Tag Archives: travel

info about traveling, planning to travel, etc.

Halifax was great. Houston… not so much.

I have to get around to responding to my right-wing-libertarian brother’s ideas from Christmas, but that requires more time than I’ve had for blogging since New Year’s. Right now I’m just going to rant a bit about travel, because that requires very few brain cells.

Halifax is gorgeous. I must admit it. As anyone may imagine, I am not (so very not) happy about the idea of leaving my current job, which I love a ton, but I suppose if the stars somehow align and that makes any kind of sense, then Halifax would not be such a bad place to relocate to. Alex’s interview day seemed to go well (though how can you ever tell?), so it’s possible that I might have to consider this prospect.

Travel sucks sometimes. Like when you completely forget what day it is and somehow come to believe that it’s Saturday when in fact it’s Sunday and your stupid delayed flight and forced overnight stay will cut into your work week. It could be worse, I guess, but I didn’t get to teach my seminary class this morning (this is sad; I look forward to seminary about 80% of the time), and I’m missing some meetings. I’ll have to show up out of the blue and teach my stats class, which will confuse the students (and maybe the TA).  But, like I said, it could be much worse.

While traveling, the following excellent or semi-excellent things happened:

  • I had delicious gelatto (sp?)
  • I got to watch “It might get loud” on an Air Canada flight
  • I stayed in a swanky hotel
  • Alex and I wandered around Halifax downtown and waterfront
  • We saw a good live band and a good hockey game (Canucks won!) at a pub

Probably some other stuff, too. Negatives include getting delayed in New Jersey (ick), then missing my connection in Houston and having to stay the night. I ended up in the Ramada (“One Mile from the Airport!”), which really really feels like last week it was a skanky, seedy Motel 6 that rented rooms by the hour, and this week it’s being remodeled into something respectable, but they won’t be finished with the renovations for six more months. Oh well. The sheets were clean and my six hours of sleep were peaceful.

Time to go catch my flight home.

CLE is awesome for three reasons now

I like this airport for the following reasons:

1. The alcove of secret free WiFi. Which is barely functional at the moment, so maybe they figured out how to block it?

2. The paper airplanes in the tunnels :D

3. Banjoe’s Cafe. It’s not on everyone’s beaten path, but if you find it, it’s worth the walk. I’m currently enjoying their Thai chicken sandwich. Yum! And I think they gave me a whole by accident instead of a half. I should probably walk back over there and return it, but… I think not. They’d probably have to throw it away anyway. Or some such rationalization.

Cabeza de Vaca was Tougher than Nails

Ever since my Dean, an anthropologist, told me about Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, I have been fascinated by his experiences. In 1528 he was part of a group of 300 Spaniard colonists/explorers/conquistadores who landed near Tampa Bay, Florida. Eight years later Cabeza de Vaca and three other skeletal, leathery, naked men — now revered as shamans by several groups of aboriginal Americans — met up with a party of Spanish slavers in southern California and went with them to Mexico City. Continue reading

Travel Update: 5/27/09

I haven’t seen my wif in holy cow a really long time (about 2 months? I’ll have to check), and now it’s time for the summer of togetherness that we tend to have every summer around this time. It’s like a tradition, at this point.

I’m currently leeching WiFi from Presidents Club in the Secret Alcove of Free WiFi, in Concourse C. I’ll make a map of it sometime, because it would be greedy to keep it to myself. It’s way awesome for three reasons: (1) free WiFi in an airport that charges for regular wireless (2) there’s an outlet right here for plugging in (3) it’s sneaky because it doesn’t look like you’re anywhere near a Presidents Club (I think the signal is coming through their back wall or somesuch).

Travel: Better than average. I shall count the ways:

  1. I did not have to leave stupid early this time. 2 days after Memorial Day, apparently even the 10:40 a.m. flights are cheap.
  2. Both of my monstrously heavy bags (bag A: clothes and whatnot; bag B: camping equipment) came in at just a pound or so under $50, so I only had the one bag charge. I can’t  believe I’m excited about this. How quickly we get used to oppression…
  3. MFE-IAH flight –> Exit Row! At check-in, I used the kiosk to look at my seat assignments and was surprised to find previously-unavailable exit row seats! The ticket agent told me that they don’t let people have exit row seats until they’re physically present. I’ll be checking from now on.
  4. In Houston, I had a sandwich. Did I pay $8 for it? Yes. Was it one of the best turkey-on-wheat sandwiches ever? Also yes. Tender, non-processed turkey, swiss cheese melted over it, delicious sliced high-quality yummy bread… I want another one.
  5. Hidden Alcove of Secret Free Internet!
  6. For the flight from here to BUF: Exit Row!

