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Allison Lanager :: Blog

July 17, 2008

With all that's been going on (and going so fast!) I figured I should stop and make some time to share some of my more..err..interesting experiences this past week.  When we first got here it was insanely hot, spiking up into the 90's and with us having no air conditioner and a fan that sounded like a jet engine just about to stall, it wasn't pleasant in the dorm.  However, within the first week we began to realize with AC just isn't that necessary here.

When the night starts to roll in, about a third of the time so do the clouds.  And not just any clouds, but rainclouds.  No thunder or lightning, but just a soft drizzle that blocks out the sun and does amazing things for the temperature.  It keeps it around a nice 75 degrees in the evening, and if the clouds stick around the next day it can get downright chilly.  This is a fairly normal occurance and we've gotten used to it, but the past week it has begun to rain in earnest almost every night.  Catching the bus back in the rain is kind of unpleasant, but doable. 

The problem with it raining every day is the creepy crawlies have decided they're tired of drowning and would like to live in the nice warm safety of our dorm.  I can deal with ants (after all, I'm the proud owner of an industrial-sized can of ant spray) and roaches are kind of gross but you just get rid of them.  What I'm having difficulity with are the spiders.  In the past three days I've encountered six.  And not little bitty tiny things.  Things that are bigger around than a quarter.  And there was one in the hall, nicely flattened by some other resident, that looks suspiciously like the mexican equivalent of a brown recluse.  It's made me go from: "Awww, our trip's about to end."  To: "Eep, next flight please?"  My fear of them isn't really rational, especially since four of them were daddy-long-legs, but that doesn't make me any less skittish.

Some of the weather's side-effects are quite interesting, though.   The night before last we actually got a hail storm so strong it shoved the front doors open and caused little bits of hail to fly under our doorjam.  We normally leave the windows outside open for the breeze and close them when they start to rain, and when we went to react to the ice storm the main hallway outside was already flooded.  And freezing!  Almost immediately after we got everything closed up again the power went out.....and didn't come back on until the next night.  We cooked up what we could out of the groceries we had in the fridge, but in the end it was just a major cleanup process. 

I suppose we needed something to encourage us to go home, besides getting to see family again, because once you settle into Guadalajara it's hard to imagine leaving.

Keywords: allison lanager, guadalajara, pire, wrf portal

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June 30, 2008

First things first: My sister loves me so much that my brand new nephew was born on my birthday, June 21st.  I'm probably more tickled about that than I should be.  A lot of my family is in June (father, three brothers, uncle, and an odd aunt or two) and I was in fact supposed to be born on my father's birthday.  Now someone finally got it right.  This means I get to steal his cake when he gets older.  :)

I've been hungry for some American food for quite a while now.  This is technically the beginning of my 8th week out of the country, though only my 5th week here in Mexico.  I want steak!  So after much researching on the internet I came across a place here in Guadalajara called "Santo Coyote", so we hit it for my birthday.  My pictures didn't do it justice, so go here to see what it looks like.  It's like faux Arizona adobe with waterfalls, artwork, mariachis and dancers at night.  Even lanterns in the trees!  So beautiful and colorful, plus they have something in their store that might make the perfect wedding gift for Sean's brother...  Earlier in the day we went to see a ballet at the Teatro Degollado, which is old and gorgeous with a main floor and then four balconies.  I had a lot of fun, but have decided ballet is not really my thing.  It was neat to watch, but I'm not going to spend $200 in the U.S. to go see Swan Lake or anything.  But $20 here?  Easy deal.

Last week was pretty much "Work, work" for us.  We keep coming across interesting problems and solving them.  I'm constantly worried that our lack of knowledge is going to slow us down, but we seem to be keeping up with the goals that we have been setting for ourselves.  Almost every night after work slows down and people begin heading home it starts to rain.  Now that Sean and I are downstairs we've pretty much taken over responsibility for getting all the windows/doors/etc closed before the Great Flood comes to take us away.  Sometimes it makes it anyways, but luckily everything stays out in the hall and doesn't make it into the bed rooms.  Poor Camilo is getting rained on now that he has our old room!  ;)

Campus as always is wonderful, and I think this is my favorite place so far:

 

Campus

 

 

We've also visited downtown a few times, and it really does remind me of Spain.  All old buildings and stretching plazas.  They do something here like I also saw in China but never really see in the US: Many of these large, looming buildings are actually not as large as they seem, because the inside contains a large courtyard.  It really feels quite cozy.

