Of Lambs and Lions

¡Bienvenido al marzo! Traditionally (in my part of Canada at least) people would say that if March came in like a lion it would go out like a lamb, and that the converse was also true. Of course, this is a saying from a place where lion-esque days are fairly common in March (and like 8 or 9 others months as well). For those unfamiliar with this saying, lamb indicates a nice day in terms of the weather, and lion therefore is a bad weather day. I noted a couple years ago that March came in like a lion, however, I failed to mention anything about how the end of March turned out... obviously by that point, I didn't care.

Here in Spain it is a bit of a different story. Pretty much everyday is a lamb by Canadian standards for March. In fact, I'm fairly resolved that winter here is pretty much over and these ~20°C days are going to continue to warm up to the point where I'm going to get pissed off that I left most of my shorts back in Canada. It's at that point where it is too warm in the sun to wear a jacket, but too cool in the shade (with the breeze) to really go that long in a t-shirt. It's a period that I'm used to experiencing in May at home... only there nature usually gets the last laugh with a late-in-the-season snow storm just for fun.

Of course, the lamb and lion concept could be applied to other aspects of one's life. Say happiness, stress, financial standing, etc. I know that today, I am feeling pretty good, not that stressed, and while rent is due, not burdened for money. I may be singing a different tune on the 31st however. Thankfully at that point, for better or for worse, my presentation and my thesis will be over. So while, the days leading up to the 31st will likely be some of the most stressful days in my life, by the end of the month I will likely have entered a euphoric, trance-like stupor. Since we have already received our last scholarship installment, the money has only one direction to go in, so that may be a concern at that point. But I do hope that the weather holds, because that is also the day/night I am flying back to the UK. Leaving Spain for an unspecified amount of time. Unless I come back after graduation for a visit, which is a possibility, it may be quite a while before I'm back here. Any way you slice it, this will be an interesting month. And by interesting I of course mean exquisitely stressful.

1Mar
Location: 2.1.C17, Leganés Campus, UC3M @ 5:58

Lunar Eclipse

Just to let everyone know that there will be a full eclipse of the moon tonight. Apparently the event will start around 21:30 CET (20:30 GMT) and continue into the night until around 3:00 CET. I read somewhere that the moon will be fully eclipsed during a 75 minute window starting around 0:00 CET. This is a lunar eclipse, not a solar eclipse — so it is when the earth moves between the sun and the moon, which blocks the direct light from the moon, leaving it illuminated by refracted light from around the earth's atmosphere. In most cases, this will cause the moon to appear red, or at least some colour other than what we are normally used to seeing. Obviously since this involves the moon there is no risk of looking “right at it”, in fact since this will be most visible at night, the sun won't even be out. The best views of this will be in Europe, Western Asia, and Africa, places where it will be dark, and therefore on the correct side of the planet when this is occurring. I guess eastern North America will be able to see it a bit as well... good news for Nova Scotians :)

For more information see:
NASA (includes map)
Bloomberg

3Mar
Location: FAM, Leganés @ 10:44

Toledo

Toledo
Camera
Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT
Taken
2007-03-04 15:27:32
Exposure
1/160
Aperture
f/7.1
ISO
100

The Cathedral of Toledo
Yesterday I took a day trip along with 11 others to the city of Toledo, which is about one hour south of Madrid. I added some other photos from the trip to my photos page last night, but I thought I should punctuate the trip with a bit of an explanation. The trip was born both from the desire to see the beautiful old city and so I don't have to say I lived in Madrid for nine months and was never down to Toledo.

So with Nenad and Pablo, along with several other friends from residence: Krishna, Bjarni and Zak; we headed to the bus station in Madrid to catch the bus to Toledo. There we met up with Nenad's girlfriend Joy and five other Dominicans. Through bad luck and perhaps bad timing we ended up on the "milk run" to Toledo which has us arrive 40 minutes after we planned. However, it was all part of the day's adventure.

Once in Toledo we walked from the bus station to the gates of the old city and headed inside. The architecture and general feel of the area is very "Spanish", with many grand building dating from the 13th century and others even older than that. The city was the home of El Greco, a Greek born artist who painted many alter pieces for churches and cathedrals in his time. His work was subject to controversy at the time, but has been recognized as quite visionary in more recent years. You can get a feel for the city with my photos I hope. Generally speaking we just wandered around taking photos and being tourists, despite the fact that we all live less than 100 km away.

