Saturday, May 19, 2007

A night in Atlanta airport

A flight delayed and the connecting flight missed, I had to choose between paying 50$ for a hotel for the night and staying back in the airport. I decided to experience the airport at night. I was not the only one who made that decision and it was some time before I could secure my two seats. An overweight check-in baggage led me to transfer some things including a towel to my bag, and that served as my blanket. I slept for 4 hours, had Breakfast at Atlanta bread company before 6am (possibly the earliest breakfast of my life), looked at all the stores in the lobby area and I checked in 2.5 hours in advance, to roam the concourses of the huge airport.

I am just beginning to realize the powers of the cell phone camera to document things.

It's been a week since I landed in Denver now, and have finished the first week of my internship at alpha cube designs inc. I am beginning to experience what it's like to be working. 9am-6pm, back home, some internet, eat and sleep is not exactly an exciting itinerary. Work should turn out to be exciting I guess, and then I'll be looking at Netflix to spice things a bit. Weekends are definitely things to look forward to.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

San Francisco

My connecting flight from St.Louis to San Francisco, was delayed, and I wouldn't have made it in time to catch a bus to Santa Cruz, where I was planning to stay with a friend. So I called my cousin if he knew people in San Francisco, and got to stay with his friend in San Francisco for the night and the next day, during which I got to see San Francisco.

I took the bart train from Concord where my cousin's friend and his wife were staying, to the civic center near Downtown San Francisco. I walked around, till I reached the bay where I saw the bay bridge and from a distance the golden gate bridge covered in fog. The street bordering the bay is called Embarcadero street and it was my favourite part of what I saw. Public art, a farmer's market, the Fisherman's wharf, and views of the financial district, made it a very lively street. Two days before my visit, I was looking at the street as an example of good street design because of it's pedestrian friendliness, when working on our class project making a design plan to build a vibrant community for the Bloomington Entertainment and Arts District.

While the pavements of the streets in Downtown San Francisco looked inviting to walk, there weren't many people walking. I was expecting to see a lot of people in downtown, like in New York, but it was not so. On the flight, I was looking at their magazine, and it had an interview of a television star about her favourite places in New York, and it was her impression that New York was all about people, as you run into people all the time, while in California it's all about home, driving and work. I didn't see a lot of people either, my impression of California is also of wide streets, tall palm trees, sunny weather and little traffic. The whole place had a relaxed air to it.

After walking along Embarcadero street for a while, I hopped on to a cablecar, seeking to go to Chinatown. The cablecar driver let me ride free and dropped me off at a nearby place for buses to Chinatown. I took the bus, and as I didnt have the required change, the driver let me ride with just the change I had. The cablecars add charm to the streets, and some of them are historic. I thought San Francisco had a fine public transit system. In Chinatown, I strolled along for sometime, nothing caught my interest, except that the entire street had little sign of being in California, it seemed like China. I was expecting to find cheap food, but seven dollars only fetched me four springrolls. Maybe, I should have looked harder for cheaper restaurants. The financial district was closeby, so I walked to San Francisco's tallest building, the Transamerica Pyramid and made my way back to Embarcadero street, where I caught the train back to Concord.

All Pictures of San Francisco here.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

ACM-CHI 2007

I was in San Jose to attend the ACM-CHI conference. We didn't make it to the next round of the student design competition, but two teams from IU did, and they were placed third and fourth in the top four. It was a good experience. I was a student volunteer too, and I was around for 20 hours wearing the red volunteer T-shirt, and trying to smile all the time. For most of the 20 hours, I was at the doors to the exhibit hall and it was a nice feeling when some people said they were seeing me everywhere. It was nice meeting other student volunteers from different universities and talking with them about their programs and interests.

The conference was for me more of a lesson in networking, than an eye-opener to HCI research. I did attend some talks and exhibits, but not a major part considering the other things I had to do. Bill Moggridge's opening talk about intuition in design was not new, as we had his just released book, which was the content of his talk, as a recommended book for one of our courses. I attended a session in location-aware computing, experience reports in ethnography, a special interest group on designing interfaces for pleasure, a panel about industrial vs. interaction design and bits and pieces of multiple sessions on the final day. The conference was definitely a lesson in networking, though I still need to improve quite a bit at it. I tried my best to meet people and start a conversation. My most memorable moment, was at the Cooper reception where they were releasing Alan Cooper's interaction design book, "About Face 3.0". I'd love to work at Cooper, and was trying my best to understand what it takes to work there. So I walked up to a lady, and asked her if she was an interaction designer at Cooper, she said calmly "I am the founder of Cooper". "This is a pleasure", I said excited. "Will you give me a job?", I said trying to joke, and she asked me where I was from, and the conversation followed. Sue Cooper was kind, and it was nice talking to her. My other main exercise in networking happened at the job fair, and I walked up to the booth of most companies I was interested in, and tried talking with them. I was nervous, and at the end, it took me a while to recollect who I'd given my resumes and business cards to, but it was good that I got to engage in that activity. I now talk more about myself, than I did when I was in India. I guess it took me time to realize that there was definitely a distinction between making yourself interesting and beating the drum about yourself.

On the day after the conference, some companies were organising tours to their offices. I was on the Google, Intuit, frog design, SAP tour. I missed the bus for the tour, and called up Intuit which was organising the tour, and decided to go there myself. So I didn't get to see Google. I went to the San Jose State University Library which had free internet access to plan my trip on the bus. The bus trip from San Jose to the nearest spot to Intuit was an hour and a half long. I had to change buses once, and realized that the second bus which was suggested to me by the bus planner of the Valley Transport Authority, had actually taken me away from the way I was to get to Intuit (which I saw courtesy google maps). The bus planner told me that I would have to walk for an estimated 18 mins to get to the place, but I was walking for over a half hour, when I finally got there. I had my suitcase in hand, and I was walking the streets like I was in an airport concourse, stopping on the way to look at the map on my computer, to see if I was heading in the right direction. It was a strange experience, as there were no people walking, only the cars on the road. Mountain view where Intuit is located, was pretty desolate, only a place with offices scattered around. So was Palo Alto, where we went to see frog design and SAP. Intuit showed us their usability labs, frog design gave a presentation about their recent projects, and SAP had demonstrations of their projects.

The week was pretty hectic, as I had work to finish from school, my duties as a volunteer, and some preparations for the competition. I only got to sleep less than 5 hours a day, so much that I slept 17 hours the first day after my return.

More pictures from CHI and San Jose here.