Thursday, April 29, 2010

Stuff I learned recently

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(1) My PI was going to be a professional baseball player before hurting his shoulder in college.

(2) He's also very good at volleyball and ping pong.

(3) Two students are married in my lab. I thought there was only one. A third is getting married this June. This is of course not counting the two post-docs who are married as well.

(4) Administrative chores really don't mix well with running a research lab and teaching and advising. This means someone else should be the SSNNNFF director. :-P

(5) My PI used to be more energetic and told more jokes during lab meetings... before the recession.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Five Fruit Frenzy

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I love it.

There was a buy-one-get-one-free special going on at the campus Jamba Juice, so I got two original size for $4.70. And I was biking while holding both of them. Not such a good idea, I know :-P

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Entertaining group meeting

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The presenter today had a definite comedic bent. He was talking about his latest work in the SSNFFF named "Grand Canyon III". It's a modified etching process for a silicon-based photonic/MEMS device that he's been working on.

He talked about Grand Canyon I and II, what was done, and why they failed. He described the failures with a satirical twist. "Everything works great! But only if you need [insert specific case]."

He also drew an analogy for different flavors of fabrication processes.
Plain vanilla: traditional process
Vanilla with colorful sprinkles: adapted for photonic crystals
Chocolate: with extra oxidation step
Chocolate chips, melted and flopped over: Grand Canyon I and II

There was a monstrous flowchart on a bunch of the slides, which made me shudder. He then proceeded to trace over various paths that he took over the years.

My PI: That should go on a PHD comic.
Group: Hahaha... hahahaha...

My PI was really excited about the progress. Yay!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Developmental psychology and self-reflection

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"In early childhood there is usually a passionate attachment to parents," according to this source. Hmm, I don't remember that part, and I remember a fairly representative collection of my experiences since age ~3. I know the main reason for that, but I won't talk about it here.

As part of an orientation activity for a group, we were asked "what is our favorite age (in our life)?" I answered 13. The response I received was "hmm, very curious, that's a common least favorite age." I think this is because I never experienced the distinct phase of adolescent rebellion. It was delayed instead until undergrad, and it unfolded in a rather suboptimal form.

There is a reason(s) why I'm such a psychology buff for an engineering student. I'm gradually coming to terms with these events, even though I might not necessarily absolve the responsible parties. (The word choice here does not reflect a god-complex.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Visit to local elementary school

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For our project #2, we're designing a hands-on education experience for 4th/5th graders. This time I'm teaming with a 2nd-year business school student and a architecture student. This project is sponsored by RAFFFFT, and we'll talk to their staff tomorrow too.

We visited a local elementary school to talk with one of the teachers and her class. She gave us an overview about the kids' curricula and also told specific stories. There's a strong emphasis on environmentalism, such as the part about John Muir, field trips, and a small farm right on school grounds. There were goats, sheep, many chickens, and a garden filled with many crops! O_O Obviously I've been a city and suburbs person most of my life...

The kids do lots of hands-on stuff, which is really nice. Activities like role-playing, reenactments of historical events, "lab" stuff like basic E&M and circuits. I get the sense that the science and math components are kind of weak, but I'm biased :-P They have many books about art and Shakespeare (!) and some exploratory science subjects.

I chatted with Jamie (sp?), who seemed on the quiet side (though from personal experience, 90% of quiet people I've met turned out to the most interesting). She likes to draw and showed me one of her artworks -- a hummingbird (which was for some reason black, but it was nicely-drawn.) I learned that Jamie's dad works at DreamWorks after one of her friends mentioned their show-and-tell from the other day.

She showed me the cube clock that her teacher randomly found in her closet. The clock tells time by rotation of various slices of a truncated corner. Quite fascinating...

Jamie has two cats, one named Mystery (4-year-old) and one named Bobo (9-month old). Bobo roams around a lot while Mystery just likes to be petted :-)

From what I gather, she would probably enjoy some type of artistic design toy. She was subtly more excited when talking about art class and the activities involved. Watercolor and some kind of marble-textured painting with floating a piece of paper over the medium.

Hmmm... maybe I should read up a little on developmental psychology too, about how children's mind at this stage is like. My own childhood is hardly a typical example...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Miracle fruit birthday party

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A friend in my major (will call her K) had a birthday party where we tried out various food -- after tasting a sample of the miracle fruit. It came in raisin form and was packaged like a pill! And indeed, for the first 10 minutes or so, everything tasted sweet. Or sweeter. Lemon, lime, vinegar, grapefruit, raw rhubarb, even cupcakes with goat cheese on top. Brussels sprouts... not so much. :-P The effect seems to have a half-life of about 20 minutes or so, for me at least.

Someone was talking about a MySQL class that she was taking in order to know exactly what she's selling to the software engineers... since she's in management science. Apparently people who have servers in their rooms are also taking this intro class too... why? lol.

A bunch of us were also talking about photography because there were a couple of enthusiasts. One person had a serious Canon camera. She was taking many pictures of the artfully arranged and carved food... like the citrus slices in their glorious 4-point symmetry, as well as the apples cut in a geometrically fascinating manner. The red pepper sticks formed a tepee. I thought that was cute. K and her bf were quite the food architects, haha.

The cake that was semi-spherical and apple green with purple flowers. The candles spelled the birthday girl's name. "You should spell it wrong," said a funny dude, as K's bf was sticking the candles into the cake.

There were three of us who went to the same undergrad institution. Apparently there was an article on CNN (video link here) about how many (rather, some) of the students don't bathe regularly. How embarrassing!!

