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Eduardo Ruiz :: Blog

July 17, 2011

Advice for Sucess

One thing common in my two experiences here is having a person that I can access from time to time to discuss my advances instead of a single weekly meeting. I think this help to focus my task for a better productivity so I can come with results faster.Most of the interactions are related with: presenting my technical plan for the next two days (24 hours of programming can go a long way if the ideas are correct) present an idea or paper that I think is relevant or asking for access to a particular system or library that I need. Sometimes is in the middle of the week, is when experiment shows that the direction you are going is wrong and is time to set a new course.

I think a way to help the success for PIRE students, would be check that the students have this kind of second person or contact. Commonly the main contact is very busy or is taking (a well deserved) vacations on summer. Then the access for this contact can be just a short weekly meeting. I think access to a post doc, a second researcher or sending teams of students to work in the same project will definetely increase the chances of having better results.This could be more important for undergraduate students.

By the way, do not think this is a complain about my advisors :). All of then have been great in both opportunities. Is more a discussion of how helpful has been having this help and how can be something to be asked for new participants, as a way to guarantee better results and improve the research experience.

Spanish Guitar Concert

Barcelona is full of cultural events in summer. This includes Dance, Theater and Opera. Sometimes there is free concerts around the squares and streets. Most of the information could be found in the Barcelona Tourism website, or walking to the Palacio de la Virreina. Here you can find brochures with the events around Barcelona, and ask to the guides about it.

Yesterday, I start checking for a spanish guitar concerts around the city. The one that I found for the day was part of the series The Art of the Spanish Guitar: Concert and Wine. This concerts are held in Santa Ana, a gothic church very close to Plaza Catalunya. Information about the series:

Barcelonaturisme Info

I had the chance of see Alen Gagaric (http://www.alengaragic.com/). The program is about one hour with 4-5 songs. The artist describe each song shortly in both spanish and english. The program varies several styles with some classic guitar, flamenco based songs, modern/jazz style.There selection shows the multiple sounds richness of sounds than can be produce by the guitar, and also the artist. After the concert you can go outside and meet the artists. For more information abut the particular concert:


Keywords: advice, concert, guitar, research, Santa Ana

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July 12, 2011

So this week there most of the time I spent it in my office, working
for a group meeting. Incredibly, I got into this stream of
productivity and finish my small toy example. This little experiment
gave us a chance to understand the main problems that will affect our
final task. Now we can focus in some extra experiments to corroborate
some of this hypothesis, and start writing the project formalization.

Most of the time have been spent in the development of quick
prototypes. Quick results is the most important thing, so I try to not
reinvent the wheel. Most of the time I finish using open source
libraries that already implement the most common algorithms for data
analysis. The three tools that have been most useful are:

Weka: this library implements the most common machine learning
libraries. Simple Clustering, Nearest Neighbor search, simple
classifiers and trees can be used for a quick visualization.  The GUI
interface is great, but using the API can be sometimes really annoying.

Commons-Math: I am using this one a lot lately. The library implements
functions for linear algebra solving, descriptive statistics and random number
generator. Is  small and quick, so is always the one used in the final prototype.
The API is very clean so its really easy to add it to the main code. 
The linear algebra section have some problems scaling for sparse
matrices. But If you only need some quick linear regression model, or
descriptive stats this is yourr tool.

R: good I hate the syntax of R. I can not describe how much I
do. Still, I am learning to love R with time. R have all the algorith
in Weka and Commons-Math, and much more. The number of libraries is
amazing and you don't need the pay the extra money that will cost for
other tools (We all know the main suspect).

To integrate R with Java, I use RServe. Before I used R for plotting
the final results, but lately I am also using the tool for data

The documentation for all this libraries is good, and it they become
better with time.

PS: good luck to a very special person in her big date. I hope for the

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July 05, 2011

This week was not as productive as the previous one. Suddenly, I find myself well behind the schedule. Some of the problems are related with Hadoop setup. I believe that one year later, I would not have problems in this phase, but I get again overwhelmed by the number of parameters, and ways to set the classes, and libraries. One error was doing all this alone, instead of finding my way by asking to Carlos. I know he would help, But I prefer to avoid bothering with these small details. At least, now everything is up and running.

The goal of this week is to set an initial toy example that would motivate the rest of the work. I expect that I can show some figures in my weekly meeting and start with the algorithm development for the next 3 weeks. Time flies so fast and really makes me stressed. The experience is similar to last year and the same as other interns that come before me. Two months is not enough for all you want or need to do, and you struggle with time to have something done.

