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Transit adventures and kerfuffles

I wanted to go race in the CRASH-B Indoor Rowing Championships held at Boston University on this past Sunday*, so last Friday or so I sent a message to teammates to see about potentially carpooling. Nothing came through from that due to everyone having complex lives and schedules, so I shrugged my shoulders and booked a car through rentalcars.com via kayak.com. I mention sites by name for some specific reasons, which I'll get to in a minute. Foreshadowing.

This was for a rental car from a Thrifty location near the airport. Next step, figure out transportation on Saturday over to the airport to pick up the car. Because the Goog Map disbelieves that a person might be willing to walk up to a mile, and because the Goog Map disbelieves in multi-modal transportation, it will only come up with a subset of options when monkeying around with various logistical parameters. So I had to use it in combination with our regional transportation organization's website to sort things out.

Thankfully, I finally managed to find a workable version of a system map for our regional transportation organization - one that shows all the routes plus the route numbers. So then I used that information to deduce that there are three bus lines in total that serve the airport. Then I searched through the online bus schedules to figure out how often each one runs, to figure out which transfer point would be the least likely to cause extensive headaches in the event of any hitches in the plan (i.e. I wouldn't want to miss a bus that only comes once every 1.5 hours). You'd think there's an easier way of working things out here, but the transit organization's trip planner function just brings you straight back to the Goog. Hah!

That settled, I walked a mile to Central Ave and caught the first bus, a "RapidRide" or what-have-you Express Fancy Bus that makes only limited stops between points, and which (swiftly) took me up to our regional mall and transit center, Colonie Center. The walk out to the first bus took about the same amount of time but cost $1.30 less than the Goog's suggestion of a triple-bus trip. Then I took the second bus to the airport, after a minimal wait of 5-6 minutes. Smooth for a transfer.

Upon reaching the airport, I discovered that Thrifty isn't among the kiosks at the baggage claim. Eventually someone informed me that there was a shuttle over to their rental facility. After waiting outside for that for a while, I thought it prudent to try calling to see how long I might expect to wait. A voice recording informed me that they were only open Monday to Friday, leaving me rather perplexed (i.e. extremely irritated) as to why rentalcars.com had set me up for a rental on a Saturday afternoon**.

So then I walked back inside the airport, went to the Hertz desk, and rented from them instead.

On Sunday, the drive to and from Boston was really beautiful. Lots of beautiful ice formations on the rocks along the side of the road, and the white snow in the hills and forests around the interstate looked just lovely. Traffic was minimal, especially at 6 am on a Sunday morning.

I was tremendously grateful for the power of GPS devices in Boston, as my Boston navigation all went smoothly and seamlessly and delivered me swiftly to a parking space in a parking garage. Got the car parked, did the erg race, met with a couple of people, then drove straight back to the airport to drop off the rental car so I could avoid having to pay for a second rental day.

There was just one slight hitch to this plan: I've determined that on Sundays, there's a grand total of about 5 buses that pay a visit to the airport. I returned the car at 4:30 pm, so the next city bus wouldn't arrive until 11:30 pm, and I needed to get home to finish grading lab reports and to write Monday's lecture well before then.

Options at that point were to take a taxi, use "sharing economy" transport, phone a friend (don't have that kind of friend here right now), or walk. My dislike of forced conversation/social interaction with complete strangers is high enough that I opted to walk. It wasn't THAT cold or dark or snowy.

What I learned on my walking departure from the airport: there's an airport access side road that is MUCH more pleasant than the main road because of much lower traffic volumes. That was great up until the side road curved in the wrong direction, and then I had to forge my way through the roadside underbrush for an uncomfortable stretch. In the future, however, I think I can take advantage of an airport Economy Lot shuttle bus because it also runs to a hotel that's on the corner of the intersection where the sidewalk finally starts up. The shuttle runs frequently and would cut off ~1.5 miles of the 3.8-mile walk.

I also learned that bus route 1 runs along Central all the way out to the Trader Joe's on Wolf Road, which cut off another 0.8 miles of that part of the walk. Bus route 1 takes me within 1 mile of home, so in total I only had to walk 4 of the 8 mile total distance between home and the airport, the trip only took me 2 hours total as compared to the 1 hour on Saturday, and I only had to pay for a single bus (no transfers out here, I have no idea why not).

