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


Sometimes I get the feeling that a large component of reviewing is gently reminding folks that there are papers from before 2010.


Someone sent me an ArXiv link to a paper they thought I’d be interested in. Turns out I was reviewing the paper for Neurips.

I had to contact the Meta-reviewer and get taken off the paper.

This is a downside to ArXiv that I hadn’t even thought of: some of the the folks who are would be best able to interpret your work will likely have seen it if it’s on ArXiv. By posting before review, you may be reducing the pool of reviewers that are best able to asses the paper.


2019 is a wrap Here's what I did last year.

This was a busy academic year. I co-organised a workshop. I took a big leap in my work and submitted some philosophically oriented work to RLDM [1,2], one of which was chosen for a spotlight talk. I received a fellowship from Borealis AI for 2018-2019. I contributed to a few other projects, including a twitterbot for combating online harassment and an exploration of my meta-learning method in a continual learning robotics setting. I ended up presenting.

Most importantly, this year I passed my candidacy exam. The only thing separating me from completing my PhD is my thesis.

I did some career development this year. As I chart out the end of grad-school, I've started queuing up internships to try a few roles out. Oddly, all of the work I've done is research-oriented. I've never had an industrial job before.

I managed to snag a ticket to Grace Hopper Conference. Last year I spent most of GHC managing the group of. While rewarding, I didn't really get to focus on experiencing the conference myself. This year, I got to meet a lot more people, and have a much better idea of how I could fit into different organisations.

I've put off internships mostly because of the interview process. Getting prepped for technical interviews and taking the time to actually sit them means re-directing a significant amount of energy away from the research and projects I'm working on. I can't do everything all the time. I finally bit the bullet this year and did some interviews. Although a small thing, it's a big milestone for me. It's not as scary as I made it out to be. It even paid off: I'm going to be working at Twitter for a few months in the new year and have more interviews queued up.

I worked on more diverse creative projects this year. I tackled projects in some new mediums and some old mediums. I used to be a very active potter in high-school and one of my greatest regrets is not keeping it up. Pottery is one of those meditative arts that takes all of your focus and attention: a good diversion during the crush of grad-school life. This year, Maren and Anna invited me to come join their pottery class. Seven years without practice, but I've still got it.

I tried new crafts including natural dying and embroidery and knitting socks. In the final hours of 2019, I even managed to help Kat spin up a knitting machine. Hopefully the skills from these humble projects will prove useful in 2020.

I got a lot of travelling done this year. There was hardly a month where I wasn't on the move. Some of my trips were big productions, years in the making. I went to Japan for three weeks after my candidacy exam. This was my first trip to Asia and the biggest trip since I went down the Danube in 2016.

Some of my trips were spontaneous. Dylan and Mikayla invited me sea-kayaking around the Johnston Strait, where we saw orcas and waded through the mist.

Most of my trips were tacked onto work-related trips where possible. The workshop in the Barbados had opportunities for me to go diving for the first time in four years. I went to RLDM and spent time meeting up with friends and enjoying the art galleries. I eeked out a chance to see the Tate modern for the first time in ten years during a layover. I presented some of my work in porto and had a chance to explore the city while visiting with a research group. I take the chance to explore where I can get it.

I really improved my photography this year---especially travel photography. I spent a lot more time carrying around a camera, and it shows. Even just slipping my little point-and-shoot in my pocket has provided a lot of opportunities. It helps that Dylan is patient and encouraging: sometimes even joining me to freeze late at night on a quest to get a good shot of the stars.

I picked up development on my indieblog. I started the year off trying to add more social protocols and interface better with federated sites like mastodon. After wrestling with web-specs and confirming, yes, I was implementing them as specified I gave up. I learned a lesson from this: working on more protocols is fun programmings sake. Adding webfingers and trying to doesn't make, nor does it really change the accessibility of my blog.

After learning this lesson, I spent the rest of the year making minor chages to encourage better usability. The bulk of this turned out to be small UI changes to make it more comfortable to post, but I did also add some smaller features.

  1. This year involved a lot travel, and I added a wysiwyg editor to quickly chart out my trips and resolve placenames to geo coordinates.

