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Trip summary: Philadelphia and France! (16 Nov 2007 at 16:44)
I'm almost recovered from my trips last week so now I can post a summary. This was a bit of a strange trip because it was a two-in-one (really a one-in-the-other). I started by going to Philadelphia to visit the University of Pennsylvania for a project kick-off meeting. Since I plan on graduating imminently, a kick-off for a new project is a little bit irrelevant for me, but they are possibly going to use some of my thesis work in the new project. This trip was more fun than I expected... I think having a group of likeminded people together with a singular purpose is pretty interesting and productive. Somehow I wound up "driving" for a good fraction of the discussion (meaning that I was writing code in the fanciful programming language yet to be invented, projecting onto the easel for all to watch) which was funny to me because there were half a dozen eminent tenured professors (meaning much more qualified) in the room. I think they just like my tasteful syntax highlighting color scheme in emacs. I had 90 minutes free at one point during which I ran down to the Delaware and back as part of my "3D World Runner" project (the scope or purpose of this project is so far unknown, but I do know that running in more cities is progress!). The route I took is not the best, because there are like ten busy traffic lights every mile, but the river was fun and I enjoy seeing a city this way. Chris graciously let me use his couch on the last night to avoid the hotel's Parents Visit Weekend gouge prices, and we played guitar hero late into the night and talked about hoarde-cleanup-oriented puzzle games.

Then from Philadelpha I went to France via Heathrow. My prior visit to Heathrow was pretty good, but that was I think because I was leaving the airport upon arrival (to head to Oxford). I cannot recommend Heathrow for international transfers. The terminals are distant and the journey undulates between long pointless empty hallways or bus rides and feeding frenzy-like security choke points. All the while you are seeing billboards stating things like, "Terminal 5 is coming! We're working to make Heathrow an airport that London (site of the 2012 Olympic Games) can be proud of!" This of course underscores the point that Heathrow is not, currently, an airport that London (site of the 2012 Olympic Games) can be proud of. Did you know that London is the site of the 2012 Olympic Games? Because they will remind you at every opportunity as if someone from the ministry of self-promotion did a search on the entire country for "London" and replaced it with "London (site of the 2012 Olympic Games)." Oh, also, even if you are allowed to bring a backpack and carry-on onto the airplane, like as is standard, you can only bring one item period into Heathrow. Travel tip #n: Go to Frankfurt instead.

This conference that I was at, Trustworthy Global Computing 2007, was pretty good. There were surprisingly many good people there, although most from Europe. I gave a talk about my thesis work, Type-safe Distributed Programming with ML5. You will need the newest Flash player for that thing, or else you will see just the background and an occasional Universe or Planet. The thing that was kind of a shame about this trip is that here I was on the Cte d'Azur, being able to see fantastic mountain ranges in one direction and the Mediterranean Sea in the other, and the weather was beautiful, but I was stuck in an office park in Sophia-Antipolis. There is nothing there. You can go outside your hotel at night and walk by any number of closed office buildings, and that is it. The buses only run on weekdays and during times appropriate for people that want to come to work or go home. (Also, unfortunately, this time of year it gets dark at like 17:30, so it was difficult to do any sight seeing even if I could make it to like Antibes.) On the last day I skipped out on a talk to try to run my way to the ocean. This was like a last-ditch effort. I had planned out a route but soon became very disappointed: as soon as I got past the bus stop there were no sidewalks anymore, just big wide trafficky highways. I ran a bit in parking lots, hoping maybe the sidewalks would pick up again, but eventually I was done for. This town was not made for feet. But! Just as I was about to give up, I spotted a trail through the woods and figured I might as well follow it. After some false turns and about 4.5 miles (After the woods part this trail is marked by yellow paint on trees and highway dividers and curbs and stuff as you make your way through a little village, and so was tricky to follow; for example, at one point there is a sign that says Chemin Prive, which to me means "Private Drive" (i.e. Do Not Go Here), but that is the way you are supposed to go and there is no yellow paint to be seen. It is kind of like the Rachel Carson Trail in that respect but not 34 miles.), I made it to the ancient city of Biot, which is like a pottery commune—whatever that is—sitting on top of a hill. This was actually pretty awesome. Maybe all ancient French cities are like this and forgive me for gushing over my first one, but it was this crazy pile of dwellings made of shale that seemed like they had been piled atop one another over hundreds of years, with little secret passageways and deadends and extreme steep tiny streets that people somehow managed to get their extreme tiny cars up. There were people living there and stray cats, but no tourists whatsoever. I found it to be like a weird deserted Disney movie set. But the sun was setting and I didn't want to be running through the woods in the dark, so I did not see much, and that is pretty much the only vacationing or cool worldly thing I did other than science in France. Travel tip #(n+1): If you took the yellow trail through the woods to Biot then I'm pretty sure you did the single outdoorsy thing to do in Sophia-Antipolis, by way of leaving it.

However, thumbs up to French coffee and dessert. Wow.

I then returned to Philadelphia and immediately took my return ticket from Philadelphia back to Pittsburgh. That was a long day I would prefer not to think about.

Now that I am back I am engaged in full-time binge writing on my thesis. Maybe I will show you a graph when I get a chance so you can see how much I have been writing. I now have 57,000 words and about 300 pages... not much more to go!

But speaking of going, I cannot test your parsing stack depth with my run-on sentences for any longer, because Jason and Adam and I are heading over to the Pittsburgh Technology Center for an all-weekend One Laptop Per Child Laptop game jam contest. I am pretty excited about this. Since they are making us program in slow grody proletariat languages, I have recused myself from my normal role of insisting on having my fingers on every part of the project: this time I am going to not touch any code and only make graphics and maybe music and design. Fun! We are Team Brazil, but I don't know if there is going to be any information on our progress up on the website through the weekend. Either way, I will show you our game when we are done! See you!
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