My muscles ache, my hand is blistered, and I smell like a locker room. Two and a half hours of floor hockey - my first time ever in the rink - took the piss right out of me. First times are invariably humbling. Thank god, I wasn't the only beginner (Paola joined me)...but close enough. Everyone else could run, walk, and slapshot past, around, and all over me. My team did manage a couple of points, but our overworked goalie watched a half dozen rubber balls whiz right him. These players were good - I have Canadian envy. I'm also amidst another first time, this time teaching social research methods. It's a grueling schedule of reading, prepping, and teaching that begins at 8am, moves to the classroom from 3-4:45 every day, and then weighs on me the rest of the night. Hockey is a great escape, and I'm thankful for that. During the week it's reliability, validity, nominal and ordinal variables, surveys and experiments, qualitative, quantitative, and comparative research. It's enough to test the patience of even the most dedicated scholar. But for a one-month job, it ain't bad. I'm my own boss and it regularly gets me to bed before midnight. In two and a half weeks the class ends and I have another trip planned, and it'll be my first time in Philadelphia. And while I'm not a cheese steak kind of guy, I do look forward to seeing the other side of Pennsylvania. I'm traveling under the auspicies of professional duties (Sociology conference), but a few days with Uncle Larry and Aunt Judy in Maryland and a few more with my old college friend Eric in DC, and I think this qualifies as a gen-u-wine vacation. The conference will be my first at which I am not presenting my own work - I'll be the spectator, amateur sociologist, and schmoozer. Like all first times, I'm sure it will be humbling.