PlazaPlaza 3Plaza 2

 

Cathedral

 

 

A few weeks ago we had made a trip to the zoo over the weekend, and it's actually quite nice.  They have tons of animals I had never gotten the chance to see before live, like white lions (Timbavati) and striped hyenas.  It had rained right before we we went so some of the ground was quite muddy, but all the animals seemed to be in good condition.  They had the best herpetarium I've ever been in, including some of the deadliest snakes in the world.  The best one though was a python that had to have been about twenty feet stretched out.  It was curled up in the corner and the space it took up was like the size of a kiddie pool.  You know those plastic yellow and/or blue pools in heavy plastic with cartoon characters on them and are about a foot deep?  Those things.  It was huge.  Unfortunately the lighting was so poor I couldn't get any non-blurry shots of it.

Zoo Coyote

They also had some rather familiar animals...

  eagle

More than anything, though, it was just nice to see people having a good time.

kid at zoo

 

Keywords: Allison, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Sean

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June 19, 2008

Weekly Status Report - 06/09 - 06/16

Activities:

  • Read through various websites, documentation, etc, related to WRF 2.0 to try and gain a better understanding of the system’s expectations, limitations, etc
  • Located a “namelist” description for WRF 2.0 online with descriptions of the various settings, which will be used in the project.  This list gives us each of the properties that will be adjusted as well as acceptable settings and descriptions of those settings.
  • Discussed several items with Konstantinos, mainly involving the properties and functionality he needs for his experiments.
  • Teams held a group meeting with Eric Johnson of FIU to discuss requirements/etc for the server which is now up and running.
  • Compiled a list of JSP, SQL, etc, examples to use as references during the coding process.

 

Issues/Problems:

No technical issues last week, just physical ones.  I wound up with a bit of a stomach bug that put me out for a couple of days.  Luckily I was still able to get a fair bit of reading in.

One problem that is present, but I honestly feel is present in almost any project I’ve interacted with, is legacy.  If I have a question, I will often get six different answers if I asked it to six different people.  Everyone views the system a little differently with what they expect it to do and how they expect it to act.  In that regard, I think I should expect to need time at the end in which to preview the system to someone, perhaps Konstantinos, and make changes as is needed. 

Many different people have worked on this in the past while leaving very little notes/etc behind.  It is somewhat like trying to turn a short story into a novel—you know the basis, but your novel may not be exactly what the author had in mind.  It’s a goal of mine to make the information I find available to anyone who may follow after us, and I think Dr. Sadjadi’s request that we keep the Wiki updated will be a great way of doing this.

 

Plans:

Short-term:

  • Get familiarized with the new server, accessing cvs, etc
  • Begin working on the individual pages that will make up the website, starting with the properties page(s) so we can show this to Konstantinos early and give him time to request adaptations
  • Meet and/or discuss with Selim the template through which the web portal and Job Flow Manager will interact

Long-term:

  • Produce a 'dummy' version of the portal that will visually introduce all the functionality, but will not interact with the JFM just yet, and once completed begin adding functionality to it such as:
    • Interaction with the database
    • Sessioning
    • Uploading jobs
    • Downloading results
    • Sending/retrieving jobs between the portal and JFM
    • Capability to visualize the results

 

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June 10, 2008

(Re-posted for correct location, originally June 1st)

 

Well, I've just returned about midnight this past Friday from the International Scholar Laureate Program in China.  While that was an absolute blast, it's not related to the PIRE project so I will post my experiences from that program elsewhere.  We visited Beijing, Hangzhou, Shanghai, and Guilin, and I admit that though I was originally somewhat disappointed that I would not be going to China as part of my PIRE trip, now that I've been there I am actually quite glad that the change was made.  Getting to experience a completely different culture will be nice, but also the pollution was really harsh in Beijing and Shanghai.  :( 

For those of you in China, I highly encourage you to visit the English Corner while in Beijing if you get the chance.  Local people go there to practice English with each other, and they are absolutely fascinated when foreigners show up and you get to talk to many, many locals.  That trip profoundly changed the way I look at China, and I hope everyone in PIRE has the opportunity to gain the same type of insights that I did.  It just makes me that much more excited about the PIRE project and the opportunity that has been given to FIU's students.

Two days after making a trip literally half way around the world, I will be making my trip to Mexico, and I'm really excited.  Sean is gradually bringing me back up to speed on how the project is fleshing out, and I have a feeling that's what we'll be discussing on our plane trips South.  I'm really curious to see yet another new culture, and I've picked up several workbooks/etc to help me along with my Spanish, or lack thereof.  Surprisingly, having my trips only two days apparent works out kind of nice.  I do my laundry, then just fold my clothes back into the same suitcase!

For someone who has never really been out of the country, it's hard to believe this will be my third country in three days.  For my birthday I received a more souped up version of the camera I've been using, too, and I'm eager to see how it works in Mexico.  My next post should be from there!