On the other hand, I mentioned how one of my high school summer camp counselors is totally awesome, to reverse that impression of Institvvvte nerdism! He biked cross-country with his wife on their honeymoon -- pretty intense but awesome :-) I think I can bike twice as fast now as last September, but not for very long. Will have to work on that...

K told me that she got her 10-year-old girl cousin the Snap Circuits as a present a month ago. She originally didn't like it but now plays with it very often, hahaha. Another potential recruit? :-)

Meow, I wish Fzz Fzz were there...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Buying spree

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(1) My bike is now equipped with a 2nd back basket, a proper backlight with flashing mode, a bell on the handlebar, freshly pumped tires and tuned pneumatic brakes. I also got a helmet that I will actually wear. After all, my head is worth more than $20 no?

(2) Also got a $10 mildew-resistant PEVA shower curtain. Got rid of the old one that is... quite colorful... with at least three species of mildew and mold. Ahhh, the new one looks so fresh~ :-P

(3) Need to find waterproof pants. If I can't find any, I might just get athletic pants that dry easily. The rain around here comes with high wind at least half the time, so umbrellas don't really help in that case...

Friday, April 9, 2010

Things I heard from my PI

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My PI tells stories that and go on and on and on and on, which could be really informative and entertaining. A post-doc's helpful suggestion is that whenever I have crucial things to discuss, make a written list and check off during meeting. Else tangents galore!

(1) Back in his grad student days, he was running a wafer process in the fab. A technician apparently turned off the vacuum pump when my PI was not tending to his wafers, and... silane gas everywhere and everyone was evacuated... If not for the quick fixes (pumping nitrogen gas and turning off the toxic gasses), the whole fab might have exploded. There were actual flash fires.

(2) Sandia National Lab currently enjoys a cornucopia of resources. My PI wants to "visit there and absorb the aura" of disposable funding... He has a recent grad who works in the Albuquerque branch, and 3 months into the job she's already dropping by for pointers on applying to faculty positions...

(3) Faculty job slots at 2nd-3rd tier universities are going down. UC schools are getting more consolidated -- Berkeley, UCLA, UCSD, UCSF, UCSB are getting most of the resources, and the current governor is... not qualified to be a governor.

(4) An enterprising recent PhD grad was thinking of making an RPG to learn about circuits. This is pretty much like what I was thinking about with quantum mechanics! Maybe I could try starting companies. :-P Apparently another student in my group attended the one-month summer entrepreneurship program that I was thinking about going.

My current advisor is on the same caliber as my former advisor in I.O.N, but my former advisor has a (really efficient) secretary and my current advisor does not have any. I blame the stupid funding situation. Although whether my current PI wants a secretary is another question...

Thursday, April 8, 2010


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= Bakemono (化物) + monogatari (物語)

I should have already blogged about this when I watched it w/ S.O. in... January? So this is a belated entry :-P I just felt an irresistible urge to watch some of it again...

Such charm in the exercises of reductio ad absurdum, non sequitur, and subtly blatant -- blatantly subtle -- parodies of anime antics.

The unique factors are (1) the text on bright backgrounds that flashes in accelerated pace until abrupt stop, (2) camera angles and zooms reminiscent of Michel Gondry's films, (3) minimalist visual design and music - Philip Glass style or jazz accompaniment riffs, and (4) absurdist meta-humor.

(1) Typographical, almost subliminal messages really hammer it in... the identical replicas of characters that fill up the screen remind me of Andy Warhol soup cans.

(2) Frequent close-ups of eyes and eye movements, bird's-eye view, up-the-skirt view, spherical projection...

(3) Sometimes it seems neo-noir with the bleached coloring, even more faded-out than that in Minority Report. Almost Impressionistic. However, certain objects are emphasized with bright colors. The music induces a trance, a hypnotic state that juxtaposes with said bright colors (e.g. blue, yellow, and red establishments in the park scene, episodes 3-5).

(4) ROFL... one has to watch the episodes to understand.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mathematics of botanical morphology

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Last weekend I was washing kale leaves and realized that the edges looked pretty much like Koch snowflake curves.

Today I was washing chard leaves and found that when water ran down the underside, it gathered in distinct areas demarcated by veins arranged like Voronoi diagrams.

Mmm dark green leafy vegetables...

Ridiculous prototypes of bouncy chairs

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Um, ROFL... The blue balls are all exercise balls...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Control theory, information theory, neuroscience

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This prof talked about his research interest of engineering brain-machine interfaces. In other words, controlling machines with mere thought, remotely.

He has lots of DoD funding (no surprise...) and the advertisement industry is into this as well (knowing when there's high brain activity upon seeing certain images... even before conscious realization.)

He had occasional strange stutters, which was a tad distracting. I think it's because he spoke very fast and his thought process lagged during moments of stuttering. LOL. I think profs who talk faster in general tend to be easier to follow, assuming coherence.

There is an optimal speed, I've found. But all else being equal, I've found that going too fast is better than going too slow... because the attention level perks up in the former case and wanders elsewhere in the latter case.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Random books of interest

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I was hanging around at the campus bookstore when I came across these titles that caught my attention...

(1) Flanimals - The pop-ups and the bright colors are eye-catching for sure. I was examining how the paper sculptures were folded... very nifty.

(2) The Solitude of Prime Numbers - This has an aura resembling the one in Karl Iagnemma's On the Nature of Human Romantic Interactions, which I've read and loved. However, I'm afraid to read this one for fear of destabilizing myself. Plus this author is in a similar line of work as me, which adds to my (perhaps irrational) fear...

(3) B is for Bad Poetry - This one is hilarious, hands down. Deliberate non sequiturs and purposefully bad taste abound. One of the reviews on the back cover reads: "If talent is measured in miles, then [Russell's] is a driveway." ROFL.