Geek Holiday day 1

Boy, you are in for a real treat. On the first day of my geek vacation, I went to a university and took pictures of the office floors of economists! But, I don’t want to spoil it all for you, here’s how it all went down…

Let’s see…Thursday was spent flying from El Paso to Washington DC, only one stop and we didn’t have to get off but it still took the whole day. They don’t feed you on airplanes anymore. Eric has this theory that people order beverages on planes they don’t normally drink otherwise so he’s always asking people what’s their “airplane drink”. His drink is ginger ale. I’ve never known him to drink that otherwise. My airplane drink is tomato juice. What’s yours? I was feeling contrary with airplane-drink-man, knowing he’d be watching what I ordered so I deliberately did not order my traditional airplane drink but asked for Pepsi instead which isn’t something I drink either and that was knowing full well they only have Coke and not Pepsi anyway. I figure if enough people order Pepsi in places that only serve Coke, they’ll have to start carrying Pepsi and market equilibrium established, I can go back to my most preferred beverage of choice which is club soda. I buy cases of it at a time.

Friday we spent the morning getting our bearings (we stayed in the Georgetown area) fretting over an internet connection. Tulane was generous with their wifi, Starbucks was charging for theirs. I was p.o’d. That’s why you go there for coffee! If you’re on the road and need a cup and a connection, Starbucks is the logical choice. Not in DC. What a rip off. After that, we had breakfasts at Einstein bagels, which didn’t have wifi either but the food was made fresh and hot, not shipped out of Seattle, and at much better prices. After breakfast, we started the first day by visiting a blogging friend (Tyler Cowen/Marginal Revolution) who’s a professor at George Mason University. Here’s a picture of Eric and Tyler.

Actually, we met up with the whole department, the so-named School of Public Choice which sounds too oblique to mean anything so it’s better described as a whole passle of libertarian economists. Being smart guys they understood the whole concept of a geek vacation although they still thought a week on a beach was a better bet but I said they only thought that because they’d want to look at bikinis, whereas, I tend to avoid situations involving the potentiality of sand in bodily orifices. I haven’t read much of Bryan’s blog but he thought the concept of a geek vacation was interesting so he posed for me with his geek credentials handy (below). I’ve nicknamed him the Stevie Wonder of economists. He’s got this side to side stim thing going and wears shorts 11 months of the year.

I don’t think I’d read as many libertarians as I do if I didn’t like to argue, because as I tell Eric, libertarians are big meanies. It’s more that they aren’t dumb, they’re logical and interesting to argue with. Eric has this delusional fantasy that I’ll eventually convert. Ha! Of the blogs put out by this crew shown in the photo below, left to right with Tyler (MR), Bryan Caplan (Econolog), Robin Hanson (Overcoming Bias) and Alex Tabarrok (MR), I read MR and Overcoming Bias the most. Robin is the perfect person to do the latter. Still, he has the luxury of endless theoretical back and forth. In manufacturing, somebody’s got to decide something, for better or worse or nobody eats. They all, combined, know as much about fashion as I do which doesn’t say much about any of us although they expected me to be some kind of expert on it. Like who cares about fashion, why would anyone? I thought it a tad presumptuous for them to think I’d know anything about it, much less care about it. Among us, Alex was dressed the spiffiest.

I also took pictures of their offices. I have a theory about people’s offices, mine included, namely that the floor is simply yet another horizontal surface one can exploit in the quest for more space to employ in the storage and organization of material. Happily, it would seem all of these economists agreed with me. Except Bryan, his office floor was neatest. Robin’s usage of horizontal space was most efficient (below) and Tyler’s was most structured (not shown):

Anyway, after visiting the department, we went questing for the Library of Congress! You have to get a library card, just to look at books (no, you cannot check any out). You fill out this application, then you get your picture taken. There are very stern warnings posted that the library card is not a souvenir (!) but it may as well be since in the two days since I got it, nobody has ever asked to see it. Not once. Once you get the card, this other guy orients you to research. He pointed me up to the fifth floor in the Adams reading room (the Library of Congress is three separate buildings). You can’t walk up and down the aisles like at a regular library. No no. You have to fill out a little form in triplicate (with little carbons too), they stamp it, and somebody goes and gets it and sends it up in the dumbwaiter. It takes about an hour to get a book. It’s best to order several at a time. I put in one order on Saturday for six books (those incredibly, insanely expensive Woodhouse books) and they couldn’t find any of them so I didn’t know what to do with myself in the meantime, plans shot.

This is the guy who’s been helping me, John Rossman. John is a sweetie. And a little cutie too.

