Miami wrapup

Ah, I’m back from Miami. It’s good to be home – and good that I made it home. Man, the rental return *sucks*. I was going in circles around the airport for about 20 minutes because they put one sign *behind* a palmtree. Oh man … I was so mad. I barely caught my flight (the clerk told me that I’m too late but checked me in anyway (my luggage delayed the start)). Then I also barely made the connection flight because we arrived late in Atlanta (I ran through the airport … as usual). My luggage delayed the start again … oh man. Anyway, I’m back in Bloomington!

Miami was nice but strange. The city seems to be under complete reconstruction and … dead. There is nearly no traffic (excluding Miami Beach) and no people on the streets. I am wondering who lives/works in all those skyscrapers. Really really weird. And the people I met were strange and most of them only spoke bad English – the official language there seems to be Spanish. How weird (again). I made some pictures :) :

Te highway towards the city … sweet palmtrees all over the place!

My hotel room – much better then I expected for the price. A nice tree in front of the window, free 1 MiB/s wireless and great room service!

My uber-cool rental car. Looks silly … but pay attention to the spoiler! It had twice as much power as it needed. Man, this car was just cool!

The conference was downtown Miami … and here it is. Terrible … I did not like it!

I parked about 20 mins walking distance from downtown to save parking fees. I had a very very nice walk every morning. Really enjoyable – this is one of the views I got on the go.

The Miami downtown transportation system – a cute little bus on high rails. Looks weird but is free and kinda nice. Unfortunately only downtown … it’s still US (or maybe north Mexico?).

The conference hotel was right on a river where boats kept coming by. The area was full with draw bridges, as you see here:

People who stayed in the conference hotel complained about the noise this thing made (yes, it was pretty loud).

That’s it … the conference was … hmm, ok. Ask me for details ;) . Many very interesting conversations and I met some new interesting people.

Running (to) Miami Beach

Oh man, we ran and ran and ran and ran (way too far) from the conference location (Hyatt Regency Miami) to the Beach. We means Jesper and me … the Jesper who totally outrun me :) . How embarrassing ;) … but he’s a really good runner. We ran about 19km (12 miles) in 1 hrs and 45 minutes. The route is here on google maps (we actually ran to the beach, but google maps didn’t allow the waypoint). I’m done with physical activity for today … good that I can just sit and listen to talks :) . Btw. beautiful view/scenery from the bridges of Miami (Beach) … you guys should all run here!

Arrived in Miami (Beach)

yeah, I just arrived here … and I don’t like the city, but the rental I got is *really* cool. It’s only economy (a Saturn) but it has at least twice as much power as it needs :) . And the audio is really good too … radio stations in Miami suck though (note to self: burn a CD!!). Anyway, I don’t like the city because it has a traffic problem … I went to Miami Beach and I couldn’t even park. *ARGH* the cheapest parking Lot I found (20 mins walking from the conference location) is still $10/day. It’s way too hot … ah, anyway, the city itself is rather impressing but also depressing.

Taxes taxes and more taxes

Oh *MAN*. I thought the German tax system is complicated. But it’s a joke compared to US one. Everybody has to file taxes to the US (IRA) *AND* all the states *and* counties he worked in. Man, so I had to file federal tax, Indiana tax and county tax (fortunately part of the Indiana tax … so they’re not completely brain-dead). I wasted a *whole* day trying to understand the issues with my visa status and bla bla bla. I didn’t only waste my day but also IU’s tax expert’s day. They’re very very very friendly here, but my case is extremely complicated (I changed visa status). The quintessence: I need to go back to J-1 asap.
Why? Because I am freaking poor now, after I paid my due to the government. But hey, I got a tax return from Indiana … this is so weird. It’s also weird that foreigners can not deduct educational costs (tuition) from their taxes. It’s actually rather unfair, because US citizens can deduct this, and they also get much much more standard deduction :-( . I had $631 as standard deduction and a collegue (US citizen) had more than $5000 -> *ARGH*. Anyway, the taxes are still rather low compared to Germany. All in all (federal, state and county), I paid less than 13%.

I mailed it in today … I hope they’re happy (and can read my handwriting on the state tax forms).

Another flight … through Washington

Ah, yes, I was stuck overnight last time when I flew through Washington. And I did not learn! I picked Washington again (the Space Trains are way too cool). Immigration at this airport sucks … it’s really terrible. I was standing in line for more than three (3!) hours this time. This was ok, because I had a nice chat with a woman from Suse aehem Novell – besides Aaaaahhhh, my connection flight left 2hrs after arrival. Great! Ok, I missed this one. United only had another flight 10pm, I would have to wait 4 hrs and miss the last shuttle to Bloomington. Hmm, I pulled up rule 242 – they did not care at all – a**h***s. Fortunately I saw that another flight ti Indy was delayed by three hours, so I went back to the clerk and was re-booked to this one. Man, couldn’t they do this by themselves???? I took a space train then and just arrived for the departure of this one :) .

A space-train :-) (they call it “mobile lounge”).

They even managed to “forward” my bag. Hmm, at least in front of the plane … this delayed the start by 10 minutes. I think it was because there was *nobody* to pick it up *grin*.

When I arrived in Indy, I realized that I would have to wait 1:40hrs for the next shuttle bus. Oh man, so I decided to try the cool agreement that IU has with National ($25 for a rental). It worked (kind of, I was stuck at the checkout for 30 min because they did not accept my debit card together with my Emerald club). But IU – better the contract – certainly rules. I got a free upgrade by two classes and picked the fattest car available. The poor guy I was chatting with in the bus picked an economy about half of the size than my car right next to me (and paid much much more). So I got a Nissan X-Terra (2005 version):
This machine has a lot of power and was thus much fun to drive :) . And it was much bigger than most cars on the road (yes, even in America). I was tempted to just ram another car from the street ;-) . Including taxes, I paid $32 for the rental and $9 for gas. A very reasonable price (and it’s faster than the limo). I guess I could save on gas with a smaller car … but hey, where’s the fun here? I like National (much more than Enterprise actually)! I arrived after 28hrs travel in Bloomington.

The fabulous “Glueckaufturm” tower

Yeah, I was home over the Easter holidays and we used the time to explore the “Erzgebirge” (ore mountains). Right next to my home town is an old uranium mine, and a huge artificial mountain (all the soil from the mine), actually the highest in a large area. They built a huge tower on this mountain (just for fun).

The tower!

it seems rather high if you’re on the top ;)

Oelsnitz (the town close to my hometown)

Yes! We have wind energy!