Archive for the 'Travel' category

No Trip Goes Unpunished: Many Tiny Receipts

Apr 26 2013 Published by under Travel

One of the "joys" of returning from a trip involves sorting receipts.  Food, cabs, and other expenses have to be documented, either for reimbursement or tax purposes. Manually entering stuff into a spreadsheet seems so last decade...

Expensify provides a 2013 method that even interfaces with Evernote, a ubiquitous clip-and-file app that works across all major desktop and mobile platforms. You get receipts into your Expensify account through several methods, including email (great for airfare), scanned PDFs (hotel bill), or photographs taken with your smart phone (most everything else). The latter can be saved to an Expensify notebook in Evernote which will automatically sync with your online account. Alternately, you can use the smartscan app within the Expensify app to add those items. The service can identify the vendor and total amount without issues. It dates receipts by default with the date of the scan; I wish it would use the date on the receipt instead, as it does for the ones I entered in other ways. You can add comments, tags, and categories for your receipts via the smart phone or web platforms.

You then assemble the receipts into a report. You can cluster your items by category or in other ways. Below is a screen shot from the web site:

The report can then be emailed to other users, saved as a PDF, or merely printed out. The report will include thumbnails of all receipts plus full-sized versions. My four-day trip to Boston generated 18 receipts, mostly for cabs. The final PDF is 25 pages long because it includes all of these images.

The Expensify app is free, and a Core account includes 10 image receipts per month. Upgrading to the Pro level lets you scan additional receipts at $0.20 each, a bargain in my opinion. I had my information organized in a flash this morning, all ready for the IRS in 2014.



2 responses so far

Stiff Upper Lip and All That

Apr 16 2013 Published by under Travel

Yesterday our hearts went out to the people of Boston and the Marathon. I cannot imagine running 26+ miles, let alone facing carnage at the end.

Of course, like a number of other scientist types, I am visiting Boston for Experimental Biology later this week. My husband's first reaction last night involved me cancelling the trip.

No, I decided. Boston will be swept with a fine-tooth comb over the next 4 days. It may be the safest place in North America.

Also I am reading a book set during the London blitz right now, with the population dealing with German bombs from the skies and IRA bombs in the tubes. Did Britain let these threats stop them? Hell, no! They plastered the buildings left standing with inspirational posters and hunkered down.

We should do the same, so I made this today:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Turns out there is a website where you can create your own variations on this poster. You can even buy merchandise with your message on it.

Terrorists/criminals win if they keep us away, and we will not help a single person by staying home. Let's show them what scientists are made of and get our butts to Boston!

It's the patriotic thing to do.


6 responses so far

Dear Airlines of the US

Oct 23 2012 Published by under Travel

I flew last week on a carrier that was not my usual one. As a Premier member, I get early boarding on United; on American, I was in the last group on the plane. This only becomes an issue because of overhead baggage space. For a 3-day weekend, we did not need or want to check bags. Every flight, we had to fight for those last spaces for the roll-aboards.

I can solve this problem for the airlines. Really, it could be pretty easy. Since stowing bags is a major factor slowing the boarding process, everyone might be happier.

Image from Amazon

Charge for roll-aboards. Yup, all travelers get a personal item that fits under the seat in front of them - purse, laptop case, whatever. Give your frequent fliers the perk of a free roll-aboard in the overhead bin. Let everyone have a free checked bag, but make them pay for a roll-aboard. For the convenience of not awaiting my luggage, I would have gladly shelled out $50 each way this past weekend. To have you juggle and potentially lose my bags? Not so much. Have too many people paying for overhead space? Have your computer shunt them to the free checked bag alternative during the check-in process.

A lot of folks will choose to check if the alternative is $25 per bag. Getting on and off the aircraft will go much more smoothly.

At least think about it.


14 responses so far

Adventures in Air Travel

Jun 15 2012 Published by under Travel

As you may have noticed, I went offline for a bit while traveling to and from the diabetes meetings. My travels were supposed to end Tuesday evening; instead, I spent an extra day on the road in Houston, Texas.

First, the plane that would take me from Philadelphia to Houston arrived over an hour late from O'Hare. No one seems to be saying why this delay occurred. Once it got there, we boarded quickly and started our journey...sort of. See, Air Force One landed at PHL and backed things up a bit. We were number 35 in line to take-off on the single useable runway.

