Day 2 in D.C.

June 11th, 2007

So the second day of my D.C. trip is close to over. There were a lot of interesting presentations at the conference, and some others that are beyond my area of research.

We had lunch at Lebanese Taverna on Connecticut Avenue. I ordered their Shawarma and unlike the typical shawarma I’ve eaten in the Philippines, their version replaces the pita bread with rice. It has onions on the side, and some kind of (I think) tomato sauce. It also has the usual white garlic sauce. It wasn’t too bad, since I’m a rice eater, and eating the regular shawarma pita bread sandwich can get messy.

Yesterday, I finally got to try the burger at Five Guys. I first heard about it from a post on Gothamist about their branch in Queens. Since I’m too lazy to hike to their Queens location, I wasn’t able to try it out. I learned from their website that they had a few branches in Washington, so I made it a point to try it out yesterday. I had the cheeseburger (with tomato, fried onions, and fried mushrooms) and their regular fries. I liked the burger, but what they call as their regular fries was not regular at all. All orders came out in paper bags. And one order of their regular fries fills up a small styro cup AND much of the paper bag as well. Pretty filling.

After the conference wrapped up for the day before 7 p.m., I went back to the hotel to drop off my bag, and pick up my camera and tripod, as I’ve decided to do a quick stroll around the National Mall before it gets completely dark just to take some pictures. Here’s a pic of the Capitol:

The Capitol

Tomorrow, I’ll move across the street to the Holiday Inn on the Hill.

Just arrived here in Washington, D.C.

June 10th, 2007

I’m writing this from my hotel room at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill. A few minutes ago, a small rally passed by the hotel. I had to look out the window to find out what the noise was about. I wasn’t sure what the rally was about but they had signs with “Apartheid” and “DIVE$T” on them. I wasn’t sure if that was the entire group, or it was just another group that was marching to join a bigger rally, because I can still hear some chanting coming from somewhere after they passed by. A quick search on Google (Google is my friend.) brought me to this site. Apparently, the rally is part of a campaign to end “Israeli occupation”.

Small rally from my hotel window

I got to the hotel around 2:15 p.m., after I took the Metro Red Line from Bethesda Station to Union Station. Bethesda is one of the two new stops of Vamoose, after they were displaced from their previous stops at Tenleytown and at McPherson Square. More on that in another post.

Tickets

It was also my first time to use the SmarTrip card offered by the WMATA. I ordered it online in advance and had it mailed to New York.

And, by the way, I’m here to attend ISEC 2007.

When UPS says 3 Day Select, they really mean it.

June 7th, 2007

So I ordered something that gets shipped out of Seattle on Tuesday. I chose to have it shipped by UPS 3 Day Select so I would receive it by Friday. So when I checked the tracking last night, I was pleasantly surprised that it was already in Newark, NJ as of 5:38 p.m on Wednesday. I was expecting UPS to outperform their promised scheduled delivery date by 1 day, since the destination (Elmsford, NY) is less than 40 miles from Newark.

But when I checked the tracking information this morning, not only was the package not yet marked Out for delivery as I hoping it would be, UPS also had the package moved to Philadelphia, 120 miles from the delivery destination. Here’s part of the tracking information:

Philadelphia, PA, US 06/07/2007 12:30 A.M. ARRIVAL SCAN
Newark, NJ, US 06/06/2007 10:23 P.M. DEPARTURE SCAN
Newark, NJ, US 06/06/2007 5:38 P.M. ARRIVAL SCAN

Not that I’m complaining since the scheduled delivery day is Friday, 06/08/2007. Since the service was UPS 3 Day Select, UPS must have decided to let my package take the scenic route before finally delivering it, as promised, tomorrow.

(A quick search on Google yielded this similar experience.)

Sensor Dust!

May 31st, 2007

View of the Atlantic from Montauk

I’ve had my Rebel XT (350D) for almost 13 months now, and I guess it’s time to try my hand at cleaning the camera’s sensor. I’ve been switching lens outdoors, and as this particular picture shows, there’s already quite a bit of dust visible on the photo. This was taken with a relatively high f-stop (f/22), when these spots are expected to appear on the image.