I realize things can turn ugly at a moment’s notice with any kind of travel; your hopes and expectations are focused and singular, and they are the reason for all aspects of your situation, at all points in time during the trip; maybe that’s why they’re so fragile. However, if things get crappy, I’ll try to remember the good times (i.e., now).

Austin, Texas – March 7, 2009

This is what you see if you stand in the middle of south congress ave for a while. If you stand for longer, you'll see something a little different ;)I’ll get to the cool pictures of night life on South Congress Avenue in Austin down at the end of this post. But first, as is my wont, I shall set the stage. I’m a member of the local union (Pan American United Faculty, currently a subsidiary of Texas Faculty Association, which is in some way a child organization of the NEA). Me. In a union. My right-wing upbringing instilled in me a loathing for unions (for reasons I’m still not completely clear on); but now I consider my $40 per month a good investment, because I keep learning freaky insane things about faculty being harassed or fired for bizarre or nonexistent reasons.

Odd that the public seems to think tenure is such a sweet deal, like it guarantees us profs a job for life. Certainly not in Texas. It just guarantees that there has to be “due process” before they summarily fire your sorry butt. In other words, it gives you a level of job security (at most American institutions) similar to (or less than) contracted workers in the private sector. You still get reviewed regularly, and if your performance is too low, you’re out. And for those of us who are not tenured, well, my job terms (I don’t have an actual contract) say I can be fired at any time, for any reason (or no reason), and I have no legal recourse. Continue reading

Travel Update: 3/6/09

San Antonio Temple Black & White
Here I am in Austin. I agreed to come along (all expenses allegedly will be paid) for the Texas Faculty Association convention tomorrow. Um, I mean today. Gotta get to sleep. The reason I agreed, despite my busy schedule, is because San Antonio is on the way to Austin, and I hadn’t been to the temple in ages. So I flew from Harlingen through Houston into San Antonio, then went to the temple, then drove to Austin. Seriously, I probably could have driven to Austin in about the same amount of time. But if I’d done that, I wouldn’t have been able to read John Le Carré´s lovely little novel, Call for the Dead, the very first George Smiley book. It’s a sweet little read.

Anyway, everything more or less worked out, and I ended up being at the temple from about 6:30 until 10:00 pm. I was surprised how much I missed it. Then drove here to the hotel in Austin, arriving a little after Midnight, what with missed turns, Google Maps being just flat wrong a few times, etc.

And now here I am, once again, in an opulent hotel room all alone. I know there’s no easy fix for this separation-from-Alex thing, but it seems like there ought to be. :(

Tomorrow I will spend the day voting on things, apparently, in the Union’s headquarters building, right next to the state capitol. Have I mentioned that Austin is a pretty awesome town? It is.

Note: On the way up here, I saw a bumper sticker done up in the color scheme and pattern of the Texas Flag, that just said, “SECEDE”. It got me thinking that it would be pretty cool to collect secessionist paraphernalia. Texas, Alaska, Quebec, New Hampshire, Vermont (I think?), and I’m sure there’s a good deal of posters and whatnot from Eastern and Western Europe. That would be a lifelong hobby, for sure, but you’d have a really interesting collection after a while.

Texas Oral Exam for Psychology Licensure (Take One)

Moon over scrub forestWhat did I do today, you ask? I’ll tell you. I drove ten or twelve hours and took an exam that was kind of stressful. It really was. Now I feel tired and happy to be done, and fairly worried that I may have to do this again in six months.

