A Kid in the Candy Store

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"Well hello there..." says the JetBlue screen welcoming me on board to my flight to Chicago. That was three days ago. Now I'm sitting in a hotel room in Champaign, after the wrap-up of the Engineer of the Future 3.0 conference at the University of Illinois (this was actually a few days ago -- there'll be an article about the talk Mel and I gave soon). But really, when did I blog the last time? Has been quite calm here over the past month. What happened?

500 Days of Summer (new)

"500 Days of Summer" -- picture by gtall1 taken from Flickr, licensed under a CC-BY license.

Reminds me of one of my favorite movies, 500 Days of Summer. Summer, the girl, explains to Tom, the boy, what happened in her previous relationships: life.


"Olin sunset" -- picture by Sean Munson taken from Flickr, licensed under a CC-BY-NC-ND license.

Now I'm not breaking up with anybody, but life has just been incredibly busy in the past months. First things first. Olin. My school. The place I fought to get to and finally ended up at. It's tough. It's a tough place. Incredibly tough. People don't necessarily understand the workload that comes with being at a place like Olin. In one of our classes, Modeling and Simulation, we're working on projects that get eventually turned into poster presentations. For my second project, I worked with my partner on a model for a passive solar house. It might be worth noting that this requires the knowledge of thermodynamics, which is usually an entire class at other schools. We picked up the stuff we needed on our own -- in two weeks.

One of the things that I've been trying to work on lately is awareness. Coming from three years of open source experience into academia, people don't necessarily see what the open source way can do for them. Some of the frustration I felt over the past weeks was that the feeling that the work overload coming from this place I wanted to be at was preventing me from doing the things I actually wanted to do and cared about. I felt overwhelmed.

On the side of less amusing things, I've also been hit significantly by RSI I over the past weeks. I felt stronger pain a couple weeks ago in my hands and wrists; things got worse and worse since then and my neck, shoulders and legs are affected (this post is brought to you by language recognition software). I'm trying to treat this as good as I can: upgraded to ergonomic mouse and keyboard and went to see a therapist and eventually a rolfer.

I'm nowhere near out of all this. Worse came to worse and it pulled me down altogether quite a bit. Now I'm writing this with an eye on the upcoming break. It feels like it might go upwards again. Soon.


"IPC Boogie 2009, diving after Wayne" -- picture by divemasterking2000 taken from Flickr, licensed under a CC-BY license.

On Saturday, Mel and I went with Heidi Ellis from Western New England College and a couple of her students to the GNOME Summit at MIT. That being their first hackathon, we both served as tour guides, poking them towards talking with people and asking questions. Sometimes, the easy things are the hard ones.

A couple of days later, Mel picked me up at Olin and we went to talk at Western New England College about the challenges of release engineering. After exposing the students to Etherpad (which they immediately picked up), I talked about the way distributions are built and how dependency chains are related to that. We explained package managers by assuming that we want to install Firefox:

  • Sebastian says: "Heidi, please install Firefox!"
  • Heidi goes, looks into her database, notices that Firefox needs a couple of other libraries which aren't present on the system - like Mel.
  • Heidi checks whether Mel satisfies Firefox' dependency and comes back, asking whether the installation of Mel is okay.
  • Sebastian agrees.
  • Heidi installs Mel first, then Firefox.

Talking with Heidi later, we noticed that the students actually were excited: they didn't fall asleep during class - but found that there was something else out there, that there was more.

On Wednesday, Heidi came out to Olin. I had set up meetings with a number of faculty and Mel and I showed her the campus.


"Untitled" -- picture by Melissa Audrey taken from Flickr, licensed under a CC-BY license.

At Friday before both Mel and I flew out to Illinois, we stopped by an European store in Boston. It was a tiny store, but it had all the things I recognized from home -- like chocolate. There I was: a kid in the candy store.


"Dandelion Fireworks-PHOTO 183-The halfway mark" -- picture by aussiegall taken from Flickr, licensed under a CC-BY license.

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Our talk (and transcript) is online at http://www.slideshare.net/mchua/eotf2010-5836179 (mm, CC-BY-SA license) and will be an opensource.com article at http://opensource.com/education/10/11/open-source-and-student-engagement-explained-5-minutes pretty soon.

Heidi's take on our talks/visit is at http://heidiellis.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/running-the-race/, and mine is buried somewhere in the middle of http://blog.melchua.com/2010/11/13/have-i-really-not-blogged-for-a-month/.

Also, I am now an unabashed fan of Kinder Bueno. We are so going back for more chocolate.

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This page contains a single entry by Sebastian Dziallas published on November 19, 2010 6:03 AM.

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