Tuesday, February 27, 2007

So Far, So Good

Well, I've made it to Albuquerque, checked in, and none of my flights appear to be cancelled. I'm currently in the terminal, waiting to board. There is free wireless, and a convenient table to work at. The chair is remarkably comfortable. All in all, quite civilized. It's almost time to board. I'm looking forward to napping on the plane.

Trying Again to Leave Santa Fe

Tomorrow morning I will try again to leave Santa Fe and return to Maine. Hopefully I'll get farther than last time. Looks like the weather tomorrow should be ok.

Today has been a fairly satisfying day of work. I got a lot done: mostly email and a handful of phone calls. I'll be behind when I return to Maine, but not by much. Or at least not more behind than usual. No matter what I do I seem to be perpetually behind in various work, teaching, and research tasks.

The weather today in Santa Fe was beautiful. The high was almost 55 degrees---positively tropical by Maine standards. It was sunny and almost cloudless. I went for a short walk around 5:30 and watched the sun set. The round orange ball disappeared over the mountains. Once the sun was halfway hidden, I looked directly at it. I was wearing sunglasses, so it didn't hurt. Right before the sun was completely gone it looked like it was falling really fast.

Except, of course, the sun isn't falling at all. Rather, the earth is spinning away from the sun. This isn't exactly news, I suppose. But watching the sun today I got a sense of the rotating earth in a way that I don't often experience. It was suddenly easy to picture the earth as a big spinning rock floating in space.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Going Nowhere Fast

After dropping off my car at the rental place at the airport this morning, I boarded the shuttle bus that takes one to the terminal. The bus was pretty much full when I got on. I looked around and pretty soon realized that I was sharing the bus with the Brigham Young University women's track team. Two coaches and a few of the students were discussing the new Rocky movie. The correlation between having a big head and having a strong neck was also a topic of discussion.

The bus arrived at the terminal and I left the BYU track folks behind. To my dismay, I quickly found out that my flight from Albuquerque to Dallas was cancelled. So were almost all other flights into or out of Dallas, or into or out of Chicago. Weather had pretty much shut down both airports for a while. This led to a chain effect where a vast many travelers had to rebook tickets. The net result is that I am still in New Mexico, and the earliest flight I could get home is Tuesday. So I'll miss two additional days at COA, which I hadn't planned on at all.

But I'm trying to view this as a gift. After all, there's nothing I can do about it, so I might as well put my mind to enjoying a few additional days in Santa Fe. (And I might not even get that far behind, as there are less little distractions here than there are back home, so I can probably get a ton of work done.) Right now I'm sitting at the Santa Fe Institute, listening to a Blank and Jones mix, and watching an absolutely amazing sunset. Life could be worse.

After dealing with my cancelled flights and getting rebooked for Tuesday, I re-rented a car and spent a while poking around Albuquerque. A used bookstore that I like was having a 40% off sale, so I bought a few books. And I also got a few CDs at a store near the bookstore. For lunch, I had some bad Chinese food, which was nevertheless oddly satisfying. There was a little Chinese kid, presumably the son of the person working at the register, who spent a long time staring at me. Kinda felt like I was back in China. Although if I was in China the food would have been much better.

Albuquerque is a weird place. It was sunny today, and there was a slight haze. This gave the city a peculiar glint -- like slightly over exposed film. Driving around, I must have seen at least one of every fast food chain. I noted that Arby's was advertising free high speed internet. Interesting. I wouldn't have thought that fast-food roast beef and the internet are a natural pair. It's somewhat sad to realize that an Albuquerque Arby's has better internet connectivity than I do at my house back in Maine.

Albuquerque seems to have an unusually large number of tattoo parlors. I wonder what US city has the highest tattoo shop per capita. I bet Albuquerque is at least in the top ten.

The sun has been behind the mountains for quite some time now, and there is an intense strip of orange on the horizon. There are purple clouds and the sky is dark blue.

Time for me to do a little more work and then head out in search of food.

Santa Fe Visit

I've spent the last three days visiting the Santa Fe Institute. My main task while here has been to select the students for the 2007 Complex Systems Summer School. As of this afternoon, we've made our selections. We will be sending notification to students probably by the end of the week. The decisions were difficult, as there were many more qualified applicants than we could take. I'm amazed at the number and really interesting and compelling applications that we got.

