Monday, July 28, 2008

What to do....

So I have this $380 credit for Frontier Airlines that I need to use by September 9th. I was gonna try to visit Velius and dominate in the Wii tournament he was having in two weeks in honor of the Olympics, but Frontier is charging $1k for the tix -_- So...anyone have any good suggestions on where to go at this time of year?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

West Coast Travels: Seattle

And just when I thought it was safe to settle back down in the east coast, another conference calls for me the next week back to west coast and into the Emerald City. This time, I was there for the User Group Conference, where users of the various DoD supercomputers showed off the interesting projects and research that they were performing with all those computing resources. There were also some interesting presentations about clusters of PS3's potentially being used and marketed as "efficient" computing clusters due to the relatively low power draw compared to your typical setup of server blades. So now I know where Sony sold all of those PS3's too :P I didn't have any particular presentations in this case to present, but I definitely networked and met up with a bunch of users that I'll potentially be working with later down the road. And since one of the presentation rooms was the "Orca" room, I had to go and sit down through a few presentations in honor of Blue Orca, even though the computational chemistry stuff the presenters were talking about was way over my head :P  One sort of annoying thing though involved my badge.  Apparently, the way they check your citizenship was through your HPC account since there were particular presentations that were restricted to US only citizens.  Since I had just gotten my account started the week before, the registration desk didn't have my name as an account user, so I was stuck with a pink non-citizen's badge the entire week -_-

Luckily for me, Catnipped and her friends were around during the evenings that week to hang out. After the conference ended for the day, I met up with Catnipped and her friend Snoopy and D at Matt's Rotisserie and Oyster Lounge (fyi the website is quite musical). Afterwards, our attempt to win at trivia night on Monday (7-14-08) was thwarted by the "Name that Tune" category and questions about movies that Kathy Bates were involved in, but we managed to step up to score 8 of 10 in the sports-related category and Catnipped stepped up with her knowledge of Canadian provinces (8 of 13 woot!), which just pushed us out of the running for the $1 pitcher of beer. The last place reward is now a bit harder to get as the two last places teams actually have to answer a trivia question right to get the beer. During trivia, the MLB all-star festivities were being shown on TV, and Snoopy had mentioned something about Josh Hamilton being her favorite player because he went to her high school. Sure enough, Josh Hamilton goes on to be the star for the night at the home run derby as he goes nuts for 28 HRs in the first round!

Tuesday (7-15-08) saw more presentations, but there was an important meeting for everyone employed in my company that afternoon at the conference as we had to discuss on how we were going to win an upcoming contract. Since I hadn't been working that long yet and didn't know the ropes that well, I didn't have that much to contribute, but the discussions between everyone was surprising lively and energetic, and I felt pretty proud afterwards knowing that those who I work closest with in the company were gung-ho about winning the contract. After the meeting, there was a poster session on more HPC related topics, but the room was waaaay to cramped for the poster presenters and the attendees, so a couple of my coworkers and I headed to the Fisherman's Restaurant out by the water, and we got a table outside so that we could enjoy the view while we ate dinner (mmm salmon steak). After dinner, I met up with Catnipped and company to go see The Incredible Hulk, which was surprisingly entertaining even the second time through.  *Semi-spoiler via ROT13* Vg'yy or vagrerfgvat gb frr ubj gurl pbzr hc jvgu na hore fhcreureb pbzvp zbir tvira gung Veba Zna znxrf na nccrnenapr ng gur raq naq FUVRYQ vf oevrsyl ersreerq gb ng gur ortvaavat bs gur zbivr.

As I noted before, after I got back to my hotel room from the movies, I though I had lost my laptop, but some kind people at the hotel held on to it, so I was relieved to find it the next morning (7-16-08). There weren't as many presentations that I was interested in that day, so I took some time to go back up to Kerry Park and enjoy the always spectacular views.

