Corporate America

My first week in office here is over. And I liked it! As mentioned earlier, I was mainly working on a plan for what exactly to address this summer. We discussed it today and we’re all thrilled about the results that will hopefully be available in three months. It will certainly involve a lot of work, from reading papers to elaborate on methodology via programming code to calculate and visualize results to interpreting and presenting them. It will all be about “social aspects in ontology engineering” focussed on the development of ICD 11. I’ll tell you more when I have some noteworthy results. ;)

Office starts at 10am here, which suits me very well. When I showed up at 9am on Monday Gabrielle just said, “usually nobody’s here before 10, they’re all researchers, you know.” :) Of course, they might stay in office pretty late on the other hand.

People here are really nice. Particularly I’m in touch with Pablo (from Spain), who is also a visiting researcher here, and Tania (from Romania), who is a post-doc working on iCAT (the “Collaborative Authoring Tool” for ICD).

People are nice at least as long as you do your stuff right. No worries, I didn’t get into any troubles at all. But I witnessed a dialogue in an office next to me which reminded me a little bit of How I Met Your Mother’s “Chain of Screaming.” Well, it wasn’t really screaming of course, but someone told someone else very clearly what he thinks of the work the other did. And actually I liked it. I mean it wasn’t mean, it was just direct and very explicit. And even if it was mostly about details (“why is there no caption below this figure?”) it’s good to know that somebody actually cares about those details. However, in the end I heard them laughing again, so no big deal.

Today was not only nice because of the productive meeting but also because there was the department’s annual barbecue right afterwards. Free burgers and everything for everybody! :) It was located in a beautiful spot in Sculpture Garden. Weather was perfect as usual.

WordPress photo quality

I just noticed that WordPress kind of messes up my photos. It apparently drops the color space information (which would be AdobeRGB in my case), but OK, I shouldn’t upload them in AdobeRGB anyway, I guess. I mean I don’t even expect WordPress to convert my pictures to sRGB automatically (which would be most suitable for most viewers), but it could at least leave the color space information in place when producing thumbnails.

The other issue is that WordPress seems to use such strong compression or such a bad downsizing algorithm that images are getting pretty blurry. So I’ll export my photos in already-downsized sRGB next time to try if that helps. No more convenient direct upload of Aperture preview images… :(

Baseball

Thanks to Rick I got two premier tickets for what was going to be my first baseball game: SF Giants vs. Minnesota Twins. Took the totally crowded Caltrain up to San Fran. Funnily enough, this ride to the stadium is one of the only places where drinking alcohol in public is allowed in the United States. Guess it would be political suicide to refuse the fans getting drunk on their way to the game. And it actually makes sense to drink on the train, as beer in the stadium costs 10 bucks! But even small hot dogs (ironically called Giants dogs) that IKEA would sell for 50 cents cost 5 dollars there. However, being a brave Styrian guy in an unknown place I brought an apple, of course. :)

One of the guys next to my seat welcomed me with the words, “Welcome to the massacre!” I was only a few minutes late because of the crowds in front of the stadium, but the Giants were already behind 8 runs after the first inning. Not good, but I could care more (such as the people all around me).

Before that day I had no glue about baseball at all, but thanks to explanations from Markus and Wikipedia I think I understood most of what was happening. So here the basics: A game consists of 9 innings (rounds), in each of them both teams “attack” and “defend” once, each (called batting/hitting and fielding/pitching in baseball language). The batting team initially has only one player on the field (the batter, the guy with the baseball bat). The pitcher begins by throwing the ball towards batter and catcher. If he doesn’t hit a specific virtual area (basically throwing it too far away from the batter’s bat), the ball is called a “ball.” Makes sense, doesn’t it?

The batter tries to hit the ball with his bat. If he fails to do so, the ball is called a “strike”. Three strikes and he the batter striked out. But if he hits the ball, he throws away his bat and starts running towards the first of three bases (the other corners of the square they’re playing on). The defending team now tries to catch the ball and pass it to a defender at the base the batter is approaching. If a defender in possession of the ball touches the batter, the latter is “tagged” out. Otherwise he stays at the base he has reached and a new batter comes into play. There are lots and lots of other rules, but basically the batters try to advance from base to base until they reach the home plate again, which is called a homerun and gives 1 point (“run”). Actually this doesn’t happen too often. Long story short, 8 runs in one inning is a lot. A massacre.

