Sunday, September 30, 2007

On the road again

It was a gorgeous day outside. Felt like mid-70s, maybe low 80s, slight breeze and sunny. We took the morning to complete winterizing the boat. This involves cleaning the interior (Corey) and washing the exterior (me). Other tasks include washing the porta potty, dumping water from the engine, adding fuel stabilizer, and disconnecting the battery. The boat always looks so good after we're done with it that all I wanted to do was take it out on the lake. But instead, it was time to bungee down the cover and tarp, and drive it over to its storage spot until next spring.

After finishing up in the storage yard (weed whacking, bug spraying—this seems to work well keeping the bugs out; one year an ant colony decided to move in, last year a bird pair nested under the boat cover—maybe the bug spray will discourage all potential squatters), it was time for me to hit the road once again. This time it's Charleston, SC, so just a 4 hr drive down the highway. Nice day for the drive, not too much traffic. They've also done some road work around Columbia; as I recall there was a bit of construction there last time I drove through. I think there was only one rough patch, the rest of the roads were ok.

These days I'm trying to drive a bit slower. Generally I kept to just about 9 miles over the limit, as you can see in the pic below. Occasionally I have to gun it to get around some joker sticking to the limit, but once I get back in the right lane I set the cruise and crank up the tunes.

The radio I installed in the car after the AC Delco unit crapped out plays mp3s so one CD (not even full) kept playing all the way down. I'll have to remember to make a larger CD when I get home. The one I played was just a dump of tunes on my machine at work, so it's got a bit of a random feel to it. I should have brought the shuffle as well, that's got a more up-to-date selection of songs and it plugs right into the USB jack of this Sony unit. It looks kinda funny with a USB memory stick hanging out, but it plays and that's what counts.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

A clean bottom

It's nice having a clean bottom, wouldn't you say? For years our bottom has been quite dirty as a result of sitting in the water of Lake Hartwell. I don't know whether it's the PCBs that got dumped there some years ago, or the crap that the Corps of Engineers left on the lake floor (stumps and various other remnants of the landscape prior to flooding of the man-made lake), but our boat bottom has been sporting a darker shade of puke algae green ever since we bought the boat in 2003. But then on a lark while shopping at Wal-Mart I thought I'd buy this bottle of hull cleaner from Star Brite. No scrubbing it said. Suuuuure, as if it was going to be some magical potion and effortlessly clear away years of accumulated grunge. Well, today after trailering the boat we tried a few drops of the stuff, and it is magic! Last year I was under the boat scrubbing away in a snorkeling mask to no avail. This year, a few sprtizes of this stuff then a power wash afterwards and presto! A nice clean bottom! It's been years since the boat has looked this good. Almost like new. And with minimal effort. I am most impressed. I wish we'd discovered this stuff years ago. (PS. Corey looked at the ingredients and noted that it's an acid, so no surprise that it should work so well.)

Thus concludes our power-boating season for 2007. Too short yet again. But we felt we had to get the boat out now since the lake level keeps dropping during our most recent drought. And a good thing we got it out now, too I think. The water was so low that we had a bit of trouble getting the boat on the trailer. The trailer had to go in pretty deep so that the bow of the boat could be brought on to the trailer rollers. With its nose in place, the boat floated what seemed about 6 ft above the trailer sitting on the lake bottom. So Corey had to get behind the truck wheel to inch the truck forward while I stabilized the boat and the trailer came up beneath it. And it worked too, although we had to back up once to center the boat on the trailer.

Meanwhile, the people at the boat ramp next to us weren't so lucky. They had the boat on their trailer, hooked on to the bow eye, but when their truck pulled forward, the type 13 webbing line snapped off the hook and the trailer slid away from beneath the boat, dropping the boat right on the ramp asphalt. Ouch! Then of course they had to slide the boat backwards down the concrete ramp back into the water to start the whole procedure again. Talk about a bruised bottom!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

