Canada and the USA, July 18 - August 11, 2007

We tour four conferences in two countries in three weeks. Then we spend a five-day vacation in our previous hometown Bloomington, Indiana. Since most of the time is spent in lecture halls and conference happenings, there is not much stories to tell. Below you can find a collection of pictures we take during our trip, accompanied by appropriate captions. Pictures are not necessarily in chronological order or the captions form a continuum of events.

The common factor with the places we visit is excess humidity. In Vancouver it is cool and rainy most of the time. This area represents one of the largest tracts of temperate rainforest in the world. Midwest in turn is as hot and humid as usual. Most of the time we stay in air-conditioned spaces in the US. However, AC is not as common in Canada.

Our conference tour starts in Vancouver, Canada and more specifically on the UBC campus, where we attend the Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence (UAI).
Two places worth mentioning on or near campus are Koerners pub and Wreck Beach. The former is a pub run by the graduate student society that carries a reasonable selection of local micro-brewed beer, and the latter is one of the largest and most famous clothing-optional beaches in the world. The beach is not heavily used while we were on campus, since it is constantly raining (see the pictures above). There are several trails going down to the beach, one of them has 390 steps. We go running there a few times. It is quite a descent and ascent.
The UAI conference is held in the Forest Science building. We are not allowed to take any drinks or food into the auditorium where the talks are given. They actually have a bunch of grad students to make sure no one even takes bottled water in. The UBC campus and Vancouver in general has several nice cafes. Above from left to right: Boulevard Coffee Roasting Company (UBC) composts everything; even the cups that are made of corn, Cafe Taza (downtown), and Zin (downtown). There is actually not much that distinguishes Canada (at least this part of the country) from the USA. The traffic signs are the same, curbs are the same, public restrooms, parking halls, and even the tipping culture is the same. Only the speed limits obey the metric system, and there is no heavy air-conditioning.
After three days in the humid and musty dorm room on the UBC campus, we move to downtown Vancouver. We will stay and attend the AAAI conference at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver hotel. We have one day off before the conference starts, so we use the opportunity to get acquainted with the city. First we visit the the Vancouver Lookout tower, and when Petri joins us a bit later, we head to the aquarium in the Stanley park. Another day we take the afternoon off and climb to Grouse Mountain. It takes us an hour to climb one kilometer up just in three kilometers' distance. The trail up is more or less like stairs made out of rocks. Very, very steep stairs. At the top, we enjoy great scenery and Whistler Irish Cream Ale at the Altitudes Bistro.
After visiting the aquarium, which is crowded and unairconditioned, we take a trolley tour around the Stanley Park. We hear about the National Geographic tree, and see the storm damages from the past winter.
Next morning we go running to the park looking for the old cedar tree (the National Geographic tree), but all we find is a Lost (and found) lagoon, some early birds and raccoons.
A few words about beer tasting and brewery visits during our trip: After visiting the Vancouver aquarium we taste some beers in the Steamworks Brewing Company located in Gastown. Pictured above is Petri with his sampler set of 8 beers. Tei and Tomi share another set. This is Monkey bar in Ann Arbor, Michigan. There are also two breweries in Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor Brewing Company (12 beers on tap) and Grizzly Peak Brewing Company (9 beers on tap). There is actually a third place that brews their own beer, Leopold Bros (3 beers on tap), but it is primarily a distillery that makes whiskey, gin, liqueur, and vodka. On our way from Ann Arbor to Holland, we accidentally see a sign by the road telling that Michigan Brewing Company has moved. We did not even know such a place existed. Due to the superb instructions we find the new location easily. It is in the backyard of an industrial park, but still people find it. Great! We taste all of their 14 beers. The main attraction of our journey by the Lake Michigan is New Holland Brewing Company in Holland, Michigan. We had enjoyed some of their beers for several years while living in Bloomington, but now we have a chance to taste some novel ones; that makes 9 beers altogether. Last but not least is Powerhouse Brewing Company in Columbus, Indiana. A couple of years ago two young and enthusiastic guys with excellent taste of beer opened this bar in the historic bar location of Columbus bar. A little later they began making their own beer. Here is their brewing equipment.
Next we attend the ICCM conference at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The conference banquet dinner is organized in the Henry Ford Museum. Above is pictured John Lennon's Rolls Royce Limousine. The cars of Madonna, Marilyn Manson, Elton John, Elvis, and Kiss are also featured in the exhibit. Unfortunately, or fortunately, it was not allowed to photograph some of these celebrity automobiles. We are done with the conference in Ann Arbor. Now we have two extra days to spend before the outset of the next conference in Nashville, Tennessee. We make a detour via Holland, a town by the Lake Michigan known of its outstanding brewery. The weather is also getting really hot and humid. From Holland we are southbound by the lake Michigan shoreline. We briefly visit a small touristy town called Saugatuck. In Van Buren State Park we make a short hike down to the lake. This requires a steep descend in hot and loose sand, and respectively, a quite impossibly steep ascend in the hot and loose sand. On our way back to the car, zillions of bugs find our sweaty bodies. We find good use of Wet Ones when back at our vehicle.
On our way to Nashville we stay in our favorite Bed & Breakfast in Columbus, Indiana, Ruddick-Nugent House. We also visit our favorite small town in Kentucky, Bowling Green, which is actually the fourth largest city in the state. This time for lunch only. On our way back from Nashville we stay overnight. We also find the most amazing cafe, Java House, off the square. Time has stopped in there. Refilling water bottles at a rest stop by the Interstate highway.
In Nashville, we attend the Cognitive Science Conference, which is organized in Gaylord Opryland Hotel, a hellish hotel and resort complex. The two pictures above are from the conference receptions. The hotel hosts an indoor rainforest and several waterfalls, and of course it is fully air-conditioned, which makes a huge contrast to the outside heat and humidity. I can't even imagine how much trash the place produces every day. The whole place is so phony, service is rude and food mediocre at best. Or what would you say about an African-American server mimicing an Italian host? Or how would you react if the bartender tops off your wine glass with wine randomly drawn from cooler, when the one you ordered runs out? Furthermore, the whole place is a tremendous challenge to indoor navigation skills: even after three days it is quite impossible to orient oneself without checking the floor plans.
Gaylord Opryland hotel is built in the neighborhood of the country music mecca Grand Ole Opry, ... ... and it is located by the interstate exit, so there is practically nowhere to go nearby, except Opry Mills mall. At last we are in Bloomington, It is still hot and humid, temperatures reaching +40 degrees of Celsius at daytime. The beer selection in Alley bar is as good as we remember. Big Dave at Upland.

We have a chance to taste Upland's new lambic. We take four bottles, one of each flavor, to home with us: gueuze, raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry ...

Steve, the reluctant trucker, at Upland.

... We forgot to label the bottles, so we don't know which one is which. Reportedly, we have now finished the gueuze and the raspberry, both true to the style and delicious.

In Bloomington we revisit places we learned to love when living there. We taste some wine at the patio of Butler Winery. We have a fine dinner at the Restaurant Tallent. New multi-disciplinary science building, Simon Hall has risen behind Lindley Hall, where the department of computer science is located. And of course we go running. This time to the Indiana University Research and Teaching Preserve by the Griffy lake. Pictured above is University Lake.
Now that West Baden Springs hotel renovation is finished and the hotel is up and running, we also take our opportunity to visit this fine establishment. We have a glass of wine in the atrium.