2002-12-20 :: Returning back to the US
Ahh.. Today we leave this weird government sandbox and head back
to our home. This trip has been a lot like visiting a foreign country.
It's far away, a completely different terrain, and with all the
security stuff, it's like we've had to go through customs. Since our
flight wasn't until 2pm, we decided to check out Santa Fe a bit more.
We woke up, admired the sky, and bundled up for another walk around
Big Stucco, Big Sky
As I was saying yesterday, Santa Fe is heavily oriented towards
tourism. It seems like every other store in the downtown area is
either an art gallery or a museum. This makes the walk a little
weird because every other block or so there's this life-sized statue
(e.g., a bear or a Native American) doing something
thoughtful (e.g., eating a fish or stringing a bow). These
things often make me wish I had some kind of sculpting talent.
Well, mostly because I would make statues doing silly things
(e.g., a bear checking his watch, an Eskimo with a gameboy, or
a pioneer with a badminton racquet). Alas, it seems as though the
world will be deprived of some of my greatest ideas.
One of the benefits of being in a town that caters to tourists
is that sometimes there are restaurants you don't find in normal
cities. While Amy was researching hotels yesterday, she discovered
that there was a Cręperie within walking distance of our hotel.
Being that there aren't any (non-dessert) Cręperies in Atlanta, we
hopped over and ordered some crępes.. Me, I had a crepes with "Jambon"
and eggs (like the good old days), followed by a
while Amy ordered something with a lot of vegetables. Mmm.. Maybe I
should add "Proximity to Cręperie" to my job interview questions.
After breakfast we visited the
Loretto Chapel, which is an
old church built in 1873 or so. They have this story that
they built a loft in the church for the choir, but had no way for
the people to climb up to it. Being nuns, they prayed for a couple
of days, and along came a carpenter on a donkey with a bunch of
tools. Sure enough, he built them this nice looking wooden,
spiral staircase, and then left before they could pay him.
The stairs are supposed to be some kind of miracle
as there doesn't seem to be much that's physically supporting them
(later my mom told me that there was something like this in Charleston).
In any case, the outside of the church prominently displayed a sign
that said so-and-so church "as seen on
So you know it's the real deal, right?
We piddled around a bit longer in SF, buying random (and much needed)
Christmas gifts. One of these was a wreath made out of chili peppers.
It looked cool, but I really should have though about what a pain
it was going to be to take it with me on the airplane. After picking
up some sugar free chocolates for my dad, we climbed back in the car
and drove to ABQ for our flight.
The Hotel's Smoking Pool
The trip back to Atlanta seemed to take forever. Once again we had to
change planes in Houston, but this time we had to change couriers as well.
For whatever reason, we had to physically leave the secure area and
essentially re-enter the airport. It was kind of weird being in the Houston
airport again- I have a few fuzzy memories of it from when I was 8 and
we lived in the area. Even with all the recent renovations, it still
pretty much looks the same as I remember it. Hmm.. one of the memories
I have of the airport is that my family got yanked at the security line
because either my brother or me had brought a squirt gun in our carry on
bag. Maybe that's why I'm so paranoid at any kind of security check..
Otherwise, there's not too much to report on about the flight. I
bought a copy of The Two Towers at an airport bookstore so I
can finish reading the last two chapters (so we can see the movie
tomorrow). They actually swabbed my laptop and stuck the sample in
the bat computer to sniff for bombs. We eventually got into Atlanta
(after dark) and promptly drove home and conked out. So much for taking
it easy after you graduate..
2002-12-21 :: Tagged
Sick of the boring travel stories? Well, here's something
different for you that I almost forgot to put up. A few weeks
before graduation, we were going to bed when Amy let out a
startled gasp as she was brushing her teeth.. She asked if I
had been drawing things on the bathroom window. Confused, I
came in and saw what she was talking about. Yep.. someone
had tagged us..
Sigh.. Now if you've read much of AN, you know that I like
to follow some of the local graffiti that people do around town.
There's a lot of creative (and political) stuff going on
(I especially like the stencil work that someone's been doing,
although they tend to be a bit redundant). However, there's
nothing worse than talentless taggers who just scrawl something
illegible on something. What? Are you saying j00 r00t3d my
bathroom window? pretty lame.. Well, I unr00t3d the window
the next morning with a wet paper towel.
