Sunday, December 31, 2006

Of My Recent Travels

As you might have guessed, I have returned from the APA Eastern in Washington. (For non-philosophers, it might be worthwhile to point out explicitly that, unlike most major academic associations, the American Philosophical Association does not have a major meeting; it just has three regional meetings, of which the Eastern is the largest.) I flew up without any hitch on Thursday. I didn't have much maneuvering to do while in D.C., because I managed by good luck to get a reasonably good deal at the Marriott Wardman Park, where the meeting was held. I did have a bit of surprise on Thursday night, when I got a message from the front desk saying that they needed another method of payment because my credit card had been declined. I freaked out for a few minutes, then did some investigation, and found that I had already paid for the hotel room -- the reason I didn't have enough room on my card to pay for the room for the two nights I was there was that I had already paid for it. It's just that I had found the room through hotels.com, and so I had paid them for the room. When this happens, the hotel just puts in the booking number and charges the room to their account; but when I had checked in the number hadn't been saved, or input properly, or something, so they didn't have it. I had given them my credit card number for incidental charges, so in going over the accounts they had tried to charge the card for the room. So it was a very good thing the charge was declined; if it had been accepted, there would have been an insane mess trying to clear the matter up, particularly since I wouldn't have found out about it until the next time I checked my balance. As it was, I just talked to the front desk, and we worked it out fairly easily.

Everything went well while I was there. I met Joe Ulatowski for coffee; not only was he taller than I expected, he had a much more All-American look than I usually associate with action theory geeks! We had an excellent discussion; I'm glad we were able to meet up, and things like this, even if nothing else, are an abundantly sufficient justification for academics to blog. In addition to my interviews, I tiptoed into a Leibniz Society meeting to listen to a paper by Ursula Goldenbaum. I didn't actually expect to enjoy it, since the question occasioning the paper, a recent wave of reinterpretation of Leibniz as being a 'soft rationalist', doesn't interest me very much, but the paper turned out to be quite excellent. Unfortunately, I couldn't stay around for the question period because my allergies had been going crazy and giving me a cough, which started up toward the end of the paper. (Quite literally half a dozen people I met over the time I was there mentioned, spontaneously, much the same problem, so there was something in the air -- either the hotel or the area was causing a problem.) I attended the reception on Friday night; it's rather amusing that pretty much everyone -- and I do mean pretty much everyone -- hates the receptions, but feel obliged to go and rub elbows, particularly when on the job market. In any case, I just went to catch up with a few friends and acquaintances I hadn't seen in a while, so, despite not liking receptions generally, I enjoyed myself.

Saturday at 4:30 a.m. the hotel fire alarm went off and we had to evacuate the building. (This is actually the second time that this sort of thing has happened to me while attending an event of this sort; I also had to go through it while staying at one of the UNLV dorms during a Hume Society meeting.) Apparently a couch somewhere had caught fire -- little flame but lots of smoke -- and we saw someone hauled off to the hospital in an ambulance for smoke inhalation. After about two hours or so I managed to get back to my room. Since my flight was at 11 am, and I like getting to the airport very early, I didn't see any point in going back to bed, so I just packed, nabbed a bit of breakfast, and checked out. The poor lady at the front desk asked, "Did you enjoy your stay, sir?" but halfway through the question her face contorted in the most pitiable way like she was expecting to be yelled at because of the fire alarm. Unfortunately, I wouldn't be surprised if someone had yelled at her already. In any case, I told her it had actually been quite good, and she seemed relieved.

So it was off to the airport; I arrived about two hours early, so I had breakfast again. You can never have too many breakfasts during travel. Then my flight was delayed two and a half hours. Since my layover in Houston was only two hours and twenty minutes, this seemed a serious problem; but my flight from Houston to Austin was delayed by four hours, so it turned out OK. I just arrived in Austin very late and very, very tired.

Thus it was an odd day, full of the unexpected. But, notably, it was not a bad one. Most people would consider it one, I suppose; but that's a bit silly.

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