Caltech Software Engineering Job

September 19th, 2016

On October 3rd of last year, I wrote a post about being selected to work on a project at Caltech. Although my funding came from Caltech/JPL, I was still a UCR employee and the project only lasted for a few months.  On October 3rd of this year, I will begin a new job at Caltech as an actual employee. I'll be a staff member at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC). My job title is Applications Developer Associate, though a more accurate title, given what the job actually entails, would be Associate Software Engineer. I will initially work on a component of the processing pipeline for the Euclid mission (along with about 1000 other people, mostly in Europe). Because the Euclid mission is primarily a European Space Agency mission, the job will initially involve some travel to Europe. Once the Euclid work winds down, I will be assigned another project.

This position is ideal in many ways. First of all, it's Caltech. Secondly, it's more stable than most industry / private sector positions. The job should allow me to further strengthen my current skills, learn some new skills, and meet some new people. It should also offer some valuable experiences and open the door for new opportunities. It also (sort of) provides dental and vision insurance in addition to medical insurance. I currently only have medical insurance.

The job pays about 1.63 times as much as my current position at UCR, which is nice, but it's far from ideal. It appears that Caltech's health insurance options are more costly than my current insurance at UCR and I will also have to pay for parking. We will be in a higher tax bracket, so significantly more taxes will be deducted from my paychecks. It appears that my actual take-home pay will initially be about 1.5 times more than my current take-home pay. This would be great, except for the fact that we've accumulated a large amount of debt since the summer of 2013. It appears that things will still be very tight for us financially for the next year or two, unless I get a significant pay increase after my first year. I am investigating debt consolidation loans and possibilities for supplemental income so that we can hopefully begin reducing our debt burden instead of just slowing its rate of growth. Unfortunately, I won't have much time to devote to finding supplemental income because I will probably spend more time commuting; we can't move closer to Pasadena any time soon because we can't afford to break our lease and the rents near Pasadena are not exactly cheap.

Eleven Crazy Days

October 3rd, 2015

A few days before the vernal equinox, I wrote about an unusually eventful week. Well, the autumnal equinox just passed, and we have had 11 eventful days. In short: Caltech job, StratOS paper, Heatstroke, European Wax Center, Galaxy S6, and System76 laptop.

On September 23rd, I drove to Caltech to find out more about a position that some colleagues had informed me about a few weeks earlier. When I arrived at the parking lot, the first vacant spot that I saw was Kip Thorne's (see photo). Two days later, I was officially on the SPHEREx team. As it currently stands, I will be working on the project for at least seven months. I've been tasked with improving the robustness and performance of the photometric redshift data analysis pipeline (i.e., code that automatically determines the redshifts of galaxies observed by the proposed SPHEREx satellite / observatory). It appears that my StratOS code could become quite useful for this if SPHEREx becomes a reality because roughly a petabyte of data will need to analyzed fairly quickly. This is exactly the sort of task for which StratOS is intended. My funding comes from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, but it is being funneled through UC Riverside, so my official employer is still UC Riverside and my title is still "Assistant Project Scientist." Although I'm not an offical Caltech employee, I have an office at Caltech in the Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, I will have a Caltech e-mail address, and they are providing me with a laptop computer of my choice because my old one broke nearly two years ago and I haven't been able to afford a new one. The laptop arrived today!

Since I'm still technically working for UCR, I still have some duties associated with my existing position. On September 23rd, I finally received a response regarding the StratOS announcement paper that Miguel and I submitted to Astronomy and Computing. The first reviewer gave pretty much the expected response, noting areas where more detail should be added. The second reviewer, on the other hand, responded with complete nonsense. It seems that the second reviewer didn't really read the paper. We will modify the paper and submit to a different journal because we are fed up with Astronomy and Computing; six months is a ridiculous amount of time to have to wait to get a nonsensical report. We'll probably submit it to a journal that is more focused on computing.

In the lab at UCR, we finally received a new high-throughput machine that we've been waiting for since December. It was free, so I guess we can't complain about the delay. This machine will serve as our new gateway node to the Internet when UCR's new 10 Gbps network reaches the lab. It can also accommodate our two Xeon Phi cards. While I am working on the SPHEREx stuff, I'll need to set this computer up along with the new 10 Gbps network switch.

A few weeks ago, I gathered seeds from the same acacia tree that is the parent of my acacia bonsai. On Friday, the 25th, a seed sprouted, so I now have two acacia bonsai. Later in the day, my mother-in-law, Christina, rented a car with a broken (or difficult to use) air conditioner. After driving with no AC and having no water to drink, she had a heatstroke. She was hospitalized until the evening of the 27th. The doctors in the hospital (Kaiser Permanente on Vineyard Avenue in Ontario) were worried about the high level of lactic acid in her system and her high white blood cell count. The white blood cell count prompted them to treat her as though she had a mysterious infection. I am guessing that these particular doctors were not very familiar with heatstroke; a simple Google search reveals that high lactic acid levels and very high white blood cell count are common after heatstroke. Anyway, Christina stayed at our apartment until October 1st. She seems to be in approximately the same condition that she was in before the heatstroke.