It was a great experience, and the day could not of been better weather-wise. It was sunny and the sky was blue and cloudless, yet it wasn't scorching hot, hovering around 20-25°C most of the day in my guess. I brought my light coat, but it spent the day tied around the strap on my camera bag. My only regret is neglecting to bring my bandana, as constant exposure to the sun caused my head to "pink-up" a fair bit. Our bus home was direct, yet considerably more crowded and we were all tired. A day in the sun isn't something which any of us are used to, at least not at the moment.

Map

6 Mar @ 00:08 Bjarni stitched together a nice panorama overlooking Toledo.

6 Mar @ 01:17 Another nice panorama Bjarni made, this one from the other side of the old city overlooking the military school.
5Mar
Location: 2.1.C17, Leganés Campus, UC3M @ 12:22

Last Light

Last Light
Camera
NIKON E5600
Taken
2007-03-08 19:23:57
Exposure
10/198
Aperture
f/4.1
ISO
50

Sunset in front of my residence building in Leganés.
Captured this walking home from school on Thursday, the sunset was striking as usual it seems this time of year. I don't think this photo does it justice, but something is better than nothing.
11Mar
Location: FAM, Leganés @ 7:56

Frog shadow

Normally I prefer to use my own desktop wallpaper images, usually doctored photos I've taken or original creations from Photoshop, but recently I've been enamored with a particular image I found online by another designer named Vlad Gerasimov. I think that it is simply called “Frog” — and since I know there are certain people out there who like frogs, and of course others who have no particular feelings toward them, but like interesting wallpaper designs, I wanted to share. Some of his other designs are also worth a look, enjoy.
12Mar
Location: Cafeteria, FAM, Leganés @ 13:07

Really, I actually wrote this.

I have known for a while, since my first work term report I believe that I have a problem with my technical writing. I have a hard time being confident about my facts and results. I tend to use the words “really”, “actually” and “basically” far too much. I'm sure there are other words as well, but these ones stick out in my mind at the moment. Part of the problem is that I am usually trying to write using as many words as possible to meet some predefined word count. And since these are words, they slide into the sentence without too much effort.

The other cause of the problem is that I just plain don't have enough confidence in my facts. Even writing for my weblog I find myself punctuating sentences with uncertainty. It is like I'm permanently stuck writing in the subjunctive mood. And of course, the only reason that I am mention any of this is as a means to procrastinate writing more uncertainty. Certainly.

13Mar
Location: Cafeteria, FAM, Leganés @ 12:12

Running the gamut

In the past half an hour, I have run the gamut of emotions. I received an email a little over an hour ago, which I didn't read until a bit later than that. At first I was annoyed that I was still on some list that I had signed up for years ago. Then I realized that the email was from WebServices.org — something very relevant to my dissertation project. Then I was pleased to have received this email and decided it was worth taking a look. When I was reading some of the highlights at the top of the email I was humbled. I felt insignificant next to these large companies putting out interesting web service related software and specifications and my work felt tiny in comparison. It isn't, and I know that, but at first I couldn't help but feel this way.

Then when I was scanning the pile of links included in the email, one in particular caught my eye: “Google WADL Tools”. My initial reaction was one of extreme interest since WADL and REST-based interfaces have become my main focus in the course of my research. When I clicked the link and ended up at Marc Hadley's blog, my reaction of was that of interest mixed with a slightly nauseating sense of anxiety. And then when I ended up at Thomas Steiner's site and saw the PHP logo in his diagram, I was shocked. I read some more and looked around and my shock started to turn to anger. In retrospect, the anger was a little unnecessary, but at the time it was how I felt. After absorbing the ideas presented, my reaction mellowed and I started to think of the possibilities. And later after talking with my brother, I start to feel a bit excited... maybe I can go work for Google. :)

Basically the story goes that in the early stages of my research into the two main web service camps: SOA and REST, I started to develop a fondness for REST. Then after Christmas, I found the quite new Web Application Description Language (WADL) that was being developed by Marc Hadley from Sun Microsystems. I was immediately enamored with the idea, but at that point didn't have the time or inclination to drastically change my project direction, so I tried to add WADL into my current design as best I could. Unfortunately it didn't get the attention it deserved and even still feels a bit like a second rate citizen inside of Siphon (my framework). If this were a real thesis and I was given more time to work on it as most programs are flexible enough to provide, I would have likely gone more into the WADL and REST worlds and likely have worked on some sort of code generation from WADL since at this point, tool support in for WADL is weak, and what does exist is in Java. At first I thought that this code may threaten my project, but I don't think so... at least not in its current incarnation. Perhaps it would have threatened the hypothetical thesis that never was, but one can only imagine. In fact the more I think about it, I'm pretty sure that if the WADL generation is compatible and I can manage to get it operating within my framework, I may be able to turn my WADL support into something a bit more robust. Not that I have time for this now, so it may just end up as a couple paragraphs in my “Further work” chapter.

