Friday, October 14, 2016

On the road again (and in the air again)

This has been a big travel week for yours truly.  I'm writing this post in what is the wee hours of a Long Beach, California morning -- although the hours don't feel all that "wee" to me, since 5:30 a.m. local time is 8:30 a.m. back at home.

I'm going to back up and do a small bit of bragging.  This travel is all funded by some professional development money that landed in my lap because, last May, I won a fancy award for teaching at my college.  The award is semi-ironic because, of course, last year I was on sabbatical and wasn't teaching at all.  So either I won this award now because my school figures, "She's a great teacher when she's away from her students; once she gets back in the classroom, it's all downhill from here, so we'd better give her the award now before she spoils it."  Or it's because they figured, "She's so freakin' good, that even when she's not in the classroom she's a better prof than all the others."

Me, getting a teaching award, trying to look all humble and that.
At any rate, whatever the reason, I got to stand up on stage at Commencement and make the already-long event last even longer, keeping students from their degrees while they listened to yet another boring citation.

With this award come a sizable chunk of money that I could use either personally or professionally.  I decided not to plunk the money straight into my own bank account, because what I really want to do is travel around to do some math, and so I put the money into a "professional development" fund where then money doesn't get taxed (meaning, more money for travel).

And this past week, I've been spending that money.  A 3-day trip to North Carolina used up about $250 of the moolah; it also gave me a chance to chat with some mathematicians who I met last summer, and whom I might want to work with again in the future.  It was a seriously great trip.

In the Miser Mom way, I tried to keep expenses low.  The university I was visiting paid for my hotel and meals, and I used my travel money to spring for a rental car and gas.   The more I do rental cars for long trips, the more I love the idea of not owning cars and just "borrowing" them from the cosmic car library when I need them.  Cars have gotten so much nicer since 2001 when my old (dented up) Prius was made, and my Prius is a pretty nice car!  Intermittent luxury is sort of fun.

This trip to California is even more of a treat, if that's possible.  I'm at a conference hosted by SACNAS (Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in the Sciences), so it's not as much about my research as my NC trip was.  But because I have this big fat pillow of money buried in my professional development mattress, I could afford to bring other people along.  I'm paying the way not just for myself, but also for an undergraduate math major and for a visiting professor (that is, a prof who just got his PhD two years ago, and who has a 3-year position, not a tenure-track position,  at my college).  So there are three of us who made the 14-hour trip from Pennsylvania to California yesterday.

And again, frugalizing.  I couldn't trim the hefty registration fees, and airfare+shuttles for three people is some serious dough, no matter how careful we are.  But I found a cozy AirBnB three blocks from the convention center that cut the lodging costs in half, compared to nearby hotels.  We all packed super light, minimizing luggage fees, and I have been doling out the trail mix that successfully tided us over through crowded airports and traffic-jam-laden shuttle rides.  (LA traffic-- Sheesh!).

Sort of ironically, this money that I got for teaching (or for not teaching, since I got it at the end of my sabbatical) is taking me away from my students yet again.  I've co-opted some of my colleagues into giving my students an exam while I'm away from them, and my travel schedule means that I won't get to grade and return their exams to them for a while -- I'm neglecting my students temporarily.  But I'm so glad I'm here (my first ever SACNAS conference! woo-hoo!) and I'm so glad I got to bring some people with me who wouldn't have gotten the chance to come on their own.   Huzzah for frugal communal traveling! 


  1. I love this story! Stretching the money! And sharing! And professional and fun!

    My dad gave my mom a small part of his inheritance, and she stretched it to cover many different projects over many years--I loved hearing those stories, too. (My dad spent his all at once, paying off debt, which he then built up again, so sad.)

    1. Sharing money is a lot more fun than spending it, if you can afford it, I think. I bet your dad and mom were both happy he shared a part of his money, perhaps all the more so because of how it worked out for him eventually.

  2. You're right, they were both happy that he shared!