 

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Having had a chance to explore Guadalajara a bit more, I think the city is definately up and coming.  Many of the houses are nice, though the neighborhoods are compact and do not have a lot of yard to speak of.  Our dorm actually has a side yard, which appears to be a rarity.  It's hard to adjust my American mentality that having every single home gated/etc means you are in a bad neighborhood.  I really don't feel it's the case here.  Perhaps many years ago, when these homes were built, but certainly not now.  It really does just seem to be a part of their architecture, however, as even high class restaurants have locked gates.

The campus for the Universidad de Guadalajara is absolutely wonderful.  The buildings are fairly common, reminding me of the hurricane-shelter sturdy concrete blocks that Miami-Dade College is composed of, but the rest of it really takes you by surprise.  To explain why it is so surprising, you have to understand that Guadalajara is surrounded by dry, brown hills, and they get little rain.  Yet the campus is covered in green grass, cropped close so you can sit beneath the shade of the trees they have planted everywhere.  Even when the weather is quite hot, the common areas are large enough that it allows the breeze to travel through, and it's very pleasant.

There are two things done here that I wish all campuses in the U.S. did.  First of all, they have a language center which is free to use for anyone with a student ID.  They have computers you can sit at with language programs, movies in other languages that you can sit and watch, and even individuals who speak various languages who will hold a conversation with you in the language that you are trying to learn.  They even have Spanish as a language option for their exchange students.  I'm hoping to get a peek at this, since I've been slowly teaching myself some spanish with the help of some books.

The other thing I really liked is there is a 'cyber garden' in the center of the campus.  This is pretty much a well-landscaped area with a circular path dotted with shaded tables.  This area is right next to their food areas (where you can get a small meal, including a drink, for about $3-$4), but the highlight is that at each table there is a stand which not only has power outlets for your laptop, but also ethernet outlets and wireless hotspots.  The nice location, combined with the breeze, makes it a great place to sit and work when we are not in the conference room they have given us to work in. 

Speaking of which, the conference room is quite nice.  It's a good size room, about the size of the conference room next door to the CS secretaries, with a whiteboard for us to use.  Most importantly though, there's a water cooler and, blissfully, air conditioning which we can control.  All in all, I have been nothing but impressed with the campus and the people who work there.  The buses run every few minutes it feels like, and the stop near our dorm is perhaps 15 minutes walking distance tops.  Can't beat a direct route to the college for only 50 cents a trip.

The only real downside I have found to Mexico so far is the lack of AC in the housing areas.  I've gotten used to the heat itself, but the real problem is the mosquittos.  I'm running an average of about six new bites a day, and I've been wracking my brain trying to find a solution to the problem.  If it keeps going at this rate, I'm going to get rather uncomfortable.  If we close our window at night, it stays around 88 degrees or so in our room.  If we open it, we get tons of the bloodsuckers since there are no screens.  We've turned on a fan to keep the problem down some, but it's still an issue.  We're going to check the nearby store tomorrow to see if we can find some type of netting to put over the window.

Work is going fairly well, as I've been picking Sean's brain almost nonstop since we got here.  I think I have a pretty good understanding not just of what needs to be done, but how we will be able to do it.  We need to give the SRS for Konstantinos one more pass before sending it out, and he'll let us know if there are any glaring problems with what we think is expected as an outcome.  Right now my I'm focusing on trying to head off any problems we may have when the coding begins shortly, but I feel things are rolling smoothly and everything will be resolved by the time we need it.

I should have some pictures for next time, but my laptop decided it no longer wants to accept SD cards.  As in, it quite literally spits the card the whole way across the room after I pop it in.  While amusing, I'm glad Sean's laptop has a reader that I can make use of later.  8 weeks means a lot of pictures.

 

(re-post) 

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Activities:

  • Arrived in Mexico and met with our local advisor, Dr. Hector Duran, to discuss expectations, work location, etc
  • Met with Isabel Corvera to complete paperwork for student ID's, take tour of the campus, and be informed of bus routes/etc necessary for our travel between the university and our housing
  • Reviewed code from a prior exploration of the WRF Portal's intended GUI
  • Determined the general progression a user will make through the web portal in order to submit/retrieve a job and what GUIs should be available to them
  • Discussed requirements and expectations of the system for the SRS
  • Began looking into BPEL for communication between the Portal and the JFM

Accomplishments:

  • Submitted SRS to Konstantinos for approval

Issues/Problems:

Some minor problems are occuring when I try to access the webpage and/or database from Mexico.  Once our new server location is up and running I will try our workaround to see if it works.

The primary problem is one that is easily fixed, and that is my lack of knowledge in the web service domain.  I am unfamiliar with a lot of the tools being mentioned and will need to train myself in their use.  My concern is that I am missing steps in the process, such as with BPEL, where I do not realize it is necessary until it comes up in a discussion later. 