As you can see in Amanda and Xabriel’s blog, we took a full day trip to Montserrat. The trip is about 1 hour long and includes a small trip in a Cable car with some beautiful view to Lobregat river valley. There you will be surprised with a full city with a supermarket, post office and a bar. The city is surrounded with statues with religious motives, like the via cruxis, or important monks and nuns from Catalunya and Spain. In the church we had the chance to see the Moreneta, the Black Virgin that protects Catalunya.

We took a quick walking tour, always going down :D. We were lucky of having almost perfect weather, with the temperature in the low 70s and a visibility that goes forever. You can see some of the pictures here.

Sunday I decided to go to the Picasso Museum. As other people have told me, the entrance is free on the first Sunday of each month. You need to wait in a one hour long line to enter. Inside you can see the work of Picasso, sorted by year and place. This way to sort the collection helps to see the transitions in his styles and how he goes from a very classic style to varieties of other styles and techniques. The main collections are the ones from his first few years as a painter, the paints from the blue era and finally the Meninas collection, a series of paints based in "Las Meninas" from Diego Velasquez.

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June 26, 2011

For the second year in a row, I have the chance to be in San Juan. This time I was prepared with a camera and a plan. Xabriel, Amanda and me made some plans to go and make a little picnic and drink some Sangria near the beach. Sadly my camera is not as good for night pictures so I can only post the ones that look better.


For Sunday, I did not had a plan. Walking around Bogatel I found that the day was gorgeous for the beach. So I got my towel and went there for the first time in two years. The water was very cold, but it was a goood day. In the office the weeks have been very productive, with most of the experiment finished. There is time for some final analysis and wrapping up the paper. Then we would be more focused on the experiments for the new project.

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This week I decided to slow down my pace a little bit. As I already know most of the city, I have not walked as much. I took some random trips to the Ramblas to watch the Indignados in Plaza Catalunya (a young political movement that is camping since March in there), or walk next to Port Olympic. Still I lose weight very fast when I am not driving:)

On Friday I got to see a Flamenco show. Probably Catalunya is not the best place to get a Paella or a Flamenco dance, but still we go to Tarantos. This place is located in Pla de Rei, near the Ramblas. It is very touristic and you can get the tickets online. The sessions started at 10 pm and each shows was about 1 hour. After that I got some beers around the gothic quarter.

On sunday I got to Tidibabo. This is the highest mountain around Barcelona and one with the best views. I decided to go walking but then I regreted and took the Funicular. In the top there is the Temple de Sagrat Cor, the Torre de Collserola and an amusement park with 100 years of history. I have some bad luck and the day was overcast. Still, here are some of the pictures:

Temple de Sagrat Cor

A view from the church

The carrousel and the church

The trademark ride of the park

The park

Work related, this has been a long week. I finished some extensions to the main code to support new kinds of tweeter graph. I also completed a broker simulator that will help to improve the evaluation section. I have been working around 8 hours daily Mon-Sat, but completely avoid the office on Sunday. That is the time I reserve for the long trips.

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So here is myself again in Barcelona one year later. I arrived on Wednesday and directly took my stuff to the office. There I met my landlord and we walked to the place that will my home for the next 2 months. After I dropped my luggage, I was ready to go to the office where they already set my computer, account and access card:)

My apartment is 3 blocks away from the office. In the next picture you can see the building. It is very close to everything I need and just five minutes from my office. Getting up and being in the office 5 minutes later if something that does not have a price.

The surroundings of the "Imagina" building have change a little. There is still a lot of construction but there are some new buildings that have been finished in the previous year.

Work related, we decided to finish the project of the previous year.Most of the time I was recovering the code and regretting for the missing documentation. After setting a new folder and ordering a new
script, we started an extension of the work that will make it easier to sell the idea.

On sunday I was in the Parc del laberint d' Horta. This park is in the Horta-Guinardo district, an area that I have not visited before. To get to the park you can use the subway (line 3) to the Mundet station. From there it is a short walk to the gardens. These are some of the
pictures that I got:


By the way, the laberinth seems to be very easy when you are
outside. Still, prepare to get lost at least 5 minutes inside.

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October 01, 2010

 Very close to our apartment is the Sans Station. This is the main hub for the Renfe and Rodavias Catalonia. From here you can take trains to the cities that are near Barcelona and know the rest of Catalonia. The trips are not as expensive and you can go and visit the city in one day.

