"All I know is that when I wake up Barack is going to be the winner."

I think the above quote from my little cousin Myra in Jamaica best captures the Obama phenomenon is from my little cousin Myra in Jamaica. She had to go to bed before the results came out, but she was certain that there was no other possible outcome.

I will never forget November 4th, 2008. Since 2000, I've been increasingly cynical about politics and the world in general, but over the course of Obama's campaign, I've found myself hoping against all odds that he would make it. Going on Green Street afterwards and being in the middle of a crowd of hundreds of college kids overjoyed....I mean I don't have words to describe it.

Chants of "No More Bush!", "Yes We Can!" and "Obama! Obama!" reverberated through the streets.
More specifically, in Illinois. Because sometimes I just get a craving for oxtail or devon house chicken patty. I actually just found out that a new Jamaican restaurants opened in Chicago, called Jamaica, Jamaica. I'm not sure when I'll get to sample it, but hopefully I'll get this chance soon.

On a related note, I did try a place called "Calypso Cafe" in Hyde Park, Chicago. The name seemed like a warning sign, but I'll give them props for their Veggie Patty, it was pretty nice...the Jerk Chicken...well, I've had better, but perhaps I should have tried something that would have been easier for them, like their Jerk Wings or Rasta Pasta. Still, I'm willing to give them another try.
This may be more accurately phrased as how to survive using legally free software...

Browser: Mozilla Firefox

Newsgroup Reader: Mozilla Seamonkey

Vector Graphics: Inkscape

Image Converter: Squiggle, ImageMagick

LaTeX Editor: TeX Shop

Music: iTunes

DVD Ripper: HandBrake

Video Player: VLC

Generally Useful: Xcode, Image Capture (shift+command+4)
Again, this may be more useful to me than to others, but here is a quick and easy way to make circular level sets in matlab:

[x,y,z]=cylinder([1 0], 1000);
axis equal
axis image
axis off

Told you it was simple. The 1000 parameter is what makes the circles more circular and less octogonal. By default it's set to 20, which isn't so pretty.
I've been meaning to blog for a while. Been eating a lot of good food all over the country. But right now I'm mad. I'm mad that that blasted company Comcast took me off of my high after Obama's electrifying speech. I was in such a good mood. I was able to forget for a while how tight my bills are this month, that tropical storm Gustav is sweeping across my country Jamaica, that I had a headache and toothache. But now, now in the middle of writing my first conference paper, I am reduced to stealing internet despite paying over $4o US a month to those crooks. My internet just stops working, out of the blue, and after spending an hour with 4 different idiots who were spelling out "cmd" and "ipconfig" like i'm some idiot who can't tell when her internet is not working, after all of that, they're going to tell me, oh, what do you know, you're right, you're internet isn't working and we'll need to send someone there to fix it. Oh and guess what, we can't send anyone till next Saturday. Yes, next Saturday. Today is Thursday. I am supposed to wait for over one blasted week to get my internet service restored. No, we can't push it earlier. I'm sorry, we could fix your bill for this month. Like there was ever a question that you'd be fixing the bill for this month.

Words cannot express my anger. I hate you Comcast.

Edit: Comcast saw this blog, asked me for my number, and got back to me earlier. Of course, this leads me to wonder why I was told I had to wait 9 days when there were apparently several openings much earlier than that...but they did credit my account for 2 weeks, even though it was just down for 1 week. So, thank you for Comcast for redeeming yourself.

This experience makes me appreciate the power of being part of the blogosphere...
A quick note about a really cool tool that one of my labmates just told me about: Zotero.

It's a Firefox plug-in that allows you to save papers that you find on Google Scholar, Citeseer, etc., and attach notes to it, etc. Afterwards, you can go back to these saved papers and download the paper or the bibtex file. I can't believe I'd never heard of it before! Also available for download from the firefox plug-in site.
I've been absent for a while...I actually have a backlog of yummy food to blog about! But for now, I'm going to explore getting a cat!

I've always wanted a cat, but when I was younger I developed a cat allergy. Recently, however, I've noticed that when I'm around cats for long periods I don't seem to have a reaction. Yay! So now I'm considering adopting a cat from the Champaign County Humane Society. I figure I still need to be cautious about the type of cat I choose and being extra clean.

