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October 10, 2003

I have read of a place where humans do battle in a ring of jello

Quickies: * Had a 1.5 week trip to Venice, Italy. It was great. More details forthcoming. * squyres.com DNS names are now being resolved from WOPR. This is the first step in moving all squyres.com services to WOPR. I'll probably install blogging software this weekend. * Everyone needs to encourage Dog to buy a TiVo. * My Sony Clie cradle shipped yesterday. * _The Matrix: Revolutions_ DVD comes out next week. Yummy. I don't buy too many DVD's, but like all good geeks, the orignial _Matrix_ was my first DVD, so I suppose I should keep that line of thought going... * Speaking of DVD's, Tracy discovered first-hand the evilness of the motion picture industry. She bought a DVD in Paris and was shocked when I told her that it probably wouldn't work on our DVD player at home. Sure enough -- it didn't (it's coded for the Europe region, not the North America region, so it refuses to play). How friggen' dumb is that?

October 11, 2003

Duck: $7.99


Can be summarized thusly: * Dropped Tracy off at airport * Bought beer; went home * watched Notre Dame lose (hence, the beer) * Released LAM/MPI 7.0.1 * Tracy called saying that she was in France and enjoying it * Make up slides for talk (i.e., revamp some old slides on a similar topic) * Realized there was a problem with 7.0.1 (directory missing from tarball; doh!) * Prepared 7.0.2 * Found out that all of Italy lost power * Discover that several Italian web sites that I need info from are down


* Italy supposedly still has no power * Italian web sites are still down (thank goodness Google caches!) * Finish off and release 7.0.2 * Send off a bunch of "see you in a week" e-mails * Pack * Realize that I forgot to mow the lawn * Cut it a little close getting to the airport; the United check-in guy was a little snippy with me (probably rightfully so) * Get on my flights with no problem * Actually get a little sleep on the way to Munich


My flight was on Lufthansa, a German airline. All the announcements and whatnot were in both German and English, of course. It was cool to hear the crew (and many of the passengers) speaking German -- I actually recognized words and phrases here and there. Pretty uneventful flight; things were a bit clogged up in Chicago, so we were late in leaving, and that made my connection in Munich a little tight, but it was no big deal. I was surprised to see open smoking in the Munich airport; I guess we Americans have become sensitive to that, even living in a mostly pro-tobacco state such as Kentucky. It was interesting to see the 100% difference in style from boarding in Munich as compared to American airports. When they started boarding, they just changed the sign at the gate and the attendant stood there waiting for people to come up. No announcements, no "only rows x-y, please", no nothing. It was just assumed that you were paying attention and would like up in a reasonable fashion. I guess it's a German thing. We took a mid-sized puddle jumper to Venice from Munich (i.e., a prop engine plane). On this flight, all the announcements were in Italian, German, and English. So "Please sit down and fasten your seat belt" turned into "Bonjorno; pleasea sitdowna e fastene your seatbella. Guten tag; bitte sittenze und fashten dein seat beltzen. Hello; sit your goddamned ass down and buckle your freakin' gut holder!" (I think our stewardess lived in New Jersey for a while). The flight was rather uneventful but had some great scenery outside (mountains, clouds, tiny little villages and miles of open roads, etc.). I was amazed that my suitcase made it (especially with the tight connection in Munich -- let's hear it for German efficiency!). After figuring out how to get to the water bus (the airport is on the mainland; Venice is [essentially] out in a lagoon), it took about an hour to get to Venice (the boat isn't extraordinarily fast, but that's actually ok :-). There is absolutely no way that I could have found the hotel without a printed map. Wow. This whole city is a maze of twisted little alleys, all alike. It seems like the city was constructed with no regard for any sort of uniformity on the location between buildings. As a result, it's a pseudo-random jumble of connections that may or may not go somewhere. This whole city is a maze of twisted little alleys, all alike. The hotel was great; I had a nice view of one of two of the twisted alleys (that look remarkably like all other alleys). It was probably about 1pm by this time. I decided to go wander the city, find the boat stop where I needed to go the next morning for the conference, etc. I actually ran into Rusty, Bill, Rob, and Rajeev (the Argonne crew) at the boat stop -- they were going over to the conference site to teach an MPI-1/MPI-2 tutorial "first thing after lunch; at the crack of 2:30." We had a while before their boat left so we all had beers and talked about nothing for a while. They were quite nonchalant about the whole power outage thing. They were there when it happened, but they said it happened overnight and they really didn't notice anything. They finally went off to their tutorial and I resumed wandering around the city. I had lunch at some random restaurant and was a bit underwhelmed by their seafood (but then again, I was quite tired). I wandered for several more hours, pulled out a map, and was quite proud of myself for being able to locate my position and then navigate back to my hotel. I ended up skipping dinner because I think my body thought lunch was dinner, and when "real" dinnertime came around, I just wasn't hungry.