  2. I wanted to spend more time on academic posts, so I added mathjax for mathematical type-setting on my blog.

  3. I have an impression video is the future, so I added a dead-easy manual way to add videos to my site.

It's these small, quick changes that have proven to be the most useful, but it's had an unexpected consequence...

I didn't do a lot of programming this year and it's a shame. One of the greatest joys in (my) life is programming. There's a clear---and positive---reason why I've done less programming this year: my indieblog is stable. Much of the external programming projects were small incremental additions to my blog. There's not much more I feel like adding. I have all the bells and whistles I need to sustain myself for the time being (although there's always maintenance and refactoring to do). Most of the changes I would want to make would require lots of effort. I started this project midway through university. There's a lot of cruft, cowboy code, and naivete to clear out. I don't have the gumption to do it.

I think it's time for a new big project.


2019 is a wrap Here's what I did last year.

This was a busy academic year. I co-organised a workshop. I took a big leap in my work and submitted some philosophically oriented work to RLDM [1,2], one of which was chosen for a spotlight talk. I received a fellowship from Borealis AI for 2018-2019. I contributed to a few other projects, including a twitterbot for combating online harassment and an exploration of my meta-learning method in a continual learning robotics setting. I ended up presenting.

Most importantly, this year I passed my candidacy exam. The only thing separating me from completing my PhD is my thesis.

I did some career development this year. As I chart out the end of grad-school, I've started queuing up internships to try a few roles out. Oddly, all of the work I've done is research-oriented. I've never had an industrial job before.

I managed to snag a ticket to Grace Hopper Conference. Last year I spent most of GHC managing the group of. While rewarding, I didn't really get to focus on experiencing the conference myself. This year, I got to meet a lot more people, and have a much better idea of how I could fit into different organisations.

I've put off internships mostly because of the interview process. Getting prepped for technical interviews and taking the time to actually sit them means re-directing a significant amount of energy away from the research and projects I'm working on. I can't do everything all the time. I finally bit the bullet this year and did some interviews. Although a small thing, it's a big milestone for me. It's not as scary as I made it out to be. It even paid off: I'm going to be working at Twitter for a few months in the new year and have more interviews queued up.

I worked on more diverse creative projects this year. I tackled projects in some new mediums and some old mediums. I used to be a very active potter in high-school and one of my greatest regrets is not keeping it up. Pottery is one of those meditative arts that takes all of your focus and attention: a good diversion during the crush of grad-school life. This year, Maren and Anna invited me to come join their pottery class. Seven years without practice, but I've still got it.

I tried new crafts including natural dying and embroidery and knitting socks. In the final hours of 2019, I even managed to help Kat spin up a knitting machine. Hopefully the skills from these humble projects will prove useful in 2020.

I got a lot of travelling done this year. There was hardly a month where I wasn't on the move. Some of my trips were big productions, years in the making. I went to Japan for three weeks after my candidacy exam. This was my first trip to Asia and the biggest trip since I went down the Danube in 2016.

Some of my trips were spontaneous. Dylan and Mikayla invited me sea-kayaking around the Johnston Strait, where we saw orcas and waded through the mist.

Most of my trips were tacked onto work-related trips where possible. The workshop in the Barbados had opportunities for me to go diving for the first time in four years. I went to RLDM and spent time meeting up with friends and enjoying the art galleries. I eeked out a chance to see the Tate modern for the first time in ten years during a layover. I presented some of my work in porto and had a chance to explore the city while visiting with a research group. I take the chance to explore where I can get it.

I really improved my photography this year---especially travel photography. I spent a lot more time carrying around a camera, and it shows. Even just slipping my little point-and-shoot in my pocket has provided a lot of opportunities. It helps that Dylan is patient and encouraging: sometimes even joining me to freeze late at night on a quest to get a good shot of the stars.

I picked up development on my indieblog. I started the year off trying to add more social protocols and interface better with federated sites like mastodon. After wrestling with web-specs and confirming, yes, I was implementing them as specified I gave up. I learned a lesson from this: working on more protocols is fun programmings sake. Adding webfingers and trying to doesn't make, nor does it really change the accessibility of my blog.

