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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Speaking with Estevan Lopez

In what could be our last and greatest interview, we speak with Estevan Lopez, Director of Interstate Stream Commission. He works with the State Engineer to monitor the flow of water within the state as well as between New Mexico's neighbors. Our Great Benefactor, Fabio Carrera accompanied us to an interview for the first time, and his verbal skills did not disappoint.

Hydrologic Monitoring and Water Quality control were among the topics of the day, and we students were almost as interested with he said as he was with us.
Very open to our help and ideas, we gained a great government sponsored sponsor. I can't wait to see what this new partnership produces in later years!

Part 1

Part 1 download!

Part 2

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Part 3

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Part 4

Part 4 download!

Part 5

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Part 6

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Part 7

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Part 8

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Part 9

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Part 10

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Interview with Living River

As the IQP draws to a close, it gets to the point where we admit that actual work needs to be done at some point. As a result of this interviews and meetings are in full force, and that means more listenables for you viewers at home.
The interviews in the las few days contain both the longest and the shortest recordings yet, and we're going to share them with you now in a Double Post Extravaganza!

Here's the shortest, with Dave the Representative from the Living River Association.

Part 1

Part 1 download!

Part 2

Part 2 download!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What, the Chopstix?

Indubitably sir, the place to get a great meal for about ten bucks in Santa Fe, Chopstix. A nice place to sit outside and appreciate the beautiful weather that seems to just ooze in New Mexico.
The resounding recommendation our little troupe of ducklings was for the Vegi Chow Mein, although I would like to state that every aspect of my meal was most appreciated.
For all you crazies who think that this little restaurant has a website, don't worry your little head, there is none.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Judging America's Youth: A Story of Getting Lost in America's Nuclear Factory

Please note this post will contain no personal photographs from my visit to Los Alamos National Labs, as out of concern for National Security I was not allowed to take photos with my camera while on site.
As part of the Santa Fe Bootstrap's Community Outreach, and my on the side Bromance with "Dr" John "Gordan Freeman" Gonzales, I spent April 2oth wandering the campus of Los Alamos National Labs, judging students entries in the SuperComputing Challenge. Getting to the actual judging was an undertaking unto itself. With Andrew "Dearth" Tremblay as my driver we departed the Santa Fe Complex at around 6 in the morning to ensure that we would make our required arrival time of 8 AM, a seemingly over kill amount of preparation, but this small amount of paranoia ensured that we avoided tardiness. On our drive up, we listened to many kicking tunes, including Weird Al's "White and Nerdy" and Electric Six's "Dance Commander". We first realized that we were having issues with our navigation, when we found ourselves not in a swarm of laboratories but a residential neighborhood. Reoriented and ready to roll we soon had managed to get ourselves to the entrance of LANL, sadly my ability to follow directions, especially in a confusing and new environment is not exactly my most robust characteristic.

Our first attempt at finding a place to park a car left us outside of the main entrance. Try number two truly got me excited about the morning seeing as we accidentally pulled into the parking lot that led to the part of the lab responsible for processing nuclear waste. While we were fortunate enough to not need to meet with any of the fine members of US Armed Forces.

It was unnerving to see upon our departure the sign that read "all parked cars will be searched", fortunately JP was awake enough to answer the phone and tell us where the library was.
Judging the presentations was new to me, as someone who had always been on the receiving end of these has always been stressful, making sure that students didn't feel intimidated was important to me. While the presentations I got to review weren't the most invigorating, the potential for recruiting students to WPI should not be ignored.

For me the most exciting part of the day was getting to tour the facility that housed The Road Runner the first petaflop supercomputer. Throughout the entire tour I had the opening sequence of Half Life running through my head. Once through the opening layers of security we we brought through aimless hall after hall until we came into the RAVE room, which allowed us to see proteins fold, explore the inside of a nuclear processing chamber, and visit the surface of Mars, all in 3-D. We then saw the prototype of the Road Runner Super Computer and where much of the non-classified data on site was stored.

A Meeting with the President

Few people in the history of this country have been as charismatic, open, and connected with the people that they lead, and we were given the good fortune to meet one of these great leaders. We're talking, of course, about the President of the La Cienega Acequia, Carl Dickens.
His interview, like that of J.J. Gonzales, only reinforced that WPI had much to offer the rural areas of Santa Fe.

Take a gander at the interview right here. You can download it, too.

Part 1

Part 1 download!

Part 2

Part 2 download!

Part 3

Part 3 download!

Part 4

Part 4 download!

Part 5

Part 5 download!

Part 6

Part 6 download!

Part 7

Part 7 download!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A True Dearth of Firewood

Finding firewood in Santa Fe is like trying to catch Sam doing work at the complex, Dave being tall, or Andrew acting human. It just ain't happening.

