This is really why I teach

Tyler Hutchison did a wonderful drawing of himself, Brian Ohs, and me for possible use as an illustration for a UMM piece on our best paper award at EuroGP 2008 in Naples.

Teachers all have their answers for why they teach, and it’s certainly not the pay. We’re very adept at sharing all the expected responses (the importance of education, helping shape the future, etc., etc.), and I’m no exception.

But I’m here to tell you that the real reason we teach is for the cool drawings!

Nic, Tyler, and Brian on the Geneticorn

This gem was just penned by Tyler Hutchison for possible use as an illustration for a UMM piece on the paper Tyler and I wrote with Brian Ohs that won the best paper award at EuroGP 2008 in Naples earlier this year. I’m the distinguishedly disheveled fellow in the middle, Brian is steering the ship up front, and Tyler is the terrified fellow on the back (which is in stark contrast to his cool, composed presence at the conference!).

I’ve been fortunate enough to have students generate quite a few cool drawings of me over the years, ranging from notebook doodles to projects for art classes. I really need to pull all that stuff together sometime and post a little “show”. In the meantime we can all bask in the glory of the three of us riding the wondrous “Geneticorn” off into the sunset!

Thanks to Brian and Tyler for their fine work on this research project, and thanks to Tyler for the super cool drawing!

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MSP Humphrey terminal: A modern ghost town

The Hubert H. Humphrey terminal at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport was eerily empty and quiet today.

A modern ghost town
When I fly to conferences I tend to take the low cost carrier, whatever that happens to be. Much of the cost is coming out of my pocket, and I’m cheap (’cause the conferences never are). For GECCO [1], AirTran was the winner, with a price a hair under $200 round trip, which was quite a lot less than I was expecting to pay for the flight. One little tidbit I didn’t really appreciate until several weeks after I booked the flight was that AirTran flies out of the Hubert H. Humphrey (HHH) terminal of the Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) airport, and I’m currently adrift in the empty, echoing terminus of HHH with a handful of fellow travelers.

For those unfamiliar with MSP, the vast majority of flights use the Lindbergh terminal, and I suspect many people pass through MSP with nary a clue that the Humphrey terminal exists. I think I’ve only flown through HHH once before, on a Sun Country flight to a conference several years ago, and I’d pretty much forgotten what it was like over here.

I knew I’d have a couple of hours to kill at the airport between the arrival of my shuttle from Morris and my departure, and I figured I’d grab some lunch and try to continue revising our GECCO talks. This, however, failed to take into account my departure from the Humphrey terminal instead of Lindbergh. The Lindbergh terminal is a nice airport, with lots of restaurants (some of which are pretty decent) and even a passable book store or two. HHH is a small terminal (10 gates) servicing a ragtag group of low cost and limited traffic airlines.

It’s like a ghost town, but with airplanes.

There was almost no one here when I arrived. Only one of the dozen or so AirTran desks was open, there were no customers in sight, and I was able to just walk right up. Security also only had one queue open, but there were only four or five of us going through at the time, so it was again “Step right up and off you go”. The waiting areas were almost completely empty when I got here, and now (probably 30-40 minutes away from boarding) have a smattering of folks.

All this is most definitely to the good, especially when compared to some of the chaotic and stressful check-ins and security checks we’ve had in some of our recent flights.

The downside is that there are pretty much zip in the way of services or staff. There are a whopping two coffee/sandwich shops in the whole terminal, one on either side of security, and one bar/restaurant. After that we’re down to a magazine rack and a few vending machines. And the coffee shop inside of security didn’t have anyone at the till when I first came through.

Arguably less good, and certainly weird. No one’s going to mistake it for Heathrow or O’Hare, I promise you.

The real bummer, of course, is that there’s no free wifi here (or at the Lindbergh terminal). $4.95 for an hour, or $7.95 for the day.

Wonderful. Almost as wonderful as the fine $3 sandwich that cost me $7 for when the coffee shop finally opened up.

I’m looking forward to not flying for quite a while (perhaps as much as a year!) after I return from this trip. It’s nice being other places, but getting there isn’t always loads of fun, and it tends to suck environmentally.

1 GECCO = Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference, one of the two or three big international “mega” conferences in evolutionary computation. To be honest GECCO is much bigger and more circus-like than would be my preference. I’m much happier at smaller gigs like EuroGP, but that’s during the school year, and at an awkward time, and a lot more expensive to get to, so I’ve attended a lot more GECCOs than EuroGPs :-(.

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