Sunday, January 30, 2005

"You are tough, Carlos"

So we go with Costas to this dealer to drive the Ford Mustang. Then we go to the office to discuss business. "What's your name", she asks. Tim Kallos, I say. So she writes down Tim Carlos.

"So, Carlos, how did you like the car?"

I explain it was ok and I ask for the price.

"That will be $9000 including taxes and everything."

Then I start complaining a little bit and so she asks

"So Carlos, what is your offer?"
"$8K, everything in."
"You are tough Carlos, you are tough. We have a small business here, we cannot afford 1000 dollars down."

So from a weak student suddenly I became Tough Carlos the mega-dealer. What made this more fun was that Costas had just had 6 stitches on his cheek (injured in basketball) and he also looked pretty tough too. The ending of this story will be interesting methinks.

Saturday Night

After returning from car search, we went over to Mama Voula's to get some decent greek food. Then back home, Shane and I watched the Village, which was such a great movie. I even come to think now that it was better than the 6th sense (for sure it was much better filmed). Great story, great acting, a little bit slow but with the 5.1 you are always busy listening!

Then Steve came over and we watched the Australian Open final between Safin and Hewitt until 4am, while downloading midget porn (never try that, please).

Australian Open

This tournament destroyed me. These 00:30 - 03:30 matches totally fucked up my schedule. I slept at 6am the last 3 days, and now I cannot be productive at all. Hopefully tomorrow I will be brute forced to return back to normal schedules:

8am: Pick up rental car and drive around to get used to it.
11am: Meeting with Katsouleas
2pm: Behind the wheel driving test
3pm: Grab lunch and head over to Pasadena to talk with the dealer and maybe(?) buy the Mustang...

As for the tournament itself, it was the first tennis tournament I ever watched thoroughly. Shafin beated Hewitt in the final (he also has the most hot girlfriend ever). I saw some really impressive tennis. Shafin also beated #1 Federrer in the semis, who is supposed to become one of the best players ever (he hadn't lost from top 10 players for 23 matches!). At last the cable tv fees were worth it.

See you in the Roland Garros in May.

Home Theater testers

Apart from us, a few more people have tested our HT. First one was Ravi (we watched the burly brawl). Then Kostas and then Michelle (she was quite amazed). Then Sotitis, who was the only guy that showed some decent interest in the details of the system - I'm glad he's doing a phd. Then Andrew's Shane, we watched the village with him, with by the way surprised me greatly because I didn't expect that kind of ending. I think it was his best movie after the 6th sense, in fact this one was even better filmed.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Friday Night

The difference between greek and geek is just one letter (same thing as the difference between guy and gay). Apparently some guy from ucla just graduated with his phd and he had a gathering at his place to celebrate. Neither of us (me, pgal, sotiris, xouros) had met the guy more than once. A few other people we knew were there thankfully. Including this girl named "Ball". I can't explain the origin of this name without getting into sexual details.

I finally met this guy Hlias, with whom we have been chatting for almost a year. We also agreed with Melania (not Trump's) and Frankie to set Wednesday night as movie night. Because of these small things I would say it was a worthwhile evening.

We left the place around 2am. Then I witnessed how can you miss the exit from 405 to 10 if you tell a sex story with sufficient details. Right at the point where Xouros had to turn the girl had multiple and that was it.

Then 2 hours of xbox. I started getting better at this rally (i.e. I don't finish last all the time). Now it's 5am and I should tell you this joke with Toto (famous greek joke character).

Mom: Toto, come in, it's raining.
Toto: Why, what do you think it's going on out here?

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Office Network

In my office in school I just built today with Chris (our undergrad guy) the most complicated network I have ever build. Here is how it works:

First, there are only two ethernet ports in the room (the advisor pays much for each port, and we are not allowed to have routers) and 6 PCs and 1 Mac. Erdem's computer is directly connected to the first ethernet port. So we have one ethernet port for 6 computers, a 10Mbit router and a Gigabit switch and lots of gigabit ethernet cards.

From the port, the feed goes directly to my ethernet card. My computer is the only one that appears outside. Now, I have a second ethernet card installed, which is connected then to the 10Mbit router. I share the internet connection through my computer from out card to the other, so the router now has internet.

