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by SS at 7:37 am on Tuesday 22nd April

The end is quite clearly in sight. Although I wasn't looking out for it, it's come straight at us, like a hapless raft approaching Victoria Falls. Well, not quite like that, but whatever, I'm not great at analogies.

Another thing I recently didn't see approaching was the pothole just outside our flat's carport on Panoramic Hill. In a somewhat sleep deprived and annoyed state, I cycled up the hill and veered rapidly to the right as a careless SUV driver careened down the hill towards me. As it turns out, he decided to stop somewhere up the hill and I didn't need to evacuate my road position as quickly as I thought. It also turns out that the dark, water-marked road surface was hiding a rather unpleasant occupant - a small pothole about the depth of an American cup. (For my British readers, this is about 250% the height of a typical English tea cup.) Luckily, I fared better than my last brush with potholes - electing to fall comically to my side into a puddle rather than somersaulting multiple times over my handlebars at 60 kmph.

Either way, the point is - this Master's program is very nearly over. If last semester flew past at great speed, this semester has somehow flown past at an even greater speed. We have just under 4 weeks until graduation and the deadline for submitting my Master's thesis has since passed. Luckily it turns out the professors who have kindly agreed to read it don't need 4 weeks to read 15 pages of double spaced text. Phew. What this means though, is that while my colleagues are beginning to wind down (just a little), I still have this cloud hanging over me. Soon though, it will be gone!

The last 5 weeks of so have given me a rather interesting taste of life in the Bay Area. On the BART into San Francisco, I struck up conversation with a chap sitting next to me. He seemed normal enough - at least for this area, working as a freelance graphic designer and having tattoos on his hands, arms and a rather disturbing bandage on his neck. He mentioned he had been mugged earlier in Oakland and was struggling to figoure out how to get home to north of San Francisco - having lost his laptop, wallet and phone and having been unable to get hold of his friends using the numbers he knew. Long story short, I decided to give him some money to get home and he promised to PayPal it back to me. I didn't hear back from him.

A couple of days later, Gita and I performed some actual work in Oakland using our unmanned aerial vehicles. While I was waiting for Gita to arrive, I noticed a guy walking away on the pavement with a unique bandage on his neck. Looking closer, I realised it was the same chap who I'd lent money too. I didn't manage to catch him up but at least I know the Oakland part of his story was probably true. Oh well, there's a small chance my act of charitable giving might have made someone's day a little better and I'll take what I can get.

Gita and I spent most of the rest of the day performing an aerial survey for a local architecture firm who are designing an extension to the Bay Trail that will connect it to Lake Merritt, a lake in Oakland. This is a bicycle and walking/running trail that will eventually encircle the entire Bay Area. Details of safely operating a robot in public aside, the photographs taken by the borrowed GoPro we used were somewhat unique and I'm somewhat proud of them. You can see a sample of these here on our lab's webpage.

That weekend, in San Francisco, I wandered out to pick up some takeaway food. 15 minutes after I reached my friend's apartment there was a drive-by shooting just a block away. I found this somewhat fascinating but my more rational friend was visibly shaken by the incident.

The final, more amusing incident, was that in the course of organising a singing telegram for my friend's birthday (a gift that my friend had apparently wanted for years: Americans are odd), I submitted a quote request online. This quote request was miscategorised as a request for a clown and over two days I received about 15 phone calls from local Bay Area clowns soliciting for business. In the end a singing gorilla was actually organised and was received very well.

While there's still a steady pipeline of work to finish, I can already taste the sweet freedom that I'm sure to get bored of eventually. (The grass is always greener, right?) I'm looking forward to being able to sleep consistently, exercise consistently and to having time to cook for myself. I'm also looking forward to having an income and feeling less anxious everytime I pay for food and drink! See you on the warmer, greener other side.

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