Friday, August 31, 2007

Life post-Germany

I'm too lazy to come up with a coherent post, and I also feel like I need to go find a coffee shop or library where I can set about studying my ass off for quals (I must relearn of undergrad physics in 7 days... if anyone wants to make bets I'll say there are 5:1 odds that I fail miserably). So the following is more or less what I've been up to lately, but in no logical or chronological order.

This week, the powers that be deemed it necessary for me to attend grad student orientation/TA training. This has convinced me of two things: 1) I might be a decent TA but 2) I'm very glad I won't have the opportunity to prove that in the near future. I'm going to be taking three classes, doing research, and trying to learn undergrad physics so I can pass the qualifier this year.

I have keys to a bunch of labs and classrooms and offices in the physics building. I also heard a rumor that grad students are allowed to get keys to the library for use after normal library hours, which I hope is true because that would be awesome.

The physics librarian is cool. She made us brownies and let us eat them in the library.

I have an office with cool officemates and a coffee maker. I also have an $800 ergonomic desk chair (my experiment has tons of money). There is also talk of replacing two of the desks in my office because they are old and/or not the correct height.

In celebration of half-price margarita day at Frida's I opted to walk home yesterday afternoon and leave my bike at the downtown office... but I'm not at the downtown office now and getting there is vastly more time consuming on foot.

Yesterday, I filled out a travel expense report. I learned that I will be reimbursed ~$20 for each breakfast I ate in Germany, ~$40 for every lunch and ~$50 for every dinner. Meanwhile, I probably spent less than $80 total on food.

Also, while I'm aware that if I had a real job I'd be earning at least a factor of two more than I'm getting now, I still don't know what to do with everything they pay me... I should probably set up an IRA.

I need to buy a stamp and mail my electricity bill.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

And now, for a real post

I wrote this the other day, before I sorted out the proxy server here and got myself completely connected to the Intertron.

Flying to Germany was remarkably painless. I've decided that longer flights are less objectionable than shorter ones, mostly because they use larger planes and sedate me with movies. However, I'm sure there's an upper time limit beyond which all the movies in the world will not make me happy. It's probably about 10 hours.

While I was allowing for several possible travel disasters, there were only three minor issues: 1) I forgot that I had my cellphone on me and set of the metal detector in Madison, 2) they didn't post a gate number for my flight out of Detroit, so I had to track down a gate agent an hour before my flight and ask where to go, and 3) for the short flight between Madison and Detroit I was stuck next to some middle-aged suit who used the entire armrest, in blatant violation of airplane-personal-space-etiquette (does anyone have any thoughts on why it's always male, middle-aged, business types who do this? If they want more space, they can certainly afford to fly first class and save me the aggravation of having to surrender two inches of my own barely adequate space to avoid touching them).

Anyway, I killed a bunch of time in Detroit by walking the full length of the terminal twice (it's quite long), eating lunch, and browsing the Borders where I ultimately bought a new book to read for the last two hours of my stop-over. Once on the plane, which left on time, we were served drinks and a normal airline snack. Then, they had to roboot the entertainment system which, as it was coming back up, displayed a penguin with all the boot messages (Northwest runs linux on airplanes! Awesome.). Then, I started watching Shrek 3 and they brought us dinner, which was reasonably sized and palatable and came with a choice of red or white wine (I decided it would probably be crappy wine and I was dehydrated by then anyway, so I got water). Then, I finished watching Shrek 3 and took a nap (or, more accurately, four), which was hard because the stupid headrest stuck out enough even with the seat all the way back that every time I dozed off my head would fall forward and wake me up (I solved this problem by leaning against the bulkhead, which was better but I woke up anyway because my neck started to hurt). Then, after my last attempt at sleep failed they served us breakfast, which was not as good as dinner but still not too bad. And, since it was my fourth meal in 18 hours, I wasn't too worried about skipping the less appetizing parts of it.

