This post is about the SOUPS 2014 Conference I attended that took place July 9-11, 2014, Menlo Park, California. I meant to write a post after the conference but I spent too long getting my website ready.
I had submitted a paper to Who are you?! Adventures in Authentication: WAY Workshop but it got rejected. At the same time, I had applied for the travel grant right after I submitted the paper. One day, at noon, I received notification that the paper had been rejected and I said, “Well, there goes SOUPS.” Fast-forward three hours later, I received an email from Tiffany Todd at Carnegie Mellon University informing me I had received their travel grant! Naturally, I accepted and was on my way to SOUPS as a paid-for tourist.
This trip represented a few firsts for me:
- First time going to California.
- First time flying Virgin America.
- First time attending SOUPS!
- First time using a ridesharing service — Lyft.
Naturally, I was gung-ho about the whole deal. I scheduled a 1:00PM departure from Newark Airport to San Francisco with a connection in Los Angeles. I got to the airport at 12:00 since, with online check-in, I figured I was alright with time. To my dismay, the TSA line for Terminal A was exceptionally long. So long, in fact, it stretched outside of the normal zig-zag holding area, past the adjacent restaurants & checking cashing places, landing almost near where you would board the AirTrain. In other words, this line was ABSURDLY long. It got to the point where, at 12:40, I had to ask people in front of me if I could cut in line or else I would miss my flight entirely. I made it to my flight with a few minutes to spare; we took off within 3 minutes of my boarding and getting settled. Needless to say, I will not underestimate Newark Airport again.
The Virgin America flight was relatively comfortable. I preoccupied most of my time by reading the papers for the WAY Workshop and working on stuff for the Machine Learning course I was taking. The most interesting thing that occurred on the flight was, since the World Cup was still going on, the now-infamous Germany vs. Brazil match. This man started yelling and sliding out of his seat in shock over Germany’s non-stop scoring offensive. Honestly, it was like watching a basketball game with a score like that.
The connection in LAX resulted in a delayed flight. This meshes with everything I’ve been told about that airport so I’m not surprised. Also the places to eat in that terminal were terrible. :/
After arriving in SFO, I wandered to the entryway to the airport and requested a Lyft driver. At that time, San Francisco Airport had recently banned ridesharing services from operating inside their property so I was curious to see if anyone would show up. My driver did show up, but his car was bereft of the typical adornments Lyft advertising had told me to expect. Sunny, the driver, informed me that they had to strip that off in order to keep operating in the airport otherwise they would be escorted out by airport security. Additionally, they don’t park outside the pickup lanes anymore but stay right off of airport property. So they were trying to skirt the law. I didn’t complain, since my 26 mile drive only ended up costing me $25! Hearing from others at the conference that their costs were around $80 or higher, I felt I’d really won out.
I ended up arriving at the hotel at 10PM, feeling severely tired. The accommodations were nice; ultimately, a soft bed wins me over. What was odd was that I had pictures of pebbles and wheat in my room, which I didn’t quite understand. It reminded me a lot of how SUBWAY puts up pictures of fresh, tasty looking bread and vegetables. Neither of these places had anything approaching what were on these pictures so I didn’t understand the point. Subliminal messaging?
I ordered a bit of food for the room and sat around reading the papers I hadn’t finished on the plane. I didn’t examine them in exacting detail since they’d all be presented tomorrow anyway. I ended up sleeping after finishing my food and set alarm for around 6:00AM.