MSP Humphrey terminal: A modern ghost town

The Hubert H. Humphrey terminal at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport was eerily empty and quiet today.

A modern ghost town
When I fly to conferences I tend to take the low cost carrier, whatever that happens to be. Much of the cost is coming out of my pocket, and I’m cheap (’cause the conferences never are). For GECCO [1], AirTran was the winner, with a price a hair under $200 round trip, which was quite a lot less than I was expecting to pay for the flight. One little tidbit I didn’t really appreciate until several weeks after I booked the flight was that AirTran flies out of the Hubert H. Humphrey (HHH) terminal of the Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) airport, and I’m currently adrift in the empty, echoing terminus of HHH with a handful of fellow travelers.

For those unfamiliar with MSP, the vast majority of flights use the Lindbergh terminal, and I suspect many people pass through MSP with nary a clue that the Humphrey terminal exists. I think I’ve only flown through HHH once before, on a Sun Country flight to a conference several years ago, and I’d pretty much forgotten what it was like over here.

I knew I’d have a couple of hours to kill at the airport between the arrival of my shuttle from Morris and my departure, and I figured I’d grab some lunch and try to continue revising our GECCO talks. This, however, failed to take into account my departure from the Humphrey terminal instead of Lindbergh. The Lindbergh terminal is a nice airport, with lots of restaurants (some of which are pretty decent) and even a passable book store or two. HHH is a small terminal (10 gates) servicing a ragtag group of low cost and limited traffic airlines.

It’s like a ghost town, but with airplanes.

There was almost no one here when I arrived. Only one of the dozen or so AirTran desks was open, there were no customers in sight, and I was able to just walk right up. Security also only had one queue open, but there were only four or five of us going through at the time, so it was again “Step right up and off you go”. The waiting areas were almost completely empty when I got here, and now (probably 30-40 minutes away from boarding) have a smattering of folks.

All this is most definitely to the good, especially when compared to some of the chaotic and stressful check-ins and security checks we’ve had in some of our recent flights.

The downside is that there are pretty much zip in the way of services or staff. There are a whopping two coffee/sandwich shops in the whole terminal, one on either side of security, and one bar/restaurant. After that we’re down to a magazine rack and a few vending machines. And the coffee shop inside of security didn’t have anyone at the till when I first came through.

Arguably less good, and certainly weird. No one’s going to mistake it for Heathrow or O’Hare, I promise you.

The real bummer, of course, is that there’s no free wifi here (or at the Lindbergh terminal). $4.95 for an hour, or $7.95 for the day.

Wonderful. Almost as wonderful as the fine $3 sandwich that cost me $7 for when the coffee shop finally opened up.

I’m looking forward to not flying for quite a while (perhaps as much as a year!) after I return from this trip. It’s nice being other places, but getting there isn’t always loads of fun, and it tends to suck environmentally.

1 GECCO = Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference, one of the two or three big international “mega” conferences in evolutionary computation. To be honest GECCO is much bigger and more circus-like than would be my preference. I’m much happier at smaller gigs like EuroGP, but that’s during the school year, and at an awkward time, and a lot more expensive to get to, so I’ve attended a lot more GECCOs than EuroGPs :-(.

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Far too many photos from Dagstuhl

A view not often seen

Regular readers here will likely remember various past posts extolling the virtues of Dagstuhl, this really wonderful computing research facility in Germany. I’ve been lucky enough to attend several seminars on the Theory of Evolutionary Algorithms in the past, and have taken (and posted) quite a few photos from those trips.

A few months ago I had the (totally) unexpected pleasure of being contacted by Christian Lindig, a member of Dagstuhl’s scientific staff, and asked if I would be willing to return to Dagstuhl for the specific purpose of taking photographs for them. They’re apparently in the process of re-doing all their brochures and such, and liked what they’d seen on Flickr.

As a result I’ve spent a very pleasant few days back at Dagstuhl in some gorgeous spring weather (I’ve only every been here in the winter before), enjoying the company of a fine group studying the Design and Analysis of Randomized and Approximation Algorithms. (They’ve been very patient with an intruder who always seemed to be waving a camera about, and for this I am grateful.)

I’ve taken something over 1,000 photos, with a few more planned for tomorrow morning before I leave. Some of the participants have asked if the photos will be made available. I have uploaded everything I’ve taken this week to my “events” account on Flickr, all under a Creative Commons license, which means that participants are welcome to download and use any that they wish, as long as they provide attribution. (Note that I am not, and can not, provide any sort of permissions from individuals photographed – that’s their right and prerogative. If you want to use someone here in a beer ad, you need to get their permission first.)

Where are they all?

  • Everything I’ve taken this week is on my “events” account.
  • I also have a Dagstuhl set on my “real” Flickr account that has some of my favorites (with cleaning, cropping, etc.) from my various visits to Dagstuhl. At the moment this set is heavy on shots from previous trips, but I hope to add more from this visit as time allows.
  • Earlier this year I posted everything (without cleaning or editing) from the Jan/Feb seminar on Evolutionary Algorithms to my “events” account.

It’s not yet clear what all Dagstuhl may do with these, but they will contact anyone who is recognizable in a photograph for permission before using your image in any of their materials. If anyone objects to being included in these vast oceans of photos, please let me know and I’d be happy to remove the photo in question.

Thanks again to Christian for inviting me out to Dagstuhl, and to the Randomized and Approximate Algorithms group for being patient “hosts”. Enjoy the photos!

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