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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

Posted by Eduardo Ruiz | 1 comment(s)

June 19, 2011

At the lab 
Tuesday morning I arrived at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center. Human resources greeted me, and we setup the access control. Later I met with Dr. Rosa Badia. We had a short meeting were we discussed the working environment, and she introduced me to several of my co-workers.

On Wednesday, I had a meeting with the Grid Computing and Clusters Group, which works under the supervision of Dr. Badia. They presented a demo of one of their cloud computing prototypes. I also had the opportunity to do a short presentation of my work. We narrowed down the collaboration opportunities to a few possible topics. As of now, we are leaning towards ‘Mapping of QoS constraints to Resource Assignment’ by using the OCCI API as an intermediary between our DEVA prototype and an interoperability system currently being developed here at BSC. Given that they have unpublished results, I cannot discuss more details for now.

On Thursday and Friday, I spend most of my time reading various technical docs, including the OCCI standard, reviewing the OVF standard, and some non-published material from BSC.
No hay pan para tanto chorizo 
An experience I would like to share is today's manifestation. I was walking around Barri Gotic (The Gothic Quarter), when I bumped into a quite big dinosaur.

I followed the dragon all the way to Plaza Catalunya. Turns out today there was a quite big manifestation from spaniards, mostly young people, claiming a more open democracy in regards to the economical crisis. They are particularly against the recent cuts being done with the "Pacto del Euro" (Euro Act). "No hay pan para tanto chorizo" was one of the chants (roughly "There's not enough bread for so many sausages"). "Democracia no es votar cada 4 años" said one banner ("Democracy is not just voting every 4 years"). Here are a few pictures of the activity. By the way, the dinosaur got lost in the crowd... there were probably 50,000 people there!

Posted by Xabriel J Collazo-Mojica | 1 comment(s)

June 12, 2011

There isn’t a whole lot to report this week, so I’m not going to do a day-by-day rundown this time. Still really liking my building and my workplace and I’ve gotten into somewhat of a routine now that my family is gone and work has really started up. Already things like navigating the metro are second nature. I still don’t know enough of the language to communicate with anyone enough to say more than basic greetings and asking for things I want either by reading the name or pointing. I’ll get into that bit of fun more later on.

So this week is going to be my own little list of pointers/observations for Barcelona. I’m not sure if this will be helpful or informative at all, but more advice on travelling is never bad (as I realized during the time I was preparing to come here).

-Money: I’m starting to realize that you pretty much need to carry cash on you at all points. I mean aside from this being a generally good travel idea, here in particular the card situation is just plain sketchy. Many places won’t even take cards or they have a decent minimum purchase amount, and even at places that do you’ll often find that it takes some effort to get the card to read. So yeah, always have a good amount of cash. I know that sucks if your bank situation is such that withdrawing from overseas incurs a bunch of fees, but it’s better than not eating. On that note, also make sure to check your statements however you can, hopefully in some sort of online fashion. It’s really easy for a few Euros to add up to a lot of dollars, or at least more than you thought, just because of the exchange rate.

-On the Run: My personal daily goal has been to make sure I get out of the apartment at least once, and for at least an hour. This in part gives me a reason to walk up and down the four flights of stairs between the ground and my apartment (and thus get some much-appreciated exercise), but also encourages me to explore and be active. So that would be my next bit of advice, encourage yourself to get out. When you first arrive, this seems like an easy thing to do, because there is so much to explore and how could you even think of staying inside all day. However, once it’s been a couple weeks or so, and you start getting into that 2nd stage of cultural adjustment where you’re tired of everything being different and you want to go home, it takes some mental encouragement. It’s easy to say to yourself at that point “I don’t want to deal with the metro, I don’t want to deal with not being able to talk to anyone, and I just want to stay inside!” Thing is, if you stay inside in that mindset, the next step would probably be feeling depressed about how much you miss home. But if you go out and force yourself to explore, at the very least you get fresh air but more likely you’ll stumble upon something that’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen in your life, and it’s a little reminder of this really unique experience you’re having by being in a foreign country. 