Melissa went on several interviews at European Wax Center and she was selected to begin training. It appears that she will be working on weekends and one evening during the week. Training begins about two weeks from now. She'll be shutting down her spa here at the apartment complex and selling most of the equipment.

I finally got a new phone to replace the Samsung Galaxy Nexus that I've had since December, 2011. My new phone is a Samsung Galaxy S6. It has a $50 rebate and it looks like our VerizonWireless bill will now be $50 cheaper per month because of the way that VerizonWireless handles billing / data plans. In short, getting a newer phone ends up being cheaper than keeping my old phone with my old data plan.

In national news, Pope Francis visited the United States for the first time and became the first pope to address congress. The next day, John Boehner announced that he was retiring as Speaker of the House. The presidents of China and India also made fairly high-profile visits to the U.S. during this period. A historic flash food occurred in Virginia, and a few days later Hurricane Joaquin began causing wind and precipitation.

Astronomically, the 23rd was the autumnal equinox and then on the 27th, we had a total lunar eclipse while the moon was near perigee (a so-called "supermoon").

Two Years Old

August 20th, 2015

Lev turned two years old on August 7th. Here's some notes about the status of his development:

  • He is approximately 28 pounds, which is the 50th percentile for a boy his age.
  • He is about 34 inches tall, which is slightly less than 50th percentile for his age.
  • His head circumference is 20.5 inches, which is above the 99th percentile for a boy his age and absolutely giant for a boy of his height and weight.
  • He says many complete sentences and gives many orders using complete sentences
  • He says "please" and "thank you" and we never even told him to do that (we just modeled it).
  • He asks "where," "what," and "how," questions.
  • He can sing all of the alphabet song, but he usually skips a few letters.
  • He can also count to 6 pretty consistently and he says eight, nine, ten, but he has only recited 1 though 10 a few times.
  • He can identify some colors (red, blue, green, yellow, orange), but he seemed to forget them a few weeks ago and he had to re-learn them
  • On August 15th, he drew a circle for the first time, after I asked him "can you draw a circle?"
  • His top running speed is now faster than my walking speed, so I have to jog beside him to keep up. I am guessing than he sprints at about 6 miles per hour.

While I was writing these notes, he said "give me a pen." and then after he lost it, he asked "Where did the pen go?" He also asked "can you press the button (on the vacuum)?" Then he said "bring me a brush." When I gave him the vacuum brush, he said "thank you."

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An Eventful Week

March 14th, 2015

This has been a rather eventful week:

On Monday, Lev followed a three-step command for the first time, which is a pretty big deal. On the other hand, the three steps were related: "put the celery in the drawer, close the drawer, and close the refigerator door." So it's less exciting than following three completely unrelated commands.

On Tuesday, the first draft of a paper about my project, StratOS, was announced on the arXiv.org preprint website. I also announced the project on the Apache Mesos-users mailing list. Several people expressed interest in the project. The paper is here: arxiv.org/abs/1503.02233

The BitBucket page for the project is here: bitbucket.org/stratos-project/stratos

StratOS-desktop-datacenter

On Wednesday, I received an e-mail from someone who works at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). Evidently some people at NCSA are interested in StratOS. They encouraged me to apply for a position that will be announced in the coming months. I probably won't be applying to NCSA, but the fact that they showed interest is quite encouraging, in terms of future job prospects!

On Thursday, my supervisor found out that he has enough funding to extend my position by two months, so that it will end at the beginning of June instead of March 31st. I will use that time to improve StratOS and colaborate with my supervisor on a new paper which includes an example of StratOS actually being used.

Also on Thursday, I was asked whether I wanted to teach a course during the first summer session. I said yes (but I haven't signed a contract yet). After the summer session, my supervisor may have more funding for my position. In any case, I should be in a better situation to find a more permanent job within the next few months.

Next week, the University will apparently have a press release on their website, regarding the StratOS project.

Eighteen Months

February 7th, 2015

Lev is 18 months old! Wow. During the past month, his spoken vocabulary has increased enormously. He says a few new words every day, often without being prompted. For example, earlier today, he said "bird" when he saw a bird flying over the car. He also attempts most words if we ask him to say something.

Lev likes to sing. He sings along with the songs that his toys play and with YouTube videos. His favorite song right now is Lola, by The Kinks. Other favorites include The Fox (What does the fox say?), and Mr Toot By Ylvis, and Let It Go, from the Disney movie Frozen. He sings along with all four of these.

