May 23, 2005

Stalked by Camels!


I'm noticing a pattern. I'm not saying they're out to get me or anything, but the camels are definitely keeping an eye on me.

Yes, yes, the beaches of the Sinai are camel infested. Nothing suprising about finding 'em there. And on the whole, I'd have to say that the mountains and much-needed exposure to sunshine made up for the fact that three or four would amble by an something like an hourly basis. Some of them were being driven by kids clearly trying to interest ... well, anyone ... in a camel ride. You learned to avoid making eye contact after a while. Others were on some obscure camel-y mission of their own, that seemed also to involve a lot of ambling up and down the beach, but with less of the persistent ride-hawking.

And sometimes, they'd just sit around. I think they figured they could just wait us out. That, or they were operating as some sort of fixed base camp for the kids.

The camel-infested beach at Habiba Camp, where we stayed in the Sinai. Pretty location, though, and actually rather nice-looking camels, as such things go. They still smelled like camels, though. 2005:04:23 14:22:35.

But check this out.

Camel, eyeing your intrepid photographer in the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. Can you taste the malevolence? Can you? 2005:05:06 12:27:23.

That's right, they found me in Chicago, too.

Yes, I was at the zoo. But it's not like I asked to go visit the African quadruped pens, or the zoo for that matter. In fact, I was as suprised as anyone else on the bus when we wound up there. Some people blame the Scavhunt judges. I suspect a deeper, humpbacked, agency at work here.

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May 11, 2005


Heading to the airport in a few hours; I hit air at 9 am if everything keeps to schedule. Landing is around 9 am Israeli local time -- about 16 hours in transit, total.

I hate traveling when sick. Full-time scavving is hard on the health, and I'm nursing what Amber has charmingly dubbed the Post-Scavhunt Hacking Death Plague, along with about half the team from what I've heard. What's keeping me going is the knowledge that it's sunny and warm where I'm going.

More ScavHunt stories once I've slept off the jet lag. For that matter, I've still got lots of Sinai pictures to post, too. Catch y'all on the flip.

Posted by Milligan at 11:37 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 9, 2005


It's hard to blog during the Scavenger Hunt. Any time that, normally, one might be tempted to waste playing on the web or otherwise goofing off, is really better spent grabbing a nap. For a full-time Hunter like myself, I'd estimate that one puts in the equivalent of four back-to-back 18-22 hour workdays. That's tough, even on a seasoned grad student.

I'm not going to remotely attempt to provide a comprehensive recap of the Hunt. Judge Connor, by what superhuman effort I know not, provided the definitive blogging of the Hunt. Start there, and read upwards. Allocate some time; it's an interesting and hillarious read, but there's a lot to get through.

Now it's over. What I will be blogging (retrospectively) will be the specific exploits of my team, and personal thoughts of a varying nature on topics touching on the Hunt. So from that perspective, here's where I spoil the ending:

  1. I have now competed in seven Scavenger Hunts.
  2. My team, the F.I.S.T., came in third, for a second year running. We are pleased.
  3. Best Item of the Year goes to the Burton-Judson team, one of whose members proposed (in earnest, unlike many faux nuptialish items in the past) to her boyfriend Judge. During Judgement. Yes, the item in question was obviously a plant; that's not the point. There was weeping. F.I.S.T. provided the champaigne.
  4. Last year I had better things to do than spend time competing in the ScavHunt All-Stars event. This year I accepted my team's nomination. My All-Star team won; I took the third place individual slot. It's odd to think of the ScavHunt having things that can be won by an individual. But I still appreciate it.
  5. In light of all the above, don't think the notion of retiring from Hunting hasn't crossed my mind. There were definitely moments when I felt old. My gut tells me I'll be back next year, one way or another, but it's time for me to think more rigourously about exactly why, and in what capacity.
  6. Yes, I remembered to call my mother.
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May 6, 2005

Day 2, Summary

In the past 48 hours:

The list has been released. It's a good one.

I have slept about 6 hours. This is unusually good, for me.