Sigh.. All of this is just a reminder to us that we live
in a crappy apartment. The place is tiny, the pipes break
every so often and soak the carpet, and we hear everything
the bozos upstairs do (3am sounds like a good time to work
on that drum track for that song that you're going to make
it big with). Now someone is writing stuff on our bathroom
window. For anyone out there who thinks we're stalling
looking for a new job.. believe me, we're pretty motivated
to get out of here.
2002-12-24 :: Visiting Home
This week Amy and I are in Summerville, SC visiting my parents for
the Christmas holidays. As usual we're pretty far behind on the
Christmas gifts, but at least this year I have a valid excuse
(graduation/job hunt). On the drive into s'ville, we stopped in
Columbia and saw Genevieve and her brother. Ahh.. Columbia. Columbia
seems like it would be a nice place to live.. Too bad there's
no tech industry to speak of. And then of course, there are all those
racist rednecks I grew up with. Gen told us about a local BBQ chain
called Maurice's, where the owner is one of these diehard confederate
flag losers. People have told me that he's got propaganda in his
restaurants explaining how "slavery was actually a good thing".
You may remember him as
the guy who put up a sign that read
"NAACP Retarded People" a couple of years ago when folks were
marching to have the confederate flag taken down at the capitol.
Sigh.. forget what I said about Columbia seeming like a nice
place to live.
Anyways, things have been pretty normal for a trip back home.. Yes,
that means that I started working on yet another stupid and ambitious
project to make my parent's computer situation a little better. This year
I'm splitting their cable modem connection with a linksys box, and
fixing up an old Celeron 400 system so mom can have her own computer
while dad's online. Doesn't sound so hard, does it? Well.. we'll see.
Don't move Amy, there's a tree sneaking up on you
Today was the big mad dash for gifts. For whatever reason we decided
to do the same stupid thing we do every year before Christmas- Amy and
I wound up driving to Best Buy near the mall. As usual the traffic was
horrible (took about a half hour to get out of the parking lot). Oof.
At least some things are always the same back home..
2002-12-26 :: Going into town
Believe it or not, today we actually left the house. In the morning
we went into S'ville and bought a 17" lcd monitor for my mom (which we
got a great deal on). Amy then said it was ok for us to have lunch at
Sticky Fingers, a
pretty good local bbq place. Over lunch my dad told us a bit more
about that BBQ chain I mentioned in the last post. Apparently, the
racist guy has a sensible brother who opened up his own bbq chain,
partly because he was ashamed of his racist brother (which makes me
want to go there). My dad also said that one of his African American
co-workers told him about how he used to have to go to the back door
to be served BBQ at the racist guy's place, back in the day. Sigh..
That's the South for you..
Civil War meets Dr. Strangelove
Anyways, after lunch Amy and I split off and drove into Charleston
to walk around and take some pictures. I haven't taken any pictures
of Charleston since.. around the 8th grade, so I went a bit nuts with
the digital camera (hopefully I'll get a picture gallery thing up
soon.. These will have to do for now).
Along the Cooper river
We wound up walking all over the place. First, we went along the Cooper
river side of Charleston, stopping by rainbow row and the
We then headed inland a bit to see some of the big churches. We
wandered around the graveyards for a bit hoping to spot a famous name,
but didn't have much luck (well, except for Charleston bigwigs).
Rainbow Row? I think they misspelled Roy G. Biv's name..
Ahh.. While we were walking around, I came across something
that brought a smile to my face. On the back of a street sign, someone
had stuck one of those "
Andre the Giant Has a Posse"
stickers that skateboarders were putting everywhere about ten
years ago. I saw another one later on down the road. It's good to
see that these stickers blend in with the local area.
Andre has a 200 year old house in the historic district
Hmm.. so Genevieve told us about this other big attraction in
Charleston. In the Columbia Newspaper, there was some story
about how someone along the battery in Charleston had decorated
these pig statues with Christmas costumes. Being that Gen couldn't
make it down to see this herself, Amy and I set out to find this
spectacle. After a bit of driving (the battery is bigger than you
think), we noticed some people gawking at someone's yard. Sure
enough, it was the pigs. We parked the car and rather sheepishly
strolled up to the fence to take a few pictures. Personally, I
like the tiara..
While I'm rambling on and on about Charleston, let me
throw in one last link: the live
City of Charleston BridgeCam.. If you catch it on a clear
day, you might be able to see the Cooper River bridge in the
background. Oh, and make sure you look for Hootie..
