I'm Alex Kearney, a PhD student studying Computer Science at the University of Alberta. I focus on Artificial Intelligence and Epistemology.


The struggle of @black_in_ai organizers trying to bring a diverse audience to #neurips reminds me of a point @erica_joy made in an interview:

“We aren’t thinking about the lost time spent having to fight those issues.”

These researchers are providing a service to the community which comes at a cost. We need to be better at acknowledging this and providing support.


Clearly @element_ai is all ready for #neurips . They've got a cute little walkway with some neat #mtl facts and deep learning memes.


My labmate and I are heading to @CIFAR_News winter school on the neuroscience of consciousness and found a pepper robot in the wild (only one finger missing).

(I've never actually seen one practically put to use)


I was on a flight and the guy across the aisle from me clearly took a picture of the woman sitting next to him.

After the flight, I mentioned to him (in private) that I noticed he took a photo of her without her permission.

His response? "It's not even your problem".



I'm sitting here hoping that confusion over pronunication of #NeurIPS turns into a wholesome meme where people pronounce it differently everytime they say it.

new-rups

nyr-ups

nurr-ips


The neighborhood toy store where I grew up is now a vape store.

I guess communities do age with their residents.


I recently made a hat for Matt. I used some super-soft alpaca yarn that I picked up from an industrial-revolution era wool spinner located in Alberta. I managed to find a colour which was close to the alpaca logo he uses on his site to keep it on-brand.

The pattern I ended up using was a free japanese pattern. I wasn't quite sure how to read the ribbing section, so I used a slip-stick to give it a slightly elongated stitch to match the faux cabling.


I recently made a hat for Matt. I used some super-soft alpaca yarn that I picked up from an industrial-revolution era wool spinner located in Alberta. I managed to find a colour which was close to the alpaca logo they use on their site to keep it on-brand.

The pattern I ended up using was a free japanese pattern. I wasn't quite sure how to read the ribbing section, so I used a slip-stick to give it a slightly elongated stitch to match the faux cabling.



Johannes and I had a some time before our flight left after the AAAI Fall Symposium Series to go check out some of the sights in D.C. We walked around the mall in the morning before the crowds descended and had a chance to take in the monuments with very few people around.

You often see the Vietnam War memorial in popular media, and for good reason: the Vietnam memorial is impactful.

I had never seen any depiction of the Korean War memorial: a lush statuary, rather than the typical neo-classical plaza.

The only way to experience the memorial is through a forest. To get to the inscription and the fountain you must emerge from cover into a clearing with a platoon of brass statues. The first statue seems to be waving you back.

The monument brings the environment to the statues.

There were a few wreathes laid down by the fountain, both with fresh flowers from Korean community organizations.


Oh hey, I found an obelisk.


America: A Still Life 🥤

#travel #travelphotography


My aunt took me out to Stoney Plain to hit up Jo's Yarn Garden: one of the best yarn stores in Alberta. As a thank-you I decided to make her a cabled tam.

I used some ice-blue yarn with a white heather that my cousin got for me from Iceland. I was looking for something simple, but with cabling to add some visual interest. I opted for the Bramble Beret, which felt appropriately Scottish.


I had a chance to walk around Washington for a few hours with Johannes.

Lincoln Memorial

We first visited the Lincoln Memorial, which was shockingly smaller than I had expected. You grow up seeing all these monuments in art and movies; when you finally see the real thing, it's a bit weird.

It's this uncanny valley that you wander into. You're so familiar with the monument as media short-hand for some idea, that the real monuments seem somehow incomplete. There's these grand larger-than-life expectations of iconic monuments, and then there's the reality of wandering up to the monument which looks largely the same as any other statue.

There's several minor monuments around the perimeter of the mall. This one was one of my favorites, because it's been transformed into a roundabout.

When I die, I want my legacy to be immortalized into a neo-classical traffic circle.

