Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Desert Snow

In the SnowAs I have updated before, my parents have arrived and have been here for a week now. Two days ago (Sunday), we started our road trip to Las Vegas through the California central valley and interstate I-5.

We spent most of the first (sunny) day driving until we reached Mojave, CA. Located in the Mojave desert, this town is home to one of the driest airports in the continental US and the world's first civilian space port. Well, by the time we woke up the next day, it was on of the rare rainy days in the Mojave desert, with very poor visibility. However, our plans didn't change and we took a tour of the airport.

Our next stop on the way was planned to be the Mojave national preserve HQ in Barstow to get tips about visiting this desert national park. However, on the way there something weird caught our eyes. What seemed for a second to be white sand turned out to be snow. Real white snow. In the desert. Barstow was covered with snow, an event unseen since 1985.

The snow was so bad that the direct route to Las Vegas (I-15) was closed and so we decided to go through the Mojave National Park in the snow. The result: some spectacular photos of desert plants in the snow, and a near-accident in 55mph (90km/h) with a truck on a narrow desert road.

When we finally arrived at Las Vegas and checked in to our hotel/casino on the strip, we went right to business and made more than $70 gambling. We'll see how much of that we'll lose...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Turkey, India, and Thanksgiving

This weekend was Thanksgiving. As always, holidays in the US are designed to create long weekends, and Thanksgiving is no exception. Scheduled on the third Thursday of November, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the winter holiday period. As I did last year, I went to the traditional Stanford Thanksgiving dinner, which was nothing too fancy. I spent black Friday playing boardgames for nine consecutive hours, winning almost all games I've played (except Pandemic and Stone Age).

This Thanksgiving, I couldn't avoid hearing the news about Mumbai, India. I thought to myself this is not the first time Inidans are killed on Thanksgiving, though this time they weren't native Americans. That also made me think about the traditional Thanksgiving dish -- Turkey. In almost all modern language this bird is named after some far away land. Many languages refer to Turkey, many others, including Hebrew and Turkish, refer to India. The interesting this is, the Turkey, like the American Indians, is in fact a native American, a fact most closely reflected in Vietnamese, referring to it as "Western Chicken". For more information, see Wikipedia.

In exactly one week (and 3:30 hours) my parents will be arriving here for the first time since I moved here. I'll get to show them my office, my room, and play games. We're also going to go on a road trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon! I'm happy!

For those of you who asked what  I got from Tanga Trash. Here's your answer: 20 Questions card game, The Fabolous Fifites Shaped Jigsaw Puzzle, and a Space Alien Test Kit, I kid you not.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A hard day’s night

So, as I wrote earlier, I am in charge of an NSF grant proposal, and today was the deadline, which meant me and my professor had to work the entire day from 10 to 9 on writing the proposal, which meant I had to arrive late and miss on playing Agricola with my awesome new friend. We did play other games though, and I came back home tired but happy.

You could have known all this in real time, because I have signed up for Twitter, where I make short updates on my whereabouts and actions. You can follow my twitter by signing up, by looking at the twitter box on the right of this blog, or by signing up for the RSS feed.

For example, if you read my latest Twitter, you'd see that Tanga has sent me trash, which I paid good money for. Oh well, you win some you lose some.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A new friend

I made a new girl (space) friend this week, and together we have founded the awesome peoples' league (Bay area chapter). She and her fiancé are into boardgaming in addition to using free operating systems. They also watch many similar TV shows and enjoy hanging out and playing the same games I do (and in a good level).

As part of my ongoing commitment to resurrect this blog, I'll tell you all that I'm happy. It's amazing how happy a friend could make you when you need one!

In other news, I am in the process of writing an NSF grant proposal, which basically means write something about your research and beg for money.

One of the great things about being a postdoc is that you have students who do all the work, so I will have at least two papers submitted to IJCAI (probably more), and all of them in collaboration with different authors, both here and in Israel.

BTW, If you like my blog, please comment so I'll be encouraged to write more!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Happy Birthday?

