A Warning: This one’s pretty long… it’s more for my benefit than anything else

SIGGRAPH is a Special Interest Group of ACM that focuses on Computer Graphics and Visualization.  SIGGRAPH 2002 was a conference held in San Antionio, TX that brought together researchers, students, industry, and general enthusiasts together to exchange ideas.

The drive down to San Antonio was fairly pleasant.  I left early enough to miss traffic, and I had Howard playing on my iPod… if nothing else, Howard can make time fly by pretty painlessly.

Let me sum up Downtown San Antonio: parking is in abundance (a lot immediately across the street from the convention center cost 5 bucks for the whole day!), tourists are roaming everywhere… even at 8:00 AM on a Wednesday morning (namely, downstairs at the Riverwalk), and the architecture & street decor felt very small townish or at least historic.

Driving downtown anywhere reminds me of those vector calculus fields which are visualized as an array of arrows… all pushing me perfectly where I don’t want to go.

So I finally parked and negotiated with the older gentleman at the booth and mosied (because in San Antonio, you mosey, dag nabbit!) to the registration booth.

I wouldn’t ordinarily mention something as mundane as registration, but this IS SIGGRAPH we’re talking about.  Coolest thing about registration: They give you a plastic card with a magnetic stripe that you use to identify yourself to exhibitors in lieu of business cards.  Very snazzy.

Funny thing about my job title: it changes it depending on who I’m talking with.  Officially, I’m “Cluster Director for Information Technology and High Tech Manufacturing.”  Of course, IT and HTM are extremely huge fields, so I’m starting to adjust my title to be more strict when I think it would be useful.  At SIGGRAPH, I was “Cluster Director – Software Development & Multimedia”  I could have thrown in HTM there (because hardware companies where certainly represented), but I was only planning on hitting up software folks.

That’s all that would fit on the badge they made for me, at any rate.

I investigated the layout and map a bit to get a feel for where everything was… I knew I only had a few hours to satisfy my own geek urges and also do my job, so I really had to think carefully about my priorities and aggressively cut out activites that would eat up too much time.

Getting lost was simply not an issue.  You couldn’t move two steps without running into the one of arrows they had installed to guide people around.   This is how vector calculus is SUPPOSED to be.

I let the field guide me to the keynote address.  The chair of the conference and the president of SIGGRAPH gave a speech and passed out a bunch of awards.  I spent that time reviewing the day’s schedule and adjusting the agenda I made a couple days before.

However, there was one incredibly touching acceptance speech from an older gentleman who thanked his mentors and best friends.  These people were responsible for his changing careers and being a success; the downside to having a lifetime mentor, of couse, is having to watch them die.  He got a standing ovation.

Then the keynote.  (sigh)  It had potential.  The topic was on Identity and Privacy on the Internet.  (I scratch my head as to what, precisely, that was an apropriate topic for a Computer Graphics conference, but I digress).

The woman giving the speech started off on the wrong foot with me when she told us THAT MORNING she asked the chair of the conference about the type of audience she would have.  WHAT?!?  Couldn’t she do just a little bit of research?  Her style turned me off, and the content was coming across as out of touch with the reality of engineering software.

I walked out.  The clock was ticking, and I wasn’t going to gain enough from the 45 minutes to justify my organization paying for me to sit there.

I immediately hustled over to the emerging technology exhibits.  This was the part of the conference where people from various research labs and innovative companies where demoing their projects and showing off their cool things.  I read the synopses before, and I had a list in hand of the displays I was most interested in.  I ended up spending time at each display, after all.

Seeing these projects was exciting and deflating all at once.   I was discouraged to see that some of the projects “original” ideas I Almost every single one of those projects seemed within reach