Seattle July 2008 025 Seattle July 2008 027

Seattle July 2008 028 Seattle July 2008 030

Sporting events were the activity of the night as Catnipped called me up later for some tennis.  I got to the courts a bit early to see some people playing cricket over two of the courts, and for the random times that someone managed to hit a ball out of the court, I helped them out and retrieved it.  But I was quite surprised when I picked up the cricket ball because it looked like a worn tennis ball, but had the weight of a shot put o_O.  The cricket players eventually left the court just in time as Catnipped and her friend D from Monday and another friend A (though I can't remember his name at the moment -_-) all arrived, and we got a game of doubles going.  The first was sort of a feeling out process for everyone as me and D teamed up to take it 6-1, but the second set was quite competitive as me and Catnipped teamed up against D and A to a 6-6 tie as the sun was going down.  There were one particular game where poor Catnipped had to serve through like 6 or 7 deuces, but she stuck through it like a trooper.  After tennis, Catnipped, D, and I went to The Parlor, probably the nicest billiard's place I've ever seen, in Lincoln Square to play some pool.  When we first got there, the person at the desk asked if I wanted to play some free pool since they were having some pool night where the guys could play free against some women, but I knew I would probably make an idiot out of myself since my pool skills were pretty mediocre, so I declined politely.  The three of us got our own table and played where we would each try to sink a third of the balls, and I managed to put together one good round in the beginning and one good round at the end, but man, those rounds in the middle were brutally terrible on my part as I was scratching all over the place and missing baby shots.  Catnipped used her star power in a furiously rally to win the third rack, and D showed off his ambidexterity off both wings to win the second and fourth rack.  After pool, Catnipped took me to the upper floor of Lincoln Square, which happened to be a Microsoft floor, and out to an outdoor balcony where the view of Bellevue and Seattle was really quite spectacular.  Man, I wish I had my camera at that time...

On Thursday (7-17-2008), the conference seemed to thin out a bit as it was the last conference day, and I had to rush back in between one of the breaks to check out of my hotel.  I booked a red-eye flight out at 11:30 pm that evening, so there was still quite a lot of time for me to kill once the conference ended, and Catnipped found out her friends were kayaking in the late afternoon, so I joined up with them at the Northwest Outdoor Center.  For whatever reason, I was being an idiot that day and I rowed into Catnipped's friend D2, which sent me into the water of Lake Union and washed my pride away -_-  D2 tried his best to instruct me on how to get back into the kayak, but I was still sorta dazed and frustrated with myself at that point, so I probably tuned him out a bit.  With D2's help, I made my way to a nearby pier where we emptied the water out and I got back into the kayak.  I was still fuming a bit at myself but eventually rowed it off and enjoyed the last bit of time I had in Seattle.  After turning the kayaks in and saying goodbye to Catnipped, I quickly changed in a changing room and it was off to the airport.  Till next time!  And a big thanks to Catnipped for hanging out with me for the week :)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

West Coast Travels: San Diego

As most of you already know, I made two trips in the past two consecutive weeks to the west coast.  First trip was to San Diego for the International Symposium on Antennas and Propagation where I presented my work on magnetic photonic crystals as a well as lead an outreach to find new users for the DoD supercomputers as part of my job.  This particular trip was sort of rushed on my part due to me not wanting to push my luck on the travel budget, so I didn't get to see as many sights in San Diego as I wanted.  On day one (7-8-2008), I did however get to meet up with KL2, one of my undergraduate friends who had just happened to be vacationing there with his girlfriend, so I meet up with them for dinner on Tuesday.  We got some sushi at Ra Sushi, which was sort of a contemporary-looking sushi place, and cashed in on the last five minutes of their happy hour to enjoy some cheap but really good sushi.  KL2 had a travel book with him and after dinner, he suggested that we go to a dessert place that the book suggested called Extraordinary Desserts.  And man...the desserts there were very exquisite and extraordinary indeed.  In honor of DragOnfruitS (and since I'm a sucker for chocolate), I had myself a slice of Viking, which was surprisingly not as sweet as I expected from looking at it, but it was still a really good cake.  After desserts, KL2 and his girlfriend called it a night, so I headed back to my hotel to meet up with Kira, who had just gotten out of his Chinese class.  Since Kira didn't live in downtown San Diego, we just strolled around downtown and talked about random stuff.  We also went back to my hotel room so that I could show Kira the presentation that I would be giving the next day, and somehow I got to show Kira around Facebook, which seemed to draw some interest to him as he seems to update his Facebook profile pretty regularly now :P  I have to mention though that this hotel room at the Westin was pretty awesome.  It was on the 21st (or was it 24th?) floor and had a really nice view of the city and the waterline.  The highlight though had to be the dual headed shower, which for whatever reason was really comfortable to shower in :)

