Archive for June, 2006
This is day two of my Torino journal. For part one, go here.
Tired from almost two full days with only a couple hours of “sleep” on the plane, we got a good night’s sleep and were up and about around 7am. We wandered downstairs and got some breakfast from the provided breakfast buffet – which was good for the first day, but started to lose its appeal later in the week. The greatest thing about the buffet was a machine that at the push of a button poured a very nice cappuccino or mochaccino or one of at least 10 other hot drinks.
After breakfast we returned to our rooms to work on our hex program. It still needed quite a bit of work before it was ready for the competition. However, we ran into some issues trying to get web access at the hotel even though they had advertised wireless internet access from within the rooms (which there wasn’t). We got a little bit done though, and then we had to head down to the Oval to register within the 1pm-9pm slot that people were working the registration booth. So we made our first encounter with the Torino transit system. Boy would it be nice to have an efficient transit system here in Edmonton! Trams/busses/trains came with high regularity and it was very easy to get around on the system.
The trip down to the Oval didn’t take too long, but when we got out at the stop we thought we needed, it turned out that we couldn’t get access to the oval from the side we were on and ended up having to walk all the way around and through the large HUB-mall-style-only-larger Lingotto shopping mall and then around to the Oval. What’s funny is we could see it several times, but there was always a gate or a fence (locked of course) in our way. I’ve got a good picture of our frustration that maybe I’ll post to my photoblog at some point.
Finally we made it, and Ryan and I got registered. Phil and Broderick’s security information had apparently got misplaced so we had to wait for Ryan to get one of the main conference organizers to come and give them access. Finally we all had our little security passes including our own picture and a strand to put around our neck that had “Torino 2006″ written on the side. It kinda looked like they were left over from the olympics, but then again, there was no olympic rings on it.
Anyways, we got in and started to organize ourselves. We said hi to several people we knew including Jonathan (my supervisor), Yngvi (used to help us with our hex project), Nathan (post-doc at our university), Mike (fellow grad student, working on computer billiards), and a few others I can’t think of right now. We set up our laptops and got some work done as well as started organizing the machines we would need for our competition.
The oval was pretty neat. It’s like the Agricom here in Edmonton – a place where conferences can be put on. It would’ve been something else to see the place when it had the speed skating track all set up, but there really was no remnants we could see from that except perhaps the large stands that people could sit on. The computer olympiad was being co-hosted with the human chess olympiad, so it was really cool to see a room full of hundreds of chess boards right next to our area full of computers!
Fiat, the major car manufacturer in Torino was a major sponser of the event and had a large area with giant chess sets to play with. Kinda cool to see chess that you have to walk over to the piece you want to move, pick it up and haul it over to the square you want to move it to!
We wrapped up what work we were doing and decided to join Mike and some of the pool group in finding a place to eat dinner. Ryan decided he was tired so he returned to the hotel and have dinner at the place we had had dinner the previous night. The rest of us, a group of about 10 or so wandered downtown to find a place to eat. Mark, one of the pool guys, knew quite a bit more Italian than anyone else in our group, so we deferred to him to ask for a good place. A couple locals pointed us towards a restaurant called the “Conservatore” and it was amazing! The staff was really friendly and bantered with us throughout the meal. We got free appetizers and at the end they even gave us a bottle of limoncello – which is a lemon liqueur which was really really good!
You should check out that restaurant if you’re ever in Torino – it was very reasonable cost-wise, but very very good food-wise!
Phil, Broderick and I decided to walk back to our hotel from the restaurant. Turns out that it really wasn’t a trivial walk and it took us about an hour or so to get back. On the way though, we were treated to some amazing scenes of architecture. It seemed like every couple blocks there was another statue or cathedral or roman ruins or random other cool stuff. I had my camera out every couple of blocks to take yet another picture. Its too bad I didn’t have my tripod with me because some of the pictures didn’t really turn out. Turns out its really hard to keep the camera totally still for the entire time the shutter is open for night pictures. Oh well, I got some pictures and that’s cool.
We finally arrived back at our hotel at a pretty late hour and the gates to the hotel were closed. There was a bell though that we could ring and the guy at the front desk who was taking a nap let us in. We felt a little guilty, but we needed to get to bed!
Day three, coming up next!
I’ve been pretty busy since I got back from Italy, so I haven’t had much chance to update here, and those times that I have had a little bit of time I ended up playing poker or doing chores around the house. So … updates here have been pretty scarce.
Anyways, what’s happened? The Oilers! Man, they put in a good run didn’t they? Just one game away from the stanley cup and they came SOOOO close. A couple bounces didn’t go our way and we didn’t capitalize on a 5 on 3 powerplay which really was what killed us. But the whole post-season was an enjoyable run, and I’m so very happy they managed to be able to make the run they did. Maybe they’ll make it next year?
Poker. I tried playing some no limit, but I think I need to do some reading on it. I had a couple of fantastic days early on winning over $140. Now I’ve lost it all again. Hmm … I need to learn some more about no limit I guess!
My research continues slowly. The team is ramping up for a poker competition happening at AAAI (which I am going to, as it happens). So there’s some stuff I’ve got to do for that. Also, my thesis really needs writing so that’s starting to get more of my attention. I leave for Boston to attend AAAI on the 15th of July and I get back on the 27th. A few of my friends are going to spend a week in New York while we’re in the area, so that should be fun.
I do plan on finishing my Italy journal entries, but they take awhile to type and when I’m not home for long before I have to head for bed nightly I’m gonna need a little while to get myself back into the blogging routine.
