Archive for September, 2007

Another Battle Won in the War!

Friday, September 28th, 2007

I have really excellent news! I just got word that I am good to go to submit a draft version of my proposed building detection method (from LiDAR data) for The Third International Symposium on Communications, Control and Signal Processing Conference. It has been a long home stretch for pushing for this conference. I have had less than 3 beers for the entire month of September and have not played any video games for the last 3 weeks.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!

Despite the above lack of R&R, I have made some nice progress towards my PhD Dissertation. I view the entire Dissertation as a war. Within this War you have several decisive battles which mark key victories in your campaign. After winning some many battles, you eventually force your enemy into submission (via Dissertation Defense) and declare victory over the War. What are the battles you may ask? They are publications! How are the battles won? They are won by turning out working ideas/implementations/theories for your publications. After so many dissertation related publications, all culminating in a final strike, you undeniably WIN! At this point I rehearse my favorite motivational war quote:
“We will accept nothing less than complete victory!” – Dwight D Eisenhower, June 6, 1944
Today marks another battle won in the great campaign! The paper is only in draft form and the results are preliminary, but its worth publishing. As soon as I have the final draft furnished, I will be sure to post a link!

What really surprised me is the day after this long campaign for this publication, I took one break and actually played some video games and then after that went right back to continuing my work. I really do enjoy learning and coding and spent an entire semester choosing my topic, researching various areas related to my interests, and then another semester pleading with companies to donate data for my dissertation.

Conjuring a break through in your research work is typically a tough feat as most of the time it involves suffering through a long train of failures. What you have to inevitably realize, is these failures mark progress! They are unavoidable failures that will reveal truth – so really they are not failures at all. Albeit those failures in themselves do not warrant publications, the line of thinking those failures lead you to, the ideas they then instill upon you do grant great victories!

Summer Movies [Reviews]

Friday, September 28th, 2007

I am behind on posting about the movies that came out this past Summer; so I figured I would just simply lump them all in a giant mega post.

    Shoot ‘Em Up:

SEU

Gun play at its finest! The movie dared to go rated R, despite the loss in potential younger viewers it takes by going this venue. I am glad it did as the movie being rated R was appreciated: extra violence, the use of the F word and nudity. It stinks in say Die Hard 4 where instead of being rated R like it should have, we get a PG13 movie and fail to hear John McClane‘s battle cry as it should be chanted: yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!
The movie was slightly cheesy at points with some unbelievable stunts and mediocre one liners, but as a whole it did deliver landing a 3.6/5 in my book or in other words worth seeing in the theaters and the money I paid for it.

    Transformers:

Transformers
Albeit this review is late, this movie has made a return to the theaters, specifically IMAX. The special effects made this movie worth seeing in theaters – i.e. the gargantuan size robots transforming and battling on the big screen. There were parts where, because the robots were CGI-ed for the majority of the movie, that some of the scenes looked like expensive CGI and not real. Your imagination is required to some degree when viewing this. Some of the actors were mediocre. I give it a 3.8/5 (almost a 4 but definitely above your mediocre grade movies and obviously one of the big ones for this summer’s releases).

    Live Free: Die Hard

DH4
I really loved this movie and for me it was the best movie of the summer. I thought Justin Long (aka Matthew Farrel in the movie) made a really awesome costar. I liked Kevin Smith (Frederick / Warlock’s character) as well. The movie’s concept seemed to dance to pretty close to the boundaries of reality: a virtual attack on the nation’s resources organized by a collection of hackers. The use of bad shop talk or poor computer lingo (“black hack files”, etc.) was existent but not rampant as is in other movies (Sword Fish, 24 Television Series, etc.). The only real warning I have to caution you with is, unfortunately this final installation of the series does not meet up to its previous predecessor: Die Hard With A Vengeance. I would place all of the movies then in the following order: Die Hard 3, 4, 1 and then 2 (from best to last). Furthermore, I would give this movie a 4/5.

    Ocean’s 13

O13
This movie was hilarious, witty, and fun. Most of the cast returned to a plot centering this time on a motivation greater than greed: revenge! At some points the movie is annoying in that our “heroes” or thieves seem to accurately anticipate all angles imaginable and pull off their stunt as though it were a walk in the park. Still, despite the aforementioned grievance, it delivers with a 3.8/5.

