Category Archives: Travels

Cochrane Colloquium

My abstract on mixed treatment comparisons to the Cochrane Colloquium got accepted for a poster. This year, the meetings are in Freiburg, Germany, in October. Woo hoo!

We are pleased to inform you that the abstract was selected for presentation as a poster at the Colloquium.

Now I’ll need to decide if I can run the Berlin Marathon the weekend before.

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Day 2, part 2: Nebraska

After the loading up on greazy fried food and looking at the crafts, prized produce livestock at the Iowa State Fair we crawled back into the U-Haul and drove off towards Nebraska. We, meaning I, felt good about driving so instead of stopping someplace somewhat cool overnight, we made a short stop at 11pm at Grand Island, which as far as I can tell, isn’t grand and isn’t an island. We ate dinner at some 24-hour joint called Tommy’s were I pledged to have a chicken fried steak every day on this trip. After Tommy’s, we drove a couple of more hours to Ogallala to overnight. The end result being that we drove through most of Nebraska under the cover of darkness and have no idea what the state is like.

Route from the Iowa State Fair to Ogallala, Nebraska

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Day 2, part 1: The Iowa State Fair

This whole road trip wasn’t really planned out in great detail. We had a couple of ideas of where to go and what we wanted to see. Then we had nothing. So while at Scattergood we utilized the wireless internet connection to research things to do in Iowa and Nebraska. Low and behold… the Iowa State Fair was going on! You know what that means… corn dogs, funnel cake, and could there possibly be egg roll on a stick?

Route from Scattergood to the Iowa State Fair

The only state fairs I’ve been to before were in California and Oregon. The one in California was huge but didn’t have that… je ne sais quoi… what you imagine a state fair should be. Oregon had more of that but it was small. Iowa, however. Oh man. We walked in past the gate and were greeted by an exhibit hall titled “Farming feels good”. Yup. This is a state fair.

As we were leaving I noticed an unusual number of security and media types clustered around a crowd. I asked a bystander what was going on and she said Barack Obama was in the crowd. Holy crap. And John Edwards was at the state fair early today. So, of course, I get within a few feet of Obama and snap a couple of pictures.

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Day 1: Scattergood

Picking up the U-Haul involved a trip to the Englewood neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. As we drove down the block where we were supposed to pick up our 17′ truck we noticed two-thirds of the storefronts were boarded up and a guy was sitting on the bumper of our truck drinking a 40 out of a paper bag. Real nice.

Packing up the truck went smoothly and faster than I thought it was going to take. We could have fit everything in a smaller truck with some creative packing but we were somewhat inefficient with the arrangement of boxes having the luxury of a larger truck. After a bit of making sure we had everything, we hit the road to Scattergood Friends School, Cat’s old Quaker boarding school near Iowa City, where I had my first encounter with cicadas.

The next morning we took a walk to the prairie on the school grounds. The trail was a bit damp from the morning dew and my old pair of running shoes I wore for the walk never smelled quite the same after.

Route from Chicago to Scattergood

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House on the Rock

When I read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods years ago I was inspired to take a road trip across America. The main goal was to go to central Michigan to see the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler. But the secret main goal was to see House on the Rock, which featured prominently in the book. So I was really excited to start off the big road trip with short trip to HotR.

Route from Chicago to House on the Rock

Oh man. Was this place weird! There are 3 self-guided tours you can take and we bought the entire package of all 3. You can definitely spend an entire day on all the tours. Tour 1 takes you through the original house and the Infinity Room. Tours 2 and 3 take you through the collections of Alex Jordan, the designer of the place, and they were the areas of HotR we spent most of our time in. Jordan collected automatic music machines. Think Disney-esque animatronics but with real musical instruments.

Unfortunately, the lighting inside was dim and taking pictures without a tripod was difficult and since I like to shoot using ambient light I had to use a high ISO setting, hence the noisy shots.

Also unfortunate was that we didn’t allow enough time to also hit the Mustard Museum in Mount Horeb.

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Guatemala City

Oh man… another adventure today. First, the taxi driver I hired didn’t know where the Museo Popol Vuh was, even after asking another taxi driver where it was. I had a bad feeling about this. I also discovered that the taxis in Guatemala City aren’t metered. If I was smart I would have negotiated a fare and made sure he knew where he was going before stepping into the cab. If I was even smarter I would have hired one of the pimped out rice-boy taxis I saw. So this loser takes me to the Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología (MUNAE) instead, another museo I wanted to go to but not the one I asked for. Instead of letting him take me to Museo Popol Vuh, I have him let me off here. Probably a good idea. I did end up at Museo Popol Vuh later, with a more reliable taxi driver. The MUNAE is a state-run museo while the Museo Popol Vuh is on a university campus and privately-run. I found the MUNAE to be more interesting. It’s certainly bigger, with a good sized collection of stelae from various Mayan sites like Dos Pilas, Kaminaljuyu, and Uaxactun. The Museo Popol Vuh had a special exhibition on cacao (kakaw) but I found the collection pretty meager. I was fooled by the slickness of the special exhibition website.

After the museos I decided to take the city bus into Zona 1 to the Mercado Central, the Parque Central, and the main cathedral. Not so many tourists in this park of the city, even in the mercado. The buses weren’t that hard to figure out, even after losing my Spanish phrase book. On the way to Zona 1 I passed by the US embassy, yet another US embassy set up like a fortress.

I managed to leave Zona 1 during rush hour, which meant I would ride a jam packed bus back to the hotel. The bus was so jam packed I was one of three guys hanging onto the rear door for a good portion of the ride. There’s nothing like traveling like a local.

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Volcan de Pacaya

I had a bit of an adventure last night. After finding out I could arrange for a tour of Volcan de Pacaya through an outfitter in Antigua I made the journey to that town via the famous Chicken Buses after a bit of anxiety with my nonexistent Spanish language skills. I arrived in Antigua a couple of hours before my tour was to begin so I wandered the markets. I need to get better with my bargaining skills. I seem to have lost them after the trip to China last year.

Our tour started late by 30 or so minutes due to some mix-up with a couple of German university students that’s not worth getting into. The ride from Antigua to the base of the volcan took about an hour and on the ride I chatted with one of the Germans and three physician assistant students from North Carolina who were in Guatemala for a 2-week intensive medical Spanish course. The hike up the volcan was pretty strenuous, the trail covered in fine grit as well as horse droppings. Once we got as high as we would, the view was spectacular! We walked over a cooled lava field that was warm in spots, indicating we weren’t too far above a recent flow.

Then, before we knew it, dusk arrived and the sky became dark fast, which allowed us to see the glow of the lava oozing from the peak. Then we realized we would have to walk down the volcan in the dark. A few of us had flashlights and headlamps but the journey was slow going. Fortunately, we had an excellent guide, Arturo. As I told one of the North Carolinian gals that experience ranked as a medium on my danger scale. Oh, and it figures after my first full day in Guatemala I lose my Spanish phrase book.

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