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Postcards from Indy!

I had the opportunity to visit Indianapolis for a conference (American Association for Physicists in Medicine) earlier this month. Annika was suffering from croup – a variant of bronchitis that affects the larynx and the trachea. She had fever, sore throat and a weird kind of painful cough making her cranky, miserable and irritable.  Seejo was smart enough to have an official trip scheduled  right around the same time.  So I was left to take care of a sick and clingy child all alone, leaving me angry, miserable and irritable.By the time Seejo returned after three days, I was ready for a break.

Although Indy hardly ranks as a top tourist destination, I was really looking forward to the trip to Indianapolis — to unwind, relax and sleep!  I reached Indianapolis on Monday morning and took the cab directly to the conference venue. I had never attended an AAPM meeting, so I was looking forward to learning the hot topics that physicists are buzzing about, their current gripes, and who they like to take potshots at. I find that one of the most interesting aspects of any society meeting is  the clear demarcation of “us” and “them” in that field. Since I work in a very cross disciplinary landscape , these distinctions always fascinate me, mainly because in most cases I group them together.  For example,  I learnt that the biotechnology industry clearly believes that they are different from (and really competing with ) the Pharma folks, the breast radiologists separate themselves from the breast surgeons although they attack the same disease, the data managers love to take potshots at the clinical researchers and QA, the nuclear medicine radiologists are quick to point out the difference between them and other radiologists and so on. And in this case the clinical physicists clearly look down on their brethren who do low energy solid state work.Indy

(The Indy skyline, the canal walk, Victory Baseball stadium -home of the Indianapolis Indians, tomatillos growing in an outdoor garden in White River State Park, pretty canals with flowers on the sides, the Lucas Oil stadium and grounds — home of the Indianapolis Colts, and the sculpture of the jumping deer in front of the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian artifacts)

Downtown Indy is very well laid out. The conference center is surrounded by several hotels and many of them are connected to the center via skywalks. It is a very walkable town and almost all of the area attractions are within a few blocks. So I had a chance to walk around during breaks and after the conference hours and explore a little bit of downtown Indianapolis. Indiana has the distinction of being one of those rare US states where the most populous and the most well-known city is the state’s capital. Indy calls itself the racing capital of the world and is famous for its Indy 500 auto-racing. It’s a sporting heavy town…from my room, I could see the Lucas Oil Football stadium and had a grand view of Victory Field Baseball stadium as well. One of the evening events was held at the Lucas Oil Stadium and football crazy physicists could go down and play football but I stuck to the top arena where the food buffet was laid out!Indy1

( Sunrise at Indy courtesy an early morning flight, view of the flower lined canal walks, the obligatory key-chain from Indy, my friend giving a talk at AAPM, famous popcorn from Indiana, the outdoor theatre putting on Taming of the Shrew and NCAA Hall of Champions Museum)

The folks in Indiana are quite laid back and very proud of being “nice” and “friendly”.  Another interesting thing is that Indiana people are not known as Indianians or Indians – they are actually called Hoosiers. Not sure where the name came from, most probably has some Native American origins.  My hotel was only a block to the state house and the large grounds of the  White River State Park which contain the among other attractions the Indianapolis Zoo, the Indiana State Museum,  the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, an outdoor concert venue, and the NCAA Hall of Champions Museum. Downtown also has some really pretty canal walks – a waterside promenade for walkers, runners, bikers, tourists and parents pushing little kids. I had a chance to walk down to the canals one day after lunch and found that although it didn’t really compare to San Antonio canals, it was nevertheless a pleasant walk.

My stay was quite pleasant and I was supposed to return after two nights (and almost three days) in Indy. Unfortunately my 4:30 pm flight by US Airways ran into some maintenance snags and was delayed enough that they eventually cancelled the flight. By the time, the made the decision to cancel, there were no other flights out of the city and so we were forced to stay on an extra night at Indy. The US Airways staff handed out a voucher for a nearby inn and provided a shuttle service to the inn and back to the airport for a 7 am flight out of the city.  The delay, the crappy hotel and the 4 am wake up call (the complimentary shuttles were infrequent,  so I had to get on a 5 am shuttle) and the inept airline (the 7 am flight was delayed for 30 minutes after we boarded again due to maintenance issues) really spoiled what had been a pleasant trip thus far.

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