We ended the day by meeting my parents and brother for dinner
Southend Brewery and Smokehouse on East Bay street (where the
old East Bay Trading Co. used to be). Ahh.. local beers and fresh
fish. Once again it's a shame there's no tech industry in Charleston.
It might be a fun place to live for a while. Right now, it's much
more appealing than Boston, where I'll be going next week for
another job interview. To be fair, I should come back in the Summer
to refresh my memory of Charleston's humidity, though..
2003-01-07 :: Boston.. Again..
Jeez.. Apparently all I'm doing is traveling these days. I just
wish it was under circumstances that were more fun. Today I flew up
to Boston for a plant trip to MIT's Licoln Laboratory. For those of
you who don't know LL is a national lab kinda place that's located
just outside of Boston's beltway. I think they were founded in the
50's as a place for radar or microwave research. Yeah, as you can
tell, I'm fully prepared for my interviews, as usual.
When I arrived at the airport I was greeted with a nice surprise-
LL and bought me a first class ticket.. Funny.. for what they
paid, I could have easily have bought myself and Amy a regular
ticket. In any case, everything was (thankfully) prearranged for
me (including the rental car and hotel). I made it to the hotel
at about five, and then went and had dinner with my brother at a
place called the
Naked Fish. I note this because it's probably the
first decent restaurant that Todd's taken me to in Boston.. Not that
he doesn't want to go somewhere nice, it's just that Todd's had
trouble finding decent places to eat in Boston. Plus he has the
same Taco Bell eating standards I have..
I'll admit that I'm fairly nervous about the whole LL trip.
Of course I'm nervous about the talk. It involves public speaking,
there's always a chance the laptop will die, and you never know
who your audience is going to be. I have to say that I'm also
a bit intimidated by the whole MIT factor.. It kind of feels like
GT is the peasant engineering school (which I actually kind of
like). As always, it's a bit odd talking with folks from different
schools before you get to know them and all you have is some
ranking structure that says someone else is better than you.
Anyways, we'll see tomorrow. I'll be talking with a group leader
who's actually a GT grad so it will probably be a nice intro..
2003-01-08 :: All day Interviews
Oof. Whatta day- I spent the whole day talking with people
from Lincoln Labs. Things started at 9am with a chat with a guy
from HR. After mauling through the benefit programs for a half
hour I met the GT fellow who was sponsoring my trip. He was
awfully nice, and gave me a good background about the lab and the
kind of work he was interested in. His group was beginning to plan
an infrastructure for a network of satellites and airplanes. I
fit into all of this as a network and transmission protocols guy
and would help investigate how these systems should be setup and
designed to interface with existing networks. Fairly interesting
stuff, and its not specifically for blowing up stuff..
it's more like it the stuff for telling people what stuff to
blow up.. hmm..
Cold, cold, Boston
At 10am I gave my talk. As expected it was a small crowd
(about 7 people), but as I found out later, there were some
bigshots in the audience. At 11 I met with a network person
who was doing some interesting network research on making
satellite gateways spoof TCP gateways. At 11:30 I met two
physical layer/coding engineers, and then at 12 we picked up
a network engineer person for lunch. After lunch we talked some
more about network and group issues. I then got punted to
a different division (Sensors). I first met with a guy who
seemed interested in my sensor network stuff, and then
had two more sessions with a couple of guys working on.. uh..
target recognition and uh.. some kind of "black ops" stuff
for the Navy seals. All of these guys were pretty interesting
and perked up my interest in their division. I then met a group
leader person who had worked on some really interesting radar
projects (detecting land mines.. determining a terrain and
evaluating whether a jeep could drive through it). I was
then returned to the HR guy for some concluding stuff.. I got out
at about 5pm.
After the visit I met up with Todd and a few guys he works
with for dinner in Lexington. Todd's friends gave me some of the
inside information about the stability of some of the groups that
I had interviewed with. Plus they had more positive things to say
than Todd does about the lab (Todd's always negative though..which
of course can be helpful in engineering). Anyways, its kind of
cool to see Todd with his work buddies.. You can see how in a few
years there's a good chance they'll be running the show at the lab.
As if today wasn't hard enough, they've asked me to come back
tomorrow and see a few more people.
