While the November weather was uncharacteristically calm in Pittsburgh, my schedule seems to be continuing its rampage toward an ever more chaotic and geographically-disparate frontier. As I struggle to pin down any sort of blogging schedule–much less a regular one–I’ll once again take you through my efforts in the past month in egregious and painstaking detail.
The Lady and I attended the 2011 rendition of ApacheCon, this year held in Vancouver, BC. I was scheduled to give a 45-minute presentation on my work with Apache Mahout, and the Lady would be there to have fun and enjoy the city on my behalf while I freaked out about the presentation. And keep me sane and generally be the wonderful and supportive girlfriend she has been for the last five years.
Neither of us had been to Vancouver before, and I kept hearing in the weeks leading up to the conference that “you won’t want to come home!”
ApacheCon took good care of us: they put us up in the swank Westin Bayshore with a glorious overlook of the bay area. Over the course of the ensuing days, I attended some very interesting talks and also gave my own. Following the conclusion of the conference, the Lady and I stayed a few extra days to be tourists.
Of particular note, we impulse-registered for a 5k that happened to be within walking distance of our hotel. It was the first night race I’d ever run, had the greatest technical shirt I’ve ever received (see picture in the next section), and was the first race I’ve done in Vancouver. Check out the Lady’s race report for the full scoop on that awesome, awesome race.
We did a ton of other stuff while in town–rented bikes and rode around the gorgeous Stanley Park snapping pictures, went for runs around the city to check out the sites, indulged in local restaurants, spent an afternoon at the nearby Vancouver aquarium–and managed to see a paltry fraction of what the city has to offer. We fully plan on returning at some point in the future for a significantly longer period of time. It was wonderful…even in the Pacific Northwest weather of constant rain and cloud cover.
I spent this year’s turkey-slaughtering holiday in Ohio with the Lady and her lovely family. We made sure to earn our turkey and ran a 4M local turkey trot (the Lady’s race report). The holiday was a bit of a whirlwind: we only get a few days off, and while in town we wanted to see as many folks as we possibly could. This equated to many late nights out socializing and enjoying others’ company, but also a net loss of sleep that came back to haunt us when the new work week began.
One benefit, though, was enjoying not one, but two Thanksgiving feasts. Oh yeah. We ate that much food. And it was glorious.
We returned from this trip exhausted, but thoroughly satisfied. It was wonderful to see so many people (in particular, a childhood friend of the Lady’s who is now expecting her and her husband’s first child!) and catch up with them, even if only for a couple days. Christmas will hopefully be similar, though spread over a longer period of time so as to actually allow sleep in the schedule.
Grant proposals and why I insist on torturing myself
Graduate school has been busy as ever, and is the chief culprit behind my inability to establish a blogging rhythm. My intermediate statistics course has been bruising, but manageable. I’ve been working on deploying a new website (from scratch) that allows some of our collaborators to upload their data and have it analyzed automatically, and that’s been pretty neat (though time-consuming: at some point I’ll need to go back and rewrite the site in a formal framework).
For now, our collaborators can upload their raw data (usually videos), and a bunch of code I wrote in the background will analyze it, computing useful metrics like frequency, rotation, and stretching. The front-end is written in PHP (only because I can prototype it really fast, I swear!…and because I’ve all but forgotten how to use J2EE and Hibernate…), with the back-end analysis done in Python. Here’s my favorite, favorite line of Python code I wrote in the analysis step:
max_curl = np.mean(np.sort(curl.flatten())[int(0.95 * np.size(curl)):np.size(curl) - 1])
Oh yeah. That’s right. Now, tell me what it does so I can document it.
But what has been truly taking up my time–and what I will return to upon completing this entry–is my first-ever grant proposal. We’re writing a huge proposal to work in conjunction with some folks at CMU@Qatar for access to their cloud computing platform. If you listen to my ApacheCon presentation, or even take a quick read through the slide deck, you’ll have a pretty good idea as to what the project will be about.
The proposal is due in its entirety later tonight. Midnight, to be exact. We’ve gone through 14 versions of edits over the last two weeks, and with a lot of luck and a whole lot more time, version 15 will be the star-studded, bulletproof final version that will sail through the approval process and fund our work for the next few years…
So as of midnight tonight, I will be celebrating having one exceptionally stressful and time-intensive item completed…and will move on to studying for my statistics final exam, which is next Monday morning.
To my faithful readers: doesn’t this sound like the life? Don’t you just want to drop everything you’re doing and enter the nearest PhD program?
Concluding remarks, for what it’s worth
To be clear: when I actually have time to do research, it’s so much fun. I have the freedom to work on some extremely interesting problems (and write lines of code like the one above that, really, should be 10 lines of code), look at what other people have done, and talk with some incredibly bright people. But right now there’s significant overhead that simply has to be dealt with. Hopefully swiftly.
I have had a tiny bit of time to myself: been catching up on L4D2 (see screenshot), and also purchased Civilization V at the behest of basically everybody I’ve ever met. I must admit: I played Sins of a Solar Empire for quite awhile and enjoyed it immensely. Civ V feels extremely similar, though the turn-based aspect is taking some getting used to. The research and build trees are also far, far more branchy, and it’s taking some time to figure out the optimal paths for a given strategy (which is usually the Scientific Win; what can I say, I love science! Even when I play games!).
Once the proposal and the final exam are complete, I will have some more time to do my part to stave off the zombie apocalypse while simultaneously expanding my science-embracing empire to all corners of the earth. At least, I’ll have time for this for a little while, until I have to start work on a technical report that is to be submitted by the time this larger proposal goes under review, as the proposal cites the technical report.
HOORAYYYY. I leave you with a lolcat.