General Tso's chicken

For lunch today I had leftovers from yesterday's takeout from a new Chinese restaurant that opened up here just a little while ago. The place is Rainbow Garden and it opened up in the Bloom shopping center right up the road from our house. It's quite convenient and at this point quite tasty as well. They're also serving up huge portions. I ordered the steamed dumplings appetizers (8 huge portions), a shrimp egg roll, and a small sweet and sour chicken. That was more than enough for supper yet I had initially thought they'd be tiny portions and had hoped to get a bit of Corey's General Tso's chicken. That's what she ordered along with a spring roll and wonton soup. There was so much food that we ended up doggie-bagging the chicken. And it was still too large of a meal for me the next day. We could have easily split that for lunch as well. So we now have a pretty good restaurant just up the road in case of don't-feel-like-cooking emergencies. Good food and cheap, too. Hopefully it stays this way and doesn't go downhill. At this point (they've just opened remember), they're good, fast, cheap, and courteous. Hopefully that doesn't change cause it's really convenient.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Dylan live at Littlejohn

Yesterday we were treated to a masterly performance by the legendary Bob Dylan. And his band, as indicated on the official show bill at right. At left is an unofficial show bill that someone at Clemson's graphics communication department produced but that was rejected by the promoters. Personally I think it's better than the official one. Anyway, Dylan and his band played at Littlejohn Coliseum, the location of Clemson's basketball games and convocation ceremonies. It's a fairly small place and last night it was configured in 3/4 usage making it seem smaller still. But small can be good for concerts because just about any seat in the house seems pretty close to the performers and the acoustics I think tend to be better as well. In comparison to other concerts I've seen at large venues (BC Place comes to mind), if you're stuck way back there on the opposite side of a large "dome" then the performers seem tiny on stage and there's an appreciable sound delay (e.g., you see the drummer strike the snare but you don't hear it for a noticeable fraction of a second later).

There were three bands in all: Amos Lee, Elvis Costello, and Bob Dylan. I never heard of Amos Lee before, but they were good. Sort of like Hootie and the Blowfish kind of sound. Well executed, good performance, no complaints. Costello performed solo. I normally don't like the solo acoustic guitar act, but he has got a very distinctive voice, and I think he managed to pull off a good set. Alison was great. As was another song The River in Reverse: a protest song of sorts! (It's hard to believe that just as in the 60s protest songs are again meaningful; in fact some of those songs from the 60s once again make sense today.) Below is the only shot I got of the night, super blurry, but maybe enough to get an impression of our seats: I didn't use a lot of zoom to get this shot as we were pretty close to the stage.

Then Dylan and his band came on stage. How many in the band? I don't remember now, but what I do recall is a very full and well balanced sound. Dylan played guitar for the first three numbers, then went on electric keyboard for the remaining songs. A standup bass showed up on a couple of numbers. Entertaining? You bet. And what I mean by a well balanced sound is that no one instrument was overpowering the rest, yet when Dylan played the harp it was temporarily properly amplified. I don't mean to sound like some kind of know-it-all musician, but I suppose this latter observation comes from our own band's sound problems (feedback, insufficient volume on the monitors, etc.). So when you see a show like this, where all musicians know what they're doing, the sound is engineered flawlessly, you get an even better appreciation of what it takes to produce such good sounding music. And the tunes themselves were excellent. They played a few numbers from their latest CD (Modern Times), which I think is actually quite good. They ended with a new one, Thunder on the Mountain, and an old one, All Along the Watchtower, a classic popularized by Hendrix. We were up and dancing by that point.

My only negative comment is about the audience and the overly zealous event staff. That had to be the lamest audience I've ever seen at a really good performance. I've seen better audiences at crap shows. Hardly anyone stood up to dance, they all just sat there and were way too serious. The guy in front of us even turned around and told us to "keep it down!". As if we were drowning out the band or something. Give me a break. Meanwhile, the event staff was patrolling for cameras. I managed to get one shot of Costello but got caught by the "No cameras!" guy. So I put it away. I wanted to sneak another shot of Dylan but I didn't dare after I saw one guy get his cell phone confiscated. Yeah, they actually took it away! Meanwhile, irony of ironies, they sold beer (yes, on a Sunday, which is usually illegal around here unless you're in a private club), the booth manned by local church personnel (does that make sense?). When we got up to get a beer and stood around looking down on stage we got chased away by event staff ("No standing!"). Why? We weren't blocking the stairs or anything. Eventually we did get up and were dancing by the time Dylan was playing his two-song encore. I guess by that time the event staff either didn't care or were called off to patrol the exits, but at least they let us enjoy the show finally.