In the router we have connected the Macintosh and one more of the PCs (Chris needs the 4 remaining PCs for setting up a parallel network). This specific PC needs to have internet but not the rest 3 of them. However these 4 PCs must be on the Gigabit switch for the cluster. So, each one has a network card and it is connected to the switch. The one PC with the 10Mbit internet from the router has a second network card just to connect to the switch, apart from the one for the internet. Phew!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Research Update

Solving this equation is a good opportunity for me to getting to know ODE solvers: Euler, Runge-Kutta etc and their implementations in Matlab and Mathematica. I'm off to get a few books to read on them. The general plan is:

1. Double-check that the equation is right
2. Study numerical techniques theoretically
3. Write code in Matlab and/or Mathematica

My only concern is how am I going to implement my external function/cause which is a weird bunch of gaussians modulated by another gaussian and then a decreasing exponential.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Most productive day ever

That was good indeed. Not only I finished one the most strenuous proofs I have ever done (Prata always knows how to challenge me) but I also produced a publishable piece of original research. And I've only been awake 12 hours do far.

Research Update - Huge News

Everything turned out as I had foreseen. I ended up with one single nonlinear second order differential equation that completely describes my problem, without having to make any approximations at all! Katsouleas was very glad to see it, and suggested to start solving it numerically (Runge-Kutta?). This is a very elegant and simple piece of research.

OK now back to Prata to solve this problem #2.


I subscribed to Wired magazine a while ago, and today my second magazine came. It's a really good agressive tech magazine, I would guess the target group age is 15-25. The cover this month is about Firefox, Mozilla's great browser. I installed it in my desktop home 3 months ago in parallel with Internet Explorer, but now this is the sole browser I have in all 3 machines I use (home, office, laptop). Still it is not perfect (about 5% of the websites I visit have some issues) but when they overcome these minor issues in the next release, it will threaten IE for sure. I would guess that within 2.5 years Firefox will be the major browser on the planet.

320 Kbps

All my audio cds I brought here in the states fit exactly in one dvd when they are encoded in a 320Kbit rate. Now I can listen to all my songs without having to switch cds all the time. I had about 20 of them.

Theater Vs Home Theater

It's all about the brain. Let me explain myself.

The movie theaters have better sound systems that the Home Theater we just built. Yet I am not impressed by the sound there as I am impressed by the sound home. Why is that? I came to the conclusion that it is about the fact I am used to the movie theater sound. My brain expects a certain sound quality, and it gets it, so this is assumed to be normal. However, this audio quality is not expected in a living room, because I've been in living rooms before and they don't sound awesome; that is the normal condition for my brain. Therefore it is a surprise to hear such quality.

I am impressed by my speakers not because it is the best sound ever, but because it is the best sound I ever had home. It's all about what the brain is accustomed to.

Prata Update

This second Prata problem is going to be a great pain in the neck. It's just amazing that some guys proved the same thing without knowing what the answer was! It seems impossible to go on without knowing where you need to get at.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Saturday Night

6pm: Dinner at EVK
8pm: Listen Music & Take care of home
9pm: Watch Tennis
12pm: Attempt to go to sucky party
1am: Xbox @ Costas' house
4am: Back home to read emails and phone Doroula
5am: Go to sleep

5.1 Rocks!

We tried out our new entertainment unit 2 days ago, with all the speakers in place. Man, that was so cool! Ravi and Costas were the first victims that tasted this experience. So far we mainly use the Dolby Digital demo disk, and I've also watched the Burly Brawl and the Twister opening sequence. This is really something new.

As I am looking at the full mooon high up my window, I wait for my pasta to cook and watch tennis while pondering Prata. Is this my typical Sunday evening?

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Agassi Vs Johansson

That is a terrific game for the Australian Open. Agassi wins so far 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 and he's ahead in the 4th set 4-3 while serving. However the most interesting thing is that this swedish guy has 48 aces so far, while the best record ever is 49! Agassi has 15 or so aces, but only 12 unforced errors while Johansson has 66...

Agassi is 5-3 ahead and get get the match... Can Johansson ace enough?

49 aces! 30-0...

50!!! Well done young man. 40-0.

51 aces in 4 sets... that is certainly something.

Agassi wins 6-4 the last set. Now he will face #1 Federer in the quarterfinals. That will be interesting.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Reseach Update

I think I can derive one single equation... my previous arguments were wrong after all because I didn't account for the convective derivative, and I didn't get a derivative with respect to gamma (the relativistic factor). Let's see.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Prata doesn't win!

I find it hard to believe that I managed to solve this problem. Now that I look at the solution as a whole it looks so beautiful: no ad-hoc assumptions, no hand-waiving, no approximations. It is a crystal-clear elegant mathematical proof that I can stare at it for hours and smile. Moments like these make me happy for deciding to do a Ph.D. Thanks Prata!