The only reason I might have made my connection in Houston came from a thunderstorm moving into southeastern Texas. While it did delay the final flight of the day to Oklahoma City, it did not do enough. That plane departed while my flight from Philadelphia tried to find an open gate.

I had already received an email with my booking information for the following day, but I had to stand in line for 1.5 hours for a hotel voucher. I ended up at a very nice Super 8 near IAH at 1 am. (Given the number of tight connections in Houston, I'm adding this place to my directory so I can bypass that line next time; I am willing to pay the extra $20 per night.) I slept, showered, and put my unclean clothes back on, landing in OKC 12 hours later.

Did I mention we had company coming that night? I went from the airport to the grocery store.

My saving grace is that I kept my schedule clear of patients the day after my trip, just in case. Hubby, on a different airline, got stranded in Atlanta and flew in much earlier on Wednesday. He saw patients all day long in his dirty laundry.

When, science, when?

My biggest question right now is why Air Force One flies in and out of civilian airports, disrupting air traffic? Why doesn't the prez use military facilities? Was it because this is a campaign trip or something?

Of course, had the plane been on time from Chicago this would not have been a problem.

When will we have that Star Trek transporter physiology worked out?


One response so far

Packing for #EB2012

Apr 13 2012 Published by under Fashion (or not), Travel

Many of us will travel to San Diego in a week for Experimental Biology. You have spent time registering, picking a hotel, making travel arrangements, and considering sessions. Now it is time to consider your packing.

San Diego makes it easier; most of the year the temperature runs about 70 and the sun usually shines. Could we get rain? Sure, but really bad weather is not a strong possibility. You should have a fold-able pocket umbrella in your suitcase anyway. Check the weather forecast right before you finish packing; they don't get particularly predictive until the 5-day time-frame.

Conference travel involves at least 3 types of activities. These include travel, attendance, and presentation. With a bit of planning, you can get appropriate apparel for a 5-day trip into a case that fits in the overhead compartment of an airplane. What do you sacrifice? Shoes. If you need more than 2 pair (one to wear on the plane and one to ride in the case) it's unlikely that you will get by with just the roll-aboard.

On travel days, comfort may be the primary consideration; however, you should also consider what happens if checked luggage does not immediately make it to your final destination. Having a clean set of underwear and all personal necessities available can make that delay tolerable. Also consider wearing something you could wear to a session; nice jeans with a shirt and jacket can work for almost any meeting session and can be just as comfortable as sweats. OK, not sweats, but you know what I mean. Also, wearing a jacket avoids taking up valuable suitcase room. Nice slip-on shoes also work well. You want something that won't slow you down too much when you hurry for a connection, but not something so complicated it will take you half-an-hour to redress in security. The people behind you in line will be more of a threat if you wear above-the-knee lace-up boots (trust me, I have seen this happen) than any terrorist.

The rest of the meeting you have two things to avoid: looking sloppy or slutty. You are meeting potential colleagues and reviewers; if I receive your next manuscript, do you really want me to remember the girl with the dragon tattoo or your unusual navel piercing? When you present, a suit-like ensemble is ideal, especially if you are young or female. Like it or not, dressing professionally will make you seem more authoritative. Pissed that people may judge you by your clothing? It happens whether you like it or not.

Finally, remember all the chargers for your gizmos and never let anyone check your presentation. Posters should only enter the luggage compartment if pried from your cold, dead fingers.

This advice has been compiled into a brief slideshow below. Enjoy, and may you and your luggage always arrive together. See you in San Diego!



7 responses so far

If I Ran the World: Part 1

Apr 11 2012 Published by under Travel

I travel the skies a fair amount, enough to get me 30+ "segments" each year for the lowest elite status on United. Recent flights have pointed out an issue that seems "fixable" on some level.

Living in Oklahoma City, the first leg of every trip is from Will Rogers World Airport (yup, named after a guy who died in a plan crash) to a hub. From the hub airport, after 1+ hours, I then board a plane to where-I-really-want-to-go. When booking each trip, I have to make a bet, a game I call hub roulette. In December or January, Houston generally has better odds than O'Hare or Denver. In the spring, you never know which way to go. On vacation in March, I bet on Houston, and we damn near spent the night there because of thunderstorms in Texas that grounded our flight from OKC for 3 hours (but not the one we connected to in Texas which flew in from Seattle and got to take off on time). Had I chosen a Chicago connection we would have been better off, but you cannot know that 2 or 3 months in advance.

