Saturday, January 01, 2011
Last november I wrote a grant application. It turned out that it was for a much larger kind of grant than what I understood when I agreed to do it, which means it was far more work than I anticipated. I basically put the whole month into it. I think I did well, we'll see in a few months, but it got me thinking a lot into how did people that write successful applications learn. There is certainly some natural talent involved, but for sure they must have had a) good teachers and b) lots of trials and errors. Since they say "Knowledge comes from experience, and experience comes from mistakes", I am assuming that last one, although it is clearly difficult to imagine some people not getting a grant approved. Anyway, there must be some big part which is just knowing how to write well (which I try and practice and try some more). However, it is a different kind of writing. This time I had my manuscript read by a lot of people (not just my coauthors), but each person at a different stage of the proposal -- and out of respect to them, only once. This gave me a good deal of feedback, which improved the proposal incredibly. I guess this one is obvious, but consider a friend who was impressed by my asking so many people to read it. He told me he had just submitted a proposal without nobody else reading it -- and it turned out that the referees did not like his presentation. We'll see how mine goes, but I think this is a solid piece of advice: have your drafts read and commented by other people, especially those you respect how they write. This point is important, as I got a lot of positive remarks about the draft from peers, but quite some criticisms from more senior (and good) people. The other advice I didn't quite understand till now was how to the point the proposal has to be. There is less room to wander than in a PRL, really. The words of advice were: military style, almost with the bullet points. I had the bullet points at first, but at the end the text was so intrinsically itemized that I just removed them and nothing changed -- which I loved because really wasn't so in love with the bullets.
So, two points: very straightforward, and ask for comments. I have to leave now, but will continue in the next post with a couple more pointers.

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posted by fercook @ 10:22 AM   2 comments
Aaagh I just noticed my main page is outdated and links (to this blog and photos) are broken. So professional, right? Maybe it goes well with my brisk updating of the blog.
posted by fercook @ 10:14 AM   0 comments
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
I found a while ago this course of computer scienc-y things for scientists, and it blew my mind. Completely changed the way I worked. I then went and read books and books on programming techniques. Very awesome, but still the carpentry is the place I go back when I need to refresh something.

I was so delighted that I decided to sometime give this course, which I have been doing this past november. I think it is going well, it ends tomorrow. I gave a very compressed version of it, with the most important topics being source control, unit testing, writing clean code, and some other stuff like shell commands, debugging, build systems, and the like.

Hopefully next year I will get the time and strength to give a longer version of the course at the Politecnica. Now I am way too tired because I found out too late that I had a deadline last 11/30, and it overlapped with the course completely (I mean the whole month was taken writing this thing up). If I had known I would have scheduled the course for some other time...
posted by fercook @ 12:48 PM   0 comments
Seeing my life as a movie --not like when you are dying, as they say, but as distancing from myself-- is an interesting experience. It doesn't happen so often but still regularly, perhaps most often when I haven't slept so much. Or when I drink too much, there might be a connection there.

In any case, nothing too interesting, it's just me I'm looking at, but still leaves a feeling of "maybe I did something wrong, just the one thing, that I could change and everything would be so much better today". As in The End of Eternity. And perhaps that thing was investing in Google when it was funded, or not.

I think Facebook makes me sad, and then I go and write these things.

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posted by fercook @ 12:42 PM   0 comments
Sunday, April 26, 2009

This is a great short with a metaphor of life that just got to me...really good short.

Posted with LifeCast

posted by fercook @ 12:29 AM   0 comments
Friday, August 01, 2008
I love Apple and everything they do (ok not everything), and it shows in the interview that appeared in my profile which they published. However, I cannot be more dissapointed at the "thank you" plaque they sent me "in recognition of my efforts" to help them spread their science webpage. It is a cheap laser printout encaged in a cheap plastic pair of blocks, that looks everything but apple'ish. Men, were they out of hats, t-shirts? I'd kill for those, or at least I would go over the speed limit on my car. Notice that I am not even complaining that I didn't get a thank-you-iPod, even though they certainly give them away to other people that do arguably much less for Apple than the time I spent interviewing and doing movies for the profile. In any case, it comes at a time when APPL is doing bad on the market, the last round of new products has met a lot of criticism and almost failure (mobile Me doesn't support IE by design, and works bad on all browsers by mistake), and the rumors and hate are piling up to an Apple that seems to have gotten the success in their heads. I certainly liked them more a few years back when they were the talented underdog fighting the MS giant evil empire. Right now, with a lot more market share, the ipod and iphone success, MS recognizing Apple's model is better, and so on, they look more and more like an arrogant company that doesn't care so much for making revolutionary products as for squeezing premium money out of marginally improved old successes. And, they certainly don't show any appreciation for their customers or supporters. 
posted by fercook @ 10:59 AM   0 comments
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Sorry for those who don't speak (or read) spanish, but I read a very interesting article by Martin Caparros that put me to think about my country, its history and its present. In the article Caparros tells how the truly powerful in Argentina first used the military to face the "guerrilla" only with economic purposes. At that time, the people of Argentina supported the military. Now however, that time has become very inconvenient (because of all the violence) and the power has changed the story, and the people conveniently forgot who they supported and now sit on the other side. Caparros is scared that in the 70s he was fighting the military, and today he joins them in claiming that the official story today is not what really happened back then. The moral is that the power in Argentina is very skilled at having the people empathize with their interests and defend them for them, and it even has the power to change history when convenient (1984 like). His comments tie neatly with the current fight between the farmers (the most powerful group in Argentina) and the goverment that wanted to tax them more. The Argentinean people went to the streets defending their "peers", the "poor" farmers who might not make all the millions they were hoping for...

posted by fercook @ 9:28 AM   0 comments
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Our article came out in the arXiv, Quantum Fidelity and Thermal Phase Transitions. (arXiv:0806.4633v1 [quant-ph])

Finally, after struggling with the plotting program for a week ! We still need to add one more plot (Cv of LMG) to submit...

It's a nice article where we explore how to study thermal (as opposed to quantum) phase transitions using fidelity (or the static version of the Loschmidt echo). What amazes me is that at some point we derive formulas that don't need quantum mechanics AT ALL ! Instead, only partition functions are involved. Thus, one can apply them to classical systems (as we do), and something does come out.

I am also proud of the LMG treatment, I think it is original but I am getting some emails about previous work that I need to check out.

All in all, a solid PRA article.

posted by fercook @ 7:10 AM   0 comments
Friday, June 27, 2008
I am moving to a temporary place so life is crazy and posts are low...but there will be soon a couple of articles in the arXiv.
posted by fercook @ 5:40 PM   0 comments
For large values of 1.