I have solved the most hard problems of my life with ideas that came to me around 5am... Same thing now. I think I know how to do this problem... So close... 4 hours to go! I'll beat you Prata!

Prata wins?

No , I cannot accept defeat. I must find a way to prove the equality. There must be a way. I have 7 hours before the class starts. That should be plenty of time.

What I cannot create I cannot understand.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

hmm.... interesting

I couldn't understand at all this fucking paper (actually I think it's wrong). So I decided to derive the equations myself using common sense and my math skills, and I realized a simplification that I hadn't seen it before. Using that, I can derive a single equation (yes!) that describes the evolution of the density I care about. I have to double check to see if it's right, but if it's ok it will be hard to solve since it's highly nonlinear. More on that later...

Investigating Rosenbluth & Liu

I need to derive some equations that theoretically describe my experiment. The problem is, no one has done this before using the setup I am using. Ane believe me, it is hard to derive something when you don't have anyone else to help you. However there is this classic paper from Rosenbluth and Liu whivh describe a similar technique, for a slightly different case though (they use lasers accelerate electrons, while I am using another bunch of electrons). I need to go back there and see what they are doing, because th emodern techniques do not work for my case. It is not an easy paper to understand, but I have to try. Yesterday Erdem (labmate) helped me decifer an equation there which I didn't know how they derived it, and as it turned out it was fairly simple to do so (just assume time harmonic regime for the laser and then integrate Newton's second law).

The heart of their work is this: we have a cold plasma (i.e. electrons that have no thermal velocity, they just stand still). Then you put a laser in there. The electric field of the laser will push the electrons off axis, giving them some velocity. Then, you put a second laser in. The magnetic field of the second laser will couple with this velocity the electrons have acquired and there will be a force on them (v x B). This force will push the electrons forward and accelerate them.

Now I just have to work out the equations. Let me see...

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The new cafeteria

This very very nice cafeteria opened in the lobby of the new engineering building in our campus. That is tremendously nice because for the first time we have a spot where we engineers can hang out and discuss and spend some quality time. (This reminded of my undergrad place we had, we could go there all day and someone always stopped by to talk). Laura, for example, I had never met her by accident (ever!) the past 2 years we've been in this campus. Today, I met her twice already in this place and I was telling her how much Mar has improved my sex life. Speaking of which, I need to get ready for the first Kung Fu class of the semester. Oh, my speakers sound so sweet.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Evening in the living room

So what am I doing now? Picture this. I am sitting in one of the two couches we have in our living room in gamma-shape, watching Jay Leno in NBC. On the coffee table there is a glass of water, 2 Wired magazines, 2 SciAms and several remotes. I have my laptop in my laps as I blog this, connected wirelessly with a 802.11g card to the Linksys router which is sitting on the tv-table, right across the room from me. On the tv-table and below the tv there are also the dvd player, the cable box, the 5.1 audio receiver, the cable modem, and a bunch of audio cds. My hand-made speakers are on each side of the tv sitting on IKEA stools, the JBL center speaker on top and the sub on the floor next to the table. Against the wall to the right of me there are the IKEA shelves, with 13 half-full bottles on them and also Scoltand Yard and Dimplomacy board games (will we ever play?). To the left of me is the window, behind me Andrew's lonely speaker and in front of the coat rack (next to the almost invisible shoe rack).

All this is possible for one and only reason: I didn't take O'Brien's class this semester! The amoutn of time that was freed is stupendous.

Did I mention the google shirt I'm wearing?

What is a chair?

What is a chair? Well, a chair is a certain thing over there... But how certain? The atoms are evaporating from it from time to time, dirt falls on it and gets dissolved in the paint; so to define a chair precisely, to say exactly which atoms are chair, and which atoms are air, or which atoms are dirt, or which atoms are paint that belongs to the chair, is impossible.
To an excellent approximation of perhaps one part in 10^10, the number of atoms in a chair does not change in a minute, and if we are not too precise we may idealize the chair as a definite thing.

Feynman's Lectures on Physics

Waiting for Star Wars III?

Apparently this guy in Seattle camped outside the theatre waiting for the premiere of Revenge of the Sith. Note the premiere is in 124 days. I'm not surprised he keeps a blog, there aren't many things to do out there I guess. I can only imagine how pissed off he might be if someone else takes his place in the line the night of the premiere :-)

Saturday, January 15, 2005

My first home theater is ready

Just finished all purchases concerning the first home theater system I ever attempted to make. 6 speakers total, here are the details:

2 Front Speakers: These are the speakers I made myself by taking the class in USC. 2 way, 10" woofer and a decent tweeter. Took me a couple of months and $600 and a lot of effort, but at least they sound great. They are better than any speaker I ever owned.

