Diary Catchup

Sun Jun 1st, 2003 03:58:22 AM EST

Diary Entry 132
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It has been 39 days since I last diarized, on April 22. This is too long. In my defense, I have been busy with important things.

The first big thing keeping me busy was a paper submission for CCS '03. Tal and I rewrote our USENIX Security '03 submission that didn't make it. We worked madly toward the May 9 deadline. On the morning of May 9, I looked at the CCS webpage. Lo and behold, there was a week extension. I was both elated and upset. On one hand, we had an extra week to work on it, which was important since it brought the total time from three weeks to four. On the other hand, it meant that we had to spend another week on it, and I was tired of it.

Kate and I had made reservations at a hotel in Monterey for the weekend. We went despite my paper deadline because both of us were in desperate need of a break. In fact, we left early, late Friday afternoon instead of early Saturday morning. We took the 101 to San Jose, where we pulled off and ate dinner at a restaurant called Sonoma Chicken. The rest of the drive to Monterey was uneventful, and we arrived about 7:30 and checked into the hotel. We shared a bottle of wine and went to bed.

The next morning, for breakfast, we went to LouLou's, a little restaurant on the Monterey commercial pier that Kate knew from the time she'd visited Monterey with her mother. I had an omelet and Kate had the cinnamon French toast. Everything came with spiced diced potatoes, which were very good too.

After breakfast we drove out to Big Sur and toured the waterbed factory. It was a beautiful drive in the hills right along the coast. This was the first time we'd driven the car in hills, but it handled them with nary a problem even with its dinky engine, even though uphill acceleration was somewhat poor.

There was no way to get out to Point Sur itself, that we could see at least, but we drove on to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park farther down the road. We walked around the park for several hours. It was filled with giant redwoods. Kate loves redwoods. She remembers them from when she was a little girl in Oregon, when she and her sister would play in the trees. She filled up her camera with pictures.

We drove to Carmel after we finished our hike and had a late lunch at Café Napoli. I had ice cream. After living in Palo Alto, we couldn't be shocked by the food prices. We now go to a movie or an amusement park or a resort town and pay $10 for a sandwich and think it's reasonable. After lunch, we walked around town and peered into the art galleries. Art appears to be an important business in Carmel. If you want to buy an absurdly expensive rug, go to Menlo Park; if you want to buy an absurdly expensive painting, go to Carmel.

Kate and I were both feeling pretty tired. We drove back to Monterey and our hotel. Along the way, we stopped to buy swimsuits, and back at the hotel, we jumped in the hot tub. It was very relaxing. We stayed there for an hour or more, and then dressed up for dinner. We ate excellent Greek food at a restaurant named Epsilon in downtown Monterey. The waiter was excellent as well: Kate had some difficult questions about the food for him, and he actually made a phone call to the owner for us to get answers for her. We left a big tip.

On Sunday morning we went down to the tourist pier to get tickets for a whale-watching excursion. None of the selection was to our liking, though, because the number of whales sighted was very low. We decided we could come back some other time.

Instead, we rented a tandem bicycle and biked along the waterfront. It was difficult at first, but we got the hang of it soon. I was in front and I suspect I did most of the work, but it wasn't so hard, not any worse than pedaling a bike heavily loaded down with groceries. The bike's brakes were awful, though. I suspect that the front brake was intentionally set to be weak, even though that doesn't make any sense: how the heck could you flip a tandem? You'd have to be going 100 mph.

The first mile or so was along an irritating multipurpose path that yielded at every intersection, and then we got out onto an actual road and it became easier. Kate wouldn't let me race the road bikers, but I swear I could have blown by most of them. We returned the bike after a little more than a hour. It was a great time, and I'd like to try it again sometime.

We walked around downtown Monterey looking for lunch and ended up at a little taqueria. I had a seafood burrito. Yum. After lunch we walked around looking for the Monterey Pie Company. I wanted a piece of pie with ice cream. It was nowhere to be found. Eventually we found an old map of Monterey that showed the pie shop in place of another store that we'd already seen, and we realized that it had gone out of business. After that, we drove straight home. Both of us had plenty of work to do.

Most of the next week I spent working on the CCS paper. Thursday night, May 15, Kate and I drove up into the Palo Alto hills to watch the lunar eclipse. It was a chilly night and we took cups of hot chocolate with us. The drive up Page Mill Road was full of steep, sharp switchbacks, which made the few miles seem much longer. We did get there. The eclipse was easily visible once it became dark enough, but we didn't stay very long because we were both cold. The drive back was just as difficult.

Tal and I submitted our CCS paper late May 16. Not to be immodest, but the new version is very well done. If it does not make it in, it will be due to the wacky composition of the CCS program committee, not due to the paper. We will just lightly polish it and resubmit to NDSS '04 in fall.

Kate and I went to the grad student "Moonlight on the Bay" dance on May 17. It was supposed to be a semi-formal dance on a boat on the San Francisco Bay. In fact, that's what it was, but it was disappointing anyway. The boat turned out to be more or less a ferry. I am roughly six-foot-one, and the ceiling was about an inch higher than that. It was packed. The bartenders didn't know their jobs, the drinks were overpriced, the selection was poor, and the lines were long. For some reason the place was swarming with security, including a half-hearted pat-down for weapons prior to boarding (I dropped my nasty-looking pocket knife into my shoe when I noticed that). Seemed excessive, as Stanford grad students are not known for their belligerence. They would have been better off spending their money on food instead of security: what food there was disappeared in the first 10 minutes. Also, the DJ sucked. Apparently all he had was techno, because that's all he played. Kate even requested something and all he could come up with was a techno remix of it. In short, we're not going back next year if there's another one.

The next big thing that kept me busy was ``quals,'' the Ph.D. qualifying examinations. These are the other set of exams that I must pass, now that I have passed the comprehensive exams (``comps''). These exams cover my area of specialization (``systems'') in depth, as opposed to the comps, which cover all of computer science broadly. Anyway, I studied hard for them from May 19 until May 29, last Thursday, when the exams took place. I took two written exams, one hour each, in the morning, on the topics of operating systems and networks, and one half-hour oral exam in the afternoon on security. I might have passed. I will find out by the end of the quarter, coming up in a few weeks. If I passed, I will get my master degree in computer science. If I failed, I take the exam again next year. At the very least, I don't have to worry about it until next year at the earliest.

Kate and I found out last weekend that the housing lottery was kind to both of us. We will be able to keep our respective on-campus apartments for next year, too.

Now that quals are over, I have some breathing room. Since Thursday afternoon, I have been relaxing and catching up on other things. I washed the car Friday afternoon and now it sparkles beautifully in the sun again, almost as nicely as when I had just bought it. Sunday afternoon Kate and I are going to an Ozo Motley concert on campus. I don't know what I'll do the rest of the week. But nothing is very urgent for now. On June 16 I start my summer job at VMware. I think I'll just try to relax until then.

Check out Kate's website. She has some pictures from our trip to Monterey.

Last updated 03 Apr 2004 21:17. Copyright © 2004 Ben Pfaff.
May be freely redistributed, but copyright notice must be retained.