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April 28, 2009

First Talk at a Conference?

Last Sunday I gave my first unofficial talk at a conference. The APA (American Planning Association) was holding a conference in Minneapolis and they invited the Cyclopath team to give a presentation about our system. The Cyclopath advisor and project leader were both unavailable, so it was up to me and two other members to handle the presentation.

We were not able to rehearse much, but overall I think it went well. It was a different audience from usual, as they were more interested in the applications of a system like ours to planning. Because of this we got many interesting questions, some for which we weren't completely prepared, but all of them good ones.

One good outcome was meeting a planner from Portland, Oregon (probably the top biking city in the US). He was very interested in having a similar application in Portland. He told us of a guy who works with them who got on his bike and rode every road possible in order to provide the data they needed. That is the advantage of a system like ours, where our users do all the work!

I must now focus on my own research so that I can hopefully give a more official talk at a conference next time.

April 23, 2009

The Power of Procrastination

This was the title of a talk I went to today. Excellent title, isn't it?

It was a talk by PhD Comics author Jorge Cham. And it was great. He did an excellent job of entertaining the audience (98% grad students by the way), relating to them, and motivating them to hold on. (I'll be waiting to see if he decides to write a strip about his visit to Minnesota.)

His message was basically that procrastination is okay. And when you are a grad student, making close to minimum wage, having to take work with you home, and not being able to see the end of your studies, this is exactly the kind of message you need to hear.

How do you think procrastination can be helpful?

April 20, 2009

The Twitter Killer

Twitter has been getting a lot of attention from the media lately. Ashton Kutcher challenged CNN saying he would get 1,000,000 followers on Twitter first. And even Oprah announced she was joining Twitter. So it is only fair to poke fun at them. Here is a funny Twitter parody. Enjoy.

April 14, 2009

Really Tough Ping-Pong

About a week and a half ago I had the opportunity to go to the national college table tennis championship, which was held less than two hours away at Rochester, MN. One of my Japanese friends was playing for the University of Minnesota, so we went to root for him. It was a really fun event. It makes me wonder why college basketball gets so much coverage, but something as cool as this is left with a crowd of spectators of about less than 200.

pingpong.JPG

Our friend got us into the practice area for the competitors and we were able to show off our super slow-motion skills. At least that is how we felt while the players all around us were playing at full speed. We must have looked fairly pathetic.

A fun surprise was to find out that there was a team from my home country, Puerto Rico, participating. And they were actually quite good. It was great to be able to talk to some fellow Puerto Ricans and to root for them while they played.

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That day after we came back, I played the most ping-pong I have ever played in my life. At least now I am confident that I can beat a total beginner. Unfortunately, it seems that just watching really good players is not enough. But it still gives me the motivation to go play and make a fool of myself.

pingpong (2).JPG

April 11, 2009

Distant Worlds

Today I attended an orchestra concert titled Distant Worlds. It was music from the very popular Final Fantasy games. An excellent excuse for ladies to get their geeky boyfriends to go out or for guys to pretend to be romantic. I probably fit more into the second category, since I took my wife and she has never played any of the games. But we both enjoyed it very much. The composer, Nobuo Uematsu, made a few appearances, although he didn't speak much. The crowd was not what you usually expect to see in any orchestra concert. Some were playing Nintendo DS while the concert started. I saw a few dressed up as Final Fantasy characters. Still, it was an enjoyable night with great music (much of which I could actually recognize). Go check out their site at www.ffdistantworlds.com!

April 7, 2009

Silverlight Project: Success!

I apologize for the lack of posting during the past week. One of the reasons for this has been that I had been working hard on my cool Silverlight class project. I went to sleep at 10am after a whole night of coding and presented the project in class at 4pm. Almost everyone was impressed! I think we really nailed the layout and look and feel of the application.
Silverlight feels a lot like Adobe's Flex, which I use daily for my research project, Cyclopath. Before this project, I just thought that Silverlight was Microsoft's clone of Adobe's Flash. But after using both, I realize that they are quite different to work with. My main complaint about Silverlight is how hard it is to do dynamic styling and theming. It can be powerful, but it is also overly complicated without the assistance of a theme editor or the like. What I liked best was Microsoft's powerful debugging capabilities. It is a joy to be able to explore almost any value or function at any time during debugging.
At the end of the semester I will post screenshots of all our class projects. Meanwhile, I believe I have an appointment with my bed. Good night and thanks for reading!

April 2, 2009

The Internet Holiday

Yesterday was an internet holiday. April Fools Day has become the day were you cannot trust almost anything you read and see on the internet. I of course exaggerate when I say that, but it is incredible the number of sites and web companies that increasingly take part in the pranks each year. Even the server where I have been playing Go (KGS) played a prank on us where all users were given the highest rank. I actually thought it was a bug. If you have time to spare, check out this giant list of April Fools Day pranks by TechCrunch.