After learning this lesson, I spent the rest of the year making minor chages to encourage better usability. The bulk of this turned out to be small UI changes to make it more comfortable to post, but I did also add some smaller features.

  1. This year involved a lot travel, and I added a wysiwyg editor to quickly chart out my trips and resolve placenames to geo coordinates.

  2. I wanted to spend more time on academic posts, so I added mathjax for mathematical type-setting on my blog.

  3. I have an impression video is the future, so I added a dead-easy manual way to add videos to my site.

It's these small, quick changes that have proven to be the most useful, but it's had an unexpected consequence...

I didn't do a lot of programming this year and it's a shame. One of the greatest joys in (my) life is programming. There's a clear---and positive---reason why I've done less programming this year: my indieblog is stable. Much of the external programming projects were small incremental additions to my blog. There's not much more I feel like adding. I have all the bells and whistles I need to sustain myself for the time being (although there's always maintenance and refactoring to do). Most of the changes I would want to make would require lots of effort. I started this project midway through university. There's a lot of cruft, cowboy code, and naivete to clear out. I don't have the gumption to do it.

I think it's time for a new big project.


On my way home. Back to the algorithmic grindstone.

Porto → Azores → Toronto Pearson International Airport → Edmonton International Airport


Recently, I was invited to give a talk at a philosophy workshop co-located with one of the conferences on interdisciplinary science in Porto. I spent close to two weeks in town. Dylan was in London for a meeting; we were lucky enough to be able to overlap our trips and take a little break in Porto for a few days.

Porto seems like a city in flux. When you talk to locals, they say it was very different five years ago. There's evidence of this in the cityscape. Wandering around parts of porto you'll find brand new developments sprouting out, giving the city a new face.

While the city seems to be growing and changing, by taking a few steps off the path---or, in some cases while staying on the path---you'll find derelict buildings. Walking to my accommodation when I arrived, I spotted a hollowed out building wedged between two still in use. Looking in the vacant windows you could see the roof had fallen in and only a few beams were left. This is the case in some of the more touristy areas as well. Next to some of the major museums, the university, or on your way to one of the port houses, you'll find buildings that are boarded, or with shattered windows.

I'm not sure what the story is there.

One of the reasons to visit Porto is to enjoy the architecture. Many of the city's historic buildings are covered in beautiful tiles. The facades and interiors of public spaces---including churches and train-stations and the like---are covered in scenes that are painted on tiles. The waterfront buildings are vibrant and colourful. You'll find bright buildings with clotheslines air-drying laundry above wine houses with delicious tapas.

There are also many examples of Baroque churches throughout town. These are gilt to excess, putting even spanish churches to shame. I guess that's the historical bounty of pillaging Brazil on display. While impressive, these churches are overwhelming: one was enough for me.

Interestingly, the cathedral is less visually shocking. Situated at the top of the hill overlooking both sides of the river, it's an older, more reserved example. I visited in the hopes of escaping a torrential downpour until the weather cleared. This was an excellent opportunity. While gargoyles have kept watch over many places I've visited, this was the first time that I'd seen one performing it's less spiritual duty: siphoning water away.

While I was aware of the cathedral before making my impromptu visit, I didn't know that one of its towers was open to the public. Clerigos Tower is most frequently suggested by travel guides, but the view from the cathedral is much more grand. Climbing up from the courtyard, you emerge to a panoramic view---possibly the highest in town.

The character of the city's architecture can be found not just in the facades of buildings, but also in the details and construction techniques. Many of the historic buildings in Porto with rich wood panelling actually have no wood at all! For instance, the walls and staircase of the famous bookstore, Livraria Lello, are made from plaster. At first glance, you wouldn't think it. Even when you're primed and looking for examples around town, it's difficult to discern the plaster imposters from the genuine lumber articles. Only when the facades are worn and chipped is it possible to be certain.

The people in Portugal are friendly and patient. They even overwhelmingly tolerated my terrible Portuguese. Some even taught me words so that I could make it through my next order at the local bakery a little more efficiently. Portuguese bakeries are as good as they are prolific. It's easy to start the day by grabbing and espresso and a tart while sitting in in a square.

