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September 27, 2008

Japanese Challenge!

I have registered to take the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) this December. I'm taking Level 4, the easiest level (I'm still not that good).

Recently, I've been making many Japanese friends and getting more involved with the Japanese community in general. I've taken Japanese tutoring, hosted a Japanese student, sometimes visit the Japanese service at the church I attend, and started attending events of the Japanese student association at my university.

All of this has gotten me excited and re-energized to continue my study of the language. And so, my first challenge is to pass this JLPT test. If I do good this year, I'll take the next level (Level 3) next year. I only hope I can find time to study for the test in the midst of my TA, RA, and wonderful classes. Let's see how it goes! Gambarimasu! (I'll do my best!)

September 25, 2008

Not All CS Classes Are Enjoyable

I've taken many wonderful classes as a graduate student. Even when they meant a lot of work, I enjoyed them and really got a lot from them. This is not the case with one of my classes this semester. I am taking a nightmare called Machine Learning.

I've seen many of the topics discussed in this class before in classes like Pattern Recognition. But this class manages to make all of that impossible to understand. Take a lot of probability and statistics, add in some complicated linear algebra and make up many weird mathematical symbols and then expect the students to be experts in these areas and you get Machine Learning. The lecture slides are basically equation after equation. A void is created in my heart every time I enter this classroom.

I am currently working on our first punishment (a.k.a homework). And this blog post is the result of my shaken mind. Please forgive my rants.

September 21, 2008

Let Me Know You're There!

As a blogger, one of the questions I ask myself more often is, "Who is reading my blog?". Google Analytics gives me some idea of where visitors come from, but it's just not enough for me. So please, take a moment to let me know you're reading. Leave a comment below or join my blog network on Facebook. I really enjoy getting to know my readers!

September 19, 2008

Ahoy, Me Hearties!

In honor of Talk like a Pirate Day, Facebook has put up a new translation of their site called English (Pirate). Be sure to try it out! Some of my favorite translations are:

Friends = Me Hearties
See my Videos = Spy Me Bewitched Portraits
Logout = Abandon Ship
X friend requests = X sorry louts think they're yer mates!

September 17, 2008

The First Comment Phenomenon

There is one phenomenon out there in the web that I don't clearly understand. It happens mainly in blogs or content-sharing sites where people can comment. I've seen many sites plagued by this.

People race to be the first to comment on a post or video with the very thoughtful comment "First comment". That is all they write. Sometimes, they might even just leave it at "first".

I just have to wonder, what is the point? Comments are supposed to contribute to the discussion. These types of irrelevant comments don't really say anything. Except maybe the fact that the commenter is either in the third grade or has no other way of feeding his ego.

What then is so satisfying about being the first to comment, regardless of the quality of the comment?

September 14, 2008

Technology Efficiency vs. Lazyness

Does technology make us more efficient or lazier?

I don't think there's supposed to be a simple answer to this question. I believe that most of the time technology works as an aid that really does makes us more efficient. But sometimes, we learn to rely just a little too much on technology.

When I worked as an intern at IBM, the men's restroom had a button that opened the entrance door automatically. This was of course here for people who had trouble opening doors. But everybody used it. Everybody. Was it so hard to open the door with their hands?

I am thankful for having hands that can open doors. That's why I never used the button to enter the restrooms.

When do you think we go too far on relying on technology to do our tasks for us?

September 11, 2008

Superficial Intelligence Turns One!


One year ago today, I wrote my first post for this blog, titled I Think I'm Addicted to Google Reader. Since then I have written 165 blog posts (166 if you count this one) and have received more than 6000 visits.

When I started this blog I wanted to see if I was going to be able to keep a blog which was in English (not my first language) and which was updated frequently. I believe I have met both goals.

Now, what goals should I have for my second year of blogging? Drawing more comic strips? More themed weeks? More deep, long, thoughtful posts? More posts about grad school? Funnier posts? What do you think I should aim for?

September 8, 2008

The Best Game Ending Song

Try playing this super hard game for a few minutes. If you somehow manage to beat it (hint: burn the rope), you'll get to enjoy an awesome ending song. It would make a fun ring tone. Enjoy!

September 5, 2008

Second Year of Grad School, Here I Come!

I just started my second year of grad school this week. I will be taking two classes: Machine Learning (similar to Data Mining and Patter Recognition classes I've taken before) and Computer Security (bleh, I don't like this topic, but I see it as a necessary evil). That's the boring part.

The fun part will be TAing the User Interface Design class. I can't wait to see all the projects the students will come up with (as long as it's not yet another redesign of the student grade viewing system). The research part will also be very fun. I will be wrapping up my work in the Data Mining lab and dedicating my time more fully to Cyclopath (which just started Beta, by the way) in the GroupLens lab. I am thinking of writing up a tutorial or two for Cyclopath later.

Anyway, good luck to all of my readers who also started classes. What classes, if any, are you taking this semester?

September 2, 2008

Done With the WPE, Maybe

I have reached my first big milestone in my PhD studies. I took the WPE (Written Preliminary Examination). The WPE is made up of three tests, two in class and one take home, on various subjects that I get to choose from a list.

I took the in class exams in Artificial Intelligence and HCI. That was four hours of writing almost nonstop. But at least it was on subjects I enjoyed. The take-home was in Data Mining and thanks to it I spent my last "vacation" days reading research papers and writing.

But finally, I am done with all that trouble. That is, unless I don't pass some of the tests. If I fail any of the tests, I can retake the ones I failed again in January, but hopefully this is the last time I have to worry about the WPE.

After this, the next big step is the preliminary oral exam. And after the oral exam, the thesis! I still have a few years to go, but just getting past this WPE makes me feel like I am so much closer to my goal!

I'll write again about this when I get my results. Let's hope I pass!