Saturday, November 21, 2009

Aardwark and the experts on *Hating Your Job*

From Wikipedia:

Aardvark is a social search service that connects users live with friends or friends-of-friends who are able to answer their questions. Users submit questions via email or instant messenger and Aardvark identifies and facilitates a live chat or email conversation with one or more topic experts in the asker's extended social network. Users can also review question and answer history and other settings on the Aardvark website.

Example of the service:

USER: i hate my job, i find it boring and the people i work with are unwelcoming. i am stuck in it for a few more months, how can i blow off heat? Got it. I'm sending your question to someone who knows about *I Hate My Job*.

REPLY: (From **** B./31/M/Amsterdam,Netherlands, Re: **I Hate My Job**)
start drinking!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

More Swiss fun facts

5. People don't have "fridges".

The word for closet in German is schrank, the word for fridge or refrigerator is kühlschrank which literally means "cooling closet". If you go to any Swiss apartment or house you will see that the refrigerator never looks like the typical fridge, instead it is sort camouflaged into the kitchen cabinetry (I think I made up this word) and follows the same style. If you are not use to it you would think it was simply part of the pantry.

6. There is an ice crisis in Zürich.

It is difficult to get your hands on some ice around here. Freezers are typically very small and people don't stock it. I have even found it hard to find ice trays, they are just not that popular. So if you go to a summer party it is rare to find or serve ice, and very common to drink warm beer and cocktails. Getting drunk sometimes maybe less pleasant, but since when is being drunk truly pleasant? Keep your eyes on the ball. Choosers losers, right?

7. Oranges vs. Limes.

I went to a bar last night and when we ordered a round of tequila shots they were served with cinnamon and orange slices instead of salt and lime. I didn't try the cinnamon, but I admit bitting the orange was much more enjoyable than bitting the lime.

Friday, July 31, 2009

I'm alive!!!

I made it to Zurich!!

No, it didn't take me this long to get here, but it did take me this long to put my thoughts together and sit down without any distractions in order to be able to just write.

I have to be honest, even if it sounds really corny. The last 2 months have been some of the happiest days of my life. I am in a great city, surrounded by great people, have a great (erm, unpaid) job and I am learning a new language. I also have a great flat [apartment] and the greatest flatmate [roommate]... <3.

Here are a few observations I have on Switzerland:

1. The Swiss don't speak German.

They speak something called "Swiss German" which is a much simpler, cuter, yet very different language. Every Canton has it's own "dialect" where a few words will differ from one place to the other. Accents are certainly different as well, for example, when greeting somebody you ask them "how are you? = Wie geht?", and depending on where you are from, this may be pronounced "Wie geht?", "Wie geiht?", "Wie gaiht?", "Wie gaht?" or even "Wie goht?".

Swiss people will study High German all throughout school and University, all written language is also in High German, they simply choose not to speak it.

Now that I am studying German I've been paying more attention to grammar and language. I recently learned that there are between 15 and 17 (depending on your source) different tenses for conjugating verbs in Spanish, English and German. In Swiss German however, there are only TWO tenses!! It sounds unbelievably simple and I am not sure how it is possible, but I suppose I will find out more in the next few months.

2. Switzerland is quiet.

People like it so and this is the number 1 complaint from Swiss people at any given time. You are not allowed to have a party that lasts any later than midnight, and if you do I assure you the police will be knocking at your door at 12:01.

Apartment buildings, more so the new ones, tend to be completely sound proof. I never hear any of my neighbors (sometimes I wonder if the building is empty), and even when I am blasting music in the living room, when I go out in the hallway, it is impossible to hear it.

Now I'm not saying Swiss don't know how to party, they do, especially at the clubs, but residential areas tend to be very quiet, to the point of creepy.

Another fun fact: All the buildings are equipped with bomb/nuclear shelters! :-)

3. Punctuality.

"Works like a Swiss clock." You don't even know.

If a train says it is leaving at 10:32, you can bet all the money in the world that train will be rolling before 10:32:45.

4. Goodies.

Trains: They are cheap, fast, and go everywhere.
Cheese: European cheeses are delectable, but I miss good old cheddar cheese. The grass is always greener on the other side.
Cheese Fondue: Orgasmic.
Need I say more?