Dylan and I happened to be visiting Porto during the 2019 Canadian federal election. When we sat down for dinner on the eve of the election, we found that the couple seated next to us at the bar were a couple from Calgary living in Vancouver. It's a small world.



How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?


Exploring a neoclassical stock exchange at night


Sunset over a fortress at the end of the workshop. I learned a lot hanging out with the Porto gang.

There's so much interesting research on perception and embodiment out there. I'm excited to see how it shapes future work in machine intelligence and robotics.

At: DISSELF II and Avant Conference

From 2019-10-23T09:00 To 2019-10-26T12:00


Last leg of the trip

St Pancras railway station → London → Porto


Recently, I was invited to give a talk at a philosophy workshop co-located with one of the conferences on interdisciplinary science in Porto. I spent close to two weeks in town. While I was mostly focused on work, I did have a chance to dip out and explore the city. Here's my thoughts after walking around town. Here's a list of some of the places that stood out:

My Favourite Places to Visit in Porto:

Serralves is a contemporary art museum and one of the best galleries I've ever visited. The curation is fantastic; it gives visitors enough context to understand what the artist and the gallery are trying to communicate, without hand-holding the guests. Even if you're not a fan of modern art, Serralves is worth visiting: there's something for everyone.

The gardens surrounding the gallery are lush, and marked with several installations. In the center of the gardens is a fantastic example of art deco architecture: a house with a fountain leading from a cliff up to the main house.

Centro Portugues de Fotografia isn't a place highlighted by travel guides. It's close to all the tourist hot-spots, but receives much less attention.

It's worth a visit.

The centre for photography is a free museum located in a repurposed prison dating back to 1582. They didn't change much. The inner courtyard is a small square with iron bars for windows. The entrance to many exhibits is through heavy doors and bars.

Not all of the exhibits were worth writing home about, but several were exceptional. locating the gallery in a historic jailhouse gives it quirky charm. On the whole, it's a well curated gem close to where most people will be anyways. What's to lose by stopping by?

The Waterfront in Porto is a great place to wander and explore the city. There's an abundance of colourful buildings and neat narrow streets to explore. If you're willing to step off the tourist track, good, cheap food is abundant.

There's a number of wine houses along the shore of the river: a great place to grab a drink while watching the sun set flanked by Porto's iconic bridges.

A great way to get to the waterfront is to walk behind the Center for Photography to a look-out point of the river. From there, you can take steps that carve into the side of the hill down narrow streets that are decorated with the traditional ceramic tiles found in porto and a smattering of street art.

My Favourite Cafes in Porto

Epoca Porto is a great place for brunch. I had indescribably great eggs on sodabread toast. What was in them? I don't know.

early is a little cafe that seems to be built into an old bank. If you look into the back room, there's an old vault door that's mirrored on the inside. Dylan and I grabbed a bunch of plates to share as nibblies. Their roast cauliflower is the best I've had.

My Favourite Restaurants in Porto

O Calcua is a nice little place close to the centre of town. A group of us went here after the conference I attended, and it was memorably tasty---served family style.

O Comercial is a treasure hidden away in Palacio da Bolsa: a historic stock exchange in the center of town. There's only a handful of tables, so it's a quiet little getaway.

The Overrated

Taylor's Port is the oldest port firm, but it's not worth the trek. If you're interested in boozy drinks, chances are you're probably familiar with winery tours, or have at some point wandered through a distillery. The joy of these tours is getting to see where your favourite libations are made: getting to walk through the process.

You'd think that port--a fortified wine--would be the best of both worlds. Unfortunately, it's little more than a walking tour through one of the historic storehouses. Save yourself the time and drink port at any number of other places in town.

Livraria Lello is a breathtakingly beautiful bookstore. If you are at all interested in visiting, make sure you're one of the first 20 people through the door at the beginning of the day. At any other point in time, it is unbearably packed. It can take two or three minutes to descend the stairs as you weave through all the visitors taking selfies.

While the craftsmanship is excellent, it's near impossible to enjoy when peering through the crowds. It hardly seems safe; I can't imagine how deadly a fire would be with the way they pack tourists in.


