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Friday, September 18th, 2020
11:03 pm - Pictures, friending, and what-not

Soooo...I got annoyed with my old webspace place and let it die off and as a result: I killed all my old photo entries. Now, I've updated, and am using flickr as my webspace. However, I'm not transferring many of my old "past entry" photos ('cept, for the most recent two entries, where I re-entered a few photos, and then called it a day).

So, if you are trying to read anything older then this entry you aren't going to see any photos. Sorry (I'm a lousy photographer: so, you aren't missing much).

Recently, the majority of my entries have become friends only. Very rarely do I randomly friend people, but if we have semi-similar interests (i.e. I don't think anything I say will offend/bore you), try me: I might go for it.

Have a good one!

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Thursday, April 1st, 2010
7:43 pm - A Case for the 2010 Census, from a GIS perspective
Cross-posted from A Drag and Drop World.

Yesterday, I mailed in my first census.

For myself (and some of my housemates), I filled out 10 questions, regarding our ages and ethnicities, that the government is required by law (see US Constitution: Art. 1, Sec. 2, Clause 3) to ask me every ten years or so (notably, I am also "legally required"-- as a US resident--to answer these questions). Overall, I'm happy to report is was a positive experience. Beyond taking exactly 20 minutes to fill out (longer then average--but shorter then that Facebook quiz I took to find out whether whether my musical choices made me an 'Emo' or a 'Hick'), I learned how to spell my Filipino roommate's last name, and I feel like I significantly contributed to the future of my community (...no really, I feel like I did just that).

This marks one of the few cases of my adult life that I was actually happy to oblige the government with what it was asking of me (I doubt I'll feel the same towards the IRS on the 15th, but that's another story). In fact, I was so eager to help my government, I scrounged 1.75 from my broke self (thanks again IRS) to encapsulate and mail the thing (First Class) to the National Processing Center in Jeffersonville, Indiana (yes, I lost the paid-postage envelope that came with the form). I do not--in ANYWAY--have second thoughts about supporting the 2010 US Census.

...however, there are some among us whom apparently do.

In February, a poll by the Pew Research Center found that nearly 1 in 5 people were not willing to fill out the Census (notably: 1/4th of those 'no' responses said their refusal was due to "distrust of government or concerns about privacy".) In web surfing, I uncovered a lot of evidence that corresponded with the poll's findings. Just by goggling the words "scared" and "Census" and "2010", I wandered across a whole lot of forum posts and news sources (note: if you consider Fox.com a real "news" source) dedicated to voicing doubts, fears-- and even anger--at the 2010 Census and the Government's (alleged) intents with collecting the data. Among some of the most note-worthy comments were:

I will not fill in names or ages of my children. The last thing i want is some pedophile working for the census bureau having my address and the choice of ages that he likes. Yes, I have a tinfoil hat, no, I don't care that people think I'm crazy.

...Why does the Census care about race? How about questions like education, health, etc.. Why so much on race? I thought we were supposed to be blind to race. I smell a big pile of politics.

...and my personal favorite (mostly because it is soooo over-the-top and devoid of any logical, factual, and reasonable thought):

...Above all, ACORN is pulling the strings! They're secretly behind everything, and they're going to use the census to bring down the country! DON'T TREAD ON ME, ACORN! I may not KNOW very much, but based on what little I know, or think I know, let me tell you, I am angry, angry, angry! Very angry! I want my country back, Acorn! AARRGHH!

Okay people....where to start?

Well, for starters, let me just say that I have a healthy amount of respect for those who take the time to question authority (be it government or otherwise). However, there is a difference between 'questioning' authority and bringing to the table a fact-based inquiry of the system....versus indulging in some paranoid 'over-the-top' rant of things that you (clearly) don't understand and don't appear to want to understand.

Overall, it seems to me, that the Census Bureau is facing the same problem that NASA is: bad PR.

The question is simple:
Why do so many people distrust the Census?
Answer: ...because very few people know what the Census is used for.

Allow me to enlighten you a bit.

The Census is a multi-year effort to create a cumulative data source that accounts for the number and demographics (i.e. age, race, and on a more general scale income) of our entire population. As anyone who has worked with large-scale and multi-year data collecting, an effort this big is bound to have some complexities and flaws.