MLK Memorial

The MLK memorial was strange. It's much newer than I expected---completed in 2011. To get to the plaza, you emerge from between a mountain split in half into a plaza. The plaza is wide open space looking over a lake with what looks like the peak of the mountain hurled into the center.

When you approach the slab from the other side you're greeted with MLK's likeness looking off into the corner. The concept is neat. The statue itself seems a bit stern.

"Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope."

Vietnam War Memorial

The Vietnam War Memorial is probably one of the most influential monuments on popular culture---It seems to be referenced the most. It's relevance makes sense: it's the most recent war monument. Many people have immediate family who fought in the war.

It's simply a chevron of names cut into the ground. What was truly interesting was the collection of volunteers manning the monument.

These volunteers seemed to predominantly be Vietnam vets. They stood around the monument, helping visitors find the names of loved-ones. They even had cards and a step-stool to take rubbings of the monument, allowing people to take the name home with them.

Jefferson Memorial

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is almost feels more impressive than the Lincoln memorial.

The statue was placed in the centre of a circular room. Inscribed on the walls were a selection Jefferson's quotes.

Interestingly, there was this quote on constitutional inerrancy which I thought was strikingly poignant, especially with the discussion of restricting gun ownership in the wake of numerous mass shootings. I guess certain legislation gets enshrined as being beyond criticism, even against the intent of those who influenced it.

Tidal Pool

Johannes and I continued around the park, wandering around before grabbing a bite. As the morning shifted into the afternoon, the mall came alive with numerous charity events and political marches.

White House

Before heading to lunch, we made an obligatory visit to the White House. Again, it was much smaller than I imagined it would be. I'm fairly certain it's smaller than the albertan provincial legislative buildings.

Examining the roof-line, there is a hint of grey concrete which seems out of place with the neo-classical mansion. There's what looks like a reinforced bunker on the top of the building. On closer inspection, there was someone standing on the roof with some kind of gun, surveying the surroundings.

People-watching in front of the White House is fascinating. A number of protestors were lining the pavement where tourists were taking photos. A man was pacing back and forth across the length of the White House Lawn with a sign imploring republicans to stand up to Trump.

When I was crossing the border, the homeland security officer gave me recommendations for Washington. One of them was Old Ebbit Grill.

This place is my aesthetic. It has a nice, quiet warmth to it. Wood paneling and dim lighting; hunter green velvet couches; walls mounted with trophies rumored to be shot by Teddy Roosevelt.

After lunch we wandered around town, spending the last couple of hours taking in the streets on the other side of the mall and lamenting the fact we didn't get to visit any of the Smithsonian museums during our trip.


New signs at the border crossing for #legalizationincanada at PET. There was even a can to bin your bud before the border 🚮


My favourite part of working on papers and proposals is comparing the feedback from different people. A lot of the time I get suggestions which are diametrically opposed. It's fun seeing what people disagree on and why.

#phdchat


What I Did Sept 18 - 30th

  • Went to Grace Hopper Conference 2018
  • Met an ontologist!
  • Found an old mentor from the Google scholar's retreat
  • Met up with an old classmate from uni
  • Caught up with unexpected acquaintances
  • Practiced having random conversations with people about what they work on
  • Acquired all the swag


I’ll see what I can do 😀. What time are you hosting it? I’m at GHC until the 28th.


It’s really impressive to see so many women in #tech in the same room for #ghc18 . Even the nosebleeds are filled! #WomenInTech


I’d love to! When are you hosting it?


Phew, just landed in Houston for #ghc18 🛬. Sharing a lovely castle with my labmates 🌞


Really excited to head to my first #GHC2018 tomorrow! Does anyone have advice for how to make the most of it as a first-timer?


What I Did Sept 17 - 23rd

  • Watched Donnie Darko for the first time and it is fantastic and amazing

  • Went to the Edmonton story slam for the first time

  • Had espresso at transcend

  • Read a bunch of random epistemology and got Expressivism, pragmatism and Representationalism

  • Had excellent chats with visitors from DLR about robot constructivism

  • Prepped for my first Grace Hopper Con

  • Had dim sum

  • Managed to summarize my research proposal in one page!

