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another day, another paper


also known as "NIPS", originally uploaded by Mister Wind-Up Bird.

Paper writing is pretty stressful. Code crashes, mistakes are found in equations, and you never have quite the experimental results you want. As deadlines approach, the pressure builds and sleep is abandoned. But I kind of welcome them. And not just for the rare flash of “hey, I’m actually doing science!” satisfaction. A good, hard deadline adds some much-needed structure and discipline to the grad student lifestyle. It forces you to stop tinkering with code and equations and write that shit down. And having just submitted a paper is a great excuse to drink heavily and spend a few days watching movies and playing video games before going back to work.

The paper I submitted yesterday was for the rather grand-sounding Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems. Or: “NIPS”. (For years now, I’ve been thinking about making various off-colour “I heart NIPS” T-shirts, and I swear, one day I’ll do it.) This is my fourth paper since February — the fifth if you count my PhD thesis proposal. I’m kind of looking forward to not writing another one for a while.

This screenshot is my work environment a little before the paper deadline. If you click on that there image, you can see the Flickr version, where I explain what all those windows are doing (more or less: it’s an anonymous-review conference, so I can’t say anything identifying about the research).

On a geeky note (well, even more geeky), I did all the coding, experiments and figures for this paper in Python using Pylab and SciPy, rather than MATLAB. After years of cursing MATLAB (generally by muttering “god, I fucking hate MATLAB” every time it eats up all the available memory and then crashes) and threatening to switch to something — anything — else, I decided I had to either put up or shut up. And shutting up is not my way. Python is not a perfect replacement, but I’m quite happy to report that it worked very, very well and I expect to do most of my thesis work with Python.

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