For instance, the "race" categorization.

Over the years, our definition and understanding of race has changed and evolved to levels that cannot easily be defined within check-boxes 1 or 2. Who in this country-- at this point--doesn't epitomize the American melting pot? I, myself, can name 4 "racial" definitions that could apply to me (i.e. Caucasian, Pakistani, Middle Eastern, Asian-Pacific). Race is not a simple question anymore, and perhaps, it never was.

However, we are talking about standard data entry here. We are also talking about data entry over a large time scale, where we hope to compare previous data sets (i.e. previous census results) to current data sets. Sure, I find the Census term "Negro" offensive and wildly out-dated. But I have no doubt that it is being used-- not because the government is interested in Civil Right's abuses--but because data entry is one particularly tedious and laborious task. How many Census years have African-American's defined themselves (and have been defined by others) as "Negroes". Keep in mind that the first census was taken in 1790. I'd bet the fill-in-the-blank "applicable race" section of the census saw that term many times over many different time periods**.

It is a common question we run into in GIS: How do we 'deal' with our data? How do we go about collecting our data, organizing it, and distributing it? How do we--from start to finish--create a framework of research and data collection from which we can create the most unbiased, most accurate--but still incredibly generalized-- analysis possible?

It's not an easy question to answer, and I have faith that the Government struggled just as long as I have in creating a data-collection process that synthesized the wide-variety of answers into a few clear (but generationally comparative) check boxes.

As for the (paranoid) insistence that the Government is "out to get us" with the Census. All I can say, is I doubt that is true. Census workers, just like all government employees, have to go through a rigorous (and red-taped to the tenth degree) background check. If you've ever applied for a government position--you know what I'm talking about.

Furthermore, as a GIS tech, I am privy to one of the many positives that the US Census data provides us: the Tiger/Census files. Recently, these (free) files helped out a non-profit group I interact with (and volunteer services for) occasionally.

This particular non-profit group works with Bay Area teenagers, specifically, teenagers who are suffering from a wide range of disabilities: including severe asthma and chronic lung diseases. The teenagers are almost all African-American and Mexican-American--there is not a single Caucasian student among them. Recently, authorities have reported that diesel emissions are a leading cause of childhood asthma and cancer.

The non-profit asked me if I could map the dominant Under-18/race types (i.e. White, African-American, and Mexican-American) from the 1990 Census and overlay it with their refineries and port cargo facilities data (which they knew to be--based on topography and emissions data--the dominant contributors of diesel exhaust in the Bay Area). I did that and drew a 5-mile buffer around the facilities to visualize the density of race types in the facilities neighborhood. The results were sobering.

Here is the UNDER-18/Caucasian map:


...versus the UNDER-18/African-American:

African American

...and the UNDER-18/Mexican-American:


Without the 1990 Census, there would've been no way for us to (reasonably) assume and/or argue that the causes of these kids illnesses could be due to their close proximity to the factories. Furthermore, there wouldn't have been much reason to even suspect that these illnesses were not (just) due to genetic, racial, or even age susceptibilities.

Just think: if every parent who provided that 1990 Census information (used here) left their kids age and race off the Census form...we'd be looking at a much different series of maps. It's possible we'd also be running the risk that these sick kids would never know the true cause of their illnesses. Nor would the government know how to help them, and identify the other 'at-risk' communities in their neighborhood.

The Census is a big deal, people. Not just to the Government (and your Congressman, who wants to keep his/her district), but it is a big deal to you, and for me.

Do yourself a favor: drop the fear, and fill it out.

**True, with database technology these days, it would be feasible to do a (so-called) "Find-and-Replace" query to re-classify the race "terminology" of decades of census data. However...in doing so, you run into numerous possibilities of errors (for ex: how to re-classify, or even recognize, misspellings). With database entry, one must always carefully consider the risks of introducing statistical errors into raw data versus the advantages of changing 'offensive' terminology.

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Saturday, February 20th, 2010
4:51 pm - ING Direct as bad as they say?
In building my emergency fund (preferably outside of the confines of the evil banking empire Wells Fargo) I've received a lot of suggestions that I should head over to ING Direct.