The disappointing thing was that the A330 I was on had a selection of a few dozen movies, but I only watched one because I needed to sleep to avoid being totally delirious once I was on the ground. On the flight back, when I will not want to sleep too much, I'll be on a 757 that has a different entertainment system and I'm not sure I'll get as many (if any) choices. Although, I checked my seat reservation and as of now there isn't anyone immediately next to me, so I might at least have two armrests.

Aaa! Blogger ist auf Deutsch

I had this problem with normal Google too... it took fully ten minutes for me to figure out how to get it to go to the English version instead of forwarding to But I guess with Blogger it's ok - I know where all the buttons are and it's not like it gets any opportunities to return search results in German...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bagel traffiking

A friend of mine, who shall remain anonymous, returned from New York late last night. At my request, he brought back half a dozen plain and cinnamon raisin bagels and left a message on my voicemail at roughly 1:00a.m. to tell me that I could pick them up at my convenience. But, before I could collect them this evening, I had to temporarily abandon my travel preparations, change my license plates, and drive a roomie's car across the lawn. All of this, combined with my observation that the day-old New York bagel was vastly better than the fresh Madison bagel I had for lunch today, makes me feel like I've engaged in something illicit. It was fun though. And I have five bagels left, which should keep my blood sugar up as I deal with all of the chaotic goings on of this week. Hahaha.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Furniture: Part the 2nd

My new bed came this morning. I'm now impatiently awaiting a reasonable going-to-sleep-hour so that I can verify that the mattress is more comfortable to sleep on than the floor. Coincidentally, when the people in charge of delivering the bed called to set up a time, they said Wednesday, between 9 and 11. So I was thinking it would be around noon, but actually, they showed up at 9:15 and had everything set up by 9:30, so I was only an hour late for work.

Now, all I need is a desk chair, and maybe a comfy chair like Kai's and I'll be set as far as furniture goes. Then I'll have to figure out what to do with all my extra floor space because my room is pretty damn big. I'll post picutres after I've gotten all the boxes unpacked and stuff put away neatly.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The anal-retentive travel overplanning begins

So, I spent some time today trying to decide how to deal with my trip to Germany. For example, I'm in the process of memorizing all the train routes and schedules between Frankfurt and Heidelberg. I believe that I will need to make a seat reservation, but I'm also not ready to commit to such a thing until I'm on the ground, because I can't predict flight delays and getting lost in the airport and so forth. I'm also trying to figure out the best way of getting myself some Euros before I leave. If anyone has advice on that, by all means, let me know.

What I think is going to be the larger problem is what I will do in Detroit, where I have a 5-hour stopover. WTF does one do with a 5-hour stopover? I'm thinking that's almost enough time to actually leave the airport to do something interesting... but in this case, as we're talking about Detroit, I'm not really sure of the options.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Furniture: Part the 1st

In my post-adolescent confusion I decided that being an adult meant things like paying one's rent and utility bills on time and without getting horribly stressed out. And, after paying rent and utilities for two months, I was comfortable with that. Now, unfortunately, I see that I was wrong. Being an adult *really* means accumulating things that are too large to fit in a car and too expensive to throw away and replace without a second thought. In short, buying furniture. Having done it, I am now shackled to this place because leaving will entail considerable expense and/or headache and worse - advance planning for the expense and headache. Gah! Not good.

I'm also beginning to think I should buy renters insurance... it's lucky that I got over the trauma of paying bills *last* month.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The new digs

I moved into my semi-permanent abode yesterday and am in the process of settling in. The house is nice, the rent cheap, the roomies reasonable, and, while I'm still struggling with the wireless, I succeeded in making the wired internet work on the very first try. Sweet. Although, when I think about it, this probably means that it isn't very secure... so I'll need to make sure I don't ever boot Windows. Or I'll need my own firewall.

So far, the most significant drawback is that I realize I cannot sleep properly at night when the bugs are louder than the traffic... damn the New York metropolitan area and its pervasive highway noise.

Next on the agenda: securing furniture... then I can work in my room instead of on the dining room table where the late afternoon sun glare reminds me that there are fingerprints all over my laptop monitor. Grr.