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Amanda Mostafavi :: Blog

July 07, 2012

Thought I'd something more to say...

 

Admittedly I was sorely tempted to just end my blog there, but I think I'd get yelled at. Plus that only would've been funny to me and maybe one other person (let me put it this way, if you don't get why that would be funny, that joke wasn't meant for you).

So this is my last day in Barcelona. Again. Hence this entry is a day early (tomorrow I get to travel for 10 hours, yay). I'm not particularly sentimental about it this time, partly because of an active effort on my part and partly because I know this won't be my last time here. Well, I have a strong feeling about it anyway. And even if it is my last time here by myself, I'm at peace with it. My one regret in that scenario would be not taking my husband here, but he's got a bunch of places he wants to show me in Europe as well so we'll probably just add Barcelona onto that trip. But as far as my own personal experience of Barcelona, I've had it. I've enjoyed it. And barring actually living here for some reason I don't need to experience much more. Plus I'm too excited about this coming week. I get to see my husband again, we get to see Roger Waters perform The Wall on Tuesday, and then Thursday we get our own little mini-vacation. Plus I get to do tons of writing and paperwork! Whee!

So in no particular order, here are some things I will (and will not) miss about Barcelona.

I will miss...

-The food (making sure to get myself some paella later)

-The architecture, mainly the unusualness

-Being so close to the water

-The weather (I'll be going from "pleasent summer warm" to "triple digits hot")

-The MTG, and by extension being surrounded by MIR geeks (not that I mind being surrounded by normal geeks either)

-Being so close to mountains

I will not miss...

-The general lack of air conditioning

-Not hearing my own language

-Being able to constantly hear all my neighbors

-Being away from everyone I care about 

-Google automatically giving me results in Spanish

-Teenagers being way more disgusting with their PDA 

So that last bit of reminiscing/kvetching out of the way, I say farewell. To those of you that I'm actually friends with, if I don't talk to you today I will talk to you once I'm stateside. To those of you that I don't know who randomly read this, I hope you enjoyed reading.

Hasta luego! 

Keywords: Weekly update

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July 01, 2012

This next week will be my last week in Barcelona. Honestly, as much as I still love it here I'm pretty ready to be home. I miss my husband, my family and friends, and genrally just the life I have back home. Apparently 6 weeks is my "I wanna go home" cracking-up point.

Work-wise, most of the actual data analysis I have to do (training classifiers, clustering data) will have to wait until I get home and have access to more powerful computers than my laptop. That means this week and next week are all about writing for my proposal. I'm still planing to propose later August, so I'll have time once I get back to do all the data analysis stuff.

Yesterday I saw something else I had been meaning to see while I was here: Olympic Stadium. I guess this means this is the second Olympic location I've ever been to (the first being Atlanta, GA during the 96 games). Considering its been a decade since the Barcelona games I suppose its appropriate I get to see the stadium now. My first observation (aside from "holy crap, there's a lot of tourists around here") was that the building seemed older than I expected. I found out once I got in and started reading the signs posted around the stadium that it had actually been built in 1927 for the 1929 Exposition, and would have hosted the 1936 People's Olympiad were it not for the Spanish Civil War.

Below are the more siginifcant pictures I took.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rest of the pictures from my time in Europe this summer can be seen here: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10100815250897488.2731 

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June 26, 2012

Sorry for the lateness of this post, and if it winds up being a little lacking. I couldn't get into the blog all day Sunday, was travelling all day Monday, and today my previous writing got deleted. This is annoying

So I was in Warsaw during this last week. It was a very large jump from Barcelona, and an even larger one from the US. Language-wise, I was utterly lost. Not only did I not speak Polish (aside from some fairly impolite phrases I learned courtesy of my grandfather), its not even based on any sort of language area I'm familiar with so I couldn't even begin to sound out words. So from a language standpoint I was pretty lost, to the point where coming back to Spain and hearing Spanish is a relief (even though I only know the language about 20%, still better than 0%). However I had plenty of people around me to help, between my U.S. advisor (who goes back to Warsaw every summer to teach) and some people from the university I met who were willing to show me around.