In summary, the music was superb, the venue was excellent, if not for the lame crowd and overbearing event staff bent on enforcing too many rules. Corey pointed out one final irony. Because there is now "No smoking!" among the other things not allowed (this one I actually don't mind because we didn't come home reeking of tobacco), a smoke machine had to be used to puff out the fake stuff behind the stage. Why, you ask? I think it had to do with lighting. Back when the stadium would be filled with smokers, you would have what computer graphics types call "participating medium". In other words, the lights would shine on the performers through the smoke, lighting up these large cones of lit particles. Now, with no smoking allowed, performers were still lit by the lights, but no smoky cones anymore. So they had to put those in with fake smoke. I thought maybe it was the roadies lighting up back stage, but we'd smell it if they were. So there you have evening steeped in irony, but capped off by really good music.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Handyman Saturday

Karrraang!!! That awful sound. That we've now heard at least twice before (as far as I can remember). Those damn closet shelves again. I suppose its our own fault for overloading these wimpy things, but my beef is partially with the original house builders. They used one of my pet peeves: wall anchors. They should have screwed in the shelf fasteners into the studs. Which is what I'm doing to each shelf one by one as they collapse. This is shelf number three. The first time I rehung the first collapsed shelf it went crashing down again because I just redid what the builders did. D'oh! After it ripped out those useless anchors, I screwed in to the studs.

So here's the process. First, after all the clothes got moved out to the other room, sand the holes. The first image in the sequence shows the holes and the painter's tarp. Next, spackle the holes. Then wait an hour. Sand and spackle again. Wait another hour. Sand again, vacuum up the dust. Paint and then wait another couple of hours. Finally hang the shelf again. In retrospect it sounds fairly easy and I suppose it is, but it took the whole day. I just hope the stupid thing stays up for a while. There are only about five more that need to rip out the builder-installed anchors, and then I'll have redone the whole closet. Maybe if we don't stuff so much junk up there, I won't have to deal with this again.

Meanwhile, it was a nice warm day outside and we should have spent it lazing out there like Harley here. Ahh, it's the good life!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Forest walk

When the weather is nice, like it is now, not too hot, not too cold, we go on forest walks with the cats. Here is a "fast-cut" movie of a typical outing. I didn't bother putting in nice transitions because I tried to keep the action fast and tight, such as it is. Oh, the bird noises are fake, I just put in a fake soundtrack for continuity across jump cuts.

We first start by going down to our (presently landlocked) dock. If the water ever comes back up to full pond there's just enough depth (about a foot) to launch our canoe. The cats follow us out there to sniff the swamp. Sometimes they'll jump off and hunt frogs or crawl around under the dock on its floats. Once Harley climbed that dead tree right by the gangway. After the dock we then go to the beaver dam or the square of trees (a formation of fallen trees make up a square area). This time we went to the beaver dam. Along the way I caught Harley marking a log, scaling a tree, scratching the dirt after burying her "business card", and helping Corey clear a few branches. Why is it always Harley, Harley, Harley? Mainly it's because she tends to stick closer to us than Sidney. Sidney lollygags bringing up the rear. Plus Harley stands out more in the bush than Sidney. Sometimes we'll catch Harley trying to hide in ambush but her coat doesn't camouflage her very well.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Back when I went to school...

In prepping for class I was just reflecting on what it was like when I went to college and how things have changed since then. In particular, I was thinking about the prof's presentation and subsequent availability of the notes. So, back when I went to school, the profs used an overhead projector during lecture. Remember those? Some of them were equipped with a roll of translucent film that the prof would scroll over the projector. Whatever they wrote (using non-permanent markers) was of course projected for us to copy down. For some classes the A/V department (SFU had a good one) collected these rolls and photocopied them, making the prof's scribbles available to students. Which was particularly handy when one would regretably, ahem, miss class. You know, due to illness or for some other compelling reason.