So far, browsing through the site, I've fallen in love with this cat, Sheba. She's a mixture of a tabby and a short-hair...which is good, because I'm looking for a cat with short hair and that's preferably a female. Apparently female cats emit less of the cat allergen, a protein called Fel d 1.

So now I'm looking at the cost.
  1. Adoption fee: $75 Includes vaccines, collar and ID tag and a microchip.
  2. Pet Carrier: ? I can get a cheap one from the pet shelter.
  3. Allergen Spray: $7 - OdorLogic® AllergenSpray for Cats
  4. HEPA Air Cleaner: $110 on Amazon - Honeywell 17000 HEPA QuietCare Air Cleaner
  5. Cat Bathing Wipes: $5 - Simple Solution Cat Bathing Wipes
  6. Cat Food: $6-$10 - from Drs Foster and Smith
Anything I left out for the intial start up cost? Right now it looks like about $220! So I'll have to think about this longer I guess...
My music taste is long...too long...so I'm shortening my facebook list of favourite music but moving it here for the memories...

A Sample:

Jazz, Theolonious Monk, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Natalie Cole, Art Blakely & The Jazz Messengers, Nina Simone, Norah Jones, Cassandra Wilson, Chick Corea;

African Jazz, Bembeya Jazz;

Jamaican Jazz, Monty Alexander, Jazz Jamaica;

Latin Jazz, Buena Vista Social Club, Afro Cuban All Stars, Ruben Blades, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz; Brazilian Jazz, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Astrud Gilberto

Latin, Juan Diego Florez, Santana, Juan Luis Guerra, Jarabe de Palo, Juanes, Mana, Ozomatli;

Spanish Guitar, Gipsy Kings, Rodrigo y Gabriela

some Alternative, KT Tunstall, Vanessa Carlton, Anna Nalick, Five For Fighting, Seal, Ben Harper, Gnarls Barkley, Maroon 5, Cat Power

Reggae, Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Tessanne Chin, Peter Tosh, Steel Pulse, Rootz Underground, Third World;

some Dancehall, Tanya Stephens, Damian Marley, Tami Chynn, Shaggy, Buju Banton;

some Reggaeton, Daddy Yankee, Kumbia Kings

some Rock, The Beatles, Nickelback

Classical, Chopin, Julie Andrews, Debussy, Copland, Rachmaninoff, Erik Satie

some Rap, Nas, Fort Minor, Kanye West

R&B and Soul, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Nikka Costa, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, Mary J Blige, Whitney Houston, John Legend, Stevie Wonder, India.Arie, Patti LaBelle

neo Soul, Corinne Bailey Rae

some Pop, Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey

some Country, Dixie Chicks

African, Miriam Makeba, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Angelique Kidjo
some Celtic

Blues, John Lee Hooker, Koko Taylor, B.B. King

Folk, Tracy Chapman, Jewel

Mixed up stuff, Pink Martini, Sparlha Swa, Regina Spektor, Salsa Celtica

Edit: Updated the list a bit. Joined the R&B and Soul categories since I have several favourites who sing both.
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A song I had reason to look for the other day...

Edit: This song is finally available in digital form! I was browsing through the new DRM-free iTunes, and decided to look for it again, and there it was! =) Even better, after finding it there, I found it on eMusic (sorry iTunes, 33 cents a track beats you everytime). And the correct album name is Le Monde de Myriam Makeba, apparently on her french albums her name is spelled with a "y".
When I was younger i had this t-shirt that I loved. It had a picture of this little girl that looked kind of like me, with some flowers, and then it had this poem (done in puff paint if I remember correctly).

"Spring has sprung
The grass has riz
I wonder where my posie is"
I used to hum that poem to myself, i had a tune that i made up for it...

Then my sister had this dandelion book which sang the story (it came with a cassette tape!). So, recently, I've walked down the road from home and watched the dandelions suddenly appear, all yellow in their glory, seen the buds appear on the trees, almost unnoticeable until overnight the trees are all green, and the rains have come, making everything even greener. Then inevitably, the dandelions changed to their poofy state, and I'd hum the song from that dandelion book.