I just spent a thrilling morning trying to find a way to get into their $25.00 promotional deal (i.e. the one they've had for the past 10 years, where new customers receive $25.00 for opening, while the referrer gets a $10.00 bounty...btw if you want in on this, message me!). However, in looking for this deal I found a lot of negative reviews (most of them to this guy's blog post).

Anyways, the complainers whine about long-turnover times and "Invalid Account Number" problems.

So...anyone else have feedback on this?

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Monday, December 28th, 2009
3:14 pm - Avatar and Copenhagen

Our Great Mother does not take sides, Jake. She protects only the balance of life.

Neytiri, Avatar, December 2009.

I call upon our neighbors, even those with whom we have not yet reached diplomatic relations, to join hands in an effort to save our region. Political disagreements should not hinder environmental co-operation. Carbon molecules carry no passport. Rivers require no visa. Pollution travels with them. All of us - Jews, Muslims and Christians - pray that the Jordan River will flow, fresh and holy.

- Shimon Peres, Israeli President, Copenhagen Climate Talks, December 2009.

If our planet had an Academy Award ceremony, I think it would be inviting fewer politicians and scientists this year and more CGI-enhanced, leggy, pony-tailed, 12-ft smurfs carrying bows and wearing DayGLO paint.

This month, scientists and politicians alike were watching the Copenhagen Climate talks like it was the Giants vs. Patriots Super Bowl. Obama was suppose to be our young Eli Manning, the upstart Giants QB, bravely facing the undefeated (and viciously scheming) Patriots-like behemoth--China. Right up to the last day (long before our young Eli took the field to play one last quarter of hardball with one stubborn geologist), the "white coats" were deep into their doomsday prophesying. Thomas Stoker from the IPCC, repeated and repeated "warming in the climate system is unequivocal" (a direct quote from 2007 IPCC's 4th Assessment Report). Robert Dunbar, of the Center for Ocean Solutions, reminded us that the ocean levels weren't just rising but--for extra fun--they were also lapping carbonic acid onto our shores and marine life (how are you going to like sticking your toesies in that?).

The real "fourth-quarter" at this event began with the struggle to set a legitimate, legally-binding, point-of-no-return, internationally approved, scientifically justified, CO2 target for our planet. Basically, the question at hand was as follows:

Were we, as the foremost governing species on this planet, going to:

Option A) Arrest our descent into planetary madness and destruction by capping our CO2 emissions below their current levels (387 ppm and increasing 2-9 ppm annually) by setting the benchmark at 300-350 ppm (parts per million). True, the 350 ppm max number is a much trumpeted figure by the (so-called) treehugging community, but it is definitely not without it's scientific proof and consensus. 350 ppm takes into account the numerous scientific factoids that show that our planet will be absent one Arctic tophat in 30 years should our emissions continue to push towards and beyond 390 ppm. This number corresponds to maintaining almost all existing modern marine life which evolved and adapted in CO2 levels which ranged from 180 ppm to 280 ppm. 350 ppm also refers to terrestrial life, as one (of many) studies have shown that the biodiversity balance in eco-hotspots, like the Amazon, are shifting as inflated CO2 levels drive particular plant species to drastically out-compete other plant species.

350 ppm also corresponds to keeping landmasses that are a mere 1-meter above sea level (including not only small island states, but most of the Netherlands, extensive tracts of land in Bangladesh, and the eastern United States) from becoming underwater cities.


Option B) Sign up for inevitable, irreversible, planetary feedback-cycle of disaster by capping CO2 emissions at the politically popular 450 ppm. And when I say "popular", I mean popular in the sense that it has it's own US Bill (see: Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill—aka the American Clean Energy and Security Act, ACES, H.R. 2454) and the political backing of three recession crippled nations- the U.S., Britain, and Australia (who, incidentally, would all have to slash carbon dioxide emissions by 5% each year over the next decade to hit the 450ppm target).

And that's basically what it boils down to.

