Hi y’all.

Since February 2010 (the official start of 25th PhD cycle of the school of industrial engineering), I have actually been taken some courses for credit for the PhD here and there. While research is the important requirement for PhD (it is also, of course, an important part of the training for your future career), courses for inducing depth and breadth of study are also relevant and important for the training.

Here in Naples, the system is to complete a certain amount of credits by taking such courses offered by the PhD school. None of the modules are required and you could say that most of them are electives and the idea would be to take courses that could help in your research, could help in your training or which simply those that interest you. The total amount varies on the ‘implementation’ of the requirement but, needless to say, one has to complete at least 12 credits for his/her entire stay with a 3 credit course usually spanning 16 lecture hours (more or less).

And the course offering is wide – from Innovation Management (oh noes, brings back some of the horror of entrepreneurial science in Innovations class) to Systems Biology to Functional Analysis (which I would really want to take but couldn’t because it is in Italian) to other engineering and science stuff.


Since then, I have sat through 4 courses. I sat through a 10-hour seminar course in Nanophysics which was very informative (and also brings back the pleasure of dealing with excitations and lattice structures in electronic-ish materials, which I don’t do in my present work now). I sat through a 12-hour intensive course on Turbulent Reactive Flows which covered the axiomatic structure and stochastic dynamical description of Turbulent Flows and also some points of turbulent modeling, with specific application to reactive flows like combustion.

Both of them were satisfying, intellectually, and the latter was actually the first time when I really felt like a PhD student – the first instructor who dealt with the mathematical structure wasted no chance in explaining the subject and dove immediately into Navier-Stokes Equations, which I saw only once before that class. I felt like a PhD student because I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of mathematical structure which was totally not in my world previously and I felt some intellectual strain before I caught up. After 15 minutes or so though (and perhaps because his explanations were lucid and clear), I felt better and got into the phase of the lecture – getting comfortable with material derivatives and the switching of scales. By the end of the first of three lectures, I was pumped and impressed – with the basic arguments of Kolmogorov scaling right up my belt.

Currently, I two other on going courses: a course on Smart Structures (with a looming examination this week) and a course on Fractal-Wave Interactions.

The latter just started last week and intends to cover the material, again, on an intensive pace (5 meetings, 3 hours each). I have no long standing interest on the subject (in my world, I know that the polymer can be viewed as a fractal with some fractal dimension D but that’s it) and, after the first meeting where he discussed the coverage of the course, that became more reinforced (he wants to focus on scattering from ‘large objects’ rather than from ‘small objects’). But still, I am deciding to take this course – the teacher was good, the explanations were lucid, the material is advanced and it is a good opportunity to study scattering methods. The teacher also got me hooked in his groundedness on university culture and ‘what it means’ to be in the university – i.e. the university as context, the PhD school as context. So even if my schedule for the coming week is crazier than ever, I am still taking the time to sit through this course.

The former is really, of all the courses I have taken, the largest pain in the ass. Of course, the idea of taking the course was not totally mine but anyway I got hooked into it, got committed and found that I could no longer turn back. So I’m in it and, since the end is near, I’m bent on finishing it.

For starters, it is the most ‘engineering’ of all the courses I have taken – in every sense of the word. The course is on ‘smart structures’ not on ‘smart materials’ or not even on ‘smart structural materials’ and I am not just doing word play here. The instructor is a researcher on vibration control and noise in a research center for aircraft engineering and the discussion of the material is (and this is where the trouble starts) at the level of constitutive laws – i.e. macroscopic relations with little or no molecular insights.

Also, of the multitude of applications that can be discussed for smart structures, I guess because of background or sheer bent interests, the discussion is mostly on the context of ‘engineering stuff that go into aircrafts’ and, well, I find that in the age of nanotechnology and rational materials engineering and biomedicine and climate change, etc. that, hm, some things are just more interesting than others.

In other words, have I the power to turn back time and go back to that ridiculous moment when I decided to go all in to take this course just to see what will happen, I would have happily slapped my own face to tell me that “No, nothing good is gonna happen”.


Anyway, all that hate aside, I am now studying to take the exam for credit.

I’m not nervous about taking the exam – supposedly the exams for these courses are not as strenuous as say those for specialized undergraduate courses and I still believe that I could wing it and use my hubris powers (it is also supposedly an open materials exam – something which I have been ignoring for a long time). All I feel right now is tiredness (about the sheer work load I need to do including studying for this) and lack of enthusiasm at the thought of covering that mountain of material (most of which is in ITALIAN) for this course. And, yes, the fact that is purely mechanics of solids does not help.

I just hope I can get this out of the way this weekend so I could move on to happier things – i.e. like getting back to my entangled polymers simulation.


Shopping Anecdotes

Posted: July 13, 2010 in Uncategorized

1. At Zara, I overheard a group of gansta-ish Afro-Americans (I inferred from their English… which was gansta English) enter the guys formal section of the store.

