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Category Archives: me


Eric versus the Arc de Triomphe, originally uploaded by Mister Wind-Up Bird.

A full report will have to wait until I have more time and internets, but hey, yeah, I made it through Europe unscathed except for a couple of nasty blisters. I enjoyed bobo Paris more than a snarky small-town Canadian really should, Madrid was effing hot during the day, but great at night, and Germany, well, I spent a lot of time in German airports and they were fairly efficient, so there’s that.

I’m in Australia now, where it’s actually possible to get free wifi, but time is short, so… more later.

Page, count!

thesis page count, originally uploaded by Mister Wind-Up Bird.

Holy crap. It’s 2:13AM on a Friday night, I’ve got Mogwai playing on the stereo, and I think I might actually kind of be done writing my thesis. I feel… odd.

(Well, done until Nando and my committee read it and tell me to go revise it all, but still.)

[Brochu, Brochu and de Freitas, 2010]

I’m a little late in posting this, but I managed to get accepted to the 2010 Symposium on Computer Animation with my paper, “A Bayesian Interactive Optimization Approach to Procedural Animation Design”! I’ve added the pre-print PDF to my publications page, and there’s even a video, which explains the whole thing in under five minutes (with no math). So lest anyone question what a Machine Learning person is doing trying to get into a computer animation conference, behold!

I’m pretty happy about getting this accepted for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a big part of my thesis, so getting it accepted to a good venue is a major step toward finally graduating. And second, it means a free trip to Madrid to present it! Hopefully I’ll be mostly finished writing my thesis by that time (early July), so I’ve already booked a bit of an extended tour that takes me to Paris for a few days before the conference and lets me stay in Madrid for a couple of days afterward. My brother-slash-coauthor Tyson gets to go, too, so that should be fun. Especially as he actually speaks French, so he can deal with any potentially snotty Parisians for me.

After that, it’s off to Australia to visit Janelle. I’ll be flying in and out of Brisbane, which is cool, but we’ll also be spending a good chunk of time in Melbourne, which I’m stoked about. From all accounts it’s a really cool city. I’m imagining it as kind of a mix of the best aspects of Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Will I be disappointed? Don’t worry, I’ll let you know.

I’m also hoping to talk to people in Melbourne in the research community (for start-ups in particular, but in general, too), so if you happen to know anybody, or know anybody who knows anybody, or you Khobar are that anybody, you know what to do.

Eric versus Eric’s brain

Broadcast at the Biltmore, originally uploaded by Mister Wind-Up Bird.

It’s been a beautiful fall weekend here in Van, but I’ve mostly been home with an annoying rhinovirus. However, I did get out to see Broadcast at the Biltmore, and being stuck on the sofa in a Neo Citran haze has been a good excuse to spend hours reading TV Tropes (which may be an even more powerful timesuck than Wikipedia). Meanwhile, my parents are at this very moment in the process of purchasing a pretty spiffy retirement home on Vancouver Island, the lovely Janelle comes to visit in just 24 days, my apartment is the cleanest its been in weeks (months?) and I have some time to ramble on the ol’ Haiku Factory.

So, first up, I think I’m going to make this blog a once-a-month kind of deal, probably until I finish my thesis. I’m thinking that on or around the first of each month, I’ll post a longish update like this one. At the same time, I’m going to try to put more Eric (my links, photos, etc.) into the sidebar. Unfortunately, the volatile combination of WordPress plugins and my hosting company seems to be so fragile that at least half of the plugins I’ve tested seem to cause the dreaded “500 Internal Server Error.” So we’ll see how that works out. Hopefully my future posts will have go beyond the self-involved meandering of this one, but give me a break, I’m siffly and whiny today, and my throat hurts.

Ironically, though, the main reason I’m restricting my blogging is my writing. I’m doing a lot of writing these days — not only my thesis and the occasional paper, but I’m also working on a book with my supervisor, and I may soon be working on a special soopersekrit project that I can’t tell you about right now. The thing about all these projects is that they have a finite end in the next several months, so if I have the writing impulse on a Sunday afternoon, or late at night some evening, I feel like I should be working on those. Now that the end of grad school is finally in sight, spending a few hours writing in the middle of the night means my book or my thesis will be finished all that much earlier, right?

The flipside of this is that I’ve been finding myself up at 3AM editing papers and writing code and sleeping ’til noon. It’s not because I’m really pushing myself all that hard, it’s more that I know how lazy, unfocussed and unmotivated I can be, so when I don’t feel that way, I want to take full advantage of my finicky brain. Oh brain, why must we always be at odds?

Well, actually, I’m not sure that’s really a problem. While operating on a noon-to-4AM schedule puts me at odds with normal people, I kind of do like working at night. I’m definitely more creative in later in the day — I think pretty much every good idea I’ve ever had came to me after 8PM. And what’s more, I kind of like that I’m in a position where it’s an option. I’ll admit to a holding a certain nerdily romantic view of being awake in the wee hours, working on a PhD thesis in an empty lab or annotating papers in a 24-hour coffee shop. It’s like I’m some kind of cool Bohemian, or something. Mainstream society be damned, I’m a Creative!

a return

phantasy of phinishng a phd, originally uploaded by Mister Wind-Up Bird.

So for those keeping track at home, I took leave of my position at Worio last month to go back to work on my PhD full-time. I’d been either a non-student or part-time for the last two years, which seemed kind of incredible to me. How the hell did a six-month leave turn into two years? I guess by extending it and then getting sponsored to be a research intern, is how, but that answer seems too literal and lacking the existential resonance I was hoping for. So I’ll just say that the PhD is simultaneously the best and worst thing I’ve ever done. I’m glad to be back and gladder that the end is finally in sight.

But for now, I’m fully immersed in the full-time grad student lifestyle again. It all came back easily, as I immediately had to dive into submitting a paper to a fairly high-profile conference. Which means the past month has been the tick-tock of an approaching paper deadline with far more to be done than time to do it. Days with the sickening feeling of knowing you’re procrastinating and feeling powerless to stop it. Other days enjoyably lost in elaborate code, listening to Four Tet and Aphex Twin. The sudden happy click when a once-obscure paper starts to give up its secrets and make sense, or the rush of getting a really clever idea for solving a problem. And then biking home from the lab, exhausted, in the early morning hours, and passing through Kitsilano, which is still and quiet and smells like flowers and marijuana and the ocean.

All that, and I kind of think the paper I submitted was not-so-good. The code stayed buggy, the experiments unconvincing and the writing something less than a model of clarity. Oh, well, the “good” news is, there’s always another conference deadline coming up soon!

Until I’m finally done, and then there isn’t.