Category Archives: On The Road Again

On the road again – epilogue

Sunday September 27, 9:40 AM

Well, I’m back from four days in deepest Colorado, and it’s time to take stock.

One of the more frustrating things I’m asked when traveling is “so what are you getting out of this meeting?”  Just occasionally, it’s tempting to answer “sleep deprivation, a bad back and a divorce.”  But that would be gratuitously boorish – even if the question’s not that appropriate, it’s always asked with sincerity.

Over the past two years, I’ve traveled to over 80 work-related meetings, and in nearly every case it’s been at the organizers’ request.  Usually I’m invited to speak because someone thinks I have have something worthwhile to say.  Whether or not this is the case (and I’m sure some would question it), it’s usually the meeting organizers and attendees that benefit from me being there.  The best I can hope for is a paid-for flight, the occasional honorarium, and enough stamina to get me back home reasonably intact.

So why do I do it?  I certainly don’t have to.  I could probably accept less than six invitations a year, and still do my current job well.  It’s not the money – I usually speak for free.  I don’t think it’s an ego thing, although it’s always nice to be asked to speak.  And it’s certainly not the lure of visiting exotic places and meeting interesting people (I’m afraid the novelty soon wears off).

This latest trip to Colorado seemed a perfect opportunity to burst the travel-glamor bubble, or at least dent it – a long haul to some remote place at a time when I could ill afford to be away.  As it turned out though, this was not a typical trip. And where I had hoped to play the sympathy card, I suspect readers were simply left thinking “lucky sod!”

In a strange way though, this exceptional trip has helped me understand better why, despite the hardships, I still accept invitations to participate in meetings that on the face of it don’t offer me much in return… Continue reading On the road again – epilogue

Hello Denver – again!

Saturday September 26, 5:40 PM (Mountain Time)

Back at Denver Airport.

Knackered (a good British phrase – look it up!)

Just landed from Grand Junction, and boarding in 20 minutes.  Time for something to eat? Only if I wrap this blog up fast.

Get back home around 1:00 AM Sunday morning.

No matter how enjoyable and useful, travel takes it’s toll.  At least I have the weekend to recover.

Oops – this is the weekend.


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No wife should have to celebrate her wedding anniversary with a duster!

September 26, 12:45 PM (Mountain Time)

Well, I’m sitting here at lunchtime on my last day at Kessler Canyon, and I must confess I’m somewhat conflicted.  On one hand, this was a trip I was not looking forward to.  I’m tired.  I’m traveled-out.  I miss my family.  They miss me.  And to cap it all, today is my 22nd wedding anniversary! Continue reading No wife should have to celebrate her wedding anniversary with a duster!

“Fruit picking,” nanotech style

September 25, 11:00 PM (Mountain Time)

Update, Sept 26, 12:25 PM.  One of the advantages of not being able to publish blog posts as I write them is the option of reviewing them before they finally hit the net.  I finally have internet access for the first time since Wednesday evening.  But in re-reading this post before publishing it, I realize that it is a little dry.  So here are the highlights for anyone who can’t be faffed with reading the whole thing:

1.  I’m at a workshop at Kessler Canyon with a handful of other experts, working out how to get a better handle on measuring workplace exposures to engineered nanomaterials.

2.  We’ve made pretty good progress over the past two days, helped along by gourmet food, stunning surroundings, and the occasional Country and Western song.

3.  Despite my reservations and earlier gripes, this has been a good meeting.  And

4. I’m only here because I made the mistake of becoming something of an expert in nanomaterial exposure assessment.

If you want more of the gory details, read on… Continue reading “Fruit picking,” nanotech style

Absent fathers

September 24, 11:15 PM (Mountain Time)

It’s the end of my first full day at the Kessler Canyon workshop and I have to admit, it’s been a good day.  However, the internet outage has completely thrown the carefully crafted blog schedule I had worked out for the next day or so, leading to a bit of an on the fly rethink.  Assuming that I won’t be able to post anything until Saturday afternoon at the earliest, I’m going to prepare a couple of posts over the next two days, and send them off as soon as I hit somewhere that’s actually connected to the rest of the world.  Wonderful as my wife Clare is for transcribing my last post over the phone and posting it on my behalf, I can’t really ask her to keep doing it.

Especially when I’m writing at 1:15 in the morning DC time!

What I was going to write about today was what this workshop in the middle of no-where is all about, and why I thought it worth dragging myself half way across the country for.  But I’ll leave that until tomorrow now.

Instead, let me tell you about one of the harder aspects of the trip. Continue reading Absent fathers

Mile high? More like mile long!

Wednesday September 23, 7:50 PM (Mountain time)

Having just landed at Denver and made the commute along concourse B to my next flight (just how long is that concourse?  Forget being mile high – mile long is more like it), I have just enough time for a shot of caffeine, a quick blog and a restroom stop before the next leg of my journey (not necessarily in that order). Continue reading Mile high? More like mile long!

Never mind the hunting, check out the man-spa!

Wednesday September 23, 11:15 AM

Having a few minutes free before this lunchtime’s event at the Wilson Center, I thought it was about time I revealed where I’m heading this afternoon.  To be honest, I was a little unsure about doing this in case someone got the idea that this was going to be a fun trip.  But I gather that authenticity and honesty are big these days, so here goes… Continue reading Never mind the hunting, check out the man-spa!

It’s the shoes that are the problem…

Wednesday September 23, 6:35 AM

It’s 6:35 in the morning, the dog’s walked, I have the day’s first cup of tea in my hands, and it’s time to start getting ready for today’s travel.  Just to complicate things though, I have a full day’s work to get through first before heading for Reagan National Airport this afternoon… Continue reading It’s the shoes that are the problem…

On the road again – four days of travel blogs

Tuesday September 22, 8:05 PM

There’s this myth that work travel is fun.

When I used to work for the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services, they treated it as a perk that was only grudgingly allowed – to the extent that tagging personal days onto work travel was considered “too much fun,” and subsequently banned! But like many others, I’ve learned over the years that traveling as part of your job is mostly a long hard slog, that puts a strain on your family, jeopardizes your physical and mental health, and kills your social life stone dead.

Yet I still do it.


It’s a question I ask myself rather too often these days it seems. Continue reading On the road again – four days of travel blogs