En route to Porto via London

Edmonton International Airport → Vancouver International Airport → Gatwick Airport


Misreading some derivations you did months ago and fundamentally questioning whether or not you know what maths is feels like a uniquely grad-school thing.


There's nothing quite like noting the trail of red-scribbles left by your advisor on draft manuscripts are slowly evolving into check marks.

I'm getting better at writing!


‪I’m not sure what it is, but I find even the way I think changes when I have a pen in my hand. It’s one of the reasons why my lab note-book is still a book rather than a tablet. 📚 ‬


This morning, I opted to do something familar: to retread my steps and go back to the renoir for a cup of coffee.

Afterwards, I trekked out to harajuku. I found the famous street and ambled along. Even at 9 A.M. it was already heaving. The streets were bursting at the seams although much of the street was closed.

I have to admit, while some aspects are wild---e.g., rainbow toasties---the street was otherwise unremarkable.

I focused on brahms path and confirmed a suspicion: it is named after the composer. Trundling down brahms path, Being one street removed, really changed the feeling. Even the smell of lush plants growing on the sides of buildings was nice. I charted out the places I wanted to visit and let interest guide me. When I found something unusual or mundane, I let that impulse guide me.

I found so many neat streets---interesting nooks and crannies. I went to a little coffee shop next to shinjuku. It had low ceilings and beautiful heavy wooden seating. I ordered a slice of cake and a pourover.

The couple sitting next to me seemed pleasant. They commented on my choice of cake. We started to chit-chat and I found out that they were from California, from SanFrancisco. One of them did arts and life reviews and commentary.

We chatted about their career, and the sustainability of the arts community in a city being crowded out by tech. They asked me what I did, and I mentioned I was a grad-student studying AI. One of them worked at GoogleBrain. You can never escape. There is no holiday.


This morning, I opted to do something familar: to retread my steps and go back to the renoir for a cup of coffee.

Afterwards, I trekked out to harajuku. I found the famous street and ambled along. Even at 9 A.M. it was already heaving. The streets were bursting at the seams although much of the street was closed.

I have to admit, while some aspects are wild---e.g., rainbow toasties---the street was otherwise unremarkable.

I focused on brahms path and confirmed a suspicion: it is named after the composer. Trundling down brahms path, Being one street removed, really changed the feeling. Even the smell of lush plants growing on the sides of buildings was nice. I charted out the places I wanted to visit and let interest guide me. When I found something unusual or mundane, I let that impulse guide me.

I found so many neat streets---interesting nooks and crannies. I went to a little coffee shop next to shinjuku. It had low ceilings and beautiful heavy wooden seating. I ordered a slice of cake and a pourover.

The couple sitting next to me seemed pleasant. They commented on my choice of cake. We started to chit-chat and I found out that they were from California, from SanFrancisco. One of them did arts and life reviews and commentary.

We chatted about their career, and the sustainability of the arts community in a city being crowded out by tech. They asked me what I did, and I mentioned I was a grad-student studying AI. One of them worked at GoogleBrain. You can never escape. There is no holiday.




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'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



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.


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.


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.


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



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 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!


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 😊 🤖


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.


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.





Huh, in the lab we were talking about the prevalence of cutsey names in machine learning research recently. I wonder how much of that is because competing architectures make up a significant portion of research right now.


I got to drive in a Canadian #autonomouscar today! 🚘 🇨🇦 # sucansummit






In Ann Arbour for #RLDM 👩🏼‍💻


Today in grad-school: robot tea parties.


Someone complimented me on my handshake: apparently it's the best in the room.


Where I'm living for the next two weeks. #yyc


That feeling when you finish a semester and get back to living like a real human being 💀✨


Today in grad-school: brains need 25 watts---the same amount as a light-bulb.


Today in grad-school: French robots reciting Asimov's laws of robotics.


Today in grad school: learning how to play poker really well.


Today in grad-school: students pretending to be dolphins to understand actor-critic reinforcement learning.


Things I did yesterday: throw a large number of pom-poms at my supervisor's head.


The lab telepresence robot is actually being used, and it's kind of weird.

The robot sways to give a life-like sense to the speaker, but it still feels like they're a disembodied head.