The Future:
I am concerned, although this summer’s movie line up was pretty good in comparison to previous summers, that the rest of the year will be a complete slump. The Alien Vs. Predatory 2 Trailer looks pretty sweet, but the rest of the summer looks pretty bleak.

Low Fuel Light

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

So the Low Fuel light came on during my trip home from UCF:
Low Fuel Light
This is not an abnormal thing for me as driving 25 miles to get to school and back, sometimes this happens. What made this really bad today is, I look at the dash board, notice the light is not on, and pass the most convenient stop for gas for the next 18 miles. Immediately after I pass that exit on the 408, the light goes on. I say to myself – “awww shit.”

After seeing that light, I slowed the car down to 55 mph, turned off the air conditioning, proceeded to begin coasting (no sudden stops or accelerations) and prayed (yes praying does conserve gasoline ).
I proceeded to drive 18 miles on a low fuel light and make it to the next convenient gas station. You are probably thinking – “you idiot, what not stop off at the nearest exit.” To this I respond – “because I don’t want to, its out of the way and I need to get home ASAP; must go to gas station that is already on route to the way home so I don’t have to go out of my way.” Well all of those reasons and I was wicked hungry and it was raining (the Florida down pour, monsoon rain, not the New York all day little drizzle rain). I know, my logic is brilliant for a PhD EE student bang head.

Anyways, needless to say, I did actually safely make the trip. But that has to be the longest stretch I have ever done on my low fuel light.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse [Review]

Monday, September 24th, 2007

I should start out by saying I have never played any of the resident evil games, so therefore my knowledge is restricted to just that of what is presented in the movies. I have seen all three as of this past Saturday.

I thought the first Resident Evil was pretty good, a 3/5. It had an interesting plot, some mediocre action scenes and some OK character development (what else can you expect from a video-game based movie).

Alice

The second resident evil sucked; coming in for me at a 2/5. This movie had nothing new to really offer to its predecessor and really seemed to be nothing more than a filler to pass the time between the first and third installation of the series. Furthermore, some parts of the movie were disgustingly cheesy and came off as retarded rather than ‘cool’ – in particular Alice driving a motorcycle through a church window.

RE2

Finally, I thought the third movie was slightly better than the second but not as good as the first coming in at a 2.7/5. The movie had some interesting action sequences, but nothing really novel. Seeing the first two, I went in with pretty low expectations. Regardless, going in with low expectations does not justify a movie’s mediocrity or in this case almost lack thereof. The movie tied up the series pretty nicely and left you with a satisfied closing. I did see some parallels with this third Resident Evil and the third Matrix movie. In both movies, the last of their respective trilogies, the heroes are completely aware of their now enhanced super powers. Because of this, unfortunately some of the suspense is removed as the now stronger hero really seems to have lost all sense of fear and uncertainty whatsoever – almost as if the final task before them is boring even. Furthermore, since this is the last movie in the series, it seems the producers/directors must now out due themselves and come up with an even more ridiculously over powered final bad guy then what was fought in the first two movies. At this point, our heroes are now flying, have more force powers than a Jedi who has been eating midichlorians for breakfast for every day of his life (I can’t believe I spelled that right on my first try O.o), and can bend reality, space, time and life however they see fit. Sound familiar? All you need to do now is add long speeches between fight scenes and you have a live action Dragon Ball Z.
In short, if you have the spare cash, are bored, and would like to see a film that looks OK on the big screen, then check out RE:Apocalypse. However, if you’re the type who only goes to the theater once a month, you might want to pass on this – its worth a rent but definitely not a must see in theaters.

The 10 States of Procrastination

Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

All of these are not necessarily followed in this order and sometimes some of the stages are skipped. But on average, most of the stages occur and in the following order.

The 10 Stages of Procrastination:

1.) Look at the assignment and realize that it will take more than 5 minutes to do.

2.) Clean up your room, desk, or work area. You have a to have a clean workspace in order to do the assignment.

3.) Take a nap. A quick power nap will enable better thinking skills.

4.) Eat. Can’t work on an empty stomach.

5.) Consume alcohol. You need to calm down, having a beer or at most two will bring your mind to a working state. (Warning: If this step is repeated too many times, a runaway effect can occur and assignment will simply be disregarded as retarded in drunken state).

6.) Consume caffiene. Because of the previous step, you’re now in need of an antidepressant.

7.) Endlessly stare at the problem for hours hoping for some kind of epiphany.

8.) Play video games, watch TV, talk on the phone, or surf the net. You need to take a break from the previous step.

