Saturday, December 9, 2006

Climate Update

So, being someone that studies data graphics, I have to admit the ones I produced about the climate don't tell the whole story. Annual cycles are not going to follow my plots -- they are multi-year averages. Averages are pretty meaningless without standard deviations. I've received a few emails asking me to update my blog with the current weather.

Calgary: -3oC, Toronto, -5oC, St. John's, 0oC

It's pretty warm here right now. Then again, it's also still warm in the other cities I've lived.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Calgary is freakin' COLD

I'm so bad at keeping up with this blog. Lot's of interesting things have been happening -- for more on that, read someone else's blog. :)

So, I've been in Calgary for about 6 weeks now. It's been great -- the iLab has a lot going for it. Great people, great equipment, nice atmosphere, amazing research, but man it's cold.

Everyone I talk to says "oh, you're from Newfoundland, it's sooo cold there" or the same blah blah about Toronto.

Well, here are the facts: Calgary is COLDER!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

more tarako

I would run away from these creepy dolls that look like they are straight out of a Margaret Atwood dystopian novel.
the curse of the tarako

Japanese TV is so strange... this is creepy and mesmerizing at the same time. Worse, there are more like this, each stranger than the next, all advertising spagetti called "Tarako", which means fish roe.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

New Media Headaches

Back from Newfoundland, where I was "unplugged" for 3 glorious full days. 150 email messages and a website update later, I've caught up.

I've been reading blogs, watching YouTube, and yes, also reading the newspaper (online) recently and I'm amazed by the hubbub about the changes to FaceBook. I don't even have a FaceBook page. I think I was once on Friendster and Orkut, but that was years ago. Between Google Talk, MSN, Flickr, Blogger, my personal website, and oh yeah, work, I can barely keep up. I stopped by my friend Jeremy's office the other day and saw that he has a FaceBook page. I came back here to my office and thought "I should have a FaceBook page too". 10 minutes later, anxiety ridden at the prospect of another website I would have to maintain, I bailed on that. I'm in computer science, and I find it easier to keep up with cutting edge academic research than with the latest online craze. What's worse, my colleagues in Knowledge Media Design, and the best up and coming researchers in my field all manage to do it somehow. I think my need to join these things comes from some strange need to fit in with these prominent young researchers, not really from a desire to broadcast my (boring) self even more. It's a similar feeling to meeting a student who excells in every class, has a huge network of friends, leads a charity he created when he was 8, and gives sold-out piano recitals in his spare time. You wonder, where the hell do these people get the time?

I know there is a lot of research going on right now about the level of connection we have to computers and the resulting disconnection from real life. I also have read lots of research examining the intricate social networks people build using new media. Another avenue to investigate could be new media and "keeping up with the Jones'". I'll volunteer as a subject.

Academia sometimes feels not that different from high school. There are still pressures to fit in: have a nice laptop, have stories about exotic travels around the world ready to tell on demand, use words like "disaffected" in regular conversation (I was called "disaffected" this week and had to look it up on WordNet), and now, at least in my area, you should have a plethora of up-to-date social webpages. Oh, and keep up with the latest novels too. I guess social networking could benefit research if you could create a community of like-minded researchers to discuss ideas, but breaking the barriers to connecting to strangers online is as intimidating to me as walking up to famous researchers at a conference coffee break.

My partner is at the other extreme: he hates getting emails and refuses any other sort of internet connection. I envy him too, but I'm somewhere stuck in the middle.

[Update: 25 November, 2006... I'm now on FaceBook! :) ]

Thursday, August 3, 2006

The file is attached...

Just when I thought I had invented something revolutionary, a Google search deflates the sails. Ever send an email saying "The file you asked for is attached." Then press send and go "oh crap" and send a second message, with the file? Or worse yet, wait hours then get a confused message back: "you forgot the attachment".

In computational linguistics we are obsessed with evermore complex analyses of language, but a simple keyword spotting algorithm could help millions of people remember their attachments. Just scan for the prefix "attach" and warn the user attempts to send without any attachment.

Turns out a couple of people have made Thunderbird extensions that do this. Too bad I just switched to managing all my mail with Gmail. Why don't all the providers do this simple trick? It could be enhanced to work very well with some simple language models (e.g. ignore "attachment" if it modifies another noun like "hose attachment", ignore "attach" if it appears in quotes, etc.).

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

My old blog...

It only has 5 posts, but you can see it at

PhinisheD: The New Me!

So today I discovered Finally a bunch of people having similar experiences in grad school. Today was also the start of "new me" which is actually a return to "old me". I've realized that to be happy and get work done, I actually have to work less and have more fun. So, time to make time for friends, yoga, meditation, long bike rides (thanks Jeremy for suggesting routes), and getting up early.

Let's see how long this lasts... hopefully going to Calgary for the fall will help shake things up a bit.