A Happening on Old Nogales Highway

This morning, while traveling north toward the airport on Old Nogales Highway, I saw a young man in a light colored shirt waving his arms rather frantically on the east shoulder of the road. Uncertain what he was going to do, I began slowing down from 55 mph when he suddenly dashed across the road, a car or two in front of me.

Just then another guy came out of the scrub to the same point. He was also waving his arms to get people to slow down. Barefoot, he dashed across both lanes two or three cars behind me.

Next was a policeman hopping into a sheriff's SUV facing south on the east shoulder. When he flipped his lights on, I jammed on my brakes, allowing him tear into the southbound lane, surely in pursuit of the two jaywalkers, or jayrunners.

What was going on?

Arrival in Brazil

On Christmas Day, I flew out of O'Hare to reach Recife, Brazil, the following day. My friend Eduardo and his family were waiting for me. I spent three very pleasant weeks with them until flying out of Recife on January 14th for a grueling return trip of 28 hours total plus another 11 hours of waiting combined with a swell Amtrak ride from Chicago to Indianapolis.

My arrival in São Paulo, at Guarulhos International Airport, was uneventful. The immigration official, a coy young woman, asked me no questions. I got my bags and changed $100 at the exchange near the baggage carousel, which was a bad idea: The fees were high—R$60 conversion fee, I think—and the rate was around $1=R$2.5 instead of the current R$3.3. However, I finally had some Brazilian cash, which I had not been able to arrange beforehand in the US. I cleared customs without a problem then walked through the doors into São Paulo. There were people milling about, a large exit where buses and taxis were coming and going, and a couple small stands selling food.

Not sure where to go to put my luggage for it to continue its domestic journey, I wandered about, gawking at everything. Eventually I happened across an information booth, where a young woman amused by my feeble Portuguese told me in English she where to check my bags. After doing so, I queued for the domestic flights. After feeding my ticket through a wicket, I passed the airport employee and moved down a glass hallway for the passenger inspection, essentially the same as what the TSA does. The signs were fairly clear, so I walked to my gate through an airport that felt more like a bus station because of the somewhat monotonous grey concrete, all very public and functional in feel. There were nice eateries and stores along the way.

At my gate, there were very few people, so I connected to the airport's free WiFi to use Skype to call my friend in João Pessoa. He said his family would meet me at Recife's airport then we hung up. For the next couple of hours, I walked about my gate, watching and listening to passengers, watching the TV screens with their alternating headline news and ads, and occasionally reading my Portuguese materials. 

For breakfast, I bought dark coffee, unsweetened juice, and warm soft bread from the Casa do Pão de Queijo chain, which started in São Paulo, near my gate. The prices were high, what I expect in every international airport. The girl waiting on my was very charming, but she asked for meal options that I could not understand. Eventually a young man came up and translated. He was originally from Brazil but living in the US doing HVAC work in Connecticut. What a coincidence!

My flight to Recife was uneventful, but clouds obscured much of the Brazil passing beneath me. About 30 minutes from Recife, the clouds vanished and the Northeast spread inland. It looked rather hilly, largely brownish with yellow roads, not the red dirt roads of the tropics that I had expected. Then Recife began to appear, large areas of favelas one or two stories high. The city's core high rises gleamed white with the blue ocean beyond them.

Recife's airport had clearly been recently renovated. It was shiny and clean, plenty of glass and natural light. Everything moved well, and it took little time for my baggage to appear. While waiting for it, a young man approached me to ask about why I had arrived in Recife: He was doing research for the state tourism board. Then I gathered my stuff, walked through the opaque doors, and immediately found my friend's family waiting for me—superb! We were quickly out of the airport, in tropical sounds and smells, and on our way.

I gave them an OK sign, but it wasn't until some days later that Eduardo told me that the US gesture for OK is a rude gesture in Brazil. We shared a laugh about it.