  • Had a birthday dinner with my family at Bistro Praha

  • Some people asked to take a selfie with me and I am still confused by it


Last day of summer in Edmonton! ☀️🌿🌱 #yeg #summer #notfair #notfairatall


September in Edmonton 🤷🏼‍♀️✨☃️ #yeg #snow #thisisnotfall


What I did Sept 8 - 16th

  • Went to Amii's inaugural monthly AI tech meetup and chatted with a bunch of people.

  • Moved into the Amii office downtown.

  • Worked on my Camera-ready copy of my AAAI fall symposium paper.

  • Wrote a proposal for the Distinguished Lecturer Series.

  • Watched Christopher Robin.

  • Read Weapons of Math Destruction.

  • Harvested what was left of my garden.

  • Finished the skull on my sweater.

  • Made yogurt!


Are any #indieweb folks heading to #ghc2018 this year? If there's any interest, I'd love to have an ad-hoc homebrew website club!


Everyone in the lab is using macs now; to prevent mixups at conferences I used #washitape to mark which chargers are mine. #diy #crafts #technology


At the wildly talented @melosare’s tech talk at @AmiiThinks #AI meetup. Learning about the promise and peril of #ml in medicine.

The room is absolutely heaving! It’s great to see so much interest in #yeg AI 😊 🤖


This actually creeped me out the first time I saw it. There's this weird glorification of a guy who cares about Christine so much he taught her how to sing. Never mind the weird emotional manipulation, kidnapping, and torturing of her fiancee. I feel like this tweet captures the creepiness perfectly.


What I did Sep1 - Sep7

Indieweb-stuff:

  • Tried to federate my indiewebsite so that I could interact with mastodon through it (unsuccessfully)

  • Hacked together a websub hub which passes all of the websub.rocks tests.

  • Rebuilt large chunks of my site---particularly the back-end---so that the posting interface is nicer and easier to test.

  • Factored out my markdown albums, webmentioning, and hashtag extensions into separate repos which I can independently maintain.

  • Hooked up webmentions again so that I can see webmentions as part of an ongoing effort to improve usability of federation.

  • Hooked up in_reply_to again, so that I can send webmentions. This also lets me reply-tweet using brid.gy

  • Started posting albums and articles I'd held off on posting.

Reading:

  • Research proposals from different disciplines to figure out how I want to structure my candidacy document.

  • Bickhard's interactivism and process metaphysics

  • Anthony Chemero's take on representationalism

Other stuff

  • Karaoke 🎤
  • Symphony under the sky
  • Knitting an aran sweater I designed
  • Yoga 🧘


Important points about the value and importance of communication in research here.

Other additional factor to note:

  • spending time on outreach will necessarily mean less time on fundamental research. It’s a trade-off that needs to be appreciated more.

I often see this expectation that the people doing outreach and community coordination will just magically be able to do that and produce the same amount of work as people who aren’t taking on these other tasks. Eventually it just becomes expected that some of the students will take on these projects alongside their research responsibilities.

They get burnt out. They stop. The community goes through an outreach drought.

This happens a lot with minority students in STEM get tapped to do community outreach. It’s all good if you’re interested in community building, but you shouldn’t feel obligated to work on these issues. The effort should be recognized as coming at the expense of research.

Moreover, people leading diversity initiatives shouldn't feel entitled to minority student's time when it comes to contributing to diversity projects just because they're a minority. Too many times I see people working on these sorts of projects getting shoe-horned into the roles because they're in an under-represented group.

Even if students are interested in diversity projects, it becomes a balancing act in maintaining their academic reputation: the more they work on these community and diversity building initiatives, the less of a serious scientist they are to some people---even if they're a wildly talented researcher. This is a massive shame that holds the whole community back.


