Boston Conference Begins!

I haven't had a large amount of time to actually sit down and keep up my journal, and I'm falling rapidly behind as a result, so I think I'm going to try and very quickly summarize what I've been up to. After exploring the MIT and Harvard campuses, we returned to the hotel via transit and joined several others for an excursion to find dinner. So ... apparently Bostonians don't eat dinner on Sunday nights. There were very few restaurants that were actually open, and it took us a couple hours to find a restaurant suitable for all of us. Finally we did though, and enjoyed a dinner at an Irish pub called Ned Devine's where I got myself some fish & chips.

Afterwards, we went and got a drink at another bar near by and then wandered back to the hotel to play some poker before bed.

The next day (Monday), I had a volunteer shift at the conference so I got up early to head over to the conference location. My task was to take tickets for the first two hours of one of the tutorials which was a little boring, but not something I was too concerned with.

After my shift was over, I snuck into a workshop session on heuristic search since this is something I'm actually interested in. I stayed for a few talks before I had to sign in for my last volunteer shift. Oddly enough, they had moved the stuff out of the booth I was supposed to be working, and the work there was simple enough that the registration desk could handle it so I was out of some work. I got the assignment of "help out at the pre-registration desk". Huh. Well I got leave to run over and join some people for lunch, and then come back and finish my shift later since I really had no set task.

After lunch, I came back and sat at the pre-registration desk which was actually pretty fun. I chatted with a couple of grad students for awhile about research and several other things. One guy had the same digital rebel camera I had and we talked about flickr and our photography experience together. If you're interested, he's one of my flickr contacts.

My laptop battery ran out, and I took this as a signal to finish the shift that was long since over so I left to go chat with the poker people about setting up our booth. We decided how we wanted the room setup and agreed to meet at 7:30 the next morning (and before the first keynote) so we could setup and get organized.

Monday was an empty-ish day for the conference as people were still arriving for the first day. The evening was the only all-conference people event which was a *very large*. There was snack food of many types, and there was even waiters carrying around more fancy hot food from the kitchen including some chicken satay skewers that were awesome. We were there for awhile, but then a large group decided to head out for some real dinner. A ... very large group.

After dinner, Darse and I headed back to the hotel (rather than joining a group staying out a bit later) because we needed to work on some slides for the next day. We decided we wanted to set up a DIVAT poster so we could use it to discuss our research to people who were interested in it. It took us awhile to get some stuff done, but we did get a couple done before our brains were fried and Mike returned to play some more dealer's choice style poker. Once Nolan and Mike got back we turned it in for bed around 1:00am.

Yesterday was the first full day of main conference talks. I got up early to go to the poker booth and help setup. Darse and I found some time to finish up our DIVAT slides/poster which we printed via our hotels awesome complimentary colour printing. After finishing those, we helped setup everything else and got a display setup for showing matches. We had a fair number of people come in and talk to us which was pretty cool. I have the feeling we're going to see some news articles in the next week or so on the poker competition at AAAI since there was at least two or three press people there.

The first keynote talk was one on the semantic web which I didn't really understand and I was pretty hungry so it was hard to concentrate on it. After the keynote I returned to the poker room to make sure everything was all setup and eat the sandwhich Darse bought for me. I spent a fair amount of time during the day answering questions in the poker display room despite the various talks that were going on during the week. Mostly, I wasn't all that interested in the talks that were being presented. I did attend a talk by the professor who lead the DARPA grand challenge winning team. For those who don't know, the DARPA grand challenge was a race for robot vehicle drivers. Each team was supposed to build a robot to race a vehicle through the desert somewhere in the US. It was a really impressive talk, with a lot of video that was really enjoyable to watch.

Afterwards, I returned to the poker room where we answered questions for awhile. A large group of people planned on heading out for dinner so I joined them. This time there was a significant non-ualberta contingent including a couple of girls from the University of Massachusetts and some people from the university of Maryland, and a few others I can't remember at the moment. We went to an 'asian fusion' place that I think was mostly americanized Chinese food place. It was actually not bad, but I assumed it was more americanized than it actually was and ordered expecting kind of a personal meal. Instead I had a plate of chicken much more like what you'd get at a real Chinese food place in Edmonton. It wasn't bad, but I didn't have much in the way of veggies!

Some of the people who were less fun (kidding) left to go back to the hotel and the rest of us decided to stay out a little longer and go to a bar for drinks and conversation. It sure was good to spend some time chatting with people from not the UofA. Not that UofA people aren't fun to chat with, its just that it seems odd to be at a conference where you're supposed to be meeting some new people.

We stayed out pretty late, and actually ended up getting caught in a pretty good rain storm. So the 4 of us walking back to the hotel were soaked - but we had fun!

It's pretty late and I still need to do email here, but I'll try and get today's and tomorrow's events up sometime tomorrow, but we'll see if that actually happens or not, but I'll try. Turns out that these posts take a long time to write!