John Hawkins



Dr John Hawkins

Welcome to my bit of the Maison de Stuff, home to a huge load of pictures, and my daily blog.

My email address is as above - I've put it in an image in a vein attempt to reduce the amount of spam I get.

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Recent Entries:
Recycling Food
First Glimpse at Cheese
A Good Grilling
Bill and George
Optimal Sunday
Rob and Byrnie's Joint 59th Birthday
Nerdy
Long Day
Belgo Centraal
An achievement I can't actually tell you about!
Mutter Paneer
Jelly Beans and the Gardens Again
Markets and Gardens
Entertaining Visitors
Yuck Yuck
Another Long Day
Back to London
Back Down South
Rationalising
Heading North
Removing a Shrubbery
Back in the UK and Straight off to Wales
Upper Class
Healthy food and lots of it
Two Dinners
Another Day Out in the Car
North of the Golden Gate Bridge
Friday


Recycling Food
[Thursday 26th April]
Chie recycled the leftover from Tuesday's bolognese sauce this evening, adding some beans and some spices, et voila, it was a Mexican chili. Had this with yoghurt (which it turns out tastes the same as using sour cream), cheese etc in flour tortillas. Jolly nice.
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First Glimpse at Cheese
[Wednesday 25th April]
Chie was out for the evening, giving me another opportunity for another good few hours work on Cheese. It's really coming on now - and although it still doesn't do a huge amount (basically just two or three features) it's already at a stage where it is bordering on being useful.

So it's probably time for the first sneak preview (albeit just a screenshot). Have also written a short article about it over on stuffware.co.uk.

Other than that didn't really do much - knocked up a quick curry for dinner which was actually very nice (Quorn with madras curry paste, yoghurt and green beans).
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A Good Grilling
[Tuesday 24th April]
Chie made dinner, pasta with a bolognese sauce (vegetarian equivalent of course). We put lots of cheese on top and gave it a good grilling (yes sorry the title really isn't any more relevant than that) and it turned out very nice.

Other than that nothing to report!
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Bill and George
[Monday 23rd April]
So today was not only St. George's Day, but also apparently Shakespeare's birthday is some time around now. Now this would usually be hugely irrelevant, but Chie had heard about an event on at the Globe which she quite wanted to go along to, so this evening we headed down along the river in honour of the bard.

En route we'd wanted to go for a quick drink at the George Inn near Borough Market, but given that it was St. George's Day it was understandably somewhat overcrowded, so instead we went to some other pub just around the corner.

At the Globe they were projecting old black and white silent films on to the outside walls of the theatre (conveniently an off white colour), accompanied by a string quartet and a piano player. Very civilised! Some of the films were as old as 1899, and I particularly enjoyed an Italian version of King Lear, which had been partly hand painted (the costumes were all bright purples and oranges).

Nice as it was I don't have a great deal of patience for this sort of thing, so eventually the novelty wore off and we decided to leave... but for a while at least it was really interesting.

After that we crossed the Millenium Bridge, and the Thames by night was quite enchanting (for want of a better word). St. Paul's and my Grandfather's one time place of work (the Tate Modern) were lit up either side of the river, it was a warm spring night and we could still hear the piano at the Globe in the distance. Really nice.

We fancied another quick drink, so went along the river about to the Blackfriars, and there rather guiltily ended up having a second dinner. They did these giant Yorkshire puddings filled with sausages and vegetables, which was very nice indeed. Particularly with some mustard. Appropriately English food for St. George's Day I feel.

Given that I then felt very bad about that excessive over eating, I decided we should walk back home. It was another nice stroll along the Thames and didn't really take that long.

A very nice night out.
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Optimal Sunday
[Sunday 22nd April]
Sundays to me are a delicate balance between trying to have a nice rest, but also not feeling like you've just wasted the day off work by doing absolutely nothing at all. Today I think we got the balance just about right.

We had a very nice brunch towards the end of the morning - Spanish omelet with a sort of Catalan style tomato sauce (basically just chopped fresh tomatoes and olive oil), which was quite delicious.

Following that we thought we should head out and see something of the London Marathon, as in all the time we'd lived in or near London neither of us had ever watched it "live". Whilst to begin with it was an interesting novelty, once we'd seen enough it did then become something of a frustration when we actually wanted to get anywhere. Even on foot it was hard work to get around the city, partly because of all the crowds, and partly because if you needed to cross the actual marathon route you had to wait for ages at one of a few designated crossing points. Central London really needs more footbridges and underpasses.