2003-01-09 :: A Few More Interviews
If I didn't say it oof. More interviews. I went in at 9am
this morning to meet with a new group- embedded systems. Right
off the bat I could tell these guys were my people. One of the
secretary's desks was covered with Pez dispensers (Maybe they
knew about PeZ).
The first guy I talked with sounded like he did a lot of the
same kind of stuff I do. They work on implementing software on
hardware, and often design stuff to work in real time. FPGAs,
cluster computers, DSPs.. It was like an exact match of my
resume. I then met with one of the hardware engineers in the
group. We talked a good bit about FPGA design work (as well as
layout). It sounded like they had built some cool custom designs.
I then went to another engineer that was doing some work in
flexible processing architectures.
After a few minutes, I recognized the DARPA
project she was working on (some of this project is being done
at GT). She of course knew the GT end of the work, as well as
Ken (they worked in the same group when they were at MIT).
Anyhow, the three people I met from this group caught on to my
thesis work pretty quickly.. It was nice to explain my work
to other people and have them instantly recognize the cool parts.
Since there was a bit of free time in my schedule, they gave me a
brief tour of some of the lab. Yikes. The first thing you see when
you walked into their lab space is a pair of
(as well as an older model, I think). The next thing you see is
a small cluster of PowerMacs/G4s (which I've been interested in
for a while). They use Macs because their end real-time systems
use PPC chips, so the mac cluster gives them something cheap
to prototype on. Pretty cool stuff..
My next stop was to see the group leader for the second group I visited
yesterday. I have to say this is where things fell apart for me.
In short, I let the success of the previous interview get to my head,
so I rambled on about stuff that I'm sure didn't impress the guy. The
annoying thing was that I sensed that this was the group
to try to get into. Sure the group this morning was a perfect fit
work wise, but it just felt like this group was on the edge of doing
some cool things.. I took the wrong avenues for things to discuss,
so I'm pretty sure I won't hear anything from this group.. So much
for yesterday's work. I went back to the previous group with one
last interview that went pretty well, but I didn't give it 100% like
I did with the earlier interviews. I finished everything at about
12:30 and hit the road to catch my mid-afternoon flight.
There were plenty of good and bad things about LL. Good: Smart
people, hard problems, well-funded, good benefits, and I saw a few
people from GT that I knew from before. Bad: high cost of living
(20% higher than Atlanta), bad commutes, lotsa snow, the lab is on
the fringe of Boston, and all of the work has something to do with
the military. Which reminds me, I heard a new military word: "kill chain".
Used as in "While this system doesn't kill people directly, it is on
the kill chain". The group that was the best match also was fairly
weapons oriented. Stuff to tell missiles who to blow on up and what not.
Sigh.. One does all sorts of things to change the words around to make
it seem like you're not the one pulling the trigger, but it's all the
same in the end. Dunno how I feel about all this.. I'll have to
talk it over with Amy..
2003-01-11 :: Ice Skating
Being that it's Pam's birthday today, a few of us (Pam, Justin,
Jane, Steven, John, Amy, and myself) got together and went ice
skating in Gwinnett. While Pam and Jane are little skating queens,
it's been..several years since Amy and I have been out on the ice.
As such, we were expecting a day of spills, bruises, and wounded pride.
And more so than from our usual weekends.
The place in Gwinnett that we went was a standard, indoor rink that's
used for your typical winter-olympics-watching suburbanites. As
expected, it was packed with people, swirling around the ice at a pace
that made Amy and I a bit nervous. We staggered out on
to the ice and did a lap or two at arm's distance from the rink's
railing. After seeing our friends whiz by a few times, we slowly moved
into the general flow of the rink. I thought, "Hey, this isn't so bad.. I
must still have some hidden skating skills in my head from when I was a
kid.." It's at about this point that I had my worst accident of the day.
Somehow, I did a 180 on the ice and then did a pure face plant. I say
"pure" because on the way down, my arms saw what was happening and
decided they didn't want to have anything to do with stopping my
chest from hitting the ice. It's the stuff funny home video TV shows
are made of. Amy and I benched ourselves after this, to rethink this
whole balance thing.
Trying out the old roller derby moves
Amy and I went back out on the ice a few more times (or else the
terrorists win, you know). As it turns out, holding someone else's
hand while you're skating really helps you keep your balance. Plus,
if you do fall, you can always blame the other person. Another thing
I learned about skating is that the most important thing you can do
is leave your dignity at the door. I noticed that when I flailed my
arms around like a cartoon character, I could sometimes avoid falling
down. Arm flailing is also good because the technique makes it look like
an accident when you clock a bratty kid who thinks it's funny to go the
wrong way on the ice.