After browsing around with one of them saying he’s thinking of getting a waist coat, I heard one of them say…

“Dang, these pants are so small you couldn’t fit a pin in it. This country ain’t for FAT people.”

“Then if there ain’t no pants for fat people, these people surely don’t know how to EAT.”

Mental thought bubble: LOL

It’s not too often that I get to hear gansta English in Italy…

2. Am I the only one who gets a bit conscious when I enter a store and realize that I am wearing one of their garments?

I mean, pants are okay because they are not so obvious (usually) but, if it’s a shirt (more so, a shirt that you bought because you saw some ‘uniqueness’ into it), it feels weird to see other ‘copies’ of the same shirt on the shelf or the racks.

So normally, I try not to enter a store when I am wearing one of their garments (though not that deliberately). And if I do make the mistake of doing that, I try to stay away from the shelf containing my item.

Well, anyway, that happened again today in Pull and Bear. I was wearing one of the shirts I bought from there several months ago. Since it’s sale season today, I also stayed away from the shelf to avoid seeing the new price of the shirt (just in case they lowered it).

3. (No longer on shopping but on fast food…) Today, after finishing the route from Via dei Mille to Via Chiaia to Via Toledo, I decided to just grab a hamburger meal for dinner in Burger King.

Hm, since I got here, this meal just counts as my 3rd meal in a fastfood chain (the 1st was during my first night in Naples, I saw the McDonalds near the university, I was hungry and so I ate… the 2nd was during my exploration of Via del Corso in Rome). Fastfood (and capitalism) is not that prevalent in Europe, or at least in Italy.

Hm, I was convinced that this meal was gonna be a reminder of WHY I don’t eat in fastfood chains here. First is the cost (it is a bit close to the threshold of unreasonable). Second is that I am not such a huge fan of fastfood (the hamburger-fries-soda type). Third is that fastfood in Italy is occasionally not fast (if you want food fast, your bets are the always available panino or something in a tavola calda – the Italian equiv of a turo-turo). Sometimes due to the lines and sometimes due to just delay (I wanted to lecture them on pre-cooking the stuff and having them waiting on the heater, which is sorta what fastfood is all about). I waited for at least 5 minutes (maybe even close to 10, but it felt like 15 because I hate waiting) to get the meal.

Surprisingly, though, the meal wasn’t so bad. The hamburger was okay, nothing spectacular (okay, maybe a bit spectacular… I haven’t had a hamburger for MONTHS) but the toppings were not so incredible. The onion rings (one reason why Burger King is always better for me than McDo) were a bit tasteless (no salt!) but with mayo was okay. And today is one of those few days that I get to drink soda.

So yeah, maybe I was happy. Over-all, happy.

But I’d bet there are way more BETTER burgers in the Manila when I get home.

Almost 2 weeks and counting!!!

Since I am currently living here in Naples, Italy, I think it is but fitting for me to introduce you to this fantastic and vibrant city that is one of the gems of Southern Italy. The aim, of course, of this article is not your generic travel or tourist guide to Naples (Wikipedia and Wikitravel will certainly do much better jobs here than I would) but a personal sharing of what Naples really is from the perspective of someone who has been staying here for more than half a year.

Hm, where to start… Naples, for starters, is a big-ish city (supposedly the 3rd biggest metropolitan area in Italy next to Rome and Milan) with lots of quarters each with its own general character although several cultural thread run across them giving, still, the over-all general feel of Naples-ness. Naples has perpetually been heralded by travel writers as the ‘most Italian’ of all Italian cities – being an apt microcosm of the entire Italian condition up to housing and reflecting Italy’s best and worst. Most future people going to Naples would be warned by people who know better (either people who live there or been there) to be careful – given the standing characteristic of the city as prone to petty theft and pickpocketing. Still, given this, I would dare say that Naples is one those must not miss type of cities if only for its sheer character and vibrance.

Yes, vibrant would most certainly be an adjective that I would use to describe Naples and boring is probably not one of them. The city just brims with character (despite the general state of unkemptness that is supposedly characteristic of the South) and energy, equally reflected by the people. And I mean this in every good and honest way – and I recognize that others would see Naples as either something more or something less. Foreigners might without doubt find the general lack of English language in most of the areas annoying – making the city less and less accessible (on top of the petty crime rate you have to put up with) and the dirt and grime and trash would, in most cases, merit looks of dismay.

It’s not that I see ‘beauty in the ugly’ but Naples is most certainly not outright missable and forgettable (if only for the characters I have just mentioned). And while the dirt and the grime and the unkemptness, I would, in all honesty, still not call Naples outright ugly – if only for the immense character and history kept by these grimy and dusty walls.