"Dandelion, don't blow away
Save your strength, enjoy the day"
Watching spring just made me wish I could put this all into a poem or dance or song...I feel this urge to express myself artistically. For now, I guess this post will have to do.
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I've been quite absent from this for a while...end of semester madness. Still, I found time to go out for some tapas at Radio Maria. I'd been to Radio Maria before, when Microsoft Research treated the graduate women in computer science to a 4-course meal, but I hadn't been back since [In case you're wondering, my main course was a Steak, well done, which was quite tasty]. On this particular day, however, I had the Queso de Cabra Frito [Fried goat cheese with Jamaican Honey and toasted baguette] and Meatballs (it had a nice description that i can't remember). The Queso de Cabra Frito was a winner, the Meatballs, as you can see, were fine but not memorable. For wine, I had the Domaine de Salvard Cheverny Sauvignon Blanc, a very clean tasting white wine.

The highlight of the evening for me was the dessert. Valene brought us some Jamaican goodies from a West Indian bakery in New York - bun and cheese, bulla, rum cake, coconut cake, and coco bread!
I'm going to take the plunge and audition for piano lessons at UIUC. The requirements are:

  1. All major and harmonic minor scales in four octaves.
  2. At least one composition by J.S. Bach (e.g., Two- or Three-part Inventions, Preludes and Fugues, etc.).
  3. At least one movement from a sonata by Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven.
  4. At least one composition from a composer of the Romantic period or 20th century.
  5. Harmonization of a familiar melody to be selected by the audition committee.
  6. Sight reading.
  • Scales are to be played from memory. Candidates for the major in piano performance or piano pedagogy are required to play all audition repertoire from memory. All other piano candidates are required to play one composition by memory.
I thought maybe if I publicly declared that I was going to audition for lessons, I'd be more dedicated to preparing. I'm designing my audition programme right now. This is what I have so far.
  1. I haven't practiced my scales yet but I've done these scales before, and at least there's no speed requirement, and I don't even have to do the melodic minor!
  2. I do have a Prelude by Bach, but the accompanying Fugue is in bad shape. They're from the "Well-Tempered Clavier Book 2", Prelude and Fugue No. 20 in A minor.
  3. There was the sonata that I really love by Beethoven, Sonata No. 27 Op. 90 E minor, movement 1. There are several difficult parts though, because you're required to play ranges larger than octaves very quickly. It will require much dedication. There's another option though, I just ran across this other Beethoven Sonata that I blogged about in a previous post. It doesn't seem so difficult, and is quite pretty. Maybe not as impressive though?
  4. The Romantic period is my favourite. I have the Raindrop Prelude by Chopin (Prelude No. 15 in D-flat) that won't take me hard to bring back up. I also have Gymnopedia No 1 by Erik Satie, one of my all time favourite pieces to play.
  5. I'm possibly a little worried about this harmonization...but won't worry about it right now.
  6. Sight reading...also worried about this. I'll have to work on it too.
So you can see I have my work cut out for me, especially since I'll be working on a paper this summer and will be getting back into shape for modern dance class in the fall. Any suggestions?
I heard a Beethoven Sonata yesterday that I really liked and wanted to learn: Sonata No. 8 "Pathetique". Since this piece is in public domain, I decided to return to a wonderful site a found a few years ago, IMSLP. It's run by a student and has sheet music that's in public domain. To my dismay, the site was taken down last October!! The more I read about why it was taken down, and this poor student's dilemma, the more disappointed/distressed/dismayed I became.

Luckily, I found another site, Mutopia. I just want to learn to play a piece that I found a connection to...what's so wrong about getting some sheet music freely online? This "culture of ownership" [see Molly Wood's blog] really needs to end.
This is a quick post on things I've ordered in the past week that I liked.

  1. Asian Salad at Zas
  2. Fettuccine with Creamy Pesto Sauce, Chicken, Meatballs, and Sun-dried Tomatoes at Zas
  3. Yerba Mate Latte at Espresso Royale
  4. Chocolate Chip Scone at Espresso Royale
  5. Chicken Pesto Sandwich at Atlanta Bread Company
Yes, I've recently realised that everything Pesto is good. Yum. Wish I had more time to go into the details of why I liked each dish, but I have so many projects!