Anyways, more updates to come. Oh, and new photo will be up on my photoblog soon.
On the way down from the Mount Fitzwilliam Trail, this stunning sight showed itself and I was quick to grab a photo.
Alright, I’m finally sitting down to chronicle my trip to Italy. I’m going to do this is one-day size segments so that a) you’ll have less text to read for a given entry and b) I’ll have less text to type all at once! A win-win scenario as it were.
Our flight was scheduled to leave at 2:00 pm on Thursday May 25th from Edmonton International Airport. Our itinerary looked like this (all times local to that location):
May 25th, 2:00pm Edmonton: Depart for Vancouver; arrive 2:34pm
May 25th, 4:05pm Vancouver: Depart for Frankfurt; arrive 10:55am (26th)
May 26th, 4:20pm Frankfurt: Depart for Turin; arrive 5:35pm
Yup – that’s an ugly 5 hour layover in Frankfurt airport. Ick.
On the day that we left, I stayed home in the morning and packed up the last of my stuff. My whole family came over to my place and met me along with Diane. We talked for a bit, and then my Mom went off to work and the rest of us went down to the airport where we met up with the rest of our Hex research group: Broderick, Phil and our supervisor for the project: Ryan.
I checked in my bags which was a suprisingly quick procedure. I also purchased 100 euros at the currency exchange counter so that I would have some cash to spend on the trip (lots more convenient than credit cards). I probably paid more than I would have at the bank, but there wasn’t a lot I could do about that.
Before I knew it, I was saying some hurried good byes and I lined up with the rest of the group for passing through security. Its an odd feeling going through security – I know its a required procedure, but it totally makes me feel like I’ve done something wrong. That, and I got this paranoid feeling of “oh no, is there anything in my bag they might confiscate?”. Really there was no reason to worry, but I’m not sure if there’s any way to shake those feelings.
We waited at our gate for the boarding call. In the meantime, I opened my laptop and to my surprise there was free wireless internet access. After the remainder of my trip, I wonder now whether it will last very long like that. Its not free anywhere else!!!
Our boarding call came so I stepped on the first airplane I’ve been on since high school when I went to Toronto for a week. I’m not scared of flying or anything, but its a bit of a weird feeling stepping on an aircraft that will shortly be thousands of feet above the ground. Maybe its just me.
The flight was very smooth and fast with nothing really out of the ordinary happening. Broderick, Phil and I played a game of crib and before we knew it we were landing in Vancouver. We wandered around a bit there and Broderick picked up some food to eat before proceeding to our gate. The plane we got on after the boarding call came was *huge*. I guess that’s the size of the aircraft they use to transport people overseas, but I was a little taken aback by the large number of seats.
We got ourselves settled near the back of the airplane and before we knew it our long flight was in progress. My strategy here was to try and sleep a little bit on the flight so I could be prepared to spend a whole day awake in Torino followed by crashing at the end of the evening. This plan would work out fairly well.
Our flight was with Lufthansa – which I get the feeling is a really big company. The best part of this airline? Free beer. Oh and baileys and cognac after the main meal too! The food wasn’t terrible, though breakfast was a whole lot tastier than dinner I thought. I might’ve got roughly 2 hours of sleep, but it wasn’t a very deep or restful sleep. Once I woke up from that, I gave up and proceeded to get some caffinated beverages to wake myself up and get myself ready for a day in Frankfurt and Torino.
We arrived on time in Frankfurt which is a *very* large airport but also a very dull place. We wandered towards our gate which was in the next terminal over. Finding it, we pondered a bit what we’d do to pass our time in the next few hours. Broderick, Phil and I played some cards (poker with go stones as chips) and Ryan spent some time looking at hex positions from the last olympiad. We got a little hungry so we wandered around and spent some our first euros on some pricey airport food. Nothing too special about them – but Broderick bought a glass of coca-cola … a pricey €3.00 price (about $4.50 canadian) for what turned out to be a tiny little glass of fountain pop. “Never again” he said, and I was quick to agree!
Our layover finally ended and we boarded the last plane. I got a window seat, which turned out to be a real blessing. I nearly fell asleep, but I woke right up when the clouds cleared and I got an awesome view of Torino as we descended into the airport!
We got out and stretched our legs. We then found an information booth and found out that the best way to get into town was a bus. So we bought some tickets, picked up a map and hopped on the bus. Not long afterwards we got off (at a point in the city that I cannot remember). Consulting our new map we found where we needed to go and finally wandered in that direction. The walk took a good 45 minutes to an hour and by the time we got to the hotel we were exhausted, hot, sweaty and ready to crash … but also starving.
After checking into our rooms we went down the street a block and had our first authentic Italian food in a little neighbourhood Italian restaurant. The food was awesome! We had some brushetta, some pasta and some house red wine. Mmmm tasty! We left happy and satisfied and went to our rooms where we prompty crashed.
Okay – enough text to read? I’ll post Day Two’s adventures as soon as I get a chance!
I was talking about doing this for awhile, but finally got around to cleaning up the template and putting up my brand new Photoblog!. In the next few weeks I’ll be uploading several pictures that I took with my trusty old Canon Powershot A10. These photos will act as a kind of ramp-up to the photos taken with my new Digital Rebel XT (including select shots from Italy).
Excited? Well I am!
Mount Robson is often covered in clouds, so it is pretty rare to get a chance to get a photo like this. This is one of my favourite photos I’ve taken over the years.