Some people consider baseball one of the most boring sports on earth—as one guy on the train put it, “the only sport (maybe apart from golf) where you can eat a sandwich while playing it.” (And he was even a fan of it!) Maybe that’s one of the reasons it became America’s “national pastime.” ;) Anyway, I really enjoyed the game. Especially as there’s so much going on in the stadium apart from the actual game: pizza being thrown into the crowd, the smell of nachos and beer (did I mention it’s 10 dollars?), old dancing popcorn traders, best facial hair awards (see my personal hero), kiss cam… and the stadium itself is nice too, particularly the walk on the promenade towards the bay. Unfortunately, I ran out of battery, so the selection of photos was rather limited.

In the end—not very surprisingly—the Giants lost 9-2. Still an interesting experience.

Moving in

After having dinner with Gerald, who ordered tons of sweet potato fries, I moved in to my new apartment on Comstock Circle. Unfortunately, it’s not as cozy as the place before, mainly because it’s just a single-floor bungalow as opposed to the two-floor apartment. But there’s still a lot of space, it’s nice and clean, and the location is still right next to the campus. Met my flatmate for the next month, Kyle. At 9pm, I already was so tired I fell asleep immediately.

Thanks to the jetlag, I woke up at 6am. Bought an awesome red cruiser bike for $75 second-hand. Went to The Cardinal Bike Shop to get some air for its tires. The very nice, huge, heavy-metal wrestler/teddy bear inside gave it a complete service (fixed the brakes, put oil on the chain, tightened all screws etc)—for free! While doing that, he yelled at somebody who wanted him to repair a motorized bike which he obviously hates. :) Had breakfast at Starbucks and bought a 12-taco party box at Taco Bell for my bike-repair hero.

In the afternoon, went to San Francisco with Claudia to meet Markus and Pia to have lunch and tea at Samovar Tea Lounge, nicely located next to a small park inbetween skyscrapers. After a walk to Union Square, went to Twin Peaks by car while the fog conquered the city. Didn’t see anything anymore when we were on top. Moved back to Stanford and lost myself shopping groceries at Safeway. Talked the very nice but apparently stoned cashier into believing that my driving license was actually a passport to buy some beer.

Meeting people

On Friday, had breakfast with Markus and Claudia, again at the nice University Café. The combination of egg, ham, and croissant was a little… interesting, but good. Enjoyed the free shuttle busses which get you around all Stanford campus and to Palo Alto Caltrain station. There’s even a special shopping line that brings you to the next Walmart etc.

Had a first short introduction and meeting at BMIR where I’m going to work this summer. Nice people there! The plan for next week: make a plan for the next three months. :)

Arrived in Stanford

After a long flight from Graz via Frankfurt (my first time with an unbelievably huge and yet flying two-floor Airbus A380) I finally arrived at San Francisco airport, where Rick picked me up. Got a really warm welcome by my sublessor Gerald (a really nice guy from Australia), who is still here but will move out after the weekend. Had a delicious lunch/dinner burger at the nice University Café in Palo Alto.

Gerald showed me a little around Stanford campus. After a long ride through Palm Drive—huge palm trees on both sides of an endless alley—you get to the central Main Quad. Built like an old Spanish mission with its distinct color, this is just beautiful. And huge! Walking through the whole campus would easily take you half an hour. And thanks to enormous donations from people like Bill Gates (Microsoft), Larry Page, Sergey Brin (Google), Bill Hewlett, David Packard (HP), and Phil Knight (Nike) it keeps growing and growing. But hey, who would not pay millions of dollars for a Stanford building carrying their name? :) Will have to make a lot more photos when the light is right.

Back home, met Mateja from Serbia who is also still living in the apartment. However, he’ll move out this weekend like Gerald, and even I will move to a different apartment on Friday.

It’s so great here and I’m pretty excited about what will happen in the next few months…

ECCO XXIV in Amsterdam

Attended the 24th conference of the European Chapter on Combinatorial Optimization (ECCO XXIV) in Amsterdam from May 30 to June 1. I gave a presentation about our current work on punching process optimization. You can download the slides if you want (though they’re much cooler with me talking to them, of course ;) ). Heard an amazing talk by plenary speaker Gerhard Woeginger on “transportation under nasty side constraints.” Even (or especially) in our digital world, overhead transparencies can be just awesome!

After the official part of the conference, I stayed the rest of the week and further explored Amsterdam. Went to the zoo with Daniel Krenn, who happened to be in Amsterdam over the long weekend as well, and visited the Van Gogh Museum. Met my Dutch Erasmus buddies Lyor and Joost on Saturday. See some pictures below.