Anyway... I'm starting to burn this candle at both ends, and I'm dog tired because of it... so off to bed.

15Mar
Location: FAM, Leganés @ 22:26

Stop and smell the...

Walking to campus, I need to pass through the small neighbourhood of San Nicasio. And regardless of the path I take through it, it seems that it is a constant assault on my olfactory senses. I guess you can become accustomed to these smells after a while, but sometimes, the magnitude of it just strikes you. I'm not sure whether today it was because it is a warm day, or I was particularly sensitive, but it was an unpleasant walk on my way here.

Some of the smells are identifiable and present in many cities, and then there is the general unpleasant background smell which I just attribute to suburban Spain. But sometimes I am walking and I get a whiff of something and think... «Oh god! What is that!» Nothing of this world should be allowed to smell that bad. Of course those who know me know that I have a particularly keen sense of olfaction.

16Mar
Location: 2.1.C17, Leganés Campus, UC3M @ 12:02

Thesis Tools: BibDesk/BibTeX

BibDesk

For every research paper you write, there are always references which you need to manage. Sometimes you don't have many, and you can do this manually. Fine. But if you are writing something longer and more involved, good luck using a word processor to put that together. In fact, I'd say good luck using a word processor for writing the paper at all, but many people still do. I guess these people have more tolerance than I do. However, if you are planning to typeset your paper in LaTeX, then your obvious choice for managing your bibliographic references is BibTeX. Of course, BibTeX files aren't known for being especially easy to manage by hand. So in that case, if you are a Mac user, enter BibDesk.

This is a tool which allows you to keep track of your references in a manageable, database-like fashion. And the program is in active development, with a couple of upgrades occurring even during the course of my project. The program supports some nice features like extracting a BibTeX entry from the clipboard, a tagging feature which allow you to categorize your references with multiple tags and various grouping mechanisms to organize related entries. Organization is important in a manager for BibTeX, because most of the time, a single database of entries will contain all your references, either in a particular subject or in total, so you may only need a small subset of these references for an particular project.

The program also supports such convenient features as an integrated preview of the output and automatic cite-key generation. It is these cite-keys which are used within your paper to refer to entries in your database. To that end, BibDesk provides a system service that will allow you to complete cite-keys within other applications. It also supports copying the citation key in various formats as well as drag and drop into other applications. This means, that regardless of the LaTeX editing software you are using, you should be able to include your references into your document from the database without any problems.

Then BibTeX takes care of the rest, making sure that your Bibliography or References section is generated with entries in the correct format and order according to the style you choose for your document. It also makes sure that the citations within the document itself are in the proper format. When using BibTeX, you only need to specify which style of citations you want and it will render them according to that style. Some conferences and other institutions may even provide their own BibTeX styles if they require a different format than what is defined in the popular, well-known formats.

For example, had I written my paper in a word processor with citations being added manually, I likely would have used the IEEE citation format because it is the one I am most used to, as it is common for technical papers. This format requires references to be cited by a number in square brackets. [1] The number identifies the entry in the references section. The other stipulation is that the order of the references and hence the numbers is based on when they are first referenced in your document. Thus if I add a reference to the beginning of my paper after I have several in place already, I need to re-number the references. Not a lot of fun when you have 30+ references. I remember doing just this in fact back in the days when I was young and innocent. Fortunately those papers were simple reports and only had perhaps 10 references. OK, even worse would have been that I just recently remembered/re-read the part of the description of my project that states I should use some other format for the references. I'm not sure what the name of it is... but it is a standard one I know that. Not a problem with BibTeX thankfully.

This is the second part of my Thesis Tools series, the first one being about Scrivener, the writing organization tool. Given the busy nature of the next couple of weeks, there likely won't be another installment in this series until after I finish the project when we can really see whether these tools really helped or not. :)

18Mar
Location: FAM, Leganés @ 10:58

124

This is going to be brief because I am a new kind of tired. Just to let the world know that I submitted all 124 pages of my project paper today. I'm still not out of the water yet, I have a presentation and two other documents to prepare, but I can see land. Reading those pages as a PDF on my computer was one thing, but to see what 124 pages looks like printed was pretty cool. And then to see two copies bound and covered, I'm not going to lie, it was pretty sexy.