I had the chance to visit two cities. The first one was Sitges. This is a city very close to Barcelona that has a lot of life in summer. With a very cool beach and a cozy city center, it is a good place to go for a quick bath on weekends (30 minutes and about 6 Euros). The place is not as popular for locals but I still have a good time walking around.


The second city that I visit was Girona. Located in the north, the city has a spectacular city center with a lot of history. With a wonderful cathedral and a more impressive wall you can spend several hours walking in the history. The city center also has a lot of stores so it works like a big mall from Monday to Saturday.


Keywords: Girona, Sitges, Train

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This is the name adopted by the people of Yahoo. I will certainly have great memories of this laboratory and thee people.

Yahoo! Barcelona is the second biggest lab after the one in California. The research areas include Information Retrieval, Natural Language and Distributed System.

For privacy reasons I cannot define the particular research but I can say that the people are of the highest quality and make good quality research. Their philosophy is what they call mid-term research with ideas that can be applied to their technology but they also solve or study problems with some novelty.

One of the most interesting things is the collaborative work atmosphere inside the lab. Researches collaborate with ideas in several papers and this form of work allows very good sessions of brain-storming. This experience shows me a lot on how quality researchers create ideas. The lab also has a good equilibrium between academia/industry, giving a feeling to be working in something useful but at the same time with some of the freedom of an academic environment.

Some of the interesting people in the laboratory are: the head of the lab Ricardo Baeza Yates, Estefania and of course my advisors Aris and Chato. All the people were really supportive during the whole process and all of them help me a lot to reach my goals. I only have a picture with Chato as Aris was in vacations at the time




In the lab I had chances to interact with Hadoop. Yahoo has one of the greatest cluster in Hadoop and map-reduce is used extensively in the research and development. I had a chance to work with gigabytes of data and learned a lot on how to deploy map-reduce processes. The quantity of data helps me to become a better programmer.

The office is located in one of the best areas in Barcelona, near the Agrawal building. The office is close to the metro, the tram, the best malls and one of the best places to walk. The building (Mediapro building) is one of the sparse skyscrapers in the city. Around the area there are a lot of restaurants. The good/bad things are the long lunches that take from 1 to 1 hour and half. The slow pace can make people crazy but also give you a chance to meet the other interns.





Keywords: Avigunda Diagonal, Chato, Haddop, Intern, Yahoo

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There were some events when I was around the city. In June there was the San Juan Day. On this night people celebrate the beginning of the summer. Basically people go around bonfires to eat coca ( a local meal), drink and play some music. Kids play with fireworks and people go to the ocean to give thanks to San Juan. I forgot my camera and I am still regretting about it.

The second event called Night at Montjuic was a series of free concert in the Park. All the concerts were free and have different styles. In the pictures you can some captures. In the middle of the summer I find several minor events. It was not strange to walk around seeing some street artists or some random street theaters.







The last event that I had the chance to go was the Fiesta of Gracia. This is the local party of this district and is probably the biggest one after San Juan. The neighbors decorate the streets and have a contest. The party lasts for a full week and there are concerts all around the place.

Advice: If you go in summer, please be aware of San Juan. It’s a good time to go and see the spirit of the city. Barceloneta is very crowded so you can go to the beaches at the north near el Maresme.

If you have a chance to go to Barcelona you must notice that drinking is very common and not as restricted as in the US. Wine and beer is served at lunch and you can find cañas  almost everywhere (including McDonald). Please remember to be responsible.

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I had the chance to be in Spain at the FIFA World Cup . I have been lucky, as the people in Yahoo were very interested in Soccer. So there are always some discussions about the games and results. They also go from time to time to the chiringuitos (bars near the beach) to watch the Spain Game. In other cases you can go to a bar and sit there to watch the game.

 Next day I get to the final. The fan zone was in the Paseo de Recoletos, where they set some big screens and a party. They said that there were 250 thousand people in that spot.



Probably the best way to feel the experience is with some videos. The first video is the final moments of the match and the second one is the people singing the Spain Anthem after they won. I think this was the moment that I find the atmosphere more impressive. I had a good spot close to the screen, but still I miss the goal. The reaction was so crazy that people just hug, jump, and scream for 40 seconds.



The last set is the celebration pictures. There were people from Alcala to the Puerta of Sol and from Neptune to Colon. Celebration last until 3-4 am. They say that half a million people go out to celebrate the victory. The next day the TV was full of programs talking about the title.



Advice: go to Brazil in 2014 :D

Keywords: Celebration, EspaƱa, Madrid, Soccer, word Cup

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