• 10:28:53 pm on October 28, 2007 | 0

    Wednesday, October 24

    I left the house (Kuya Amang was driving me) at around 4:30 or a bit later, and ended up being a bit late for the meet-up with Anthony, May, and Jeremy at McDo Visayas Ave. Anthony’s dad then drove us to Cubao, where we drove around for a bit trying to figure out where the HM terminal was. After five to ten minutes, we found the place (with the help of Aiyin, whom Jeremy called quite a few times) and shortly after we were on the bus to Los Banos.

    The bus trip was fine, uneventful. It was raining on and off throughout the trip. Slept for maybe thirty minutes all in all. In two hours we got off at Olivares mall to take a jeep to Anest Tower, where Anthony (with his research group, SanD) and May and Aiyin (having booked their own room there) were staying, to stash our stuff. I was supposed to stay over at CEC (Continuing Education Center, as we later found out) with people from my own research group (Theory), but since we thought we were late for the registration and such already, I simply dropped off my stuff in May and Aiyin’s room, intending to just transfer it later to CEC.

    Another jeep ride took us to UP Los Banos. We got off at the first stop upon entering the gate, and managed to find the CAS (College of Arts and Sciences) building soon enough. We registered (paying 2000 pesos each), and got our kits with all the trappings of a conference (ID cards, food stubs, et cetera). Then there was an opening ceremony in the auditorium (this was also where all of the plenaries and subplenaries were to be held), then after a short break when refreshments (sandwiches, brownie things, coffee and tea) were served, the first research plenary session began.

    The first speaker, Dr. Julicher, was from the Max Planck Institute for something or other (Complex Systems, maybe, or something related to biology), and talked about how they tried to model the motion of cellular structures, beginning at the molecular level. They did this by considering the building blocks of almost all cellular motion, which is the structure of actin filaments and various “drivers” such as myosin to give rise to a simple motor. They then created models for more complicated structures using this knowledge, and Dr. Julicher spent some time talking about cilium motion (specifically, sperm motion).

    Then Dr. Carlo Blanca, an NIP professor (he was our Physics 191, Experimental Physics I, professor), gave his talk on how they have worked to construct low-cost alternatives to various optical instruments, as well as to demonstrate their effectiveness in detecting defects on microchips and transistors. It was nice to find out that their research had actually garnered international attention. He then gave a short spiel about how he wanted to create an international research nice for their group, which would make international publications easier, as well as make the group more prestigious and more liable to acquire funding, et cetera. Knowing the guy made it sort of awkward to hear him talk so hopefully about basically pushing towards international recognition, I don’t know. I don’t actually know enough about their research to be able to decide one way or another whether his dream is actually feasible, yeah.

    After lunch (buffet-type, people line up, present their stubs, and are served the different dishes available; quality was mediocre for this type of caterer, I don’t know), we all went and bummed around in May and Aiyin’s room (which would turn out to be our base of operations for the rest of the conference), skipping some sub-plenary and special topic sessions. I think we caught part of V for Vendetta on HBO.

    We went back to UPLB by around three o’ clock to attend the research parallel sessions that were going on at the time. Most of us attended the Theory I session, while Anthony decided to attend the Optics/Microscopy/Plasma I session. As for the session we attended, the NIP professors were up to their usual hijinks (Sir Palisoc in particular was being his own weird self), and we found out that there was a general attitude of arrogance or oneupmanship prevalent among the theoretical researchers present. Maybe it was just us, but questions seemed to be challenging, and skeptical, even. On hindsight, maybe that kind of atmosphere is good for keeping researchers in line and doing quality work, eh?

    Snacks were then served (cookies which were soft and almost like muffins, crinkles, juice) and then it was time for the second round of research parallel sessions. Most of us again chose to attend the Theory II session. More theory-type discussions, culminating in the much-maligned negative-mass Schwarschild geometry paper. In our research group, some people thought little of the paper, seeing as how the Schwarschild geometry is pretty much a textbook example, and the modification performed required only a switching of some signs from positive to negative. But people behaved – or maybe weren’t able to come up with scathing questions or commentary – and so nothing out of the ordinary happened. The session ended at about six-thirty-ish.

    Before going for dinner, I managed to convince them to walk with me to try and find CEC, which was where I was supposed to be sleeping. Walking in the dark in UPLB was a bit scary, but also fun. There were frogs and puddles (and some of us were wearing slippers), but we finally found the place. The Continuing Education Center offered decent accommodations for a low-enough price (about 700 per night for a double room), and felt like a retreat center or something – a bit old, but clean and livable. We took a jeep back to the hotel to wipe or wash our feet and get ready for dinner.

