Düsseldorf to Bochum

I'm here in Florida now, bouncing between Titusville and Daytona Beach, waiting for my flight from Orlando to Düsseldorf which is coming up on Monday 26 June. The reason for flying into Düsseldorf is simple: it's much less expensive than flying into France—that I get to spend time with friends in Florida and near Düsseldorf finalized the decision.

But getting to Düsseldorf is easy—step inside a plane in Orlando and like magic step back outside into Germany. Now here's the challenge: first get to Bochum, then get from Bochum to Strasbourg. And keep in mind that my knowledge of German revolves around counting to twelve, saying good morning/evening, and singing a children's song. In Bochum is my friend Yunir, who recently moved there from Uzbekistan to attend graduate school at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (this is, in fact, the first time I've ever had an Uzbekistani friend in Germany).

So here's the "plan."

  1. Arrive in Düsseldorf at 8:15am on Tuesday, 27 June
  2. Train from Düsseldorf to Bochum on Tuesday [15€]
  3. Train from Bochum to Strasbourg on Friday, 30 June [72€]

Oh, I just remembered—I can say bier and danke schön. Perhaps 'beer' and 'thank you' will come in handy...



It looks like nothing has been added here since February, which is partially true; the newly added text is "hidden" in draft mode for a while. I'll un-hide a few things after I graduate in May, to avoid the temptation to take time away from studying. So if you're bored, have a look at another project that I am working on, Road Trip to Space. OK, so there's maybe one person who reads this site...

A plan emerges for 2006

I thought that after such an active 2005, 2006 would be "the year I settled down. Mmmmm, not exactly. If I win one of the two scholarships from the American Astronautical Society or the National Space Society to the summer session program at the International Space University in Strasbourge France, 2006 could potentially top 2005 in terms of manic travelling exuberance. Here's a brief look at the skeleton of the plan:

Sunday, May 14: Graduate from University of Illinois with my M.S. in Aerospace Engineering (goodbye, Illinois—don't call me, I'll call you)

Perhaps between graduating and ISU I can work at camp for a few weeks, making some money at a place I like

July 3 to September 1: ISU Summer Session Program in Strasbourg, France

Between the end of ISU and the beginning of SGC/IAC, stay in Madrid or Valencia and help with the SGC event setup.

September 28 to October 6: Space Generation Congress and International Astronautical Congress in Valencia, Spain.

Post-IAC: travel back to Allahabad to make a presentation at the Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology and meet with Abhishek, Jojo, Pallavi, and friends.

End of October: Join the workin' world.

More later... first I need to finish my combustion homework and work on step one of this plan—graduate.

Today's Run

Run time: 39:02
Distance: ~5 miles
Course: CRCE to 7th floor University/Goodwin parking deck to Assembly Hall to CRCE
Temperature: 31°F (feels like 31°F)
Wind: NNW 3mph
Humidity: 96%
Miles this week: 9
Miles this month: 5
Comments: Starting to get some rhythm back...

Today's run...

Run time: 33:20
Distance: ~4 miles
Course: CRCE to 7th floor University/Goodwin parking deck to 1st/Peabody to CRCE
Temperature: 33°F (feels like 24°F)
Wind: WNW 11mph
Humidity: 91%
Comments: Who was that guy who was in shape to run the Chicago Marathon 3.5 months ago? Me?

how we forget to remember

"This is a story of how we begin to remember" —Paul Simon, "Under African Skies"

I want to take someone to see sunrise from Guadalupe Peak. But I hesitate—it's not the greatest place in the world to go, though I sometimes make it out as that. Guadalupe Peak (in Guadalupe Mountains National Park) was the first signpost by which I had measured the progress of my life, so it is a great place to me. I don't think I realized then, but I undestand some of the significance now.

It was one year ago today that I hiked to the top of the peak. The day before, I asked the rangers in the visitor center for advice—what should I see in my one day at Guadalupe Mountains NP? Their suggestion was to hike to the top of the peak to see the sun rise over western Texas. This sounded audacious to me. You mean that I should walk a 4.2-mile trail 3000-ft up in the dark? Well, audacious plans for audacious people.

I woke up late the next morning, but not too late. I should be satisfied that I slept at all. The winds coming down to the campsite from the mountains were stiff enough to require that I cook inside the tent; my little stove wouldn't keep a flame outside, not to mention that I had no desire to be out there. During the night, I would routinely be surprised that the windward wall of the tent would be pressed down to where I was trying to sleep in the middle of the floor. That is, it was windy.

But that's not the point, really. The point was that I was going to hike to the top of a mountain in the dark. I put the contents of my tent in the car—just in case the wind intended to send my tent into New Mexico—and geared up for the trail. Gear for this trail meant a Pop Tart, Power Bar, granola bar, water, camera, flashlight, and a blanket. Now, here's where coincidence was on my side. First, there was a full moon that night; I only used the flashlight during a 50m stretch that wound through a grove of trees. Otherwise, the trail was clear and turned toward the brilliant moon. Second, I expected company on the trail, whether from the local wildlife or from another hiker. But there was no one or nothing. I'm selfish—I wanted the view to myself. I wanted to sit on the top of the mountain in my blanket and wait for the sun to slowly illuminate

I agree that not every action and experience is meant to teach a lesson, but there are lessons to be learned nonetheless.