Fast forward 20+ years. We basically have now come full circle and offer the same convenience, except that now it is (finally!) fully electronic. Instead of an overhead projector, we now use digital projectors, like you'd use for projecting PowerPoint presentations, movies, etc. To this I plug in my laptop. Instead of writing on translucent film, I write on the laptop screen (it's a tablet PC). Using Microsoft's OneNote, whatever I write shows up on the projection screen. Instead of non-permanent markers, I can change the color/style of the virtual pen. Having just upgraded my Windows Office applications to the 2007 version, I noticed that it is now possible to export the notes to PDF format. So now acting as my own A/V office/scribe, I just save my notes and post them on my class web page.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Release the Hounds

Our three Hounds original tunes have just been released by the band. Here are: Loner, Castle on the Cumberland, and Sho Nuff Hoodoo Man.

Update: If downloading the above mp3s is problematic, try the iLike web page I just created for the Hounds. That page should also have the three songs available for play/download.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Finally, a weekend at home

It seems like we've been on the go for the last little while, so it's nice to get some time at home. Particularly now when the weather's cooling off and it's still nice and sunny. I've been wanting to get up to the sailboat to give her a wash but it's been raining the last couple of weekdays. The boat's close enough such that we can get there in just about 5 minutes, but to clean it we have to motor it over to the work dock. That's where the power and water is, so it's best to do when it's nice out. Like today. So there you have the before-and-after pics. On the left Core's just feeding the power cord through the forward hatch. I should have brought two extension cords. On the right the boat after its cleanup. Core did the interior while I swabbed the decks. I think it cleans up nice. Ready for the fall sailing season. No wind today.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pic from our last show

This is a pic from our last gig at Club 356 back on Aug.24. Yes, that's my goofy drummer's expression. I'm trying to count, what can I say! I'm just a newbie drummer although I guess I've now been playing for almost 7 years. I must have started in 2000 when I came back from a trip to Seattle. I stayed with a friend there who played guitar/keyboards. We went to the Experience Music Project, or EMP (and science fiction museum? They must have added the SF part since then). At the EMP they have walking tours of various music displays, some I think were specific to Seattle, like Heart's jackets (the girls' outfits I mean), Jimi Hendrix' guitar (if I remember correctly), etc. Incidentally, as it says on this Wikipedia entry, the EMP was designed by Frank Gehry, just like the dancing building I just saw in Prague. But more interestingly to me the EMP also had these jam rooms. You could go in there for about 10 minutes and jam on instruments. So my friend picks up a guitar, his then girlfriend got on the keys, and I sat behind the drums. Those two were jamming in seconds while I sat there stupefied. So as soon as I got back to SC I signed up for drum lessons.

My main question then was whether drumming could be learned or whether it was innate. I had this idea that getting each of the four limbs to do something different was inherent and could not be developed from training. My first drum instructor assured me that was not the case and one could learn to drum. So I started taking lessons. At home to practice I started playing on empty coffee cans with their plastic lids acting as skins. Two reasons for this: they're quieter and cheaper than a real acoustic set. In addition Corey wanted to make sure that I'd actually stick with this new hobby before I went out and blew a bunch of money on equipment (musical instruments ain't cheap).

Three drum kits and two bands later, I guess the drumming thing stuck. The kit at left is my Gretsch Catalina Maple kit. You can get more details on my drum page. This is the kit I use at gigs. I haul the whole thing around in bags in our pickup truck, carpet and all. Last time I set up at 356 it took me about 90 minutes to set up and mic the kit. I also have a Pearl Rhythm Traveler kit sitting at our harmonica player's house where we hold our weekly practices. He kindly lets me keep it there without having to break it down and set up each time. The Rhythm Traveler was my first acoustic kit. I bought it for its compactness: you can assemble it all in just a couple of bags because the toms lack bottom (resonant) heads so they just fit in like the Baboushka dolls. I could never get that kit to sound good. I think it just used pretty cheap Birch shells so its sound was never really that decent. It's good enough for practice but I don't think it's good enough for gigs. I did use it for the couple of times I played with my first trio band (guitarist, bassist, and me). We only played a couple of times before we split up. The Pearl kit is also too loud for home practice. So at home I use a Pintech electronic drum set. It's a bit quieter since it just sounds like you're hitting pads, but Corey tells me it's still annoying to the casual listener. I know the cats tend to run out of the room whenever I start playing it. One of these days I might consider changing it out for a Roland V-Drum kit; those used to be the creme de la creme of electronic kits. And I think they were also the quietest since they used mesh heads.

