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:: Atlanta for Recruiting

Once again... I'm back in Atlanta. This time it's for a recruiting event for the lab. Well, that at least was the original motivation for the trip. While the three of us recruiters were busy flying across the country, the career-fair organizers were canceling the whole thing because they were having some funding issues. Funding issues? Huh? How expensive is it to reserve a room on a major campus and have students come in to talk to recruiters? Ahh.. It's good to see that Georgia Tech is continuing that fine tradition of shafting both students and outside companies alike, for no good reason. "So you're about to graduate and the economy sucks? Sounds like a good time to call off those expensive career fairs! So sorry!"

The old Ramblin' Wreck

Pshaw.. Anyways, I managed to make the most out of the trip by meeting with a number of CS/CompE profs to talk about various research projects I'm following. I also sat in on some meetings with some mechanical engineering folks. Hmm.. Talking with random professionals is a perfect example of real-life data mining. One of the ME profs mentioned that things were looking up for ME grads in the job market. He'd noticed that oil companies like Schlumberger were gobbling up MEs, because they're in a rush to get oil out of the ground and over to the pump while prices were still above $2 a gallon. I guess I'd never really thought through the whole tumbling chain of cause and effect. It also makes you realize how artificial gas prices really are.

Ok, Technology Square is pretty cool

Heh heh.. I also sat in on the ground-breaking ceremony for the new computer science building (they're going to build it where the old infirmary used to be). Aye. For those of you who don't know this sob story, here's what happened. Boy goes to Tech and is mediocre student. Boy goes to an unnamed DOE lab for the summer, but when he arrives, is told that there's no money to pay him. Boy stays at lab for summer anyways (???), working on network security stuff. Boy goes back to school, starts selling port-scanning software. Boy starts making lots of money, drops out of school, and creates network security company. People think security is hard and give company lots of money. Boy becomes very rich, years pass, and boy wants to give back to school (ie, put his name on campus map as a nice "screw you, thanks for nothing"). School leaders always happy accept the money ("gosh, this school is so great, you don't even have to take the classes to be successful!"). Boy gives atrocious speech, while school people do lame "virtual ground breaking" demo (which crashes mid-demo, btw). Aye.. and I graduated from this place?

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:: Beth & Joe's Marathon Day

To pick up from where we left off yesterday, Beth and Joe didn't have much time out here this weekend (less than 48 hours), but they wanted to see as much of SF as we could squeeze in. Therefore, we merged several of our previous sight-seeing trips into a single day. It's such a blur, I'm having trouble remembering everything we did. Here are a few of the day's pictures.

The narrative in-a-nutshell is something like this. We drove into San Francisco and parked down by the Embarcadero. We walked through the farmers' market, grabbed some snacks, and hopped on a smelly bus that went along the waterfront. We got off at Pier 39, where we watched the sea lions (webcam here). We continued along the coast, where bush man jumped out and scared Beth. Ghirsardelli Square was crowded, so we caught a bus over to North Beach, where we had lunch at a cafe. Then, we walked down to Washington Square and caught a bus to Coit Tower. After marveling at the murals and the view, we negotiated our way down the hill, and did a lot of walking to get back to the car. From there we drove over to the Golden Gate Bridge (where we saw a deer hanging out at the edge of the park). We got back in the car and raced over to Muir Woods for a quick stroll in the redwoods. After mistakenly ending up at Muir Beach, we found our way up to Muir Overlook. As the sun began to set, we drove back into the city (got lost), and over to the Castro. We couldn't find anywhere to park (duh), got frustrated, and drove to our hotel near the airport. Before calling it a night, we had some great Thai food in San Leandro (where there was plenty of free parking).

Oof, what a day. It's been a marathon tour for Beth and Joe, I hope we didn't wear them out. Looking back on the last two days, I don't believe we just did all of this. Anyways, maybe we won't be going into the city for a little while.. I'm getting to be a little burnt out on the hassles of going in and all (but we had fun Beth and Joe, thanks for coming out).

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:: Around the Bay with Beth and Joe

Spring must be just about here, because today we got our first batch of visitors. Our long-time friends Beth and Joe arrived today for their first trip ever to San Francisco (this is also the first time Beth's been to California, for that matter). Beth and Joe found some cheap tickets out here for a short weekend, so we're going to try to pack as much stuff into a visit as we can for them.

Beth n' Joe head west

(Amy wants to point out, that in the photo above, Joe's arms are actually in the air because he's cheering that Amy completed her descent down the cliff with a header into the sand!)

"You mean you don't get any snow?"

From our perspective, the day started off with a leisurely drive to SFO to pick Beth and Joe up from a flight that got in at 10am. The day started much earlier for Beth and Joe, of course, as they had to get up to catch their 8am flight from New York (they spent the previous night at a hotel so they could get there in time). I think they were a bit punchy from the plane ride, because all they could say while we were driving down the interstate away from the airport was stuff like "look at this place", "this is great!", and "wow, I can't believe we're in California!". Now for those of you who haven't seen the vista from the interstate near the airport... it looks a bit like every other industrial slum near an airport. Perfect- guests who are easily impressed(!). That means a lot to us since we don't know much about stuff in the area that would impress people.