Scientific evidence shows that our planet and population levels cannot be sustained at 450 ppm. Political leaders show that our economy cannot function or meet the 350 ppm cap. Ultimately, it's a scientific-economic conundrum. Even though an emissions cap of 450 ppm would mean nothing less then water touching the torch of the Statue of Liberty, California becoming an island, and coral reefs only existing in history books...at our current economic state, 450 ppm is the best we can do and hope for. It's unfortunate that science doesn't support that message, but we must accept.

Which, incidentally, is the background story of Avatar.

The latest in James Cameron-movie wizardry brings us the tale of a gone-broke, gone-legless, gone-native ex-marine who lands on planet Pandora: mankind's last hope for economic and environmental salvation (...and if Obama and his politcal friends are damn lucky, this place actually might exist). I won't spoil specific plot details for the few of you who haven't seen it, but suffice to say the movie takes place in 2154, when Earth is a "dying planet". The hero, who is white (notably following the tradition of all gone-native Hollywood storyline's, i.e. Dances with Wolves, Ferngully, Pocahontas, and Last of the Mohicans), turns himself into a giant blue 'avatar' and mingles with Pandora's indigenous population, the Na'vi. An identity struggle ensues (...oh dear, am I white or am I blue?...) while the marine finds himself a pawn caught between the differing priorities and objectives of science and economy.

The problem really seems to begin with who built the blue suit. Avatar's were originally designed for the relatively benign purpose of researching and studying the Na'vi and Pandora. However, this scientific cocktail was bought and paid for by a mining operation, for the chief purpose of identifying materials and producing 'diplomatic' indigenous relations (i.e. indigenous relocation from prime mining sites). En-route to producing 'diplomatic' relations, the science team makes several important discoveries regarding Pandora's unique environment, discoveries that could essentially create the roadmap for successful cohabitation between the two species. Discoveries that could--possibly--improve human health and existence.

However, the interests of economy and the robber barons funding the Avatar program were not swayed by these discoveries. Fear of financial loss, and of having a "bad fiscal quarter", drives the mining CEO to dismiss the pleading scientists and push ahead with the usual raping and pillaging of planetary resources. Barking that "it's a forest, they can find another tree!" the CEO kicks the Na'vi out of their native home, and embarks on a quest for planetary ruin.

Financial investors do need their payday, after all.

The story of Avatar is much more black-and-white then the story of Copenhagen, but the primary character's are all there (...just in different colors, albeit). It's a playoff between the politicians who are worried about the economy and the scientists that are worried about the environment. The politicians are functioning on this belief that there can be a compromise (i.e. 450 ppm instead of 350 ppm) between the interests of environment and economy. They believe in this compromise even though much of the science shows that such a compromise is not sustainable or even environmentally beneficial. They believe in this compromise to the point that they are ready to dismiss science.

Unlike the character's in Avatar, climate scientists do not have the speaking finesse of Sigourney Weaver to argue their position against the glib likes of Obama. Trained to be objective rather then emotional, they do not have the impassioned speeches needed to convince a depressed public floundering in debt and unemployment that 450 ppm is simply NOT an option. Real-life scientists are not movie stars or even actors. They are merely people who were hired to tell us what is the best environmental solution to an environmental problem.

They have told us. Now it is our turn, as citizens, to NOT accept the argument that "it's a forest, they can find another tree!"....because, truth is, this isn't Pandora, and there is no other tree.

(Original post found here at A Drag and Drop World.)

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Sunday, October 4th, 2009
10:48 pm - Why Space? (aka "get a new PR department NASA")
Linked from My NEW BLOG

Earthrise. December 24, 1968.

A few years ago, Elon Musk, stood before Congress and pointed out that the powerful dream and institution that once committed roughly two to four cents out of every U.S. tax dollar, employed up to 409,000 workers, and succeeded in having American's land on the moon was dying.

His reason? Normal people couldn't afford to make it into space.

Well, no disrespect to Mr. Musk, but I'm not sure that's the real reason. In fact, given that a lot of American's (like myself) are afraid of heights, I doubt many of us want to go into space-- even if we could afford it. Heck, I suspect the whole operation of getting people up there (even if it was cheap) would be highly unpleasant. It's cold (something every Californian fears), I hear there are no coffee shops (something every researcher needs), and I don't like how those white suits make my butt look (something every women is secretly thinking about).

