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.

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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 :)

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