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.

I am ALWAYS looking for good reasons to go to Alaska

I could get paid for being in Alaska? Inconceivable! This looks awesome at first glance: University of Alaska Career Opportunities Recruitment System. And I just found this: National Park Service Seasonal Employment Program.

Oh, while I'm on a roll, might as well post a list of reasons to go to Alaska:

And this list fails to mention that I'd have to drive through Montana, the Canadian Rockies in British Columbia and Alberta, and Yukon Territory to get there. I wish I had several lifetimes in which to accomplish all of the nutty things I'd like to do.

inauspicious start to 25

My research assistant position with the university has been cancelled, so I have the choice to stay on and pay for things myself next semester. Ugh... how bad do I need a masters degree? And the timing was placed with surgical accuracy; I bought the ticket to India and was relying on paychecks leading up to Christmas to finish paying for it. I guess I had it coming to me for taking a risk like that...

What does this all mean?

There were two important external decision points to help direct me. First, there was a ~3-month position open with the X PRIZE Foundation in California; this would have been some cash and some direction for a little while, but didn't pan out. Second, there is the potential of a tuition waiver from the aerospace engineering department at the university, but I don't expect that to happen. This leaves the decision up to me: stay or go. Stay means live on a student loan and some job that I don't have yet or haven't even searched for (the timing of this India trip went from good to bad in a hurry). Go means... well, I'm not really sure what it means, packing up the car and heading off somewhere to find a job that can pay bills temporarily until I can find something that I don't hate (I've given up being so picky as to hope for finding something that I like).

So. I've been faced with a situation that might rouse me out of my personal doldrums and into action. Happy 25th birthday, Kirk. Now grow up and do something.

(Confession: it sounds more tempthing now than ever to drop out of everything and create a new situation somewhere... if only I hadn't spent all the cash on this trip! Well, I am sitting directly in front of several hundred dollars worth of engineering textbooks; maybe this is where I start.)

Preparing to close out 2005

I'm trying to organize my thoughts to write a short story about my experiences in 2005... so why not scribble them online instead of in my notebook for now?

2005 was a year on the road...

  • Started on Bourbon St. in New Orleans
  • Travel to Mojave for X PRIZE Foundation internship: Urbana, IL to St. Louis, MO to College Station, TX to Big Bend National Park, TX (hail and the top of Emery Peak and more hail) to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, TX (top of Guadalupe Peak in the moonlight) to Tucson, AZ to Saguaro National Park, AZ (which is really in Tucson) to Las Vegas, NV (to spend $370+ on new brakes) to Mojave, CA
  • Weekend trip to Yosemite National Park with Brian Woodard and Mike Conti, who is on his first campout ever but doesn't complain about the combination of leaky tent and sub-40 weather
  • The greatest or second-greatest weekend trip ever, a weekend trip to Death Valley National Park with Brian Woodard; climb Corkscrew Peak, explore the end of Mosaic Canyon, watch the sun rise from the dunes at Stovepipe Wells, camp in the freezing cold at Wildrose campground, watch the sun set from Death Valley Buttes
  • Weekend trip to an LA Dodgers game
  • Weekend trip to Joshua Tree National Park, solo; hike down to Lost Palms Oasis and Victory Palms
  • Weekend trip to Brookey-B's parents' house at the end of the world: Trona, CA; ride a four-wheeler; hike out to pristine Panamint Dunes with Dana and Brian
  • Weekend trip to Joshua Tree National Park with Brian Woodard, Sarah someone, and Surjeet; guide the group back to Victory Palms, hike amongst the Joshua trees, then back to Huntington Beach
  • Weekend trip to Death Valley National Park, solo, backpacking 5-miles up Surprise Canyon; to get to Surprise Canyon I have to borrow Fernando's truck and learn how to drive a manual transmission; get stumped by the snow above the Panamint City ghost town and abort a trip to the top of Sentinel Peak; break Fernando's truck somehow...
  • Weekend trip to Mojave National Preserve, get a little lost trying to find Fountain Peak without a map
  • Weekend trip to Death Valley National Park with Dana, Brian, and Grant; explore the Racetrack and top of Ubehebe Peak waaaaay off the main road; get kicks at the top of Eureka Dunes
  • Trip to Washington, DC for the Goddard Memorial Symposium
  • Trip to Washington, DC for the International Space Development Conference
  • Return from Mojave: Mojave, CA to Reno, NV to Lava Beds National Monument, CA to Portland, OR to Seattle, WA to Ochoco National Forest, OR to McCall, ID to Missoula, MT to Bismarck, ND to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND to Park Rapids, MN to Ingersoll Scout Reservation, IL
  • Trip to Fukuoka, Japan for the Space Generation Congress and International Astronautical Congress
  • Weekend trip to visit Taro at Texas A&M
  • Weekend trip to Boston to visit Surjeet and conquer Mt. Washington in New Hampshire
  • Near-spontaneous trip to Toronto, Ontario to help with the International Lunar Conference and the re-establishment of SEDS-Canada
  • Trip to Las Vegas, NV to help with the Return to the Moon conference; make $60 on craps; meet the lovely Megha in person for the first time; return to Mojave for a reunion before heading out to Manhattan Beach
  • Trip to Houston to present at the American Astronautical Society's national conference
  • 2005 will conclude in India

I've got my visa

Visa: check. Plane ticket: check. Immunizations: scheduled for Thursday.

Wooooo, this excursion is really going to happen! Now I just need to finalize my itinerary (which I can't do until Megha is at home in Ambala around December 10) and collect addresses from people who want postcards.

Oh -- just got an email from Sandhya, an Australian friend from the Space Generation Congress. There's a small chance that I might be able to meet up with her in India while she is visiting family. And my "boss" from the project in Mojave will be flying into New Delhi around January 15 en route to somewhere for a 3-month music school; I may be able to meet up with her, too.