Basically, I think Musk is assuming a lot by saying "every" American wants to go to space. However, he has a point in saying that the space program is in decline. It is a well-known fact that America's prominence in space is under siege. The signs are everywhere: decreased federal spending to NASA (NASA's current budget is little over 1/2 of what the budget was during the NASA's 1966 Apollo peak--in current dollars and utterly incomparable to what American's currently spend on pizza). The prolonged layoff of our current shuttle fleet (How's this for some Cold-War irony? If the US wants a ride to the space station we helped build, we are going to have to hitchhike with the Russians. ::insert one big Werner von Braun laugh here::). Continued project delays, China and India's new breakthroughs...add it all up, and it spells one, big, clear message: "Houston, we failed".

But, is the reason this is all happening because the U.S. public has stopped dreaming of space? Or is this (very real) disinterest tied to something else? Is it just a symptom of the cause? Is the incomprehensible cost and feat of taking an ordinary American to space, doing what Musk suggests: stifling our dreams and stopped us from striving?

My answer is no. I think American's are very interested and inspired by space exploration and space related technology. For evidence, look at how the most classic story of space exploration--Star Trek--did in the movie theaters this year (fyi, it was the 8th highest-grossing film of 2009).

Still not convinced? Okay. Think those dollars reflect more about Chris Pine's 'stumble-and-grin' line delivery then how the nation feels about space exploration? Fair enough. I'd really like to cite the rave reviews of Hubble 3-D in Imax as further case-and-point to this argument...however, that won't be released till next year. So, in lacking better evidence, I'll just google up some recent headlines, like:

1) The MIT kids who launched a $150.00 space balloon...

2) ...and the IOS's work to create an 8,000 launch price for personal satellites...

3) ...and Bolonkin's idea for a High G-force Magnetic Space Launcher (think: big techno slingshot in the middle of somewhere large and remote...like that space between George W's ears....how freaking cool is that)?

For me, these are all prime examples of U.S. innovation currently taking place to feed our healthy and robust space interest. Because space exploration is cost-prohibitive, there are indeed a slew of students, private industries, and professors currently dedicating their lives to creating the next affordable taxi cab to Mars. Furthermore, because funding is bad, many of these people are performing these feats of brilliance for far less money then what the newest blond is making on the reality show "The Hills" (...which, to me, only emphasizes how dedicated these individuals are to making space a national priority).

However, what about the "other" folk? The folk without the PhD's, corporate funding, and MIT's resources? What about the "public opinion"? Why are there polls saying that space exploration isn't a public priority anymore and why is public opinion being held responsible for the recent reductions in federal research funds (because, as Abraham Lincoln once eloquently put it, “Public opinion in this country is everything”)?

Quite simply, I don't think the public clearly understands what space research is, how much it does (and is doing), and how important it's going to be for helping us tackle the pressing issues that trouble us here on Earth.

Maybe it is because NASA only get's 1% of the overall federal budget, but their PR engine is pretty bad. Atrociously bad in fact. Most people seem to associate NASA with rocket launching and space walks and are completely unaware of the numerous social benefits that NASA has contributed to. To emphasize this fact, in 2007, USA Today offered a list of the “Top 25 Scientific Breakthroughs” that occurred in it the past 25 years. Of these 25 breakthroughs, nine of these came from space, eight directly from NASA. Michael Griffin, on NASA's website, is quoted saying:

“We see the transformative effects of the Space Economy all around us through numerous technologies and life-saving capabilities. We see the Space Economy in the lives saved when advanced breast cancer screening catches tumors in time for treatment, or when a heart defibrillator restores the proper rhythm of a patient’s heart….We see it when weather satellites warn us of coming hurricanes, or when satellites provide information critical to understanding our environment and the effects of climate change. We see it when we use an ATM or pay for gas at the pump with an immediate electronic response via satellite. Technologies developed for exploring space are being used to increase crop yields and to search for good fishing regions at sea.”

As a remote sensing specialist, I cannot agree with Michael more. I personally "see" the effects of space travel all around me. It is heart and soul of my own life, and with me in (almost) all of my cartographic work. In fact, I still remember the moment, when looking at the Earthrise photo in my first GIS textbook, when I realized that Armstrong's walk might have been a cool journey, but his photos were the real discovery.

