Life is a Rabbit Pellet

Ramblings of a Zimbrindian's travels, life, and research.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

An interesting few days

It's a funny thing - I never thought that job interviews were meant to be fun! But the ones I had on Friday (half a dozen 45-minute interviews) were quite enjoyable. It's not certain whether I'll get the job or not, but I had a good time trying to get it, so that's not so bad :)

I was able to work some things out on the plane that I'd been stuck on before, so that was really lekker. Tomorrow I'll write it out more and start designing a c++ program to try it. There are still some options that need to be sorted out though, and I'm going to have to think about them.

I also need to ask GL if max-margin stemml is worth implementing.

In unrelated events, this weekend was a good weekend. It's nice to have friends who can bang some sense into my thick skull :)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Talk done

The past week has been spent on different things, including trying to come up with an iterative algorithm that alternately trains predictors of syllable strength and tone. And writing up a paper for Ndaona - which eventually didnt get submitted as there isnt any $ to go to Hong Kong. (Well, I got a free trip to ICML last year, so I shouldn't complain.)

Gave a talk at the Grad seminar today. Wane brought cake again. I'd promised to bring forks, but forgot. So we had to use the knives in the cupboard - lots of knives, no spoons/forks/sporks. Wane's really looking forward to remind me of this for the next N weeks. N is unlikely to be small.

The talk went reasonably well; perhaps it was of use to some people. It seemed to be of use to the DPers who came. The main thing it did was force me to do a lot of site preparation - I've put up four updates this week, three of them in the last 24 hours. And I made some movies, and found that making video podcasts was pretty easy.

My first vodcast

On a different note, BB just pointed me to Defective Yeti, which has a hilarious RPG up. You are Dubya, and this is your Neverending Story...

The situation in Iraq deteriorates.

Some insurgents arrive.
There is a medium number of insurgents here.

The situation in Iraq deteriorates.

An election year arrives.

Pat Buchanan is here.
Sean Hannity is here.

Compassionate Conservativism
You are right-of-center on the political spectrum.
John McCain is here.
Joseph Leiberman is here.

You get reelected.

Tom DeLay is here.
Michelle Malkin is here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


News from the AAS : NASA's Beyond Einstein movie, which runs for about a quarter of an hour, has about 20 seconds of the animation we made for the SDSS.

Jake's show went on brilliantly. He's good. There were about twenty people in the audience, which was good enough to be a success. There weren't any of Wane's kolackies left afterwards, either.

It's hard to ride a unicycle. He said it took six weeks for him to learn. All I can tell you is that six minutes wasn't enough for me.

Managed to compress a 4.5 page paper to 4 pages, and get some feedback from a couple of people saying it would be a 50% chance of getting it in at ICML as they didn't normally accept papers for making pretty pictures. Looks like it's going to a different conference - and I'm not sure yet how I'm getting the dough to go.

Hun had this idea of going to see Crash, which happened to be playing this week on campus as part of MLK Week. For the first time since I've been here, and probably long before, the U of C is actually treating MLK day as a holiday, which is long overdue. Still, only about 20% of the 80-strong audience was U of C affiliated, Anyway, we (JL and RH and Hun and I) enjoyed Crash very much. But as our emotional input buffers were full, we didnt stay for the post-film discussion. Hun did, though. He must have a big buffer.

Wane unintentionally brought up the interesting philosophical point that rabbit pellets are used for both output and input. Well, you're reading this shit I'm writing, so that's quite a perspichowdoyouspellthatious observation on her part.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

As pointless as a papal pe**s

That lovely quote comes from my #2 favorite comedian, Andy Hamilton a.k.a. Satan. (Sue Perkins will be keeping the #1 slot for the foreseeable future.)

I appear to have volunteered myself for organizing the new graduate student cake talk series. Oh dear. And arm-twisting students to give talks hasn't proved too successful so far. On the other hand, we do have a speaker for the first week - and boy, is he good! In fact, he won't be just speaking - he'll be giving a whole show! Dunno how many cs grad students have juggled for a living before going to grad school, but TTI's got one of them, and he's giving tomorrow's talk.

Please welcome (drumroll), Mr Jake(ster) Abernathy!! [link]

Wane, bless her, volunteered to make kolackies. Life is good - at least this week. Yay! She and LC and I spent a pleasant hour or so (pr'ly mo) chatting about ... mousetraps. Yes, mousetraps were mentioned, can't remember why. And zebras. And fireplaces, and how they existed in Zimbabwe even though the temperature never went below freezing. And rules of American football (I couldn't figure out why there had to be only one quarterback) and rugby (Wane didnt know you weren't allowed to pass the ball forwards there) and soccer (LC said the circle in the middle only had one rule, at kickoff) and Australian football (two rules: 1 - it begins, 2 - it ends).

What else? Oh yeah, on the python-alligator battle reported last year. The moral of that story being "Don't bite off more than you can chew" (my staid description) or "Don't bite off anything that can chew through you" (Wane's far more picturesque version).

Anyway, after that I went back to writing the Ndaona paper - trying to edit five pages down to four. After five hours, I'm pretty close to there... and now I'm wondering if it's worth submitting to another conference where papers can be longer. Maybe I can do both, if I spin it differently enough.

Oh, and I talked with Gnaw about her thesis, and produced some Praat screenshots of Mandarin tone recognition problems, like the one above. I need some for my thesis too, as well.

BBC comedy awards...

Listened to Tom Allen win the BBC New Comedy Awards (though I thought James Branch was funnier) on the BBC website. [Listen Here]. Tom's got very Blair-ish stocatto impression, and will probably go a long way. It's interesting that the two runners up are having midlife career changes!