I have been accepted to the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists™. "Highlighting the Heads of Science"

I've been nominated as a ScavHunt All-Star. The All-Star games were fun, a kind of mini-Hunt within the Hunt during which we played for other teams in mini-teams composed of All-Stars from other teams.

And to continue the tongue-twisteriness, I am now headed off to Item 181:

It's a party of a party inside a party. Inside a party? How many parties in the party? Partly me and partly you. Party free of party rules. One says "par-tay" as the parlay. Party heartily hardly a party without the party within a party of a party partly party, partly par-tay.
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May 5, 2005

List Release

Habemus ScavHunt list.

Interesting list release this year. It was quick; the Judges captured one member from each team and locked them away inside Rockefeller Chapel (the big cathedral-sized "chapel" on campus) for a bit under an hour. Eventually fireworks launched from the tower, and people with lists burst at high speed from the various doors. So it began, and we know not the details, for every one of them was sworn to utter silence regarding the proceedings within.

Let it not be said that the Judges ever fail to find inspiration from the world about them, for exciting new ways to mess with us.

We trek as one to Ida Noyes for the release of the List. We firmly believe that an initial show of force, if not actually likely to intimidate or cow our foes, it nevertheless good clean fun.
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May 4, 2005

Or perhaps I should have had a reply?

Stuff. A literal pain in my neck. See, this is why I always seem leery of acquiring more of it. That's ze pad del Connor behind me. 2005:05:03 08:48:01.

Got into Chicago with minimal event yesteday morning, after a 9-hour overnight bus ride. Wearing a 70-ish pound duffel bag full of tools as a backpack, I'm sure I cut quite the figure shuffling through downtown Chicago. (Said I to Connor: "Enough rope, you can tie anything to your back." His reply was something to the effect of having half-expected me to arrive by scaling his building.) After dropping my stuff at his place, spend most of the day stomping aout town -- principally Hyde Park -- largely without net access. Hence the lack of update.

Today it's back to Hyde Park this afternoon. We'll be gathering as the evening progresses to set up my ScavHunt team's headquarters. The major effort there will be to move our accumulated scavenged building materials in from the various dispersed locales in which they are presently stored. There's also mundane stuff like moving furnature around to arrange stuff for maximum utility. Electrical stuff should be near outlets. The computer table should be out of the way.

Being as I look like a white kid on first (and, well, second and third) glance, I can never really blend in on a Greyhound going to or from Chicago. But I do alright, apparently falling into the same category as the slightly demented Vietnam vets and other oddballs. This is a very different dynamic than when I fly, where I get immediately pegged as a student, and occasionally wind up answering questions about astronomy for the whole flight. On the bus, I mostly get left alone.

Except for That One Guy. There's always one. Loud, vulgar, won't stop chattering at whomever has wandered into his orbit. Everyone knows where he's from, where he's going, which girls in the line he thinks are hot. That he was stopped for speeding while black in Ohio, so they impounded his car and now he's on the bus back to Brooklyn. Everyone who rides the bus a lot gets good at ignoring That One Guy.

I assume he was just gunning for a rise out of me when he wandered by, pointed at the ropes tied to my duffel, and said it. "Hey, you gonna hang some niggers with those ropes or what?"

I shot the fellow my best effort at a withering glance and went back to ignoring him, thanking Heaven that it was a black guy who said that. I'm certain others heard it, but nobody else reacted. Out of indifference, I'm sure. They didn't care; he's just That One Guy being an ass. On the other hand, that was the first time I can recall in a very long time having been too self-conscious to act. Me! A veteran perpetrator of the preposterous, one who gives Israeli soldiers attitude over the extra "attention" I get for not looking Jewish, and one who certainly never minded being in the racial minority on the south side of Chicago.

So there's two questions I've been mulling over for the past day-and-some now. The first is, what about him, myself, the setting prompted That One Guy to use that particular approach to get my goat? The second is more subjective: could I, or should I, have responded differently?