Texas capitol with flagsI studied like mad yesterday (and like, um, frustrated? the day before), went to bed late, and got up this morning at 5. By 6, I was on the road with a full tank of gas and my tires properly inflated. With the glaring omission of healthy food, I packed everything I could possibly have needed. That glaring omission led to waaaaay too much snacking on junky stuff from convenience stores. Way too much. But look at it this way: Michael Phelps, you know how many calories he ate during the Olympics, right? Well, he only traveled, what, a few hundred meters? Me, I ate less than he did (somewhat), and I traveled hundreds of miles. Continue reading

Two Crazy Days at UANL

La Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León is a pretty neat place. I wish I had more pictures, but I didn’t have time, this trip. I feel like I had time for nothing but attending conference sessions and social events, and trying very hard to understand all the rapid-fire Spanish being spoken everywhere around me. I was also sort of the leader of this delegation, two of whom spoke very little Spanish and two more of whom were grad students. I worried about my five companions a lot. Where are they, did they get on the bus to the hotel, are they going to make it to the restaurant, why aren’t they in the session, did they find the meeting room, are they having fun, etc.

Lesson #1: I don’t want to be a politician. This kind of thing is exhausting, but not in a healthy, feel-the-burn way.

Continue reading

KHAAAAAAAAAAAAN! No, wait. This is my fault, actually.

Somehow I horribly mismanaged my schedule today. I hustled Alex out the door, and dropped her off at the airport two freaking hours early (instead of spending those hours together, um, at home). I zoomed to school, ran to the lecture & workshop I was late for, and… nobody was there. It took me the next half hour to figure out that somehow I had put this lecture & workshop in my planner for today, when actually it will be Friday (and that will cause other problems). By the time I realized this, it was too late to go back to the airport and spend time with Alex (except maybe another 20 minutes or so, for an hour of driving). I really want t0 cry. Or vomit.

At least we get to be together again in a week.

Home Again: Pros and Cons

So Good!

  • I <3 South Texas anyway, but now it’s GREEN (no, seriously green and even a bit lush)
  • Apartment not washed away in hurricane. Also not even moistened on the inside.
  • Office still there and not destroyed
  • Grackles!
  • Netflix waiting for me when I got home

No Good!

  • No Alex
  • No food (cleaned out fridge before leaving for summer)
  • No car (battery seems to have not liked 3 months with no use, in 100-degree-plus temperatures)
  • Messy house
  • Messy office
  • No phone or internet until end of week
  • Lots of standing water –> Lots of mosquitoes :(

Trying on Clothes in the Street

I don’t know why I was surprised to see people trying on clothes in the street, but I guess it makes sense, if you’re going to buy them there. Anyway, this may have been the same vendor from whom I bought Amanda’s Boston hat. Alex’s shirt came from a different street display. No picture of that.

In unrelated news, Alex crushed Amanda and me at Scrabble last night. She was ahead (but only by a few points, so we thought we had a chance) when suddenly she busts out “GRUMBLER,” placing letters on two triple-word-score squares! I mean, come on. We looked up the rules, and when that happens, you triple your score, and then triple the result. Ouch.

167 points for a single freaking word. But somewhere, underneath the poor-loserishness, I was still remembering that I find her braininess attractive.

Deep underneath.

APA Convention Scenes – Boston 2008

Protesters at the convention. Here’s why.

A nice hallway scene at the convention center.


A view of the exhibit floor. It was really pretty huge. Surprisingly, we only used 1/2 to 1/3 of the floor space at the convention center for exhibits. We did, however, use all the meeting rooms (around the edges, on 2 floors) almost all the time. This convention is too #$@% big.

Bahstun… The Eind

Nothing makes you feel more terrified and motivated and guilty (maybe those are the same thing) than an academic conference.  On another note, I don’t know if I’ve successfully carried out my mission or not (you know, the “go find someone to hire” mission). I have some leads, but precious few names of interested individuals.

Did you know that Boston is overrun by Dunkin Donuts? There seems to be one on every corner. I’m proud to note that I have only given in to the temptation once (but the week ain’t over yet).  Also, there are lots of CVS drugstores. LOTS. Dunno why.

Boston is gorgeous today, and the conference is dying with a typical whimper. Even the torture protesters didn’t bother coming to the convention center, today. The cabbie who brought me here was disappointed. man, I don’t fly out until 6 pm. Why did I schedule such a late flight? Oh yeah, because I was going to be overwhelmed with requests for employment, and I’d need time to take them all out for lunch (imagine obscene gesture, right here).

