Saturday, January 29, 2011


So, this is it. After 3 years of hard work, the Master's degree is coming to an end. I am going to finish! I'm so glad, I got a lot of help, I really couldn't have done it without Martha, my sister and my friends. I am not done yet, it's a little early to break out the champagne.

I signed up for Entrepreneurship for Engineers, as my last elective. I knew I wanted to take it as soon as they started offering it about 3 semesters ago. They probably had it, but it's been available to Distance Learning since last year. The thing is, I've been thinking about that for quite a while. I have all these long term goals and one of them has been to start my own company. The only thing, well, not the only thing, but the main thing is that I don't have a vision, an idea that I feel will change the world. I want to make the money but that's not my main motivation. I want to make meaning. I want to do something that will make the world a better place. However, I have no freaking clue what that idea is. If one day I come up with an idea that I know is good I might jump on it, this class is giving me some knowledge about the process, sadly, I was more motivated to start something before I started the class, now that I see how much work it is to do it in pretend life, I can imagine how tough it is to do it in real life. So, should you start your own company? I say yes if you know what you are doing and you are smart, energetic and can handle pressure. I have more than one person that depend on me so I have to be a bit more careful when it comes to taking risks.

The Kindle

Martha in her awesome ways bought me a new Amazon Kindle. That thing is freaking awesome, I can now read all my pdf books, I have free access to a bunch of classics, and I can get new books instantly in their store, I can see myself using this from now on, which saddens me because I still have a lot of "real" books unread. I have like 200 pages left in "Anna Kerennina" I'd finish it quicker if I didn't have to do school work, work, sleep and eat, but it is what it is. I bought two new books with that Amazon special they had last week, I ordered Logicomix: An Epic search for the Truth a comic book about Russel, philosophy and math. I recommend it to all the geeks I know. It's my first comic book since I was 13, so we'll see how that goes. The other book is called "how to cheat your friends at poker" I am tired of being the sucker at the poker table every. damn. time. You are going down Ekoko! You know who you are. I have all these good books that I've had for ever, I don't know how I am going to finish them all, my intake rate is greater than my consumption rate. Who cares, it will work out someway. The thing is, I've got an e-reader, and now I'll be able to read all the important books I've been meaning to read, but can't because they were in a laptop. Most notably, I have SICP, code complete 2, and the red dragon compiler book, that I want to finish this year. I swear that if I do that, I'll put it in my PM record at work, all those technical books should count towards a promotion, dammit.

The Monkeys

Kids are amazing, they are a big pain in the rear a lot of times, I'm not going to pretend that it isn't. However, they make life so good. I can't imagine what life would be like without walking in from work and have both of them running full speed towards me, I know that's not Martha's favorite part of the day, when I get back home, because I make them hyper, I don't think it's me that makes them like that, I think that 5:30 PM is the gremling hour anyway, they turn to little monsters no matter what's going on.

I love it when they tell me their dreams, their concerns. I love it when I hear them talking. Anthony is a bossy older brother, who swears that he has everything figured out, Gaby looks up to her brother like, well, an older brother. I get upset with Anthony because he acts like a big jerk with his sister sometimes, I can now understand how much grief I gave my parents always fighting with my sister. She used to be such an easy target back then, now days she fights back, so it's not as fun. Anyway, that's neither here nor there.

The kids are at that age where they are the most perceptive, they notice all kinds of things that adults don't pay attention too. They also happen to think I am the coolest person in the planet. That fact must be related to that perceptive stage thing. I know that won't last though. It's funny how Anthony and I are so alike and how Gaby imitates her Mom. Anthony and I wake up in a good mood, we're morning people, we make breakfast together everyday and he just loves to help. He likes to be in his own world, he doesn't mind being by himself. Gaby wakes up in a bad mood but cheers up after breakfast, just like her Mom. Gaby is a social butterfly, Anthony is anti-social, just like I was at that age. I remember back in K-garten I didn't like adults that much. That pretty much sums up Anthony.

Anyway, I've been writing for too long. I have to get some reading in before everyone starts waking up. So I am cutting it short.

Be good to each other.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

New Year

This year seems to have started well, it was a bit bumpy at first, but overall it looks promising. I am supposed to graduate in the Spring and that makes me happy.

My New Schedule

This Master's degree has been a challenge for me, I get home from work so tired, and with so many things on my mind, that all I want to do is relax for a while, but no, the kids are hyper, the wife is also tired, and I would get stressed out trying to deal with the house and with the school work, it was easier three years ago when Gaby was just a baby and Anthony was still a Toddler, back then Anthony would fall sleep early and Martha dealt with Gaby, so the evenings were free for me to do school work. Last fall semester I found a way to take my evenings back. I still get home tired, but I do not worry about school, I concentrate all my efforts on just being home, the trick? I wake up two hours earlier, at 4:00 AM the house is nice and quiet, I get out of bed fully rested, and I can devote more quality time to the family, and to the books. It takes some getting used to at first, but I don't mind. This reminds me of a quote I read somewhere.