This tweet hits way too close to home. The number of people who would waltz into my CS dept's facebook page asking for free labour while being secretive about the project in question was obscene.

This, of course, was coupled with an attitude of being entitled to the CS student's time and resources. These people were providing the poor students with a lucrative business opportunity after all 🙄.


Test in-reply-to over twitter using brid.gy


Test for tooting.


One of my favorite parts of @edmfolkfest is the @ckuaradio tent with their live broadcasts. Had a chance to listen to @shakeygraves perform some songs acoustic and talk about songwriting. Dozens of people were huddled in the rain and mud to listen to Alberta public radio! #publicradio #livemusic #indie


Trying to keep dry on the last day of folk fest. Trying.


One tarp up and one tarp to the right of the golden tarp!


Recovering from DLRL summer school by scrambling for tarp space at the Canmore Folk Fest 🎻 🎶


Sights from DLLS & RLSS 2018 in Toronto.

This year I went to DLSS and RLSS in Toronto. The introductory talks were probably the best intro to neural nets talks I'd seen: the talks were tight and intuitive without having to water down the technical details.

The number of people cramming in for the summer school was surprising. It's really great to see how interest in Reinforcement Learning has picked up in recent years.

Being back in Toronto for the summer means that I had I had the chance to wander around kensington market again. This time, sans persistent summer flu. With a few fellow students in tow, Anna and I hit up Yarns Untangled, the first LYS I ever visited. We picked up needles and yarn to teach some people how to knit while sharing a pitcher of beer on the patio across the street.

Against my better judgement, I picked up a few indie-dyed skeins of yarn. One from lichen and lace---a dyer on the east coast---and one from fiesty fibers---a local Torontonian who happened to be having a trunk sale while we were in town.

Who knows what the skeins will end up being. I suppose I can always teach myself how to knit socks.

Having the chance to hit up local yarn stores with active communities reminds me of what I'm missing out on in Edmonton. YU felt like a community hub. People would would gather on their couches, chatting with each other while they worked on whatever project they were carrying with them.

While I was waiting for a few people I sat myself down next two a couple of women and felt right at home chatting with them about how they originally started knitting and what they were currently working on. It's really refreshing to have these spaces which people can come into and join without any introduction: it's really healthy to have these communities where people can just feel at home.

I have no regrets about wandering into Little Pebbles to have Japanese dessert before meeting with some of the other students for brunch. I had this little matcha tiramisu which was carefully constructed in this little box which reminded me of sake drinking vessels. Interestingly, instead of a brandy base, at the bottom of the tiramisu was a bit of red bean paste to sweeten and balance out the earthy matcha flavours.

The whole place was bright and funky without being overwhelmingly ornate. It was an unusual and pleasant surprise to see the little signs up on the tables which politely notified people that they had to put their electronics away during peak hours--an attempt to foster community and conversation.

When wandering around the city I found a whole bunch of cute ceramics, which make me regret not having kept up with pottery after highschool. Maybe I'll need to eventually fix that and take a course at Edmonton's city arts centre.

The closest coffee shop to where I was staying was Hopper. It was a cute little place with great snacks and even better espresso. In spite of being fairly spartan in terms of quantity of furniture, what they had was really funky---i.e., campbell's soup can tables.

I finally managed to try goldstruck--a place I wanted to visit while I was interning in Toronto, but never quite had the chance to. They definitely themed the place appropriately. Walking down the stairs into the sub-terrainian coffeeshop, you're greeted by the warm glow of industrial lighting and mining-inspired decor. Even the bathroom has these massive wooden barn-doors which slide open.

Of course, my favourite little cafe was sorry: a little gem that's tucked away in a corner, unapologetically making great espresso and pastries.


Sights from DLLS & RLSS 2018 in Toronto.

This year I went to DLSS and RLSS in Toronto. The introductory talks were probably the best intro to neural nets talks I'd seen: the talks were tight and intuitive without having to water down the technical details.

