Rice University logo
Top blue bar image
Computer Scientist at the Department of BioSciences, Rice University

Archive for the ‘miscellaneous’ Category

Zend2 Notes

June 9th, 2015 by Boanerges Aleman-Meza

My notes after being using Zend2 framework for a few weeks:

  • Debug::dump  (use Zend\Debug\Debug)

PHP notes:

  • htmlspecialchars to output user’s text back to the browser

Interviewing at a place where the work has a positive impact in the real world

April 10th, 2015 by Boanerges Aleman-Meza

I interviewed (non-technical) at a company that actually develops technology that has a positive impact in the real world.

  • They engage in pro-bono projects
    • It reminds me of Laszlo interview where he says “we should have more days that we feel that we’re changing the world than days that we’re not”
  • It is an analysis platform that uses ontology!
    • If WebFountain had gotten Amit Sheth as chief scientist (or VP), this is what WebFountain would be right now
  • I would bet that the employees are quite good; I would not be surprised if google/facebook is trying to recruit them intensly
  • Technical interview: I made the mistake of using an easier to code data structure to answer a question. My choice was partly because I expected to code it up on the browser, but it turns out that it was not needed. The interviewer stated the problem and asked follow up questions. Had I chosen the other data structure, then it would have been easier to answer such questions. I was a bit surprised that I did not have to code the answer. It was one of those websites where you can see in real-time what the other person types, and it is designed for writing computer programs.

interview notes – Houston tech company

April 8th, 2015 by Boanerges Aleman-Meza

I interviewed (via phone) for a Software Developer position at a Houston tech company

The company:

  • Very into cloud and other new technologies
  • Has grown from 300 to 1,000 employees in the last two years

The questions that I want to remember:

  • How to handle memory problems in Java when a program is supposed to run for a long time (weeks or months)
    • I did mention (among other things) that when an object is no longer going to be used, we clear it via setting null whatever references to it.
    • I should have also mention that the ‘finalize’ block could be used when defining classes to clear up resources
  • How do you use design patterns
    • I only mentioned a couple, but I actually use several more that I did not remember at the moment.
  • Unit testing
    • I have done some but not much. Here I should have added that some functionality can’t be tested automatically, such as image acquisition from microscopes, User Interfaces.
    • I should have mentioned that some of the statistical tests I implement, are checked with the result that comes up via Excel. When they match, then my code will work OK with not just two sets of data but with all data in a particular database (such as tens of thousands of records).
  • Last, I actually dislike the questions along the lines of “How do you see yourself 5 years from now?”
    • Looking back, I know things I would not have imagine that I would know 5 years ago (because I have been in a genetics lab) but they are not directly relevant to an IT company
    • On the other hand, there is a set of technologies that have not truly changed. It seems that each interesting technology from 5 years ago has gotten more projects around it and become more diverse.
    • The exception is probably research: not as much growth in the diversity of Computer Science research in a decade.
      • There may be a few notable new things but not many.
      • The usual is “new type of data?”, then new algorithms for it. Just see how many research articles use twitter data

Recipe fried chicken wings

March 25th, 2015 by Boanerges Aleman-Meza

This is the (summarized) version of a recipe I’ve been using to make fried chicken wings. (Source needed)

  1. Set the deep frier to 350F
  2. Fry wings until their color is golden (approximately 10 minutes for 12 wings)
  3. Melt 2 tbsp butter, add 1 garlic clove minced, 1/4 cup hot sauce, and 1/4 tsp salt
  4. Mix sauce with chicken

I’ve found that depending where the wings are from, the time for frying varies. It is due to the size of the wings.

  • Walmart or Aldi: 20 minutes
  • Kroger: 10 minutes
  • HEB: 25 minutes
  • Chinese grocery store: 15 minutes

Final note: my partner was the one that got this recipe fine-tuned; it is me who likes to have the best recipes in electronic format.

Unexpected and expected RTs/fav behavior

March 21st, 2015 by Boanerges Aleman-Meza

tl;dr Twitter patterns of RT/fav vary widely depending on content and social ties.