Center Speaker: This is a speaker from the JBL Northridge series, N-Center II with dual 5" drivers. That was $100.

Subwoofer: That was also self made. We bought the driver (Dayton 8") and used the wood we had left from building the front speakers, and covered it in a nice black lamina. The cost was about $100, but we later (yesterday) realized that we needed an amplifier, which meant $60 more.

2 Rear Speakers: Just finished this order. The JBL N24 All Weather 4" drivers. They don't have much base but then I don't like base, especially in the surround speakers. But, they include wall mounting brackets and they are white (perfect for our walls). $120 please.

Receiver: 5.1 from sony, 6x100W. Works fine so far, despite our tries to burn it again and again. $200.

Back Surround: We will have Andrew's prototype as a back surround. Really good 3 way speaker (after padding it). That was about $150 I think.

Total Cost: $1330. Damn I hope it sounds good.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

The craziest day of my life

I now realize how dangerous was to do these things mid-May last year. In one sentence, I drove uninsured in Manhattan. But there is much more to this story.

I had to go to Brookhaven in Long Island to work on an upcoming experiment regarding my research (multibunch wakefield accelerator). My flight was until JFK, so I had to rent a car in order to get to the lab. I thought that since I would have the car, and I have never been to NY before, why not take an early flight and drive in the city first, and then go to Brookhaven. The catch is, I had only driven manual cars in my life, AND I hadn't driven since January. They gave me an automatic car, the transmissions were on the side of the steering wheel (never used that before!) and the car was HUGE! (some Buick thing). Oh, and I had never driven in the states before...

My point is that I was considered a very very bad driver at the moment. Being sure that I would crash somewhere, I ask the guy in the rental office about insurance. He responds something like "This is taken care of". What he meant was that my insurance company would pay if something happened, and this is indeed the case in 99.9% of the cases because people that rent cars there usually have already another car in the states and therefore they have insurance. But I didn't have insurance on my own, and I thought with these words that it is included in the price, so I didn't request anything else. In reality, I needed to ask specifically for insurance and pay extra, but I didn't know that. So I left with the car, uninsured, thinking that I am insured!

Not only that, but instead of taking a safe way to the lab I went straight to downtown Manhattan! (with a huge car, unexperienced, uninsured!). Now, you need to have driven there to see how crazy the place is regarding drivers. In was even worse than Athens. Huge trucks, taxi drivers, speeding crazy people, pedestrians crossing the roads anywhere without warning, oh my god! And you need to decide fast where you are going because you may find youself into a tunnel exiting the island before you know it. And my head was outside the window most of the time since I wanted to look at the scyscrapers. The place scared the hell out of me, but I was calm since I knew I had insurance...

You realize that the probabilities of me crashing were high, and I may have turned out to be in debt for life. Thankfully nothing happened, and I only realized that I was driving uninsured when I rented another car and the lady explained to me that I had to ask specifically for insurance. It is clear to me now that what I did was insane; I think it was the red-eye flight that didn't let me sleep and as a result I couldn't think normally.

Next time I go there I will do the exact same thing. However, I will get insurance, I will get a smaller car, and now I know how to drive an automatic well. On top of that, I now know Manhattan like the palm of my hand thanks to the Apprentice.

Future Wishful Thinking

I just had a reunion meeting with a few of my friends from my undergrad school. Only Elli was missing, she stayed in Barcelona for xmas. It was extremely enjoyable, we discussed from 19:30 to 01:30 (that's 6 hours straight! - along with some souvlaki) maily about our future, escpecially the 3 of us who are currently studying abroad. So I wanted to lay down right now the possibilities that I have in Greece in terms of jobs when I come back. I am sure that none of them will turn out to actually happen, in the same way that I am not working in the research field that I initially intented for.

There are several distinct possibilities. A professor in NTUA (my undergrad school) is ideal. Also a research associate is good. They are also building an accelerator here in the university of Athens (the first one ever in eastern meditteranean) and they seriously lack funding and people, so if the funds are ok in about 3-5 years then I will be maybe the most expert guy in Greece regarding these facilities. Then there is teaching in the university in Lamia (it just opened, only one department right now:-) ) and finally teaching in high school. This last option is not so bad since you get paid 1000 euros a month but you barely work 10 hours a week on average over the course of the year (since weekends, major holidays and 3 months in the summer are off). And I love teaching. This sums up the teaching/research related options.