For now the drum kits I have are good enough for what the Hoodoo Hounds are doing. Most recently we just took some band photos last night for cover art for our demo CD. I think the intention is to lay down a few more tracks in the studio (maybe 3 songs a semester?) so that eventually we have a complete CD. In the meantime, once the 3 songs that we have recorded get finalized, we'll post them to internet radio stations, maybe Radio Paradise and maybe sell them for $3 at gigs. We'll see. Next gig may be as soon as Oct.5. At 356, where else? :)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Cats

We managed to complete a number of chores today, i.e., laundry, some caulking (me), garden watering (Core), etc., all capped off by picking up the cats. In the left pic you can see what their week-long "jail" looks like. We bring the carpet tower, the boarding house has the hanging rope, but beyond the half-window and the couple of shelves, it's pretty cramped. Which is why the next pic is a bit blurry. It's taken at night and back at home where the cats have been fairly active. I can't blame them since they have a lot more room to move around in at home than they did in their little prison. We also took them on a short forest walk but they were both panting quite a bit, so we didn't go on a very extended walk. We let them inside to cool off — they like lying on the floor inside. They seem to be happy to be back home and we're both very happy to have them back.

Saturday, September 8, 2007


Left Prague today, now sitting at the gate for the plane back to Detroit. Sounds like they're boarding...gotta go.

Update: Just made it home safe and sound. No delays, no lost luggage, hooray! It's now 22:00 our time so we spent about 24 hrs in transit. It's tiring. Couple of comments on the trip, for posterity:

  • Started the trip in Prague via metro and bus. When we exited the metro I saw the 119 bus but of course close to the opposite exit (you can emerge out of the metro via several staircases, we picked the wrong one). So we ran to the bus and I started tapping on the door. The driver of the bus sitting right next to the 199 stuck his head out and starts yelling "Do przodu, do przodu!". He meant that the bus had to pull up ahead to the bus stop in order to pick people up. So a little further run up the road to get on the bus.
  • The PRG airport looks new. Similar to the Warsaw airport but more established. As I recall, Warsaw's newer terminal 2 looked very similar (almost same design) but it had just completed and they were working on remodeling terminal 1 (departures). Prague's departures (what you see above) was already in use.
  • The connections were such that we had little time to do anything at either Schipol or DTW. Which I suppose is just as well since we got home at a reasonable time. At Schipol they've recently introduced this new phase to the security clearance procedure. Now they conduct a one-on-one interview where the security fellow (I guess) tries to trip you up with clever questions, e.g., "why did you attend the conference", "do you have any battery operated devices, no? what about your laptop? aha!" and so on. A little silly IMO, but what can you do? You can't really joke with the guy.
  • The Atlantic hop was on a 757. I thought and was hoping for the A330 for its personal DVD systems. I don't think they had enough people so they used the older 757. The 3x3 seating is not as convenient as the 2x3x2 of the airbus. And it's a long flight.
  • In Detroit you have to pick up your luggage and haul it over to the X-ray machine. The only reason I can think for them doing this is in case they don't believe you when you tell them you have nothing to declare. So then they can make you open your suitcase to inspect. Otherwise, what is the point of having passengers move the luggage from one conveyer belt to another?
  • The plane from DTW to GSP lacked air conditioning. Same thing happened on the way home from Warsaw. Maybe they figure, ah, the Eastern (or rather Central) Europeans don't use A/C anyway, so why bother. And they're going to SC where it's hot and humid anyway. Or maybe it was the same plane and they just haven't fixed it yet?
And that's it. If we retire now, we should be pretty much back on schedule tomorrow, with minimal jetlag. Then there's a one-hour window wherein we might be able to pick up the cats.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Prague Staroměstská

Today we toured Prague's old town. Beautiful old architecture, narrow streets, and plenty of places to eat and drink. Very charming. One of the more popular attractions is the clock tower. On its side is an astronomical clock and every hour on the hour the little figurines start moving as the bell chimes. Two windows open and the 12 apostles (more figurines) walk by and look at the crowd assembled below. And this does draw a good sized crowd although one web-based tourist guide I read said that the wait was not worth more than 5 minutes. I'd have to agree. It's really not that spectacular.