Only one of my markers was in his office when we went around, so I left the other copy with reception. When I handed mine to the first marker he said, “Whoa, it's thick,” to which I replied, “You don't have to read it, just skim through.” But in fairness to the other thinner papers of my colleagues, I have close to 50 pages of source code in the document, and a fair bit more white space. Because we all know that white space is a design element, right.

Anyway... time for a nap and then back at it... only two more days... and then my head explodes.

28Mar
Location: FAM, Leganés @ 6:19

How sweet it is

Nenad, Pablo y yo
Camera
NIKON E5600
Taken
2007-03-30 13:16:18
Exposure
10/601
Aperture
f/2.9
ISO
188

Nenad, Pablo and I after finishing our project presentations.
I must say: that went pretty well. Despite a few issues here and there, the presentation session today was a success, a process involving multiple people in multiple countries. I feel I delivered my slides with some degree of confidence and poise. I also felt that the question period was also in my favour, with no tricky ones sneaking in thankfully. Nenad and Pablo also presented here in Spain with me, and both did an amazing job. I have all the respect in the world for them doing that in their second language.

It doesn't really feel like I'm finished yet, but I know that will come, perhaps tomorrow when I fly out of the country. This has obviously been a major chapter in my life, a chapter that is fairly well chronicled on this website, but one which is about to end. It is definitely saddening to leave behind so many memories, but that is what they are: memories, and I will carry them with me for the rest of my life. It has been a pretty interesting 18 months; an experience I never could have imagined. I haven't quite determined what I will do with this site now that my Europe Adventure is drawing to a close. I will likely keep posting here at least until after graduation and I get settled to see if I may end up living in Europe... who knows. If I do stop posting here, I will definitely continue somewhere else, and this site will remain available as an archive of this incredible time in my life.

Now to pack and let loose a bit. :)

31 Mar @ 04:03 The letting loose involved some photos, which are available in the photo section.
30Mar
Location: FAM, Leganés @ 12:12

Gracias españa, ha sido divertido

Posting an entry for what may be the last time in Spain, I just wanted to thank all of those people whom I have met here for making my stay that much more pleasant. I arrived one year ago yesterday in Spain, bright eyed and bushy-tailed, ready for anything. A lot has changed in the time been then and now. I've met a lot of great people, seen a lot of incredible sights, and in general grown as a person.

The only problem is packing one year's worth of accumulated junk into one 23kg suitcase. And a backpack. And a laptop bag. And two other people's luggage. :) Thanks a million to both Krishna and Pablo for helping me take care of my abundance of stuff. Never will be forgotten.

Entonces, creo que españa tendrá siempre un lugar en mi corazón. Hasta luego.

31Mar
Location: FAM, Leganés @ 13:37

London Bridge is falling down

Well, Nenad and I have arrived safely in the UK, and as expected it was a bit of an adventure. As it turns out, there is no real train route from Gatwick to West Hampstead at the time which we needed. I wish I had the presence of mind to search for that before I started out on this trip, but hey, lesson learned. And the curriculum for this lesson involved us standing in a taxi rank at the London Bridge station for the better part of an hour in the cold. Just about the time I was ready to start hurting people because my feet hurt so much, we finally managed to get a cab. It really took so long because we didn't want to take one of the sketchy illegal cabs, who wanted £40 for our journey.

Now we are here and warm, and ready for a couple days of sleeping. After only getting 3 hours of sleep last night, and now being up until 6:30 in our original timezone, I think I'm about to crash. But that's OK, because I have a soft place to do it.

31Mar
Location: West Hampstead, London, UK @ 23:27

What Now?

Well, it would seem that for the most part, my Europe Adventure is over. It has been an amazing time. Now, I am reviving the ailing colinbate.com and going to make a go of it over there. All the best.

Times

Nova Scotia, Canada
4:57 (Dec 2, 2020)
Reading/London, United Kindom
8:57 (Dec 2, 2020)
Thessaloniki, Greece
10:57 (Dec 2, 2020)
Madrid, Spain
9:57 (Dec 2, 2020)
Guatemala, Guatemala
1:57 (Dec 2, 2020)

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