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.

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.

Mt. St. Helens

We had a pretty full weekend.   Yesterday we went to The Puyallup Fair (thefair.com).   It seems like it is the state fair (at least for 4H), with dozens of rides, and dozens of dozens of food booths.

The real highlight of our weekend:

Mt. St. Helens from Johnston Ridge

Mt. St. Helens from Johnston Ridge

We’ve been talking about it for a while, and finally set aside the day (possibly one of the last good days of the year for it).   We drove south on I-5, making the 3 1/2 trip to Mt. St. Helens.   There are many observation points along the way, but the highlight is the Johnston Ridge Observatory.


The site is just amazing.   In the picture above, we are about 5 miles from the peak of St. Helens.  You can clearly see the crater left from the 1980 eruption.   The volcanic memorial site is way bigger than I had expected.   There seems to be mile upon mile of hiking trails, even down into the valley.   Had we been properly prepared, we would have ventured on a little further.

I highly recommend the trip.   Just an amazing site.   Beautiful scenery on the way, and you get to witness the true power of the earth.

Speaking of which (another recommendation coming). Last night we watched “Galapagos” from the BBC. Wow. The documentary itself was beautifully shot (we watched the Blu-ray version). The subject mater, just amazing. I feel privileged just to have reservations to visit the Galapagos next year. To see the origin of “The Origin of Species” and to witness first hand how evolution has played out through adaptation, will be a once in a lifetime experience. I clearly have lots of studying to do before we go.

To Snoqualmie Falls

Yesterday we took another little road trip.   We drove out east (about 40 minutes) to Snoqualmie.   The highlight of the trip was the waterfall.


The falls are 268 ft high.  It is quite a drop.   They falls aren’t very wide (although we hear they are fuller at different times of the year).   Probably most impressively, the water seems to just hit the surface below and just scatter all over the place.    This creates a lot of mist, which was supplemented by rain yesterday.

There is a nice observation area at the top of the falls.  Then there is a 1/2 mile trail that goes down to the river.   The trail is pretty steep, but it was a fun walk.   At the bottom, there is another observation platform.  And then…. you have to walk 1/2 mile uphill gaining 268 feet of elevation.   It was a fun hike both ways, but the rain was really pouring down on the way back up.

We got into the car and headed back towards the town of Snoqualmie.   On the way we passed a cool old train, and thought – hey, can we ride that?  It turns out that you can.  So we went to the Northwest Railway Museum, bought tickets, and rode the train to North Bend and back.   The train also goes to the top of the falls, great view.

The train ride was followed up by a very yummy (and a little spendy) dinner at Woodman Lodge in Snoqualmie.   It is actually a really nice restaurant, and we’ll keep it in mind for a place that we can take future guests.

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)”