

at Blow Lake Bend: at Blow Lake.


A t-shirt’s rhetorical question is answered

August 7, 2013

Yesterday Leila and Phil and I drove from Boise to Seattle. As usual, we stopped at Sumpter Junction, a restaurant in Baker City, Oregon.

I happened to be wearing my “Got parasites?” t-shirt provided by, a wonderful database that covers the genomes of several parasites studied by me and my colleagues (e.g., Plasmodium and Cryptosporidium).

The waitress was surprised and entertained by my shirt. “Actually, yes — we DO have parasites,” she said. She was referring not to the restaurant per se but to the town of Baker City, whose water supply had recently been contaminated with Cryptosporidium. The restaurant, like most residences, was staying afloat with bottled and boiled water.

It was, at the least, an amusing coincidence.




Running in Melbourne: getting burned at The Tan

August 21, 2010

On Tuesday I decided to test myself against Craig Mottram, Australia’s best distance runner.

Craig was not actually present for my challenge, but he didn’t need to be. He owns the fastest known time for a single lap of the Tan Track, a popular running and walking loop in Melbourne, and I figured that I should find out how fast I can do it.

Craig’s best time at “The Tan” is 10:08. I wanted to break 12 minutes so that I could claim to have done it in “11 something,” seemingly just a tad slower than the “10 something” recorded by the three-time Olympian.

The loop is 3.827 kilometers in length according to its start/finish marker. To go under 12 minutes I would need to maintain a pace of 3:08 per kilometer, or 5:03 per mile. I was just barely doing that for the first 0.85K or so, and then I reached the Anderson Street hill, lost a couple of seconds to a truck entering a driveway, and then lost a bunch of additional seconds to the minute-long climb. A sub-12 time was no longer a realistic possibility.

As I pushed onward, I estimated that sub-12:30 was now the best I could hope for. When I reached the 3.5K marker in 11:30, I knew that I had less than 60 seconds to run the last 327 meters. But was that realistic? In my end-of-lap fatigue, and not used to thinking in terms of 327-meter segments, I couldn’t tell. I reached the start/finish post and stopped my watch. 12:30. Dang.

It was disappointing to be that much slower than Craig. On the other hand, this was his “home course,” and I haven’t been training specifically for distances as short as this one. A more typical workout for me would be something like ten consecutive laps at a steady pace. So that’s what I did on Friday: ten laps in a row. I finished in 2:41:00 — not a race-like effort, but a solid workout nonetheless.

Craig, you are welcome to try to match or exceed that whenever you’re in the mood.


Melbourne: an acceptable level of novelty

August 21, 2010

I spent this past week at the 12th International Congress of Parasitology (ICOPA XII) in Melbourne, Australia.

When I’m on trips such as this one, I want to get around the host city easily, I want to eat recognizable food, and I want convenient Internet access. I’m not especially keen to immerse myself in the local culture or geography. I’m basically a bad tourist.

As a modern, English-speaking city, Melbourne fulfilled my focused, unimaginative desires quite well. Its differences vis-a-vis Seattle were sufficient to provide some intrigue without being so large as to cause confusion.

The local unit of currency is the dollar. The bills are more colorful than American ones and worth a bit less. I can handle that.

The ubiquity of expressions like “no worries, mate” suggests that Melbourners are somewhat friendlier than Seattlites. I can handle that, too.

My hotel was a cross between a youth hostel and an American hotel, with private rooms but shared toilets and showers. No problem.

The grocery store near my hotel stocked blueberries and dates, two of the only fruits that I eat, as well as fresh pancakes and crumpets in sealed bags. I ate a lot of Nutella-topped pancakes and crumpets this week — a fine substitute for my usual peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I suppose I could have stuck with PB&J, but, being in the Commonwealth, I would have been foolish not to take advantage of the crumpets.

In short, Melbourne is an ideal destination for uptight, unadventurous Americans like me. Should another visit be necessary in the future, I won’t be upset.


There’s no place like home, but this luxury hotel room comes pretty close

December 8, 2008

I’m in New Orleans, attending the annual conference of the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

My son’s middle-of-the-night visits to our bed have cost me many hours of sleep lately, so I saw this trip as a chance to get some good, uninterrupted shut-eye. Last night I turned my hotel room lights off at 10 PM. I didn’t set the alarm on the clock radio because I didn’t need to be awake at any particular time in the morning.