My presentation was at 8 am the next day (7-9-2008), so I got up early to head over to the Grand Hyatt where the conference was going on.  When I finally found the room where I'd be giving my presentation, I was sorta shocked at how large it was (probably fit about 100+ chairs), and they had a 12 foot screen behind the speaker for his/her slides.  So this was definitely the biggest crowd that I'd ever spoken to, but once I got started, the nerves went away and the talk went pretty smoothly although I have the tendency to talk ahead of what I'm thinking.  The chairman of the presentation group that I was in acknowledged to me later that he was impressed to see the results that I presented, so that felt good to hear :)  Afterwards, I attended a few talks and managed to find some new potential users, but I was dead tired by mid-afternoon, so I went back to the hotel to nap for a bit.  After waking up, it was around dinner time, but I didn't feel like going out to a restaurant by myself, so I ordered up a burger from room service, which turned out to be pretty good, and watched my new vice, So You Think You Can Dance, to hold me over till AI starts again.

The next day (7-10-2008) was pretty much spent on travel, so nothing much to report on that day.  But I definitely want to return to San Diego again another day since there were a bunch of museums to the north that I didn't have a chance to visit, plus maybe I'll go catch Shamu at Sea World.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

New Faith in Humanity

So most of you know that I've been out in Seattle this week for a work-related conference. And almost every day, I've been carrying a backpack with my laptop and conference agenda. But when I got back to the hotel last night, I gasped when I dug through my backpack, and my laptop was no where to be found >.< I started thinking back and felt pretty angry that someone might have stolen it and started doing some deranged stuff with it (like maybe logging onto Pidgin and start randomly threatening people on my chat list as they pretend to be me) , but after a while, I rationalized that unless the person was a ninja, there was no way that anyone could have taken the laptop out of my backpack without me noticed. So right then, I bet on the fact that I probably was being absent-minded and forgot to put my laptop back in my backpack after one of the presentations that I was attending had finished. The next day, I went back to the registration desk and asked if anyone had turned in a laptop, and the lady behind the desk pointed me to another room full of laptops for presentation presenters to use. A gentleman had listened to my plea at the registration desk, and he lead me to the laptop room and pretty much asked one of the guys there for me whether my laptop had been found. YES! One of the guys there pulled my laptop to view from behind one of their desks, and I was totally relieved :) The guy said he had found it in one of the conference rooms, and I thought back a bit and recalled that I had to meet a coworker immediately after one of the presentations, so I absent-mindedly had put my laptop to the side while I was wrapping up the power cord, and I forgot to pack up the laptop after storing away the power cord. The guy joked that he wanted a $50 fee for it, but I probably would have totally paid it just from the peace of mind knowing that my laptop hadn't fell into the wrong hands.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


I just got back from seeing WALL-E at the theater, and I must say that this is probably Pixar's best looking movie to date. There weren't any moments where I found myself in the uncanny valley, yet it was so easy to be immersed in the environment and forget it's an animated CG cartoon, especially during the earth scenes as they looked so...earthy. What was even more amazing is that the first third or so of the film had no real dialogue, yet you could totally understand what was going on between WALL-E and EVE through their actions. And even though WALL-E doesn't have a mouth or much of a face, you could gather so much about his emotions just by watching his eyes.

Without trying to spoil anything, I will note that the message that the second half of the movie delivers seems to go against Disney's company ideals. But the message didn't really detract from that much in my eyes, so definitely go see WALL-E if you have the chance! :)

Oh, and the cartoon short they had before WALL-E was really good as well :)