Long Distance Commuting

Thankfully this is going to be temporary, but I’m now scheduled to begin my few weeks of work with some long distance commuting.

Lucky for me, I have been hoarding my frequent flyer miles for years, so each trip will only cost me $7.50 in fees for redeeming the award ticket.

Embed from Getty Images

By the numbers. Over a period of 21 days, I am scheduled to be flying 14656 in 10 flights visiting 5 different airports (CVG, ATL, SJC, LAX, SEA).

Lots of in-flight wifi will be purchased and lots of working from planes / airports / etc.

Big Changes Ahead

And I mean big.

Today, we are excited to announce many things, but all of them stemming from the first announcement. I have accepted a new job, and this new job is going to cause us to make another 2000 mile, cross country move. If you know me, you know that my dream has been to work in academics, as a professor. I’ve been working on this dream for 15 years now. I took some detours, and I freely admit that I made some wrong turns along the way.

As proof (?) that hard work and persistence pays off, I have accepted the position of Associate Professor Educator of Computer Science and Informatics at the University of Cincinnati. Yes, that’s right, we’re moving back to Cincinnati. I am extremely lucky to be able to return to my hometown to teach and just as lucky to be able to return to the university that I earned my PhD from.

My new position is exciting for several reasons. Primarily, it’s the “educator” tag on the end of my title. My primary role at the University will be to teach. Teaching is what I love to do, and teaching computer science and software engineering is what can only be described as my dream job. School starts August 26th and I’ll be on campus starting on August 15th to get things ready and settle into my new role. For the truly curious, I’ll be teaching engineering models I, and computer science II this fall.

I’m very sad to be leaving my current position at Google. I mean, why would anyone ever leave Google? The only reason I can think of is to teach!

We are also sad to be leaving Seattle. Seattle has been our home for the last 5 and a half years. Seattle is an absolutely wonderful city, and if you’ve never been here your next vacation should be to the pacific northwest (July or August recommended). This city will always be a special place for us, and I’m sure that our son, Elliott will be proud to say that he’s from Seattle when he gets a little bit older. In particular I will miss being surrounded by the natural beauty of the area, water and mountains wherever you go. This area is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Also, the whole family (yes, Cortny too) will be bringing our 12th man jerseys with us, Go Seahawks!

In a lot of ways, Cincinnati is home, at least for me. I grew up in a suburb outside the city, moved into the city for college and worked downtown for a number of years. I spent the first 28 years of my life in Cincinnati, and I’m happy that our son will grow up where I did and more importantly that he (and any future children, no that’s not part of this announcement) will grow up around their extended family. I would say that Elliott will have his first skyline shortly after we move back, but of course he’s already had some.

Now, for some exciting details. We are already under contract to sell our house in Seattle and to buy one in Cincinnati. Both transactions close a little later this month, and we hope that everything continues to go smoothly in this department (remember, always work with a Realtor). In Cincinnati, we will be living in Anderson Township, not far from the intersection of Beechmont and Five Mile Rd. We think we’ve found an awesome house, and look forward to hosting our friends and families for random get togethers and pool parties. For the curious, pictures are available here: http://www.amybsells.com/your-new-home/?buyer&listingid=RamblingHills

The movers are scheduled to pick up all our belongings in Seattle on July 29 and we’ll be sleeping on an air mattress until August 1st. That evening, we’ll be piling into the MINI Cooper and driving across the country Griswold style (moose out front should have told you). We’re planning on a 4 1/2 day trip, covering 2,400 miles by road with planned stops at Mt. Rushmore, Wall Drug (because I haven’t yet dug Wall Drug), and Antique Archaeology in Iowa.

To all our friends in Seattle. We’ll miss you, and if you want to get together before we leave, the clock is ticking!

To our friends and family in Cincinnati, we’ll see you soon.

To my future students, I apologize in advance for making you learn Erlang.

Yellowstone National Park

We took a road trip recently to Yellowstone National Park.  Pretty good drive from Seattle, about 715 miles each way. We drove the MINI, out on its first road trip. Really amazing scenery on the way over, starting at Puget Sound, through the Cascade mountains, the desert of central Washington, and into the Rocky Mountains.

The way there was pretty uneventful. We stopped in a few times for gas, and had lunch in Spokane, WA (at Arby’s). I handled several work related phone calls, working on some last minute stuff for the Google+ launch.

We stayed in the Big Sky Resort, in Big Sky, MT. It turns out that if you want to stay in the national park, you have to book about a year in advance. Good to know for next time. We met up with Cortny Helmick‘s parents in Big Sky, that had just arrived that day form the midwest.