At 4 AM the clock radio — the one I hadn’t set — turned on. Apparently the previous guest in my room had needed to be up at 4. Argh! Well, I thought, at least it’s still early enough that I should be able to fall sleep again. And I did.

At 4:15 my TV — silent and dark up to this point — began showing a cartoon on the Disney channel. This was really galling. How was I supposed to know that the TV had been programmed to be a time bomb? I angrily turned it off, went to the bathroom, and returned to bed.

At 6:15 the TV came to life again, and so did I, incredulous and bitter. I was now involuntarily watching a program that, at first blush, appeared to be an adaptation of The Flight of the Conchords designed for 3-year-olds. It turned out to be the The Wiggles.

The Wiggles have a wide following among young children and their parents, but at that moment, I would have preferred my son’s screaming.


The top 4 signs that I’m currently in Buenos Aires, not Seattle

March 14, 2008

4. Posters for the movie 10,000 B.C. give the title as “10.000 A.C.”

3. Every time I go out for a run, I wind up in some dead-end alley amongst free-roaming dogs and boys playing soccer.

2. If you dine out and order a main course of beef, the waiter brings you a giant plate of it … followed by another giant plate of it.

1. Some bathrooms have soap dispensers like the one shown here. (Image copied from
soap on a stick
Getting soap out of this dispenser was not easy. I tried everything: pushing it toward the wall, pulling it away from the wall, moving it left and right, moving it up and down, pressing on the white base…. After about a minute of this, I realized that my hands were getting kind of slippery. The yellow “soap dispenser” was made of soap.


Observations from a brief trip to Scotland

June 13, 2007

Purpose of the trip: to attend a COST B22 conference on drug development for parastic diseases.

Number of presentations at this conference: 37 talks, 59 posters.

Number of these that I understood completely: 1 (“Welcome to Dundee” by Sir Philip Cohen, Dean of the School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee.)

Best student poster, according to the panel of judges: “Meta caspase of Leishmania major parasites: arginine specific serine protease with a role in yeast programmed cell death” by Iveth Gonzalez et al. This narrowly defeated “TbAT1/P2 and drug resistance in Human African Trypanosomiasis in the field” (Anne Kazibwe et al.) and “Inhibitors of 6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase as potential treatments for HAT” (Gian Filippo Ruda et al.), among others.

Best poster title, according to me: “Trypamosoma cruzi and beta-lapachone derived naphthoimidazoles: induction of alternative death styles” by R.F.S. Menna-Barreto et al. (The poster was about how these drugs can kill the parasite in different ways, depending on the stage of the parasite’s life cycle.)

Best self-effacing remark made during a talk: The comment by Mike Gelb (from the University of Washington) that his lab’s modification of compound JJ121 to retain inhibition of lanosterol 14-demethylase while eliminating interactions with protein farnesyltransferase in humans was “like falling off a log.”

Best use of ambiguity during a talk: Vincent Delespaux (from the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp) talked about parasites’ development of drug resistance (“Isometamidium resistance in T. congolense: a possible role of secondary multidrug transporters?”) and at one point also noted his difficulties in persuading funding agencies to support this research. His next slide was titled, “Trying to survive a hostile environment.”

Most vivid critique of research priorities: People who focus all their efforts on sequencing DNA are, according to Matt Berriman, “Just tossing genomes into the furnace.”

Approximate number of jokes made during the conference about Alan Fairlamb’s love of trypanothione reductase: 15.

Approximate number of rabbits seen during a one-hour run in Dundee: 100.

Biggest drawback of Scotland’s beautiful public parks: the absence of public bathrooms.

Least tempting ad seen in a restaurant window: “Haggis Samosas Are Back!”