What should have been a simple trip down to the local super market ended up being a nearly 2 hour long scavenger hunt where the only thing to be hunted was a faggot, or a bundle of sticks and wood. No fewer than six different stores told us that the last bundle was sold earlier that day, but that wasn't even the most annoying issue. At Wal-Mart I asked an employee if they sold fire wood, his response was "fire wood? Like for what?"After I explained that fire wood was for burning, he then proceeded to tell me that fire wood was out of season. I was under the impression that trees grew all year round, but I guess this is a mistaken assumption.

Finally after all hope was lost, the air was rent with honk, and Bob Saget was cursed a plenty, we resigned to going to Smith's super market to pick up a Dura-Flame™ log. It was here that we discovered the holy grail of fire wood. Bundles upon bundles were stacked against the walls lining the inside of the store. $16 and four bundles later we were finally able to put to use our 72 hershey's chocolate bars. Smores were made aplenty, but there was always enough chocolate left for s'more.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pranzo Dessert, Take 2

Just another day hard at work for us WPI students. Chris's parents graciously took us out to dinner on their brief stint in Santa Fe. For anyone reading this who may or may not be Chris's parents...thanks again.

At any rate, it is our charge to sample the culinary treats of Santa Fe, and in my opinion we have diligently risen to the challenge, with a little help from our friends.

I will give you that we are just uncultured college students, but I believe anyone will tell you that if there is one thing college students know how to do, it is eat. In this regard we are very well suited to the task.

We haven't eaten desert very many places, but of the places that we have, I enjoy Pranzo the most. It is the only place we have been that has not a micro-brewery, but a micro-creamery. They make their own ice cream and it is exceptional. Thus far, we have sampled the Cinnamon, the Black Raspberry, the Caramel Praline, and the Vanilla Bean. All of them were quite good, with Caramel Praline being my personal favorite.

More on this later. Hopefully...



There was a lot of controversy about this particular camping trip, but one thing that can't be argued is that it was cold. Fortunately we were in a beautiful area so that was designated for camping, so we were legally allowed to build a campfire and didn't have to break any laws for the night.

Our campground was located at Hyde State Park just 8 miles out of Santa Fe, via Hyde Park Road. The drive, while short, afforded a drastic change in scenery. Buildings turned into sprawling aspen trees and sounds of traffic gave way to the sounds of a babbling brook.

Overall it was a cold,yet pleasant experience. I very much look forward to doing it again sometime.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

And Just When You Thought It Couldn't Get Better

Turns out my technical philandering has paid off, we can now post music and sound on the blog! Resultantly, our once-dormant interviews are now available for your listening pleasure!
Here's Part 1 of the interview we had with Acequia Big-Wig JJ Gonzales on the history of the Acequias and New Mexico Water Rights. Take a listen here, or download it!

The rest of the interview is available on the blog post about the interview, here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Let's use our imaginations for a second and imagine if you were one of the first explorers of the new world, and say you came across the fabled City of Gold. You're standing in the middle of their equivalent of their town square, and gold surrounds you. The material that you were told from birth to be the rarest material in the world is the most common thing in sight. The thing that your civilization has stolen, lied, and killed for is paved into the roads. Here it is gold, not Gold. It's woven into the threads of rags, people are dusting it off of their feet so as to not track it into their homes. It is so commonly valueless to the inhabitants that they don't even need to offer it to you. You can just take it. It is their dirt.
Take a moment to dwell on this.
Now replace that gold with the concepts of creative potential, intellectual capability, and modern technological resources.

This is an accurate description of what we found at ARTS Lab

We went down to Albuquerque by train to pick up the car that was left by our Gracious Adviser that morning. We decided to spend the day in Albuquerque, starting with lunch at the Flying Star Cafe. During our meal of assorted cheeses (Grilled, Mac'n', and Cream), Simon suggested that we start by visiting ARTS Lab that happened to just be down the road.
The external portion of the building was rather unimpressive, it if felt like we were approaching the undecorated rear of a supermarket. Once inside, however.
Supercomputer Clusters! Green Screen Movie Sets! Fully Functional Miniature Planetariums!

And the people! Remember that metaphor that I mentioned at the beginning. They were beyond eager to help and give us full access to every part of their facilities. Though officially part of UNM, they had difficulty generating participation in the student body. "I think it's because it's so unapproachable," Said Joe Dean, "but really, we love it when people come in with suggestions or ideas." He then returned to work on a new Planetarium presentation on a Quadcore monolith with 16 GB of RAM, one of the slower computers in the Lab. We visited other parts of the lab, talked to really interesting people, sat under the planetarium dome, gawked at their (shockingly impressive but shamefully unused) Supercomputing Server Cluster and before we knew it the day had gone. We left that day full of new business cards and hope. This was certainly the most incredible potential contact for an IQP project center yet!

