One of the challenges of coming to DC for a sabbatical was being so far away from my family. My Beloved Husband is in Madison for the fall semester at the University of Wisconsin to do fabulous lab research in excellent facilities and to be close to two of his daughters and go to band and choir concerts while he has the opportunity. The girls usually sneak in a visit to Hartford around Halloween when they get a school break, so I set off on Friday morning to go for a visit to see their state instead..
I arrived in Madison at 9 AM on Friday, and we set off for an afternoon with the girls. Carving Jack O’Lanterns has become a tradition over the year, and the girls had already scoped out a source of beautifully large round pumpkins for a very reasonable price. The girls have become expert carvers over the years, and their results were quite impressive.
I was due to return to DC on Sunday night, and for once in my life, I had worked hard to counter my natural tendency to over-pack. I began to regret that resolution when the news about Superstorm Sandy became more ominous, and it was no surprise when my late Sunday night flight into DC was canceled by Saturday night. We knew it would be much faster to drive 15 minutes to the airport to rebook my flights than to deal with the phone lines, and my Beloved Husband was lobbying for as much extra time as he could get. I was offered a return flight on Tuesday, but I suggested that I would be just as happy to wait until Wednesday. That schedule seemed to be an appropriate combination of giving DC a chance to recover from the storm and having bonus time with my BH. It turned out to be a wise decision anyway since the air travel was still spotty on Tuesday. The Federal Government was closed all day Monday and Tuesday, so I didn’t really miss all that much work anyway. I solved the clothing issue through the combination of a quick shopping trip and wearing my BH’s sweaters and flannel shirts. I think this means that we are officially going steady.
An additional bonus to my bonus time in Madison was that a random email exchange with an old friend resulted in an offer for the BH and I to go tour the Bruker facility just south of the city. That facility is where they make X-ray diffractometers, which is what I spent quite a bit of time on during my doctoral and post-doc years. It was amazing to see the progress in the instrumentation in the past 15 years since most units now plug into the wall instead of needing 220V power, and the old high heat power sources that required external water cooling systems have been replaced by air-cooled but higher power systems.
We also got to see the manufacturing facility, and what struck me was that because each system is customized to the end user, from the very beginning, each unit is identified with the school or company for whom it is being built. It was fun to match up the big enclosures with the racks of parts that would eventually be installed.
So not only did I get bonus time with my BH and got to wake up with him on my birthday morning (Halloween), we also got to indulge in supreme nerdiness as well. I feel badly for everyone who suffered and is still suffering from Sandy, but she was a real gift to me this year.