I have a brand new old cruiser bike with a tiger in the front. I have also been keeping busy with making my flat [apartment] look more homey. I will take pictures and upload soon.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Don't cry for me America! We had a good run!

I forgot all about May! So sorry! In short: I graduated, I went on a roadtrip to Portland (awesooooommmme++), I moved out of my apartment.

I am writing this from Denver International Airport, as alas, I am moving again (7th time!). This time it's Europe, the old world, Zurich to be more specific. I will be learning German in the mornings, working at a startup company in the afternoons and getting involved in all sorts of reckless and irresponsible behavior at night and on weekends.

Stay tuned. XOXO. Hit me if you want my address or number in der Schweiz.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Design and Implementation of Module Integrated Converters for Series Connected Photovoltaic Strings

The University of Colorado put my thesis for sale. I am not even sure where it is exactly, but in any case I don't see why anybody would ever pay $55 or any amount of money to read a master's thesis.

In the event you thought you would find something useful in it*, but like me, are against organizations trying to privatize what should be public work, I am posting it here (for free!) on my fully searchable blog.

Good luck dear reader.

Design and Implementation of Module Integrated Converters for Series Connected Photovoltaic Strings

*I hope you are not terribly disappointed!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The New Constantinople

Last year, despite my full time McDonald’s employee salary, I somehow managed to save a little bit of money. Given the economic crisis and all, I thought the most sensible thing to do was spend it of course; I wanted to help America by buying American-made. I took one for the team, if you will. So I decided to buy myself a pretty little plane ticket… to Turkey.
I spent 10 amazing days in Istanbul, the city that never… ends? No really, with 12.5 million inhabitants it is the 4th largest city in the world, about half of it lies in Asia and the other half in Europe. There are parts of Istanbul where it snows and others where it doesn’t. People will have different accents and racial features across different areas of the city.
I was there with M, world famous mixologist and photographer. He was there on photography duty, I decided to hire him so that he could document some of what I consider are going to be the better years of my life. We never had a difficult time communicating, many people, especially young people, speak English and the ones who didn’t where witty enough to speak in some form of sign language.
We stayed in Sultanahmet, the most tourist friendly area. Our hotel was called Osman Han and the staff was super friendly to us and helpful anytime we had a question about the city and things to do. They all spoke English and the room was big, clean and with a view. They served a modest breakfast of yogurt, dried fruits, cheese, eggs, tomatoes and bread every day. Also included are fresh orange and pomegranate juice and coffee or tea.
Sultanahmet is dense with world renowned historical sights: the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Yeni Mosque, the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar come to mind. I also recommend taking a boat tour of the Bosphorus and getting off at any one of the stops to see a different part of the city.