He has also begun climbing much better and he knows how to use boxes, chairs, and other items as step stools. He can climb into a dining room chair without help! He can also push a chair across the floor. He likes to climb up to reach light switches, so that he can turn the light on and off. He can also use a dining room chair to get on top of the kitchen counter so that he can play with the microwave oven buttons. In short, he has to be watched VERY CLOSELY!

Lev has used his potty to pee a few times, so the potty training has begun!

He knows what it means to put something back where he found it. This usually means putting something back in a drawer.

He says "thank you" at appropriate times.

The other major advancement this month involved his building / engineering skills. Lev can build towers taller than himself. When he could no longer reach the top of one of his towers, he removed the top half and added blocks to the middle before putting the top back on.

Misc notes:

Lev likes to sit in my office chair while someone spins it around. This is one of his favorite things at the moment.

His upper-left first molar will erupt soon.

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Seventeen Months

January 7th, 2015

Lev is now 17 months old!

The most significant development during the past month involved his vocabulary growth. He now says many more words, rather than just understanding a lot of words. His favorite words at the moment are "wow," "eww," and "alcohol." He says "woooow" when he sees colored lights, like the lights on a Christmas tree or electronic candles. He says "eww" when he sees something small on the floor, like a crumb. He began saying "alcohol" a few days ago and now he randomly chants the word for some reason. I think that it is his first three-syllable word.  There's a bottle of rubbing alcohol on the counter in one of the bathrooms and I told him that "this is rubbing alcohol...or isopropyl alcohol...or isopropanol." He hasn't even heard the word very often, but it caught his attention somehow.

He frequently says "haughtay, " which means "hot," "colday," which means "cold" and he uses "up up" and "uppa," which means "up." And of course "no" and "nono." Other new words that he says pretty frequently include: water, wall, book, more, door, apple, outlet, and elbow. He can say the names of a lot of body parts now, which is cool (e.g, ear, nose, knee, and eye).

He likes to poke people and say "beep."

He also asked "why?" for the first time, recently. Melissa said that she had to leave (because she was going to get a massage) and Lev asked her why.

Lev was mildly sick for the second time in his life, starting on either Christmas or the day after. It wasn't nearly as bad as last Christmas, though. He had nasal congestion and a low fever (99.9 F). Other than that, things have been the same as usual. He's about to start having problems with his upper first molars, though; they will probably begin erupting in the next month or two.

Sixteen Months

December 7th, 2014

Lev is 16 months old! He has two new teeth (the lower "first molars"). He runs frequently and his vocabulary continues to grow rapidly, although he still does not pronounce words clearly most of the time. His thought processes seem to have matured greatly. This is difficult to quantify or explain, but I get the impression that he has a much better understanding of language than he did last month. His head size is in the 99th percentile for his age and body size. It seems that his brain is developing extremely rapidly and taking advantage of its large volume.

During the past month, he was exposed to Melissa's piano / keyboard. He likes to get on the chair and play with the keyboard. He immediately figured out how to switch among piano, organ, and harpsichord and he does so frequently.

I can't think of any major milestones that have happened recently, although he's working toward learning to use the potty. He knows that "pee pee" is associated with the potty and he has a vague understanding of how toilet paper is used. His obsession with unrolling the toilet paper has decreased significantly, but he's not completely disinterested yet. He is also becoming more cooperative. For instance, he let me cut his fingernails without a fight; I just talked to him and explained what I was doing and he let me do it. He's also becoming a bit more cooperative during diaper changes.

Possibly a coincidence:

We recently bought a TV. Lev has laughed at some jokes on the TV that Melissa and I did not laugh at. He wasn't prompted to laugh by a laugh track or laughing audience, either. It could be a coincidence or he may be picking up on the tone of the speaker's voice or the rhythm of their speech. He hasn't had enough life experience to find these particular jokes amusing.

 

Fifteen Months

November 7th, 2014

Lev is now 15 months old! There are not many specific updates or milestones to note for the past month. In general, he has been consistently eating large quantities of food and improving his mobility. He hasn't been weighed or measured lately, but he has likely grown significantly in the last few weeks.

October 13 : Lev began walking casually; he no longer needed to put significant amount of effort into walking. Walking became his preferred method of transportation. He was able to walk backwards and sideways in addition to walking forward.

October  15: Lev ran for the first time in the hallway. He stopped himself without losing his balance.

He also became much better at climbing during the past month.

October 28th: Lev brushed his teeth for the first time with his own toothbrush.We didn't teach him or even encourage him to do this; he just likes to imitate what his parents do. (Note: he has 8 teeth)

His vocabulary continues to grow. He understands more words and he has pronounced a few more words clearly, but he seems to prefer non-verbal communication. Even though he can pronounce words properly, he usually shortens things. For example, he can say "peanut butter" clearly, but he usually says "the butta" and instead of saying "bath tub," he says "batub."