Edit: I fixed my spelling error that Andrea pointed out!
I'm going to start a new thing where I post old stuff I wrote. For instance, the other day I remembered this poem I wrote in 2004. It's actually an updated version of a poem I wrote in 2000-01, which was a part of three poems. I'll find that and post it another day.

The Thunderstorm War

Some little insignificant cracklets –

Sounds slowly steadily intensified.

Those tiny insignificant droplets

Led to downpours for they have magnified.

My dear friends is this not a thunderstorm,

Coming from a spring or summer shower?

Perhaps a cold-blooded war, now the norm,

That commenced with a spat so miniature?

While man invents the most explosive bomb,

Continues to concisely destroy Earth,

Those tiny cracklets have now become

Harder to remove than they were to birth.

The Crystal Ball of Nature is in spurn –

If only humans would see it and learn.

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I can't believe it. You know, if I wanted to be woken up at 4:40 am in the morning by the building shaking (I live on the third floor), I would have sucked up the debts and gone to Stanford. I'm in the midwest. We're supposed to have tornadoes. But who gets the tornado? Atlanta! The day before I go there!!! And then another minor one hours before I go there!!! And then I get woken up at 4:40 AM IN THE MORNING BY A 5.4 EARTHQUAKE CENTERED 145 MILES SOUTH OF ME?! What is wrong with this world?

And while I'm complaining about the weather, let's talk about this winter. Because I was celebrating yesterday. We finally got to 70F yesterday. Then this morning I find out that it was the first time in 178 days, 35 days longer than the 143 day average. It was one of the snowiest and cloudiest winters on record. So, not only do I fly into tornadoes in downtown Atlanta, get woken up in the middle of the night by 5.4 earthquakes in the midwest, I choose one of the worst winters to move to Illinois. Great. Just splendid.

Edit: There have been FIFTEEN aftershocks since Friday!! Also it was actually a 5.2 earthquake...
Sometimes you just need to take a minute and listen to the lyrics of a simple song. I always loved "Águas de Março", or "Waters of March", as mentioned in the previous post, but I just realised how absolutely beautiful it is. The pictures were taken by my friend Anna while we stayed in Saint Augustine, but photoshopped (a little bit) by me. Hopefully the song will stop haunting me enough for me to get some work done...

The song is one of many composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim. According to the Wikipedia entry, March is a rainy month in Brazil, signaling the end of summer and the beginning of the cold season. It's almost painful to read these lyrics, as you get this strong sense of life just passing by and spiraling towards death...

The version I usually listen to features both Antonio Carlos Jobim and Elis Regina singing together, but a Youtube video of an original rendition by Elis Regina with Jobim just playing the piano can be found.

Edit: I just realised that the version I know with both Jobim and Regina can also be found on Youtube!