Anyway, it wasn’t such a bad 4 days. I still regret losing them. I didn’t do any work (new things to see! Pulpy things to read!), but I did try to choose my sessions to be motivating as well as good for the mission. The last session (last hour) was a little painful: it included some very good advice for obtaining funding, but it was run by someone who turned me down for a position a couple of years ago. :( I hate that. When I get rejected, I really would prefer never to see the person who rejected me, ever again.  Unfortunately, this person who rejected me is one of the most prolifically-funded people in the field, and she has some amazing knowledge and experience. If she were more warm and fuzzy, perhaps it would be easier to feel good about having to talk to her again. Oh well.

Off to kill time in Boston. Luckily, good weather (as previously mentioned). Tonight: sleep in my own (or Alex’s, really) bed. Less sleep, but more happy.

Boston APA Convention

So, here I am, listening to a presentation about adolescent depression. The sophisticated, successful, middle-aged researcher introducing our speaker is endearing to me, because as she walked up to the podium to prepare the PowerPoint, she jauntily tossed a coin in the air and caught it. :)

The American Psychological Association conference is quite an experience. It’s held in the convention center, which is freaking massive. In fact, it’s not big enough. Several sessions are offloaded to the conference hotels, of which there are four, which are all huge (600 – 900 rooms each). They’re all full, and several of us are staying farther away, in other hotels. I now understand why so many people I know have said they no longer even bother coming here, because “it’s just too big.”
Outside the convention center is a small group of picket-carrying protesters, distributing literature urging APA members to oppose the Association’s involvement (the extent of which I still don’t fully understand) in the “extraordinary rendition,” “creative interrogation” and torture of terrorist suspects by the U.S. My tag says “non-member” but I took some flyers anyway.

Maybe it’s just some weird perceptual bias on my part, but Boston seems to have more than its share of heavily-muscled men. Busboys, waiters, taxi drivers, concierges, store clerks, cafeteria workers, valets, etc. A disproportionate number of them have heavy pecs and huge, thickly-veined arms. Even the fat ones. As if the townies are all still midshipmen. Also, in walking through neighborhoods yesterday, I saw many Catholic shrines (is that the right word?). Front, side and back yards frequently sport statues, nestled in carefully-arranged backdrops, as if the owners were recreating cathedral niches with whatever materials are available. I’ve seen St. Francis, Peter (I think), Jesus (adult and baby), and many Marys. My favorite , in fact, is a Virgin Mary housed in an upended, half-buried bathtub. I’ll post pictures when I get back. It’s even more awesome than it sounds.

The air here smells good. It smells like the ocean (which never seems more than 100m away), or flowers, or dryer lint and detergent. The traffic is ridiculous. I walked to the aquarium after the conference yesterday, and it took me 20 minutes or so. The cars on the main road beside me didn’t move more than a single block in that time, I’m sure. The weather is lovely, so far.

I’m here on a new kind of mission: recruiting. I’m supposed to gather a list of interested parties for a faculty position we’ll have opening next Fall (2009). It’s strange, because we want someone with 10-20 more years’ experience than I have, and we’re willing to pay them twice my salary. I’m oddly unconcerned. Because of this mission, I’m suddenly social, in contrast to my regular insular, socially avoidant way of attending conferences (I’m not kidding). When I run into old acquaintances, I experience the Professional Networking Agreeableness Effect (PNAE; I just made it up). A couple of years ago, I ran into a former fellow grad student whose last conversation with me had been a shouting match. We had a pleasant chat and asked about each other’s families. This morning, I ran into a professor who insulted my professionalism and generally grilled me pretty hard during my dissertation defense, three years ago. He gave me nice tips for recruiting. Is the PNAE a good thing? I could see it both ways.

I have a disappointingly low list of “bites” for the job position. I’m working my Ohio State network, but by the time I left that place, nobody knew me except my committee, and they didn’t want to.

We shall see what I can come up with. I still haven’t tried scrod, which I was ordered to eat while I was here. Perhaps tonight. I’m wearing a suit and have a $68/day per diem for meals, so we’ll see.

Also, I miss Alex :( She should be here having fun in Boston.