Then there are individual projects , probably computer science related like building a web page or writing a specific piece of software. This is good since it can be done at my own pace as a side. Working in a big company is not so exciting because you cannot increase your salary dramatically and you have to work a lot. Even for a professor in NTUA, you start with 1100 euros and years later you will be paid maybe 3000 tops, which is nice but an incrediblr amount of money.

Yet the money are in writing, studying and signing proposals for building-related electrical facilities, like in houses, factories etc. This is the only way to get big money as I see it.

Ideally, I would like to work in the States for 2 years after I graduate in a high paying job (100K?) in order to make some money, then come back to Greece and open a business while involved in some research position.
Realistically, I will return to my home town Lamia, get some projects here and there and eventually work in an office (maybe my own) where I will be able to do the electrical-related stuff.

It is fun and exciting not knowing what the future prepares for you.

Friday, January 07, 2005

QED Play

Just came back from a theatrical play, QED. I'm a huge fan of Feynman, and this is a play that was written about him after his death in 1988. I have most of his books (and most of the books about him) I've seen the movie about him (sucks) and I was dissapointed to find out that the play in NY has been discontinued. But them I come to Greece and find out that s few people decided to produce the play here, so yesterday I found out about it and today I saw it.

There is only one actor, Feynman, who is discussing about his life and his thoughts during one of his last days before he died. The set is his Caltech office, very nice with 8 blackboards full of his equations! I am amazed that they found an actor that looks very much like Feynman, and he had a sincere interest in Physics. Although I knew most of the stories already it was quite enjoyable; 2 hours went by with one man talking on his own, that was amazing. They included a lot of physics, probably more than in any other movie or play i've seen. I even cried a little bit when they did the story about the rotating plate at Cornell, it was the first time I fully understood it...

Feynman was very depressed at some point in Cornell because he didn't enjoy what he was working on. And one evening at the cafeteria, someone threw a plate in the air. And the plate was rotating in two directions, both around its axis and up and down (it's hard to visualize). He noticed that the first rotation frequency was different than the other, and he workd out some equations only to find out that the frequency ratio was exactly 2:1. All excited he went to his advisor and told him about it, and he responded "That is cool, but how is this useful?" And Feynman said it was just for fun. Than insignificant incident reminded him that physics was fun, and he must start doing stuff he found fun. He then went to Caltech and had a brilliant career, because he enjoyed what he was doing. Not only that, but his work on that rotating plate inspired him indirectly on some ideas on electron wavefunctions, a work that evolved into his nobel prize a few years later.

So two things I learned: 1. Always do what you enjoy and 2. The most stupid useless thing might become of importance one day. This is why I hate when people ask "why is this useful?" You can never know, god damn it! Just do what you like most! And the QED play reminded me of that, so now I can go to sleep in a sane state of mind.

The day I promised I would never blog

I started off badly with blogging. A couple of years ago I was in this cafeteria close to my home in LA, Ragazzi, and I am sitting there with my neighbour Yao having a decent discussion. Ragazzi is a place where you can easily meet new people since it's a chill out enviroment (there was some live music at the moment). Right next to me there is this guy sitting on its own, working on his laptop. Since many people go with laptops there to do their work I think I shouldn't bother him. But then I take a look over his shoulder and watch what he's been doing: he is blogging, and I can read a few lines where he is describing perfectly the motion of the pianist in the room, in a quite exciting way. I can read his rich thoughts and worries about the cafe. And then I think, what the hell?

Why is this man typing his thoughts instead of sharing them through discussion with other people? How can it be more exciting to type the words instead of debating them? Then I picture all the people in the cafe, each one with his/her own laptop typing and all I can hear instead of this chatting noise is keyboards... I thought that if it weren't for blogging, if it weren't for laptops, if it weren't for technology I would have met this interestingly thinking guy and maybe I would have made one more friend. So I promise myself I would never blog, because I might miss a new friendship by typing instead of talking.

So why am I blogging now? There is one simple reason. This is not meant to be read by others. It is meant to be read only by me. Very few people will probably understand what am I writing here because it is not written in a way that is meant to be understood. I used to keep an audio diary in my high school years because I needed a way to remember what I have done, much like photos. This blog is my modern version of diary, and it is much more efficient than audio tapes or text files: I can write anytime, at any place, and my work is always safe and accessible. When I am done with it (my first diary lasted 5 years) I will keep a copy for myself which I will read sometime in the future. Maybe if I die people will get interested in me and try to find out how I used to think through this blog.

I'm off to invite my old greek friends in my place. I haven't seen them for a while and we need to talk...