A few days ago Liverpool beat Luton 5-3 in an extraordinary match, with Xabi Alonso scoring two rather long-range efforts. Unfortunately, the Beeb only provides a 3d replay of the shorter effort. The longer effort was from behind the halfway line - and, what's really amazing, was that a fan dreamed that he Alonso would do it! Surprisingly, the bookies only gave him 125-1 odds against it. Still, it did win him 25 grand. And that's sterling.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Good weekend...

I really like the BBC Virtual Replay site. It's a nice way for the Beeb to get around paying royalties to Sky or whoever controls the TV rights for the Premiership, is well recreated, and is a lot more interesting than just watching videos. Now if we could just get table tennis matches recreated like this...

Anyway, Gero and I went to Lolo's and Ian's place yesterday with a Shona-speaking murungu grad student; we had a great time! And all the good food that Ian (and their neighbor Jo) made came out really well. We finished it off today. Our first attempt to duplicate their veggies failed, unfortunately. Gero says we should add more garlic and use olive oil instead of the cheap frying oil we tried.

Jo had several interesting stories, which certainly sound very plausible. Like the time he met Ronald Reagan... apparently his neighbor was the Gipper's secretary when he was head of the screen actor's guild, but couldn't move to Sacramento or Washington for future posts as her husband had cancer and was bedridden. But Ronnie would visit her when he was in town, and on one of those occasions, his neighbor invited him over. Jo's a lifelong democrat and didnt agree with m/any of Reagan's policies, but in two hours of pleasant chat, politics never came up. A very nice guy, Mr Reagan was, and at least the sports-talking parts of his noggin weren't preprogrammed.

Jo also claimed to have met Barbara Bush (who said that George Sr hated the family dog as it shat all over the White House - and yes, she did say shit) and John Holmes (while he was in prison - Jo was a parole officer at the time). Dunno if he was shitting us or not, but I believe him.

Today was a relaxing day. I decided the day beforehand that I was going to take Sunday off, and stayed late in bed. Very late. Then I spent the whole day reading a book (Double Whammy) that Terry Pratchett had recommended .

Tomorrow, it's back to work.

Saturday, January 07, 2006


Watched Munich with JL and The Jake yesterday. Good 'historical fiction' film, even though I didn't quite understand the bit at the end where the wife of the hero, who's living in New York at the time, is complaining about her kitchen being too large.

Eric Bana's acting is great, and Daniel Craig (right) has an Afrikaans accent that brought back good memories. And I didn't realize at the time that Craig's the new Bond.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Eels in Nose Juice

A couple of days ago I found something using Yahoo Search and not Google Search, namely the complete text of a Pratchett book I'd been reading. Today I found that neither Google nor Yahoo can find my other blog but that MSN Search can.

Happened to discuss an old friend-would-not-be-the-right-word of mine with someone recently. He wanted to know what my opinion of the said person was. We soon both concluded that we had the same opinion of the guy - a not-on-the-level managerial-type shyster of a salesman more slippery than an eel in a bucket of nose-juice --- who was therefore perfect for the job.

The character assassination completed, I asked my co-conspirator where he'd picked up the nose-juice phrase from; he said it was a literal translation by one of his Nederlanden friends of a Dutch phrase that had been indelibly seared into his memory.

The Cosmus group met today and agreed to make more movies. Mark's taking a Video iPod and a PSP to the AAS Gadgets and Gizmos session, the AstroViz Birds of a Feather session, the presentation of our movie, in addition to things of interest to his research. He's agonnabe busy...

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Misc stuff

Top 100 US Box-Office Movies ... Titanic's still at number one, earning more than the GDP of twenty small island states.

Freshman makes a million bucks for a cluttered webpage

Helped OA with a visualization problem - and we found something we hadn't seen before! More on this exciting development later....

Cricketer slips in shower, dislocates shoulder, can't represent country

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The great plan I had on using focus to predict tone... just flopped. Doesn't work on noisy data. Fcuk. (Good thing I can rely on my dad to censor this before it gets to my mum.) This throws a wrench into my thesis plans - fortunately, there's Plan B. And C. And D. And E and F will return soon from their honeymoon.

Having finished and enjoyed Going Postal and Thud! recently, I went to the Lspace site, and read some of the Master's Words. Terry's got some good points... in answer to one question about whether his stint in journalism helped him write, he says

"Yes, Dave Gemmell and Neil Gaiman were both journalists. So was Bob Shaw. So was I. It's good training because:

1) any tendency to writers' block is burned out of you within a few weeks of starting work by unsympathetic news editors;

2) you very quickly learn the direct link between writing and eating;

3) you pick up a style of sorts;

4) you get to hang around in interesting places;

5) you learn to take editing in your stride, and tend to be reliable about deadlines;

6) you end up with an ability to think at the keyboard and reduce the world to yourself and the work in hand -- you have to do this to survive in a world of ringing telephones and shouting sub-editors.

None of this makes you talented or good, but it does help you make the best of what you've got."

He also goes on (backwards in time) to say

For more than three years I wrote more than 400 words every day. I mean, every calendar day. If for some reason, in those pre-portable days, I couldn't get to a keyboard, I wrote hard the previous night and caught up the following day, and if it ever seemed that it was easy to do the average I upped the average. I also did a hell of a lot of editing afterwards but the point was there was something there to edit. I had a more than full-time job as well. I hate to say this, but most of the successful (well, okay... rich) authors I know seem to put 'application' around the top of the list of How-to-do-its. Tough but true."

"Application? Well, it means... application. The single-minded ability to knuckle down and get on with it, as they say in Unseen University library."

Alright, I'm starting to write my thesis today. (Once I phone home.)

PS: I'm thinking of calling myself Beel.

Short for Beelzebub.

Just to friends, though.