We went to see the famous Whirling Dervishes do their thing. Their twirling is a form of meditation in remembrance of God and if you are into that kind of thing, you will love it. I personally thought it was a bit boring and quiet and I sorta fell asleep. But afterwards I caught it on youtube so it was ok. If you want to see the REAL thing, since there are other similar displays around the city, you have to go to Mevlevi Lodge in Istiklal on a Sunday and buy your tickets for the 5pm show. There is another show at 7pm, but it is on a train station somewhere else, and I can’t remember how to get there.
The Grand Bazaar was a little too overwhelmingly huge for my taste, but they have fun things for gifts. More notoriously nargiles (water pipes), jewelry, lamps, clothes, scarfs, rugs, underwear, hats, shoes, well… just about anything. The Spice Bazaar was wonderful and I ate the best dates of my life while there. M bought some tea, and after he got home he claims he was ripped off, since his apple tea didn't taste the way it did in Istanbul. My theory is that they must prepare it differently. Istiklal is the happening place in Istanbul and you can also do lots of shopping there.
Eat anything and everything you can find on a stick. Kebab means it comes on a stick, Shish means it is grilled, and Döner is the kind of meat that is stacked up high and sliced while it is rotating against a slow fire, really similar to gyro meat. Sometimes they take the food on the stick and put it inside bread, this is delicious too. Being near the water, in Istanbul you can find lots of fish (balik) and seafood to eat. Very popular are the Balik Ekmek or fish sandwiches you can eat on the street. In Sultanahmet, across from the Yeni Mosque there is Galata bridge, if you go to the north side of the bridge, you’ll realize that none of the tourists are there, and this is where locals go get their fish sandwich fix. They cook them and serve them from boats! The most common drink everywhere is Ayran, which tastes a lot like a watered down yogurt, but it is kind of its own thing. M called it sour milk.
Another one of my favorite dishes was Lahmacun, pronounced “lach-ma-jun”, some kind of pizza with minced meat that you roll up like a crêpe and eat with your hands. Turkish coffee and Turkish tea are a must! Note: you do NOT drink the bottom of your Turkish coffee, this is how you tell who’s a tourist. For beginners I recommend you ask for a coffee with medium sugar. The tea is amazing, we definitely drank several cups of tea every day, particularly apple tea, pronounced “Alma Chai”, which tastes like a delicious and warm sour apple juice.
Things to do
Smoke nargile. Again and again and again. I had tried nargile in the United States before but never thought of it as anything special. Let me tell you that the Turkish got it right. I highly recommend two places for this: First, Erenler Nargile, it is so special because it is hidden, there’s rarely ever a tourist in there, and they provide you with a never ending supply of tea. Smoking , chatting and drinking tea is simply the cheapest and most enjoyable material pleasure known to me. Boy do I miss it. The other place is underneath Galata bridge on the south west side of the bridge. It is called Aruna Café and the top floor has a spectacular view of Istanbul and the Bosphorus at night.
When going out for drinks, Istiklal is the place to be. There are bars everywhere but I have to say my favorite ones where located near the end of the avenue all the way south.
You absolutely HAVE to go to Babylon. They are frequently hosting live djs and shows, they are always playing the sickest electronic music and they served the best caipirinhas I have ever had in my life. Right around that corner near Babylon you will find other cool bars to either sit down for a glass of wine and conversation or to listen to good music, unfortunately I don’t remember the names of many of them. On a different side of Istiklal (ask or google for directions) there is another bar called Araf where they played pretty cool music, more upbeat but not necessarily mainstream, there were some people dancing! don't order caipirinhas there, just settle for a beer.
Turkish bath! Also called Hamam. Do not leave Istanbul without one, it is truly an experience and you feel reborn. Try to go midday on weekdays as to avoid crowds of people. We went to Cemberlitash Hamami, somewhat touristy but with tons of locals.
Getting around
You really need to take a minute and put some minimal effort into figuring out the public transportation system. There is tram, metro and buses that will take you anywhere for a flat fee of 1.40 tl (1 turkish lira ~ US$0.65), these run as late as 1am. You can pay on the bus without going through the hassle of buying tickets. Some taxi cab drivers will try to rip you off by taking the longest way possible to your destination. The majority of them don’t speak English so it’s not like you can complain.
When you get tired of Turkish food, why not go for some Indian? We found excellent online reviews of Dubb Indian Restaurant in Sultanahmet, we tried it and the reviews came short on how delicious the food was. Not to mention the top floor has a terrace with a wicked view of the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Bosphorus.
We found that Turkey Travel Planner was a really useful source of information, however do not hesitate to ask for information from the locals. For some sweeeeet photos of Istanbul and the world in general, please visit M’s photostream.
Last but not least, I wanted to thank M for helping me write this blogpost and who went through the trouble of making the pretty map of 'things to do'.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Increase H-1B visa quotas!!!

The last time I was at the airport in New York City's JFK, I was standing in a chaotic line to check my baggage. There was a wide variety of languages spoken and skin colors around me, then an old lady standing in front of me turns to me and says:

"What is going to happen to this country, my beautiful country, if we keep letting so many people in? There will be a scarcity of food and water!"

To which I replied:

"The country will be richer than ever Miss, because a lot of these people, like me, are very very smart and they will help solve all of America's problems."

She looked at me, trying to find "foreigner" features in my face and simply said "I hope so."

