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Mark Rajan :: Blog

July 30, 2009

july is almost over and it kinda sucks. i prefer june to july.

with all the other students gone, the office is half empty and residence is 99% empty. however, in july, i managed to get a ton of work done because of a more relaxed schedule.

i'd wake up whenever i felt like it (12 or 1pm) and head to the office. this is usually around 3 or 4 in the afternoon.

there are 3 others that work here during the summer afternoons so come 7pm we'd take a short break.

between 8 and 9pm i'd go to the residence if nothing else comes up, like a botellon or other nights out. the botellon's happened about 5 times at most during two months. way too less than what i'd like.

the sun sets at 10pm...like clockwork. then the work starts. the streets are empty around 2am and its dead silence. there are so many nights when i got a so much work done between 12am and 6am. the majority of days in july, i probably went to bed at 7 or 8am. its very calm and windy in albacete at night. once in a while i'd hear some fireworks going off.

weekends...work! (if nothing comes up)

Keywords: daily schedule, july, research, work

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July 28, 2009

a few things about espanananananana.

mercadona is like publix except 10 times smaller. first thing i noticed was how alcohol is crazy inexpensive. the first time i walked in i felt very weird because they don't have shopping carts here. instead, they have baskets with a handle and wheels. so you can carry the basket and if its too heavy, you can drag it around. i got used to it about the 3rd time. i almost always use my mastercard at mercadona with my florida drivers license. all the markets are closed after 9pm and all day sundays. at first this caught me off guard but i guess for emergencies, there has to be something open. there are 24 hour stores, similar to convenient stores back home. the prices are double or triple the supermarket amount. i quickly learned to get all my shopping done on saturdays and a few days after work.

el corte ingles...think of it like the size of super-walmart with the quality of macys. you can buy almost anything there. its a giant green building with many floors. the basement floor has a grocery store; slightly bigger than mercadona but the variety of items is much larger. walking around, at times i felt like i'm at sears, home depot, macys, best buy, publix...insanity!!! oh and blue label for like 12 euros?!?! also at the el corte ingles, i was asked for my passport when i tried to buy DVDRWs with a credit card. luckily i had cash on me. i thought they were as cool as mercadona with the drivers license.

vodafone kind of sucks! at the charmartin station in madrid, while waiting for the train to albacete, i bought a spanish sim card. i have at&t and before i left i got the unlock codes to temporarily unlock my phone for international travel (it's legal and they're cool about it)...also at&t's international rates rape your wallet so and gabriel from PIRE has been in spain before and he told us about it. it's about 30 euros but the minutes quickly run out at first. the nice thing here is that you can add credit to your phone from an atm and select groceries stores check out lines. vodafone allows your to refill your sim card online but it never works for me. receiving calls here is free but making them costs the $...which leads people to test friendships by seeing who calls. another option is what we have in america...the data plans. we've been using the "missed calls" as a signal so minutes aren't used.

to call home i got an international calling card from cloncom.com. it's very cheap and definitely worth it. the quality is very good. right after i bought the card, i see that skype has a SIP to PSTN service (skypeout) that's about the same rate if not cheaper. not having a phone ring or text alert every other minute is muy bueno! no 'phantom' rings in a long time :) i used cloncom once to call the folks and then relied on gmail for video conference.

for a small town such as albacete, i noticed there sure are a ton of banks (ccm, santander, barclays, to name a few). i've been going to barclay's in the center of town because there's no transaction fee for bank of america account holders. at mercadona i get charged a 1% foreign exchange fee, according to my bank statements. also the dumpsters are kinda cool. they have a lever on the bottom. when you step on the lever, the lid opens up. i just realized that its like out trash cans at home...except these are the size of our dumpsters.

i'm kind of glad i don't have a tv. on one hand i could learn spanish or better understand it. and on the other hand, if i did have a tv, i probably wouldn't get so much work done as i am now. and speaking of, i noticed how everyone's nuts about "the simpsons." everyone watches them, even when it turned to crap. it comes on around 2 so during lunch time, i see people of all ages watching. also in valencia, in the park, i noticed a graffiti of bender from futurama. at uclm, there's the same graffiti of bender. which leads me to believe that matt groening may be well received in spain.

oh and finally, before leaving florida, i got the 'targus travel power adapter' from best buy for $21. it's a huge rip off. you only get one port so my laptop is plugged into it at all times. i'd recommend once coming here, you can get adapters with 2 ports for about 1.5 euros at one of the local shopping centers like el corte ingles or carrefour.