The number of people cramming in for the summer school was surprising. It's really great to see how interest in Reinforcement Learning has picked up in recent years.

Being back in Toronto for the summer means that I had I had the chance to wander around kensington market again. This time, sans persistent summer flu. With a few fellow students in tow, Anna and I hit up Yarns Untangled, the first LYS I ever visited. We picked up needles and yarn to teach some people how to knit while sharing a pitcher of beer on the patio across the street.

Against my better judgement, I picked up a few indie-dyed skeins of yarn. One from lichen and lace---a dyer on the east coast---and one from fiesty fibers---a local Torontonian who happened to be having a trunk sale while we were in town.

Who knows what the skeins will end up being. I suppose I can always teach myself how to knit socks.

Having the chance to hit up local yarn stores with active communities reminds me of what I'm missing out on in Edmonton. YU felt like a community hub. People would would gather on their couches, chatting with each other while they worked on whatever project they were carrying with them.

While I was waiting for a few people I sat myself down next two a couple of women and felt right at home chatting with them about how they originally started knitting and what they were currently working on. It's really refreshing to have these spaces which people can come into and join without any introduction: it's really healthy to have these communities where people can just feel at home.

I have no regrets about wandering into Little Pebbles to have Japanese dessert before meeting with some of the other students for brunch. I had this little matcha tiramisu which was carefully constructed in this little box which reminded me of sake drinking vessels. Interestingly, instead of a brandy base, at the bottom of the tiramisu was a bit of red bean paste to sweeten and balance out the earthy matcha flavours.

The whole place was bright and funky without being overwhelmingly ornate. It was an unusual and pleasant surprise to see the little signs up on the tables which politely notified people that they had to put their electronics away during peak hours--an attempt to foster community and conversation.

When wandering around the city I found a whole bunch of cute ceramics, which make me regret not having kept up with pottery after highschool. Maybe I'll need to eventually fix that and take a course at Edmonton's city arts centre.

The closest coffee shop to where I was staying was Hopper. It was a cute little place with great snacks and even better espresso. In spite of being fairly spartan in terms of quantity of furniture, what they had was really funky---i.e., campbell's soup can tables.

I finally managed to try goldstruck--a place I wanted to visit while I was interning in Toronto, but never quite had the chance to. They definitely themed the place appropriately. Walking down the stairs into the sub-terrainian coffeeshop, you're greeted by the warm glow of industrial lighting and mining-inspired decor. Even the bathroom has these massive wooden barn-doors which slide open.

Of course, my favourite little cafe was sorry: a little gem that's tucked away in a corner, unapologetically making great espresso and pastries.


Happy Canada day 🇨🇦


Red means fast




I had a little bit of time to kill before the neuroscience symposium, so I went and found chocolate 🍫 #yvc #phdlife #gradschool #travel


I made my first 3D print today! Now I have an adorable Gengar desk friend 🔮 #3dprinting #tech #phdlife #pokemon


Today in #gradschool : bags of robot digits. . . #robot #tech #phdlife #cs


The gang goes to an art lagoon. #travel #gradschool


We found a bridge. #travel #gradschool



Yesterday I hade Thai tea ice cream 🍦 and learned about dialog systems #gradcohort2018 #gradschool #tech




I’ve been waiting a long time for this! My @inputclub white fox keyboard is finally here! So excited to start typing on my hako trues 😍 . . . #mechanicalkeyboard #mechkeyboard #whitefox #tech


I knit a toque because spring wouldn’t come 🌱


I went to see @alvvaysband at the starlight room last week. The serendipitous highlight for me was getting to see @thisisfrankierose. They were in a few playlists that I used to listen to in highschool, but lost their music when my harddrive died. Im getting crazy nostalgia after finding them all over again.


Meanwhile in the BLINC lab: a bag of San Franciscan street lizards 🦎


I am unreasonably excited about this Grace Hopper sticker my lab-mate gave to me.