H-1B visas allow U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. The quota in the year 2000 was 195,000. Today it is only 65,000 with an additional 20,000 for foreign workers with advanced degrees obtained in the United States (like me!!! somebody give me a job plz!!1!). Within the 65K there are a few slots reserved especially for countries with which the US has special agreements, like Chile and Singapore. These exclusive slots go back to the general pool when not filled. There are an extra few thousand reserved for Australian citizens [paraphrased from Wikipedia's "H-1B" entry].

A discussion was sparked recently between some of the youngest brightest minds I happen to know. It started on the topic that financial institutions who accepted bail-out money are not allowed to hire foreign workers for a period of 2 years. Something many people would consider "profoundly un-American" and which could make industry not only fall far behind foreign competitors, but also may provoke retaliation against U. S. foreign nationals abroad.

I wanted to share this bit that was sent to me by Casey Lindbeck from Chicago, whom with I agree with very much:

I think this is one of the stupidest things America can do in terms of creating any type of competitive advantage for the country. I cannot understand how it is logical to attract the brightest and most intelligent students from around the world to be educated at our universities and then immediately require them to leave the country.

I stole this from a blog, but it basically sums up the way I feel:

"The USA, hands down, has the best science education system in the world. As such, a large and growing percentage of advanced science degree's are earned by foreigners. Not just any foreigners either, but the smartest, most innovative foreigners. Logic might say, "hey, if we educate them here in this country, we may want require them to stay for a period of time to work to add value to our economy". We have the opportunity to attract and retain the best and brightest in the world! Instead, current H1B Visa policies makes it very difficult for them to stay and we send them home. Yes, we educate them and send them home. As manufacturing moves overseas, our biggest advantage in the world is our ability to out-innovate our competition. USA educated foreigners that want to stay to work should be able to - period, end of sentence."

Another excellent point, this one from Costi Yannelis in France:

"Well H1-B is a shitty system due to the fact that it is a lottery, and so a Bulgarian model competes for the same visa
[and has the same chances] as an Indian software engineer ... We should move to a points based system like Canada [or Australia] rather than having a lottery, which stops many skilled workers from entering the country."

From now on I will try to keep an eye out on what we can do as far voting for propositions, delegates and candidates; and will make a point to share it through this medium.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dark Was The Night

No, not the Batman movie, but all my favorite artists compiled into a single 2-disc set. This is album is pure symphony, totally awesome and music-tastic/gasmic. Oh, and profits go to AIDS awareness! All 31 tracks that comprise this delicious ear candy are available for a mere $11.99. The website lets me promote the album by playing 3 songs off my blog. Just... listen.

"Dark Was The Night will be released on February 17th, 2009. It’s comprised of 31 exclusive tracks and it will be available as a double cd/triple vinyl/download and will benefit the Red Hot Organization – an international charity dedicated to raising money and awareness for HIV and AIDS through popular culture. They are the people responsible for albums including No Alternative, Red Hot and Blue and many more, and this is their 20th year, and this is the 20th release!"

Monday, February 23, 2009

DC Diaries: The aftermath | Stars of Leo


I am back home now. Friday was a really terrible day. I developed a full blown cold and I've been rushing through all stages of it throughout the weekend.

Friday it was general mal-being, fever, head aches, stuffiness, runny nose. Saturday was that fake-feeling-better day, and I had adopted the sexy sick voice. Sunday (today) it was coughing, which I believe is the final stage of the cold, and I am spending all day on my couch watching sappy movies and hoping to be better by tomorrow. The photo below was the view I enjoyed most of the weekend.

Tylenol is my best friend. Kleenex is my lover.

Today I've already watched Diary of a Mad Black Woman, and City of Angels. It maybe about time to whip out a book, probably. My favorite part of the day was finding out from Brendan that the new M. Ward album has a song named Stars of Leo.