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May 2, 2005

Announcement: Sushi Invite

Sorry, this one only goes out to those of you in Chicago:

Sometime Tuesday evening Meridith and I will be at Kikuya. More people would rock. If you want in, leave a comment or drop me an email, and we'll decide on a time.

If anyone's looking for me later Tuesday, I'll be staying with Connor and SPH.

Posted by Milligan at 9:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 1, 2005

Weekend in Minneapolis

It's been enjoyable to spend a few days in Minneapolis, even if the weather seems to be going out of its way to be unusually lousy. It hasn't broken 50°C since I've been here. It's been variously rainy and drizzly and cold. Today, the first of May, I glanced out my window to see a sleet-storm in progress!

Let you doubt me, the aftermath of the sleet storm. I had to be fast, since it is May, after all, and sleet doesn't fall for long nor does it stick. But the white stuff on my tree is, in fact, the white stuff. 2005:05:01 11:33:39

Otherwise it's been a couple of days of hanging out with my peeps in the astro department, hitting local restaurants I've missed (especially Chinese; they don't do Chinese in Israel, as I've observed before), and working on code for the ScavHunt. And poking idly at the numerous computers the folks in the lab here seem to have managed to break in my absense. I may need to keep a closer eye on them in the future. Although a hoped-for Sunday brunch get together failed to materialize, I'm declaring this phase of my trip a success overall.

It's about over, too. I've got a ticket for the 10 PM bus outta here tomorrow, which gets me to Chicago around 7 AM Tuesday. Some Hunt stuff might transpire then, but I mostly anticipate one of those days of tromping around the city randomly pouncing on people I haven't seen in too long. This is complicated by the fact that many of them now have day jobs, and I still don't use cell phones.

I'll announce where I'm crashing when I get an email confirming that I can crash there.

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April 29, 2005

After 20 hours of cooling my heels in spacious airplane seats...

Minneapolis area readers, act now! This afternoon, take advantage of a rare opportunity to meet and greet with the one and only author of EGAD! Somewhere in the UM physics building, I'd expect.

Anyhow, I'm back on US soil, and no, I wasn't deported. Although from the number of people who rummaged through and swabbed my bags at Ben Gurion International, I get the impression they were vaguely suprised not to find evil weapons of mass destruction in my luggage. On the other hand, they somehow completely missed the kaffieh in my bag, which I was sure was going to get me questioned.

The sun rising over midtown Manhattan and the Newark runways as I left immigration and customs. 2005:04:29 05:50:03

I intended to write this post from Newark, actually, but decided that in the end I'm too cheap to spend seven bucks to use the wireless network for the rough hour I'd have before boarding began.

The world's cleanest subway station. Probably because the whole affair is less than a year old. The Minneapolis light rail only made it out to the airport a month or so before I left for Israel. 2005:04:29 18:00:09.

In other news, yay for light rail!

I'd never actually gotten around to riding the Minneapolis light rail before; it was only opened last summer, and it didn't yet go anywhere that I need to go. But now that it goes to the airport, I can get from there to my house in under an hour for a buck-twenty-five (with one transfer to a bus). That's even less than I'd pay for a ride of similar length from Rehovot. Sweet.

Also, being as it's quite new, this has got to be the cleanest and shiniest light rail system in the country. I didn't even notice any graffiti scratched into the windows yet. In Chicago or New York, a new subway car window doesn't go one night before it's so engraved. Then again, this ain't exactly the big city, and this ain't exactly a subway, either. More of a streetcar really, once it gets out of the tunnel under the airport. Almost quaint, except for the Jetsons look of the actual train cars.

So, here I am back in Minneapolis. Nothing's visibly changed that I can see from the street. It even still feels like October. This April thing is clearly a lie.

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April 28, 2005

Leavin' on a jet plane

Got me a plane to catch in a few hours, so it's off to the airport with me.

I should hit Minneapolis about 10 am, which my watch claims is 14 hours from now, but I know is going to be more like 20.

Diving into the intercontinental timewarp, then. Catch y'all on the flip.

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