Yellowstone National Park, June 2011

We spent the next day actually driving around Yellowstone. One should really spend more than a day there, but you can see a lot in the day. Highlights included a viewing of an eruption of Old Faithful and a visit to the Grand Prismatic Spring. Pictures:

Some thoughts about Yellowstone:

  • Old Faithful is simply amazing. You see steam rising out of the earth for a while, then a little bit of water bubbling up, and then within seconds water is shooting over a 100 feet into the air!
  • Bubbling mud! Didn’t even know this existed, but Yellowstone is home to some bubbling mud. Kind of unsettling standing on ground that is that thermally active.
  • The grand prismatic spring is really cool. At first it looks like the steam is causing a rainbow to form, but when you look closer it isn’t quite a complete spectrum. The colors come from colored bacteria that grow in a rainbow colored order – amazing. And on a sunny day, the colors reflect up through the steam (captured in my pictures).
  • The mammoth hot spring is neat, but kind of out of the way.
  • Animals – we saw lots of bison, a few elk, and a beaver (that was unexpected and cool). Didn’t see any bears or moose, but we also stuck close to the road.

After a day in the park, we spend 2 days driving back. We stopped for a night in the historic Davenport Hotel in Spokane, WA. The guest list and history of this hotel are both fascinating and impressive.

Last day of the trip, we drove from Spokane to Seattle, using the northern route. And WOW, amazing driving through Washington. We have a huge diversity of landscapes, and it is well worth the drive.  A quick stop for lunch at the Munchen Haus in Leavenworth, WA, and back home in Seattle.

SIGCSE 2010 Report

So, a few weeks ago, I went to SIGCSE 2010.  You already heard about my travel issues getting there.  On the way, I made it to Minneapolis.  From Minneapolis, we made it to Madison, where we circled, and eventually to Detroit.  This was not my destination, Milwaukee.  I spent the night on the floor of the Detroit airport.  This marks the 3rd time that I’ve had an airport sleepover.  The others were Chicago, and Manchester, UK (where I paid for a hotel room since I had almost 24 hours to spend there).

Instead of arriving on Wednesday night, I arrived on Thursday morning.  This caused me to miss the first keynote speaker, but after a nap, I still made it to lunch.  On Thursday we had the first timer’s lunch.  I was attending as an “old-timer.”  All of the committee members did this, and we shared our wisdom with the first timers.

After that, I mostly just attended sessions. Thursday evening, I went out and had drinks with some of my colleagues from Miami. Friday, more sessions, and a Yoga class at Yama Yoga in Milwaukee.  Saturday morning, I lost my wallet. Luck for me, I lost it in the conference center, it was immediately found by security, and the conference chair has known me for 13 years (I got it back quickly).

I stayed late Saturday night for the committee handoff dinner, and then headed back to Seattle on Sunday morning. I arrived at the Milwaukee airport at like 4:25am, 5 minute before the security lines even opened. My flight to Minneapolis was quick, and then from Minneapolis to Seattle, our plane was upgraded to an A330 (quite a bigger plane). The best part about this, free on-demand movies! By Sunday afternoon, I was home and then practicing Yoga at Shakti.

So – conference summary. There was an increased presence of parallel computing papers and sessions. This was a welcome development. As someone who interviews a lot of candidates, I don’t see enough people with good parallel / multi-threaded programming skills. When I (hopefully some day soon) make it back to academics, I will consider some of the parallel first approaches to programming.

Mostly, I enjoyed being in the conference environment again. This was the first major conference that I’ve been to since OOPSLA 2007 (Montreal). I will be back at SIGCSE 2011 (I am the conference Webmaster again). Our Web site is up and running already, visit us at http://www.sigcse.org/sigcse2011/.

All of my pictures from SIGCSE 2010 are on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/39245109@N05/sets/72157623597468116/

The Downsides of Travel

I left Seattle 16 hours ago, but I’m still not in Milwaukee.  My first flight arrived on time, I enjoyed my first visit to Minneapolis.  Second flight took off on time, but then we started circling.  We spent about 45 minutes circling above madison Wisconsin, only to find out that we can’t land in Milwaukee.  It was too foggy there, and the transponder on the ground was, well, broken.  So they fired up the engines, and we headed to Detroit.   We landed in Detroit around 11:30pm (EST at this point).   Luckily, they are going to turn the plan around at 8:30 am and try again for Milwaukee. With the time difference, we should get there just after 8:30am.