Of course, Naples being a city of extremes has it’s good and bad… And I think I best proceed in this description by naming the few I experienced…


  • The Pizza – was born in Naples. Every Neapolitan will tell you that during your first few days and no ‘first pizza meal’ could be held without one Neapolitan friend asking you if you know the story of how the Pizza was invented. In the presence of a true Napoletano, one should order only 1 of 2 variants: margherita (tomato, mozzarella and a bit of basil) or marinara (tomato, garlic and oregano) with the former being the more popular choice. Despite the simplicity (which is really what the authentic pizza or vera pizza is all about), the pizza is just outright GOOD.
  • The Food – other than the pizza is also spectacular and most food places host the best of Italian cooking. While there is really no generic ‘Italian cooking’ – all of it is really a conglomerate of various regional dishes (according to an Italian friend), the over-all local specialties can make you forget all the Italian food you have ever tasted. And this goes for every place: from your local tavola calda (the trick is to follow the advice of the locals) to the posh pizzeria near the seafront. Hell, even the quick panino is good.
  • The Seafront – houses the best views ever of the sea. The entire 4km-ish stretches from Mergellina to Santa Lucia and the walk from porticcolo to Castel dell’Ovo is just amazing and is as Neapolitan as, hm, pizza. If you take this direction of the walk, Vesuvius could be seen from a far and the general sloping housescape, characteristic of region, is just breathtaking. And then the yachts, the amazing people taking the walk with you and the setting sun and everything just works.

  • The Sights – which are often free and not as heavily touristed as in other cities. Yes, this might sound like someone just pouncing on free stuff and boring stuff but really the sights in Naples are as interesting as in any other Italian city. Cost is an issue because it a major turn-off for some cities like Firenze which are just HEAVILY TOURISTED which translates to often crowded and often expensive. Naples houses some really nice archaeological sites which I have not visited and some really awesome churches (baroque and earlier).
  • The People – whom quite simply just brim with energy and vibrance. They are nice, friendly, warm, very helpful and very appreciative of all efforts to speak their language (makes up for the general lack of English).


  • Traffic – is just immensely bad… Driving to Naples, especially near the center and during rush hours, can drive anyone nuts. It’s just crazy. Foreigners will remark that social order breaksdown; they don’t follow the traffic lights but it is simply and outright chaotic.
  • Public Transportation – is mostly made worse by the traffic. Of course, in Italy, everything is late – this is a given, and having a go at the public transportation scheme is practically a past time by people waiting for either the train or the bus (the older, the more prone). The train is marginally more reliable than the bus but the different network of buses really brings you to places that the train can’t bring you.
  • Waste Management – is not good at all. Most places are generally dirty, trash is found everywhere, there is a segregation scheme that is not used, yes. And the fact the solid waste management had been one of my advocacies before doesn’t help my perspective on things.
  • Vandalism – is rampant and is a major contributor to the over-all dirty feel. Popular ‘canvasses’ for vandalizing include the subway (of course) and all its areas from the railway tunnels to the station stairs, public monuments especially their concrete bases, floors of public parks, random gates and walls and just about anywhere, yes.

  • Piazza Garibaldi – is soulful and funky and I mean this in both good ways and (mostly) bad ways. All above points are exemplified in the important piazza (which is also the location of Stazione Centrale, the gateway to the rest of Italy) plus the racial mix that it is Naples. Here more than anywhere else, you can find all major races in the city and, sadly, also all the not-so-good activities they do including the famous pickpocketing, petty theft and general hoodwinking. Yes, tourists beware (although the general area of the train station itself is not so bad).

Disclaimer: Of course, this list would go on and each person would find something else to love or hate in Naples. And that’s just about it about Naples – you either love it or you hate it. Over-all though, I love it. I like that it is gonna be my place in the world for quite sometime now. I love how so many adventures can unravel in so little time. I love the energy and the vibrance. And the sea. And everything, really.

… that was just word play. 🙂

Wordstrings is just another blog that is destined to eat up a chunk of cyberspace. It is definitely one of many that I have started (and abandoned) as some sort of quasi-mentality project: partly to communicate and show to the world a slice of your thoughts and partly for vanity.

Something just tells me though that I might end up sticking with this. WordPress just sounds so permanent – and I’ve given up (after having started a number of things like this) that I feel that this just makes sense.

To my would be followers: expect doses of things that you would normally get from me – random musings on science (and engineering/technology), maybe philosophy, the humanities, social dynamics or just the entire human condition, something maybe on history and art and material culture in general, something on traveling (a new found area that I am getting to explore now) and cooking (another new area) or television and music and pop culture and things in general. Or maybe, in the spirit of phenomenology, of things as they are.

These thoughts are by no means distilled – they would be random, often contradicting, occasionally preachy (or, in my own words, prescriptive) and maybe even judgmental but each and always coming straight from some thought or mental process. And that’s just me.

About the Blog: Wordstrings are inspired by 1. the fact that when we express ourselves in language we are concatenating several words and putting them on a chain so what we end up is a string of words – often with meaning much greater than the constituents and 2. the fact that I am immersed so much (right now) in the world of polymer chains and that these chains twist and entangle so much and that the same could usually be told of our own thoughts – that they twist and entangle.

Right now, though, the path is clear and the road lies ahead and I have a clean blank slate.

A Clean Blank Slate