The Unacknowledged Costs of Academic Travel

The Unacknowledged Costs of Academic Travel

I travel a lot. I travel for conferences, for planning meetings, for NASA collaboration meetings, for filming, for launches… for a ton of things that are related to my work. I can’t really complain about the travel; I get to see the world while being exposed to new ideas and new opportunities, and to cultures and cuisines I’d never experience in the confines of St Louis. I can’t complain about the business travel, but I can wish that it came at lower personal cost to academics – especially those academics who must travel but lack a travel budget. Right now, I’m at 35,000 ft somewhere over Arizona. I’m on my way home from spending just over 24 hours in San Diego. For several hours, I enjoyed the productive boredom of working in the Phoenix...

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Why I fly American

Why I fly American

Today I’m flying from St Louis to San Diego on Southwest Air and I feel a bit like a traitor. For years, I’ve flown on American Airlines pretty exclusively. One of my only speaker requirements is that my travel gets booked on American. This isn’t because they have the best planes, the most delightful staff, or the best frequent flier program; it’s because they have saved my frequently flying butt more times than I can count. This includes getting me home from Moscow when I wasn’t sure home was going to happen. I started flying American pretty exclusively after moving to St Louis in 2006. There wasn’t any real reason for this beyond they fly international and St Louis (at the time) had a ton of flights because it was a slowly fading TWA/American hub. The first...

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Rerouting or How Google Maps Tried to Kill Me

Rerouting or How Google Maps Tried to Kill Me

Because I wanted to take a pretty photo, Google Maps tried to kill me. I’m currently in Utrecht, the Netherlands for a conference. My hotel is in the city center, and the conference is a few kilometers away at the University. The conference site recommended biking, so I rented a bike for the week. No. Big. Deal. Bikes here are just enough different from bikes at home that I’m not as comfortable zipping around and weaving between other cyclists as I might usually be, and I don’t start out as that much of a zipping weaver. This personal discomfort leads to a fair amount of trepidation about making left hand turns across roads in heavy bike traffic. While kind of zipping along this morning I totally missed a left due to dense bike traffic and I...

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#DragonCon 2015

#DragonCon 2015

This time next week I will be at the nerd festival that is Dragon*Con. Please feel encouraged to join me and some of my closest friends (and about 60,000 strangers) for 4 days of science, science fiction, and fantasy. There are only 4 real rules: each day you need 3 hours of sleep, 2 meals, and 1 shower (and to wait in a lot of lines, including lines to exit and enter buildings). Prologue of Random This is a weird year for me. Since 2008, every time I’ve gone to Dragon*Con I’ve been responsible for some sort of a booth. This year, given budget cuts, I’m going to Dragon*Con without a project team, and there will be no table. This is… odd. It also means that for a first in many years, I’ll be free to go to things and hangout, and I...

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Work Travel: The longest days

Work Travel: The longest days

One of the flaws in what many of us do is this: When we spend our days disseminating our work and training people to use our materials, we are doing one aspect of our job that is very important, but the other parts of our jobs still need to be done. The emails keep coming. The staff still need to meet with us (online). The paperwork still has to be done. The audio still has to get recorded. (image: Hourglass by borabora on Flickr) There is a group of us here in Turku, who are working to provide teacher professional development to a group of educators from all around Europe. From 9am to 6pm, we are working with the teachers, providing concepts and content (and coffee). We are staying in an adult travelers hostel, and our evening are being spent cooking a shared...

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Helsinki for a day

Helsinki for a day

For not the first in my life, I find myself passing thru Helsinki. To me, it keeps being a waypoint between places that gets slept in, wandered about in, and then left behind. The first time I was here was 24 years ago. I and 24 others were on our way back from several weeks in the USSR, where we’d been studying astronomy and playing all but unsupervised in a small village in the caucus mountains. On our return, we’d stopped for a couple days in Leningrad before taking the train to Helsinki, from which we flew home. We stayed here a night, and we spent that night walking through the lack of darkness, trying to make our way to a ferris wheel we saw off in the distance. I was 15, and along with a few other misplaced teens, I walked this city till what...

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