Sunday, December 28, 2008

Vacation, day 7

If you are the type of person who likes museums and monuments, then Washington D.C. is the place for you. I think they must have 10% of the world's marble here. There's so much to see here I don't think it's even possible to try.

Today we visited Arlington National Cemetery. The place is huge. It's sobering to see all those tombs, although not every person that's buried there was a serviceman that died in battle, there's a lot of Generals, military spouses and their children. I wonder what are the guidelines to be buried there. I saw quite a few low-ranking people who died of old age and were buried there.

The changing of the guard was interesting. I don't know but, military shows don't really impress me that much anymore. I just didn't feel that impressed. I still feel respect for those buried there, but I could not wait to go somewhere else. I also wanted to see where the Iraqi veterans were being buried, but since I don't know anyone that's buried there, I felt it was none of my business.

One place in D.C. that moved to tears (yeah, I cried) was the Holocaust Memorial. I couldn't believe what human beings are capable of. It's something worth seeing, we need to be conscious about these things. They do a good job of showing you and making you think about the horrors.

It's very ironic that walking out of the museum I saw the front page of today's Washington Post, and this story was there. What a crazy sad world we live in.

I still have hope though, we will be better than this in the future.

Anyway, I better get back to my "vacation", Don't get me wrong, it's very nice, there are some things that I have to get used to. I'm my daily life we put the kids to bed at around 8:00 PM and then Martha and I have the house to ourselves to take care of household chores, watch some T.V. and/or study. Now we're all crammed in one single hotel room, and we don't get a break from the kids. They won't go to sleep until all the lights are off and the T.V.s and everything is turned off, so we have to watch them. They are still too young to be left unsupervised, leave them alone for two minutes and you can have the freaking building on fire or something. (yes, they are that hyper) anyway. I must go now. More later.


Friday, December 26, 2008

The Soul of a new Machine

My Christmas gift this year is a book about Computer Chip Engineers back in the day. (Late 70's) This book describes the struggle a team from Data General goes trhough to get a project "out the door". It is probably the best documented Computer Project of its day.

It is funny to see that even though the field is constantly changing with new technologies, companies come and go, other things remain unchanged. Pardon the cliche, but I am having a good time seeing my profession through the eyes of a journalist. Even though it's not a technical book, it describes a lot of detail of the computer Engineering profession in layman's terms. Great Holiday read.

Bad ass book I look forward to reading

There are a lot of books out there about the War on Terrorism (Iraq, Afghanistan, etc) But I don't think there's anything as well written as this. So far I've heard good things about it, so when I saw it at a bookstore, I stared reading the first couple of chapters, it starts with a pretty vivid description of the Marines in battle in Fallujah 2004. The narrative takes you there. It's amazing. I won't write anymore until I get it and read it. But if you have read it, let me know what you think.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Trip Up North

We drove today, we drove and drove until we got snow. I was going to write a long post about how awesome it was. But after uploading the pictures to facebook I am too tired to write. Just enjoy a sample pic.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Smithsonian rocks!

Man, did I love it! Today I went to the Museum of Natural History and the Aviation and Aerospace Museum and it was great! I felt like a kid again. If I would have come here when I was 13, my head would have probably exploded of hyper-excitement.

Dreaming of a White Christmas

So tomorrow is looking like a combination of Miracle on 34th Street and the movie Twister, we have searched the weather channel and found that some little town in Pennsylvania is expecting snow in the morning. We are going to drive out there. We will get on the car, listen to the weather, and find the snow!

Yeah, I know, we are crazy. It's all for the children. ;=)

Anyway, I am pretty tired, I am being lazy and I didn't put up the pictures we took. Just imagine D.C. in its winterly glory.


Day One: Smithsonian Museum

Today we are going to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. I've heard lots of good things about the place. I hope the kids like it.

It's raining today, it's not as cold as yesterday, but I don't think I want to be outside taking pictures. It's seven in the morning and the sun is not even out yet.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Arrival at Washington D.C.

We made it. Got here 30 minutes ago. The last 20 miles was bumper to bumper traffic. What's up with that? Aren't all the government workers home for the holidays? Anyway, life is good, we're hungry, tired, excited, happy and grumpy at the same time. The kids are doing ok as well. They've discovered the joys of riding an elevator, and riding in that thing they have in hotels to put your luggage. They take pleasure in the little things. There's nothing wrong with being a kid when it comes to that. It takes so much to please an adult, you know? Like a whole elaborate trip to the nation's capital ;-)

Anyway, we are liking the weather, it's out of the ordinary. Well, I got to go and get situated.

So long.



Just found out I passed my Noise in Linear System class. I got a B. I was shooting for an A, but given how hard the exams were and how much I struggled with all the homework, I am pretty satisfied with the B. I am glad all that effort paid off. The vacation feels that much better now.

About the vacation

I am in a hotel room in Wilson, North Carolina, the kids are still sleeping, and we're about to get ready to go. We have about four more hours of driving until we get to D.C.

Anthony just woke up. Scratch the part about the kids sleeping. The kids have been doing good this vacation. Gaby got a little fuzzy last night in her car seat, but I can't blame her, because after being in the car for 12 hours I was the same way, but I wasn't the one crying on top of lungs. Other than that, they have been remarkably well behaved. I hope I am not speaking too soon.

Did I mention that it's cold as hell? Last night the car thermometer read 28 degrees F. We hope we get to see snow this trip. The kids really want to see it. Well, at least I know that Anthony does. I don't know what Gaby wants yet. She seemed just happy when she was eating.

