Philadelphia (or thereabouts)

I spent about four days in the Philadelphia area, the first of four stops on my familial tour of the East Coast. My original plan was to try and make it for my niece's first birthday, but I was a week too early. However, Lily and I made the most of it by running around, waving stuffed elephants and sticking out our tongues at each other. I'm a wonderful influence!

My sister, Suzannah, had a few days off after getting her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology (go Suz!), so we had fun running about the yard. We also relived a tasty childhood memory by making no-bake chocolate peanut butter bars that are always a hit with everyone.  I highly recommend that recipe during the summer because you don't have to heat up your kitchen by baking cookies in an oven. They also freeze exceptionally well!

Being so close to the mothership (which, as all Bryn Mawr College alumnae know, is what we call Bryn Mawr) meant that I got to give the campus a visit! I lucked out and had a wonderfully sunny day for my campus reminiscing. I hitched a ride in with my academic advisor, Deepak Kumar, and we beelined for the CS department (naturally). In the nearly five years since I have graduated, the department has gotten so big! We toured the labs, in which the soccer-playing robots live as well as their new 3D printer.

I was able to join all the profs for their weekly lunch at a nearby restaurant before taking a walk around campus. I found myself by my old dorm and to the pond that lies behind it.

Bryn Mawr looked deserted, as students wouldn't start pouring in until a week later. It was almost like I was walking around an empty movie set.

Once I got back from a couple of meetings on campus, I got to hear all about the new projects that are going on in the CS department. The first is the Center for Science of Information, a collaboration between eight colleges and universities that aims to "advance science and technology through a new quantitative understanding of the representation, communication, and processing of information in biological, physical, social, and engineered systems." The knowledge thrust research goals look particularly intriguing, and I'm excited to read some of the related publications.

The second is Calico, a learning framework that I am eager to test drive! It allows you to use one of six programming languages to explore concepts in computer science. Douglas Blank showed me a quick demo of it, and we hopscotched between languages like you wouldn't believe. The UI is simple and intuitive -- a perfect learning environment. You can use it to control robots as well, so here I come...

I left Philadelphia after a wonderful visit, but not before Lily got her birthday present. She quickly figured out how to stack the soft blocks, and displayed the resulting structure for about ten seconds before knocking it down.

Once the thunderstorms, hail and insane wind died down, I was on my way up to Rochester, NY!

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