I was born on the first day of December
That means the beginning of the end
Between the last in the line of an emotional time
And the patriarchal rash in the wind

And I'm overwhelmed at the range of emotion
I can ride in some high, lonesome sound
I get so low I need a little pick-me-up
I get so high I need a bring-me-down
I get so high I need a bring-me-down

And when I'm high above the sea of love
With the stars of Leo shining
Well, that's a long way to fall into the blue
But it's just a matter of time until I do, yeah

But now I'm under the ground in New York City
I miss the water from the wells back home
And that's exactly what the papers said would happen
If I keep boarding crowded subways alone
So I tried to surround myself with real love
You know, the kind that make them wheels go 'round
I get so low I need a little pick-me-up
I get so high I need a bring-me-down

Like when I'm high above that sea of love
With the stars of Leo shining
Well, that's the hardest way to fall into the blue
But it's just a matter of time until I do, yeah

Like when I'm high above the sea of love
With the stars of Leo shining...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

DC Diaries: Day 4. D-Day.

I woke up with a sore throat this morning after only sleeping 5 hours. I was still practicing in the shower as I was getting ready. Then headed downstairs for the author's breakfast. I was feeling pretty awesome, not nervous, really perky, really excited, joking, being charming. My advisor even asked me what was wrong with me and said that even he gets nervous sometimes.
On the way to the lecture hall I saw Ryan and Jeff and told them how excited I was feeling.

L: (really excited) DUDE! this is going to be GRRREAT! I can't wait, I am so ready!! Man, I'm not usually this perky!
RYAN and JEFF: (at unison, while rolling their eyes in annoyance) Yeah actually, you are.

The session starts and I am the third presenter. By the end of the first presentation I was worried because the room was emp-tee. At 9:10am people start swarming in as the second presenter is answering questions. I am psyched, you don't even know, I was ready to take on the world and deliver this amazing talk, there are over 100 people in the room, I was really excited even as the session chair introduces me. Then I step up to the podium and... The fucking air escapes me, I can't breathe, I try to utter some words, I even had a joke prepared:

L: Good morning (shaking). I want to thank all of you for attending this session... (silence... I decide I need to put some effort into breathing, otherwise I will pass out in front of all this people) This is my first conference and I have to say it has been a wonderful experience. I wanted to congratulate the Organization Committee for doing such an amazing job, however I do have one suggestion: If you are going to gift a woman with a money clip, it should at least be pink.

(There is some minor laughter in the back of the room where all my friends are sitting, I had asked them to attend and be my official joke laughers. Other than that, the room is cold and silent)L:... And I am sure all the ladies in the room will agree with me... All three of you.

(Again some sort of mumbling, maybe somebody giggled or sneezed)

L: Ahem (still nervous, somebody do something!)... Well, that is not what I am here to talk about, I am very excited and grateful to be here today and have the opportunity to share with you my research... etc...

I had practiced the talk so much, I somehow managed to unconsciously spew out some intelligible English. Mid talk I can actually breath a little easier, and at the very end I was sort of "normal" again. Now it was time to answer questions, and they only let me have at three before the time ran out. Questions were easy, phew! All three people who asked their question congratulated me, said they were impressed with our results, and one of them even said that the implementation of pass-through mode (you need to read paper to know what that is) was "quite clever".
The next presentation was from my advisor, on microinverters for PV roof shingles. The room was full at this point, and afterwards there was a 30 minute break before the next talk. People swarmed around us, asking more questions, asking for my email, congratulating me, shaking my hand, asking me to kiss their babies, etc, etc. I felt like a million bucks! All kinds of people approached me saying they were working on very similar stuff (dc-dc solar module integrated converters) and they were from all over: Georgia Tech, MIT, U of North Dakota, some guy from India, Spain, Japan, it was AWESOME! I have always felt like my work is cool and relevant, but I also always wondered if other people think so as well. There are many solar power skeptics out there, and even I have my doubts about the future of solar power sometimes, so it is great to be reassured this way. I want to do a conference again!!!!

Afterwards I escaped to the Adams Morgan district looking for a cafe with free wifi to relax and get away from the engi-herds for a little while. I met up with some of the guys at a diner and we had lunch and beers.