I feel sorry for morning people because their day just keeps getting worse

COP 5555

OK, I've been meaning to talk about this experience for a long time, I think I did a while back, but this is a course that I am never going to forget, just like I'll never forget those 12 weeks of Marine Corp Boot Camp at Parris Island, I'll never forget COP5555, it's one of those classes where can be summarized as "drinking water from the fire hose" I want to get a few things off my chest about it.

So, it's relevant to point out that at the University of Florida, a Computer Engineer has a choice to make when it comes to Graduate School, I was admitted to both the Computer Science Department (CISE)and the Electrical Engineering Department (ECE) they both have Computer Engineering degrees, but both have different emphasis. Initially I went for CISE because deep down I think I lack programming skills, so I want to get better at it. I also didn't think an Electrical Degree would help me so much at work, since my title is Software Engineering. However, I noticed that they had a Communications track, which had courses related to Radio Communications, since I am in the business of making Radios, I thought that would be good. I was undecided but I went for CISE my first semester. My first course in UF was "Distributed Operating Systems" and it was clear from the beginning that this was no easy A. There were crazy assignments every two weeks, tons of material, and difficult tests, I was used to getting A's in my undergrad, when I received my final grade of B+, I said, f*ck that and went to ECE.

ECE turned out to be tougher than CISE, that's the funny part, at ECE I took all this courses that required me to know Linear Algebra, Calculus and Probability in order to just grasp what they were talking about. After two years I became comfortable enough with the field to say that I had Mastered it, but it wasn't easy. Last summer all I had was elective courses to choose from. I was reading Steve Yegger's blog a lot, thanks to him I was interested in the subject of computer languages, specifically functional languages like Lisp and Clojure. I remembered back that a co-worker once asking me if I was going to take COP5555, I told her I was in ECE, and she said, "good, because this class was impossible", so, influenced by the internet, I found myself a challenge.

At first glance, COP5555 with Dr. Bermudez didn't seem that much different from other classes in grad school, there was a midterm, a final, a class project, and weekly homework. All the slides are available from the start.

The first lecture Dr. Bermudez was philosophical, he kept emphasizing that the goal of the class was for us to do a paradigm shift in the way we think about programming languages. I was glad I enrolled, I love it when teachers talk about the big, big picture. So I congratulated myself for having enrolled in this fruitful course.

The class was about Languages, computer programming languages, how computers understand it, how to design one, how to describe a new language in a non-ambiguous way. He starts the class with Parsing, Abstract Syntax Trees, Context Free Grammars, BNF notation, and a nifty little language called RPAL, so far, well, I thought I was good, but there were things that I wasn't completely clear. The slides were full of information, but upon going back to them after class, it was clear that the meat of the class was in what was said during the lecture. So in order to know what's going on, I had to pay close attention during the class.

Then came the project, holy cow, a parser! I had to write a parser, a program that read a file, one word a time, and was to decide whether it fit the syntax of the language. The output was an AST, (abstract Syntax Tree) which went to an interpreter that converts the AST to standardized the tree and computed the instructions. This is where the class lost me. I spent hours and hours trying to get this to work. I spent the whole 4th of July weekend in front of a computer getting this program to work. In the meantime, the midterm was coming up. I failed the midterm, but got a 95 on the project. I thought that if I did well on the final I still had a chance to pass.

The material that came after the midterm made parsing look like learning the ABCs. We were introduced to lambda calculus, we learned about how machines evaluate expressions, and then we studied Attribute Grammars and Denotational Grammars. Needless to say, I didn't make it.

Last summer for the first time in my life, I gave all my heart to something, and failed.

Failing for not trying is one thing, failing after giving it your best effort, while it sounds honorable, it feels crappy.

The day of the final my proctor didn't come to work, it was a Friday so I had an extra weekend to prepare, but because I turned in my test after the deadline, I was told my grade was going to be an "I" until after the break, which I was ok with it. I went to Key West for a little vacation with the family, then I found out about my C-.

A C- means that the class doesn't count towards graduation, that I had to either take it again, or take another class. I called Dr. Bermudez, we talked for a long time. We went over a bunch of options, and at the end, I re-took the class, well, since my grade was an I, he told me he can always change it. So I watched the lectures again, took the midterm and the final again. I passed, but I got a 75 and a 70 in the tests, and this is after a lot of studying and asking questions. In other words, I got my ass kicked. Plain and simple. My grade got changed to a B, I will graduate this semester, but damn, that was hard.

The takeaway?

-Personally, I am not as smart as I thought I was, and I didn't think I was that smart to start with.

-In General, don't give up. Perseverance wins. If you really want to achieve a goal, it pays to keep going. I can think of a lot cases where this doesn't apply, but for life, it's better to stick to your goals.

Wow, I wanted to write about my current class, but this post is getting way too long.
If I start proof reading I am probably going to delete most of it, so I am just going to hit the "Publish Post" button and submit this sucker.

That's all I have for now folks. Be good to each other please.