Friday, 11 December 2015

Last Post

I hope it's not too late for one last blog post but here goes anyways. I tried working on OCR function and trying to import pictures I took from my research. It was a little bit frustrating but I can feel the wheel starting to turn. I'm hoping to use the holidays to get a little bit more fluent in Mathematica. To be honest, it was difficult to practice regularly while juggling courses, research and TA duties. Still, I feel like I gained enough sense to focus on what area I want to develop and to become somewhat competent at it. There was a time when I was wondering if I did the right thing by taking this course and how I could apply it to a real life situation but I think I'll fork out the money to get a permanent license and keep practicing. It's funny how some things seem to develop slowly. It's only after the end of the semester that I seem to realize the value of having taken this course. The plan, for now, is to go over some of the lectures and figure out which function is most valuable for my needs and to develop these functions accordingly. Another reason to be grateful for having taken the course is that I realized it helped me develop a new hobby in becoming proficient in Mathematica. Again, that came up after the conclusion of the semester but I'm reasonably confident I can do it. I look forward to Interactive Exhibit Design.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


I think my last blog entry may have been a little hasty. I believed I had my "eureka" moment in batch downloading but that's not the case. We covered page images and OCR last week and that's when everything clicked in my mind. This past summer, I spent a lot of time at Nova Scotia Archives & Records Management doing research for my cognate essay. The day after we covered OCR, I hopped on a bus and headed to Waterloo for additional research. I came home with quite a few pictures of files and I realized I had a golden opportunity to put what I learned into practice. Today, I spent an hour on trying to import images from my research. All of the pictures I snapped are located in my one drive file and attempts to import them failed. By downloading them to my laptop, I was able to import them fairly easily. I picked one picture in particular as it was a little blurry and I wanted to know if it was possible to enhance it in any way. This is the original picture;

The text is a little difficult to read as I snapped the picture before the auto focus finished adjusting itself. I imported the picture in Mathematica and tried to enhance it a little in order to make the text a little easier on the eyes. I updated the contrast and brightness and also tried to sharpen the image a little but to me, it doesn't look like sharpening the image did much difference. This is the end result;

The text is still a little blurry but is much easier to read thanks to updating the contrast and brightness of the picture. My next objective is to try and get Mathematica to OCR some of the pictures I have. 

Friday, 13 November 2015

Page Images

I thought I'd get a head start with page images for next week. I've gone through half of the slides and so far, I haven't had any issues. Since I've started this course, I've always thought about how frustrating Mathematica can be at times. However, since we've started, I've noticed that the level of frustration has gone down significantly. I'm starting to expand my vision for Mathematica, I'm starting to think of how I can apply it to my courses and especially to my cognate essay. For about two weeks now, I've noticed how Mathematica can be applied to my research and while I haven't attempted anything yet, I will eventually commit myself to use Mathematica to assist with my research. I have begun to do research for my U.S. Historiography class and the idea of using batch downloading came into my mind. I'm a little hesitant because I remember clearly the warning against using this function with websites that prohibit batch downloading for copyright reasons. The question I have in mind is, should I restrict batch downloading to websites such as Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archive?

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Branching out

Ok, so thanks to my TA duties, I've strayed away from Mathematica for a bit but I spent Halloween marking midterms which gave me all the fright that I needed. With the end of marking midterms in sight, I now turn my attention to Mathematica to make up for lost time. I tried practicing the exercises we reviewed last week with an added twist; instead of exploring the web site for Western, I explored Facebook. Looking at the number of annual visitors, I was not especially surprised to learn that 197 100 000 000 people visit Facebook on a yearly basis. I was surprised to learn however, that over 75 000 people log on the site every second. The word cloud created by Facebook was not unlike Western's;
The course has gained a level of interest not seen before. With the function of batch downloading, I can see a definite use for Mathematica in my cognate research and I fully intend to use it to help me with researching materials for my cognate essay. Now that I have a breathing period before final assignments are due, my plan is to focus on this for the next few weeks. Of course, I won't be stopping there, if there's anything else I can learn in the course that will help me in my research, I will focus my energies on mastering it.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015


I tried something new today, instead of practicing today's exercises, I downloaded week 2's slides and practiced that instead. The idea was to try and see how far I'd come since I started. I was pleasantly surprised. What was frustrating at the beginning of September now comes with relative ease. If I came this far since then, I have little reason to worry about my ability to become even more proficient. Another indication of my progress is that I was able to identify my previous mistakes and correct them. There's something else too, I did my best to commit myself to practicing every day but that commitment is getting harder and harder to sustain with assignments, cognate essay research and TA duties piling up at breakneck speed. Still, what I found today was that my skills are still very good and have not deteriorated. Regardless, I will try to discipline myself to practice a little bit every day. That kind of self-discipline is not easy to acquire and is not something that develops overnight. However, once acquired, it can carry me to some pretty unexpected places.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Thanksgiving regrets

I'm embarrassed to admit that today is the first time I've touched Mathematica since last week. I brought my laptop with me to my parents with the intent of practicing my Mathematica skills over the Thanksgiving weekend. Sadly, most of the time where I wasn't stuffing myself and popping Tums afterwards was spent on Netflix promising myself, "I'll do it later". As it turns out, later was today when I finally got myself to sit down and start practicing my skills. I was afraid that my skills with Mathematica might have rusted as a result of the long weekend but I was pleasantly surprised. I've been doing the exercises for Week 5 and so far, I haven't had any serious difficulties. Maybe I needed that break, I feel I'm approaching Mathematica from a fresh perspective and I find I'm having an easier time than before. For example, I was able to produce a Wordcloud from the week 5 exercises. So, even if I regret that I allowed myself to slack off during the Thanksgiving weekend, at least my skills don't seem to have rusted too badly and I can pick up where I left off last week.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015


When I first started experimenting with Mathematica, the experience was one of frustration. It seemed to me that I could not do anything right and I sat staring at the screen completely baffled. After a few weeks of classes and practicing as often as I can, I find myself getting frustrated less and less often. This is not to say that I've mastered the content, far from it, but I'm getting the hang of it and I find it easier to practice the in class exercises. So far, I've mostly been working on the in class exercises but my next step is to go through the textbook and try some of the activities there. Because of my workload from other classes, I find myself practicing every two days instead of every day. I understand the recommendation was that we spend twenty minutes to half an hour every day practicing Mathematica but I find it is easier for me to get frustrated if I follow this guideline. Giving myself a day off in between practice sessions allows me to tackle problems with a fresh perspective and increases the odds of success. That being said, this is not a guarantee that I won't encounter frustrating situations but in my experience so far, it minimizes frustration and maximizes enjoyment. I had previously mentioned I was interested in getting a permanent license by the end of the semester, what I'd really like to know is if there are ways to take advanced Mathematica courses to really become proficient at it.