Drawing Transit Maps

Just some resources I want to be sure I can find later.  🙂

Techniques: http://www.cambooth.net/archives/722

Making curved corners: http://www.cambooth.net/archives/837




New to Madcity

That’s the nickname of Madison, Wisconsin, and they all say it lovingly!

It’s a pretty cool town to get to know. It’s really grown on me; getting used to the midwest is nice when you’re in the town that’s surrounded by reality. The facilities that Madison provides for bicycles along with the recent conversion of State St. are absolutely fantastic and really cater to alternative ways of getting around town without depending on a car.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped me from getting my hands on a car! If you want to get anywhere our of town, a car it’s nearly essential. Sure, there are buses that go to Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Chicago, but there are no transportation to places in between. To get to Devil’s Lake, I went on a 100 mile bike ride with fellow grad students… it’s definitely feasible, but it’ll take the whole day.

I ended up getting a Zipcar membership; they are a national car-sharing company that just started up operations in Madison. I’ve already used their cars to drive over 700 miles in the I’ve month that I’ve had my membership. It’s a great value, especially considering gas and insurance are included.

This winter has been very mild as well, with snow hardly staying on the ground for more than a week. There was a cold spell in early January, but the snow melted fairly quickly within a week. The trail runners that I bought at the local REI does wonders for keeping my feet dry!

Anywho, this was an overdue post… I’ll post more soon!



Supplemental Material

A little over a year ago, Johnny Lee came to UW’s CSE department to talk about the impact of his wiimote head-tracking video on YouTube.  As part of his talk, he had what he called something like the pyramid of impressions.  While an academic paper may have 10 readers, a white-paper may have 100.  A how-to article may have 1,000 views, but a video can achieve over 1 million, easily.

This may be all fine and dandy for currently-trending topics, but it’s rarely been tried in an academic topic.  I’ve seen the occasional video that has succeeded (like this one on hovering quad-rotors), but they’re nearly all from computer science departments that are already familiar with the impression value of the internet.  Using the internet to convey an interactive experience that supplements a paper could be an invaluable tool in understanding the concepts and conclusions presented by the paper, and can make drawing corollaries and further inferences easier.

I feel like this difficulty is coming from inaccessible ways to present data visually and allowing the user to play around with it.  Pivot was a cool exercise in this respect, but Microsoft pulled the plug in favor of a (much less flexible, platform-wise) Silverlight application.  Most solutions now are custom-built, and I’m looking at doing something similar for my research.  The implementation has to be simple enough to update, however, since data will keep coming are more details get uncovered!  I’ll see if I can’t abstract the implementation so that others can use it.



Non-traditional commutes

Why do I always revert back to transportation-related discussion?  Maybe I’m in the wrong line of work!

One thing I’ve noticed is that people get so locked into their routine commute.  They may not be aware of the multitude of alternate commutes that can perfectly fit their schedule.  Sure, there’s tons of ads and pushes from local government and employers to use alternate forms of transportation for repetitive commutes, but not a single place to gauge YOUR options.

I live in an area where the nearest bus stop would take me to UW.  The next closest (but up a steep hill) takes me to downtown.  I have easy access to a regional bike/ped trail, and I’m within 15 minutes of a heavily used Park & Ride (P&R).  I have so many options for my commute… so how did I end up with my current commute?  I believe it was simply the first one I thought of! 

Before I moved in to my current place, I had already planned out my commute.  Since this place is within easy reach of a bike trail, I reasoned that I could just bike from the new place to my old bus stop.  I’ve been doing it ever since I moved — at least 60 roundtrips of a 25-mile bus ride and 7-mile bike ride.  It takes ~70 minutes outbound and ~55 min inbound.

There are some instances that could force changes in a commute. The first could be shifting hours at work. Something like new or revised bus service could also change the commute as well… but it seems like even if the options change, the commute won’t switch to a more efficient trip unless the change is mandated by work or home obligations.

A trip planner that takes into account all of these modes of transportation (especially non-traditional modes) would be fantastic and fill this void.



Graphene and the Nobel Prize

Boy, what a trip it was to see what the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to this year — the “discovery” of graphene!  The name of single-layer graphite is pretty inaccurate in of itself, but it’s becoming an accepted term in the physical sciences.  It’s interesting that these scientists were praised so soon — the potential of graphene is only just now beginning to be realized, whether it is a substitute for silicon surfaces to mount printed (or self-assembled!) circuitry on or an alternative super-tough material to manufacture carbon nanotubes.  Practically, graphene has gone nowhere.

Academically, it’s still a gold mine.  My research is revolving around using graphene as a substrate and it’s absolutely critical that all research in this area piggy-back in order to help grahpene reach its potential quickly.  This is definitely a lower-cost alternative to the forging of tough metals.  With so much chemistry and energy potential going into the creation of carbon-carbon bonds, it’s really neat to see that a sheet of graphene can be derived relatively easy.  Computationally, it’s much, much simpler to simulate a carbon surface than nearly everything else, so it’s also a huge chance to refine our strategies in determining choice compounds (including peptides and other organic matter) to interact with graphene.

Here’s a link to the Nobel Prize site and some background information on graphene.




At the very glimpse or thought of this word, many people cringe. I’ve gotta confess that I don’t understand the animosity.

I’ve been less than a year at my job, and it’s becoming clear why we’re encouraged to write specifications of our features from so many different angles.  It’s nearly impossible for someone else to pick up your project without any sort of communication between the originating party and the new party.  Textual, visual, and even audio/visual documentation is an relatively easy, time-efficient way to commute with your users, customers, and future maintainers.