Anyway, eventually we did manage to get away from the crowds, and headed over to Soho as we both wanted to buy some Japanese ingredients. We bought a fair old basket full at the Rice Wine shop (which doesn't just sell rice wine) and then got the tube back home - which was relatively uncrowded pleasingly.

The festival of Japanese food that ensued then occupied a large part of the evening. We made temaki sushi (the kind where you put out all the components and then roll it up yourself as you eat - a bit like fajitas) with all sorts of my favourite side dishes - fresh tofu with ginger and soy sauce, edamame, pickled plums, kimchi and so on. Oh and we even had a couple of cans of Sapporo to accompany it. Marvellous.
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Rob and Byrnie's Joint 59th Birthday
[Saturday 21st April]
My how we've aged - and when two friends of yours often celebrate their birthdays together it appears to go twice as fast. Twas but a few years ago that Rob and Byrnie celebrated their joint 45th birthday, and now already they are jointly 59. On the plus side this does mean they're going to skip being (an aggregate) 60 I suppose. In fact a simple facet of maths will mean they'll never celebrate any exact decades in this fashion.

Perhaps harking back to the 2002 event (when they were collectively 49), the venue was a Wetherspoon's pub in Reading.

Prior to going to the birthday do I'd spent a very nice morning at home indulging in various nerdy pursuits. I wrote a bit more of cheese (see yesterday's post), and also messed about with my new (well, not that new any more) phone a bit. I'm relatively new to Bluetooth and similar technologies, and have to say I was really impressed with how easy it was to copy music onto it. My phone then continued to entertain me on the way to Reading, as I listened to said music whilst browsing the web. Brilliant.

I arrived at the pub around 3:30 by which time there were already quite a few people there, and as it was a nice day they were all sitting out the back, which was very pleasant (although the pigeons were a bit on the aggressive side).

I stayed until about 9ish, shortly after Chie turned up, at which point we decided we really ought to get something to eat, so went for some Italian food with Mark and Christelle (not really sure how to spell that!).

On the way back to London the trains to Paddington had all been cancelled so we had to get a replacement bus instead - a bit of a pain but at least we did eventually get home.
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Nerdy
[Friday 20th April]
Chie had gone off to see a friend all the way over in Swindon this evening, so I had a quiet night in by myself which was nice as I could have a few hours of unbounded nerdiness without fear of annoying my wife.

I have recently been working on a cross platform replacement for Photo Studio - a program which I've codenamed cheese. It's not really in a state where there's anything to show yet but for anyone who might be interested in using something Photo Studio esque on the Mac (or Windows or even Linux), then watch this space.... but don't hold your breath either, I think it could be a fair while in the making still.
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Long Day
[Thursday 19th April]
As we've got a bit of a deadline approaching, today I found myself really busting a gut again - I was in before 8 in the morning, and left well after 8 in the evening. By the end of that I was really knackered - I got home, had a bit of dinner, and then basically collapsed in a heap.
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Belgo Centraal
[Wednesday 18th April]
Had a work night out today - compared to my previous job this is actually a bit of a rarity. We've got a guy visiting from the US this week, who apparently has a bit of a liking for moules frites and a few Belgian beers, and so this popular place near Covent Garden seemed to be just the thing.

I hadn't actually been before, but was pleased to find they did actually have something vegetarian on the menu, and whilst the food itself wasn't the most exciting I've ever eaten, the beer and general atmosphere did a lot to compensate!
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An achievement I can't actually tell you about!
[Tuesday 17th April]
It's a bit of a shame sometimes working under a very strict NDA - today I achieved a major breakthrough at work, which I would love to write about here, but unfortunately I can't. So you'll just have to take my word for it that I did a good thing and everyone was pleased about it.

The last couple of weeks have represented a bit of a turning point with the new job - as may have been apparent to anyone reading my blog over the past few months I was initially somewhat disappointed with my latest career move. I realise now part of that was actually a kind of feeling of insecurity. Starting a new job means you have to prove yourself to a whole new set of people, more or less from scratch. In my previous job I'd gone in with a certain amount of past experience which was not so common, and pleasingly directly relevant to the new role. So from relatively early on I had that something tangible to offer.

Having been hired on a CV which was all about a fairly niche area of technology, I had assumed that in this job I'd also be doing similar sort of work, but it turned out a few weeks in I'd actually be working on something significantly different, with tools that were mostly unfamiliar to me. So I didn't have any of that security blanket of "I know something you don't know". The absence of that actually made me feel pretty uncomfortable.

Looking back now though I've learnt a lot in a very short space of time, and in addition have found some areas where I feel I have got something unique to offer.

One particular surprise has been that the work I'm doing now is actually a bit closer to what I was doing in my PhD than in any of my previous jobs, and it feels really good to know there are real world applications to at least part of the stuff I was rattling on about for all those years.