Ok, so maybe there are some cool things in Cali

Our first idea was to drive over to Half Moon Bay, because the name sounds cool. It didn't take long to get there, although we had to hop over some hills, and navigate the car through a particularly treacherous Burger King parking lot (which happened to look like a way to the beach). We drove up along the coastline for a bit and stopped at the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company to get some food. I know what you're thinking, "So Craig, how are the reubens at HMBBC?". Well, they're actually pretty good- probably in the top quartile in fact. If you're wondering how the brews were, you'll have to ask the rest of the gang, as I had to drive (it was also slightly before noon, I might add).

Too bad the water's freezing

Having spotted many beach access points along our drive, we decided to stop and show the beach to Beth and Joe. Cool. Big cliffs, big waves, and there was barely anyone out there. We walked along the beach for a while, mystified by what turned out to be a giant, washed up buoy (which Amy promptly climbed). Along the way, Beth went to put her hand in the Pacific (maybe at my encouragement). I told her to be careful, and nervously watched as she was lured into taking just a few more steps towards the receding water. Then a few more... Doah. As soon as she turned her back on the water it rushed up and over her feet. Aye. Never turn ye back on the ocean. It's kind of creepy how that always happens.

Look out, Beth!

From the beach we drove to the interstate, which took us into San Jose. During the drive, Amy and I had plenty of time to draw up our sob story about how insanely priced houses are out here. If anything, people who visit us at least go home appreciating how much of a bargain their houses are (well, everyone but Todd).


You go, buouy.

In San Jose, we went to the Winchester Mystery House. You can read about it on their website, but the Winchester house is this old, gigantic Victorian mansion built from 1884-1922. Thanks to a fortune teller with a sense of humor, Sarah Winchester believed that the day she stopped working on her house would be the day she'd die. Thus, work continued on her house 24/7 for 38 years. The internals are a huge, criss-crossing mess of halls and stairwells that go in random directions for no reason. There are also things like windows in the floor and stairwells that dead-end into the ceiling. We took a tour of part of the place, which involved over a mile of indoor walking. Odd.

The magical mystery house

Because every house needs a flying buttress

Seeing that no visit to Silicon Valley is complete without a demonstration of the traffic nightmare, we started our drive back to Livermore close to rush hour. The stop-and-go traffic nearly rocked our visitors to sleep, but we kindly droned on and on about lively topics like our state's politics so they could get the full effect. Hmm. While we were heading up a back road called 84, Joe provided a potential answer to a question we've had since we moved here about something bizarre. We've noticed that every so often on 84, there's a mailbox in the middle of an empty field. We've been wondering what's going on there, and why people stick these mailboxes so far from the road. Joe pointed out that GE has a nuclear research center nearby, and that they probably stick dosometers in the mailboxes and check them periodically for radioactive contamination. Doah. So much for being a safe, great place to live.

After we got home, we did what some would say is the full tour of Livermore. That means we drove to downtown Livermore, had a couple of beers at the Ale House, and then had dinner at a good Mexican place. Fortunately, Beth and Joe aren't that picky, and suffer from a shortage of good Mexican food in New York. Ooof. In any case, it made a nice end to a long day of driving.

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:: Heading Home

Well, that about does it for the visit to Union (Now I'm only about two months behind in writing these stupid things). Saturday, we packed up and went back to Union's tiny little airport. Pete, Amy, and I waved goodbye to Tim and Cambria from the plane, and then we were on our way. Here are a couple of pictures from the way out.

Big Sands in the morning

Big Pete in the Plane

A big empty beach

Check out that island's runway

The trip back was a nightmarish blur. In Barbados we had to leave the airport, wait in a long line, and come back in. We bought an outrageous amount of junk food, and a $9 newspaper (er, Amy clarifies that Craig is the one that bought the newspaper). In Miami we cleared customs without any inspections, and then devoured nasty stuff from pizza hut. I don't even remember what happened at SFO. Somehow we made it back here, though.

Tim and Cambria wave goodbye

Anyways, if you haven't seen them, I've put some of the better pictures from the trip in the foto section. And for those of you who are wondering, yes, the water really is that color. Now, back to our regularly scheduled dull lives.

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:: Cap'n Yannis and Janti's Island

Ough. The lack of sleep last night is not what I needed for this morning, as we had to get up early to get to Clifton for a yacht ride with Captain Yannis. Captain Yannis has really done pretty well for himself since the last time we saw him. He's up to three yachts now, which all seemed to be on their way to sea today. We paid up front (Cambria was free, due to all the business they've brought) and hopped on one of the large catamarans. The weather wasn't looking that great, but there were only about ten other people taking the trip. In any case, it wasn't costing us much, and we knew it would be a full day with sailing, snorkeling, food, and booze.