Tuesday - Thursday

I took an early boat on Tuesday (about an hour before the conference was supposed to start) over to the conference island with the intent of getting registered, perhaps logging on and seeing my e-mail, etc. Yeah, not a good idea. There was no one there to register with (shoulda figured this by the time that the tutorial started the day before). So I wandered around the [very small] island for an hour. The conference itself was pretty good; I saw some good talks, talked with some interesting people, and heard about some interesting projects. I'm glad that I was there. My own talk went pretty well, too -- I managed to stay under my time limit and not get tounge-tied in the process. So it was a success. On Wednesday evening, the attendees went to the island of Murano to see a glass blowing demonstration (there's a huge glass industry on Murano). Some of the stuff that they had in their showroom was absolutely amazing -- I'm not big into sculpture art, but this stuff was pretty incredible. The craftsmanship was superb and the colors were vibrant. I was very impressed. We then went to the island of Burano where they make lace. Finally, we went to some very-sparsely-populated island (whose name I'm forgetting) for dinner at the famous Cipriani's (sp?) restaurant. The food and conversation were good. I sat with, among others, a young CS professor from San Francisco University who brought his wife and 3-month old child for the trip. They were good people; I hope I hear from them again. The conference ended Thursday evening, as did my access to the internet / e-mail. Yes, it was my first official vacation in a long, long time. Tracy was supposed to get to Venice in the late afternoon, but plane difficulties in Paris forced her to take a much later flight and she didn't get to the hotel until after 1am. It was really annoying because I got a message from the hotel saying that she'd been delayed but would be in around 9pm (which obviously didn't happen). I finally ended up calling my sister in the US (after taking quite a while to figure out how to make calls to the US on my calling card -- they could _really_ use a better automated help system!). She called Air France to try to find out where Tracy was. The funny/sad thing is -- they couldn't. The flight Tracy was supposed to have been on was a "partner" airlines, and Air France (apparently) doesn't get the manifests until long after the flights are complete. Hence, they had no idea where Tracy was (they didn't even know that her original flight had been canceled). [sigh] Tracy finally made it in by herself, and we both promptly went to sleep. :-)

Friday - Monday

We generally bummed around, visited the sights, walked around Venice, bought stuff, read lots of signs about notable people, places, and things, and at lots of pizza. Damn, the Italians really love their pizza. You can get it _anywhere_ -- every restaurant, every food stand, every glass shop (and there are a _lot_ of Murano glass shops). We finally had to make a deal with ourselves to not eat any more pizza. So we had seafood and pasta instead (the other main staples in Venice). Good stuff. This vacation spanned an army weekend for me, but I had previously gotten permission to skip from my COL on the condition that I have Italian Gelato ice cream. So I did. Multiple times. Yummy! Some random points that I noticed: * Venice is a city of twisted little alleys, all alike * Cell phone ring tones are the same in Europe as they are in the US (apparently we both can't hold a candle to typical cell ring tones in Asia, where you can get stereophonic sound) * I had forgotten that everyone smokes in Europe * They don't have "Diet Coke", they have "Coca Cola Light" * There are _no_ cars in Venice. None. Zippo. Zilch. You get around either by boat or by walking (you can get pretty much everywhere on the main Venice islands by either mode of transportation) * The alleys in Venice are pretty clean; I saw city-paid workers sweeping them on a regular basis * Europe is so much older than the US; buildings have been around for over a thousand years. * I'm amazed that the Linux ispell default dictionary has "Lufthansa" in it. I mentioned this in a previous journal entry already, but the motion recording industry is evil. Tracy bought a DVD while in Paris (of a French movie that is not available in the US). She had no idea that it wouldn't play on our US DVD player (it's coded for the Europe region, not the US region, so our player refuses to play it), and was shocked and annoyed when I told her this. Of course, it's too late to return it (how exactly would she go back to the Virgin Megastore in Paris to return it?), so we're stuck with a DVD of a movie that she'd like to see, but can't. Bonk. Other than that, though, our vacation was great. I enjoyed being back in Europe and hearing lots of different languages being spoken. Tracy really enjoyed hanging out in Paris again (before she came to Venice; while I was in the conference), and loved exercising her long-dormant French skills. It was quite humorous, however, to hear her try to speak Italian with a notably French accent. :-) Also interesting was my own reaction to trying to speak Italian. German was the first foreign language that I learned (well, "learned" is probably a bit of a stretch -- I took some classes in middle school and three semesters of it in college; I mostly remember a bunch of German words, some common phrases, and numbers). It somehow made a deep impression on me such that multiple times when I was caught off-guard in conversation and tried to reply in Italian, I said the equivalent thing in German. Somehow my brain equated "reply in a language other than English" to "reply in German". Old dog, new tricks, I guess.