My research lab held an archery tag house-cup. We sorted ourselves into houses and competed for bragging rights and the shiniest of trophies. Slytherin naturally won. 🐍 . . . #harrypotter #slytherin #magic #science #gradschool


In line to see Michelle Obama’s talk. Hoping for a good conversation on global education. #yeg #cndpoli #education



UofA looking all pretty at sunset 🌅 a rainbow building with neon clouds. . . . #yeg #yegphoto #alberta #canada


I finally had the chance to make my way out to Ritchie market. I had a flight of beer 🍻 the best was a beer with notes of tea; it tasted slightly like an oolong. I had a platter of ham, persimmon, and mustard to go with it ☺️ . . . #beer #craftbeer #brewery #foodie


More progress on my fisherman sweater! I don’t like seaming, so I followed @bygumbygolly’s instructions for modifying patters for set in sleeves. Just two sleeves to go!

@brooklyntweed docklight sweater with @malabrigoyarn in archangel . . . #yarn #fiber #diy #diyfashion #crafts #crafty #knitting #knittersofinstagram #workinprogress #fashion


Doing some late-night adventuring though the buildings downtown 🌵


Late night second-hand book store haul: a magical copy of Robert Brandon’s “Making it Explicit”: the big-kid version of my favorite philosopher’s work . . . #book #philosophy #secondhand


🎺🎺🎺🎺🎺



Pulling the goalie worked!


We are not doing well.


Pretending I’m at hockey night in Scotland 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 but I’m really just in Edmonton 🤷🏼‍♀️ there is a shortage of wine and cheese and commentary from @jammy_stuff


Rappelling the ceremonial puck into the game. • • #hockey #oilers #yeg


Napping away while I’m coding 🐕


Enjoying some cello suites at @yellowheadbrewery with the @edmontonchambermusic society. The best part of chamber music is how intimate the venues are ☺️ and I love it when artists talk about the pieces they perform • • • #yeg #yegarts #music #classicalmusic #arts #livemusic


There are some crazy ice sculptures at @iceonwhyte. It’s one of three international competitive ice sculpting competitions in Canada and all of the sculptures were made in 35 hours.

The detail on some of the sculptures is incredible, and the use of transparency and opacity in the ice is really neat. • • • #art #sculpture #ice #yeg #yegwinter #winter


Everything’s okay. 🍷 • • • #foodie #food #yeg #yummy


Saturday afternoon tea tasting. • • • • #tea #afternoontea #teatime #puerh #puertea


I found the best little tea place in Edmonton. It’s a wholesale tea store and the only place where you can get good Taiwanese oolong. 🍵


The nao robots are positioned a bit ominously today 😐 • • • • #technology #tech #robot #robotics #artificialintelligence #ml


My pair programming partner keeps falling asleep 🤷🏼‍♀️ he’s napping on the job 🐕 • • • #dogsofinstagram #dachshundsofinstagram #dachshund #olddog #doggie #doggos #dog #pupper


At watari playing sushi go and eating all you can eat sushi 🍣 . . . . #boardgames #games #foodie #yummy #foodporn #sushi #japanesefood #tasty #instafood


When it’s warmed up a bit, but you still just want to stay inside wrapped in blankets. . . . #dogsofinstagram #dogs #dachshundsofinstagram #dachshund #petsofinstagram #cute #animals #adorable


This week for blinc lab Monday movie madness is “2001: A Space Odyssey” 🎥 🍿


Failed attempt at eggs Benedict 🍳


Homemade bagel -> breakfast sandwich. Everyone needs garlic in the morning 🙆🏼‍♀️ . . . #keto #breakfast #ketobreakfast #coffee #food #foodie #foodporn #eat #instafood #delicious #stuffed #yummy #yum 😋



We projected blade runner onto the lab whiteboard. 🤖


Enjoying a little cappuccino at @transcendcoffee while I work out what experiments I want to run. ☕️ Probs my my favorite espresso in Edmonton. #yeg #coffee #espresso #fountainpen #notebook #stationary