Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Google New York

Google invited the Computer Science graduate student community at Stony Brook to visit their offices in New York last December. Most of the people were busy giving finals and wrapping up their Fall semester, still we managed to go there with a group of fellow graduate students. Weather was very cold but no snow yet at the time.

The tour was guided by both a Google software engineer and a recruiter. The company is moving from their Times Square location to two new buildings and although they only occupy a couple of floors on those buildings, the place still looks huge. From the outside the building we visited looks like any other building in Manhattan. This came in contrast to the Google-land looks of their main offices in California but once you're inside those buildings the feeling is the same, an open place full of fun and geek culture in every bit.

We attended a Tech Talk given by a Software Engineer and Ph.D. alumni of Stony Brook working on Google Local Search. He explained a lot of the challenges he has to deal with in his daily work and how they collect, interpret, present and more importantly search through geo data. Before the talk we played a trivia game where we could win precious Google merchandise. I managed to get away with the two items shown in the picture of this post: A Google mug and an Android plush doll. I got the green Android by completing the phrase of Edsger Dijkstra: "Computer Science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes" and I won the mug by remembering the original name given to the Google search engine when it was first put online: Backrub.

After the talk and with some Google goodies in hand we had lunch with the rest of employees in the nice restaurants that have made this company famous for the free and good food. Beyond Google we didn't do much this day. We went to Washington Square Park with a group of friends and did some shopping nearby. Google New York seems like an awesome place to work although for me I came to realize that most of the work in my field of interest is happening in the west coast.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Museum of Modern Art - MoMA in New York City

Me and a group of friends visited MoMA in New York last November. Being part of the State University of New York system grants you some benefits on some of these venues and visiting this important museum in New York is not one we wanted not to take advantage of. The streets of the city were particularly crowded since it was Thanksgiving season and people were buying and selling stuff more than ever.

I had already visited more than two years ago MoMA San Francisco and admired some of the most relevant pieces in contemporary art. San Francisco and New York are very different in several respects, but they are definitely the two most important cities in the US when it comes to art. I used to do painting and charcoal drawing myself before going to college. I attended a couple of academies when I was a kid but when deciding my career I didn't pursue this further. Nevertheless, this helped me gaining some knowledge and appreciation for art.

I noticed that one of the pieces that most attracted the attention from the public was Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh. But I had the chance to see other works that I had only seen in the books from my art classes from when I was a kid.  Les Demoiselles d'Avignon or the Three Musicians from Pablo Picasso are a good example. In the picture in this entry I am with a Jackson Pollock painting, although his art of composition of simple forms in complicated ways has received mixed critics, one of his paintings is considered the world's most expensive painting, sold in 2006 in 140 million dollars. The art of Monet, Mondrian, Dalí, Miró, Warhol also made the trip to the city more than worth it. Next time I will try to visit the Metropolitan Museum, another big one for art in New York City.