Benched..and loving it
Amy and I skated for a bit longer, managing to fall only a few
times (although in one of Amy's falls, she managed to hit her chin
on the rink railing on the way down to the ice.. ouch). Feeling that
we could no longer play up to par, we benched ourselves. Fortunately,
John and Steven joined us shortly afterwards. Jane, on the other hand,
kept going until the
zamboni® ran her out of the rink.
Ouch.. I can't wait to see what kind of bruises I'm going to have
2003-01-18 :: Hungover Noodle
Oofff. So.. Yesterday was Amy's last day of work at
been working there for three and a half years. Originally it was just
supposed to be a short term kind of thing while I finished up grad
school, but, well.. you know how grad school went. Anyways, at least from
my perspective, it's been really cool that she's worked there for so long.
While the work sucked (she worked in the herb dept., so she got to hear
a lot of customers discuss their bodily problems), she met and worked
with a lot of cool people in the L5P community. Being that engineers
rarely get to meet anyone cool, I was always fascinated by the different
folks she worked with..
Some of the Sevananda Crew
So anyway, being that it was her last day, some of the folks in the store
decided to throw her a bit of a going away bash down at
The Brew House Cafe. I
tagged along in search of a beer or two, and a chance to eavesdrop on
some non-engineering conversation. So after I had about 5 pints of beer,
Sat Kirpal tells me that the two of us need to do some "secret shots".
Sat explained that secret shots are where you sneak away from the table
to have a shot, and try to come back to the table without letting people
know how messed up you are. After the first secret shot of tequila, we
decided that our little plan had gone so well, that we went back to the
bar and had another. When I got back to the table, I needed something
to get that God awful taste out of my mouth, so I of course ordered
one last pint of hefeweizen.
Ron, Brandon, Erin, Bob, and Sat (aka Fidel Ca$hflow)
I'm a little vague on what happened after that. Amy says that Sat
had another secret shot with someone else, and that I paid for it.
She also says I insisted on paying part of the tab for someone else's
drinks at our table. My wallet was missing about $40 when I woke up
this morning, so I'm guessing that's probably true. I think we were at
the bar for some time after that (minutes? hours? I'll let them worry
about the bats). I do remember thinking that my vision was behaving
like a bad VCR tape. I also remember standing out in the cold by the
car, waiting for Sat to come out of the bar. Amy tells me that he was
missing a mitten, and that he went back in and told the people that
had moved into our table something like "Alright. I need my other
glove." because he couldn't think of anything else to say. This worked,
and the next thing I know we're dropping him off somewhere and I'm not
feeling so good (even though Amy was taking the massive speed humps in
our neighborhood very slowly for me..).
-- Warning: Nastiness Below --
Thankfully, I was able to keep it together until we made it home.
Then, I puked. I puked a lot. It looked like cooked ground beef, which
was odd to me, because I distinctly remembered that I had had a turkey
Reuben at the restaurant. When I was into just puking liquids,
I moved the puke factory from the toilet to the sink. When this ended,
I went to the kitchen and started drinking water. Unfortunately, by this
time, my stomach was on to all of my schemes. I remember noticing that
the water was just about as cold coming up as it had been going down.
Knowing that it was water that had been purified with our britta filter
(and then my stomach I guess), for some reason made me feel a little
better. At least its not that evil alcohol, I told myself.
As you might imagine, the next (i.e. this) morning was awful. It had
been a hard night of drinking, and I hadn't managed to hold down
any water. "Beer then liquor, never.." what was it again? Oh yeah,
"..never getting up in the morning except to throw
up a few more times." Anyways, today was awful. I couldn't keep anything down
until about 4pm. Amy took care of me though..She should have just thrown
me outside and dumped a bucket of water on me.
-- End of Nastiness --
For the record- I don't go out drinking all that much, and when I do
I usually only have about two beers. It had been a long time since we'd
whooped it up though. Like they say in the bad movies, I'm
getting too old for this crap. I don't think I'll be doing much drinking
for a bit. If only I could feel the same way about donuts, ho-hos, and
the ever fatal Hostess
snowball, I'd be a healthy man.