Prior to old town we walked by the dancing building in new town. They're also sometimes referred to the Fred and Ginger buildings. They were designed by Frank Gehry, a Canadian architect (based in L.A.) who also designed the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. We took the pictures from the Vltava river side of the street, where we're standing below. As my friend commented on me at lunch, I look like quite the boffin in my lab, er, I mean rain coat.

And that concludes our 3-day tour of Prague. It really should have been longer, but now it's time to head back home and then to work. We leave tomorrow morning at 09:30 which requires us to get up at 05:00. We don't get in till about 19:30 if there are no delays. Too late to pick up the cats unfortunately, but I read on their web page that we may get a chance to do so on Sunday. I'm sure the cats would love to be home a day early. Maybe we'll have time to fit in a forest walk with them.

Later this month Corey has to travel to D.C., then I drive down to Charleston in October. Core then takes off to Reno in November, and I close out the year with a trip to Finland in December. I've been asked to serve as dissertation defense opponent to a PhD candidate there. When I asked my Finnish friends what it's like in Finland in December, they told me "Dark!". I've experienced very long bright days in Stockholm in June, but have yet to experience really long dark days. I hope it's not too cold.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Prague Malostranská

Today we walked a bit around the Malostranská area of Prague. This is where the Prague castle and St. Vitus's Cathedral are. The building in the pic is just to the left of the castle, not really the castle itself. If I remember correctly, it was closer to the National Gallery than the castle. I don't have any pics from the Cathedral. I took some of the interior but they're all too blurry.

Inside the Cathedral we ascended the 287 steps up one of the towers. That was a workout but the views from up there were worth it. It's just too bad the weather wasn't cooperating today. Most of the day has been rather cold and drizzly. The evening doesn't look much better so it looks like similar outfits for the conference dinner. I finally get to use the raincoat I bought in Zurich. I think it looks pretty cool, but someone in Leicester commented that it looked like my "flasher mac". Maybe it does look a bit like what a flasher would wear, but it served its purpose today.

EuroGraphics talk and poster beer party

Made it to Prague yesterday, just in time to see my colleague deliver our paper at EuroGraphics. I think he was glad I made it since I was first author. I wasn't sure I'd be able to schedule the flight such that I'd make it there for the talk, particularly since I could only guess at how long it might take for the bus to get there. As it happened, I had to leave Corey with all our luggage at a small table inside the hall where the talk was. EG is at the Czech Technical University, so it's being hosted in a typical European university building, in this case full of conference attendees and Czech students milling about. So not the best place for Corey to be sitting there, particularly with a nasty cold she caught in Leicester. However, she sat there patiently as I attended to business. The talk was delivered very well, better I think than what I would have done since it provided much more context for the project at hand. I did manage to field two questions from the audience, so it's a good thing I was there.

After the talk I got Corey and we dragged all our stuff down to the metro station and made our way to the hotel. Had dinner at a nice Czech place and then I left Core in the room while I went back to the conference to attend the poster beer party. I got there late so I didn't get a chance to look at the posters, but I did have time to grab a few of the beers they were serving (open bar). I found a really tasty one pronounced like "Kelt" but I don't know how they spell it in Czech. It's similar to Guinness, but may be a bit creamier with a stronger coffee taste. I'm hoping they serve it tonight at the conference dinner.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Last day in Leicester

COGAIN concluded (for me at least) yesterday with the exhibits. There are some more meetings going on today, but they're mainly for internal COGAIN participants, generally restricted to European partners. Exhibits contained demonstrations of the best entries from a student gaming competition. All games had to have gaze control to some extent. I tried one of them, a kind of asteroids FPS (First Person Shooter) where you orient the spaceship with gaze. It worked fairly well. I also conducted a short experiment on myself on a new eye tracker to test whether it was sensitive to vergence eye movements. I ran myself through three trials: control (stare at the target), convergence (cross eyes inward), and divergence (cross eyes outward). The last one is a bit difficult to do, particularly with no stimulus, but can be done if you force yourself to focus beyond the monitor. The data confirmed my introspective assessment that I had difficulty getting my eyes to diverge until the last few seconds of my 10 second trial. The good news is that this eye tracker could detect vergence eye movements. I'm not sure whether my eye trackers at home can do the same. I'll have to rerun this quick and dirty experiment at home.