Most of the week was working and converting data for use in clustering. which was...work. A lot of work. During the weekend was when I did most of my sightseeing. On Friday I walked with a couple friends around Old Town, the historical area of Warsaw. Although its not actually that historical, considering Old Town was originally destroyed during WWII and rebuilt once the war was over. Also saw markers for the Warsaw Uprising during 1944, as well as some things acknowledging the "November uprising" against the Russians in the early 20th century. Apparently Poland gets itself occupied a lot (and really doesn't like it). First the Russians, then the Germans, then the Russians again (which is part of why the 1944 uprising monument didn't go up for years after the fact, the Russians didn't want it up. Understandable considering part of the reason the Warsaw uprising was so costly was because the Russians dropped the ball in the aid department. Whoopsie). For dinner I had cabbage and pork, which took me back to meals my mom used to make during the winter.

Saturday I took some time to myself to walk up and around Nowy Swiat (New World) street, which my friends described as the Champs Elysses of Warsaw. At the very least that was where most of the people who came to Warasw for Euro cup went to hang out and watch games. Along that road is also Chopin's first apartment, as well as the church where his heart is entombed. I tried to get into that church on Friday and Saturday but it was closed both times. I have no idea why (to quote one of the girls I was with, "Shouldn't a church always be open?"). I suppose I could've started banging on the door yelling "Sanctuary!", but that probably would've caused some problems than I would have preferred.

I did finally manage to get into the church on Sunday, once mass was over. I probably could have gone in before the end of mass, but I would've felt judged. I feel uncomfortable enough being judged by Catholics, I didn't want to deal with being judged in a language I didn't understand. Once I got in though, I saw where Chopin's heart was entombed in one of the pillars of the church. It was an experience, I have to say. This is the first time I've seen any place at all significant to any classical composers, and the feeling is something I can't put into words, but it was meaningful. Particularly as someone who studied music and now works with music data. On that note, I find for my own part that in working with music data its very easy to lose the artistic appreciation. Particularly since I'm trying to measure that quality in music that makes people feel one way or another and translate that to something a computer can understand, I forget sometimes how meaningful those feelings are in the first place. Its like I'm dealing with music using a different side of my brain than I used to, and being around the heart of an artist made me remember how much I miss using the proper side of my brain for music.

Sorry, got a little off-topic there.

After that I went with one of my advisor's PhD students in Warsaw to explore the Royal Lazienki Park where I saw the statue of Chopin and the Palace on the Water (by way of Villanova, due to some confusion as to where exactly it was). Overall, a very nice trip. I can see why people who are from Warsaw (and Poland in general) have such an attachment to the place. Unfortunately I think if I were to stay there for more than a week I'd probably crack up, mainly because of the language issue but also just how far removed it is from anything western. It's just so...unfamiliar, and while I'm glad I saw it that still made it a draining experience. Last week in Warsaw felt about as long as the preceeding three weeks in Barcelona. Like I said though, I'm glad I went.

Some random day-to-day things I discovered about Warsaw:

-The sun comes up ridiculously early. My first night there I thought my watch broke because it said 4:30am while it was completely bright outside. Nope, apparently that's when the sun comes up.

-Getting a bag after you buy groceries is not a thing that happens in Warsaw. You either have to ask for the bag separately, or bring your own. This caused some interestingness when I've had to carry a pile of groceries in my arms. 

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June 17, 2012

This weekend has pretty much been me getting ready to go to Warsaw, which I'm pretty excited about. Got a plan in place for when I get there Monday, so that's good, and I'm mostly packed. Considering I'm part Polish, it'll be interesting to see where some of my ancestors came from. Someplace new will also be good, although I'm mostly there to write.

This week was clustering and coding. The coding I realized I like a lot better. Its sort of like basic math: it either works or it doesn't. I mean there are better and worse ways to go about implementing a method, but it still comes down to whether it works or not. Probably means I have a fairly simplistic view of things, but still. I also heard some presentations from people who were preparing to go to a conference in London this next week, it was nice to give some feedback (to the extent I could), and hear about some other reasearch in the lab. One of them was someone I had talked to about his work previously, so I was happy to see that its progressed in a really interesting direction.

