In April I travelled to San Francisco, CA for a research conference. I had two presentations to give and in my free time I got to see the city. Here is a narrative of my explorations, and a video montage of my photos is already posted.
My first flight out was set to leave at 5:40AM out of Albany. That meant that I needed to be there by like 4:40AM at the latest. That is so early I couldn't bring myself to ask anyone to drive me. Instead, I drove myself and parked in the "Economy Lot" which is basically in the middle of no where. Now, I get nervous about being late and missing flights in general so I got a little nervous when after parking I noticed the shuttle back to the airport leaving the lot- I had no idea when the next one came. After waiting a little bit another one came, and I headed to the US Airways counter. The lady asked where I'm travelling to- "San Francisco through Philly." "Oh, your flight was cancelled!" (She cheerily replies.) Um, not cool? Oh, its OK, they got me onto a flight at 1PM. a) I could have gotten a lot more sleep if I was on that flight, and b) I have a presentation to give at 2PM so that doesn't work. I ask if there are any other flights out of Albany I can get on. She tells me she looked, and there is nothing out. Surrrreee. So I take her tickets, take out my laptop, find the number for my institution's travel agent, and like THAT they get me on a 6AM United Airlines flight through Chicago O'Hare that gets to SF by 11AM. Perfect. They tell me to go to US Airways to get a partial refund and then check in at United. Well, by this point the Albany Airport is PACKED and yet there are only two people helping everyone at US Air. Great. Eventually I get there and find out they can't refund until AFTER I travel. Thanks. I run over to United and the line is CRAZY long. By this point its like 5:15AM and I still have to get through security. Luckily, since I wasn't checking a bag I didn't have to wait in the line! Whew! I get upstairs to security and there is another long line! Now, I've flown out of Albany many times, but usually around 10AM, and there is literally NO LINE. This line had gone through all the zig zags and was headed towards the parking garage. Great. By the time I get to the checkpoint I look back the line had doubled! I realize, if I was checking a bag, I wouldn't have made this flight. As it is, I have like 15 minutes to go through security and get to the gate before they close the door. Great. I don't even bother with my shoes and JUST make it. Whew. Except, I now realize, I'm going through O'Hare- the black hole/abyss of airports. The last time I flew was through O'Hare and my flight was delayed by two hours, finally got to Albany and had to divert to Syracuse because of fog. But by the time we got there the airport was closed, and by the time someone got there to let us off our only option was to take taxis back to Albany. Ohhhh boy...
Anyways, I make it to O'Hare, and then to SF with no problems. I get into SF and have no trouble making it to the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and then to my hotel. I stayed at the Union Square Hotel since the hotels that the conference was offering were really expensive. I took a chance with this place- it had a LOT of bad reviews, and people were freaked out about the area. But these were old reviews, and one recent review was GLOWING about their recent renovations. So, I went with my gut, since I always believe that people will leave negative reviews over anything, but hardly spend time going online to leave positive reviews. I was VERY happy with this hotel. Very nice interior, the room was a little small, but very trendy, clean, and new. And the staff were SO nice and helpful. I can honestly say this was my favorite hotel I've ever stayed at. Thank you Union Square Hotel and Personality Hotels!
After unpacking, cooling off, relaxing a bit and unwinding, I made the 3 block walk to the convention center. The conference I was at was at the Moscone Convention Center West- apparently there are North and South buildings as well. I checked in, looked around the vendor exhibits, and headed up to the session that the professor from my school was organizing. I listened to a couple of talks and then set up for my first presentation. This one wasn't even my research- it was research that a previous student in our lab did, and was submitted by students in our collaborator's group who ended up not being able to attend. Since I was going anyways I said I could give this talk too. The talk was fine, but there were some holes in the research that our collaborators did with computer simulations and some people in the crowd latched on to it. Oh well. I stayed around for a little while longer and then moved over to the conference hotel where a keynote was being given.
The keynote was being given by Walter Kohn, Ph.D. who recieved the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1998. I was really excited to hear from a Nobel Prize winner- someone who was on the level of some of my idols Watson, Crick, Feynman, Einstein, etc. He only talked for like 5 minutes before turning it over to a video on the sun, energy, etc. He said after the video he'd take question. Not really what I was looking for so I bailed halfway through the video and went back to my room. I changed, and looked for food. I didn't feel like going out but also didn't want the Burger King across the street. So, I called in an order to Cheesecake Factory, and did some errands to pick up some snacks and drinks. I spent the night planning my next few days and ended up calling it an early night.