One cannot understate how disgusting the bathroom is in Sweet Hall. Just the men’s one. Oh my goodness. Dave’s not kidding – the toilet seat is literally permanently stained with this urine color. And there are so many problems. Like the urinal doesn’t flush. Not really at least. It makes the sound but it doesn’t go down. And the stench of urine is so strong. Seriously, I believe that like people go in there, unleash and then just spin around wildly, like Big Red. Go in there, stand in front of the urinal, and look down. What you’ll see on the floor is a collected pile of urine, dried and drying, and a matt of hair. Last night I looked down and I even saw blood. I don’t even want to think about that.

Anyway, wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom there, because anything you touch has a strong chance of having urine on it. I’m not joking – just go and don’t wash your hands, then smell them. Absolutely disgusting.

The problem, of course, is Asian male engineering graduate students. They have the worst sense of hygiene in the world. For example, Henry’s roommate last year had these “towels” that were so filthy and strong smelling, that your hands were far worse after using them than before.

Here’s a message sent to a graduate apartment list:

“To improve the image of graduate students throughout campus, the Graduate Aesthetics Council (GAC) has installed these elevator mirrors. Please take a few seconds to comb your hair before leaving Blackwelder.”
– GAC, November 18, 1999

Who do you think they’re addressing? You got it, baby. Asian male graduate students.

I actually know the guy who’s responsible for the paper clip. I met him at this talk. He’s actually an impressive guy – he used to be at UCLA Medical School, and has both an MD and PhD in Computer Science. He did Medical Informatics work for a while, and then Microsoft lured him with big money and he works for them now. I believe his name is Horowitz.

Anyway, at his presentation (2 years ago) he talked about how Microsoft has plans for even more invasive helpers like that. His demo was of this genie that permanently resides on your desktop. It was actually a cool demo, and the talk involved all these concepts of user interface, adaptability and learning, and stuff like that. Of course the genie was a Microsoft Windows(tm) thing, and interacted perfectly with all Microsoft(tm) software, and not with anything else.

I’ve actually been hearing a lot of interesting talks recently. I love the academic setting a lot. It’s just this dynamic place filled with learning and a bunch of people trying to know more. Especially in the CS department, you get the sense they just want to learn more – if they had wanted money, there are far better ways to do it.

One such talk was given by Marc Levoy, about the Digital Michelangelo Project. Wait, did I write about this already? This project was to digitize the 3-D information of various Michelangelo works, such as the Statue of David in a high resolution. It’s actually a significant undertaking, and they won’t be able to finish analyzing all the tons of data for years. But it was absolutely fascinating.

After 3-D scanning, they were able to manipulate the model and present it in new and novel ways. For example, they set up a computer by another statue they had scanned in the museum with the model that they could manipulate. He was talking about how people behaved. The most common thing is they would manipulate the display of the model, then look at the statue, then manipulate more, etc. His point being, it added to the appreciation of the statue, it didn’t replace it.

Other things he noticed were that children were more quick to use it than adults, and that their spatial manipulations (zoom, rotate, etc) were much faster and wilder than for adults, but they still maintained control. Also men used it more and women observed more. Last thing is, the biggest problem was people zooming to inappropriate body parts.

At any rate, this project was just so fascinating. The goal is that this scan will serve as a permanent archive. So there’s this small sticker on the back of David where they once scraped off a small piece to do a compositional analysis. They needed to mark that the scrape was not original. Anyway, in the future, the computer models would be the archive.

There are so many cool things you can do with the model. You could have a virtual museum, for example. In the lecture he showed us views of the statue of David that have not been seen for hundreds of years, since it was placed in that section of the museum a long time ago. That is, the other side than the side we usually see. It was fascinating. From the other side, his face looks just like those side profiles of Roman emperors. It doesn’t look anything like we would imagine the face of this statue to look like.

And when you look at his face straight on, the position of his eyes don’t match up. Michelangelo made the statue so that each side profile looked really good, not caring about the front, because it was made in such a way that his arm blocks it. So it was a sculpter’s trick, one that no one could see from the ground, but that we can through digitization.

By doing fine grained analysis, they can even show where he probably placed the chisel and in which direction he hammered and stuff like that. It was pretty amazing.

Here’s another cool thing. Statues, as we all know, were originally painted in vivid colors. By knowing the 3-D structure, they could set up projectors around the statue that effectively paints the statue. It’s pretty amazing, and it can be set up in such a way that blocking one projector doesn’t ruin the effect, and it looks remarkably real. All very cool.

That’s all for now. Sorry it’s so boring. I went to California Cafe with the CS 121 staff for lunch today. It was an altogether pleasant lunch. My earlier experiences with California Cafe weren’t that good – they’re into construction food, which means you make little structures with the food. I’m not even kidding; this was like a big thing a few years ago which has kind of died down. But anyway, the food today was actually quite good. The creme brulee was extremely disappointing however. I once had this incredible creme brulee at Brennan’s in Houston and have been searching for one as good ever since. Casanova’s was pretty good.

I think though the best dessert I’ve ever had in my life was this pear sorbet with walnut pastry at Jardiniere. Every bite was just stunningly delicious. Really, it was amazing. I’ve had the baked alaska at La Mie Dona, and it was only fair.

I lost my point. Oh yeah! Lunch was altogether pleasant. The only thing is, once you reach that point you can’t go back. Does this make sense? Before high school, a fancy meal was like Denny’s; really fancy was Sizzler or Red Lobster. In high school, those became normal. Nowadays, I have cravings for a nice meal way too often. It’s just once you experience it, you want it, you know?

So anyway, if you find a good creme brulee around here, let me know. And I’m still looking for Keep Cool. Thanks.