"É pau, é pedra,

é o fim do caminho

É um resto de toco,

é um pouco sozinho

É um caco de vidro,

é a vida, é o sol

É a noite, é a morte,

é o laço, é o anzol

É peroba do campo,

é o nó da madeira

Caingá candeia,

é o matita-pereira

É madeira de vento,

tombo da ribanceira

É o mistério profundo,

é o queira ou não queira

É o vento ventando,

é o fim da ladeira

É a viga, é o vão,

festa da cumeeira

É a chuva chovendo,

é conversa ribeira

Das águas de março,

é o fim da canseira

É o pé, é o chão,

é a marcha estradeira

Passarinho na mão,

pedra de atiradeira

É uma ave no céu,

é uma ave no chão

É um regato, é uma fonte,

é um pedaço de pão

É o fundo do poço,

é o fim do caminho

No rosto o desgosto,

é um pouco sozinho

É um estrepe, é um prego,

é uma ponta, é um ponto

É um pingo pingando,

é uma conta, é um conto

É um peixe, é um gesto,

é uma prata brilhando

É a luz da manhã,

é o tijolo chegando

É a lenha, é o dia,

é o fim da picada

É a garrafa de cana,

o estilhaço na estrada

É o projeto da casa,

é o corpo na cama

É o carro enguiçado,

é a lama, é a lama

É um passo, é uma ponte,

é um sapo, é uma rã

É um resto de mato,

na luz da manhã

São as águas de março

fechando o verão

É a promessa de vida

no teu coração

É uma cobra, é um pau,

é João, é José

É um espinho na mão,

é um corte no pé

São as águas de março

fechando o verão

É a promessa de vida

no teu coração

É pau, é pedra,

é o fim do caminho

É um resto de toco,

é um pouco sozinho

É um passo, é uma ponte,

é um sapo, é uma rã

É um belo horizonte,

é uma febre terçã

São as águas de março

fechando o verão

É a promessa de vida

no teu coração"
It's stick, it's stone

It's the end of the road

It's a rest of stump

It's a little alone

It's a shard of glass

It is life, it's the sun

It is night, it is death

It's the snare, it's the fishhook

It's peroba of the field

It's the knot in the wood

Lamp caingá tree

It's the matita-pereira tree

It's wind-resistant wood

Falls of the ravine

It's the profound mystery

It's the you wish or you don't

It's the wind blowing

It's the end of the slope

It's the beam, it's the span

The new roof party

It's the rain raining

It's riverbank talk

Of the waters of March

It's the end of the struggle

It's the foot, it's the ground

It's the walk on the road

Small bird in the hand

A slingshot stone

It's a bird in the sky

It's a bird on the ground

It's a creek, it's a fountain

It's a piece of bread

It's the bottom of the well

It's the end of the way

In the face the annoyance

It's a little lonely

It's a thorn, it's a nail

It's a point, it's a dot

It's a drop dripping

It's an tally, it's a tale

It's a fish, it's a gesture

It's silver shining

It's the morning's light

It's the brick arriving

It's the firewood, it's the day

It's the end of the trail

It's the bottle of liquor

Splinter in the road

It's the house's design

It's the body in bed

It's the broken down car

It's the mud, it's the mud

It's a footstep, it's a bridge

It's a toad, it's a frog

It's a rest of brush

In the morning's light

They are the waters of March

Closing the summer

It's the promise of life

In your heart

It's a snake, it's a stick

It's John, it's Joseph

It's a thorn in the hand

It's the cut on the foot

They are the waters of March

Closing the summer

It's the promise of life

In your heart

It's stick, it's stone

It's the end of the road

It's a rest of stump

It's a little alone

It's a footstep, a bridge

It's a toad, it's a frog

It's a beautiful horizon

It's a tertian fever

They are the waters of March

Closing the summer

It's the promise of life

In your heart
Every now and then I'd like to make a music post...Mostly because I have a horrible memory. You know how you have some songs that you absolutely love but never remember the name? I have a tonne of jazz and classical songs that fit under that umbrella. This is why I love pandora. Take "Take The 'A' Train" for instance. Wonderful rendition by Duke Ellington on "Jazz Profile: Duke Ellington", a 1969 live recording. It's one of those songs that I just always love to listen to.

Another song that's becoming like that is "Auld Lang Syne" by Salsa Celtica. Who'd think that Celtic and Latin music would have such a natural marriage? I discovered them from the credits for "Driving Lessons", a hilarious movie by the way.

Songs that I listened to today that are just plain awesome:
  1. "Take The 'A' Train" by Duke Ellington
  2. "Auld Lang Syne" by Salsa Celtica
  3. "Diablo Rojo" by Rodrigo y Gabriela
  4. "Aguas de Marco" by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Elis Regina
  5. "Cores" by Da Lata
The best things in life come at unexpected times. I recently unexpectedly went to a Polish Punk Concert (featuring the band "Hey") in Chicago. On the way to this unexpected concert, we made a stop at a small Mexican Grocery Store in Kankakee, the Gonzalez Grocery Store. We had called ahead and placed an order - in Spanish of course - for 6 tacos and a gordita. There were three tacos al pastor [pork], and three tacos de pollo [chicken], while the gordita was al pastor. Now I'm not a big pork eater, or a big person on spicy food, but those tacos al pastor were perfect. Genuine authentic Mexican tacos al pastor...none of that American Mexican taco bell stuff. Plus, it was faster than going to Macdonald's - we called ahead, said we'd be there in 15 minutes, and they were ready when we got there. Who knew?
Hanging around as many Italians as I do might have made me a bit snobbish when it comes to pizza. I'm still waiting for my genuine home made Italian pizza, but until then, I try to have less bad pizza (pizza hut, etc.) and more good pizza (everyone else). So when I walked past Pizzalley in Saint Augustine, I was really really curious. We decided to ask the locals for recommendations on places to eat. When a random stranger on the street stopped us just to tell us we should eat at Pizza Alley, we took it as a sign.