Keywords: alcohol, banks, bender, blue label, calling home, carrefour, dumpster, el corte ingles, european power adapter, food, mercadona, shopping center, simpsons, skype, supermarket, tv, vodafone

Posted by Mark Rajan | 1 comment(s)

July 27, 2009

chinchilla is a very nice town. the guys from work took me there to a medieval renaissance fair held there that day. the whole town is on top of a mountain, with a castle that looks down on the steep side. on the ground is like an interstate and the red building across it.

juanan showed us the key to his family's ranch...looks like a key to a dungeon!!! the town is very cool. its your "typical" european town. all the houses are tiny and so close. the streets are very narrow and go in all crazy directions.

it's like a barbeque i guess. very cool. on the far side there's a guy attending to the meat. then the thing rotates and there's fire on the side of the cook/chef. a few pictures of us. jose, me, and jesus.

spanish women are very beautiful...muy caliente!!! there was this belly dancer doin her thing and it reminded me of a carnival. lots of people selling stuff and great food. i forgot the name for the food that juanan is holding. it was nice the first few times i ate it but then i dunno...the ham doesnt taste right (to me). i thought this picture of the prius was really cool. a hybrid in a city that's older than america.

when the sun went down and the festivities were almost over, went to see the castle but it was closed for renovations. the pictures i took of it didn't come out great because its night. they're adding lights to it so they can see it from far away as well. i'm not sure if its chinchilla but sometimes i think maybe that's the mountain i can see from the university/residence.

walking through the town i realized how we all get used to living where we are. i've lived in florida all my life and it's flat. no mountains or anything. walking through the streets of chinchilla, here are people who are living in a city/town that's like 100's of years old, the castle was used as a prison like alcatraz, they probably had crazy battles there...and people live there like its just another day. craziness!!! i had hoped to go back to chinchilla during the day for better pictures but i doubt that will happen. but yesterday simon (the german) and carlos went to a swimming pool in chinchilla and simon was talking about the bonitas. i was too tired from saturday night and also had a ton of work to do. spain is very cool :)

Keywords: castle, chinchilla, fair, medieval, renaissance

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July 02, 2009

what can i say about albacete? it's fun! everyone who lives here wants to get out (no idea why). i think it's like miami beach except in the middle of a dessert.

the night of the USA vs spain fifa 2009 game, diego and i went to the local restaurant across the campus for dinner. i was joking around about how much USA sucked in soccer and how soccer as a sport is boring. diego says to me after a while "ok that's game" and i'm like "so who won?" and he says "USA!" i was surprised. the previous day i took so much crap from everyone at the residence and work about how bad USA sucks at soccer. the next day...hehehe...wait...jejeje. the third picture i took when alonso was about to go to peru. i looked up and there was a spanish version of wheel of fortune (rueda de la fortuna).

there's a very nice practice here called the botellon. it's when everyone, usually people in their late teens, early 20s, get together and drink beer bought from the store (cheap). everyone gets together at the center of town, which is really kinda cool because the cops are right there to make sure noone does crazy stuff. everyone just stands around, chilling, talking, having a good time. i'm going to miss the hell out of this and i wish america adopts it immediately! usually after the botellon we hit the clubs and albacete has like 20 clubs (all fun!).

here's my office from both angles. here's a picture of diego i took with juanan. it was diego's last day before he went to chile. i have a lot of pictures from this angle because when i'm frustrated at work, i tend to screw around with my camera (my first digicam...yeah kinda behind on the times).

mi sala! its very nice. makes me realize how students in america get raped by campus housing. it's awesome. i wish i had pots and pans so i can cook. i have a microwave, mini-fridge, a bathroom behind the kitchen area. the shower is a bit smaller than i would like. i have an awesome view of the sunset everynight. i'm so used to the view from my apartment because i'm always up late at night working until 6 or 7am and its so peaceful.

the campus!!! the robot is for surveillance. one of the programmers is a chic...surprised the hell out of me. the last picture is the view on my way to my office. i3a building, out of all the buildings on campus, is not the best looking. it's cool and very well lit by natural light. but it's also the insanely hottest building on campus.