Our only regret about the entire experience is that we didn't bring a camera.
Oh well, guess we have to go back!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Getting the Power of the Point

Getting 20 members of the Santa Fe community to come to the Complex let us feel that we were reaching out for future students. Below we have the visuals of the power point, other fun attachments to follow.

Walkability Preliminary Concept Art by Sam

Hey Guys, you should all check out this preliminary concept art for the Interactive Community Platform.

Please leave your feedback so we can continue to improve this awesome new project.

Friday, April 10, 2009


I've been trying to find an effective segue to create some kind of coherent narrative of last night's celebration of Passover, and I really can't. It could be I'm just not that strong a writer, but I really don't know how to describe the feeling of family that I felt last night. For a group that has only started to truly know each other over the past three weeks I was just blown away by how close we have become in such a short time. The efforts of all those who helped bring together a fantastic dinner should be most definitely be mentioned, the chef for the evening was Robin Drogin, who was served quite capably by Sous Chefs Chris and Sam. Comprised of the traditional Passover fair, all 20 guests at our small apartment seemed to truly enjoy their meal.

Artificial General Intelligence

Artificial general intelligence is a minute field compared to many others, but it can also be described as a very important field.

In a nutshell, artificial general intelligence strays from the field of artificial intelligence in that people in the field believe that in order for something to be intelligent, it needs to have some specific set of values. Unfortunately not many people agree on what those values are.

One thing that was made very clear by Dr. Pei Wang is that though it is a small field there are many differing opinions. To be specific, Dr. Wang divides the fields of thought into 5 different categories;

  • People who believe that something intelligent must look and act like a human being

  • People who believe that something intelligent must act human

  • People who believe that something intelligent must be able to solve logical problems

  • People who believe that something intelligent must have cognitive faculties

  • People who believe that something intelligent must obey rational norms

Furthermore, even the people who do agree on the definition of intelligence have different ways of going about achieving their goals.
  • Connecting existing artificial intelligence techniques together

  • To combine modules based on other techniques into an overall architecture

  • To extend or augment a core technique into a single system

This may seem confusing, and that's because it is. Dr. Wang went on to give many examples of each of these, but I will just talk about Dr. Wang's research. His project is called NARS, or Non-Axiomatic Reasoning System. The basic premise is that it is a reasoning system with the capability to learn from mistakes.

Dr. Wang jokingly said that he is often proud of his system when it makes a mistake, because then it can learn from it. This is an interesting concept because, as was stated at the lecture, the system often resembles the learning of a toddler. For example, a toddler might make the incorrect assumption that, since an entire family wears glasses, and he does not, he is not a part of the family. There is logic behind this assumption, even though it is untrue.

One of the things that makes a system able to do this learning, is the implementation of defeasible rasoning. This is where one can say that if x is true, then it stands to reason that y would also be true. The difference between that and the deductive reasoning system that had been used in the past is that there is a chance that a computer's deductions are untrue. This makes many more things possible than were before, because a computer has the chance to amend its previous assumptions.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Pranzo Italian Grill and Restaurant

If you are looking for absolutely amazing Italian food within walking distance of the Complex the best place to go is Pranzo.
For about $15 per a person you can get a spectacular array of Italian food. For appetizers we tried the minestrone soup, and the fried calamari. Both were good, but the calamari was the better of the two as it came with two different sauces. a garlic butter sauce and a spicy sauce. Both complimented the appetizer spectacularly. For meals we ordered a wide variety of food including a tender juicy steak, raviolis, pasta with meatballs, and two different kinds of pizza. The best meal was by far the Pizza Funghi, everyone at the table thoroughly enjoyed it. The best part of the meal was dessert as Pranzo has their own Micro creamery, and makes spectacular ice cream.

No Dearth of Digging Ducklings

From More Santa Fe Bootstrap photos

Digging a mile worth of irrigation ditch is not what we usually do on a Saturday morning, but this Saturday was different.
From More Santa Fe Bootstrap photos

An Acequia, as I'm sure you all know by now, is an ancient irrigation method that dates back to the Spanish colonization of the southwest. They allowed the first towns and cities in New Mexico to be sustainable, and in many ways still shape the society today. Every year the ditches must be cleared, and everyone in the local rural community participates in one way or another. But enough of the history lesson, back to us. We rose from our respective beds at around 7:30, rubbed our eyes, dressed, rubbed our eyes again, and got into the car to drive the half hour to the La Cienega Acequia. The digging was already well underway, with about 30 to 40 locals already digging up and down the Acequia. It was a surprisingly brisk morning, almost in the 60s and yet still very dry. We were handed gloves and footed boots. We picked up our sharpened shovels and walked to the nearest undug section of the ditch. The dry earth was thick with the roots of grass, which other than the branches was the main thing being removed from the ditch-about three inches of soil needed to be dug out from the bottom. The walls of the ditch also needed to be made steeper, which in turn made it more difficult to climb out. The dry clay earth yielded effortlessly to the plunging blade of the shovel, resisting only slightly to being forced over and out the ditch.
From More Santa Fe Bootstrap photos

