Category Archives: Travel

Initial Thoughts on SAS

Hello from Stockholm, Sweden! It’s an early morning here, and I fly to Oslo, Norway, in about 45 minutes. I thought I would take a few minutes to jot down my thoughts on my SAS (Scandinavian) flight from Chicago to Stockholm.

First, let me just say, I was impressed! Why have I not flown this airline before? Well, for one, I haven’t needed to go to or through Scandinavia before. Second, SAS is usually a more expensive option that your standard American international carriers. However, this was a shared flight with United, so that may have keep the price lower. And by lower, I mean straight-up low. I’ve never flown to Europe for under $1000 until this trip.

Next, my comments about the plane: SAS has a pretty good lineup of aircraft in its fleet, and although this plane was not one of the newer aircraft, the Airbus A330-300 was still quite nice – and it was not close to full. I already posted a photo to Twitter of how nice the seats are (even in economy class) – a built in mirror, touch screen TV monitor with options for several movies and 30 music channels, and an option to watch the view from the front of the plane on screen! There was supposed to be a few from the bottom of the plane looking down, but for some reason it never showed anything. Guess it wasn’t turned on or something.

The food on board was pretty good as far as airline food goes: Salisbury steak and mashed potatoes with a nice warm roll for dinner; turkey and cheese on a similarly nice roll for breakfast. Nothing barf-worthy…and I’ve had barf-worthy airline food before. (Cough, now-defunct Northwest Airlines!)

Anyway, the seats were pretty comfy, even in economy. Despite multiple crying/screaming/tantrum-ing children on board (and one dog, who was very well behaved), I slept somewhere around 2-3 hours. I woke up shortly before the cabin lights were turned on, at which point hot washcloths were passed out – again, even in economy! This was another airline first for me.

For those who are curious, today’s schedule should have me safely landed in Oslo at 10:45 a.m. Central Europe Summer Time. After customs, I am meeting my advisor, Micheline, at the airport, and we will wait for our undergrad research assistant, Grace, to arrive a little later. Oslo’s airport is about 25-30 minutes north of the city center, so it make sense to wait for Grace to arrive before heading back to the city. The plan is to then go to our apartments and then explore the city this afternoon. It’s overcast and rainy in Stockholm, but it’s supposed to be sunny and in the mid-50s in Oslo today. We shall see!

I’ll try to keep you all posted.

Squaring Things Away

So tell me this: Is “Squaring things away” really a saying, or did I make it up?

According to my friendly neighborhood (Internet) dictionary, square has a lot of definitions! (12 adjective definitions alone.) And I liked this particular Internet dictionary entry because it even contained a section for verbal phrases! So, square away is actually a nautical concept, originating from the work of squaring the yards of a sailing vessel.

USS Yorktown
USS Yorktown, Patriot's Point – Charleston, SC

Wait, not that kind of ship!

Pride (schooner) – Charleston, SC
The Pride – Charleston, SC

That’s better! (The yards of a schooner or other sailboat like this are the masts and spars from which the sails hang, in case you did not know.)

Anyway, the other definition of square that really caught my attention was transitive verb form #6: “To bring into balance; settle.”

Now, doesn’t that just sound delightful?

I’ve been doing a lot of “squaring away” lately. I finished my Master’s of Science in Geography this spring, and I even went to graduation.

Me graduating!
Me graduating!

Karen and I moved into a cute little house, and we even save on the rent. Unfortunately, this also means I’ve had lots of smaller projects to square away added to my never-ending to do list. In the last two weeks, I made a guest bedroom (sort of) out of a junk room, cleaned for my parents to visit, and worked on Karen’s garden seemingly non-stop. Yesterday we had the beds tilled by a friend, and we have them completely covered in (free!) fertilizer.

Then there’s the little detail of planning a PhD program and dissertation. I’ve only gotten 7 of my required 9 hours of course work for the fall squared away at this point, but I’m thinking a Directed Readings course may fill the last two.

I am also making (very slow) progress on a dissertation idea, but I’m spending way more time trying to figure out what fieldwork will entail when I get to Oslo – only two more weeks until I’m gone for a month! The dissertation idea, at this point, is to somehow compare the skilled migration experiences and place-making processes of IT workers in Oslo with those in Berlin. Given all that Berlin has been up to lately regarding the Blue Card, at least this work is timely if nothing else.

So I’ve squared away a few yards, only to have the sails open on me elsewhere.

Sail. Sail thy best. Ship of Democracy.

NYC Day 1: Best AAG Ever?!

Hello from New York City!

It’s hard to believe it, but I think I’m in love with New York. Maybe because it’s such an awesome urban space, or because it’s such an iconic image of America, but regardless of the reason, I think New York is hard to beat. (And I’ve been wondering to myself all day: “Why did I wait almost 25 years to come here?”)

