Sunday, September 02, 2012


I don't want to jinx myself by telling this story, but I've had extraordinary luck in getting my drivers license in this state. I've been twice and both times could have been complete disasters. The first time I went I had an expired-by-four-months Oklahoma license I needed to replace that weekend because in the next few days I was leaving on a trip that required a rental car.* As I recall I showed up with proof of residency, but didn't have the right kind, or enough of the right kind. A guy was helping me and he kept asking what kind of documents I had with me. Eventually we determined my checkbook with a local address on it was proof enough. Him: "Is this your current address?" Me: pause, pause "Yes." It wasn't. It was the first address I had in town, but I needed to speed up the process. After the eye test, computer test, and a lot of waiting I had my first Illinois license. 

Fast forward to last weekend when I showed up at the DMV with multiple options for address verification and an two-week expired license. After a quick wait in line I stepped to the Gate Keeper and we soon determined that I only had one valid proof of address, which happened to be the vehicle registration I also needed to get that day. I was getting ready to walk away when the Keeper offered the possibility that if I could show her my address associated with my online bank I could pass. Kindly, she also offered to hold my number while I stepped out of line to frantically log on to my banking site. And then things started to crumble. My phone was slow, I couldn't correctly answer my security questions, and on and on while I stood by the line for ten minutes. Finally, I logged into my credit card site and showed her. But the text was so small she couldn't really read it and she let me pass on a technicality with some frustration. Later I remembered that credit card addresses are no longer valid addresses according to the DMV, so the Keeper was extraordinarily kind to let me through. And lucky for me she held my number because by the time we got through sorting the address thing out they'd passed out about twenty more numbers. In the end I only waited about thirty minutes, which was pretty short, to get my second Illinois license by dubious means.** 

*I still haven't learned any lessons on my lack of planning and how to avoid potential disasters...
**I could have gone back, the only real need to get the renewal was that my license had already expired. But two weeks doesn't seem like much compared with an out of state four months. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012


1. A pre-1990 Mercedes G-Wagen, diesel of course. 

2. Travel the world like this guy.

Monday, July 23, 2012


On the way home from Alaska the kid sitting next to me asked what were Illinois' gun laws and what kind of trees we had. I could answer the second, but he stumped me on the first. He was going to be a junior in high school and was from a village in the bush. He and a whole group of other high schoolers were headed to Tennessee for a christian youth rally. The girl sitting next to him was much more sophisticated since she was from Anchorage but they got a long really well once they realized that they both liked the band Skillet. Skillet. Yes, a real christian rock band. Although their conversation about the band resembled an Onion News article. 

Later in the flight he woke me up to see if I wanted the cookies that were being passed out. I tried to tell him he could have them, but I don't think I was intelligible. He got the point, hopefully, I didn't have any cookies when I woke up.

On the flight to Alaska I sat next to an older man who was also a talkative christian and who also woke me up, but this time to tell me about things to do in Alaska. One of which was to stop at the Igloo on the way to Fairbanks. The Igloo was supposed to be a novelty hotel that was designed to look like an actual Igloo, but extra large. I did stop, on my way back to Anchorage, and the place was a total dump. Apparently it was never finished before it was abandoned and when I got up close the whole thing just looked like a dome covered in spray foam and chipped white paint.

Now I want to go back and ride my bike on the Dalton Highway from Prudhoe Bay to Fairbanks. The advice is that after a hard 414 miles you don't want to end up in an industrial oil and gas town, but rather a kind-of real city.

I wish I had taken an extra day to go up to the Arctic Circle.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Airplane, Fire

I'm pretty sure I saw the Little Bear Fire in New Mexico when I was flying home the last time. I saw smoke in the distance and at the time I didn't realize we were in such an intense fire season. Since I read the Earth Observatory article about the fire I've been meaning to post about seeing it, but really that first line is all I need. My view of the fire looked like this:

I was flying from Ontario, CA to Dallas and was thinking twice about the Indian food I'd had for dinner the night before. This was a hastily planned trip that included presenting at a conference in San Diego and then going to Fort Irwin to talk to some people. Due to the circumstances I had a lot of time to kill in the middle of nowhere, and while the trip was hastily planned, through searching for things-to-do-at-Fort-Irwin I realized the Goldstone Deep Space Network of antennas was right next door and best of all they offered public tours. 

So I emailed their tour coordinator and told her what times I would be available over the two days I was at Irwin and got back a rather general reply. She said they had tours on Thursday at 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., which seemed like if I showed up at either time I could take a tour. Right? Turns out that was a really bad assumption on my part, one I didn't realize until I was at the Goldstone guard station. 

Me: I'm here for the one o'clock tour!
Guard: Why aren't you on my list?
Me: Oh crap. 

Luckily I had made it to the guard gate early so the guard gave me the number to call for tours and told me I'd have to drive back to Fort Irwin to get a cell phone signal. Which I frantically did because I had spent the earlier part of the week blabbing incessantly about the Goldstone DSN tour I was going to take on Thursday. So after the 20 minute drive back to cell phone service I called the tour hotline and no one answered, and so I left a long and rambling message about apologizing, mixed messages, and wanting to take a tour. And then I waited. 

And then I decided to go and check into the Fort Irwin Inn where I, unfortunately, had to spend the night. Then John called and said he'd go ahead and give a 1:00 tour even though I had failed to schedule it beforehand. I rushed back for the tour which, turns out only had me on it. Still it lasted three hours. The first hour was devoted to an explanation about the antennas, a lot of talk about space missions, and a look around their small museum, The next hour was driving around to the antenna clusters. John the tour guide was exceptional too. He was in school at UC Berkeley but had started giving tours of Goldstone sometime in high school and now just comes back during school breaks. He could answer all of my questions and we really did talk a long time about the Voyager missions. After the tense waiting, everything worked out and it was all so cool. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Whenever I Leave

Today I got mistaken for a twelve year old boy by a cab driver. Really, I can't even begin to understand that.

Monday, May 07, 2012


I chose getting coffee over going to the bathroom. FYI, that's a bad choice to make on the airport.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Strange Lands--Update

Two things:

1) This weekend I got mistaken for a Canadian reality TV star.* The older woman who made the mistake was sorely disappointed I was not that "lovely young woman who just got married on TV." Apparently my doppelganger is good with animals and is involved with environmental things (?). The woman went on to say she had loads of money and should donate it to the organization the real me worked for. If only this were my life.

2) The Canadian airport security officer said I had lovely eyes before swabbing down my backpack for threatening chemicals, although I was ready for the pat-down.

*Apparently a show on the Canadian PBS-the Knowledge Network in which (her rambling description) a woman does good things for the environment. Maybe a nature show?