It's my birthday today. I'm 28, and at work. One year older and not much to show for it. Maybe I'll start updating my blog, but for now that's all.

Monday, September 8, 2008

$400 to spend a night in Georgia

That's what I got offered, I accepted. They took back their offer. I'm talking obviously about Atlanta, GA, and the offer was by Delta due to overbooking in my flight back to San Francisco. The offer was revoked due to the fact they didn't need volunteers after all. Too bad, I was looking forward to a day in Atlanta.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Oral Surgery

After SurgeryToday I underwent oral surgery under general anesthesia. The procedure was the removal of my two lower wisdom teeth which were impacted. This procedure is uncommon in the US for people my age (27). Usually people get their teeth removed in their teens even if there aren't any complications.

The clinic I have chosen was within short walking distance from my home and I arrived there in less than half an hour:

View Larger Map

Before the procedure, I had to pay the bill. Due to my insurance I had to pay only a 20% co-pay, and that amounted to "only" $238, which I paid and proceeded to read the book I brought with me.

Later, I was called in, hooked to an IV and got some oral shots.  The procedure itself went smoothly, and in a split-second (from my point of view) I was in recovery.

Due to the anesthesia, I could not walk back home. The clinic strongly recommends having someone drive you home and look after you. I could not find anyone who was willing and able to do that for me, so I had to stay for a few more hours in the clinic for recovery and then took a taxi home.

At home, I took some pain meds and antibiotics, as the doctor ordered and contacted my friends and family onine. Now I can't talk, and have trouble drinking. Hopefully this will pass in the next few hours so I could have dinner tonight.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The road to Midway

Today I have boarded a flight to Chicago, Illinois on my way to the AAAI-08 conference. As usual, instead of flying direct, I have connected through Minneapolis in order to fly Northwest and get a First-Class upgrade. This time I left my passport home intentionally, as this is a purely  domestic itinerary.

Some of you may recall my car accident. That led to me leaving my car at a garage for repair and renting a replacement car a few days ago. I have returned the rental car at the airport and thus saved the time and hassle of an airport shuttle.

As this is a short trip and the weather is warm, I packed almost nothing and did not check any bags, so I could proceed directly to the gate with my pre-printed boarding pass (as this is a domestic flight, I get no lounge access). My first class flight went smoothly, arriving on time at Minneapolis.

Upon arrivial, I checked the screens for my connection info and noticed that there was an earlier Northwest flight to Chicago Midway* airport. I decided to head directly to that gate and try to standby for the earlier flight. The gate agent told me that he could put me on standby, but the flight is likely to be full and I am not guaranteed a seat, and even if I get one, it would probably be in economy. I told the agent I don't mind (I prefer spending an hour and a half on the plane in economy than in the terminal), and then I had to wait and see if there would be room for me.

The flight turned out to be fully booked, and all 12 first class seats were full. However, since I had Platinum status I got one of those! The flight did depart late, but I ended up arriving more than an hour before my original schedule. Another plus is that a nice girl sat next to me on the flight and we chatted all the way. She was flying from San Jose (SJO), Costa Rica and was on her final leg back home to Wisconsin. I had fun.

After arriving I checked in at my hotel and took a taxi to dinner with my advisor and some more Stanford folk at a Chicago restaurant. I  just now returned to the hotel. Updates to come.

*Midway airport (MDW), is named such not because of its location, but as a reference to the Battle of Midway.

Monday, June 30, 2008


Crash!Just days after my first police ticket, I had my first two-vehicle car accident, and it wasn't even my fault! I was driving down a small residential road (Newell), and the other driver was driving out of the public library parking. However she did not see me and continued right past the stop sign right in front of my car, even though I had the right of way. I stepped on the break but it was too late and I ran into the side of her car.

I sustained no injury in the crash and both cars were drivable. I took some photos for insurance purposes (you can see one of them over here (this is the front of my car).

I have also created an illustration of the accident scene (thanks to Google street view):

Accident Scene Sketch