-Speak to Me: The language thing. It’s the elephant in the room whenever I even leave the house. Here’s the thing: I heard VERY mixed things before coming here about the extent to which the population speaks English, and how much Spanish I should learn, or whether I should learn Catalan, or what all I need in the way of basic skills. So I had no idea what to expect, and stuck to learning some basic phrases for if I’m in a bind. Now I can answer my own oft asked question of “how much Spanish do I need to know?” The short answer would be “not much” for very basic survival, but optimally you should be at least conversational. What I’m learning is that it’s not nearly as much what you need in a survival sense as much as what you really need in a broader sense. With my VERY limited Spanish skills, I have been surviving fine. I’ve been able to understand signs based on said limited Spanish, my half-remembered French, and my half-remembered Latin. Speaking-wise there has so far not been a situation where A) the person I needed to talk to didn’t speak any English, and B) there wasn’t someone nearby who couldn’t translate and C) I couldn’t figure out the basic gist of the information from gestures and context. However, when you know, really know beyond any shadow of a doubt, that you’re at a disadvantage as far as doing or asking for anything, that’s where you get into the broader sense of “need”. Even knowing that there are several people who also speak English, and knowing that I’m certainly not the only American here, knowing this place isn’t made for people who communicate the way I do…it’s a very lonely feeling. If you can’t get to a point where you’re conversational in Spanish before you go, at the very least remind yourself once in a while that you’re not the first American to come to Barcelona, you won’t be the last, and you’re not even the only one there at that moment.

-Breathe: I had a conversation with my husband at one point during my first week where I was talking about feeling like a gawky, dumb American whenever I don’t quite know what to do. His response: (sarcastic)“You mean you’ve been in Spain for a week and you haven’t completely assimilated yet?” That particular response (tone and all) has stayed in my head whenever that dumb feeling has crept up on me, and it never fails to put things into perspective. The sentiment here: calm down, give yourself time, and know that you won’t completely adjust within the first week, and probably not even the first month. For my part, it seems that by the time I get really comfortable, I’ll be just about to leave.

Keywords: day to day life

Posted by Amanda Mostafavi | 1 comment(s)

June 02, 2011

Day 0-1: So after the longest plane ride of my life I got to visit my first foreign country.  I gotta say I was very surprised by the countryside flying into Germany/France.  All of the towns are very dense with no visible suburbs and completely surrounded by farms.  Clearing customs and immigration was also a lot easier than I expected the passport guy just stamped mine when I went through with no questions asked and customs turned out to be walking through a hallway under the “nothing to declare” sign.  A liaison from my host site was there to pick me help me get from the airport to my apartment which I really appreciated it since as we left the airport region nobody speaks any English and my French is almost non-existant. My apartment is larger than I expected and even includes a full bathtub.

Day 2: Apartment fillout:  Apparently my definition of a furnished apartment and the local definition of a furnish apartment are somewhat divergent. I expect to have everything I needed to live here for six months and only to have to pick up food and other consumables.  Instead I discovered there is no cookware whatsoever in the apartment so in addition to food I had to pick up some cooking supplies.  Fortunately, there are some nice local grocery discount stores all within a long walking distance of a kilometer or two. Also I had to get my wireless internet hooked up which was fun as all of the configuration pages were in French and till I got it working I didn’t have my online translators I depend on.

Day 3: After sleeping off the last of the jet lag (The trick: don’t crash as soon as you get to a soft bed instead stay up till normal sleeping time in your new location), I went in for a quick visit to my host site (GamR7).  So the first I had to do is address my definition of “walking distance” I had planned to walk to and from my host site every day if the weather is nice but it turns out the walk is over 2 kilometers.  So I might be throwing a bus ride or two in.  I don’t mind the walking part so much as the fact I would lose an hour and a half of my day walking.  The site itself is nice much more spacious than I had expected and decently equipped.  They set me up with a spare desk and made arrangement for me to gain access to their software though we didn’t do much planning since this is an unofficial familiarization visit.

Day 4/5: I still needed a few things for my apartment so I made the pilgrimage to the local equivalent of Walmart, the Carrefour.  I have to say when you are going to have to lug all of your purchases back by hand and it’s a 4 kilometer walk back the definition of “necessity” can undergo some radical alterations. Shopping done I checked out the local area and some of the fastfood/small shops next to my apartment. Including the K&W exquivalent Frunch which has pretty good food.  The town itself is amazing, it feels like somebody took a 4x4 kilometer slice of New York and dropped it out into the middle of nowhere.  I have only seen this density of shops and apartments in a major city but as soon as you clear the edge of town there is nothing.