Well, I got to go get some breakfast in the lobby. Hope ya'll are doing good. I am heading towards the Nation's capital.

Peace out.


Monday, December 22, 2008

We've escaped Florida

I am not sure how far I am from Virginia, all I know, is that it's colder than your usual Floridian evening. Life is good.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

It's vacation time!

Yes! I am finally done with school for now. And we have two weeks for vacation. You'd think we would chill out, and relax for a while, but that's not how we do it in the Villalta's. Instead, We are going on a road trip to Washington D.C.!

You might ask yourself, why? And the answer is: "just because". We always wanted to go there, that's all. We want to see all the museums, the monuments, the marine barracks (ok, the last one was my idea), the library of congress, experience some cool weather, and get away from it all. We are going to take tons of pictures and it should be good times.

School Blues

I am doing my best to deal with the fact that I am not doing that well in school. What sucks the most is that I am doing the best I can, is not that I am procrastinating, or that I don't find the material interesting. Au contraire, I studied my ass off, and yet, I think I failed my last class. I don't know for sure yet, but there's a high probability.

That hurts, it stings, it burns, it sucks, I can't explain it. There's a part of me that likes a good challenge, but I know that I am losing, so I don't know whether to pull out, or keep trying. Maybe I am a bit over my head here, but I didn't think so.

So here's the full story, I am by trade a Computer Engineer, which means that I am hybrid, half Electrical Engineering, half Computer Science, we're supposed to be EEs that can write code.

Now, when I got admitted to UF. I was accepted to both the CISE and the ECE departments. I had to choose between a Computer Science and an Electrical Engineering Masters. I chose the latter. Even though I work as a Software Engineer, I want to get the background for Digital Signal Processing, because I work with Radio Technology. So I thought, that I'd be in good shape with a MS from the ECE department.

Last Spring I began with an Operating System class from CISE. I thought it would be an easy A. But there were so many assignments, and the tests were tough, Martha complained to me that we were not spending any time together, and overall it was a humbling experience. I expected to do much better, but I ended up with a B.

So my next class, Foundations of Digital Signal Processing, was supposed to be better, I supposed that if there are no programming assignments, How hard could it be? Just to make sure, I called the advisors to ask if there were any prereqs, and they all said no. So, I dove in.

Boy, was I wrong. The DSP class had some math that I didn't have, I tried in advance to study convolutions and transforms, but I was rusty on the complex plane, and I had no idea what they were talking about when they brought up stuff from Matrix Theory and Linear Algebra. In retrospect, those things would have been easy to learn, and I could have done much better if I tried to do more problems, but I concentrated in knowing the theory, which I think I have a good grasp. But I got a C+ in that class. Which means Motorola won't reimburse me. (credit card company: $$CA-CHING!)
What makes things worse for me, is that for everyone else in that class, it was an easy course. I justified it by noting that I do have a full time job, and a full family to look after. But still, I wasn't happy about getting a C.

So, enter the fall, and with it, a course that's supposed to be hard, in the first line of the Syllabus, the prereq was "strong mathematical skill" the name of the course, "Noise in Linear Systems" a math intensive class that involved Probability, Statistic, Calculus, Matrices and Linear System Theory. I had taken two classes that covered Probability, but I just could not hang. I mean, I would come home from work, help out around the house, and then sit down to study everyday working day until 11:30 PM the earliest, sometimes I'd stay up until 2:30 AM. During the weekends, I would do at least half a day with my family, and the rest of the time I would be studying. The whole month of December was spent studying for the final. And yet, I think I have been defeated, I know I could get a C for all my effort, but I C doesn't cut it in Grad school, I need a B average to graduate, and I don't know if they are going to put me in some kind of probation or something. Not to mention the fact that I won't get reimbursed for the cost of tuition.

Ever since I was in high school, I had never made some much effort towards a goal and failed like this. It's a humbling experience, I now know, that I am not as clever as I thought. That my math skills are lacking, and that I need to know when to cut my losses.

On a side note, when I was in high school, I was in the baseball team, I was never that good, even after trying and trying, I realized that I would never be good enough to play in college. So I quit. After that, I've never quit anything I wanted to do again.

However, if I get another C or below after the next class I am taking, (Digital Communication) I am quiting, I might switch from ECE to CISE, but I just might quit altogether. I am tired of getting my ass kicked in these test. I am tired of spending all that time studying and not reaping the rewards. However, I am not sorry I took these classes. I loved the material I learned, I think I understand the material as good as anyone else. Maybe I am deluding myself on that one. But I do like the material, In fact, I think the mathematics behind Information Theory and Signal Processing, is nothing short of beautiful. It's amazing how it all works. I loved it when I had those "aha" moments, when things come together and they MAKE SENSE.

However, failing it's too expensive. But in the other hand, I really don't want to leave school until I have a Master's degree. At the end I know that I will get a Master's degree. It's just that right now, I am down, I will come back strong after the break. I better get that A.

Things to do Today

There's a lot of stuff we have to do today, because we have a big day tomorrow. Right now Martha is in bed, she's feeling a bit sick from yesterday's Christmas party. Gaby and Anthony are watching the movie Cars downstairs, and I finally got a minute or two to sit down and write down a sample of what goes through my head everyday.

Blogging the trip

I don't want to make a promise I can't keep, but I think it would be a blast if I blog our trip. Hopefully, it will work out that way.

Ok Folks that's all for now, I needed to get that rant off my chest, I feel better now. Take Care, be good to each other.


Friday, December 05, 2008


Now, for the nihilist, existential thought of the day...