Keywords: albacete, botellon, campus, room

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valencia was awesome. probably one of the most beautiful cities i've ever visited. we left albacete at 8am and it's a 2 hour train ride. costed about 15 euros (i think). i'm thinking of going there again because of so many of the things we missed. i went with my friend diego. once we left the train station, that's when it kind of hit me that i'm actually in europe. the traffic's not as bad but right next to the train station was a bull-fighting arena. it was closed so we couldn't go in.

we walked through valencia and it was sunday morning so it was just another day for spain. they had a street market and a few towers and historical sites to see. very surreal. in the streets of valencia, there were so many americans. i'm not the "typical american" so you can't tell that i'm from america unless you know me or talk to me. so in valencia, noone knew i'm an american, not even the americans i was standing next to. in europe they have an image that all americans are rude and we act like we the world. from noticing young american women, i can see why europeans would feel that way. young american women (in europe) are kind of bitchy. not very polite and in a few instances, they treated the local people like they were second-class citizens. it was strange. of course i saw one or two douchebags do the same but more women were like that.

right outside the train station, i noticed that there's another guy i saw at the albacete train station with a tour map. we asked him to join us in our expedition and he did for a few hours. the three of us saw the sites and took a ton of pictures. simon left to see a friend so diego and i had a goal: to see a museum on the other side of the city. the museum is about 5 mins from the beach and about 2 hours from the train station. so we walked the whole afternoon.

in the center of valencia, there's a huge park. it sort of reminds me of central park. we walked right across it all the way down where the museum is. the modern architecture in valencia is amazing. we saw families relax together at a park on a sunday afternoon. we didn't have lunch at a tourist spot because obviously its crazy expensive. because diego knows spanish, and i'm pretty good with a map, we walked through the city where tourists wouldn't normally go. we had lunch at a tiny restaurant. paella is originally from valencia and it was grrreat.

the technology museum wasn't that great. in fact it kinda sucked. the art museum of reina sofia was closed for renovation. my spanish professor at fiu told me to check it out. i finally got to see a real imax movie. it wasn't exactly the dark knight but mummies in egypt are ok too. the imax screen is huge. when you look up at the screen at 45 degrees, you're looking at the center of the screen. pretty cool. after that we took more pictures of the bridge and outside of the museum which looks like starfleet academy. on the way back we got sick of walking and the train was going to leave at 9pm. so we jumped on a bus, or as they call them here, an autobus. on the train back to albacete, we ran into simon again. simon is from germany and works for eurocopter. he's here until august so we've meet a few times since for beer.

i want to go to valencia again but i'm hoping to go with a spanish-speaking amigo. i know for a fact that in the future, i'm definitely coming back for the valencia street circuit.

Keywords: valencia

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it's july and it's been a while since the last post. been kinda busy with work. as i look back...here's my typical day:

wake up around 10am

meet the other guys from work for breakfast at one of the university cafe's (almost every building has one). the other guys have been at work since 8 or 9. according to gerardo, they have two breakfasts. when they wake up, something small, like toast and orange juice. then another one later in the day...sort of like brunch.

there's a guy from argentina that's also doing some research into wifi. diego did his phd in nice, france. we went to valencia and he's a great help for translating and stuff. diego left for chile/argentina a few days ago. we usually went to lunch around 2pm. the other guys usually go around 3pm.

the famous siesta is right after lunch...a period of rest. after a few days i totally understand why they do the siesta; it's too hot to do anything between 2 and 5pm.

after lunch i get back to work but everyone else arrives about 4 or 5. but also they usually stay late at work...til 9 or 10pm. the sun sets at 10pm here.

we have dinner around 9 or 10.