In the future I will probably rent directly from the Hertz location along Central Ave that is close to the credit union and that is only a 2.4 mile absolute walking distance from home, unless I decide that I absolutely must arrange a vehicle rental transaction for a Saturday afternoon and/or Sunday for some reason. By what I've just outlined, you might infer that there are multiple reasons arguing against such a rental in the future.


*Argh, my time was ~5 seconds SLOWER than the erg race the weekend before. I just didn't feel quite right. But at least it's done and now I have strong motivation to work to do better.

**I gave the company a phone call after I got home Saturday evening. We shall see whether they actually follow through with issuing me a refund. I'm leery of ever using that service again.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1281799.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Misc. links

1. (NYT) New York shows Amazon it has a backbone. Having paid attention to a lot of what's happened with the Amazonia in Seattle...I hope that New York continues to have a spine. Also, this is one thing where I've got to say I appreciate being in New York State. I have my cultural differences, but I do appreciate a lot of the political elements in this state, as they often give me hope. [I will note that the flipside of this also makes itself apparent...on the rowing front I've run into a situation where there are grandfathered rules specific to the state, about which another rower said, "Well, this is New York, after all."]

2. (Vox) Because there's no such thing as free internet lunch, flickr's about to start deleting the crap outta photos in non-Pro accounts. I feel two ways about this: first, you get what you pay for. But second, I wish that there were more tiers to the photo-hosting options Flickr's now offering. I suspect there's a lot of variation across users, and by creating a single "Pro" tier I feel forced into paying for more services than I need. Given that I'm also paying for my own web hosting, I have some motivation to set up a homebrew system to host all my own stuff eventually. Old-skool but then it's MY sandbox, harumph.

3. (NYT) Look. The "war on drugs" has failed. US relations with Central and South American countries are full of all kinds of issues, historic and contemporary. I wish I knew what could be done, from a humanitarian standpoint. I do appreciate how this trial can help draw attention to all the related ongoing issues with drug cartels in Mexico: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/12/opinion/el-chapo-verdict-conviction.html

4. (NYT) While there are many reasons to be pessimistic about the state of affairs with respect to climate change, sometimes hope is an important element to encourage positive change. So it was interesting to read about this CO2 capturing technology: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/12/magazine/climeworks-business-climate-change.html

I think the largest challenge will continue to be getting the overall thermodynamic math to balance, plus calculations about the timescales involved, plus the nature of all the disasters that happen in the meantime: catastrophes plus species extinctions plus starvation plus warfare. Overpopulation and conspicuous overconsumption haven't gone away.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1281610.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


Some years ago, on a coffeeshop bike ride with my father, my father, [personal profile] scrottie and I visited a place in South Lake Union. I'm pretty sure that trip was earlier on in S's and my relationship but can't pinpoint the exact year or coffeeshop (2010?). Anyway, that coffeeshop offered up a special novelty: vacuum-brewed coffee. So S ordered and enjoyed a cup. We both noticed that the vacuum brewer (or "siphon brewer") seemed to offer up an especially smooth brew, but in general carried on our way after that expedition.

Still, on occasion S likes to bring up that vacuum brewed coffee in conversations when we're talking about coffee brewing strategies. So last year for Christmas, I got him one. It's just the sort of thing that seems nice and fun but slightly too impractical, expensive, and indulgent to justify getting for oneself.

That said, I'm enjoying the benefits of vacuum-brewed coffee far more than I'd anticipated. (He and I can share one round of vacuum-brewed coffee in the morning). The vacuum brewer can make even mediocre coffee taste more tolerable, it's not that much more work to set up and clean up than the moka pots we've been using, and has the added advantage that you can watch the whole brewing process (with a moka pot, you have to guess when the coffee's ready). A pleasing gift, all around.


It was snowing this morning when it was time to leave for work, but the forecast suggested the snow would let up, so I decided to try biking in to campus. It felt so good to do so. A light snow is a hundred times more pleasant than cold rain.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1281281.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Time Travel

A thing that is occupying my thoughts recently comes from hearing about my father's spiritual journey over the years. Somewhere around 15-20 years ago, he became interested in thinking about what is termed the "Universe Story," which is centered in thinking about the miracle of human life in the context of humanity's current understanding of the origins of the universe, our solar system, and our planet. If you look back in history, this is something that a number of religious traditions have grappled with over time - think Galileo and Catholicism, for one (what I'm most familiar with due to being raised Catholic).