I’ve yet to decide which approach to use, wet or dry, but I’ll probably try first with my Giottos blower, and see if that helps.

Montauk Saturday

May 28th, 2007

It’s the last day of the 2007 Memorial Day weekend here, and I’ve decided to try my hand at Wordpress one more time.

Back to work tomorrow, but it’s been fun to again meet with fellow Filipino graduate students at Stony Brook on Saturday, before two of them finally leave campus after getting their Ph.D.’s earlier this month. I got on the 6:08 a.m. LIRR train out of Penn Station going to Stony Brook, where I met with them before we drove to Montauk.

Montauk Point Lighthouse

After we had a quick breakfast at Burger King, we went on our way (Montauk, here we come!). We just got slowed down a bit while passing through the Hamptons area. At last, I can now say that I’ve been to the easternmost point of Long Island, about 189 km (118 mi) from New York City. We didn’t go inside the lighthouse itself. I guess after the long drive, the lighthouse turned out to be pretty underwhelming. We just took a bunch of pictures of it and of the view towards the Atlantic. We had a late lunch at The Clam Bar afterwards, then drove back to Stony Brook.

Links: Montauk Point State Park, My Flickr Montauk Set

No soup for me

December 22nd, 2004

Soup Nazi

I dropped by the shop of the Soup Nazi of Seinfeld fame — Soup Kitchen International at 259-A W. 55th Street, expecting to see a long line of people waiting to for their chance to order soup. Unfortunately, the soup shop was closed when I got there.

Times Square BSOD, anyone?

November 12th, 2004

Times Square Blue Screen of Death

Could this be one of the largest of Microsoft’s infamous Blue Screen(s) of Death? Found this on the Port Authority Bus Terminal building, amid the bright neon signs in the Times Square area . Larger version.

Student Again

August 15th, 2004

Just a quick note — after spending a week in New York City, I moved into the SUNY-Stony Brook campus — the Chapin Apartments, specifically — after lunch today. I’ll still be attending a series of orientations within the next two weeks. Come August 30, I will be a student once again — this time, pursuing graduate studies in physics.

My F-1 Visa Interview

June 7th, 2004

I had my interview for my F-1 visa application this morning. I arrived at the embassy before 6 AM for a 7:30 AM appointment. Lots of non-immigrant and seaman visa applicants were already in line.

I got to the visa interview waiting area at around 6:40 AM. Prior to that, I got my interview number, got my passport barcoded, and submitted my passport and application forms. It seemed that there was a separate line for barcoding for F-1 visa applicants. I believe that significantly minimized my time waiting in line. There were only less than 10 people waiting when I arrived at the interview waiting area. By the time I was called in for interview at a little past 8 AM, the area already hosted an SRO crowd of applicants. Maybe because I was to be interviewed in one of the small rooms, and not in front of one of the open area windows, my name was called out instead of my number.

The interview was brief, and lasted just around 5 minutes. The questions focused mainly on what I am going to do in the U.S., why I chose my university, and how long it would take to finish my studies. The consular officer didn’t ask anymore for supporting documents. After the interview, he handed me a yellow slip of paper, and directed me where to go next. That yellow slip was a sign that my visa application was approved, even if the consular officer did not say anything to that effect. The American Idol auditions came to mind, where those who were chosen were given a yellow slip of paper which they proudly wave to the people waiting outside. I quickly walked outside, happy that the interview went well.

I then submitted the yellow slip to the courier, Delbros, which would deliver my passport a few days later. I got out of the embassy and got to the Chowking restaurant by 8:30 AM. I was simply glad that the whole process was over, and that it did not take too long. The waiting was definitely an unnerving experience, but after the short interview, all worries were swept away.