I slept for the rest of the afternoon because I was really tired and the sore throat was coming back. In the evening we went to Chinatown for dinner. Then Ryan and I met up with Leah (Erin's college roommate, sweet girl, funny, works at NPR in Washington) at a bar. And we also met up with Alfredo! this is a friend from high school, he was a year older, in my brother's class. He found out I was in DC through Facebook and met us for beers! It was really fun and I was so happy to see him again. Ryan, being the eccentric he is, bough everyone some really fancy Belgium champagne beer, rested in French oak, /*insert more fanciness here*/ . Mmm, deliciosa...
Then I had one last beer at the hotel with the rest of the guys and now I am off to bed. Must wake up in 3 hours for the flight home and I am NOT feeling good.

Here is my paper and presentation by the way.

What I learned today: Engineers are robots! I am funny goddammit!
Currently feeling: Tipsy, tired, stuffy...
Currently listening to: "Reckoner" by Radiohead

Friday, February 20, 2009

DC Diaries: Day 3. I'm psyched.

Jeff overheard me saying I would love some chocolate over lunch and bought me a gigantuous chocolate bar depicted below. It was supposedly my good-luck-at-your-first-talk present. What a nice guy.

I just found out today the total number of registered people for this conference is 1900. It is pretty huge and admittely they have done a fairly good job of organizing it. The food was great, the exhibits thorough, some of the papers were not as exciting but the all the special presentations and rap sessions were really good.

My advisor gave a presentation on the future of power electronics for photovoltaics (PV) and it was a nice introduction to the subject, I hope that it encouraged people to attend mine! There was a dinner, with free flowing wine and beer and some entertainment after it. The Capitol Steps, a political satire/musical group, kind of funny, but mostly... not, only a couple of their numbers really made me laugh.

I am writing to you from my room and I will not be going out tonight because my presentation is in the morning. I practiced it a couple of times, took a bath, relaxed and I feel really good about it. I have to be at the author's breakfast tomorrow bright an early. Please channel all your good vibes towards Washington DC, tomorrow morning at 9:20am Eastern time :-)

Currently feeling: psyched!!

Currently listening to: nothing, I am practicing!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

DC Diaries: Day 2. Moving on.

Something I learned today: If you ever want to publish anything in the field of Electrical Engineering, and I can only speak for the area of power electronics, there are a few keywords that MUST be present in your publication title. A bad title may be the sole reason your paper gets rejected from a conference or journal. These keywords are: "novel", "new", "improved", "sensorless", "optimized", "optimization", "superior", "cost-effective', and etc, etc. You get the idea. Though I'll admit if I ever see a paper titled "Cheap, inefficient, inaccurate something that gets really hot yet does the bare minimum of what you need" I would definitely go see that talk an read that paper. Funny thing is my paper has the word "improved" in it, which I chose before learning about this trend.
Something else I learned today: I don't always realize how famous/accomplished the people I work for are. Power electronics is big, and the fact that everyone I meet knows the names of my professors feels kind of weird, though admittedly pretty cool.
Today the morning was a bit slow. I attended some good talks and schmoozed with companies. We had the afternoon off and so we went sight seeing. We visited the Capitol Building, the Library of Congress (LOC), the National Mall and the Space and Air Museum. The LOC was my favorite, they had a special exhibit on Abraham Lincoln, which was really interesting, but I mostly fell in love with the architecture and paintings of the building. The ceilings, the details, the finishes, arches, the frescoes, it was all awe-inspiring. We went back to the hotel and while everyone decided to attend a talk on the future of electric vehicles, which sounded awesome, I decided to be responsible and retire to my room to do homework :-(

I have said it a million and times and I'll say it once more. I HATE homework. Despise it. I have been a student for too long, and I know it was my choice, and I am working with it. But honestly, I'm so sick of it. Siiiiick!

In the evening we had thai food for dinner, then some beers at an Irish Pub, called "Murphy's", which has to be the most common name for an Irish Pub in the world. We met some Canadian and Spanish students at dinner, but they were being lame and didn't want to drink with us. All and all a pretty good day, laid back, not too much to report.
I think I will practice my presentation once tonight and then go to bed. The big day is on Thursday. Peace.

Currently feeling: At ease
Currently listening to: "Comtine D'un Autre Ete: L'apres Midi" by Yann Tiersen

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

DC Diaries: Day 1. It was all going so well...

