Thursday, February 16, 2012
When I woke up yesterday I thought I'd be spending this night in Huntsville, Alabama. Then things changed and I woke up this morning to the news that I'd get to spend the night in my own bed at home. Then things changed again a couple of hours later, and here I am.
Such is the nature of my job in the spring--things change from moment to moment in February, March and April, and you just kind of have to ride the wave and try to hang on.
There's not much to say about Tullahoma. There are a couple of legal whiskey distilleries in the area. George Dickel and Jack Daniels are both a few miles from my hotel in opposite directions from one another. There may have been more than a few illegal whiskey distilleries tucked away in these Tennessee woods back in the day, but today, I imagine there's more meth than moonshine being manufactured in singlewides around these parts.
Last night I stayed at a "fancy" hotel in Huntsville attached to one of those upscale outdoor shopping centers. You know the type. It was a big island of commerce surrounded by a sea of asphalt. This one had faux canals, artificial lakes and a huge carousel that were somehow intended to evoke Venice. I don't know what this megaplex was called, but these places usually have the word 'Shoppes' in their name. Shoppes is a word that manages to be simultaneously silly and pretentious, so I insist on pronouncing it shop-eze whenever I come across it.
Out of curiosity, I just looked up the name of the place. It didn't have 'Shoppes' in the name, but it did have the word 'Centre', which is almost as offensive.
Last night I was with an author and another corporate colleague. We got to town late and we were exhausted and famished, so we took the path of least resistance and ate at an upscale steak place in the Centre. It was a rainy Wednesday night and the place was packed with rocket scientists from out of town dinging their expense accounts. The meal was okay in the way of impersonally-served and overpriced expense account food, but I much rather would have feasted for a fraction of the price at the incredible Indian joint I know in a scruffier part of the city.
My hotel tonight is on the main drag in Tullahoma, and I asked the desk clerk if she had a list of nearby restaurant options when I checked in. In response, the young woman behind the desk simply pointed left and then right down Jackson Street.
The last couple of days I've been functioning as the minder for one of our mathematics authors who was doing a three-day barnstorming speaking tour of the major universities in Alabama. He was a great guy and we had a lot of fun together, but the experience left me wondering about something.
How do mathematicians mate?
Math professors tend to be among the most shy and socially awkward people you will ever meet. It's funny and kind of sad watching them try to interact with each other on a human level. It's also painful to watch for someone like me who doesn't find carrying on a conversation with a stranger to be particularly challenging and feels compelled to help those who are daunted by this.
Given the social skills of the average mathematician, I don't understand why the breed doesn't go extinct.
I'm pretty hungry and my growling belly tells me it's going to be an early dinner tonight. After exploring my options, I have it down to the Chinese joint, the Mexican joint, the barbecue joint or the sushi joint. The sushi joint is only on the list because I'm shocked there is one in Tullahoma and I am wondering what it might be like. I'll probably end up excluding that choice because of the potentially unpleasant consequences of eating there, and I've got a long drive home tomorrow.
Unless something changes.