This is a thing that often intersects with what I tend to phrase as my "existential crisis" - coming to terms with the limits of human understanding of our own existence. Reductionism and other scientific approaches really only get us so far, but we can still know a few things from them. In particular, part of being a living organism is exchange with our surrounding environment: we breathe in oxygen-rich air, and that oxygen becomes a part of us for some period of time. Eventually, much of it is released back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. The same is true of the elements we eat: we hold on to individual elements for different periods of time, but eventually they are released back into our surroundings.

From this perspective, we also wind up hitting against that philosophical question about whether an object is still the same thing if all of its individual parts have been replaced over time.

It's that time component that's capturing me at the moment. On the one hand, our lives seem so short, for all that many stages of life wind up being uncomfortable. On the other hand, the perspective that the Earth is our ancestors has a lot of merit in my book - look across religious beliefs, and this theme is repeated.

I don't know if there's comfort for other people in considering death as a form of time travel, but given its eventual inevitability, perhaps it's a small comfort at times.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1281162.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Funny timing for this xkcd...

Yesterday, I wrote up lecture notes and some review questions and posted them to our LMS (which will remain nameless because it's obnoxious). Sometime after that, students alerted me to the fact that they could view the file but for some reason it wouldn't download properly. Then the LMS became totally wedged: I could no longer upload new files.

After it also became apparent that I wasn't able to upload this file as an e-mail attachment, I copied and pasted all of the text into a new Pages file. That worked fine. So, uh, yeah.


This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1281013.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
I can't remember if I've mentioned this, but the recent bike commute haikus have all been part of a Christmas gift to my father: a total of ten promised and delivered.

But now I have the habit, and I had fun writing this one.

Also, 11's my lucky number.


Glorious gray gloom
Drizzle downpour deluge drip
Bicycling bravely


Winter Bike Commute Haiku #11
View of intersection along Henry Johnson Blvd and Central Ave, one of the busiest points along my bike commute to work. I REALLY wish the pedestrian beg button crossing signal was long enough to safely traverse across the entire intersection.

I am so behind on everything right now. But at least I have a lecture and quiz written for class, which starts in 15 minutes.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1280536.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


Small streams; rotten snow
Ice breaks up on the river
I call it "fake spring."

Winter Bike Commute Haiku #10

Friday is International (Northern Hemisphere) Winter Bike to Work Day:

Will you participate?

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1280457.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


Decoy Specs

Tuesdays are a doozie. I never know what's going to go wrong.

Today, it was...decoy spectrophotometers!!

They turned on, the displays lit up, but they totally didn't work, and that wasn't clear until we tried measuring a bunch of different samples. ARGH.

Also, when I tried to take a blood sample from a horseshoe crab, the crab blood totally spurted on my face. I mean, THAT part was harmless and hilarious, at least.

I need to think of something I can do to reward my students for being awesome and patient guinea pigs, trying their hardest and trying again when things don't work as expected.

Probably cookies.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1280056.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Oh today

I am grading lab reports this evening. I wish I had a little bell that I could ding every time I finished grading one. That would be satisfying.

Animal inspections happened today, so I learned everything I've been doing wrong, argh. Mostly this means more paperwork, which I'm not inherently opposed to, but I have a lot on my plate.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1279911.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

There went the weekend.

Saturday: Crew practice, meeting with coach, worked on lectures until I just couldn't anymore, then finished knitting the second slipper insert and took apart the first slipper.

That unleashed a lot of crumbs and dust.

Sunday: Baked muffins and sandwich bread, quick-washed Frodo, then rode to campus to work on mixing buffers for Tuesday's lab. Finished writing Wednesday's lecture, then rode home. Had some dinner, finished hemming some jeans that had been sitting in the to-do pile for about 3 months, and worked on some rowing-related tasks.

And now it's time for bed and the start of another week. I have two manuscript reviews I need to work on, a big stack of lab reports to grade, and a recommendation letter to write. We're in the process of interviewing job candidates, so that's more time lost to job talks and meetings.

This afternoon I learned that my sister has gone up from California to visit my parents for the week. This brings me great comfort. This past week was pretty rough for my mom and dad.

Things towards the top of the bike shopping wish list: More spare chains (just put a fresh one on Frodo), Bar Mitts, better balaclava. On the other hand, temperatures will be above freezing for a good part of the week this week. And regardless, at the moment things are almost all going on wish lists rather than lists of things to acquire, anyway.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1279682.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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