Day 6: First full day of work at my host site.  We have formulated a plan to integrate our two applications.  First I will create a new code base that combines my spatial decomposition techniques with their city generation software.  This will allow us to produce character ready cities very quickly and it will allow me to find and fix any bugs with the integration. Then after that works I will dive into the GamR7 code base using the plugin API they are currently working on and actually convert my work into an integrated piece of UrbanPad.  This will enable us to study how people move through environments for better disaster mitigation and hopefully allow us to gain a greater understand of what differentiates different game levels.

Days 7-9: I got to experience the French bus system when it started pouring down rain and I didn’t feel like walking through it.  Its pretty fast and effiecient but it could use a stop closer to my host site.  Also I got to enjoy another the local grocery stores and a local sandwich shop.  Finally, I found out that today is a holiday and that all the shops will be closing in addition to all of the facilities in my apartment, and that most things won’t reopen till monday.  That meant I got to discover the joys of laundry here where the dryers here are very energy efficient, but take 5/6 hours to dry out a pair of jeans.


Posted by Hunter Hale | 1 comment(s)

May 30, 2011

A little background on me first: I'm doing research in Music Information retrieval, I haven't been out of the country except for Canada, and I speak like 0.05 Spanish (as in not quite zero, but not much more). So this is already going to be fun.

I've been here for five days with my family, we arrived the morning of the 25th (local time). Amazingly its already felt like I've been here a month. Some of that is I think how my family does vacations; they tend to be pretty action packed. Between doing some requisite sight-seeing and getting me moved in and familiar with my neighborhood, a lot has been going on.

Day 1: Arrived in the morning, got checked into the hotel, then walked to Park Guell. Very fun architecture there by Gaudi for the most part. Aparently he meant it as a garden city, but it didn't really go through, so it wound up just being a very interesting park. After that, walked back to the hotel, relished in the spotty internet connection, and let jet lag smack us in the face :). I think flying at night helped with the adjustment somewhat, but it was still difficult (particularly considering I wouldn't sleep on the plane). 

Day 2: This was a "get Amanda to her apartment, get keys, and explore the neighborhood" day. Although first was a quick detour through La Ramblas. Mom was worried about getting pick pocketed I know, but we got through without incident. We did manage to see some protests happening, or about to happen, as we were walking. I'm reasonably aware of Spain's economic troubles, particularly involving my own generation and how most are unemployed or vastly under employed. Funnily enough, I had originally though I was going to a country with a resonably stable political climate, and then I started getting emails from the embassy about the protests the week before I left. Don't worry, Study Abroad Offices, I didn't get involved :). 

My apartment is very nice, although at the time it was in the process of being painted, so things were still a little out of sorts. Also liking Hendrik, the guy I'm renting the room from (not really a better word for that, at least not one that doesn't sound weird coming from a married woman). He's given us some great advice as far as things to do in and around the area. Liking my neighborhood too, lots of places to walk around and eat/shop, not to mention a few markets nearby so I should be able to do some grocery shoping. Plus I can walk to the Park Ciutadella, the Arc de Triumph, the Picasso Museum and the beach! We did manage to walk to/through all these things, so I know where they are now. The Picasso museum was really interesting particularly since it showed his early work, where you can see the beginnings of his more well-known, abstract work (a little confusing since we couldn't find anything from the years between 1917 and 1947).

Day 3: We got to Sa Grada Famillia and found that the line to get in wrapped around the block, so our activites there were restriced to taking pictures of the outside from the line. Just as well I suppose, the outside by itself was really interesting. After that we rode up to Montjuic, saw the gardens, then managed to wander to the National Art Museum of Catalonia. We managed to go through the Gothic Art section (which was about an hour by itself, fyi), and then their temporary exhibit on the realizm movement. The gothic art was astounding, but suprisingly bloody. Not so suprising I guess, considering most of the art was basically "Scenes from the life of Saint [insert name here]", who was probably martyred in a violent and gruesome way (like Saint Bartholomew being skinned alive). I missed a lot of the symbollysm as well, since I know very little about the various Catholic saints (being raised reformed Jewish will do that to you I supose).

