Tag: Life

SXSW 2015

Another year, another South By, another week of extensive walking and partaking in free parties and concerts. SXSW 2015 has truly turned Austin into a spring break for mid 20-year-olds. As usual, I always go in with zero expectations and just tried to have a good time.

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Oscar Party 8.0

Another year, another Oscar Party. The eighth installment of Peter Voyvodic’s celebration of the nominees for Academy Award for Best Picture was just as crazy and just as much fun as ever. There’s something exhilarating about cramming 50+ people into a tiny studio apartment and preparing an 8-dish offering. The menu and dishes are pictured below.

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MotoGP ATX 2014

The Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas was this past weekend at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX. The event spans three days with practice and qualifiers occurring on Saturday and the races for the three classes (MotoGP, Moto2, and Moto3) occurring on Sunday. I attended both days of weekend events and had a great time watching beastly motorcycles roar past Turn 1. I’ve included a selection of photos and videos below. To see all my photos, check out my Flickr set.

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SXSW 2014

Another crazy SXSW has come and gone in Austin, TX, and I’m completely exhausted. Unlike the past two years where most of my participation was during the Music portion of the festival, I explored extensively during Interactive (i.e. earlier). The biggest events I attended were the Dropbox party and the multi-day Rachael Ray Feedback House Party. The first was at a brand new bar on Rainey Street called Container Bar and featured live music from Wild Cub (they’re gonna blow up). The second was at an event space on East Cesar Chavez called Chick Ranch and featured tons of live bands and BBQ from a Chicago restaurant called Lillies. I managed to snag invites to both events for myself and a ton of my friends through some Twitter magic. Besides those, I walked around to a ton of the open venues all across downtown Austin to catch music and eat/drink free stuff. If you’re interested in seeing my photos, check out the Flickr set here.

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Foursquare Heatmap

I’m a regular user of the location-based social network Foursquare mainly as a source of recommendations for new places to try. I typically check in everywhere I go with the exception of private residences (can’t let people stalk me that easily), so I have a pretty extensive log covering my location history. While it’s not quite as extensive as the Google Maps Location History, it does a good job representing the places I visit.

In the past I’ve messed around with making heatmaps of latitude/longitude coordinate pairs without much success. It always required tedious manipulations to properly overlay on top of a Google Maps image and wasn’t really worth the effort. I recently stumbled across a Python-based heatmap tool created by Seth Golub that takes a list of coordinates and turns them into a beautiful heatmap that can be overlaid on a OpenStreetMap. Once I figured out how to get Python Image Library installed properly, I used my private Foursquare feed to grab every checkin over the past year. Extracting and exporting the GPS coordinates included with each XML element only required a few lines of code. The resulting maps, which have been limited to only show downtown and the general Austin area, are displayed below.

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3 Months of Fitbit

I bought myself a Fitbit One right before the New Year in hopes of motivating more physical activity to offset my stationary lab lifestyle. It’s been just over three months since I started tracking my daily steps and most of my sleep. While I haven’t started running yet (I promise I’ll start eventually), it’s been fascinating to see my walking activity tracked throughout the day. One of my biggest complaints about Fitbit’s services is that they make you pay to access in-depth information about your activity. I think that it’s absolutely ludicrous to charge $49.99 a year to see the full extent of your data. With that said, they do offer an API for third-party development with access to the raw data (steps, distance, etc.) so I used this to automatically pull my daily activity into a Google Drive spreadsheet for easy access and analysis. Using this data, I generate my “health tracking” page featuring several charts of my ongoing Fitbit activity. The remainder of this post presents a summary of my Fitbit activity over the past 90 days since I got the One.

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The Qualifying Exam: Part II

As of yesterday afternoon I have completed and passed my qualifying exam for the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Texas. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, the qualifying exam consists of two parts: a written response and an oral exam with a faculty committee. The written part was extremely straightforward and really just required the reading of background papers to adequately answer the questions. More than anything it just served as a starting point for preparing for the oral examination, which is much more open-ended and difficult to predict. All we were told were the time and place of the exam and the number of faculty members that would comprise the committee. There were four in total with two from my research area (Imaging and Instrumentation) and one from each of the other two research areas. Going into the meeting, that was literally the extent of my knowledge concerning the exam, which leaves the mind quite free to imagine horrible, horrible outcomes.

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The Qualifying Exam: Part I

Today marks the beginning of my qualifying exam for becoming a PhD student in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. The exam is taken at the end of the first year of graduate school and basically is a check to make sure that you have the basic research knowledge and critical thinking skills necessary to continue onwards as a doctoral student. The exam is broken into two separate parts: a written exam and an oral exam. Both exams are based off a single research paper, selected by the student depending on their research technical area (I fall within Technical Area #1 – Biomedical Imaging and Instrumentation). Later today I will be given the choice of two different papers to choose from. I will then have to answer five questions regarding the content of the paper, which is due in a week. At some point in the next month I will go before a four-person committee made up of faculty members from each of the different research tracks (Two from my track and one from each of the other two tracks) for an oral exam concerning the paper and more importantly my ability to “think on my feet.” If all goes well, then I’ll be continuing on my way towards getting a PhD in biomedical engineering.

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Winter in Austin

This past week has had some absolutely incredible weather, mostly in the upper 70’s and mid 80’s, but Thursday it decided to dip up into the 90’s. After four years of Seattle winters (aka cloudy, cold, and wet), maybe Texas winters aren’t all that bad. Sadly it has already dropped back into the mid 60’s for the weekend and we might get some thunderstorms early next week. But it’s still brilliantly sunny and hopefully indicative of the weather for the next few months. Now if only there was a way to escape the inevitable Texas summer heat.

© 2015 Colin Sullender

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