around 11, on a majority of nights, go to a bar and sit around and talk. have a good time. i found out that a cerveza is bottled beer whereas a canya is like draft. canya's are slightly cheaper than the cervezas. the average price for a cerveza is from 1 euro to 2 euros but the majority is around 1.5 euros. the most i paid for a canya is, i think, 1.10 euros. albacete is very small. there are a few streets in the centro area called "la zona" or "the zone." it's where are the clubs and the bars are located. the bars are very small so the majority of the tables/chairs are outside on the street. i think every bar is sponsored by one of the 3 beer brands; mahou, estrella, and something else (i forgot). all the tables/chairs/umbrellas all contain logos for these companies.

back to the residence around 1 or 2am. the whole town is still outside, enjoying the sun shining somewhere else. some people go home at 4 or 5 in the morning.

Keywords: average, day, june

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June 11, 2009

getting here took a bit of work. i was a required to get a student visa. the spanish consulate took 2 weeks from submitting the application to receiving the visa. the consulate wants to see all documentation before accepting the application.

miami to madrid was a very long flight. from madrid, i had to take a metro (or subway) to go from the airport to charmartin station. it's easy to look at the map and go around the metro. or you can ask one of the metro people. because madrid is famous, most metro people know a little english or carry around a foreign to spanish translator book. from charmartin, i took a cross-country train to albacete. it was about a 2-hour trip. i purchased this ticket online a day prior to the flight (renfe).

gerardo picked me up at the train station and we went over to the residence. then to a nearby cafeteria (restaurant). the food is very good. the day i arrived at albacete was a state holiday and everyone went to the beach for the 3-day weekend. it felt like i was in a ghost-town...next day was absolute craziness!!!

Keywords: albacete, consulate, madrid, miami

Posted by Mark Rajan | 1 comment(s)

Student Name: Mark Rajan


Supervisor’s Name and Title at FIU/FAU: Hari Kalva, Associate Professor, FAU


Name of the PIRE International Partner’s Institution: University of Castilla La Mancha, Spain


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

 Pedro Cuenca, Professor, Dept. Computer Science (pcuenca@dsi.uclm.es)


Project Title: Data Mining for Scalable Video Transcoding and Encoding


Problem Statement: This project aims to exploit structure in video to enable low complexity encoding and transcoding of H.264 SVC. The proposed methods use data mining to reduce the complexity. The goal is to develop data mining tools to predict complex coding modes in videos. The tools exploit structural similarity in video. One of the objectives is to develop a minimum set of attributes to make optimal decisions. The methodology developed will be useful in other data mining problems.   


Motivation and Impact: Data mining has been applied in video analysis and understanding but there has been little work in improving encoding performance using data mining. The proposed approach of exploiting structure in video allows more efficient encoders. The proposed solution improves encoder and transcoder parallelization. The proposed work will enable better utilization of multi-core and upcoming many-core systems. The proposed project will have applications in high-density video processing systems.


Current Status: This work is part of ongoing research in the Multimedia Lab at FAU. Dr.  Pedro Cuenca’s group at UCLM in Spain is active in this area of video encoding and transcoding. We have ongoing collaboration with Dr. Cuenca’s group and have published more than 10 papers jointly.


Research Roadmap:

Jan 15 to May 15 2009 – Continuing work on applying data mining for H.264 SVC encoding and transcoding

Mar 15 to May 15 2009 – Exchange of ideas with Prof. Cuenca and developing a research plan for the students’ stay in Spain

May 15 – Jul 15 2009 – Research plan execution. Development of data mining techniques for video transcoding.

Aug 15 – Dec 15 2009 – Completion of simulation, analysis, and paper preparation

Paper Submission:

Early July submission to IEEE International Conference on Consumer Electronics (ICCE 2010)

December submission to IEEE International Conference on Image Processing (ICIP 2010)


Relation to PIRE Core Research Projects: The data mining tools developed fit in to the CI Integration layer. The video coding application fits into CI Application layer. Low complexity video coding has applications in healthcare communication and visual data acquisitions in hurricane mitigation.


Keywords: proposal

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