Tuesday, March 28, 2006

30th Birthday

You only get a 30th birthday once. For my birthday we decided to travel to the Oregon Coast.
It has been really annoying having lived here in Oregon for so long without getting to explore anywhere. Of course here you go to "the coast", not "the beach".
Every trip to the coast seems like it must involve a trip to a lighthouse, so we started off with that. This is also the location of the largest sea cave in the world, complete with seals, and a strong smell of fish. Just looking for something else to do in the AAA travelbook led us to a bog full of rare insect eating plants. I have never been to a "bog" before so I just couldn't resist. It ended up being one of the cooler things of the trip.
We went to a local grocery store and bought all stuff we needed for lunch. There were sand dunes behind the store, and that was on our list of things to do, so we hiked up the 3 story hill and enjoyed Strawberry shortcake on the sand dunes. We finished off the day at the florence beach. The rain finally caught up with us so we drove home in the rain. It was just really weird that there are Ocean cliffs, forest, bogs, and sand dunes within a 15 mile radius.

Monday, March 27, 2006


The quarter is over. The classes that I took this term:
  • Artificial Intelligence: good class, lots of logic. For my final project I built an Othello game that learned from your playing and got harder. It was good enough to beat my wife but I couldn't get it good enough to beat me.

  • Advanced Algorithms: Everyone I have talked to says this is the hardest class to take as a grad student. So far I would agree with them. I'm glad it is over. Hopefully I got a good enough grade. This is one instance that I was glad for quarters instead of semesters.

  • Cognitive Modeling: programming a fake brain to try to model a real one. I personally do not have that much faith in getting this thing that much farther then where it is now. (predicting reaction times) but the HCI professor that teaches it, this is his area of study so we learned all about it.

Next term:

  • Intro to Compilers: I am taking this class to kill 2 requirements.

  • Haptics Interfaces: HCI class that looks pretty interesting

  • Perception: Psychology class with the professor I am working for is teaching. good to know for HCI though, what can the human interact with?

last term:
I just realized I never put what I took last term

  • User Interfaces: The reason that I had such a problem with this class is that it ended up being a software engineering class of finding out the needs of the user, instead of what makes a good UI

  • Data-Base Processing: I originally thought it would be a good idea to have some database experience under my belt. I guess it is good that I am now very sure that I never want to be a DBA

  • Distributed Systems: How to run a program over multiple computers, or networks. working for an ISP for all those years made this class pretty easy.

The difference in company bureaucracy

So I applied to Xerox PARC, Apple, Google, IBM, and Microsoft for summer internships. I wanted to get the internships in that order too. I was only contacted back by Google and IBM though (They were also the only ones actively advertising they wanted interns, live and learn.)
Interview process for Google:
phone interview with person that would be mentor. (1.5 hours)

Interview process for IBM:
phone interview with hr person to make sure you are who you say you are. (1 hour)
online intelligence test (1.5 hours)
technical interview (1.5 hours)
interview with project manager (1 hour)
interview with project mentor (1 hour)

So can you tell that Google is a smaller company with less bureaucracy. All this happened during the last week of projects being due and the week of finals so it really added to the stress level, trying to be accommodating as possible when emailing back available times for phone interviews since they are up front about the longer it takes to interview the more positions that have been filled.
The good news is that I got a summer internship with IBM. I will be spending the summer designing a user interface for an inventory program that uses RFID tags. I am glad that I won't be earning next years money working the summer at McDonald's, but this internship offer is beyond my hopes of what I thought I would get since I will be getting experience with both user interfaces and embedded devices My two favorite topics). This will involve me spending the summer in San Jose. IBM pays for my housing but I will be away from my wife for the summer. I guess this makes up for all last summer where we were side by side the whole time.

School is paid for!

Starting spring term I got a salary job at school! It is still part time, but now I have health benefits, and school is paid for. This is a huge deal, if I can keep this job for the next year then just the tuition saving alone are $24,000.
So here is the question that I am now mulling over. I need to come up with a good grad project, and it seems a waste to not use the access I have to MRI equipment. What information could be found out about using a computer from scanning the brain? (Remember this does not have to have anything to do with being feasible since this is a research school :) ) Right now some of the ideas that I am mulling over are: finding out how the brain processes information using direct manipulation (touch screen) vs. having tactile feedback. (real buttons), and the other idea was some kind of control the computer with your brain thing. (See both human-computer interaction related).
It is really funny, since I have GRF (graduate research fellowship- what they call the student salary positions here) through a different department, the computer science department is interested in me. They want to take pictures of the robot and put my picture up on the website to show the inter-discipline work going on, but it makes me kind of feel like the story about the little red hen. Where were they when I was going through the hard time of needing a position.
Oh well this really helps, and it helps the stress level to know I don't have to worry about health insurance now.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

field trip

To try to build up the camaraderie in the computer science department they organized a group trip to the ski resort with the promise to pay for part of the ticket. With no health insurance L. and I decided that it would be best to not tempt fate with breaking a leg since both of us are novice skiers. Then we found out they also had snowshoeing. We both signed up but L. was to sick to go. I have never been snow-shoeing so I still decided to go and L.'s deposit went to waste. I ended up just going with the others that had signed up for the snowshoeing. It was really weird to be walking on 6 feet of snow. (road signs barely poked above the snow.) We hiked for 1.5 miles and found the lake, and courtesy shack complete with a fire in the iron stove. (It helped to thaw out our water bottles) We hiked back and ate lunch. As it turns out all the people that had gone skiing said that it was like ice since it had not snowed in a while so I am glad that I made the choice to go snowshoeing. I don't think that I will do it again, but it was a fun I've done it thing.