What I really want to do is tell the airlines that I want to travel from my home to a final destination on a given date and have them get me there. I can specify a time frame for departure or arrival and then let them pick the actual route the day before! I don't care if I'm spending a couple of hours in Houston or Chicago; I'm only there because they make me!

Now, there are no complete guarantees. The plane I need to get on may be coming from a location with bad weather or other issues. But I hate rolling the dice on which hub city will have clear weather on a given date months down the line.


5 responses so far

Yes, It Is Friday

Oct 14 2011 Published by under Travel, Wackaloonacy

So my live tweeting from Vision2020 was suppressed by our basement location. The events this week focused on working. Last year we conversed and defined the problems women still face in the US. This year we moved toward solutions.

Since no trip goes unpunished, I returned to the office this morning with a bit of trepidation. My assistant greeted me and then asked to copy my driver's license. As I handed it to her, she explained that the hospital wanted a copy of a government-issued ID. We had sent one of my US passport, but the office clerk in the credentials center did not realize that was "government-issued." It was easier to send a copy of my license than argue.


Next week I will discuss my times in Chicago here and at AWEnow (the project I am doing for Vision2020). In the meantime, try to have a great weekend. And consider giving to DonorsChoose.


2 responses so far

Thwarted Efforts

Jul 13 2011 Published by under Travel

Last night I sat to record my thoughts on college orientation for my son. My 2-month-old computer started acting funny, but the hotel wi-fi was perhaps to blame. I forced a shut-down and attempted a reboot.

Nothing. Nada. Zip.

After an hour with a snail-paced connection on the iPad, the thing would power up, but all I can get is a pale blue screen with a spinning wheel.


After some more troubleshooting, I have made an appointment with the Apple Store for tomorrow.

In the meantime I will chill and thrill in the knowledge that 27% of Minnesota's incoming Science & Engineering class is women, twice what it was 6 years ago.


4 responses so far

The Tree of Life

Jun 14 2011 Published by under Travel

After the weekend with minimal internet activity, I have resumed packing my main office. Today, I addressed The Tree of Life.

Not the hot movie, but a knick-knack in my office.


My Tree of Life

My tree is Mexican folk art, acquired on a wonderful vacation when I was 13 years old. We drove through Mexico over several weeks in my grandparents' Ford LTD. I sat in the front bench seat, between my dad and mom. My little brother got the center back between the grandparents.

The journey began in Brownsville-Matamoros where we picked up the original Panamerican Highway. It wound south through mountainous rain forests, and every cut-back turn might obscure a donkey cart piled high with 10 feet of produce. Eventually we reached Mexico City where we spent several days trekking through the usual tourist stops. We marched up Aztec pyramids and pretended to be human sacrifices. We headed south again through Taxco and silver country to Acapulco. After some beach time, we headed north again on the new Panamerican Highway, re-entering the US at Laredo-Nuevo Laredo. What an adventure we had!

While touring, my mom and I fell in love with the bright (OK, gaudy) Trees of Life which presented such a perfect fusion of native crafts and European invasion. Yup, that is Adam and Even with leaves obscuring their naughty bits! My mom bargained the price down on this one, and she swore it would fit in the suitcase, cradled by dirty clothes.

It did not.

It ended up making the ride back to Missouri in our laps in the front seat of the car.

When my current office opened, my parents were beginning to divest themselves of stuff to downsize. The Tree of Life would be cast off into a landfill somewhere. As I complained that my new office boasted four white walls, gray steel furniture, and no color, my mom suggested this doodad would brighten things up.

Given what we went through to get this critter back home, I was not allowing it to be thrown out easily. For 6 years it has graced the top of my lateral file. I do not know how it will work in my office at the new place, but I will try to make it fit.

After all, it represents an adventure.


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My Week: One Hot Mess Without the Hot Part

Apr 06 2011 Published by under Travel, Wackaloonacy

The Scientific NetworkSo far this week I have seen patients and answered calls every night.

I met new workmen in my bathrobe.

Artist's Rendition of My Week (Click for original image at PhotoXpress)

I came home to find my kitchen table in the great room.

I have scrubbed walls.

I still must pack for an extended trip to Experimental Biology and then to house hunt in Oklahoma City.

Oh, and I hand over my patient responsibilities about the time I board my plane on Friday.

In short, I am tired. If you see me dozing in the back of a session at EB, please don't wake me. I need the rest.

In the meantime, please forgive me a video post. A friend sent me this parody of The Social Network trailer this morning, and I had to share:


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