Thanks to space technology, I am able to map our planet and it's inhabitants in a manner that would've never been possible had we kept our feet (and funding) on Earth. By doing this I am able to generate information and insight that not only creates cool maps, but serves the U.S. by providing cheap, critical, and strategic information about key public interests which (unlike space exploration) did happen to make the 'priority' list (such as defense, clean energy, environmental concerns, economic development...just to name a few).

Thanks to space technology, I also don't need to be in space to perform this job either. Which is good, because I still don't think I want to go.

Which brings me to my point. Considering that everytime a United States citizen sleeps on a Tempur-Pedic bed, or contemplates neurosurgery, or answers their cell phone...we are experiencing a benefit that we can thank NASA for, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say NASA just needs a new PR department. Not a special discount on space tickets.

I mean, really Mr. Musk, with all the things NASA has done on Earth, why do any of us need to leave the neighborhood to see the local improvements? The value of exploring space is all around us, just as the dream is clearly alive in every sci-fi movie, book, and game we have in circulation.

The only thing missing here, Mr. Musk, is the "Courtesy of NASA" stamp.

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Saturday, May 9th, 2009
4:33 pm - I h8 the UC Berkeley Graduate Division....
I doubt there is a single person on earth who likes filing their dissertation.

If anything can sum up the whole academic bullshit I've spent a good chunk of my graduate career hiding from--it is filing. Everyone and everything involved in putting my precious into the library annoys me.

Will report back when it is done.

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Monday, October 6th, 2008
10:28 am - West Oakland-air pollution monitoring

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Monday, August 18th, 2008
4:54 pm - Weird...
A few days ago (the 15th) was the day that my grandpa died. It was an anniversary that I seriously and desperately dreaded last year. I felt uneasy most of August (hell, for most of 2007) waiting for that day to come- I checked the calender non-stop, and felt super down when the day actually came.

I somehow forgot to do that this year.

I don't know if it's a good or bad thing (my gut instinct tells me it is bad). But, I'm making a mental note to call my grandma after I get off work.

Either way, I hope wherever he is: he knows I still love his grumpy butt.

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Saturday, August 16th, 2008
10:19 pm - Seeing double...seeing flames...working on
My final class, as a UC Berkeley student, was a summer-session "beginning" photo class. It was a traditional class (meaning: B&W photography/developing) full of freshies, sophmores, and three upper classmen (note: I was the only grad student). It was fun, and light-hearted (way less intense then my studio work).

For my final project, I stole a two-len's digital camera which made stereograms from UCB's Visual Science department. With the help of my roommate David, we walked around campus and took some signature 'Berkeley' shots.

Using Matlab (and the image processing toolbox), we combined the dual images and made a series of anaglyphs.
codeCollapse )

The fountain and a jumping squirrel turned out to be my favorites...action shots which could've only been captured with my 'borrowed' equipment (you can see the rest at my flickr page).

IMG_2227 IMG_2179

fountain red_green_squirel

In other news...

Nothing happened to me this summer that was terribly interesting. However, a lot of things happened that were very important steps forward for me. The big news is, that after a whole summer of chasing it, I landed my dream job. Starting Monday, I am a Staff Scientist for the Center for Fire Research and Outreach at UC Berkeley . It's a 3-year research position, where I will be working to develop a GIS-based risk assessment model for determining priority sites for fire and erosion risk throughout California. The model is going to be the first step towards a state-wide effort to improve fire prevention through aggressive pre-fire and post-fire treatments.

I'm very happy that I was brought onto this project. It's a huge step in the direction I've been trying to head. For the past 2-years I've been attempting to find positions which will allow me to utilize the full breadth of my educational/professional background: from environmental science, to remote sensing, to economics, to civil engineering, to english. Even though I think interning for URS was a step in the right direction: environmental consulting never allowed me to be as comprehensive as a worker as I like to be. Furthermore, even though I appreciate the lifestyle, academia definitely proved to be too polluted and stagnate with low-paying post-docs, over-specialization, tenure politics, and research loop-holes to guarantee me the type of intellectual freedom I really crave.