So anyway, in summary today I got my first metaphorical round of applause from my peers at work, and it felt really good indeed - I think now I can actually do this job, and probably as a result of that I'm actually starting to quite enjoy it as well.
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Mutter Paneer
[Monday 16th April]
I fancied curry for dinner tonight, so on the way back from work met Chie at the supermarket and bought a few bits and pieces.

The particular highlight was a very good matter paneer - basically curried peas and cheese. Doesn't sound all that exciting but I thought it ranked high up amongst some of the greatest Indian food I've ever cooked. It actually tasted like something you'd get in an Indian restaurant (and not a crappy one either).
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Jelly Beans and the Gardens Again
[Sunday 15th April]
Not a very eventful day - spent the morning and early afternoon indoors (and I spent some of this time working on my new software project), and just went out towards the end of the afternoon for a repeat performance of yesterday's gin and tonic out on the lawn. Very pleasant again.

The only other activity of note was spending a while sorting the bag of Jelly Belly jelly beans we'd bought in the states into different flavours. Yea, I know, sounds kind of sad really, but it was quite fun at the time.

Oh and for dinner, given that we'd left it too late to get anything from the supermarket, we were lazy and ordered in takeaway. Following our recent very disappointing experience with a nearby Chinese takeaway, I was really keen to try a different place, as my craving for bean curd, straw mushrooms etc hadn't been in anyway satisfied by the previous rather pitiful effort. So this time we instead tried a place called "Peking Chef" which was massively better - the hot and sour soup was really flavoursome, and the bean curd in black bean sauce was also very satisfying.
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Markets and Gardens
[Saturday 14th April]
Left the flat mid morning and went out for a bit of a wander. The main aim was to go and visit the Pimlico Road market - a sort of farmer's market which was quite interesting. From there we continued our wander and came upon another market on King's Road, wherein I sampled a very satisfactory (and quite reasonably priced) pie from a company who I believe were called Pieminster. I also bought some blewitts from a stand there specialising in interesting mushrooms.

After returning back home we decided to take advantage of the pleasant weather and sit outside in the communal gardens for a bit. Had a very nice time on the lawns with a couple of gin and tonics.

For dinner I knocked together a sort of hotpot, with the blewitts just lightly sauteed on the side. Not sure I was exactly blown away by the mushrooms, but it was at least a bit different.
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Entertaining Visitors
[Friday 13th April]
Another guy from the US office is visiting us for a couple of weeks, and so again I took it upon myself to form something of an entertainment committee. Apparently he is quite fond of whisky, so I of course delighted at the opportunity to take him to my club. As it turned out though my club was closed for a spot of refurbishment, so we rescheduled that for next week, and instead went for dinner and a couple of pubs.

The first pub of the evening was very close to where I work, and I was surprised to see a lot of other people from the office there. My team aren't really the going out type, so thus far I haven't really been out with any people from work much.

After that we headed over towards Holborn / Chancery Lane. We had dinner at Matsuri there (partly because it's the only restaurant I know in the area), and then rounded off the evening at Ye Old Mitre.
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Yuck Yuck
[Thursday 12th April]
In the evening I felt like getting Chinese takeaway. There's a place roughly between where I work and where we live called "Yum Yum". I probably ought to have known better from the name - it was some of the blandest and most disappointing Chinese food I've ever eaten. Each of the main dishes were priced at just over five quid, and both of them were basically just very boring and ordinary English vegetables (tasteless white mushrooms, green beans, lots of onion etc). I was quite tempted to go and ask for my money back. Very disappointing!
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Another Long Day
[Wednesday 11th April]
Another long day at the office today - despite it only being a four day week, I seem to have been assigned about seven days worth of work to do.

Anyway, not much to report other than that. Chie made Japanese croquettes for dinner (mash potato and Quorn mince) which were very nice.
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Back to London
[Tuesday 10th April]
I was due back at work today, so we got up early, said our goodbyes to Vera and Robin, and headed off in the car back to London.

Upon arrival in London we had the slightly arduous task of unloading the car. Actually this didn't turn out as bad as I'd expected. The building we live in has a car park in the basement, and we were able to borrow a trolley and take the boxes up in the lift.

I then rushed straight off to the office, leaving Chie to take the car back to the car hire place.

I worked until quite late to make up for my late arrival in the morning, so by the time I finally got home I was pretty knackered.
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Back Down South
[Monday 9th April]
We got up fairly early this morning (considering it was a bank holiday) packed the last few things we could squeeze into the car, and then headed off back down to South Wales.