    Dinner was at this place called Palaisdaan (or Kainan sa Palaisdaan, maybe?) that Jeremy told us about. It was a bit far away; we had to take a 7-peso jeep ride then a 10-peso one to get there. But it was worth it – the place was nicely decorated, with this whole native theme going on (driftwood, wood, bamboo, etc.), and we got to eat at a bamboo hut thing floating on a small fishpond out back. The food was good, too, and reasonably priced. The nine of us (some other batchmates came with us, making the name list: me, Anthony, May, Aiyin, Jeremy, Lei, Julie (Dado), Cole, Mark Leo) ate pretty well and only had to pay about 150 each. We had sisig, and sinigang na baboy, and sinugno (ginataang inihaw na tilapia, mmm), and calamares, and rice, and a shake or drink each (green mango, ripe mango, iced tea). The trip back to the UPLB area was fraught with darkness and rain, but we managed to get back by around 9:30 or 10 pm.

    On the way back I had decided to spend the night over at May and Aiyin’s room instead of at CEC, since they were planning to hang out and maybe drink a little. We went to Mini Stop and bought a few drinks – a bottle of Mudshake, a bottle of what was supposedly tequila margarita, and two cans of San Mig Light – as well as bags of chips. Anthony and Lei were supposed to follow us, but they had to go to this after-dinner coffee place event with their research group-mates, and ended up just catching up with us back at the room.

    People at the room: me, Anthony, May, Aiyin, Lei, Jeremy. It was pretty fun just hanging out and chatting and such. I never really get to talk with the physics people, ordinarily. Especially Aiyin; I think if not for SPP (and me crashing at their room) we wouldn’t have gone up to speaking terms from being acquaintances (even though we both belong to Theory). Since we didn’t really get that much alcohol, none of us got drunk or even tipsy, pathetic, I know. We were just watching TV and talking and getting sleepy. Anthony and Lei retired to their respective rooms, and the four of us went off to sleep soon afterwards (Jeremy and I bunking on comforters on the floor). Anthony had swiped the pillows from the third bed in their room (there were only two of them in a triple room, I think), so we had pillows, but there were no extra blankets. Good thing my mom had me bring a blanket with me, and I managed to sleep fairly comfortably.

    Thursday, October 25, 2007

    Woke up at around 6 am to see Jeremy leave for International House, where he was supposed to be staying. He hadn’t brought any of his stuff with him to the hotel room, so he had to go back there to change and such. Slept in for a short while, and did the morning rituals only thirty minutes later. Aiyin followed, then May. By 8 o’ clock we were still waiting on May to finish, and our poster session was at 8:30, so we decided to go on ahead. We (Anthony, Aiyin, me; Lei had gone to breakfast in the hotel restaurant with research group-mates) took our breakfast out from McDo – I had a Sausage McMuffin with Egg and some hot chocolate.

    We set up our posters, and the session went well enough. Sir G asked me about my paper, and we got to talking about where I slept last night (he was my roommate). I told him that I might be staying elsewhere (I thought it was going to be a hassle to transfer my stuff, and besides they were planning to have a drinking session again that night), and he didn’t have any problem with it. I didn’t even have to pay for my half of the room fee. To celebrate my free accommodations, I told May and Aiyin that I’d just buy them a cake (they had wanted to buy a cake or something to put in the fridge in the room).

    Then some other people from Theory came and asked questions (Roland, Lexter). Then a young-ish guy (he called me Kuya) came and asked basic questions and left seeming impressed. Then this girl, I think she was from Ateneo, came and asked questions. I explained things to her, answered her questions, etc. When we were about to finish talking, she asked for my name, and I gave it to her, but I thought it odd that she should ask, since I’m pretty sure I was wearing my ID then. Later on Aiyin (who had set up her poster just on the back of mine) would say that she (the girl from Ateneo) really just wanted some excuse to talk to me. This was when I remembered that that same girl had also borrowed my book of abstracts (where schedules and such are, each of us was given one in the SPP kit) the day before. She wasn’t really my type (and besides, I love you Jeanne), but it felt a bit gratifying, a bit odd.

    The plenary speakers were boring in different ways. The first one had quite boring (to me) content: it was basically a catalog of the various different materials that the speaker and his colleagues had managed to synthesize and explore the properties of. The second one, on the other hand, had a thick Japanese accent that was just hard enough to decipher to make it not worth the effort. The third one was okay, but nothing special.

    Then lunch (again, mediocre food), and back to the hotel room for some more bumming around. We ended up skipping the subplenary session again (I think we caught V for Vendetta again), and just going back for the research sessions at 3 pm or so. We attended the two Condensed Matter sessions with Anthony, since some of his research group-mates were going to be giving oral presentations there. Then we went back to the hotel room to freshen up and things before the conference dinner at the Maharlika Ballroom inside UPLB in the Student Union building.

