Friday, August 22, 2003

Santa Barbara Pictures

I downloaded the pictures from the digital camera.

Here's the opening reception of the conference...

When I got back to the hotel one night, I saw this truck parked outside with this interesting essay on Mayans, Christianity and mathematics...

Here's my hotel room...

The start of the drive to campus...

Where 101 hits the coast at Gaviota...

Partway to campus...

Here's the beach barbeque from Wednesday night. It wasn't really a barbeque, though. It featured...tri-tip!


Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Here: A Biography of the New American Continent

I finshed Here: A Biography of the New American Continent. The book has at least three different threads -- the author's experience as bureau chief for the New York Times in both Mexico and Canada, the history of North America over the past 500 years, and the North American experience in the age of NAFTA. These threads come together and provide a thought-provoking narrative of the complex interrelationships that characterize our continent.

I ran many of DePalma's anecdotes about Mexican society past Christina to make sure he wasn't mischaracterizing things, but she found his stories fairly recognizable. The strength of the book is the author's ability to draw on his personal experiences (and as a NYT bureau chief, he got pretty good experiences -- meeting high-ranking policitians, getting private tours, and breaking important stories). Unfortunately, that's also a weakness, as events that happened when DePalma wasn't around (for example, after he left Mexico) get much less attention. Furthermore, after only two years in print, the book is already dated. The election victory of Vicente Fox and the end of PRI dominance in Mexico is relegated to an afterword. And the effect of September 11 on international relations and the importance of borders will have to be left to another book.

Still, I recommend Here. DePalma's a sharp observer, and a thoughtful one. His approach of treating Canada, Mexico and the US as one entity to be studied is a novel one, and the novelty definitely pays off here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Not Really In Santa Barbara...

The University of California at Santa Barbara is actually in Goleta, 8 miles away. I guess that's OK, since UC San Diego is in La Jolla. The Santa Barbara airport is also in Goleta. That'll come in handy getting from the conference to the airport on Thursday.

The Rancho Santa Barbara Marriott, however, is really not in Santa Barbara. It lists itself as 35 miles north of the airport, so it's even farther from Santa Barbara itself. I was originally booked into the Holiday Inn, but a week before the conference rooms became available at the Marriott -- at a cheaper price, even.

If I can make it to 50 nights with Marriott this year (I'll be at 32 after this week), I reach "gold" status. The primary benefits from that are room upgrades and access to the executive lounge. Nice enough when I'm on the road by myself, but it'll be really cool when Christina travels with me. I had complimentary Hilton Gold access for a while, and she really enjoyed the nicer digs in Sydney and London.

So it seemed worth the drive for that alone, but it's actually turned out even better than I thought. The drive is mostly along the Pacific, and it's been fairly fun. It's not much longer than my usual daily commute. I've gotten to see part of California (the Santa Ynez Valley) I haven't seen before.

When I made my reservation, they couldn't guarantee me a king bed. When I checked in, I asked the clerk if I could be switched from the two queens room I had. She said the only king rooms they had left were "accessible" ones, which I could have if I liked. I asked what the difference was, and she said they had larger bathrooms and a detachable shower head. After being assured they had plenty such rooms (so I wasn't taking one away from someone in a wheelchair), I decided I could handle it. Christina hypothesizes that I gave up some space in the main room for the bigger bathroom. I can live with that.

After checking out the room, I wandered in to the gift shop. I had picked out some toiletries when a woman came in and told me they weren't open yet. I asked when they would open and she said, "Maybe tomorrow or Wednesday." I had to think about that, but she said the hotel had been without a gift shop for several years. It now seems to be open (why else would they stock newspapers?), just in the morning or evening when I walk by.


Monday, August 18, 2003

Seeing America via NTN

Now that I know the NTN rankings at Santa Fe Cafe are on-line, I have a certain amount of motivation to keep my ranking up. So before I travel, I'm now doing an NTN search to find places to eat. I'll be eating out anyway, so it's not like I'm spending extra money (or gaining extra calories) through this method.

I was pleased to discover Federico's, right next to my hotel offering NTN. After I checked into my hotel yesterday, I went there for a late lunch and played a couple games of Countdown. Since I'm at the conference all day (half an hour from my hotel), I don't know how much I'll get to go back there. (Also, they're closed today.)

Today, it was off to the Old Town Tavern. It's about a 5 minute drive from the conference, in what passes for downtown Goleta. I had a little trouble finding parking, but I eventually parallel parked across the street and went in. It was a nice enough place. The bartender mentioned that they had a "tri-tip" sandwich on special. After enough "what-what"s out of me, she realized I must not be from the West Coast, since I had never heard of "tri-tip". Apparently, it's a cut of beef. It was tasty enough, but I don't know how special I find it. I played one game of Wipeout and then came back to the conference. (And the wireless network in the lecture hall -- a lifesaver during boring talks.)

Update (August 2004): Federico's doesn't seem to exist (or at least have NTN) anymore, according to on-line searches.


Pictures from California

Well, I'm back in California. And I have pictures to share. Of my last trip to California. As you'll recall, I lost the connector cable for the digital camera. I discovered this only after taking pictures on my March trip to Berkeley. Saturday, I finally hooked up the digital camera using a different cable. I can't attach it to the laptop, but I can download pictures at home. Those of you wishing to see pictures of my present location (Santa Barbara) can take a look at pictures from my trip 3 years ago. It hasn't changed all that much. Oh, I'm not staying in the dorm this time. More on that later.

Here's my hotel room in Oakland...

My rental car from Oakland...

Here's a sculpture outside MSRI by my colleague Helaman Ferguson...

Here's a view of the San Francisco Bay from MSRI. Note the Golden Gate Bridge in the background...

Here's a talk I attended on Escher and the Droste Effect.