As with my my summary of CASP1, there are two parts to this missive: The first part deals with my escapades in the sub-continent that is California. The second is about the actual details of the conference.
After the conference, we decided to head south and explore the Californian desert. Our first stop was Joshua Tree National Park, so called, believe it or not, because of the presence of numerous Joshua Trees. These are interesting organisms because it is hard to pin point immediately how they survive in the desert heat given their appearance, but these plants (which is what they are) represent a focal point for a complex community.
After that, we headed off to Death Valley National Monument. The name arises from the fact that early settlers thought it would be a short way from Nevada to California, but ended up suffering in the intense heat. But there's more to Death Valley than the name would suggest. We began our trip at the Artist's Palette and went onto the Devil's Golf Course. Other great points include Badwater (the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere), Furnace Creek (one of the hottest places in the world), and Dante's Peak (spectacular view of the entire valley).
Death Valley is marked by large gorges cut due to the flow of either lava or water, sand dunes, and some amazing adapations of living organisms to this climate. The most exhilarating experience was when I climbed down the Ubehebe crater (going down was really fast---coming back was quite a workout!).
On our way back, we decided to go through Reno and over the mountains when we ended up right in the middle of a huge snowstorm in the Lake Tahoe area. At one point, we were surrounded by snow rising up to nine feet on the ground. We were lucky that we just made it through before they closed all the roads, but not without some scares. Our trip over Donner pass took almost 4 hours!
This conference was the culimination of essentially four years of work on my Ph.D. The graph-theoretic clique-finding method we developed was rigourously tested in a blind manner and it performed quite well (as you can read from the published papers). My talk was very well-received. I can't wait for CASP3!