    The dinner event was, well, pretty mediocre. (Lame, maybe.) Food wasn’t that great, and by this time some of us were harboring suspicions that the caterers were recycling food. There was always a fish fillet dish, and a chicken dish… and so on. It was certainly possible, I admit, but I prefer not to think that badly of the caterers. Haha. The performers from UPLB weren’t stellar, although to my ears they were fine. A Filipino dance troupe did perform a good tinikling and two of them even did that dance with the glasses on their heads and in their hands, I forget what it’s called.

    After their number, the emcee asked if anyone wanted to try the tinikling, and Miki did, as well as Prof. Julicher and Dr. Blanca. After the three of them, no one else really wanted to make fools of themselves, and they stopped. And so on, usual boring event-type thing proceedings.

    Before we got to leave, though, Sir Perry took Aiyin and me, and some other people from Theory, to meet Dr. Muriel. He was slated to give a plenary talk the following morning. He called us together to tell us about this workshop he was planning to hold at the hostel in NISMED, beginning on Sunday. I thought it was rather short notice, and figured that I might not be allowed to go, but was interested anyway. (It would later turn out that the workshop would start Monday, and that we were going to check into Edsa Shang instead. All expenses paid, mostly, by Dr. Muriel. Whee.)

    We had planned to go drinking again, and since we thought there were going to be a lot of us we checked out the local scene. We didn’t like what we saw, though. For one thing a lot of the people from SPP were there, the emcee having advertised the place as an after-dinner hangout, and for another we didn’t quite like the atmosphere. So we went to Mini Stop again to buy alcohol and food to go to the hotel room instead. We bought a bottle of Emperador Brandy (the round one with the long neck), cups, plates and forks (for the cake), ice, and some chips and such.

    Back at the room, there were me, Anthony, May, Aiyin, Jeremy, Mark Leo, and Cole. Took shots of the brandy from plastic cups, chasing it with the Coke. In hindsight, a single bottle should not have been enough for all of us, but hey, none of us were really drinkers yet, so.. We were also waiting for JC and Marge to come, since they were planning to stay over as well, so we kept pausing to wait for them to arrive. It turned out that none of us got drunk, and maybe some of us got tipsy, but it was a fun night anyway.

    When JC and Marge arrived with their things, the management must’ve gotten suspicious and called May and Aiyin down to talk. They weren’t about to let new guests sleep in for free (of course, they didn’t notice Jeremy and me the previous night, haha). After some talking they managed to wrangle it so that they only were going to pay for one extra guest in their room. Marge was supposedly going to sleep in Lei’s room, since one of her roommates had already gone home. Then we finished the brandy, and the cake, and most of the food. All of us except Anthony ended up sleeping in the room; Lei had fallen asleep on Aiyin’s bed by that time, and we didn’t want to wake her and tell her to go to her room.

    Friday, October 26, 2007

    Morning came, we all took turns using the bathroom, with JC and Marge going first since their poster session started at 8:00. (We thought it was 8:30, but it was really 8:00, so, yeah, I forgot to mention but we were late for our poster session the previous day.) The rest of us had breakfast at McDo and caught up at around 9:45 to 10:00, to catch the last of the poster session and to attend the day’s plenary session.

    The first speaker was Dr. Muriel, and he was interesting enough. He decided to talk on such a level that everyone in the room would more or less understand what he was going to be talking about. Basically, he was developing a theory that looked at a phenomenon from a different perspective (specifically, a model of turbulence and fluid dynamics utilizing particle descriptions instead of the usual continuum limit). People scoffed and said that the added complications of considering individual particles wasn’t necessary, but as it turned out, experimental evidence showed that some fluid properties did indeed depend on the nature of the specie or particle comprising the fluid. And so on. He said something about regretting that he might not live to see his theory become a full-fledged one – perhaps this is partly why he wanted to organize a workshop where he can tell other people about his work and have them explore the possibilities, as well.

    After his talk, even though the plenary wasn’t over, some of us went ahead to the hotel room since check out time was at 12 pm. We found JC and Marge there, as they had apparently gone back after their poster session to bum around and get some sleep. They straightened out the payments and such, and we went back to UPLB for lunch.

    Two more research sessions after lunch, both of which I found quite boring. I don’t yet appreciate much of instrumentation physics, I don’t know. Partly it’s the condescending attitude that some people at Theory have towards the Instru people, I suppose, but shrug. I’m not going to be like that, I hope.

    By this time, I was sort of getting peopled out. At least I knew Jeanne (and Arvin and Vilma and AD) were on the way from Tagaytay to pick me up. Soon enough (after catching the first part of the closing ceremonies) I was on my way in a jeep to Olivarez mall to meet up with them. Some traffic on the way, but, shortly, we were together!


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