Now, I just have to see if the shuttle agency honors my reservation and payment from last night.  And, more importantly, see if my luggage arrives.  I was forced to check my luggage at the last minute due to the overhead bins being full.  I just want to put this out there for the airlines: I would give up the privilege of carrying on a bag, if you let me check it for free.  Just saying.

And now to McDonald’s.  Delta gave out meal vouchers, good for $7 towards breakfast at the airport.  McDonald’s was the first to open this morning, so I went there. I ordered a meal that should have been about $5.  After getting my food, and looking at the receipt, I saw that they had upsized my meal to get it as close to $7 as possible.  They made my meal a large and added an extra hash brown.  I don’t know if they do this to everyone, but one or all, it is unethical.  Sorry McDonald’s, I’ll be calling your corporate office and Delta’s corporate office when I get a chance.  This behavior is not truthful and is not ethical.  If it is a one time thing, great, now you know it happened.  It it is systematic, then I hope you will address it.

Ok – back to setting in the airport.


For the last 15 or so months, I’ve been the Webmaster for SIGCSE 2010 (http://www.sigcse.org/sigcse2010).  SIGCSE stands for the Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education.  Most of my publications are in the computer science education area, so I’m excited to be able to go.  I’ve never actually had a publication at SIGCSE, but have had 2 conference papers at ITICSE 2007 (associated conference) and have had a publication in the SIGCSE bulletin.

Since I do hope to shift my career back to academics at some point, I’m also going to be on the look out for CS departments that are hiring. Maybe there is a need for someone with my background 🙂

Being the Webmaster for a conference is a lot of work. Requests for updates come from a lot of different people, and there is just a lot of information to collect, parse, format, and post (all at the right times). Apparently I enjoyed doing it, because I am performing the same role next year.  I’ve already go the 2011 site up and running, http://www.sigcse.org/sigcse2011.

I’ve got a full Yoga schedule tonight, but I’ll be flying out tomorrow and enjoying the west of the week at the symposium! I’ve even found a Yoga class to check out when I’m in Milwaukee.

Disneyland Pictures

We had a wonderful time in Disneyland last weekend.   The parks are very manageable (compared to the size of Disney World).   So, it was nice to be able to do everything we wanted to do in just two days (including riding a lot of rides twice: space mountain, big thunder mountain, the matterhorn, haunted mansion, and buzz lightyear).


The lines were ok.  Saturday early evening was a little crazy, but other than that it was ok.   We saw the Fireworks both nights (9:25, but the park was open until midnight).   And then Sunday morning, the park wasn’t supposed to open until 10am, but it was open early…  So we went in and knocked out a few rides early.

Also, on Saturday, we had 6 free Fastpasses (Disney’s system that lets you head to the front of the line).   This helped a lot!   We were able to avoid a lot of line waiting.

Fun time! great weather.   All pictures are here -> http://picasaweb.google.com/mike.helmick/Disneyland#

Birthday Weekend!

Not my brithday… Cortny’s birthday is coming up (Sunday)!  Happy Birthday!

We’ve got a very exciting and fun filled birthday weekend planned…. Disneyland!   We’ll be spending 2 short days in California with Mickey and the gang.

That’s all for now – I’m sure we’ll have more to say after we actually go.

Alaska Cruise, Victoria, B.C. (Day 7)

Canada, eh?

So all non-US-flagged ships have to stop in Canada when transporting passengers from the US to the US.   Therefore, we made a port call in Victoria, B.C., Canada.    This was actually the third time we have visited Victoria (in the last year for that matter).  We went once with my parents and once when I attended a conference there.    Originally, we were planning on staying on the ship and enjoying it while other people were ashore.   Well, it turns out that this was totally unnecessary.   The ship NEVER felt crowded, Celebrity does a really good job on this front.   And it was a beautiful day in Victoria, so we had to walk around a bit.  (All pictures from Day 7)

Alaska Cruise, Victoria B.C., Day 7

We started the day with a galley tour (we were very lucky to get this tour, it is not often given).   I’ll have pictures of this in my next post.   After lunch we both had massages (that we scheduled the first night).   I had the 4 hands massage (2 massage therapists).   Since they are working at the same time, for the same length as a regular massage, you get double the massage!  Totally awesome.  Since it was a port day, our massage treatments were discounted.   It makes a lot of sense to save your spa treatments for the port days.

Continue reading “Alaska Cruise, Victoria, B.C. (Day 7)”