I arrived in Washington DC around 1:20pm this afternoon. The group proceeded to the hotel, and because I am the only female out of 10 students from our group at this conference, I was given the option to get a room for myself, which I took. For some odd reason my room ended up being in the far end of the building, an old wing of the hotel where nobody else was staying. This turned out to my advantage because my room is so much nicer than everyone else's. It is very cozy and quaint and I feel like am staying at a fancy bed and breakfast in upstate New York.
Immediately after arrival we proceeded to the Conference registration, where they already had my name and there was a goody bag waiting for me. The goody bag contained a CD with all the technical session presentations, a program with the schedule for the week, and oh goodness there was freebie in there too! A gift, if you will, something to make this week even more unforgettable. What could it be? well if it isn't a money clip!!! How lovely no? I opened it in front of the registration personnel (all women) and said out loud "are you serious? a money clip? how feminine!" And of course, I was right, so the ladies in the registration staff laughed out loud. I promised to myself and my colleagues I would write a serious note recommending a more unisex gift for the future, and I will drop my money clip with note attached in the suggestion box at the end of the conference.
The afternoon went on, I found a few of my friends that I used to work with/for at the University of Illinois. I invited them to my talk, though also admitted to them I was quite nervous because green energy is a hot topic right now, so I can foresee a lot of people attending it. Anyway, some of us decided to ditch the plenary session and go grab some food and drinks. We ended up at a sushi restaurant across the street, sat on the floor, ate some sushi, drank some beer, it was a lot of fun!
After dinner we decided to head to he corporate exhibit where corporations strut their stuff by showing all the latest technology/products. There was free beer and wine at the exhibit, one of the main reasons we were so inclined to attend. I grabbed a beer and started walking around. At some point I start talking to a French man from a certain semiconductor company I will not mention. I thought we were having what I would call a competent discussion on his flyback converter controller chip, that in this case was being used to drive the circuit of an LED lamp. He asks me where I am from, and I say Venezuela, I ask him where he is from he says France. He also introduces me to his other French colleague standing nearby and all of a sudden says "Are you over 21?" I looked at him, a bit offended and said "Yes, of course I am over 21, I am in gradschool, why do you ask?" he says "well, I just see you with this beer..." Now don't get me wrong, everybody was walking around with a beer, and mine was mostly full!! His other French colleague steps in and says "please don't mind him, it's a little French humor" and proceeded to ask me some off the topic question about my work, I politely answered it and then I said "right, well it was nice to meet you both, thank you for sharing with me about your chip" I shook their hands and left.
What... the... f*ck? This would NEVER, EVER, happen to a man no matter how young he looked like. This is the kind of attitudes that make me want to strangle people!!!
I went back to my friends and told them about it, they said the French man was a douche and suggested I forget the whole ordeal. Then they started a joke out of it, which made me laugh, bless their souls for making me laugh. Now every time someone does something seemingly dumb we ask "Are you over 21?"
I just came back from a game of darts at an Irish Pub and even though I already let it go, it still makes me kind of uneasy to know that I will always encounter this sort of disrespectful sexist attitudes in my workplace. I honestly don't know how to interact with these people and would love to hear some suggestions. I don't need you to agree or disagree with me, I just want to know what you would do.

Currently feeling: frustrated, still a bit angry, or maybe just annoyed
Currently listening to: "All Alright" by Sigur Ros