Since I'm mostly packed, I'm going to check out the Monestir de Pedralbes. I had read about it in one of my books on Barcelona last year but never got a chance to go, so I wanted to make sure I checked it out. Its a monestary that's within city limits, which was interesting to me (rather than way up in Monserrat). Its also in the northern part of Barcelona, which I didn't really explore too much last year.

That's about it for the moment. I have a lot on my mind, hence I don't feel the desire to write too much today. Combination of work and complicated life stuff that I can't do anything about because I'm here and its all happening back in the States. Its a little frustrating, but that's life sometimes I suppose. 

Keywords: Research, Weekly Update

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June 10, 2012

Doing this a bit earlier today since I have plans this afternoon. Don't have a whole lot to discuss this week, as I haven't really seen anything new, and most of my time work-wise was taken up by "technical difficulties" (on a side note, whoever at microsoft decided that SQL server 2012 should look and act excatly like Visual Studio should get fired. Or at least slapped). I'm in the process of trying to figure precisely what to do with my data, and dealing with the fact that there's a lot of it.

A couple observations I've made this time around that I hadn't before:

-So there are no mid-size dogs here. At least not that I've seen. All the dogs around here are either rat-sized or horse-sized. I'm not sure how that happened here.

-I'm not used to the way people dress here. Its a completely different color palatte than I generally prefer, all faded pastels and such. Also very loose, although I kinda get that with the weather here. Its usually pretty warm until you get some wind, then its chilly. I suppose thats the clothing that fits the environment best. Doesn't quite work that way in NC, there you just have to worry about it being boiling hot outside and freezing inside due to the AC overkill (which I'm glad they don't really do here.

-This isn't really an observation about Barcelona, but I now have a sense of how it probably sounds to foreginers when American's pronounce words in another language like we're just reading English. I heard a presentation this week from someone who was not particularly confident in his English, and pronounced a couple of words like he was reading Spanish. Its actually not as odd as you might think. It takes a second to "get" exactly what he meant, but once you do you can understand how he wound up pronouncing it the way he did. 

I find I'm not as anxious to go out and do things, and that I don't feel quite so bad for taking days to myself just in the apartment. I think its mostly because I'm aware of how much I have to do, and how little time I have to do it. Part of it is also that I've been here before, so there isn't that feeling of "wow, this is so new, I have to see everything!". Its a little sad on the one hand because I don't want to feel like I'm missing out. Its also pretty fortunate on the other hand since I don't have as many distractions this time. I did take some time to walk along the beach for the first time since I've been back. I had forgotten how nice it is to be so close to the beach.

That's about it for this week. This time next week I'll be getting ready to go to Warsaw, which will be interesting. 

Keywords: Research, Weekly Update

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June 03, 2012

I expereinced a feeling when I arrived back in Barcelona this past Tuesday that my father described to me once when he and I went to visit Chapel Hill for the first time together. He hadn't been back there in roughly 20 years, since he was a graduate student, and needless to say the place had changed since he last saw it. He at one point asked me to picture walking back into my house, opening my bedroom, only to find it was actually my sister's bedroom. I could picture the disorientation somewhat, but at the time I was 17 and had lived in the same house in New York since I was 4 so it was not a feeling I had ever truly experienced myself. 

I experienced that feeling myself almost immediately after stepping out of Estacio Franca into my old neighborhood, and its been coming in waves the longer I've been back. Granted its only been a year since I've been here, so I've not experienced that disorienting feeling of change. Some things are different. Mercat del Born is still not completed, but it seems like the major construction is finished. And somehow I wound up in the same places, but different rooms. My flat is still the same (a purposeful choice on my part, since I love the area and know my way around already) but I'm in the larger bedroom this time, my bed is a futon (which means I have a couch to myself, awesome), and my flatmates are two completely different people. I'm still working with the MTG of course, but now my lab is the same lab as my advisor here. Still, I've found myself walking (and taking the metro to) the same routes and the same places I had a dozen times a year ago with this feeling like I've never left.  