Everyone seems to hate doing creating docs though, as if they admit that it is a necessary evil.  I must be in the minority since I enjoy it!  I’m in the process of documenting a molecular computation suite and how it’s used.  I learn more about my own process while documenting and it really causes me to question my own workflow and see how it can be optimized.



UW Station Light Rail Meeting, April 21st, 2010 Edition

Just a quick update on the status of these wonderful meetings… this meeting didn’t bring up much else than what was covered in the December meeting. A couple of improvment that the contractors are working on in the short term:

  • Working on plaza improvement near the west main gate of Husky Stadium (E17) to accomadate increased pedestrian density during games/events,
  • Montlake and Pacific intersection will have a protected left turn signal added for southbound Montlake traffic into the access road,
  • A temporary complete sidewalk closure (4 weeks) on the east side of Montlake Blvd for four weeks to erect noise wall along the street
  • After wall is finished, a slurry wall we be constructed underground to outline the future station and ensure the integrity of future digging,
  • After slurry wall completed, main excavation down 100ft begins! The tunnel boring machine (TBM) will arrive Spring 2011; the station contract is set to be awarded June 2010, with construction on that starting March 2011.
  • Trucking schedule is mostly at night, hauling hours now are established to be 2-3pm, 10pm-7am. Negotiations with the city might allow 12 hour hauling window from 7p-7am.

A couple of interesting comments came up. When first asked for public questions, an older gentleman berated the public relations part of these community meetings (poor Wilbert!), saying that no one came door to door to the historic Montlake homes to inform affected residents of the presence of the meetings and how the sound is “carrying really well” across the cut. He repeated this gripe two more times. Sound Transit replied that they had done door-to-door canvasing in the neighborhood in addition to public flyers and email announcements, and countered his argument that none of his neighbors knew about these meetings by claiming that his neighbors had indeed shown up to previous meetings and voiced similar concerns to his (noise, hauling schedule).

On the topic of noise (which seems extremely silly to me because this station seems to affect the least homes due to its position far away from residential areas), ST said the contractor applied for a temporary noise variance permit (in addition to the February-approved 24 month permit for six decibles over ambient) to experiment with what equipment can and cannot be used during the night hours.

With respect to the pedestrian bridge, Sound Transit noted that SDOT policy discourages pedestrian bridges (seems rather non-applicable to this situation), and also withdrew their portion of funding due to budget constraints. This leaves the UW with $4 million and ST with $4 million + the cost of the pedestrian bridge to find an alternative. A public meeting on this topic will be held very soon in May or June.

Lastly, environmental impacts were brought up. Concerns over the gobbling of green space by the parking lot by the project were voices, especially of the climbing wall and old cottonwood trees. Sound Transit assured that no futher use of green area is required and that the rock wall will be fine.



Humility about the weather

It’s a strange thing, the weather in Seattle. One moment is sunny, and the next the sunbreak has left for Oregon and rain deflected by the mountains move in.

It’s often striking to observe what my fellow Seattleite does when confronted with sudden weather changes and weather of that they don’t approve (which is another topic in itself). Many people lament the fact that it is raining, despite being shielded from the elements by being in buildings at work/school, parking garages between work and car, in a closed car while commuting, and a warm home in the evenings. People seem to absolutely abhor stepping outside into the rain. When they do, it’s never at a walking pace.

Putting down the weather always seemed like needless arrogance to me. There’s a reason that everything in this region is so green and living – this wonderful rain that sprinkles down now and again makes sure that Seattle and the surrounding area never go brown. While it may be an inconvenience if you’re trying to stay dry for your skip-level meeting, it is incredibly beneficial for so many animals, plants, and soil.

Besides, it’s so much more fun playing soccer in the rain.

It’s always been my goal to stay humble about the weather – at least we can give Mother Nature the control that she desires.



Hulu Desktop + Wiimote

I learned today of Hulu Desktop, a way to watch Hulu without opening the web browser.  I had just bought a Bluetooth dongle with the hope of using it as an interface device, and this was the first opportunity to do so!

Using Jason Smith‘s Wiimote Presenter, I just remapped some keys to make more sense for Hulu.  The Hulu configuration file for Wiimote Presenter is here.

Windows 7 also comes with Bluetooth support in-box, so all you have to do (if you have a BT dongle or laptop) is right-click the Bluetooth icon in the system tray, go to add device, press 1+2 on the wiimote, click the wiimote in the device list, and select the option to pair without a code.



Stupid Norton: IPv4 autoconfiguration error

I spent two hours trying to figure out why, whatever the configuration settings I threw at it, a laptop would not connect to a wireless connection.  Turns out the culprit was Norton Internet Security.  Only by running the Norton Removal Tool was I able to fix the computer.

Basically, ipconfig /all would give me the following message:

Connection-specific DNS Suffix . :
Link-local IPv6 Address . . . . . : fe80::ed42:547:5d1b:20ef%9
Autoconfiguration IPv4 Address. . :
Subnet Mask . . . . . . . . . . . :
Default Gateway . . . . . . . . . :

Ooooh, how fun, they say.  169.254.x.x is the IANA-defined black-hole.  Oops.  Of course, rebuilding the IP stack or turning off IPv6 didn’t help.  Sigh.  Probably recommending that everyone remove Norton now now that MS Security Essentials, AVG, Ad-aware, etc etc do a better job without destroying the computer while updating.