Although short, the trip to Santa Fe has been good. It was nice to get out of Maine for a few days, and it was great to spend time with a few friends--some new, some old. I've been visiting the Santa Fe Institute for over eleven years. Not counting NYC where I lived until I graduated high school, this is the longest association I've had with a place. I spent four years in Minnesota in college, two years teaching high school in Chattanooga, five years in California for graduate school, and now almost nine years in Maine. I've never spent much more than a month at a time in Santa Fe. Nevertheless, in many ways Santa Fe has a familiar, home-like feel to it.

Tomorrow I journey home to Maine. Although I'm a little sad to be leaving Santa Fe so soon, it will be nice to be back. There is a snowstorm that looks like it will be hitting New York tomorrow evening. Conveniently, I fly through New York tomorrow evening. I really hope that I don't get stranded.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Airport Blogging

Currently in Chicago's O'hare airport, on my way to Santa Fe, New Mexico. My flight boards in a little less than an hour. I've been here for a while. I had a deeply mediocre burrito a little while ago. But given that there are no burritos to be had in Bar Harbor this time of year, it wasn't terrible. The American Airlines concourse in Boston had very little vegetarian fare to choose from. I was starving, since I hadn't eaten breakfast. So I ended up eating one of those greasy and almost tasteless Pizza Hut mini pizzas.

Soon I will set out in search of caffeine and water and will stretch my legs before my next flight.

I will post an update from Santa Fe in a day or so.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Snow Day

Today there was a messy snowstorm and school was cancelled. Initially the plan was to open and then close early. So Doreen and I were preparing to head in. But it appeared to be snowing harder and harder. Minutes before we were going to leave I called in once more, and heard a new recorded message: campus was indeed closed for the day.

The storm started off as snow. We got around six inches, and then it changed to sleet and ice pellets. Doreen and I went for a walk, but we didn't stay out long, because it was very windy, and having wind-driven ice pellets bounce off your face doesn't feel that good. After a little while we retreated inside and had hot chocolate. A little while ago it sounded like the precipitation turned over into rain. It's very slushy out right now. Later tonight it's supposed to turn back into snow, and then get pretty cold. I suspect that digging my car out and de-icing tomorrow morning will be an adventure.

I spent the day relaxing some and also catching up on work. I finally completed a long-overdue NSF proposal review. I don't know why it had taken me so long to complete. I read it months ago and figured out what I wanted to say. But it was a task that didn't have an absolute deadline. So it was always easy to put it off for another few days.

I also took some pictures. Below is a picture of a bird at one of our feeders. I think it's a goldfinch. This feeder is right next to our kitchen window, so I can watch it while doing dishes.

Here is a picture of Monster, the larger of our two cats. After going bonkers for around ten minutes in the mid-morning and sprinting around the house, she spent most of the morning downstairs, alternating between sitting on the couch, as shown in this picture, and lounging right in front of the fire. Occasionally she'd get up to eat, and once she jumped into the sink in the bathroom to drink some water while I was washing my hands.

And below is a picture of Weasel, the smaller and more elusive of our two cats. Like Monster, she spent most of the day near the woodstove. She did spend some time prancing around meowing at us.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Lost Trash Can

Last week our garbage can blew away. We put it out by the road in the morning on Thursday and that evening all we could find was the lid. The can itself was gone. I assume that it got captured by the wind. Our garbage can is hard plastic, and there's lots of ice around, so it would glide quite nicely. Our trash can has gone on wind-born journeys before, but I've always been able to find it. Yesterday I wandered around looking for it. Alas, it could not be found. So we declared it lost. I thought that maybe we should just wait and see if any garbage cans from our down-wind neighbors appeared in our yard. But this didn't seem practical. So I went ahead and got a new garbage can. The new can is large and green and plastic. Annoyingly, the only lids that the store had were beige. Seems like the lid ought to match the can. Oh well.

Not much else in the way of news. The term is progressing well. It's been cold, but not horribly so. The ice has been good, and there have been some fun hockey games at the "rink" downtown. Week seven (of ten) starts tomorrow. As usual, I feel behind, but I did a good amount of work this weekend so I feel slightly less behind than usual.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


I was surprised today to learn that a colleague and I have widely divergent views on Three Musketeers bars. I find them annoyingly fluffy. She likes the fluff. We've worked together for nine years and never realized this about each other.

Speaking of fluff, it snowed about half an inch of fluffy, glittery snow today. The world looks very nice. Tomorrow it is supposed to snow up to three inches of potentially slushy, and hence not fluffy, snow.

And finally, my brain kinda feels like fluff today. I've been tired and not gotten as much done as I had hoped. Perhaps this is becuase we covered character I/O in class today, which I find a quite uninspiring topic. Perhaps also I need to sleep a little more.