At this moment, I think pursuing the non-professor/research scientist route will definitely guarantee me the quality of life I like-- with the access to data that I need and want (I am pretty stubborn about not wanting to affiliate myself with either the military and/or NASA...the two big remote sensing hiring forces who I would have several moral/political reasons for not wanting to be affiliated with).

Overall, my new gig is a pretty big project. Even though the fire season has been getting progressively worse in California, there is currently very little fire prevention work being done to prevent large scale fires. It is a critical issue...and a challenge that will probably keep me mentally entertained for a long time.

Of course, it wouldn't be a university job without the usual political whoo-ha. In this case due to the govenator's Schwarzenegger's budgetary hiring freeze the Center is technically not allowed to hire me right now. However, this week, the group found it necessary to direct funds from existing projects to bring me on board before the current fire season becomes even more of a deadly expense for the state...and the future of this effort.

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Monday, July 7th, 2008
4:06 pm - I miss Jason
Really...who can I talk to about fire-erosion mapping when he is not around? :~(

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Tuesday, May 6th, 2008
8:01 pm - Final Boards
Thesis: In short, it's not going well. But the pretty pictures at my defense did keep my commitee from frowning too much.

#1 thing (of many #1 things) that I learned in grad school:
Never underestimate the power of pretty pictures.

(Personally, I am proud that I've come so far in such a short time...it was a real war taking studios last year...I'm just not a natural with image layout, like some folks).
Arundo What is remote sensing

Data Acquisition Site



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Monday, March 10th, 2008
3:50 pm - Research..final days


I should be doing my lab work right now (I am behind on a few), but instead, I'm in a posting mood.

It's been a relatively okay semester so far. Again, I have way too much to do, but it's much more manageable compared to last semester.

Mostly, these days, I'm just working on my thesis (hence the graphical content of this entry). Since some of you in science might be interested, I'll tell a bit-- but for the rest of you, I'll spare you the finer details. It's actually pretty exciting stuff. At the moment I am working with high-res spectral data (known as hyperspectral) to identify Arundo (the invasive species I study) on the San Joaquin River (FYI the 2nd longest river in Ca and a notorious mapping nightmare due to access and legal issues). Basically, I am using an IDL based image processing program known as ENVI to create classification algorithms which seperate Arundo from other stuff (namely scrub, soil, water, trees) based on the seperation I see in the different spectral curves. I'm also localizing and combining various information from various parts of the spectrum (mostly visible, near infrared, and SWIR) to optimize my algorithms and improve the chances of successful Arundo classification.

After that's over (which it mostly is), I will switch back to the more common high-res spatial data that I usually work with (my thesis, in a nutshell, compares mapping with spectral data vs spatial data).

Anyways, it's been fun playing with the spectral stuff. This particular data set is being used by so many people it's pretty much pure of all the bugs that can stem from the messy adventure that comes with atmospheric/geometric correction. It was a research project I could actually learn from and not get frustrated by the little mapping quirks.

...oh well, more later, I'm going to attempt my lab.

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Friday, November 30th, 2007
9:58 am - Pakistan
For some of you who don't know, I am half-Pakistani by birth.

If you are surprised-- I understand. Except for the legal documents surrounding my birth, the custody dispute, and my passport I really have no real connection to Pakistan at all. I did not grow up knowing my father (who is Pakistani, and returned to Pakistan immediately after I was born), I know very little about my parents relationship (except that my grandfather deeply disapproved), and I know extremely little about the culture or my paternal relations.

Also, I don't even remotely resemble a person of middle eastern decent (coloring-wise I've always favored my red-headed, fair-skin mother).

So, if me being half-Pakistani surprises some of you, you can imagine how the High Commission for Pakistan is taking it. Not well...and that's why I've been waiting 5 months for POC (Pakistan Orgin Card) approval.

Hands down, this is probably the most annoying process I've ever been involved in. I had tenative plans to fly out in October, but between the October 18 2007 terrorist attacks in Karachi (largest city in Pakistan, where I was flying into) and serious delays in securing my POC (Pakistan Orgin Card) from the High Commission, it's starting to look like the trip will be delayed all the way into the summer (at the earliest).