Portuguese Verb and Vocabulary Drills

Recently I happened across the website Conjuguemos, which offers a variety of graded quizzes and drills in multiple languages: French, German, Korean, Latin, Portuguese, and Spanish. Some languages have far more learning materials than others, but I find the Portuguese ones rather handy. Since a few of the Portuguese words are still written with ü, I assume the focus is not on Brazilian Portuguese. Since my ability is quite low, I am satisfied with any version of Portuguese.

For graded activities, you must register with the site. Give it a try!

Rep. Susan Brooks and Others Failed to Act

While looking at the TaxProfBlog, I found that 55 GOP members of Congress wrote the President to ask for Koskinen of the IRS to be fired. Koskinen seems unperturbed that the IRS has systematically abused conservative political groups, for which Lois Lerner's name might ring a bell. As this Forbes articles notes, Koskinen has stonewalled Congressional inquiry while dubious events have continued, perhaps worsened, at the IRS.

It was extremely disappointing yet unsurprising to see my representative, Susan Brooks (R), did not sign the letter requesting Koskinen's firing. She is apparently fine with Koskinen and using the IRS to conduct partisan political warfare.

Indeed, only one of Indiana's nine Congressional Representatives, Jim Banks (IN-03), signed the letter. How pathetic.

Finals Finally Final

Today at 12:30 I finished my last final exam for my BS EE. Now I wait to see what grades will come back. There is a good chance of two As and a C, but we'll see. I have some grading of my own to do for the course I assisted.

What is curious is that I feel neither joy nor satisfaction at having completed everything. Rather I just feel exhausted from the stress of finals now in the past.

My girl and I celebrated at the Indianapolis Rock Bottom Brewery with some fellow engineering students, recent or current graduates. The bison burger was tasty!

On December 22, 2016, the last grade was submitted to the registrar, with the following results:

  1. ECE 321: Electromechanical Motion Devices, B
  2. ECE 421: Advanced Digital Logic Design, A
  3. ECE 463: Introduction to Computer Communications Networks, A

Now I wait for someone to sign off that my degree is indeed complete. My program GPA wound up 3.612, but my degree GPA was 3.803.

BBEdit Citation

Yesterday I updated my copy of BBEdit, a Mac-only text editor from Bare Bones Software that I have been using for over a decade. I never got far with the program during my English-teaching career, but this semester the program was particularly useful to me in writing Python code for the final project in ECE 463.

After installing the update, I opened the About… window and scrolled down to find a familiar name. I cannot recall what I might have done to get on the list, or whether that is coincidentally someone with the same name, but there I am:

P2P Connect-Five Game in Python and PHP

One of my three electrical engineering electives for this final semester is ECE 463: Introduction to Computer Communication Networks. About two weeks ago, we were assigned a final project: Design a P2P Connect-Five game that communicates using the HTTP Protocol.

My partner, Jun Lin, and I quickly decided to use Python for the client-side GUI, since I had done a fair amount of GUI work in the course of my internship this past summer. We opted for Python 3 and used the Anaconda distribution. I did nearly all the Python GUI with the use of tkinter. Because the Spyder3 IDE was taking more time to adjust to than Spyder 2, I ended up relying on Bare Bones Software's BBEdit text editor--the power of which I am now beginning to appreciate--and Mac OS X Terminal. That was it!

Jun Lin worked some magic--the only word I can use, since I know nothing about PHP--for the server-side scripting. Initially we ran the server off my GoDaddy shared hosting account, but we found that it would block us after too many accesses from the same IP addresses. That forced us to turn to a different host, which we happened to have.

Anyway, we will demonstrate the game in class on Wednesday, but I wanted to put up some screenshots. I plan to make my Python GUI code available online at some point, because it would surely be helpful to others.

The following screenshot show the game at startup. We were required to have a 19x19 game board. I opted for check buttons, because they are easy to work with and make nice arrays.

screen

The other screenshot shows a win. Every time black--you (peer is pink)--makes a valid move, my algorithms scan for a vertical, horizontal, SW–NE, or NW–SE win. If one is found, the peer is notified of their loss and scores are updated accordingly. If the peer logs out midway, that is correctly handled. We are rather proud of our game!

victory