So, that was the end of the first day. I don’t remember what or where we ate dinner. Oh, Pizza. That was it. After that, we came back to the hotel to plug in and refresh for the second day of our geek vacation.

As the photo shows, we travel with our own surge protector/power strip. Bringing one is awfully handy, I never regret it. Below the power strip are two cell phones on different charges (there’s a third phone, on yet another charger, not shown). Below and to the left of the cell phones is one of the ethernet cables (we bring two, one for her and one for him) that we’ve learned we need to bring even if the hotel says they have dsl/wifi/whatever. Off to the right, on top of the desk phone, is the hotel’s ethernet connection (half the time I’ve been plugged in wireless, courtesy of someone or something named “Tulane”). Below the cells is one of the camera batteries. You know, the last two vacations that Eric and I took were to the Solar (power) festival in Taos. I am glad my husband humors my electrical fetish being that he’s an electrical engineer which is better than if he were a plumber because knowing me, I’d end up carting around a backhoe and a lot of PVC on vacation which could be unwieldy to say the least.

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  1. Elizabeth says:

    Ditto on the tomato juice sky high.
    Pepsi over Coke any day.
    Water every day (filtered or Poland Spring- bottled in Maine)
    Tropicana Orange Juice some days- with SOME Pulp (not Without Pulp, and not A Lot, SOME Pulp- just right)
    Snapple Tea in a blue moon for the fun facts under the cap (I’m so cultured)

    Now stop partying you social butterfly you, and tell us about the scrolls!

  2. Lisa Bloodgood says:

    Heheheh! I’m going to send this to my husband. He is a huge computer geek and programs nearly everything in Perl. This is all right up his alley. I’m all for the geek vacation, too.

    I don’t fly enough to have a specific airplane drink but I drink tons of water every day and I start the day with orange juice. I also have been drinking a lot of kombucha. When I did drink cola, it was Pepsi over Coke.

  3. Big Irv says:

    Airplane drink. Pretty funny, but true. My beef with the airlines is that none of them ever have any cut lemons or limes for your drink.

    I am not surprised by Starbucks charging for Wifi. They sell just about everything else. Since you have brought up Coke and Pepsi,here is a tidbit that may interest a few. Consumer Report Magazine did a taste comparison and McDonalds just blew Starbucks out of the water. Ever since Mickey Dee’s reformulated their coffee, it is by far a more superior tasting drink. And a hell of a lot cheaper too.

    Maybe they should add Internet access at McCafe, if they haven’t already.

  4. Ayanna says:

    I had never thought about the power strip thing. Considering all of the electrical devices I carry while on vacay, it should have been my initial instinct to pack one up.

    Also, airports nowawdays DO NOT have any electrical outlets, any convenient electrical outlets, OR enough electrical outlets for us to be such a wired nation. I have resorted to holding a wall up at an airport for several hours trying to charge my phone while waiting for a delayed plane….sucks!!!

    I would love it if someone created a airport lounge with electrical outlets up the whazoo OR airport chairs wired with electrical outlets (that way everyone could have their own outlet).

  5. Eric H says:

    Actually, Ayanna, most of the mass transit we have experienced in the past few days (flying, buses, rails, driving on freeways) feels like an electrical outlet up the wazoo.

    I also think you can get a fuel cell power supply that runs on (butane?).

  6. Joan Hawley says:

    Hi Kathleen,

    Love the trip report! I have a progression of airplane drinks:

    I start with orange juice – settles the tummy and give me a sugar fix.

    I move on to coffee, thus getting my required daily allowance of caffeine.

    I finish with water in hopes of addressing flight dehydration.

    Secretly, throughout my buffet of drinks, I’m sipping from my own water bottle along the way. Basically, I drink my way to where ever I’m going.

    Love the power strip idea – genius.


  7. Jody says:

    Actually several McDs have wifi (pay, but pretty cheap, like $2 for an hour), but sometimes they don’t know it.

    Was at a McDonald’s in Knoxville where I had used wifi the year before. Came back to that one because of the wifi, but the signs were down. Asked the manager as I ordered if they still had wifi, he said no, but that I might be able to hook into the Starbucks a couple buildings up. Turned on my laptop and the service was still there from a year before.

    However, your mileage may vary. Similar setup at a McDonald’s at a gas station off of US 29 in VA with the name “WiNot?” (the Wi made me assume they had WiFi). One year managed to log on (WiFi not advertised), but a year later (when I stopped again for the WiFi), it was gone.

  8. carpundit says:

    In Boston, Starbucks’ wi-fi is provided by T-Mobile and available for $30 a month or $10 a day, but never free.

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