At the moment, I've been working directly through the Pakistani government to gain entry (in order to go you need a passport and a visa-- at the moment visas are hard to get from the US, so I've been researching getting the POC to avoid going for the visa). But, now I am wondering if I should be shooting for the Visa as well. However, I'm worried that the Visa process will be a nightmare (proposing to travel to a known-terrorist country as a highly educated half-citizen...well, in my experience, it raises US eyebrows) and, to be honest, I don't really have the time to deal with the extensive interview process in LA.

Overall, I'm just annoyed and burned out. Dealing with years of UC related stuff has definitely made me adept to dealing with the political bullshit. However, it doesn't change the fact that I am annoyed. Deeply annoyed. Everything about this process annoys me. I started learning Urdu this summer just to prep for the possible October trip (even though I knew English would serve me fine), but with the POC-delays and looking over the Visa application, I haven't been able to touch a textbook in weeks.

Honestly, I've never been so annoyed in my life...and mostly because there just isn't anything I can do to improve this situation.

current mood: aggravated

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Sunday, September 9th, 2007
11:50 am - UC Berkeley Sustainability Pamphlet-- for your use

I am part of a four-person team who created a Sustainability pamphlet for new (and old) students at Berkeley. We are currently in the process of distributing this amongst the
dorms, UCB recycling crew, SGB (Students for a Greener Berkeley), and
various student groups on campus. If any of you know of any groups who might have use for this sort of thing, feel free to send it their way. Otherwise, it's all yours to love and enjoy.

Here are some jpg's of the pamphlet. However, if you email me (arielles AT berk DOT edu) I can send you it in pdf format...which is easier to print from).




P.S. If you can, it is very feasible to post this on a website. In fact, we'd really encourage
putting it on a website if you or your group have one (...reduce printing cost/waste).

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Wednesday, August 15th, 2007
11:42 pm - Hmm..
Today, one year ago, was a very bad day.

Living isn't much fun on some anniversaries.

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Sunday, January 21st, 2007
4:47 pm - Blowing my workshift
I feel like blowing my workshift. I am suppose to clean three rooms, and all of these three rooms are occupied by studying/eating people.

..and none of the studying people look like they are inclined to move.


Okay, well I'll shoot for tommorow.

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Friday, December 29th, 2006
8:25 pm
I'm in a lot of pain now....but I'll survive.

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Wednesday, December 20th, 2006
10:42 pm - How bad is grad school?
Well, let me put it this way: it's 9:30 on December 20th. The semester was over yesterday. Nobody is in studio right now. Nobody is on campus right now. Nobody is in the office right now.

About 40 people are drunk out of their minds over by the Optometry building.

And how do I know this?

Well, because I'm where nobody is right now...the lab.

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Tuesday, December 12th, 2006

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Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006
2:31 am - Thank you George
"I remember thinking I just want more. This isn't it. Fame is not the goal. Money is not the goal. To be able to know how to get peace of mind, how to be happy, is something you don't just stumble across. You've got to search for it."

-George Harrison


In other news this week: Ed gave me an Ipod (...well, technically, he tried to "give" it to me on my birthday, but he was in Australia, and it never made it here...). So hell hath officially frozen over my friends: I'm no longer a Mac virgin.

In light of things that I've been given in the past (toothbrush...flashlight...a stuffed animal with a questionable phrase written on it...) I was kinda surprised that Ed switched to something so....um, generic, might be the word. Doubly surprised, since we've had a long-standing price quota on gift-giving (I guess if he broke it, that now means I'm obligated to break it too...but the only expensive thing I can imagine him wanting is a guitar or a new Mac. But since he already has 3 1/2 guitars and 3 computers I have my doubts that any of these options are logical).

Oh yeah, he gave it to me in a pretty touching way to. Pre-downloaded with all my favorite classics (Tom Petty, CCR, Beatles, Roy Orbison) and a few songs which he must've purchased because I'm fairly sure I'd never find any of them on his hard disk (Sheryl Crow, Frou Frou). He also burned a entirely new MP3 collection for when I want to switch up the rotation.

Then he hugged me and told me he wanted to give me the gift of music.

Isn't Mac's new marketing campaign irresistably sweet?

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