Afterwards we journeyed to Poble Espanyol (litterally translated, the Spanish Town) and walked around. Mostly, cool architecture and fun little shops. I expected it to be a little more of a recreation I guess (something like Hancock Shaker Villiage in NY), but it was still cool to walk around. Afterwards my parents stayed and watched the fountain display while my sister and I went back to the hotel.

Day 4: Dropped everything off at my apartment except whatever was needed to survive for the next few days at the hotel. Afterwards, we walked to the chocolate museum (which is like a five minute walk from my place. I swear between that and the three gelato places by me, I may be the only person to go to Europe and gain weight.) and then around the Gothic quarter. We found the Temple D'Augustus, one of the places that Hendrik suggested. He described it as a temple that looked like it was in someone's backyard, and he wasn't kidding. It's very nicely tucked away between several taller buildings, and that plus the reduced number of tourists made it a very peaceful little area. We also managed to find the remains of the old Jewish quarter, which I didn't even know existed here. The big distinguishing factor was that the roads were incredibly narrow (apparently due to some laws, they couldn't build roads any wider). There was also the old synagogue, which honestly looks like another building except for the mezuzah outside the door. Turns out we missed the times it was opened, but maybe we can make it back there somehow.

That night was the soccer game between Barcelona and Manchester United, which we experienced mostly from the hotel. It's amazing how crazy people here get over soccer (sorry, football), from inside the building I could hear cheering very clearly. 

Day 5: After another botched attempt to enter the synagogue, we went to the Olympic Village, although the only indicator that the Olympics were ever there (that I saw) were a couple of park areas commemorating the volunteers and the gold metal winners. Speaking of people who excell in athletic activities, on the way back to my apartment we stumbled into the victory parade for the Barcelona football team. Very crowded, but I'm glad I waited around until the team came by. It was really cool to see everyone wrapped up in sports pride. We got back to the apartment, I unpacked a little more, and then we went back to the room to relax for one last night.

Day 6: Today was breakfast with my family before the went off to Cadaques (another suggestion from Hendrik). After that, I got the last of my things set up here, helped with the occasional fixture hanging (the apartment is still being put back together as I speak), posted pictures, and wrote this incredibly long blog entry. In a couple of hours, I meet with Perfecto to start talking about the work I'll be doing here and to get access to the MTG building. I'm really excited about working here, this group is huge, the building is nice, and they're really prominient in MIR research. I imagine I'll have more to say about that in my next update, once I actually work for a few more days.

Below are links to my Facebook albums, where all the pictures so far are:



Until next time folks! 

Posted by Amanda Mostafavi | 1 comment(s)

May 27, 2011

As typical, the first week is going to be one of adjustment with some patience thrown in. This became very apparant as the airport to apartment cab driver became mysteriously lost and disoriented as we circled around and around the area of my apartment complex. He kept asking if I had a phone to call for clarification to which I had to reply no as I had just arrived. Literally, after 40 minutes of circling, he pulled out a phone and called the place. Um, "why did you not do this like forever ago"? No big because we should have clarification on location. Ten more minutes of circling and I take control and start pointing as to where to go because it appeared as if I could read the provided map much better than him. Hotel on the left - success. Get me out of this thing.

Ah well, only cost like three more dollars and a little extra time. To bed I went with a summer of good stuff ahead!!!

So, first week at MSRA? Wicked!! This place is all about an environment that breeds creativity and solid intellectual work. I mean, I am practically living here because everything that I really need can be found on this campus. This includes tons of people that have a passion for what they do. I so love all these deep conversations I get to have with people that know what the heck I am talking about. I love it!!!

Posted by Michael Whitney | 1 comment(s)

July 28, 2010









Posted by Gabriel Lizarraga | 1 comment(s)

July 06, 2010

This weekend I went to the Picasso Museum and the beach. The Picasso Museum is free the first Sunday of every month, so if you find yourself in Barcelona during that time, I highly recommend checking it out. Even though admission is free, the museum makes you stand in line to get a ticket. I got to the museum around noon, and the line to enter the museum was already around the corner. I would suggest trying to get there earlier (like 10am) or after 2pm. On my way to the museum, I came across a really cool park. I enjoyed all of the things I saw on my way to the museum almost as much as the museum itself. Below are pictures from that day. My camera ran out of batteries just as I got to the museum, so I don't have many pictures...

