Random Happenings

Random notes and pics about events in the life of a not-your-typical Computer Science grad student. (Yes I am a nerd, but I don't live and breathe the SciFi channel, well maybe Stargate SG-1...)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The city that never sleeps

It never ceases to amaze me: the glow that emanates from Times Square 24/7. You can walk through Times Square in the middle of the night and it is as bright as it is in the day. This picture was taken by Bryan, an undergrad who went with us on the trip, from the top of the Empire State Building.

Monday, July 24, 2006

My kind of motivation

One of the greats things about being a grad student (besides late night meetings, strange schedules, and exams... ha!) is the prospect of travel. It's the hope of visiting strange lands, tasting new foods, and experiencing different cultures. For me, travel is a great motivator. I love the adventure.

A few times a year we submit research papers to various conferences. In the last weeks before the conference deadline, we start pulling all-nighters and living on caffeine to get it all done in time. It can be a little bit painful at times, but the reward for the hard work is worth it! A few months later after all the papers are reviewed, we are all glued to our email awaiting the verdict. If the paper gets accepted, then we get to attend the conference and see whatever exciting location it happens to be in. All on your tax dollars, thank you very much. So far, I've had all-expenses-paid trips to South Korea (and China on the way), Canada, Taiwan, Italy, and various cities in the US.

Today, we were discussing a new paper to write to submit to ICRA, the International Conference on Robotics and Automation, keyword international. It switches between the US and Europe/Asia every other year. (The trick is to submit papers to the foreign ones!) After our research meeting, I quickly typed "icra 2007" into Google. Guess where it is going to be! (drumroll...) ITALY! It is going to be held in Rome! If that doesn't give you motivation to work hard, I don't know what will.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

"Now that's a rental"

I just got home today from my trip to New York for school. It was fun, but I'm glad to be home. I guess that's when you know the trip was just long enough.

I pulled up to the house in this huge, blue truck. I was supposed to get a minivan from the rental car company since we had a lot of people and luggage, but this was all they had left. I wasn't too upset since blue is my favorite color. And I have to admit that it was fun ruling the roads in the big truck.

The first words out of Nathan's mouth was, "Now THAT's a rental!" If you don't know, he's been seceretly wanting a truck for a while now. He frequently has visions of hauling things around in one and going camping without having to stuff the Acura full to the brim. Well, for one evening, his wish came true!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

If I lived in new york...

If I lived in New York, I would have to have a rooftop apartment with a garden. This one looks amazing. With so much cement and the fact that I am used to seeing a lot of green, I love looking at the gardens on all of the buildings.

Yup, I would have to have a rooftop apartment, or I would probably spend every afternoon in Central Park. Of all the sites I visited again on this trip, Central Park has to be my favorite. No contest. It's great for strolling, snacking, daydreaming, people-watching, ...

Or, if I couldn't have a rooftop apartment, I suppose a castle would do. Here is Roger and Olga on top of Belvedere Castle. It has a great view of the park and the nearby baseball fields.

Friday, July 14, 2006

It's a three-ring circus

And no, I am not talking about Ringling Bros. that just rolled into town this week.

Today, most of my research group left for a robotics conference in New York City. Most of the organization for the conference fell into my advisor's lap, so the Parasol lab troops have had a lot of work to do the last few days to get ready. Anyway, ten of us were traveling together, so it has been quite a day to say the least!

Everything was going smoothly until we got to the airport in Houston. (We even left College Station on time, no small miracle.) The rental car company's computers were down (I won't name names), and we had to wait forever before they figured it out and let us go. Our safety net was quickly disappearing as the clock ticked on.

We arrived at the airport terminal and quickly practiced our 100-yard-dash-with-loads-of-luggage-and-conference-materials skills. (It was a close tie between me and Roger.) We found our fearless leader at curb-side checkin just as she was learning that they restricted the plane because it was getting too heavy. We managed to squeeze our way on with her elite status (she has billions of frequent flyer miles), but I honestly don't know how much you want to push the plane's weight limits. It is, after all, going to hurl us through the air thousands of feet above the earth's surface...

We made it through airport security and to the gate. Luckily, the plane had been delayed so there was a little time to rest. I thought that this would be a good time to finish my lunch. As I pulled out my food from my bag, physics kicked in and my french onion soup went soaring. Instantly, everything moved into slow motion as globs of soup danced through the air. It got on absolutely everything, including all inside my favorite red bag. Everyone stared at me in utter shock for a few moments until I desperately looked around and asked "Could someone get me a paper towel?". That broke the trance and a couple of people ran to the bathrooms to get help. It took a while, but we eventually cleaned it all up. There was very little damage. My red bag, however, will never be the same.

It's time to board, and my advisor can't find her boarding pass. She starts to panic because the flight is overbooked and she won't get her seat without it. A few of us run back through the terminal looking for it while she begs for another. Lydia spots it lying innocently on the floor and hands it to me. I then run back to the gate shouting "Nancy! Nancy! I've got it!". She looked really relieved. I am not sure that it made up for the infamous soup incident, but it was a start.

Our advisor forced us to check our luggage and carry the conference materials on the flight. And I quote, "The conference materials our more important that your luggage if they get lost." When we tried to board the plane, the attendant told us that the boxes wouldn't fit and we would have to check them. We protested, "But we measured them! They're within regulations!" He responded, "It doesn't matter. I can look at them now and tell you it won't fit." As he was starting to take them away, one of our students got our advisor. She came out of the plane and had a brief "discussion" with the attendant. The end result was that we could try to fit them on the plane. After much squeezing, pushing, and grunting, we did manage to get all the boxes stuffed into the overhead compartments.

Once we took off from Houston, everything settled down. I am happy to report that the remainder of the trip had little complication. We checked into the dorm rooms at NYU. The rooms were sparse (to say the least) but mostly clean. We were "issued" bed linens. With the numbers printed down the side, it did feel a little like joining the army. (My roommate commented "or like being in jail", but I prefer to take a slightly more optimistic view on things.) My only complaint really is the lack of a shower curtain. We had the hooks, just no curtain. With such a small bathtub, it was quite an acrobatic feat to shower without flooding the entire bathroom. They told us they will find one, but I am a little doubtful.

We found this wonderful little Japanese restaurant by the dorms for dinner. I had three different kinds of spicy fish rolls: spicy tuna, spicy salmon, and spicy white fish. We snacked on edamame for an appetizer and were served an unidentifiable flavor of ice cream for dessert. It was really really good. Roger and Olga got the party boat and even Xinyu from China enjoyed the sushi.

Now that I have a full tummy of yummy yummy sushi, life is good and I am ready for bed.