My Twitter user name (@bam) often bring wrong notifications because someone made a mistake when typing some one else’s user name, or when the tweet gets truncated. I have seen various behaviors, some expected, some unexpected:


  • An organization with over 85K followers writes a tweet where they write my user name by mistake and delete the tweet in less than 10 minutes. Often this was enough to for that to be RT a dozen times.
  • Someone makes a mistake typing a somewhat popular music group, and it gets five to 10 RTs.
  • Anything related to nudity (partial or full, male or female), seems to get RT/fav easily a dozen times, and it continues to get a random RT/fav even two weeks later


  • Someone with over 13K followers writes what I consider a very important tweet and gets only 3 RT, 5 favs in two days.
    • I think that the text is not very clear, and the topic is not one that gets the attention it needs (violence toward girls and women in twitter)
  • Someone with less than 20 followers gets over a dozen RTs on the same day
    • I’ve seen this in 3 cases, where it turns out that the people doing the RT also had a small number of followers (under 50). These are likely tight communities. On one occasion, it was an update of someone buying a book. Another time it was something posting a photo with their kid in a park (not a fancy park such as Disney either).
  • The use of the @ symbol by other networks, such as instagram.
    • I’m not sure why other networks bother to use the @ symbol for user names. It would be nice if all of them decide to use similar valid user names. For example, in Twitter, the dot “.” is not part of a user name, as it is in instagram (and this is the reason I get notifications that are not mean to me)
  • Followers go up and down following no pattern.
    • It could be weeks with no new followers; then I get 4 on one day. The numbers do not mean much, considering that it is almost the same as in my Google+ profile (on which I’ve posted less than 10 times)

When I chose my user name, I thought about getting @ba, but then I remembered people complaining about the airline with those initials, and I knew I could not handle the bad comments. I’m glad I did not chose it.

Final comment: I’d like someone from Twitter to help me transfer my user name to an organization of my choosing, in a way that I can take another user name (I have a few in mind) but it is guaranteed that the other organization gets to keep @bam. There’s no money involved in any transfer, as it is a non-for-profit organization.

end of year emails

December 23rd, 2014 by Boanerges Aleman-Meza

It is almost end of the year. Emails are coming from a bunch of suppliers, all of them wishing Happy Holidays. Even the organization for which I work goes the extra mile to make a web page with a video for the holidays. A co-worker (different lab) asked if I’ve seen the video. He said that the focus is on sports, and new constructions that took place during the year. It is clear to me that for alumni, it would be a great video.

I’m not sure what companies expect us to do with a happy-holidays email. There is no action for me to take. There is no promotion listed. There is no announcement of new products.

These things caught my attention among the happy-holiday emails:

  • The ones including a photo of employees are nice yet I happened to spot one company that seem to have zero minorities
  • Listing a link to visit their happy-holidays web page is useless.
  • Animations or use of flash is annoying.
  • (update 12/30) Sending emails about ‘happy holidays’ on the 28th of December (or later) seems a bit silly

Time travel with perks (story)

November 6th, 2014 by Boanerges Aleman-Meza

tl;dr Travel to the future and take full control of someone’s body (wifey) for a few hours.

I’ve been fascinated with time travel since I was a kid. Back to the future is one of my favorites. I was unable to find any flaw on the story for a long long time. Recently, I had this weird dream, from which I took the main idea for this story.

A long time ago, in a planet far, far away… Adam tested his time-machine. He could only travel to the future, no more than 2 weeks into the future. He setup the test of the the machine to appear two days into the future, at 2am, location: the master bedroom of his house. He pushed the button and felt a short cold breeze. Then he opened his eyes. It was dark, it was very late at night. He then hear the snoring of the other person on the bed. He touch his hair; it was very long. He then got closer to the other person on the bed bed and saw himself snoring and with a slight smell of alcohol. Adam has short hair, his wife has long hair.  It worked. He did travel in time to his own bed and is now possessing his wife’s body.  He moved his hands down the chest; it was a woman’s. Then he got up and walked to the bathroom. The night light allowed him to see in the mirror that he was in his wife’s body. It was odd. Then he proceeded to do the second part of the test. He walked to the kitchen, took the potato peeler and cut himself a small cut in the knee, his wife knee. He felt the pain, took a napkin and cleaned the two or three drops of blood. He wrapped the napkin in another napkin and trashed it. This is it. He went to back to bed as the time he had set to stay in the future was short, only 5 minutes. Laying down on bed, pain subsiding, hearing the snoring, waiting, and touching the next person, himself, with just a small padding, so that the snoring stops. He waited, and in a couple of minutes felt the cold breeze again and was back in his normal timeline, his hand just in front of the button he had pushed 5 minutes ago, actually, just a second ago.

The test for time travel worked well on his side. He was in the future, took possession of his wife’s body, did a tiny cut in her knee and went back to sleep. Now it is time to plan his actions for two days into the future.