I opted to take the driving seat for the return journey, but found it surprisingly difficult - it seems just a couple of weeks of driving an automatic on the big wide roads of California is enough to make me quite unprepared for going back to a manual and the windy little country lanes of Wales.

We did finally meet the holiday traffic today as well, having been quite lucky in avoiding it at the start of the Easter weekend. So it seemed to take forever to get back down to Abergavenny - the afternoon was almost over by the time we arrived, to be greeted by a much appreciated cup of tea.

We went out in the evening, to a pub/restaurant in Abergavenny that has just recently opened . Vera announced on the way in that she rather fancied a Cinzano. After taking our table we ordered drinks, and something of a debate ensued given that the waitress seemingly thought a Cinzano was a Martini with lemonade. It was oddly quite spellbinding to sit and listen to Robin explaining in painstaking detail what exactly Cinzano was.

The food was actually OK though, although slightly disappointingly they had ran out of my first choice which I'd plumped for on the basis of having Y Fenni cheese in it. You know, when in Rome.
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Rationalising
[Sunday 8th April]
Much of the day was spent sorting through and re-packing the stuff that we'd had stored for the last two years in Dad's attic. This came with the all usual "oh do you remember this?" and "why on earth did we keep that?" experiences. I think we did a pretty good job - we managed to weed out a lot of things we just didn't need any more. It's probably quite a good idea to store your things for a couple of years like this before doing a big sort through to decide what you really need. Lots of things seem really important when they're still current and relevant, but having managed without them for two years you can look at them in a somewhat different light.

Given how busy that kept us, we only really left the house for a short while in the early evening, for a bit of a walk down at the little bay nearest to where Dad lives. A good opportunity to get a last few lungfuls of sea air before our return to civilisation tomorrow.
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Heading North
[Saturday 7th April]
So today we headed up on the now familiar route from South East Wales to North West Wales. It was a lovely day, the traffic wasn't really all that bad, and all in all the journey was very pleasant.

We stopped off en route at Machynlleth for the proverbial bag of chips, which was pretty disappointing. It seems like a long time now since I've had any decent chips anywhere - maybe this is just my arteries' way of telling me to stop eating this kind of food!

We arrived at Dads mid-afternoon and almost immediately made a start on the task of sorting through the things we had stored in the attic.

It wasn't all sorting through boxes though - we did manage to get out for a walk, heading over to one of the National Trust beaches (Porthdinllaen?).

Dinner was up to the usual high standard - a mediteranean meal with some excellent falafel.
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Removing a Shrubbery
[Friday 6th April]
Owing to Dad feeling a bit under the weather (sinus trouble) we decided to modify our plans slightly, and hang on another day in South Wales before heading up North.

Didn't really do a great deal, but it was very nice nonetheless. Drank quite a lot of tea throughout the course of the day, which I'd been craving whilst in California (it seems the water there isn't quite right or something). Also, somewhat uncharacteristically, Chie and I did a spot of gardening. By the front door to Vera and Robin's house there was a big shrubbery thing which they'd both got fed up with, so today we were enlisted to help remove it. I found it surprisingly enjoyable - I suppose this is a product of working with computers and doing so much "virtual" work. Sometimes it is really nice to do a job which is completely tangible, and where you can see the results straight away.
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Back in the UK and Straight off to Wales
[Thursday 5th April]
So the flight landed around 10:30AM this morning, I was able to get out of the airport pretty quickly, and was at home by midday. Although I'd had a better-than-average flight I was still really knackered and so an afternoon nap was very much in order.

That said, I couldn't spend the whole day dozing - we had plans to head out of London in the evening. Our plan for the Easter weekend was to hire a car and drive up to my Dads' in North Wales to pick up the boxes we'd left there before we went off to Japan, two years ago now. Given that it was a bit of long drive, we were going to split it up, and stay a night either end at Vera and Robin's down in South Wales.

As I was still pretty drowsy, Chie did all the driving today. Surprisingly there wasn't really much in the way of traffic, and we were in Abergavenny by around 8. We then had a very nice evening in the company of Vera and Robin, although I was really struggling to stay awake.
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Upper Class
[Wednesday 4th April]
So today I was flying from San Francisco back to London. The flight wasn't until around 4 in the afternoon so I went into the office in the morning, tied up a few loose ends, attended a couple of meetings, and even managed to fit in lunch before heading off to the airport.

Having suffered economy class on the way to the US this time, for the return flight I was really determined to get myself upgraded. Furthermore I didn't want to just settle for Premium Economy, I wanted to get all the way into Upper Class. Apparently I had enough air miles for a one way mileage upgrade from economy to upper, although as a slight frustration I would need to pay out a bit of cash to change the "booking class" of my ticket to one which was eligible for a mileage upgrade.

