31 August 2009

ISMP Chicago

I attended the International Symposium of Mathematical Programming in Chicago last week. It was lovely hanging out with people who love this fantastic abstruse and important subject. Mostly I attended presentations on electricity markets, as I am interested in smart markets generally, but I enjoyed best the presentations on column generation. (We could make complicated inside jokes. "I think your presentation should be called 'Cut, Branch, and Price in Decomposition Algorithms' rather than 'Branch, Cut, and Price...'" Discussion. Somebody says, "Which came first, the primal or the dual?" Laughter.) So I am a real math programmer at heart.

My dear old PhD advisor, Linus Schrage (pictured with me here), presented some cool tools for stochastic programming. He recently co-authored a brilliant paper on retail inventory management, which took the M&SOM Best Paper Award.

United Airlines revenue-managed me nearly to death. Their check-in kiosk asked if I would to pay extra to avoid the queues in security, which means that UA has incentive to ensure that queues are long. And the queues at LAX last Friday were murderous. Very bad, United Airlines! (Plus the sandwich I bought on board had a long hair in it.) On reflection, I wonder if the long lines are due to an uptick in the economy.

For my trip to the States, I got my first cell phone SIM card, using an old cell phone given to me by my friend Ross Bellette. (Thanks, Ross! I'm a little embarrassed to be entering the 21st century this late.) The T-Mobile activation took ages in their Evanston store, and somehow didn't get done correctly, requiring a return trip. Further, it's incredibly expensive! Nevertheless, I think I am now a cell phone addict. Being connected is wonderful. It was lovely to be able to call a friend en route to Indiana, while I was on the CTA train. Revenue management again - the phone companies know we value this connectivity, and charge us for it. I confess it's worth it! Ultimately, though, all these different types of networks need to go away, so we simply connect without thinking about how. Bring on 4G!

Other thoughts on the big trip to Chicago. Tipping feels wrong (no tipping needed in New Zealand). Starbucks is entrenched, expensive ($2.20 for a cup of mostly ice), bad for you (hundreds of calories in those confections), and bad for the environment (freak out the staff by asking them to fill your own cup). Chicago is beautiful.

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