Being three hungry girls, it took us a while to make up our minds. We started with an appetizer, an assortment of salad, cheeses and meats. After some help from the waiter, we chose a new white wine for us, Sauvignon Blanc and a pizza called White Pie, which had alfredo, mozarella, spinach, lots of other yummy stuff, and at the suggestion of the waiter, two extra toppings, chicken and mushrooms. It was superb. The crust was just right, the mixture of toppings was just right, the wine had a very clean taste, everything was just wonderful.
I promised a blog about food, so here's my first entry that's actually about food.

Yesterday we went to the Sea Oats Caffe for lunch. We were all feeling like seafood (could it be the fresh sea air?). Anna and I had a sandwich that I think was called the Grouper Florentine - grouper, cheese and spinach. So good.... Dasha had a Shrimp Melt sandwich, also tasted quite good.

After feeling full from lunch, we were still thinking about food, so we went to Publix and shopped our hearts out. For three Computer Science Women we can be quite girly...we spent at least 15 minutes in the cosmetic type stuff aisle!

Today, we went to The Oasis for food. We headed upstairs and were greeted by a blast of live music. This group with an amazing fiddler played a great selection of songs, such as Rolling. Being by the seaside, we once more ordered seafood. I had a tasty Shrimp Scampi, Anna had the Captain's Platter (shrimp, calamari, oyster, clam, scallops and flounder) and Dasha had the Whaler sandwhich (which did not contain whale). We were really hungry after our day on the beach so we decided to order Nachos Grande, which were delightful (almost as good as the nachos at Guidos...more on that in a blog post to come). The Shrimp Scampi...pretty good, but could have had just a little bit more flavour. Everything I tasted on the Captains Platter tasted good, though the baked potato might have been overkill. We left the place with four huge boxes of leftovers. They won't go to waste.

Being the geeks we are, we were desperate for internet, so we headed to Starbucks for internet and caffeine. Tip: Green Tea Latte - not so good. A little bitter, the green tea was too concentrated. Second Tip: If you order a drink you don't like at Starbucks, they replace it and give you a coupon for a free drink the next time you come! Excellent music of course, they were playing from a Toots and Maytails compilation. Got a recommendation from John at Starbucks re a Jack Johnson soundtrack for the movie "A Broke Down Melody". I think he was excited to find a fellow reggae/ska lover!
I just had to blog about this, this is such a nifty little trick. My grandmother, Nana Farika, was just interviewed on wmbr. I couldn't get the live stream to work and wanted to be able to listen to the interview in the car. So how do you get the mp3 file from the streamed m3u file? It's so ridiculously simple!
  1. Right click on the m3u file
  2. Click Save Link as
  3. Save the file
  4. Open the file with a text editor, such as Note Pad or Word Pad or Emacs
  5. Inside the file you will see a link to the actual mp3 file
  6. Copy the link and open it in your browser (Firefox, Safari, Opera, Explorer)
  7. Now you can save the mp3 file!
It's times like this that I love being a computer scientist.
I remember scoffing at the idea of blogging. Imagine, I thought, after all those years of (a) struggling (and I do mean struggling) to keep up a diary/journal and (b) struggling to ensure that my thoughts were private from my parents. What could possibly convince me to start a blog? Three things. 1: I love food. 2: I have a bad memory and want a way to remember good food places and anything else. 3: I used twitter, the gateway drug to blogging. So now, here I am, ready to join the blogosphere. Now let's see if this blog goes the way of all my childhood diaries.