SfN Housing: 500 West

For SfN I’m staying at 500 West, a downtown hotel that advertises its “European” style. Apparently, European hotels have jail-cell-sized rooms, shared bathrooms, really slow wi-fi, and graffiti in the elevator. ;-)

Actually, To be fair, this a “get what you pay for” situation, and the room itself, though small, is clean and well kept, and the hotel is right in the heart of downtown San Diego. I would in fact recommend this place to single travelers looking for a cheap, clean place to crash in SD. 500 West advertises itself as a “hostel hotel,” and it is at least as nice as the best London hostel I’ve stayed in.

The one thing that bothers me, though, is that I reserved the room through SfN’s on-line housing service, and I feel like I was ripped off. A labmate from UTCS reserved a room later through sandiegohotels.com for 30% less than I paid.

Also, the free Wayport wi-fi is excruciatingly slow.

CCNC/SfN/Epirob/AAAI Conference Blogging

I am currently in San Diego, in the second day of a three-city, four-conference tour during which I’ll be attending the CCN Conference, Society for Neuroscience, Epigenetic Robotics, and the AAAI Fall Symposium on Computational Approaches to Representation Change during Learning and Development.

This is the longest and most complicated conference travel adventure I’ve ever undertaken. Especially since I’m presenting either a poster or a talk at all four conferences. In addition, it is my first time attending SfN, which draws 20-30,000 attendees, making it easily an order of magnitude larger than any conference I’ve ever attended. I have to wonder what the point of such a large conference is, since I’ve been told by several people not to expect to run into anyone I know if we haven’t planned the meeting in advance.

So far, CCNC has been nice — only 200-300 people — with lots of work focused on computational modeling of reinforcement learning and other decision making processes. I’ve run into a couple of people that I knew from elsewhere, as well as a couple of people from CNBC that I’ve met for just the first or second time. I’ve also been slightly disappointed that a couple of people I expected to see are nowhere to be found.

I’m going to try to blog at least once from each location. Newt Gingrich is speaking about research funding priorities for science at SfN on Monday. It’s during the first hour of my poster session, but I may try to attend anyway.

Tracking the San Diego Fires on Google Maps

KPBS in San Diego has created a great tracker for the San Diego fires using Google Maps. It’s very impressive, and for those of us who are on the other side of the country it’s much easier way of seeing what’s really going on than listening to the lame, repetitive coverage on cable news. The annual meeting of Society for Neuroscience is scheduled to start in San Diego in just over a week, and I know that attendees from all over the world want to know what’s going on. The network and cable news has been surprisingly vague about the actual location of the fires. Apparently capitalizing on tragedy by reporting live from burnt-out neighborhoods is more important than actually informing us about what’s happening. The Harris fire is about 10 miles from downtown at its closest point.

BTW, to get a real view of the extent of the fires, download the KML file (link in the upper right on the Google Maps page), and open it in Google Earth — zoom in on San Diego and change your camera angle to do virtual flyovers. It’s stunning, and the number of residential streets inside the perimeter of the Witch Creek fire is astounding. It’s very sad.

Update: Here is another good Google Maps view, with slightly different information.

Update: Another blog is also wondering what’s up with SfN. There’s no info one way or another on the web. There’s still a week until the first pre-conferences start. That’s a long time in a situation like this. I assume the conference organizers will wait until the last minute to make a decision.

Cell Implantation Cure for Alzheimer’s?

A study published in PLoS on August 27 (apparently as a birthday present to me), reports that researchers have been able to remove the amyloid-beta plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers, by implanting genetically engineered skin cells in the brains of mice. As described in a more accessible write-up in the Harvard Gazette, these implanted cells delivered genes that allowed the brain to clear away the plaques. More below the jump…

Read the rest of this entry »