That bit of sentimentality aside, here was my 2/3 of a week:

Getting out of the U.S. was a little chaotic. My flight from Charlotte to Philidelphia was delayed enough that I basically had to get off that plane ASAP and directly onto the flight to Barcelona. I couldn't manage to sleep on the flight at all because no one around me seemed to have any intention of sleeping, but rather hanging out in the aisle right next to me (special thanks to the couple directly across from me who insisted on having the window open so I was awake a good half-hour before the flight crew even started serving breakfast). After that, I shlepped all my luggage out of the airport, onto the train, and up the four flights of stairs (which I did NOT miss) to my apartment, stoping only briefly on the way up to get my key from one of the neighbors. So I was dead tired by the time I got to my flat, and decided to take this day to gently get myself settled. Later that afternoon I had a brief skype conversation with my advisor, basically a "welcome back, when should we meet to have a real conversation" call. That night I fell asleep almost immediately after dinner only to wind up wide awake at 1am and unable to sleep again for another 2 hours. Jet lag has not been kind to me this trip.

My first day back at MTG was Wednesday, and consisted of getting me settled back into lab and meeting my two labmates. The students I worked most closely with last year have graduated or otherwise moved on, hence my move to my advisor's lab. I met with my advisor for a while to go over the plan for while I'm here. I'm going to have a lot to do here, including a lot of coding and some evaluating (hopefully). I also need to continue on my dissertation proposal so I can propose when I arrive back in the states in July. We're basically continuing what we did last year with creating a personalized music mood recommender system while this time incorporating a cluster classifier approach.

Overall though things are a bit better this time. I like the bigger room, I like working in the same lab as my advisor so I can just talk to him if I need something, and I took some of my own advice from last year and learned more Spanish before coming here. I'm still not great at it, I certainly won't be engaging in any detailed conversations anytime soon, but I can manage a lot better than I could last year. I actually realized that I know enough Spanish that I can't just tune out a Spanish conversation happening around me. Usually if someone is having a conversation in a language I have no comprehension of I can tune it out as background noise, where as if a conversation is in English I find myself half-listening since I can understand whats going on. Spanish has started to fall into the latter category for me, and I can actually get the gist of the conversation most of the time (although I still don't understand enough to really know what anyone's saying).

Thats about it for this week. I've written some things down that I'd like to see while I'm here that I missed the first time around, so next few entries should be more exciting. I'll also be going to Poland for the first time in a couple weeks, so that will be interesting. 

Keywords: Research, Weekly Update

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July 24, 2011

So my time in Barcelona has come to a close, and after a long and ardurous journey I am finally back in the U.S. It was certainly an incredible experience. Looks like I'll be working toward making my program presentable for a demo at ISMIR this year, and then from there getting some user data. Its been great working with the MTG and hopefully we can continue collaboration in the future. I've certainly learned a lot.

As for Barcelona itself, I find that for the first time I have fallen in love with a place. I don't usually, if I feel sad about leaving somewhere its usually because I'm leaving someone I care about behind. But here, I'm actually going to miss the city itself. I really hope I can get back there someday, see the things I missed and reexperience what I already did. For now though, getting things back to normal has been somewhat of a relief. Now I go on with my life.

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July 17, 2011

This week was a little weird since it overlapped with my trip to Amsterdam, but I'll try to recap the best I can.

So we went to the Anne Frank house, and I don't really want to get into my exact feelings about the place, but it was an intense experience to say the least. Along the way we saw the West Church and the Homomonument, a monument commemorating those who have been persecuted due to their sexuality. There's one in Barcelona as well, in Parc Ciutadella (and I keep forgetting to take picutes of it), and...well, if there is one in the states, I don't know about it. Considering the places it shouldn't be suprising. Barcelona has been known for a while as a place that's very open to the GLBTQ community, and Amsterdam...well Amsterdam is open to pretty much everything. We also saw the inside of the Old Church, after walking by it several times. Several interesting people buried there, and the construction itself was very interesting.

On Tuesday I got back to Barcelona after the adventure that was getting out of Amsterdam (an adventure which included, in no particular order, getting seperated from my husband and trying to get back to him so we could say good bye, having to go through security twice and getting my purse opened twice, falling down a set of stairs, and the flight being delayed because they had to seat a very large group of handicapped people). The rest of the week, I saw some more demos from the MTG, mostly having to do with audio synthesis and processing as well as the requisite amount of work. I'm at the point where not much else substantial is going to get done before I leave, so most of this final week is going to be figuring out how to proceed once I get back to the states.