Marathon vacation in Japan (part 2)

June 30, 2005

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

29. First night at Lake Saroma, Hokkaido; view from Green Village hotel room

30. USA 100K women’s team: Tania, Nikki, Anne, Ann, Anthea, and Karen

31. USA 100K men’s team: Scott, Patrick, Howard, Mark, and Greg

32. Men’s team in kimonos: Patrick, Howard, Mark, Scott, team leader Tim Yanacheck, and Greg

33. Banquet hall at opening ceremonies; Greg and Scott decipher the Pocari Sweat nutrition label

34. Team members and support crews meander around before the parade

35. Howard’s friend Tak tries to get the team ready for a photo

36. Team USA during parade

37. Less than an hour until the start of the race

38. Is this lace tight enough to last 62.1 miles?

39. Nikki and Karen with Karen’s husband Stan and daughter Madison (asleep on ground)

40. Runners line up as Deborah escapes

41. Seconds before the start

42. The start: Tania (USA) and Glen Redpath (Canada)

43. Early miles: Patrick, Scott, Howard, and some foreigners

44. Early miles: Greg, Mark, a friendly British guy named Matt (#810), et al.

45. Early miles: Nikki

46. Greg at 80K, assisted by Colin, Liz (handing out Gu), and Lion, Mike, and Tak (with sponges)

47. Patrick finishes

48. Greg, immediately after finishing

49. Extracting the ChampionChip from Greg’s shoe

50. Nikki finishes

51. Tania, triumphant

52. Ann finishes

53. Anthea finishes

54. Greg’s wicked blood blister

55. Giant moth found in our hotel

56. Green Village hotel exterior

57. Another view of Green Village hotel

58. Bidding farewell to the rice fields


Marathon vacation in Japan (part 1)

June 30, 2005

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

1. Part of Ninomaru Palace, Nijo Castle

2. Inner moat looking down from Honmaru part of Nijo Castle

3. Inner moat looking from outside of Honmaru part of Nijo Castle

4. Greg and Yoko at the Microbial Mound in Kyoto, which honors bacteria sacrificed to research

5. Garden with waterless pond, Manshuin Temple, Kyoto

6. Crane tree in garden at Manshuin Temple

7. Carved wooden flowers above a door in Manshuin Temple

8. Waterfall rock in the shade to the right of tall stone lantern

9. Tiger room, Manshuin Temple; paintings by Kano Eitoku from the Momoyama Period

10. Ginkaku-ji Temple, Kyoto, established in 1482; view from observatory

11. Greg and Yoko on the Walk of Philosophy, named for a philosopher who walked here often

12. View from Nanzen-ji Gate, one of 3 biggest gates in Japan; built in 1296, last rebuilt in 1628

13. View toward downtown Kyoto from Kiyomizu Temple

14. View above Kiyomizu Temple

15. Kiyomizu fountain; the 3 streams signify male-female relationships, education, and health

16. Kinkaku (Golden Pavilion), popular name for Rokuon-ji Temple, in Kyoto

17. Making a wish and ringing the gong at the Kinkaku belfry

18. Rock Garden at Ryoan-ji Temple, Kyoto; you cannot see all 15 rocks from any one spot

19. Stone lantern and moss, Ryoan-ji Temple, Kyoto

20. Inner room at Ryoan-ji Temple, Kyoto

21. Kyoyochi Pond at Ryoan-ji Temple; made in the late 12th century

22. Room in Koryu-ji Temple, Kyoto; at this temple is a Lecture Hall built in 1165

23. Lunch at the Tenryu-ji Temple, Kyoto (Westerners are given little chairs for comfort)

24. Large bamboo trees at Tenryu-ji Temple

25. Inside a building at Tenryu-ji Temple

26. One of the ubiquitous vending machines selling Pocari Sweat sports drink

27. Greg sings to Yoko as a thank-you for being such a great host

28. Mosaic mural from the gardens surrounding the Imperial Palace, Tokyo


Gregorio del Laboratorio goes to Spain: day 11

August 30, 1999

Up at 6 a.m. to catch a flight to London. Soon I’ll be back in the States, ready to return to life in the lab. What is it that I do again? I think I study glycolysis or something like that….

In conclusion, a list of quintessentially Spanish things I did not do on this trip:

(1) Watch a bullfight.

(2) Take a mid-day siesta.

(3) Get my wallet stolen.

(4) Drink sangria.

(5) Smoke.

(6) Pray.

Decorative skull, Isla Magica theme park, Seville.
Decorative skull, Isla Magica theme park, Seville.