The next day he stayed up late, working in the computer until he knew he would have only 4 hours of sleep. Then on the second night, during dinner, he popped an allergy pill; the ones that make him really sleepy. After dinner, he shared a beer with his wife, but after she went on to her computer as usual, he had a second beer without her knowledge. He was sleepy from the previous night, plus the allergy pill and the beer, he knew that he only had to wait until around 11pm and he’ll be deeply sleepy when the time travel test will take place. He slept trough; only to wake up at around 4am to pee. He then felt the anxiety as he wondered about his wife. He turned and looked at her sleeping on bed, as usual, without making any noise. He moved the blankets and spotted her hurt knee. Now he will go pee and then be back to sleep and talk to her in the morning.

He woke up first. Then he went to the restroom, followed by shower, when she came into the bathroom and only said “good morning”. He proceeded as the usual routine. When she was getting ready for a bath, he asked her “what happened to your knee?”. She looked at it and said she did not know, she must have hurt her somewhere and did not even noticed. He was happy. The time travel test was successful. He could travel to the future, possess someone’s body and that person would not remember, even if they got hurt. He then started to plan his next time travel episode, same location, same person’s body being possessed, but this time he will use his wife’s body to find out whether he is gay or not; or B (as in LGBT).

small gym routines & reminders for other activities

September 4th, 2014 by Boanerges Aleman-Meza

I’ve taken notes of my notes at the small gym (3 year old kids). The routine varies every week but here are some of the activities:

  • Airlock: kids go on it, lift hands up, airlock fills in. Then, donkey legs and turning, jump all the way, forward rolls. Jump forward.
  • Play/music:
    • Bouncing balls with music that stops and goes several times.
    • Run around but also jump sometimes depending on the music
  • Beam on floor
    • walk along the beam and jump when reaching the end
  • Balance beam
  • Uneven Bars:
    • turning around forward facing and backward facing
    • stand on one, hold the other with hands and hang in there for a moment
  • Two bars, move along (or crawl) them with hands and feet
  • Jump followed by forward roll
  • Legs on wall, hands on floor, hold it a bit, then do it again.
  • Single bar
    • hang on the bar (favorite)

Other activities:

  • Books from the library
  • (Piano) keyboard lesson
  • Check for any pending clothing to buy
  • Activities from Kiwi crate DIY emails

Recipe for Mexican Rice (from my mom)

August 19th, 2014 by Boanerges Aleman-Meza

This is the way my mom prepares Mexican Rice.


1 cup long grain rice
2 tsp oil
2 cups water
1 cube Knorr Chicken Bouillon
1/2 cube Knorr Tomato Bouillon with Chicken Flavor


  1. Add oil and rice, medium heat; boil water in a separate pot on high heat.
  2. Keep stirring the rice till it is golden, about 7 minutes; At the same time, the water should be boiling or close to boiling.
  3. Add water to rice, add chicken and tomato bouillon cubes, mix so that the cubes dissolve completely.
  4. Boil on medium heat for 8 minutes uncovered.
  5. Cover the pot, reduce to low heat, cook about 12 minutes till rice is soft and all water is absorbed. Rice should not stick to the bottom.


  • I have used a big pot to make 4 times the original amount. In such cases, I use 4 cubes of chicken bullion and 3 cubes of tomato bullion.
  • When using powder version of the chicken or tomato bullion, 1 cube = 1 tbsp.

ok Toyota, if you insist on knowing about bad service via survey

May 28th, 2014 by Boanerges Aleman-Meza

I did regular service on my Toyota car early on May 2014.
I’ve received three emails asking for feedback about my recent service experience, and today I actually received a phone call to remind me about it. I strongly believe that no one truly reads or acts upon such automatically generated surveys. But, given that Toyota insists, I’ll fill it up and copy relevant feedback here.

Quality of work: They should have mentioned that the terminals had corrosion but I should have read the printout of the service too, instead of relying on the service advisor saying that “everything is great with the car”.
They normally inspect the cabin air filter and recommend changing it. I have changed it myself in the past, so I changed it about two weeks after the service.
To my surprise, I found that the little tube that helps the globe compartment to open slowly was disconnected. I also found that they did not even blow air on the cabin-air filter. I know for a fact that even if you do not install a new one, it is a common practice to just blow some air on the filter to remove some of the dust. When I replaced the cabin-air filter I knew immediately that such blowing of air to clean it a bit was not done at all.
I consider such quality of work to be unacceptable.