Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I came across this web application on a random interweb walk. Wordle. Very very fun.
You just give it text (or a website) and it makes a word cloud, with the size of the word proportional to the frequency at which it occurs in the text. And there's tons of options for the layout. I played around and came up with the following clouds:

First is from the text of my last first-author publication (without bibliography):

I think the font and rigid borders, and B&W text conveys the feeling of a publication. Then I gave it a shot and pasted in my entire PhD dissertation, about 150 pages (also without bibliography):

Not to be completely science-fixed, I entered in the text from a dream that I had, which I had written down and later transcribed into the computer.

seems like a really cool way to display dreams. I was able to modify the colors and word-layout format to make it dreamy-like. And finally, the text from my "research plan" that describes my research goals for the next 4-5 years as I look to start my own lab:

Here the font and colors kind of represent creativity and brain-storming that goes into putting something like this together.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Impressions of Iceland

Back in July I made a short trip to Iceland. Mom was there with a friend on a week and a half birdwatching/nature tour, and so it was another good opportunity to meet up in Europe for a mini-vacation, as I did last year when I met her in Venice, which unfortunately I never got around to posting about. I did however manage to put up a few photos from that trip here.

Mom and I planned that I would arrive in Iceland the same day her tour ended and we would cruise around for 4 days. I had no idea what to expect from Iceland, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Here are some interesting photos I took when we were out on a boat for a whale-watching tour:

That's a puffin in the last photo. They are pretty cool little birds, and fun to watch flying and swimming around. I learned when I was in Iceland that the German word for Puffin is "Papageitaucher", which translates back into English literally as "Parrot Diver". Nice.

And we did see some Minke whales, but the whale watching experience was overall just not all that impressive, the whales were always far from the boat and would only partially break the surface to breathe. Here's the best photo I got with my telephoto lens:

Seems like a nice view of the whale and the dorsal fin, until you see what a whole Minke whale looks like and realize most of the whale is just underwater and this is just a little part if its back.

And we never saw more than that.

As it was July, we had the neat opportunity to experience what it's like to be so far north in the middle of the summer. It really hit home one evening when we decided to stop off at a lighthouse on the way home and watch the sunset. It was starting to get late (like 10pm or so), and it looked like the sun would soon set. So we parked the car and got out and took some pictures.

And we waited around and took some more pictures, and watched some ducks, and then realized we'd been here for an hour and a half and the sun had barely approached the horizon.

It was like a never ending sunset. I think it was about 12:30am and we finally decided to head home, but the sun hadn't yet touched the horizon. You just start feeling tired and realize you should really be getting to bed.
Now, to further illustrate the point, here is a photo I snapped this quickly one night from my hotel room. What you see here is a rainbow. Yes, it's a crappy photo. But I took this photo at midnight. At midnight! How many people have seen a rainbow at midnight?!

Fun times. But it really was a bit disorienting about knowing when it was time to eat dinner and when it was time to go to bed, when it was time to wake up.

I think I'll post again (who knows when) on some of the other adventures in my short time in Iceland, including diving in a glacial spring lake at 2 degrees Celsius.

But I'll end this post with a couple screenshots from Icelandic TV. Some of the stations had movies in English. Of course Icelanders all speak perfect English. I'm sure it helps to have movies in English. And they didn't subtitle them in Icelandic, but with English subtitles. Brilliant. So educational. But it didn't stop there. I guess for the deaf viewers that did not know English, they had a dude on the screen signing the dialouge. And I don't mean a little guy in a box in the corner, but a big old superimposed hippie-guy. I mean, look at this!: