Ricardo Delfín
Ricardo Delfín

Week 4: 18/9 - 24/9

The Mexico City Zócalo during the holiday season.

This week's blog will start with a bit of a somber note. This past Tuesday at 1:14 pm, just as Mexico City was remembering a devastating earthquake on September 19th, 1985, the city's earthquake alarm went off throughout the massive metropolis, just as a magnitude 7.2 earthquake hit, originating only 100km away, in the nearby state of Puebla. The proximity and speed of the earthquake caught the city by surprise. It leveled around 39 buildings, some collapsing until after the earthquake hit, and has so far left a death toll of 320 people over 5 states. This comes only two weeks after a magnitude 8.1 earthquake hit the city, and destroyed multiple towns in the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas.

Events such as these tend to bring out either the best or the worst in humanity, and sometimes even both. Thankfully, this entire week I've heard amazing stories coming out of Mexico, of how the entire city mobilized almost immediately to provide as much help as possible to everyone in need, to help get people out of the rubble. I heard stories of stores donating their entire inventory to help people most in need, and of people helping out the rescue crews by providing them with food, water and anything they might need to get as many people as they can into safety. It has truly been astonishing to see how a city can work together to get itself back on their feet.

I'm going to continue now with my blog, but before I do, I'll ask that, if you have the ability to, that you help out by donating to the multiple organizations that have been providing help and assistance throughout this crisis. One such organization is the Mexican Red Cross. You can donate to their cause here. It's important to note that all donations are in Mexican Pesos, not US Dollars.

Now, time to start the blog.

What did you do this past week?

I spent this last week, much like most other weeks beforehand, catching up with homework. A mix of Artificial Intelligence, the new Software Engineering project and the regular readings I need to do for all my core curriculum classes has overloaded me more than I expected. I get the feeling this is mostly due to bad time management skills on my part. I've thought about a few ways of getting back on track with my time management. Particularly, dividing my time up better and checking reminders of what I need to do more often should help me concentrate on the task at hand better.

I also had a lot of new information in my recent job hunt. This week I got rejected from Google. This came as a surprise since the interviews went very smoothly, and as a converting intern, I hoped for better chances, even if I was switching roles from Product Management to Software Engineering. That being said, there are other interviews to think about. I also had an interview with RetailMeNot, for which I got a response the next day, where they said I did well and would be going onto final rounds Monday. Let's see how that goes...

What's in your way?

My biggest roadblocks right now are all the different due dates I have coming up next week, and the little amount of time I'll have next week. I'll explain better in the next section, but basically, I have a lot of things coming up next week and I'll basically have 2 days lopped off where I won't be available to do those things.

What will you do next week?

This is probably the most interesting section this week. This is what my week looks like. I have a full day interview on Monday at RetailMeNot (in Austin), a full day interview on Friday in Microsoft (this time in Redmond, WA), and a phone interview Thursday morning (aka 8 am) with Facebook. On top of that, I have a project due for Software Engineering, a research proposal due this week, and all my other usual homework for my other classes. In other words, this week will be an interesting challenge.

What's my experience of the class?

This week we had a guest speaker come in from Google to show us how GCP, the cloud platform we'll be using for our project, works. We also went over a general overview of the project, and finally talked about operators in Python. Personally, this last lecture had one particularly interesting moment. We were talking about operators you can perform on collections in Python. In particular, the += operator came up. On lists, it makes perfect sense that you can use this. Lists are mutable, so adding elements to the end of the list makes perfect sense. However, I did not expect this to be valid for tuples. As non-mutable objects, you'd expect this operation to make no sense, but python makes it equivalent to adding two tuples and setting the result to one of the two variables. In other words, it creates a new tuple. This is confusing on various levels because it makes you notice two conflicting things about python:

  • For tuple, an operation a += b acts exactly as a = a + b, creating a new list. Therefore, python should do this for all other collections to be consistent.
  • For lists, the operation a += b acts in an entirely different way as a = a + b. Namely, the first will modify the list contained in a, whereas the second will create an entirely new list of value a + b and store it into a.

This second point might seem like a useless difference, but it's extremely important. In particular, using the second operation will change the reference being held in a. If you're passing in a list as a parameter to modify it and use as a "return value", using the second operation will get rid of the reference, whereas the first will do what you intend. What does this mean? Does the += sign fall automatically from overloading the + sign? Can you choose to override the += separately, or do you have to implement both? I have only one answer: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

What's my pick-of-the-week or tip-of-the-week?

This week I want to give a tip on a completely non-technical topic. Namely, earthquake safety. What should you do if you're inside a building during an earthquake and can't get out? Even in Mexico City, a population that is generally well informed on earthquake safety, and has a city-wide earthquake drill every year on September 19th (ironically only 2 hours before the 7.2 earthquake hit the city), sometimes has some myths going around regarding what to do in this situation.

A commonly circulated myth is that of the triangle of life. It basically states that the best place to be during an earthquake is right next to a piece of furniture, right where the corner of the furniture and the ground form a triangle. The claim is that, in the case of complete building collapse, the piece of furniture is likely to stop a large slab of debris from squashing you, since that piece of furniture will hold the piece up and leave a triangle with a pocket of air next to it. This is based on a study made in 2010 by a man named Doug Copp where he collapsed a building with a bunch of mannequins and compared how many were squashed by debris when they did the standard "duck and cover" versus his triangle of life technique.

This study, however, has one fatal flaw. The problem is that most deaths during an earthquake aren't caused by debris squashing you down, but from debris just falling and hitting you. The triangle of life will not save you there. This has been discredited by multiple reputable sources, such as the Red Cross, UNESCO, FEMA, and countless other organizations.

If you find yourself inside a building you can't evacuate during an earthquake, please follow guidelines such as those available in this ready.gov page. Basically don't run outside once the earthquake hits, drop to the ground, protect your head and neck, if you're at risk of being hit by falling debris take cover under a sturdy desk or table, and do not stand underneath a doorway for protection, whatever people tell you.