Monday, July 31, 2006

Musings on Boston Cuisine and WMP

Judging from the restaurants I've seen around, Bostonians seem to eat (in this order):
  • Pizza
  • Eastern food (Indian, Thai, Japanese etc)
  • Typical American junk food (burgers)
So far I have seen 1 McDonalds, 1 Burger King and 1 Wendys, but right outside my hostel are two pizza places right next to each other.

This morning I did the speaker preparation bit and discovered just how truly useless Windows Media Player is. The catch is that they want you to upload your presentation to their servers, which push things out to machines installed in the conference rooms (rather than using your own laptop). I have a few video clips with my presentation, which at some points I wish to pause. However, even in "full-screen" mode, WMP shows some panels when it is paused (and also whenever it feels like it). The solution? Rename the AVI files to .mpg, then embed them in a Powerpoint presentation, losing all options for navigation beyond pause and restart (not that WMP had frame-by-frame anyway, which is what I really wanted).

Sunday, July 30, 2006

It's BEEG, very BEEG

So, I'm now at SIGGRAPH. It's just ridiculuously huge, especially compared to the large conference I went to (AFRIGRAPH - about 50 people). I stood in queues for about 2 hours to register. To add insult to injury, contributers have a special, shorter queue, which however takes about twice as long. There seem to be about 5 different things going on at any given time, all of them very cool. Today however it's just courses; I'm doing one on discrete differential geometry, which is making my head spin (particularly given that I never actually took a vector calculus course, and have picked it up as I went along).

The conference venue seems to follow the usual overkill approach to air-conditioning: it's boiling outside, so they make it freezing inside so that it is impossible to dress for both environments.

Erm, that seems to be the sum total of thoughts bouncing around my brain for now.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Look! Look! It's a blog!

Well, well, well, Bruce finally has a blog. Unlike some other people's blogs, this isn't going to be me telling you about random things that happen in my life. I'm mainly going to use it to write about any trips I do, where previously I would spam occasional updates to a lot of people (spam, spam, spam, wonderful spam). I may or may not post random ranting and raving too, but don't count on it.

So, you ask, what trip am I on at the moment? I'm in Boston for SIGGRAPH 2006, a top-level conference for computer graphics, where I'm presenting a technical sketch (one-page paper). It only starts tomorrow, so in the meantime I'll write some filler about the flights and stuff.

Flights: the schedule from hell: Cape Town, Johannesburg, New York JFK (refuelling in Dakar), bus to LaGuardia, Boston. LaGuardia sucked but the flights themselves were actually not too bad, and I managed to get through 500 pages of my book, watch a movie, and even get some sleep.

I then made the mistake of using the underground to get to the hostel where I'm staying. The `silver line' running from the airport is actually a bus. It's a bit weird: it initially runs on the streets, but once it gets into Boston it actually goes underground and runs in what looks like a subway tunnel. The screw-up is that it is just a regular bus, not a bus designed to transport people to and from the airport, i.e., people with large amounts of luggage. Another passenger described it as a cattle car.

Boston at this time of year is hot, but more importantly it is way above the legal humidity limit. It also seems that my room is even hotter and more humid than the outdoors. Fortunately, the conference is pretty intense, starting at 8am every day, so I shouldn't have to occupy it too much.

I've also bought a pay-as-you-go cell-phone package (if you want the number, just email me). This is when you realise that South Africa's pay-as-you-go packages are actually pretty polished: the US package I got has an initial cost of $40 for 60 minutes, and those 60 minutes include incoming calls too! It also costs to receive SMs or to check your voicemail, there is no GPRS, and I have to dial a 10-digit
number to do anything with airtime.

Well, I guess that's enough ranting for now. I'll try to post more once the conference is in progress.