My flight back was screwed from the get-go -- before we even took off from Venice. We were delayed over 45 minutes before taking off because of bad weather in Munich. Then we were put in a holding pattern outside Munich. All in all, I was damn late arriving in Munich. I missed my connection back to O'Hare, so Lufthansa hurried up and put me on a different flight to Toronto (which I didn't quite understand -- why route me through Canada?) and _took all my tickets_ -- this confused me most of all. So I got on a plane and had no tickets and no idea what my next flight would be. This all happened very quickly because the Toronto flight was supposedly "just leaving". Unfortunately, we sat on the ground for well over an hour before Munich ATC let us take off, so the overall in-plane time was over 10 hours. It sucked. However, I got to see three decent movies on the flight: * _The Italian Job:_ This had an unexpected bonus that the first 15-20 minutes of the movie were in Venice. I had lots of "Hey, I was just there!" moments. A fun movie. I give it 10 minutes. I'll need to rent this movie to see all the finer details (you miss a lot on a flight movie because the screen is so far away, the headphones aren't that great, etc.). * _X-Men 2:_ I've never been a fan of the X-Men comic books, but I did enjoy the first movie, but somehow never got around to seeing it in the theater. I'm glad that it was on the flight; it was a good continuation of the story. I'd even enjoy an X3 movie. 15 minutes. * _From Russia, With Love:_ You gotta love Bond (is that good enough Mary? Will that put my cousins through college?). This is one that I hadn't seen in many years, and I had largely forgotten the plot. Bond is always good stuff. 12.5 minutes.


After 23+ hours of traveling, I finally got home at 1am Wednesday morning (7 hours later than I was supposed to have gotten home). It was a new personal record for me, though -- four countries in one day (the whole east-west traveling thing kinda helped).

October 12, 2003

A new form of spam

This new theorized alliance between hackers and spammers is quite troubling. My web log was spammed 3 times today -- 3 separate comments were posted (two of which were identical, suggesting that it was an automated agent, not a person) that contained links to porn sites. This is a new form of spam that I haven't seen before. And it sucks.

October 20, 2003

16 days and a wakeup

Quickies: * Went to ND for the weekend and saw us get pounded by USC. * Saw Rich, Brandom, Arun, and Kyle. Pumpkin beer. * WOPR = Have it your way. * Saw Renzo, Putt family, and several others. It didn't change the fact that we got pounded by USC. * Saw my aunt/uncle/cousin, too. We still got our asses whipped by USC. * Submitted a conference paper literally at the last second. I wish that I would have had a little more time to work on it. * Finally got the cradle for my Clie (it was back-ordered). It's yummier than just plugging it into the cable. * Tomorrow, it will be exactly one year since I returned home from demobilization. * I finally went to turn in a travel voucher from when I drove home from demobilization last week. The fincance guys told me about 600 additional forms that I needed to turn in with the voucher. I was _so_ proud of myself for going home an actually _finding_ all of them! * I bought the _Matrix_ DVD yesterday; good stuff. They built an entire freeway as a set for the big highway chase scene. Wow.

About October 2003

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