9.) Return to assignment only to find that the break was a complete waste of time.

10.) Copy the assignment out of the solutions manual as it is now due in 25 minutes.

Tornado Warning = Good Time to Walk

Friday, September 21st, 2007

I get cabin fever if I sit in front of my computer gaming or coding for too long and have to go out for a walk. Unfortunately I have done a lot more of the latter in the past week than anything. Regardless, I went for a walk with my sister tonight around the neighborhood and after I got back I saw on the Weather Channel that Orange County, during the time we had walked, was under a tornado warning. Leave it up to me to pick that time to go for a walk. The heat lightning was gorgeous. Random clouds above would just light up like the sky was God’s pinball machine.
Below is a blurry picture I took of the side walk in front of my house after our walk:
Blurry House Pic
The second picture is the roof of my car (again taken after our walk).
Car Roof Pic
It rained wicked hard this afternoon – we must have gotten at least 3 inches of rain. At some points I had trouble seeing our next door neighbor’s house.

The Origin of Nick’s Blog Title (Nick’s Notepad)

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, and children of all ages, without further adieu – the new blog logo has arrived!!! If you still see the giant blue blog, you may have to refresh your browser. You should see a picture with “Nick’s Notepad” written across it. In case you did not know, the image is from Final Fantasy VII – Advent Children, and the character in question is none other than Red XIII. The raw image I used and some other images with Red XIII from the movie have been hosted: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5].
If you have not seen Advent Children, I strongly recommend you to buy this movie – it is truly a master piece, far better than Square’s previous attempt at an animated movie (Spirits Within).
Tifa

The blog from here on out will be referred to as Nick’s Notepad. There’s actually some meaning behind the blog’s title.

Einstein would stay at the home of Leon Watters, the pharmateceutical company owner he had met in Pasadena. Watters recalled that Einstein did ask to borrow a pencial and notepad for his bedside. – Walter Isaacson, Einstein: His Life and Universe

Ever work on a project and get stuck? Did you ever then drop it for a while and go work on something else or call it a night and continue work the following day. Ever wake up in the middle of the night with an ingenious epiphany only to fall back asleep and then unable to recall the midnight revelation the following morning? When breaking from your task, whether or not you are conscious of it, the problem, the project still lingers in the back of your brain. Then when your mind is at a total state of medidation – BOOM! ENLIGHTENMENT!
Enlightenment

Enlightenment: refers to liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth and all of the suffering and limitation of worldly existence. In Hindu philosophy, it is seen as a transcendence of phenomenal being, of any sense of material consciousness, time, space, and causation (karma). It signifies a dissolution of the material self to uncover the underlying, pure spirit: the undoing of conditioned mentality-materiality or nama-roopa (lit. name-form) to uncover one’s eternal identity.

That’s when you wake up with the solution to all of your problems! Chances are, if you do not write down your solution, come morning you will lose it. Hence, always sleep with a notepad at your bedside. In fact, its best to carry that notepad where ever you go. It may seem a bit excessive, but why take any chances losing some of your best ideas? Therefore you have Nick’s Notepad! Albeit you won’t see very many research related epiphanies here, much of my ramblings about life, my life, movies and video games will show up quite frequently!

Don’t Feed the Animals at Disney

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

Or kick them in the nuts for that matter, the consequences will be severe:

Pluto Strikes Back

And – Matrix Jedi?? I know, it’s over a year old – but I’ve never heard of it.

And finally, one of my favorites – L33t Hax0r!!!
I can’t believe that woman actually used “l33t h@x0r” during an interview on television!

Lab Tour

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

I brought a digital camera to the lab with me this past Monday and got a chance to take some pictures. Sometimes when I am stumped on my research in the lab, I go and stare out back behind the engineering building. Albeit it’s only a parking lot, water tower and dorms, the view is still peaceful:
Behind Engineering III
Rotating slightly to the right you can see a parking garage further off into the distance (under the cell phone tower) and the student health center to the lower right.
Behind Engineering III
If I am only taking a small break, I walk right outside of our lab. We have a huge window which overlooks the CREOL Center (to the right in the picture below) and the Engineering I building.
Window View
The entrance into the lab I work at is on the 3rd floor of the Engineering III building. Most of the entire building, having been completed for only 3 semesters now I think is pretty much bare (no paintings, flyers, etc.).
Lab Entrance
I actually rigged two monitors to the desk I work at. I’m a real big multi-monitor junkie and told my adviser with two monitors, it would effectively double my effeciency. Whether or not that actually holds true, he did grant my wish:
Nick's Desk
Here is a picture of the rest of the lab:
Lab
Lucky for me, I’m there only two days a week, for the time being, for a total of about 20 hours a week. I say lucky in that its about a 35 minute drive to UCF with no traffic and about $4 in gas and $2.50 in tolls each way! I am looking into renting an apartment soon closer to campus. I just really loathe paying rent =o(. Why pay rent when you could buy a house and just simply charge others rent?