Plans:

Short-term:

  • Compile a list of tools necessary to learn, and possibly use this list to break down the tasks for the web portal between Sean and I.
  • Settle on a complete GUI for our portion of the system, to use as a reference
  • Discuss the necessary fields/etc for the database, and speak with Seychelles and Elias once they are settled on what they need

Long-term:

  • Produce a 'dummy' version of the portal that will visually introduce all the functionality, but will not interact with the JFM just yet, and once completed begin adding functionality to it such as:
    • Interaction with the database
    • Sessioning
    • Uploading jobs
    • Downloading results
    • Sending/retrieving jobs between the portal and JFM
    • Capability to visualize the results

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June 03, 2008

I seem to be missing a post I made yesterday.  I'll figure that out later.  For now, though, we've arrived and settled into Guadalajara.  We got here yesterday, and after a rather interesting ride in a tiny car with five people and all the luggage, we made it to where Sean and I are staying.  Camilo is supposedly only ten minutes away walking, but I haven't made the trip over to his appartments just yet.

We're in a, err, interesting part of Guadalajara.  It reminds me kind of like Bird Road in Miami.  Fairly nice houses, new cars, etc, but heavily gated, doors with bars and a padlock, and fence with small barbed wire on top.   One great thing, though, is the fact that there's a wal-mart style store only a block away, and we were able to pick up towels, bottled water, toilet paper, and other things we'll need for our stay.  Everyone has been very friendly, especially the local that picked us up at the airport, and even though I don't speak Spanish yet I'm able to follow a conversation--just don't ask me any questions!

I may find myself wearing shorts regularly for the first time in my life.  The temperature hikes up to the nineties during the day, and the building isn't air conditioned.  That's something I've taken for granted in Miami, that almost all housing has some form of AC, and it didn't even occur to me to inquire about it.  We're going to need a lot of water!

We'll be making a trip over to campus this afternoon, and I believe we'll be getting a tour of the facilities.  I'm curious to see what it is like, and where we will be able to find desks/etc to work.  I'm eager to get started and see what we can do.

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May 09, 2008

Student Name: 

Allison Lanager


Supervisor’s Name and Title at FIU/FAU:

Dr. Masoud Sadjadi, Assistant Professor


Name of the PIRE International Partner’s Institution:

Universidad de Guadalajara


Supervisor’s Name and Title at the PIRE International Partner’s Institution:

Dr. Hector Alejandro Durán Limón, Research professor Titular A


Project Title:

Grid WRF Portal


Problem Statement:

Currently, before a meteorologist can begin analyzing data provided by WRF (Weather Research and Forecasting), they must first compile and install the program on their own.  This can be a tedious process, taking valuable time away from their research, and forces the meteorologist to act as a computer scientist.  Also, unless they have a large cluster at their disposal, they cannot get very accurate results.  The goal of the portal is to provide indirect access to a grid-enabled WRF system, allowing the users to run their ensembles easily and receive high-resolution output without ever having to set up WRF on their own.


Motivation and Impact:

Enabling meteorologists to quickly build accurate forecasting models has large benefits for society--especially here in South Florida.  By giving meteorologists access to WRF via a web portal, they can begin running simulations without taking the time to learn how to set up the system.  This gives them more time to generate experiments, and most importantly, evaluate their results.  The fact that the version of WRF that they will be interacting with is grid-enabled, allows them to run high-resolution simulations, which will result in more accurate forecasts faster than they could previously.  Eventually, these results can be used to provide businesses with accurate forecast data for their locations, or by emergency management personnel to analyze the potential impact of a storm.


Current Status:

The Portal itself is only one part of an ongoing project at FIU, which various teams being assigned to research including job-flow management, Meta-scheduling, profiling, and remote access via the WRF Portal.  The Portal's project roadmap has been created, and its general purpose has been designed, and some preliminary work has been done.  NOAA has also recently announced a beta for a WRF Portal which is available on the web; however, this application requires that you have access to a machine which has WRF compiled on it.


Research Roadmap:

The goal of this summer's research is to complete as much of WRF Portal .5 as possible.  This will be accomplished by doing the following tasks as the project term progresses:

  •     Provide a simple website that facilitates configuration of WRF simulations
  •     Add functionality to portal that enables the sending of a job
  •     Visualization of job output
  •     Add sessions and logon capability to website
  •     Begin work on ensemble enablement (WRF Portal 1.0)
  •     Write on research findings


Relation to PIRE Core Research Projects:

The WRF Portal fits soundly into the "Hurricane Mitigation Applications" in the CI Application Layer.  This web application will give meteorologists access to tools which will allow them to make more accurate hurricane forecasts in less time.

Keywords: grid-enabled wrf portal pire fiu

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