Saturday, July 31, 2010

The American Museum of Natural History

One of the largest museums in the world, the American Museum of Natural History brings a world of knowledge and visual information like no other place. The feeling that accompanied me along my visit to this vast sanctuary of science was that of a grown up who would have wished to visit this place when he was a little kid. The ancient civilizations, the jungle animals, the stars, the dinosaurs!

This is the way I started 2010, by visiting this iconic place in New York City which is located besides Central Park. I went there with a friend and it took us an entire day to walk around the whole place and read some of the captions about species, places and points in natural history. This is one of the first museums I have visited in the East Coast of the United States and the largest I have ever visited. I can't wait to see the other large museums of New York, my next planned destination is the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The New York Aquarium and Coney Island

Coney Island in the south coast of Brooklyn is an interesting place. According to Wikipedia, it used to be an island and there's a lot of history behind the name But what I could notice when I was there about what is said in Wikipedia is the fact that this used to be a place for amusement parks. They say that before World War II this was the main destination in the US if you wanted to go to amusement parks with roller coasters and similar kind of rides. After some years of neglect it lost its popularity and even though when there are still some parks and rides there, it's not the top place anymore. I could personally see one of the old wooden roller coasters (look at the first picture) beside the New York Aquarium, which is the actual place that moved me and a friend to visit Coney Island in southern Brooklyn last year.

The New York Aquarium is yet another of those places you wish you had visited when you were of a younger age. Lots of big aquatic animals that you can see as close to you as some few centimeters. I could see for the first time many animals that I had only seen before through the eyes of Jacques Costeau when I was a child and used to watch his journeys on TV. At the end of the day we walked through the empty beach of this in another time acclaimed iconic place named Coney Island.

Update (Apr 19, 2011): I visited Coney Island again last Sunday and this time under some peer pressure I had a ride in the Cyclone, the wooden roller coaster that can be seen in the first image in this post. I can say it is a great experience to ride this engineering monument that dates back to 1927!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Summer Time - California and Silicon Valley

Arriving to San Francisco International Airport doesn't really show San Francisco, from there you have to take a BART train in order to get to the downtown. The feeling that you get after getting off from one of the subway stations and you first see the real San Francisco can hardly be described, so I took this picture right after getting there:

Yes, at the beginning of this summer I traveled to California. I attended CVPR 2010, one of the main conferences in Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition. The world of datasets keeps growing and getting richer, most notably imagenet and the scene understanding database.  I could also see the demos and the insightful research that's going on in every major research center. This was a really insightful experience that I will try to use in the best way I can for my own research projects.

Going back to the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley brought back many good memories. I visited the headquarters of AMD in Sunnyvale where one of my classmates is working now for the summer. Since they bought ATI, they have been heavily involved with graphics and this is reflected in many of the details of their facilities although overall still keeps the feeling of a traditional software company. In contrast, I then visited Google and for my surprise lots of people outside of my old group could still recognize me. I had lunch there and then spent some time playing games. By night I and some friends visited Castro Street which looked more crowded than it used to be, night life in Mountain View is apparently getting better.

Right after my trip to California I shortly visited my home country. This was probably the last time I could see my sister in the following two years since she's planning to move to France to get a masters' degree in Biology. I had a very good time there although I didn't have the chance to visit many places. But as I have always thought, I prefer the people over the places. Now I'm back to research and work at Stony Brook, which is also good.