New York, Sunday to Tuesday

Conrad, Felicity and I took an Amtrak train from Boston to New York without any dramas, which is nearly always a good thing when you’re travelling. One nice thing about taking the train (apart from missing the ten-hour airport queues and security checkpoints) is that you get to see all the gorgeous scenery along the way. Since it’s autumn in the USA right now, I got some very picturesque scenery of gorgeous brown and yellow tree leaves. I unfortunately didn’t see any autumn-like scenery in Boston, since the city’s a bit too warm for the browning leaves, so all the nice autumnness is out in the countryside. Mmm, soothing scenery good.

We unloaded at Penn(sylvania) Station in New York City on 34th Street: I was planning to catch a taxi to my hotel (on 77th and Broadway), but since Flea is a native New Yorker and knows the subway lines pretty well, navigating the subway to the hotel was simple with her help. I’m really impressed by New York’s subway system: trains tend to be very much on time, there are subway stops very frequently (at least in Manhattan), there are lots of signs posted up everywhere telling you what platform you’re on and what platforms you can transfer to, transferring is really simple, and the trains are fast. (Express trains actually run on a completely separate line rather than sharing a line with slower trains; what a concept! :-) It looks like the designers of the subway managed to make it cope with the population increase very well: in the few times that we’ve caught the subway in rush hour, the trains weren’t all that full, and trains came once every two or three minutes. If only Sydney had a subway system to match New York’s!

As for the actual conference that we’re attending here, that’s been great so far. Conrad and I gave a demo and a poster session (short paper) on Tuesday, and both of them went well: we had over a dozen people talk to us in the demo session, of which a few seemed genuinely interested in the work we’re doing, and around ten people visit us in the poster session. I also managed to finish off an initial implementation of what hand-wavingness we were discussing in our short paper about 10 minutes before the poster session started, which ruled. Flying by the seat of your pants is always fun. There were some very cool other posters and demos around, too, including a very cool one on graphing relationships between various sorts of music and musicians (which was admittedly mostly very cool because it was graphing relationships between bands I like, such as DJ Shadow and Faithless …). There was even one poster was on algorithms for maintaining consistent global state for online multiplayer games; buggered if I know what that has to do with multimedia, but it was appropriately awesome, nevertheless.

Columbia University, where the conference is being hosted, is gorgeous. I promise I’ll put some photos up in my gallery soon, but for the time being, I can try to summarise it as: renaissance-like, neo-classical, generally pearl-white coloured, peaceful, inspiring feel. Like Cambridge, MIT and Harvard, it makes me wish I was five years younger and doing an undergraduate degree again. :) (Though New York isn’t quite as much of a meat market as Boston is. Very important factor, you know.)

Anyhoo, now that all our demos and presentations for the conference are over, we can wind down a bit and relax: attend the conference (and/or satisfy my shopping fix) during the day, and head to the clubs and pubs at night. We did go out to two cool pubs on Sunday (Fez and some-other-name-I-can’t-remember) since it was K’s birthday that day, but I’m sure I’ll be dragged out to be sufficiently intoxicated later in the week too. Yay, work bit over, time to play!

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