Scary Travel

I’m getting ready to go on my first trip outside of NJ or NYC since 2019. And I’m spending maybe too much time this morning obsessing and worrying about it. It’ll be a trip up to Troy NY, where I went to college, for a friend’s wife’s funeral service. I’ll be taking Amtrak from NYC to Albany tomorrow, staying overnight in Albany Sunday and Monday, and coming back on Tuesday morning.

This trip will definitely involve much more human contact than I’ve had since before the pandemic began. (I guess my NYCC trip last year got me close to a bunch of people, but that was a one-day in and out trip.) I’ll be taking NJ Transit into NYC, then changing to Amtrak. I’ll be staying in a hotel for two nights. And of course I’ll be at the service. I don’t really know how many people will be there, whether or not they’ll be masked, or how many are coming in from out of state. So lots of opportunity for virus transmission. And also for weird and/or awkward interpersonal encounters.

NJ Transit and Amtrak both still require masks, so that’s good. But I know that mask compliance has probably gone down over time. I know from experience that NJ Transit won’t make a big deal of it if somebody isn’t wearing a mask. I’m not sure about Amtrak.

This is also the first time I’ve ridden Amtrak in many years. As far as I can tell, it should be pretty straightforward. I have coach tickets both way. Coach on Amtrak looks like it should be reasonably comfortable. And it looks like boarding an Amtrak train is still much more straightforward than getting on an airplane. I won’t need to check any bags, and I don’t think they have any kind of security around carry-on bags, so I don’t need to worry about whether or not I have a plastic fork in there or more than three ounces of shampoo or whatever else is forbidden by the TSA these days.

I’ve built enough slack into my schedule to allow for NJT or Amtrak delays. The service is Monday, and I’m going up on Sunday. I think that Amtrak generally has enough flexibility that, if my NJT train to NYC is late and I miss the Amtrak train, I can get on a later one. And I’m going to take a NJT train that should get me into NYC about an hour before the Amtrak one leaves.

And the two nights in the hotel give me some flexibility and allow me to go to the service on Monday without having to drag my luggage with me and worry about getting from there directly back to the train station.

Still, I’m kind of freaking out about the trip. Worried about getting sick before it and having to cancel. Worried about travel issues. Worried about forgetting something. Worried about getting sick after the trip. Oh well.

Whenever I go on trips like this, I spend a lot of time thinking about what devices I’m bringing and what I’m leaving home. For this trip, I plan on bringing my iPhone (of course), AirPod Pros, iPad, and Kindle. I sometimes bring a Bluetooth keyboard for the iPad on a short trip, but I think I’ll skip that this time. Both my iPhone and iPad are old enough that their batteries don’t hold as much of a charge as they used to. I’m pretty sure Amtrak has power outlets at every seat, so I should be able to charge them up on the train. Another thing I’ve gotten paranoid about in recent years is the possibility of completely draining my iPhone battery, then not being able to use it for an Uber, or to show my ticket on the train. I do have an Anker battery back that I can use in a pinch, but that’s also a few years old and I’m not sure how much of a charge it holds these days.

And my last bit of uncertainty and slight paranoia comes from not having a real set schedule for what I’m doing while I’m in the area, outside of obviously the service itself. I know that some old friends will be around, but I’m not 100% sure who’s coming in or when they’re arriving or departing. So there might be people around on Sunday night who I can go to dinner with, or there might not. And there might be people looking to go to lunch on Monday, or there might not.

I’m just looking back at some notes, and I’m pretty sure that my last major trip was to Redmond in May 2019 for a Microsoft workshop. Looking back at my post-trip blog post on that, apparently that trip took a lot out of me. This will be shorter trip and doesn’t involve any cross-country airplane flights, or time zone changes, so this one shouldn’t be too hard on me.

Anyway, this overly-long post is just a dumb way for me to work out some anxiety and fill a little time between getting my laundry done and grabbing lunch today. I don’t think I’ve managed to say anything witty or useful, so my apologies if you’ve read this far, thinking there would be something good or funny in here.

Poor old RPI

This article from Vice News does a pretty good job of showing how my old alma mater, RPI, has become an almost perfect example of all the things that have gone wrong with college education in America. Overpaid executives, growing tuition, growing student-to-faculty ratios, growing administrator-to-faculty ratios, and so on.

If I was a high school senior today, coming from a fairly modest middle-class background, I really don’t think I would want to even consider RPI. And if I did want to go there, I don’t think I could afford it, without taking on some crippling student debt. Which wouldn’t be worth it, since the quality of the undergraduate education really isn’t good enough to support that kind of high tuition. I’d likely get a better education at Rutgers or NJIT.

New supercomputer center at RPI

IBM to help build $100 million supercomputer center: “The new Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations, planned to be operational by the end of the year, will be the largest supercomputing center at a university and one of the 10 largest in the world, according to its backers.” They didn’t have this kind of stuff when *I* was at RPI!

Bennington Dunkin Donuts

Cool! I just noticed that the first shift supervisor from the Bennington Dunkin Donuts left a comment in my guest book asking why I have a photo of their store on my web page. He left the message a couple of weeks ago, so I guess I must have accidentally trashed the e-mail notification on it or something.

For the curious: Back when I was in college, at RPI, it was a bit of a tradition in my fraternity to take pledges on little road trips, and Bennington was a common destination. Part of that tradition involved stopping at the nearest Dunkin Donuts, and having everyone involved sign a Dunkin Donuts napkin, as a little memento of the trip.

So, the photo is a little in-joke for any APO/EZ brothers visiting this page. Hope that satisfies anyone’s curiosity! Oh, and this page is the 17th hit if you search for Bennington VT Dunkin Donuts at Google.