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Ken Bloom | USLHC | USA

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En route

Regular readers will know by now that I am one of the few bloggers at this site who is not resident at CERN; I live in Lincoln, Nebraska.  But this week I am taking one of my semi-annual (at the moment) week-long trips to CERN.  To the delight of our blog editors, I will try to give regular updates on my journey.

Traveling to CERN is hard for me.  I don’t go all that often because of my teaching schedule (I was able to reschedule a lecture and hand lab responsibilities off to my TA this time), and my two small children.  Already I have gotten the news that when the doorbell rang this afternoon and it wasn’t me, my two-year old daughter burst into tears.  The poor thing has seven days to go yet.  But, while we do as much as we can on this experiment over email, the Web and videoconferencing, there is nothing that can match face-to-face communication.  So off I go.

I’m writing the bulk of this on my flight from Minneapolis to Amsterdam.  This is Northwest 56, which with a 9:15 PM departure is the last trans-Atlantic flight out of Minneapolis.  I like leaving late because the flight hours overlap well with my normal sleeping hours.  I won’t arrive in Geneva until 4:30 PM, but that’s OK; I wasn’t planning on doing anything Sunday anyway.

Do you care?  Probably not, but many of my colleagues do.  I find that the favorite lunch-table conversation topic for Americans at CERN, after the business of the experiment itself of course, is travel plans and preferences.  If you make this trip enough, you end up with some firmly-held opinions.  “I always make sure I have at least two hours if I need to change in Frankfurt,” one senior physicist told me once.  Another one refuses to fly through Heathrow.  Personally, I’m fine with changing at Schiphol in Amsterdam, which isn’t too dismal-looking, and, if you are into that sort of thing, there’s an excellent selection of herring in the gift shop.

I managed to sleep for about three hours on the first leg, and then took a short nap on the flight from Amsterdam to Geneva.  I made it to my hostel room on site just in time for the regular Sunday night jet-lag pizza outing that some software and computing people take after arriving.  About a dozen of us gathered in Restaurant 1 at 6:30 for a walk towards Meyrin.  Before we left, I mentioned my travel-themed blog entry to one colleague, who pointed out the hand-held devices that about half of them were fingering.  “I don’t know,” he said, “we probably talk about our iPhones more than our travel plans.”  Oy, what geeks!

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