Monday, February 16, 2009

DC Diaries: Day 0

The date is finally here! We get to go to Washington DC!!!1! By we I mean Aaron, Barry, FuZen, Jeff, Luca, Quing, Raj, Ryan, Thurein, Xu and I!! Woo-hooo!!!! partaaay! It's going to be madness!... not. Are you kidding me? We're going to a power electronics conference people! in Washington DC, not in Rhodes, Greece (where PESC was last held), it'll be nerdy as hell!
I have low expectations. During the day it will be mostly boring and tiresome, but I do hope to make it interesting for myself by exploring the city a bit and who knows? maybe I'll actually meet some interesting engineers! and who knows?! maybe someone will give me job! ::sigh:: Scott, my offer to be your personal shopper/assistant is still up.
I will be keeping an online diary through this blog, where I'll try to post everyday for... erm... 5 days. I will report on how I am feeling, what I did, who I met and what I learned about. If you intend to follow along daily... good luck to you. I don't own a digital camera of any sorts, my toy phone ($14.99 at target) doesn't even have one. My laptop has a webcam which I intend to use as often as possible, when appropriate. Other than that, I may be stealing SD cards from people.
We leave tomorrow bright and early, Ryan is picking me up at 3am, we take the bus to the airport, flight leaves at 6:15am. And what am I doing right now?? well I am trying to write a half-decent blog post, and immediately after I promise to start packing. For progress on packing, see figure below.
This is my room! (as seen by my shitty laptop webcam) It looks ten times worse when I am packing for a real trip, but this is how it starts... We have here a hair-dryer, straightener, hair product, face lotion (SPF 15!) and body lotion. This is really all a girl needs, I could live on this for weeks. I think the lotion has natural organic ingredients, so I could eat it for survival. On the right side there is a pile of fresh new laundry that I will have to sort through for undies and socks. On the far left is my bookcase, or as I like to call it "the library". In the background is my closet, you can't see much of what's in there either, just clothes and enough shoes to feed a small African country. I kid! I kid!!! I don't have that many shoes... anymore.
And what am I up to? if not getting ready for my trip, you ask. Well, I was watching the news, following in on the referendum happening in Venezuela, where the people get to decide on presidential term limits. I am sad to announce that the referendum passed 54.4% to 45.6% allowing Hugo Chavez to be re-elected indefinitely. Sad faces all around. I don't have a good conclusion for this post, it took a sad turn somewhere... Ok, I guess I go pack now.

Currently listening to: "Between the Bars" by Madeleine Peyroux.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Panama Vacation

I scribbled the following on the sick-bag in the plane ride back from Zurich:

(Yes, I went to Zurich)

(Yes, in Switzerland)

(Nuff said)

It was last summer when I decided to visit my parents' for the holidays in their new house in Boquete, in the Chiriqui Province in Panama. Now in order to guarantee sanity (or maybe insanity?) I also invited a few of my closest friends to come with me. It was particularly important to me that my friends met my parents, and that I got to share a bit of my culture with them. It is a side of me that doesn't show often but that I am very proud of. All in all, the house was beautiful, the food was superb and we have three really adorable neighbors that are 3, 5 and 7 years old and they say things like:

"My dog is a boy because he has a beard" and "No! you can tell he is a boy because his collar is blue"

I hope I speak for everyone when I say that we had a freaking blast. Panama is beautiful, there is lots of things to see and do. Overall my favorite was the unconditional hospitality and charm of Panamanian people. People that value and respect their land, their traditions. People that work hard and play hard. People that celebrate life for what it is and always carry a smile on their face.

To enumerate a few of the things we did in Boquete: swimming in waterfalls, relaxing in hot springs, dancing the old year off, rock climbing, hiking volcanoes, going to the beach, and there was a bit of drinking and dancing here and there to tie it all together. On the last day we also visited Panama City, the ruins of Panama Viejo, the Panama Canal and Las Bóvedas (el Casco Antiguo). Panama Viejo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, consists of the ruins left of the original Panama City, which survived earthquakes and fires but was ultimately sacked in the year 1671 by the pirate Henry Morgan. The Panama Canal has some very interesting history and I must encourage you to read it, it is truly an amazing engineering feat. El Casco Antiguo is where Panamanians relocated the city after the pirate attack. It is also now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and all the buildings are undergoing major renovations. Unfortunately, the renovations have driven a lot of Panamanians to relocate to government housing, but it has also brought in a lot of foreign investment and stimulus to the tourism and service insdustry. All the buildings in el Casco Antiguo have a colonial feeling to them and inside there are apartments, shops, art galleries, hotels, cafes and restaurants.

Do check Steve's photostream for some fun trip documentation. Parisa stayed on her own through the last weekend and visisted Bocas del Toro, something I would love to do next time. She also took lots of great shots of the vacation, to be checked out here.

Sigh... Back in Boulder. Back to work. Dealines soon. I am feeling depressed.