Here is a snapshot of me desperately trying to force a smile at an absurdly early hour in the morning (I arrive at the lab at 8:30am which means I have been awoke since 6:30am). Maybe waking up at 6:30am is easy for some of you early risers who rejoice at the sounds of the birds singing to the sunrise; I on the other hand usually murder anything at that hour that dares to disturb my slumber. If I had it my way I would be up at around 11-ish every day and asleep at around 3am. Without further adieu:

Nick

On a brighter note, I did call American Express, and my account was credited for the amount I spent signing up with Start Logic (all my money was refunded). I posted more about my experience with this in this previous blog post.

On an unrelated note, last weekend I think I had a brain fart and am closing in on a break through for my research – detecting buildings from LiDAR data. I am making a push to publish at this conference in Malta, Greece. As soon as I have a technical report completed, I will post about it in my blog.

War [Review] and Forbidden Kingdom

Friday, September 14th, 2007

War Sucked
What is War might you ask? I will tell you what War is – it is a movie with both Jason Statham and Jet Li that is more of a suspense thriller than it is a kung fu movie.

The synopsis for rogue deceivingly claims that an FBI Agent (Jason Statham) and an Assassin (Jet Li) are at war with one another. One naturally assumes, with the Jason Statham, having done Transporter, Transporter 2, and Crank within the past couple of years, being paired up with Jet Li, a martial arts legend, will yield a movie where the two fight one another! Let me leak a small tidbit to you that will ultimately gross you out about the movie and save you a horrifying 100 minutes of your life: they fight one another for less than 8 minutes during the entire course of the movie. Let me also leak something else that will further anger you – Jet Li spends about 25 minutes fighting and for the most part spends far more time talking and firing a gun then he does killing people with his hands.
War
Now Kung Fu movies (even though this is more of a suspense-thriller) statistically have unusually terrible plots. Imagine Britteny Spears and Paris Hilton becoming producers and teaming up to write, direct and produce a movie – and then you’ll get a glimpse of the atrocious quality of the plot for this movie. Plot twists in a porn flick make more sense then the attempts at mystery and suprise in this movie. After seeing this movie, I literally had to go home and watch another movie just to get over this one. If you are a die hard Jet Li fan and an admirer of Jason Statham, and feel this is a must see regardless of the above review, I advise you to download this (don’t even bother renting) and simply fast forward to the fight scenes and be done with it.
No points for plot, minimal martial arts, bad acting, in short this gets a 1 / 5 (probably the worst Li movie I have ever seen).

The Forbidden Kingdom
The above is pretty bleak. So one could definite use something cheery in light of the above. I do have some really awesome Jet Li related news if you have not already heard. What was rumor seems to be increasingly growing into fact: Jet Li and Jackie Chan are doing a movie together entitled Forbidden Kingdom.

It seems like rumor because Jet Li claimed he was done with Martial Arts Epic movies (with Fearless being his final epic). I am not sure how a movie with the two of these kung fu super stars could not be classified as a martial arts epic.

Regardless, this movie is fact and as of September 13, they are almost done filming.
Forbidden Kingdom
When looking at some of the facts about this film, one can just begin to imagine its potential.
To start, Yeon Woo Ping is doing the choreography. Who is Yeon Woo Ping? Think Kung Fu Hustle, Unleashed, The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, Fist of Legend – to be frank, he’s the man. Also, according to IMDB, Collin Chou, protector of the Oracle from the Matrix II and III, will also be in this film as well.
C Chou
With all of the above, I definitely look forward to this film. Hopefully it will be phenominal and I pray that we will see Jackie Chan and Jet Li fighting against one another several times throughout the film. Albeit it would also be cool to see them working together as well, but there must be at least one scene (hopefully) where all of our dreams as Kung Fu connoisseurs are fulfilled!