Island snipers

One of the other Yannis boats beat us to the beach

Our first stop was a beach that Amy and I hadn't been to on Mayreau. This was another one of those islands that the massive cruise ships dump tourists off at for the day, but fortunately they were somewhere else today. Amy and Cambria hung out on the cruise ship's beach chairs, while Tim, Pete, and I did some snorkeling. For me, the snorkeling went pretty well. I was happy to spot a very colorful eel hiding in some rocks not too far from the beach, as well as the usual assortment of trumpet fish and sea urchins. We also spotted a large needle-nose fish hanging out near the surface, watching us. I think he was pretending to be a barracuda. Anyways, it felt good to be out swimming around, without all the scuba gear. Sure, it's nice to breath underwater, but the weights and everything kind of slow you down.

Tim and Pete taking care of the first round

Another cool thing about our time at Mayreau was that they anchored our boat in the harbor, not too far from where Tim, Pete, and I were snorkeling. When Tim got bored with chasing the fish, he turned to me and asked if it was time to get some rum punches from the boat yet. I agreed and we swam over to our floating bar. I doubt that I can properly explain my fascination with that concept. It's just that usually when I see a boat in the water more than two feet away from dry land, I think, "damn, there's no way I can get there from here". For this, we just had to swim a bit in deep water to get there. And there was booze waiting for us there when we made it. Pete saw the beauty of the situation and soon joined us. Yep.. Buzzed from the first round, I swam with Tim and Pete back to the beach, to hang out with Amy and Cambria, until it was time to get back on the boat and head over to the next island- which turned out to be the nice spot in the Tobago Cays we went last year

Tim leads the beach invasion, drink in hand

Observing that it's a big island, Pete arrives prepared

Making sure the beverages aren't wasted

Like last year, we stumbled along a path through the island to a beach on the other side, where the snorkeling is better. We finished up our drinks and planned out what to do next. Tim and I decided to hike up a hill to get a better view of the water, while the rest of the gang hit the water.

Looking from above

And to the right

After the climb, Tim and I joined the others in the water. I made my way over to Amy, who had found this big puffer fish hiding out in this little rock alcove. Cool.. His eyes were giant, maybe the size of my palm (no, Pete didn't get a chance to punch him). Tim and Cambria pointed out a pair of squid that I watched for a long time. Squid are just amazing. I wonder why you don't see them in aquariums so much.

Glamorous Amy


Anyways, when our time was starting to wind down, we woke Pete up (he had found a nice hammock after the swim), and walked back to the boat, where lunch was being prepared. From there, we sailed over to the palm island we visited last year (ie, the one where we were all drunk and making a scene in front of the snooty people who were staying at the island's private resort). We swam around in the water, but there wasn't anything to use the snorkels for.

Pete's on deck

When we got back to Clifton, we hung out at a hotel bar for a while. Tim spotted one of the guys that had been working for our bipolar dive master and called him over for a drink. As it turns out, he had pissed off the dive master that day for something trivial, and was told to go home. After telling us some more of the details, he explained that he was sick of Mr. Bipolar, and that he wasn't going back. The whole thing sucks, because Tim says he's a good kid and the job paid well. However, you can't blame him for not being able to stand bipolar dude. It almost makes me want to pay to train the kid as a dive master, so he can start his own dive shop and put bp out of business.

Later on, Tim, Pete, Amy, and I caught a boat over to Janti's island so we could have a few drinks at what is one of the most inconvenient bars I know of. You'll recall from last year that Janti's is a small man-made island that's at the inlet part of the Clifton harbor. For yachters, it's great because you can just take your dingy over to it (and not have to deal with those pesky, un-rich locals). For us, we had to arrange a pickup/drop-off schedule with a water taxi guy. Hmm.. maybe it's just me, but I find it hard to truly relax at a bar where there's a slight chance that at the end of the night, you'll have to swim back to get home.

Pete, Janti, and Tim

It's starting to get dark..

Janti has upgraded the place since we were here last year. He's now got some wind generators to provide power, and he's built up the bar's shelter a little more. Plus, I think he's got a pit for holding/cooking lobsters. This disturbs me tremendously now, after Monday's gasping-lobsters episode. In any case, the bar and the drinks were pretty good. The shelter came in handy, as a 5-minute shower swept over the island during our visit. When it came time to leave, people from another boat offered us a ride. Just as we were starting to pull away from the island, our water taxi guy showed up with this look on his face like we'd stabbed him in the back. We made quick with the money we owed him though (plus a tip), and he was back to his smiley island self.

We finished the night by joining Cambria over at a yachter's restaurant. I forget the name, but it's the one that's bounded by the pool full of nurse sharks. It was a little odd to see a shark fin glide by in the pool every so often. We had some super-girlie drinks, listened to some live music (T & C knew some of the band people), and talked for quite a while. I fed a scraggly cat bits of my fish, trying to recall which blues song had that line "I'm like a one-eyed cat, peeping in a seafood store" (it's Shake-Rattle-and-Roll, btw).

When we left, the stars were all bright and poking through the night, just like I remembered from last year. We caught a van for the ride home, which took us by dance halls where reggae music was being extruded through every open door and window. Not for us, though, as a quiet sleep-filled night was calling us.

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