This was just outside of the Metro station on my way to the Picasso Musuem. Most of the pictures below are from Cuitadella Park. The day I was there, they had a free jazz concert near the pavillion.

These last two pictures below are from when I went to the beach. The W Hotel, in the picture below has an amazing lounge on the 26th floor (opens at 7pm) that overlooks the whole city. Drinks are a bit pricey, but the view makes it worth the price.

Keywords: Barcelona, Cuitadella Park

Posted by Bobby Montalvo | 1 comment(s)

July 05, 2010

My visit of this wonderful city continued on with visiting the Complesso del Duomo. This Cathedral was dedicated to S. Maria Assunta and is the central structure of an amazing amount of architectural buildings, which mostly means that it includes a lot of smaller chapels to form a big Cathedral. As you can tell from the pictures below, all these smaller chapels are amazing creating a wonderful site!
Based on the brochure from the Duomo, the construction of the Cathedral started out in 362-380 A.D. and was consecrated by the bishop of Verona, but it soon turned out that it was too small and had to be replaced by a larger basilica a few decades later. The second construction, however, collapsed during the 7th century A.D. due to a strong fire or an earthquake (yea i know they can't know for sure). Finally, the reconstruction of the church was done in the 8th and 9th century, and led to the present Cathedral. So as you can see, this is a very ancient monument!
I also have to warn future visitors: prior to entering the Cathedral, I was asked to wear a shawl over my shoulders because I was apparently showing too much skin... Indeed, it was rather hot outside (33 Celsius), so I left in the morning wearing a short and a tank top, but forgot upon entering the Cathedral that this type of outfit, although perfect for the blazing hot weather, is completely inappropriate for entering this sacred place!
Following the visit of the Duomo, I set upon finding the Teatro Romano and its archeological museum. To do so, I knew I had to cross a bridge and that the place would be right there. Once the bridge crossed, I saw this amazing place, elevated high. I automatically set upon climbing those stairs to get to the museum. Well I should have read Anthony's guide-blog more carefully before I did such thing... I ended up climbing some 256 stairs (yes I counted, but give plus or minus 5 stairs for error) to arrive on top and discover that the entrance to the museum is downstairs... By the way, I need to warn future visitors here as well that most of these stairs are made out of marble. So of course, it is very pretty and all, but be careful, I slid a couple times because of my flip flops... After that I got scared and held on to the ramp so that I would not go downstairs much faster than I hoped for!
The positive thing from going up those crazy stairs is that I took in some great pictures of what is probable one of the best view of Verona! Take a look below. 
I reluctantly went back down the stairs to enter the museum and discovered there that I had to go back up some different stairs (still same amount of stairs tho!) to enter the museum. The place was worth it tho! I considered not going up the stairs to see the wonders in the museum thinking that just the outside was already amazing enough, but now I am glad that I went up once again, because I would have surely missed something!
This site is composed of the Roman Theater, which is one of the best preserved roman theaters in Northern Italy, and the archeological museum, which preserves and exhibits the riches of the city and surrounding area. Mythological scenes, fragments from roman villas dating back to the 3rd century A.D., portraits, roman glass and ceramic works, sculptures, and even more wonders can all be found in this place where history melts in the present. Enjoy below, some of my favorite art and views of this place of historical wonders.
This museum also possesses a collection of approximately 270 impressions of Greek and Roman engraved gems. Gems were used as stamps back in the days, they were used as official seals to prove that it was from them, kind of like the signature is considered our official seal nowadays. Based on the little guide that was given to me before entering the museum, the purpose of this exhibition of gems is to increase awareness of these items, which were very popular prior to the 20th century. They provide scholars and connoisseurs with an opportunity to see the reproduction of well-known or unusual subjects that feature epic, mythological and animal themes. The impressions I was able to see are dedicated to Venus, the goddess of Love, and Bacchus, the god of wine, and below are two pictures of some of them. Unfortunately, you can't really see much because of the reflection... so I guess that whoever is interested will just have to go visit Verona's Archeological museum, but do not forget to enter the museum before climbing the stairs Wink

Posted by Julie Carmigniani | 1 comment(s)

June 23, 2010

Foot in mouth


Keywords: Brazil, PIRE, UFF Soccer

Posted by Gabriel Lizarraga | 3 comment(s)

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