[by Mike]

One of the drawbacks to working in particle physics is that you have absolutely no control over your experiment. Instead, government budgets and collaboration politics decide when you're lucky enough to have your data taken and those are two institutions not known for getting things done on reasonable time scales. I first arrived at grad school expecting data within a few months and after two years of delays and set backs, my thesis data is finally being taken. While that bodes well for eventual graduation, it also means a two week stint on Long Island.

I've written about the barren wasteland before, so I took a few precautions. Over the last few months I gathered up a few ideas to avoid fast food and strip malls. And in an effort to sate my addiction to Boston's restaurants, I spoiled myself last weekend: Craigie and Rendevous for drinks on Friday, Vietnamese and sesame balls in Chinatown on Saturday, and Ten Tables with Naveen and Aviv on Sunday.

My first task once off the ferry was to stock up on supplies. With minimal supplies and a dorm kitchen rocking 30 year old appliances, my strategy focused on tacos. I picked up corn tortillas and a good salsa at a local Mexican grocery before hitting a megamart and grabbing the secret ingredient: a rotisserie chicken. Cheap, widely available, and consistently delicious, these chickens are perfect taco fodder and all too convenient for the traveling gourmand. Add a cold beer and you have a complete breakfast (I guess I should probably mention that I'm working the owl shift where breakfast is usually in the early evening?).

My initial attempts to avoid the endless maze of strips malls has unfortunately been less successful. Initially I looked to internet sites like Yelp, but local entries are sparse and the few existing reviews rarely feature more than one comment, making any statistical judgement of reliability impossible. Hence I'm left with few options but driving in random directions, trying to pick up on visual clues that might lead to good food.

Yet again, the sprawl of Long Island proves a powerful foe. From the street it's nearly impossible to judge the quality of a restaurant: a sign advertising foreign food is equally likely to point to cheap take out pandering to American tastes or authentic cuisine. Finer dining options are confined to where the sprawl meets the coast, but there it's just as difficult to determine whether a restaurant is worth the expense, let alone the long trip out. Still, I have most of the two weeks left and even unsuccessful searches provide an opportunity to get off campus.

Worse case scenario? I spend most days downing fresh tacos and good beer, occasionally driving out for some solid if uninspiring Chinese, Mexican, or Thai.

I just might make it out of here alive.

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