Then the water began. As the earth grew wet the once easy dirt septupled in weight, the ground gave under the back of the shovel eliminating all hope of leverage, and even the grassroots seemed deeper and hardier. The mud sucked at your boots, making it difficult to take even a single step, and the wet slope meant embarrassing moments of heaving a chunk of earth the size of a large sandwich but with the weight of half a bowling ball to the edge of the ditch, only to see it slide back down again instantly becoming one with the mud once more.
From More Santa Fe Bootstrap photos

The mud splashed and flecked on our clothes, not excessively, but noticeably. Mud caked on gloves from simply taking the larger chunks of dirt and heaving them out of the ditch by hand. It was a clean mud, a pure mud. Mud that felt good getting on yourself.
From More Santa Fe Bootstrap photos

The natives were quiet most of the time around us, but talked amongst themselves while digging, usually about digging. They talked about how some of the northern acequias had finer, drier soil and could shovel more easily, and some more mountainous acequias had pine trees running up and down their ditch, whose roots made the digging magnitudes more difficult.
There were mixed reactions to us, outsiders, helping them in this annual ritual. Some snorted at our efforts to clear the ditch, others simply looked past us, but a few were welcoming and empathetic towards our novice ability. In the end our action was treated with the gratitude of an unnecessary favor from a stranger. A "Gee, thanks..." feeling.
From More Santa Fe Bootstrap photos

Nevertheless, we managed to finish 45 minutes early, having dug all the way to the reservoir that fed the Acequia. There was no cheering or outward celebration, but more of just a nod, looking back at what we did, what we all helped do, and knowing it was finished. We all climbed in the back of several trucks and drove to the La Cienega Community Center, where a workers meal was prepared by the women. The potluck was delicious, added to by the fatigue of hours of digging. The Mayordomo made a short speech where thanked everyone for helping and complimented everyone on the state of the Acequia. He hoped to see them all next year with just as much effort. Then people finished eating and simply left. We followed suit. Grabbing our shoes, getting in the car, driving away, showering at home, and climbing back into bed. The act was wholesome and even a little therapeutic. We knew we had engaged in something difficult and necessary, and as we lay down we knew we had done well that day.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

First Friday Fractal by Sam

Last night we all decided to go to one of the most amazing shows ever, First Fractal Friday. According to their website "First Friday Fractals is the spectacular, award-winning fulldome planetarium show that takes viewers on a tour of the fractals in nature and zooms through infinitely complex mathematical fractals. Featuring original music, the show is both educational and highly entertaining, and suitable for audiences 3 and up." Located at The New Mexico Museum of Natural History planetarium, it is a simple train ride away. This show is a must see.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Meow Wolf: A Night Dread Naught.

You can tell that thought went into these lyrics. That the emotions behind them were burningly intense. Topics and stories that have complicated, hidden morals are the formula for most of their songs. With a lead female singer that might try too hard to be Janice Joplin.

Their stop-motion visuals added even more enjoyment to the songs. When they were on queue, that is. The crowd was responsive, and appreciative of the band, as was to be expected.

An overall together band that I will remember having the pleasure of listening to.

A band whose size rivals that of 70's supergroups. It is more an orchestra than a simple group of musicians. Cole Wilson, the lead guitarist and singer acts also as a conductor, often turning around and directing the rest of these college-student twenty-somethings.
17 Band Members were present, though their has them listed as 25 in total:
3 Guitars,
1 Violinist,
1 Violist,
1 Cellist,
2 Saxes,
3 Horns,
1 Flautist,
1 Clarinet,
1 Banjo,
1 Pianist,
1 Bassist (both upright and guitar)
And a drummer, of course.
All playing simultaneously, though usually to reduce complexity a few always hung back.

Aside from the excessive feedback in more places than were forgivable, heartfelt rhythm filled the space. The band taking up about as much room as the audience. The wall of sound that we anticipated was experienced, but not to the point where we were fully satisfied. Perhaps that was the idea.

An band that is not afraid to break boundaries and be ingenious once and awhile. A metal xylophone played with a violin bow! The sound is like that of a perfect harmonic octave.
The songs are mostly of sadness, but the band keeps it humorous.

I don't know, but unsigned bands just have this different energy about them. A hopeful determination, a happy acceptance of sadness. The fact that the genre that night was Folk makes it even more pronounced. Sound for sound's sake. And beautiful sound at that. I like that.