Saturday, December 31, 2022

A few things that made my 2022 interesting..

A walk on the frozen Arctic, Utqiagvik
2022 was a good year, although often it felt like a single blob of 2020 - 2022. 2022 was still better than 2020 and 2021. As expected, 2022 had its negative moments, But this post focuses on the happy moments.

 1. New year in Utqiaġvik with Northern lights in the dark Arctic skies

Watching the fireworks over the frozen lake.

2. A walk on the frozen Arctic Ocean with icy white eyebrows in a -40 temperature.

That magical moment made me realize I had fallen in love with Alaska and I must return more often.

Northern lights on the New Years day
3. Friendly and diverse people in Birmingham, AL.

I did not expect Alabama to be this cool.

4. A night in Providence, RI

and a pleasant train ride from Boston.

5. A night walk around Harvard and MIT

Loved the vibe of Boston's academic circles.

6. The Hindu Temple of Atlanta

It reminded me of my times in the Hindu temple of Lisboa.

7. The decade, the two decades, and the three decades.

I reached 35. It is a decade since I left Sri Lanka for my grad school in Lisboa, two decades since my school memories in O/L, and three decades since I remember anything.

The Atlantic Ocean, Boston

8. Accepted journal papers

CONTROL-CORE at IEEE Access and Niffler at IEEE Computer Magazine.

9. Dark alleys and urban decay of Detroit, MI

Detroit made me feel like I am back in the early days in Lisboa. Energetic and excited for a long journey ahead.

10. A trip of trips by train

A spring train trip from Detroit, MI to Albuquerque, NM with a diversion to Milwaukee, WI. Staying in different towns/cities each night of the trip.  

11. Chicago Chinatown

I love Chinatowns, and Chicago has a good one.

12. The walkable town, Fort Madison, IA, with a paved trail along the Mississippi river.

Stayed in a cute hotel. The town and its riverside paved trail reminded me of Vila Franca de Xira in Portugal.

The Pacific Ocean, Santa Monica

13, Michigan lake in Hammond, IN

Hammond was much cheaper than Atlanta.

14. Crossing state borders and a long walk in Kansas City (MO to KS).

It also had a beautiful Amtrak train station.

15. Random walking the streets of Milwaukee, WI

and enjoying some soul food.

16. The unique homes of New Mexico.

Albuquerque and its Sunport were nice. It was also an overnight train ride to ABQ.

17. Santa Monica and the Pacific Ocean

Although second time in Santa Monica, this was my first time stepping into the water.

Train to Albuquerque

18. Little Tokyo in Los Angeles.

This cute little neighborhood never disappoints.

19. Reuniting with family

This brings an end to my home alone life throughout the pandemic.

20. A Portuguese restaurant in Atlanta.

Reconnecting with the Portuguese cuisine after leaving the country. 

21. Hybrid conferences

Presented virtually at MoNeTec and SDS. I miss attending conferences physically though.

22. Views from Stone Mountain.

It is a panoramic view of Atlanta from the top.  

23. A Christmas filled with powdery snow in St Paul, MN

Always comfy to walk on the snow when it is still fresh and powdery.

24. Rapid changes of travel plans.

Amtrak messed up a planned train trip from St Paul to Seattle. Had to make alternative plans quickly.

25. Booking direct

I was already booking the flights directly from the airlines for a few years now. This year, I ditched and booked directly with the hotels as much as possible.

26. Stuck in the twin cities.

Canceled trains, extending what was supposed to be a 2-night stay into a 7-night stay in MN. But we enjoyed the food scene in the twin cities.

Frozen Chena River, Fairbanks

27. Much calmer winter in

A repeat visit to Fairbanks in December. But this time, no blizzards. Fairbanks felt mild compared to last December, with clearer starry skies and some northern lights.

28. Slow return to "normal?"

I worked from the lab one day this December, almost after 3 years since March 2020. The pandemic is still on though.

29. Atlantic Ocean and seagulls in Boston.

Oceans connect us.

30. Cooking in the hotel studio in Utqiagvik

As I was able to cook my own (proper) food in the hotel for my 3 days in total darkness in Utqiagvik, Utqiagvik felt more like home during this second visit.

Every year, I have one new year's resolution - to outperform my previous years. :) I wish you a happy new year. Thanks for reading my list until the end. You may read the blog posts of all the previous years as well.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Amtrak and a series of cancellations

White Sun in the twin cities, MN
 We had a triangle trip planned, with ATL -> MSP by flight, with a train trip from St Paul (SPM) to Seattle, and another flight back home from SEA -> ATL. However, Amtrak kept cancelling the train from SPM -> SEA continuously, for 4 days, (as in 2 days, 1 day, and another day), citing adverse weather, manpower issues, and adverse weather again. At this point, the planned train trip was ruined although we tried our best to protect it by postponing it for up to 4 days, giving Amtrak a chance. But as Amtrak kept canceling like this, we had to activate alternative plans. One option was to fly from MSP to SEA, to end the trip in Seattle as planned. But then I checked the flight prices, and it turned out, we could fly from MSP to FAI (via SEA) with a minimal difference in flight prices. I love Fairbanks, and a second visit to Fairbanks would be great after all. This is how Amtrak's unpredictable day-by-day train cancellations led us to Fairbanks, making my third time to Alaska.