After COGAIN we were treated to dinner by the conference organizer and then a night out at The Musician pub. We happened to be there during a fundraiser for Dan, this guy on a drum walk across the British isle (lengthwise) in an effort to raise awareness for prostate cancer. He showed up (although he was really supposed to be in Preston, halfway across his journey) and gave a speech in his entire outfit, including the marching drum he had strapped on. To raise funds a bunch of single classic guitar acts went up on stage. They were ok, but really the highlight of the night was Crooked Line, the band that came on around 11pm. These guys weren't bad. Showing their range, they did a bit of blues, a bit of funk, some country, and closed with Neil Young's Keep on Rockin' in the Free World. Btw, I didn't know you could dance to Pink Floyd's Time — it wasn't going very well as this song's lyrics are somewhat somber, but it picked up when they launched into the last number.

On the way to the hotel we snapped a few pics of the clock tower in the center of Leicester's pedestrian shopping district. I think you can just make out 00:24 or so on the clock face. Today we're up early (06:00) so that we can partake of the free breakfast downstairs and then hop on the cab to the airport. Should be in Prague by this afternoon. Our first stop is going to be the EuroGraphics conference so that I can attend my colleague's presentation of our paper and help field questions should any be thrown up out of the audience. At least that's the plan...its timing is a bit tight, so we'll see how it turns out.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Out of the Vaults

I think my second talk yesterday went smoothly and the paper was well received. Actually all the papers were of very high quality, I'd say. I learned some interesting things from several of them and had pretty good discussions with the authors. It's a good conference whenever you can say that. I wish I were staying for a couple more days, but we're off to Prague tomorrow morning.

After the paper presentations last night we all went to Out of the Vaults, a pub, where we first played two rounds of "quiz", or trivia. Apparently it's serious business here. Questions covered Europe, science, film, and books. Some of them were fairly difficult. After two rounds we were treated to a performance by the Morrismen. Here they are dancing around with funny hats and white handkerchiefs. Good fun.

After the hay dance, or something to that effect, back to the pub for two more rounds of quiz. Then, after announcing the winners (wasn't our group; we scored a respectable 20.5 to the winners' 23 points) two guys performed some good ol' blues on a guitar and harmonica. They were excellent. But they lacked a drummer! And there was one sitting out in the audience. Pity there wasn't a kit sitting back there, I would have gladly provided accompaniment. Another conference attendee did get up and sang along with the two gents. She was very good as well and seemed to be quite comfortable on the little stage. I think I heard someone say she's done this regularly at COGAIN. With her voice, why not?

Monday, September 3, 2007


Here's the speaker's setup at COGAIN. This fellow went right after me, so my talk was given in similar conditions. I think the lack of a screen was a bit of a problem: the air vents on the projection wall tend to mask out the actual slide content. Otherwise though, I think the conference is quite well organized. We had a nice PA system so I did what I like to do just prior to giving a talk: play some tunes! Today I played the Blue Hawaiians which I thought set the mood nicely. Turns out I think I like these long talks. I had no trouble going on for 50 minutes. The timer on Apple's Keynote is very helpful. I just hope that I don't speak too quickly through my second talk later this afternoon.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Walking tour of Leicester

Started the day with a walking tour of Leicester. First task was to find the conference venue, which we did after a couple of wrong turns. Turns out it's pretty much a straight shot from the hotel through the castle yard, pictured here. Right through through the southern gateway and then down a narrow street and you're on the campus of De Montfort University, the institution hosting the event.

After we found the conference building we headed out to The Shire, a shopping mall within a large pedestrian shopping district in the center of town. Lots of shops and a few cafes. Had to stop by a Starbucks for a coffee, then ventured into a few of the more interesting places.

Finally returned to Marks & Spencer to get a few snacks for the hotel room. Dinner consisted of pub grub at a nearby pub. Now it's time to iron a few shirts, maybe watch the telly and then get ready for the conference tomorrow. Should be a full day of talks. I start it off the first session and then present first in the last session.