Trip to Quiapo

May 19th, 2004

Today, I went to Quiapo. It was only my second time to go there, but it was my first time to do so by myself. It seems that I only get to go Quiapo when I’m looking for something particular to buy. The first time was back in high school, when my group was looking for a DC motor for a solar-powered bicycle we were proposing to build. This time around, I was looking for a charger for NiMH AA batteries which I can use for my digital camera (Canon Powershot A70). I have been using this camera for almost a year now, and everytime I simply used off-the-shelf alkaline batteries.

Now why did I have to go all the way to Quiapo for a charger? Well, I was looking for a charger that would work for both 110V and 220V AC input. All that I can find in malls only work with 220V input. I wanted one that could also come in handy abroad. I was also a little bored, and so decided to go on some sort of adventure. So I decided to go all the way to Quiapo, and in particular, Hidalgo St., which from what I’ve read and heard, has a good array of camera stores that carry all sorts of accessories. Since I had no idea how to get there, I simply followed the directions from The Hidalgo Shopping Experience.

I went there via the suggested MRT3-LRT1 route, getting off at the Carriedo station of LRT1. Coming from Antipolo, I also took the -LRT2 to get to the MRT3. I got lost a bit because I was expecting the SM indicated on the map to be a huge building, like most other SM malls. It was just a relatively small building so I missed it the first time. So I simply breezed through the variety of stalls along Carriedo selling all kinds of goods — fruits, pancit, clothes, bags, VCDs, etc. — until I reached Quiapo Church. I wasn’t able to enter the church though as the main entrance seems to be closed. Anyway, I just walked around, passed by the fortune tellers, and headed back along Carriedo.

Finally, I got to Hidalgo St. The tell-tale sign was the cluster of photo shops lining the street. There were still a bunch of stalls selling pancit and other foodstuff along the street. One just has to keep a sharp eye for the signs fo the different photo shops, as the photo shops’ storefronts themselves are hidden from view by the stalls along the sidewalk. I went straight to Watson Photo Shop and purchased the Sanyo NiMH charger (NC-MQR02U) (with two batteries) for PhP 900 and an additional pair of batteries for PhP 170. I didn’t bother to enter other stores, but I did see that there were really a lot of cameras and accessories available in that area. I just asked about the prices of two Canon digital cameras, and was able to confirm that their prices are really at least PhP 1500 cheaper than standard mall prices. I’ll definitely go back there when I decide to replace my camera.

After a while, I decided to go home. Instead of taking the reverse route (LRT1: Carriedo to EDSA-Taft, MRT3: Taft to Cubao, LRT2: Cubao to Katipunan), I decided to simply take the LRT2 back to Katipunan. I walked towards Recto along the pedestrianized Rizal Avenue. That was also my first time to see the pedestrianization project of Manila Mayor Lito Atienza along the length of Rizal Avenue from Carriedo to Recto. Along that strip, the pedestrian is king. The street-turned-promenade was covered with concrete blocks/tiles and different shops lined its sides. I think I also saw a cafe or two right on the middle of the road. The LRT1 structure directly above that strip was also covered with tiles to complete the look. I wasn’t able to see how Avenida Rizal looked like before this redevelopment so I have no basis for comparison, but definitely the place is one unique strip in Manila. I wonder how it looks during the evening.

Upon reaching Recto, I came upon the still non-operational Recto station of LRT2. Instead of taking a jeep along Recto, I simply walked along the avenue to reach the Legarda station. For someone who has spent most of his life in the eastern part of Metro Manila, most of Manila is definitely unfamiliar territory for me. Walking around Manila was a nice experience. I was able to walk by some of the universities along Manila’s University Belt, including the infamous Recto diploma mills with several types of diplomas on display (University of Recto?). I also passed by several second-hand bookshops, on my way to Legarda, where I took the LRT2 back to Katipunan.

Maybe next time, I’ll visit Chinatown and Intramuros.

PS: It turns out that a 100V-240V charger (PowerBase) is available from Compex Megamall, so my trip to Quiapo turned out to be unnecessary, but it was still very much worth my while.