Entries from March 2005 ↓

Trip report #1

So I’ve decided to make a transcript of my trip for anyone who is interested.


After going out with Greta to meet her friends in town we got home at 12:30am and there I was planning to get up at 4:00am. Well, I did manage it and while I’m awake, I’ve got this slight throbbing in my head. Which could be from a lack of coffee as much as anything else. It was sad farewell, since we may not see one another for a year or more.

Taxied to the airport and tried to sleep a little bit in the departure area, but I was too agitated with nervousness. Boarded at 6:30am and on the plane I watched the latest Bridget Jone’s Diary, which was alot like the the first but not quite so good (Yes, I liked the first one even though it isn’t masculine).

I arrived at Sydney airport at 8:10am local time and have been wandering around in this international terminal trying to alternately read and hack the wireless network system they have here ( This isn’t wrong because they are charging $AUS11 an hour which is just silly, besides I had no luck with it anyway 😛 ).

My flight out is at 4:00pm, and then I’m on the plane for 13 hours to LAX – hopefully where I’ll get some sleep time. ZzzZzZz.

12:08pm at LAX

Arrived after long 13 hour flight, but my intense tiredness allowed me to sleep for the most part, so the time went pretty quick. Unfortunately it meant I missed The Incredibles but I’m sure I’ve have plenty of oppurtunity to see it later.

The first thing I noticed as we were flying in was the pollution, the air just seems thick with it so you can’t really see the sky clearly. One might tell you it was low cloud but it just seems alot like the smog that Christchurch gets during winter.

The security is pretty crazy, nothing I didn’t expect though.

I went outside for a quick smoke, even though I want to eventually give up it gives one something to do while waiting around and calms me down. While outside the terminal, there was a major sort of airport road. Lots of SUVs and flash cars, several limos, and I even got to see the cliche cop on a motorcycle with dark glasses. It’s surreal. Sort of like seeing all things you’ve seen on tv in real life.

Onto Chicago next!

10:23pm at Stuart’s in Lansing, Michigan

I arrived at Michigan at 11:11pm on the Sunday, after being confused about changing from central to eastern time and thinking that I had somehow mucked up the meeting time at the airport. All turned out well though and Stuart picked me up and drove me through the recent dumping of snow to his place. I’m in a nice room with heating and a bathroom and they seem like nice people.

The next day I was up a bit late so Patricia gratiously gave me a ride in to see Stuart, and he proceeded to show me around the centres. Woah, they have a nice set up, with decent data storage and lots of computation capability.

Went to lunch with Stuart, a friend of his and the friend’s daughter who was just about to start at MSU and wanted to ask what MSU was like. Then we returned and I started looking through the moth capture data and some of Stuart’s slideshows on Slow the Spread. Also looked at the current STS programme details which is now a decision support system for spraying areas of moth abundance to minimise it’s spread. The site is very nice. Also saw that they had incorporated the Biosim maps into the results browser.

Had dinner with Stuart at the Trombone Museum, who do interesting world dishes – had the special which was a middle eastern dish. (And they have about 40 trombones mounted on the walls, so it is not just a clever name)

8-3-05 Tuesday

Today I met with Amos and he discussed or rather explained the Slow the Spread project to me. I should be able to use the gypsy moth collection data so long as I let him know so he can report back to people about it and maybe link to my work.

I went out to lunch at a Subway on my own today, just had to walk down the road to a shopping centre. It was bitterly cold, and the traffic confused me considerably while I was trying to look the wrong way while crossing the road. Eventually I didn’t trust myself, and couldn’t be bothered with it, so I just used the crossing signals. It was still frightening though since SUVs travelling at speed on snowy roads towards you is slightly unnerving.

I went to the supermarket to pick up some softdrink, and they had some weird pricing where everything was a certain price “plus deposit”, what on earth is that? I should ask Stuart. But a $2.79 thing of mountain dew cans ended up being $4.19 or something. (Update: Michigan has an enforced recycling scheme where you get your deposit back if you return the cans. It is actually illegal to throw out recyclable material here)

I came back and read about the STS project some more before trying to import the data, but before I had joy Stuart took me off to drive around the campus and the massive stadiums for different sports shows how important sport events can be to the culture. Then we came home and I went out walking their dog, since Stuart has a bad knee and Patricia was feeling ill. It was suprisingly fun, despite the freezing temperature and me worrying about the dog suddenly running in front of cars.

Stuart cooked some dinner and then he showed me his automated acoustic recording setup, where he records 30 seconds of audio every 30 minutes, and also takes a snapshot of his backyard with a webcam and records the climatic conditions from a weatherstation in his backyard.


Today I met with Dave who is the former director of the Center of Global Change and Earth observations. He showed me the landsat image frontend they are reponsible for. They look at modelling and detecting change events such as the decline of rainforest and modelling carbon sources and sinks.

Afterwards I worked on my spread model fixing several bugs so that non boolean spread works correctly.

In the afternoon the snow really started to come down, and it was comforting being in a warm office protected by the elements.

Stuart cooked a meal of fish and vegetables and we sat and watching Dan Rathers last anchor news show and a brief fairwell documentary. It was quite inspirational. He covered the humand rights movement while being hassled by white supremisists, went to Vietnam to report the war as it was, reported the death of Kennedy, directly faced Richard Nixon, George Bush Snr. and Saddam Hussain.


I got introduced to Hasif(?) who was working on MASIF, an integrated spatial model environment (I know the names are really similar, so that is why I wonder if I’m right in hearing it like that). Takes models that work for individual locations and then creates either county based maps or interpolated surfaces. Then there are some tools for viewing differences, and graphing values but nothing I can immediately see of use to my model or exactly how I can integrate it anyhow. Worth knowing about though.

Did some work on the repeat-finder for a Phd student from Canterbury, did alot of tidying up, it is funny how much ones coding style improves over time when you look back over old code.

For lunch I went to a homely cafe and had a BLT, muffin and coffe. It was really nice and I may go there again tomorrow. I read a paper while I was there and found out that the actor playing Furio in the Sopranos was going to give a talk on his studies (he just completed a B. of Fine Arts) and some of his artwork.

In the afternoon I went to the Digital Evolution Lab with Stuart and George Burdon(sp?), an entomologist. The guy, Dule, gave as an overview of Avida and briefly what people were using it for studying.

Came home a bit earlier and sheltered inside from the constant fall of snow while watching TV. Got to see a Seinfield episode that was unfamiliar to me and then we watched Zorro which was a pretty standard action movie, but still fun.