"We have no idea what's going on up there."


It's a fun story, certainly a prime example of my occasional lack of common sense, and more first-hand eyewitness reporting of the state of Oswego county and points nearby. So, because I'm here to blog it, I provide below my attempted travel to Clarkson for a department colloquium and nanoworkshop.

6:00 am – begin drive to Potsdam. Cold wind, blue skies.

6:20 am – approaching Mexico, NY. Few flakes, but nothing to stop a (er, my) VW Beetle.

6:25 am – within five minutes, blue skies had turned into white skies. The abruptness of the change from non-lake effect to lake effect should have been warning enough.

7:00 am – somewhere between 6:25 and 7:00 am, when it hadn't been snowing THAT BAD yet, I decided it was time to do something stupid, so I pulled out the digital Elph, set it to movie mode, and recorded the little snippet above.

7:25 am – the turning point. After 1 hr, the 4-car caravan I found myself (thankfully) at the back of had made it nearly 5 miles towards the Mexico exit (34 on 81 N). By this time, the red glow of the taillights two cars in front of me were intermittently viewable due to snow obstruction. The exit itself was marked with a tractor trailer pulled to the side of the road, lights flashing. The three cars ahead of me begin the slow rightward veer to the exit. I trudge ahead beyond the exit…

7:26 am – … 13 feet. I wish now that I had had the better mind to take a picture of the view in front of me. My wagon train had been the ONLY thing on the road in at least… 20 minutes. In that 20 minutes, any pair of tire tracks were filled in, leaving nothing to follow. For all intensive purposes, 81 North WAS GONE. Literally disappeared. It looked like I had taken a hard right turn off the road and were facing the woods, the woods as they would have appeared after any other snow storm. The snow was at 7 inches where the tracks would have been, making the actual level of the snow all of 13 inches, making the path in front of me at least 3 inches higher than the clearance of the Beetle.

7:27 am – for the first time in my otherwise spotless driving career, I threw the car into reverse (which has to be some kind of no-no on a state highway) and drove back towards exit 34. Just barely making it to Route 104, I wait with the accumulated cars in the accumulation.

7:45 am – some small group of drivers begin the trip along 104 Wes, theoretically back onto 81 S. The on-ramp, invisible and sign-less, is overshot by all involved, leaving us to slip+slide along 104 W towards… nowhere in particular. With nowhere to turn around due to the height of the snow drifts, we trudge along for several miles. I knew there were houses there, as I could see the orange glow of room lights cutting through thinned snow drifts building up at house walls.

8:05 am – some spot in the road was wide enough to turn around, which we all did.

8:25 am – We reached the 81 South on-ramp just in time for the National Weather Service to declare a state of emergency in Oswego. "Far out," I said. I hadn't gotten near Oswego yet.

After 9:30 am – now comfortably out of the worst of the weather, I make the first calls to Cetin Cetinkaya at Clarkson and let him know I'm going to be late. About a week and a half late.

3 hr 3 min or so to get all of 35 miles. I've mentioned this to every Syracusan I've told the story to. No matter what you've seen on the TV, heard on the radio, or read about in the paper, we have no idea what's going on up there.


Highlights From The ACCD Ibero American Keynote And Conference

I had far too much fun to not make mention of my first trip to Texas and keynote.


9/16 – Hotel. The photo above was my view of San Antonio from the 14th floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Having stayed in and worked all day, it took me until the 17th to realize that San Antonio is, in fact, an actual big city. One that happens to exist to the North, East, and South of my due-West window. You can see for yourself the arrangement of the city here.


9/17 – The Alamo. My godmother's friend's great-grandfather, William DePriest Sutherland (web and local pdf copy), was a 17-year-old courier (perhaps performing the duties of his uncle John S. Jr.) who died during the fighting on March 6, 1836. After 170 years, it's still a small world (if you need more proof, I link Kevin Bacon to the Alamo in 6).


9/18 – Movie. The first full day of the conference began at 5:00 am with a 14th floor fire alarm. As a chemist (well, sort of) working in a big box of laboratories full of organic vapors, my usual inclination is to run like hell when the fire alarm goes off. Much to my surprise, the directions in large hotels are to hold still until the origin of the alarm can be ascertained (you never know what… state the guests are in). The next thing I remember was waking up fully dressed in the previous day's clothes (ready to run with nothing from the ironing board). The rest of the day was spent regretting not having taken Spanish in high school, having already regretted not taking German in high school to make my translation of German chemical journals easier. C'est dommage.

The contents of the conference are worth their own posting because, frankly, it's too important generally to bury within a slide show. So, I skip the details…

The post-conference reception featured a 9-piece Mariachi band that were getting INTO it. Click on the image to launch a 30 second snippet (you'll need a recent Quicktime. they're playing my song, as it was the only Mariachi tune I knew).


9/18 – Crossroads. Carolyn Kelley is my new favorite Greek just north of the south of the border. En route to the famed Riverwalk, San Antonio's official response to Syracuse's Armory Square, we passed by the blurred hotel in the photo. This was the hotel, according to legend, where Robert Johnson wrote "Crossroads." I need say no more.


9/19 – Javier. After the second day's meeting, the assembly retired to a late lunch where I was finally able to pull my keynote translator, Javier Romïan, aside. It's bad enough having to translate on the fly. It is a whole level worse when scientific lingo/jargon is being thrown around as part of the content. It is, further, a whole other matter to have to work around occasionally incoherent, rambling, unfocused presenters (like myself). On top of all that, a glitch with the translation headsets meant I had to give my presentation to him on stage in 30 second sound bites, making my 45 minute talk last about 1 hour 25 min (which, actually, was a really nice way to give a presentation, as I had plenty of time to think about what I wanted to say for the next slide AND had to make sure I curtailed my proclivity for verbosity). I don't know what he said, but he's AOK in my book.


9/20 – Abel and Jim. I spent several minutes trying to pack my bull horns into a suitcase already replete with my toiletries (there's a big difference between personal grooming and personal hygiene. As a policy (and because crazy scientists are supposed to, well, LOOK the part), I focus on the latter) thanks to events at Heathrow (and note the timing of the acceptance of the PETN paper in ChemPhysChem). The rest of the morning featured a short interview for Univision and last-minute photo ops with Dr. Abel Navarro, my gracious host and conference chair, and Mr. James Dickerson, who made the presentation logistics as easy as turning my Powerbook on.


9/20 – Just of interest to note that American cities in-progress look remarkably like the Greek and Roman ones that didn't make it over the longer haul.