The Beginning of the End

I posted this back in August 2010. It marked the 'Beginning of the Beginning' and detailed the start to my time in Houston. Now, in the middle of May in exactly three short months until my Return, the end has really started. When I first started to write this post it was to be a two parter - one part of things that I am going to miss about the US, and a second part about things that I have missed about the UK - or things I am looking forward to getting back to.

This seemed quaint until I started to put pen to paper (so to speak) and it became clear that they are pretty much mutual - both lists need each other, intrinsically.

I miss buses and trains a lot. This is also compounded by the fact I just like them anyway, and whilst it's been good to try some of the Metros over here the simple fact that you can barely go anywhere without having to drive is just beyond my own ability to comprehend. I grew up with a bus stop outside my house and a train station 15 minutes walk away. These two types of transport get me into the City Centre so quickly it's almost negible - I could be leaving my parents house at 8.30 and be in town at 9.10. How good is that? It's even better in Aberdeen where the city is so small that unless you've chose to live outside the main city you could walk almost anywhere.

That said, I do like the level of streets and parking the USA offers - the massive freeways means that getting to and from various major parts of the city is quite easy, if indeed a million miles on average everytime I try to go anywhere. Compared to the old fashioned system that Aberdeen uses it is a breath of fresh air. I will miss the scope of the roads, but not the actual roads and not the actual drivers.

I've talked about weather four times, so this is the start of the summer and as such there will likely be a really long winded post about how I feel like I am going to die in the humidity. It is already quite high even now in the middle of May, but I am not to be scared as it is only going to last for a short while in the morning and in the evening - no, the weather's not going to stop, but it will prohibit my excursions to the outside to only the short distances between the airconned palaces of my car and the inside.

I miss Scotland's temperate climate. A lot. Just the fact that I am sitting on my sofa in a Boards of Canada tee and a pair of Skinny Corduroy shorts but I'd be rather sitting in my purple hoodie, black skinny jeans. Many people say that we are a product of our life and my fashion sense, and my comfortable clothing, is not made for this weather. It's hard to look like a indie try hard bellend in 100F heat.

The Texans like to drink a lot more than the equivalent Scot and the same age. I am currently working on a theory that might suggest or explain why, but that's a while off being ready to be posted up here - what is shocking is that they drink and drive with aplomb. I hate it. I have to bite my tongue amongst almost friends when they bring up that they were wasted and then drove home, because it's almost pointless even contesting it. Much like the antisocial features of doing it in the UK, imagine the exact opposite reaction when talking about it here. It's almost talked about in the same sentence as falling in the bath or being sick as if it's just another part of getting drunk and living here.

It actually worries me. Everytime I drive on a weekend at night, I am wary of drivers who might be over the limit. As I said in my previous blog there's a gulf between the two countries, but it's quite astonishing how far the gulf widens the longer you live here. I cannot wait to get home and not be asked why I am not coming to bar that's 20 miles downtown to stand and watch other people get hammered. Instead, I'll be able to pop into a bar on the home or just after work and not worry about getting there or getting home, and not have to worry about the other people there getting home.

If one of my friends here was to ask why I didn't go out for drinks in Houston as much as I'd like to, it's not because of any other reason that I cannot be bothered driving somewhere to not drink. That's not fun. I'd rather go home, watch a movie and have a few beers without the worry of travelling anywhere.

This is a technical reason so my co-chemical engineers (and other engineers) will understand this, probably - the US uses, almost inexplicably, the Old English units for everything. This doesn't just means Fahrenheit for the temperature (which is fucking stupid, more on that in a second) but also:
lbs instead of kgs (for mass)
feet instead of metres
psi instead of bar (for pressure)
BTU instead of kJ (for Enthalpy or Heat)

The reason they use them is historical. To make my mark on the job that I am working on in I have, with the other engineers, stopped giving them documents in both units, only using the CORRECT units, the SI units. I say correct because Mass, Heat and Pressure are not given anywhere else in the world in these units. Infact, I shocked a colleague by showing them a version the API (American Petroleum Institute) guidelines in SI units rather than the English units.

The reason why Temperature is so fucking stupid and is worse than the rest by a million miles is that Fahrenheit is a made up unit. It has no fucking place in engineering at all. The Celcius unit is linked to the Kelvin unit, which is the unit used in almost all applications in engineering. The fahrenheit? Useless. Honestly.

Rant over.

In summary, i have really enjoyed living here, in Texas, but I cannot wait to get home. Where that is, I am not sure - Aberdeen, or Canada, or London, or Paris... who knows the future, but I can't live in Texas. It's not Texas' fault either, it's me - I am not Texan.

Author's Note:
I have a few other thoughts about things that I dislike and I like for later posts, this is a catch-all post about some thoughts.