Return to Ambala, Part I (draft)

[...first draft of part of the India story...]

Shaggy’s real name was Subeg, but that consisted of a few sounds that might emanate more easily from a Punjabi mouth than mine. Even his friends at home called him Shaggy. He was sixteen years old. And his dad just scared the rolling hell out of me on the bus from New Delhi. There's something about a guy with a knife and a turban shaking you awake that makes it easy to forget where you are.

That I even made it to that bus is an exercise in coincidence that I don’t understand. There I was, partway through my redemptive return to Ambala. I wasn’t scared of anything.

I had flown out of Calcutta that morning with no problems, though I expected plenty. I bought my tickets to New Delhi with help from Palash’s mom; she spoke the Bengali, I made the occasional head nod. To travel on January 12 there were two options. Air Sahara had an early morning flight with a condition—the ticket cost Rs. 4000 for Indian citizens, but Rs. 11000 for others. 11000 rupees is a little rich for me, equivalent to about US$250. Option two, Air Deccan, also had an early morning flight for Rs. 4000, but this flight was frequently cancelled because of the foggy weather conditions.

So these were my choices—the guaranteed flight that could kill my bank account or a flight that might not even happen. Those weren’t great odds, but I was confident—I was going to make this trip happen. I left Ambala as a wretch and I was going to return and be great. I bought the Indian citizen ticket on Air Sahara. When I arrived at the domestic terminal the next morning, two things could happen, either the people at the ticket counter would see that I had an Indian citizen ticket or they wouldn’t.

I received my ticket and went back to the security gate to say goodbye to Palash and to tell him that I was an honorary Indian citizen for the day. My confidence was rewarded and the first step to Ambala underway.

The taxi ride from the airport to the bus terminal was an unremarkable hour-long cross-town drive. The excitement of a taxi ride never starts until I emerge; at that time, the sight of a white guy with a backpack sets off a secret siren that calls the bus vendors to tout their services. It’s inevitable. It was easy to avoid some of them. With a move that would have made my old football coach proud I faked left then stepped right, causing the first one to charge left without me.

The second one was more cunning. “Over here, over here,” he exclaimed, pointing in a direction that was not the bus that I wanted to ride, so I gave him a naheeng and headed for the bus stand. It’s never appropriate to answer the calls of “Where are you going?” But this time, against all common sense, and without breaking stride or straight-ahead gaze, I replied dryly, “Ambala.”

“Oh, we have nonstop bus to Ambala. Come this way.” Per usual, “this way” was not in the direction of the buses that were in front of me. Something was different this time, there was an instinct that was called forward from the back of my mind. Something was pushing me to Ambala, and a subtle feeling compelled me to follow “this way.”

We walked briskly into the Inter-State Bus Terminal and then out the other side to his kiosk. Now I had a bad feeling. The bus terminal was my safety zone; everything outside of this was the jungle, the wild—crazy New Delhi and a rush that I couldn't understand.

Inside the kiosk, life is urgent. He must show me the bus, he must have me buy the ticket now for Rs. 280. Here's a funny principle. Rs. 280 is less than US$6 and Ambala is roughly 150km away. In the US, I probably couldn't walk 150km for $6. That, and when I rode the bus from New Delhi to Ambala on January 1 with Megha I paid only Rs. 100. So I told him no and left.

As I left he said, "The bus is ready to leave now." Before I even returned to my seat, I had my wallet out and a Rs. 500 bill ready to go.

I was going to Ambala. Now.

[...to be continued and edited...]

Return from India

This is how we go on: one day at a time, one meal at a time, one pain at a time, one breath at a time.

—Stephen King, Bag of Bones

I returned from India on Wednesday after a three week trip. It was the best trip I've ever taken; it was the worst trip I've ever taken. I'd love to explain it to you; I'd hate to explain it to you. But I'm back—armed with a set of good pictures, amusing experiences, and a new set of emotions that I don't understand yet. I'll be writing about it offline and will drop a few sections here until it all comes together. There's a decent short story in all of this if I can pull it together.

Time to kill... books I read in 2005

Since the website to buy train tickets in India is moving slow... I'll list the books that I've read in 2005. I don't know why, but I had an urge to do this today and now I have nothing better to do as I wait. These are in quasi-chronological order, meaning that I've tried to remember them in the order that I read them, but I'm not trying that hard to have any real order.

  • First science fiction books I ever read: Red Mars then Green Mars then Blue Mars, all by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac—this was the second time I read this book, and it had a bit more meaning this time around, seemed less depressing and more... I don't know, more real once I discovered that the events in the book were more-or-less all true.
  • Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac (1947-1954) edited by Douglas Brinkley (in progress)
  • Neal Cassady: Collected Letters 1944-1974 edited by Dave Moore (in progress)
  • On Writing Well by William Zinsser
  • Writing About Your Life by William Zinsser
  • Etiquette Guide to Japan by Boye Lafayette De Mente
  • The Giver by Lois Lowery, a flashback to a book I read in seventh grade
  • New Moon Rising by Keith Cowing and Frank Seitzen
  • Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
  • Failure is not an Option by Gene Kranz
  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau (never finished this one)
  • Vagabonding by Rolf Potts

There were probably others—I'll update as necessary.