Saturday I finally swam in the Mediterranean, and then I went to a concert at the Harlem Jazz Club for one of the other MTG members. One of the nice things about being in a field of research that involves music is that most everyone either is or was a practicing musician and so you have opportunities to see people play. It was a lot of fun, the style was a sort of rock/gypsy fusion almost. It kind of reminded me of Dropkick Murphys, with less of an Irish bent. Sunday was spent in Tibidabo, where we saw the Sagrat Cor and some of the amusement park. It was a very good trip, aside from getting rained on a little, and then we walked all the way back (after getting off the Funicular).

Photos for Tibidabo and the rest of Amsterdam can be seen here:

Amsterdam: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10100277931020828.2633  

Tibidabo: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10100281600851458.2634 

That was about it this week. Next week will be my last entry, and will be written in the United States. Weird to think about...

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July 10, 2011

So this weekend, as I mentioned before, I’m now in Amsterdam with my husband. I flew in on Friday from Barcelona, and learned a fun lesson in getting to the airport from my apartment; it’s not fun. I think when it actually comes time for me to leave I’ll probably just grab a taxi.

Amsterdam is pretty cool so far, very different in feel from Barcelona although that’s to be expected. Actually it reminds me a lot of upstate NY, although considering New York was settled largely by the Dutch that shouldn’t surprise me. I’m also seeing and hearing a lot more English here, also not surprising considering it’s a very tourist-y city. My husband and I had a brief conversation about it, noting that in Amsterdam if you walk into a shop you’ll first be greeted in English. In Barcelona on the other hand, however international it is, you’ll always be greeted in Spanish (and occasionally Catalan). 

So Friday we spent walking around the center of the city and the red light district a little bit, since our hotel is right in the middle of it. Saturday we toured the Heineken brewery, which was really one of the older factories dismantled and turned into a museum. Today we’re going to the Anne Frank house and a windmill, which I will probably talk about in next week’s blog entry. Pictures will come when I get back to Barcelona, and I have better access to internet.

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July 03, 2011

Already 5 weeks here. Actually, 6, but 5 weeks working. The project is coming along, although we're starting to get to a more though-provoking section, namely how things like predicting tags and adapting to corrections is going to work. I've been dreading this a bit, but I'll get through. Things will work out, until they don't of course.

Yesterday I went to Montserrat with Eduardo and Xabriel. We went through the monestary, and saw the black madonna, amoung other altars. Being zero level of Christian it was more interesting from a historical perspective, and I could definitely see this as a place where, at one time, there was nothing to do but pray and contemplate God, or whatever it is monks do (like I said...ZERO level of Christian). The inside of the church itself was incredibly ornate. It always suprises me how so much beauty and craft is inspired by religion. I was later informed that, despite my earlier thought, this was not my first time in a monestary, and that I had been to one in Canada when I was fairly young. According to my parents, I was very well behaved, and the monks thought I was very cute. 

After getting some much needed food, we took one of the ferniculars further up the mountain and saw several amazing views. We made our way back to the monastery via one of the shorter trails, while making a short stop at the small church of Sant Miguel. There wasn't a whole lot to see there, the church itself was fairly small (and reminded me of an old fashoned mid-western chapel you might see in the states), and the inside was bare aside from a painting and coins people had thrown in as tribute. When all was said and done, I eventually got back to my flat feeling more tired that I'd ever felt in my life.

Beyond that not a whole not interesting this week. I walked a little bit around the gothic quarter, saw the Viceroy's palace a little bit, as well as the Palau Musica. I kept getting afraid that I would accidentally wander somewhere where I had to pay admission, but it didn't turn out to be an issue.

I added a new album to my facebook page as well, with pictures from the gothic quarter and Montserrat, which can be accessed here: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10100271132220678.2629

That's about it for this week. Next week I'll be writing from Amsterdam with my husband. *longing sigh*

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