Another interesting observation right off the bat – these are my opinions of New York, and it has even been a cold, rainy day. But, hey, it beats Seattle…

Anyway, I thought I would report on how amazing the AAG conference has been so far. On a trip like this in the past, I would probably not be posting every day so if that trend continues, this may also be my ONLY post about AAG. We’ll see how it goes.

First thing about the AAG conference today – if all conferences were this fun and intellectually stimulating, I would go to them as often as possible. However, I think today is probably a statistical outlier, because I’m not sure that this many cool things usually happen at once. Perhaps a little more elaboration?

  • Registration at 10 am was painless. Whew.
  • After registering, Karen and I meandered over to Rockefeller Plaza to kill some time. We saw the LEGO store (Mecca?), the ice skating rink, the outsides of Radio City Music Hall and NBC Studios, and we strolled through parts of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s bookstore and Saks 5th Avenue.
  • When I went to sessions, Karen successfully had fun on her own looking at several places and shopping. She wasn’t kidnapped and didn’t get lost. Double Whew!
  • The first two conference sessions I attended, two discussions on the role of race in critical geography, were incredible. It was a near-perfect integration of a variety viewpoints from around the Geographic discipline and from outside fields like Ethnic Studies and American Studies. It had a good balance of young scholars’ perspectives and older, “big name,” professors. It had a nice balance of male, female, white, black, Asian, and Latino voices represented. Sure, that does mean that some voices were not included, but there were only 5-6 participants per session.
  • After these sessions came my presentation. The session was one of the last sessions of the day, which generally are not that well-attended, but I didn’t mind. There were about 25 people in the room, including my wife and the four other presenters, so that’s roughly an audience of 20. I’ve had bigger audiences at my first two professional conferences, but whatever. I decided to give this talk extemporaneously (Mrs. Freed and Dr. Collard at UTM would be proud) instead of read from my paper, and it went better than I expected. I finished in 12 minutes (out of 15 allotted).
  • After my session ended, the day really took a turn for the best. I set up a meeting with Dr. Ken Foote, professor at Univ. of Colorado and all around amazing scholar, by email before the conference. My advisor, Micheline, was one of his former students at Colorado, and she told him over the winter break about my thesis work. (My thesis is closely related to his research, as his book Shadowed Ground was the first thing I read to start my research.) He, Karen, and I got to talk for almost an hour. At the swanky VIP lounge of the New York Sheraton hotel. On the 44th floor. (!) The best part was that he was very friendly and down-to-earth. (And, oh, by the way, he also happens to be Past-President of the AAG. No big deal.)
  • After our meeting, the rain had basically dried up, so Karen and I strolled down Broadway to Times Square. I know that a Leftist scholar (generally opposed to capitalism) like me should probably have a different reaction to Times Square, but the place is completely mesmerizing, on a personal level, and fascinating, on a research-scholarly level. Too cool.

Even though I had to drop off my camera for repairs (more about that here), today may be hard to top for a long time…

Until next time my friends and loyal readers,

Shalom

Quick Post: NYC

[Note: For some reason, writing this on my iPad results in no apostrophes showing up online. My apologies in advance. First time Ive really tried this for a lengthy post.]

I keep having the idea to ask for suggestions on what to do on my first trip (ever!) to New York City next week. Karen and I will be flying there for the national AAG conference, and we will be there for about a week.

Weve already thought of several things to do while we are there, but Id love to hear more advice and suggestions from those of you New Yorkers (or at least NYC aficionados) out there. Although I will not have every hour of all seven days to do touristy things because Ill be at sessions, I do plan to get in as much as I can while there! Plus, Karen will have even more time, and shes looking for interesting things to do that arent too far from our hotel. (Were staying in the Upper West Side, a little more than half way up Central Park.)

Heres a list of the things we are planning to do together, time permitting:

Seeing Wicked at the Gershwin. Expensive, yet oh-so-schweet.
Touring midtown (conference hotels are a few blocks from Times Square/Rockefeller Plaza area)
Downtown/financial district area, also going to the Brooklyn Bridge
Harbor tour of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty
Running in Central Park
Coney Island??

Karen is also thinking of going to the Museum of Modern Art by herself, and maybe the zoo. Shes also going to hit up some vegetarian restaurants, perhaps without me… 😉

——
Conversation from earlier tonight, which reveals how Karen and I think differently:
Me: I think Ill check the [UT] library to see if they have any New York travel guides.
Karen: Umm… Theres this thing…called the Internet.
Me: Well, yeah, theres that. But I like to have a book where I can be surprised by whats listed.

So, people of the Internets, what else do you suggest? I may not have time to do it all, but I can always start a list for next time.

Less than week before we fly away!