Back in the States

My tradition of visiting the United States in January continues into the new decade. As the years pass, the number of destinations increases. In 2008, the business part of the trip only included Granville, OH. Last year, I also visited Columbus, OH and Ann Arbor, MI. This time, the two Ohio destinations are replaced by four new places: Austin, TX; Pasadena, CA; Cambridge, MA; and Washington, DC. I’ll also have a day and a half in Phoenix, AZ, but no business will be done there – the result of some logistical issues in planning the whole deal.

The purpose of this trip? To present my research at some of the top US astronomy institutes, and to talk about the possibilities for a postdoc position somewhere.

I’m off to a good start, with a pleasant flight from Amsterdam to Detroit (insofar as sitting in a cramped seat for 8.5 hours is ever pleasant), a quick transfer to my hotel in Ann Arbor, and a comfortable room in that hotel. Following the Christmas incident, security prior to boarding was tighter than ever. No body scan yet, but a full pat-down for every passenger, more stringent passport control, and a brief interrogation as to the purpose of the trip. The flight itself was unremarkable, except that it struck me as odd that the window shutters were closed almost the whole time. I don’t recall that being the case in 2008 and 2009.

Once out of the airport in Detroit, it was clear that I was in the US. The half-hour drive from the airport to Ann Arbor runs through the typical urban sprawl, with an overabundance of asphalt, billboards, gas stations and food courts. The hotel (Quality Inn & Suites, just off the US23 highway) is anonymous, but the girl at the reception was friendly, the room looks fine, and there’s free wi-fi.

I’ll be at the University of Michigan for the next day and a half, with a talk scheduled for Tuesday. I had a great time at UMich last year, and I look forward to repeating that experience.

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