I got to the airport in good time which was just as well as it took me over an hour at check-in to sort my ticket out and get upgraded, but once that chore was out the way I hurried along, clutching my fine looking Upper Class boarding pass, to the Virgin upper class lounge (or clubhouse or whatever they called it). This was very sophisticated - the only other business class lounges I've been to are Northwest, and it seems Virgin are much, much nicer.

After a couple of complimentary beers and a chat with Chie via Skype in the lounge, I headed to the plane itself. When I got on board I certainly wasn't disappointed - the upper class seat on Virgin Atlantic is the roomiest of any airline (see here for details). I don't think I've ever previously felt comfortable and actually relaxed on a plane before, and whilst I would still prefer not to have to fly at all given the choice, the usual feelings of being tense, stressed and claustrophobic were all pretty much gone. In relative terms it was actually quite fantastic.

Of course I had to take advantage of all the other perks of Upper class - the bar, the free flowing drinks, the superior food and I even opted to have a massage (well, when in Rome).

I did actually convert my seat into the fully flat bed configuration but as always wasn't able to actually sleep - even with earplugs in it seems the plane is still too noisy for me, and I can still never feel 100% relaxed whilst airborn. Still, I think I am just resigned to the fact that I am basically incapable of sleeping on planes, and so if I do have to endure the whole thing whilst awake, it makes it so much better be in the notably more luxurious surrounds of Upper Class.

Unfortunately, having basically wiped out all my air miles for this upgrade, it's probably going to have to be back to economy for a while now (unless my company finally gets that long awaited new travel policy rolled out).
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Healthy food and lots of it
[Tuesday 3rd April]
Chie flew back to the UK today, and it was also my last full day in the US. Not very eventful really, I dropped Chie off at the station on the way to the office in the morning, and had a fairly quiet day at work.

In the evening I went out for dinner with the one of my colleagues from the London office who was still there - the others had already gone back to the UK. We went to this place (it seems absolutely every restaurant in Silicon Valley seems to have a website). Their slogan was "Healthy food, and lots of it", which seemed a little bit of a contradiction in terms to me. It was actually quite nice though, and very reasonably priced.

Went back to the hotel very early, and had an early night, aware that tomorrow would be the usual sleepless marathon I incur every time I have to get on a long haul flight.
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Two Dinners
[Monday 2nd April]
Today was Chie's last full day in California - she was leaving a day earlier to get back to London for an interview. Chie was keen for another chance to eat at the office before she went back, so once I'd finished work this evening we went to two of the company's cafes and had pretty much a full meal at each one. Very had to avoid over eating when in America, especially when the food is all free!

Between our two dinners, we took a walk through the fields beside where the office is, and were treated to a really nice sunset (pictures to follow!).

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Another Day Out in the Car
[Sunday 1st April]
One of the more enjoyable parts of yesterday's day trip had been driving along Highway 1, the road which follows a large part of the Californian coastline. It's one of those windy and precarious cliff top roads that James Bond always ends up driving on just after the villain has cut his brake cables. So today, having given up on an original plan to go and visit some hot springs, we decided to go and explore another section of Highway 1 - this time the section South of San Francisco.
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North of the Golden Gate Bridge
[Saturday 31st March]
Today we decided to head to the area of coast North of San Francisco - Point Reyes. As an added bonus this gave me the opportunity to fulfill a recently acquired ambition of driving over the Golden Gate bridge. Which was nice.

The scenery around Point Reyes itself was actually quite reminiscent of the UK - and in typical British style as we neared the sea the previously warm and sunny weather retreated and gave in to a colder and somewhat broodier outlook. Still, undeterred, we went for a stroll along several of the beaches, and finished off by driving over to see the famous (?) lighthouse, which was quite dramatic.

On the way back we stopped off in a little seaside town called Sausalita, just North of the bridge, for a spot of dinner. While the vegetarian option was a little unimaginative, Chie apparently really enjoyed her seafood stew type thing.

A very nice day out.
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Friday
[Friday 30th March]
Following yesterday's working marathon I was somewhat tired today, and couldn't get into the office until 9. The big demo thing was at 3:30, and I worked solidly right through until then, no lunch or anything. It was a little bit of an anti-climax in the end, there wasn't much of a reaction to the fruits of all my hard work. That's one of the problems of making graphs of things - people have no idea how much work goes into doing it. Oh well.

In the evening me and Chie went out for dinner to this Indian place with my friend Ruth - who I had met at the US office on my previous trip.
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