One of my frequent refrains to students is that they should write a blog. Not because the world necessarily needs to know what they think, but because the exercise of writing a reasonable amount regularly is extremely good for you. It makes you more able to express yourself.
Some people go all out for physical fitness, which is fair enough I suppose. Having taken a long hard look at my body some years ago (those full length mirrors they put in hotel bathrooms don’t help at all) it dawned on me that it was very unlikely, even with a lot of keep fit, that I could ever make a living from my physique. However, writing did seem to offer possibilities. So I started blogging, and I’ve done so for quite a while now. Every now and then I try to stretch things a bit by forcing myself to write a lot more words than I normally do, and here we are.
While I’m in Vegas, and while I’m still waking up at one in the morning with a head full of cold and words in equal measure, I’m going to write some longer posts about the experience. But there will still be pictures.
I set off yesterday mid-morning, taking off from the ninth best airport in the world, which is just down the road from our house. On the plane I ended up setting next to a fellow academic, which was nice, and so I was able to spend the time taking shop all the way to Schipol.
Things got even better when I was checking in for the next flight in my journey. One of the people on the check-in desk noticed that I was quite tall and offered to upgrade me to Business Class. I really like Delta airlines. Last time I flew with them they picked me out and got me a seat with legroom, this time it was a whole new experience. The only problem really was with my attire. I dress for comfort when travelling, so I was in pair of worn jeans and a shirt I’m not that fond of. I didn’t actually resemble a hobo, but a straw hat and a banjo would not have looked out of place in my ensemble. The lady upgrading me made this point as diplomatically as possible, and so I did tuck my shirt in..
Tips for travel from Rob: if you want to get upgraded it is probably best to dress a bit smarter for your flight. The other folks in Business Class, who have paid a considerable premium for that status, might not appreciate someone sitting next to them who looks like they just climbed off a tractor. Having said that, I think I just about nailed the “eccentric millionaire” look.
As a consequence of my good fortune the flight to Detroit was excellent, with superb service, amazing food and a chair that you could tip up and down with a little control panel.
At Detroit I had to change planes, but before that I had to actually get into the country. The man at Homeland Security, having got my fingerprints and stuff, then asked some very searching questions about my trip. I told him I was giving a talk at Mix and he asked “Why you?”. I didn’t really have a good answer to this one, saying it was because I know lots of good jokes probably wouldn’t have impressed (and the point itself is debateable). Worst still he might then have asked me to make him laugh, which looked like it would have been tricky. In the end I murmured something like “Microsoft seem to like me” and he let me in.
I then had a Brief Encounter with my case, before handing it back into the system for the transfer to Vegas. In the wonderful Discworld novels one character has a magical trunk called “The Luggage” which follows him everywhere. My case is a bit like that, but in reverse.
I’d brought along my Kindle, which turns out to be an excellent travelling companion. I even managed to use the prototype web browser to check my email while waiting for my flight to be called. It worked fine apart from one tiny problem, which was that for my Outlook web mail it rendered the text as black on black background. But I did manage to buy a book while I was waiting, and then read pretty much all of it on the way. The book was “An Unsuitable Job for a Woman” by PD James, a well written whodunnit with great descriptions of the characters and locations and a well constructed plot – although I did manage to figure out quite a bit of it. A clue, the person that looks evil sometimes is.
The flight out of Detroit was smooth enough, but by now my head cold was really kicking in and I spent the whole time sniffling and sneezing my way over the USA. I must apologise to the people who were forced to sit next to me, although I was relieved, in a perverse sort of way, when the chap on one side immediately produced sniffles and sneezes that put mine to shame. I now have a worrying vision of two transatlantic teams of cold germs ganging up and attacking my sinuses over the next few days. Oh well.
Once I got to Vegas my case did the usual trick of hiding at the back of the plane, so that it was absolutely the last one onto the carousel. I really think it doesn’t like me very much. Then I grabbed a cab to the hotel and crashed out for as long as I could, which turned out to be four hours. So I wandered round the room with the camera and a tripod taking pictures of stuff. I’ve seen them do this in CSI loads of times.
The Mandalay Bay hotel is enormous. The room numbers on each floor have three digits, because they have many hundreds of rooms on each level. My room is number 333, which is the same number as my office at Hull. Coincidence? I think so.