soap, legos, vodka, taxes

Last night was the siggraph paper deadline. For the last couple weeks, more than a dozen people were working non-stop on their projects. Every day was like the day before a big deadline: working from morning late into night, barely stopping for food or sleep. Every night, people ordered food for delivery. Near the end, the lab even paid for most of the ordered meals. At least one person was sleeping in the lab each night this week.

It was quite stressful, though (in the end) fun. My paper was mostly finished a couple weeks ago, so I was spending every possible hour making demos. For one demo, I built a specialized camera rig out of legos. For another project, Max Planck helped manufacture soap.

The only break I've had was a pleasant evening with Julia last week. This week I was so busy I didn't even have time to check the web for each day's news.

There was no reason to finish early, since it's always possible to make more impressive/difficult/ambitious demos. So everyone worked up until a few hours before the deadline (3am eastern time). Around midnight, most people felt satisfied with their papers and videos, so the lab area turned into a party with lots of drinking and chocolate. One of the professors had a shot of vodka after the 3am deadline was past. The party didn't wrap up until nearly 6, since most people were so wired on caffeine and so used to not sleeping.

Waking up today, life suddenly seems to have changed. Boring tasks like walking to the student financial center to pay a bill are suddenly wonderful and refreshing, simply because I can take my time. It's a rather shocking discontinuity, like being released from jail. Suddenly I have so much freedom, I don't know what to do with it. I can go to parties, to ny, to sf, to europe, all without any concern.

I can finally do all the things I've wanted to do but couldn't until after the project was done: hanging out with people, playing squash, buying shoes, writing a phd proposal, snowboarding, finding a local band for my next video project, writing software to predict the stock market, sorting my photos, and even doing my taxes!

Chemicals, mice, and money

a) I'm still struggling with caffeine withdrawal. My body prefers 0.5 cans a day rather than 1 can every other day, but the later is more practical. This is definitely screwing with my sleep schedule.

b) One Friday night a few weeks ago, I wrote the core of my Ph.D. algorithm after having a non-trivial amount of beer. I later found one stupid beer-induced bug, but other than that the code works fine. Now I just need to decide how much longer I want to remain a grad student.

c) I'll be in MN during Mouser Week IV. I should try to attend, even though Mouser won't be there.

d) I saw a very small (not full-grown) mouse today on the way back from the office. It stood motionless for a while as I looked at it. It was very cute. I momentarily considered picking it up and bringing it home as a pet.

e) I contributed to the Clark campaign. If Dean ends up getting nominated, I'll contribute to him as well. Donating money seems to be a reasonable way to buy small amounts of happiness. (The happiness one obtains by contributing money lasts longer than happiness from buying food, entertainment, or physical items.)

f) My contribution was unfortunately rather small because I'm trying to save up for my future as a struggling artist. Anyone have any ideas for a good way to invest my savings? Given how much the market has gone up recently, I don't want to gamble on it going up further, but I also don't want to gamble on it going down.

assorted sorted notes

1. I'm trying (again) to kick my caffeine habit. Down to 0.5 cans of soda per day.

2. I have about half a terabyte of research data. It would be nice (but not really practical) to back it up.

3. I need to pick a minor. Film/media/design classes at Harvard would be ideal. Perhaps instead I should study the human visual system (or some other kind of brain/cognitive science) here at mit.

4. I'm skeptical that I'll complete 2 good siggraph papers before Jan 21.

5. I'll be in MN from Dec 25 through Jan 6. It's too bad there aren't better snowboarding places there.

6. Went to dinner tonight with a small group that included one of the visual effects guys for the Matrix movies. He got an oscar for his earlier bullet time work and has since done some nifty stuff with the newer matrices. Must brag about that.

7. I must remember to buy a book on Shake 3.

should post more than once per year

I've finished my master's thesis. (Realistically it will need some modifications before the thesis deadline (which is still more than a month away), but as far as I'm concerned, it's done!)

Now I need to work on my siggraph paper and finish two other research projects, all while TAing. (Despite taking far too much time, the only part of TAing that is terribly difficult is avoiding getting covered in chalk.)

This summer's west coast tour will probably take place in mid-July or early August, stopping at san diego, LA, and SF. I think the trip to idaho will be separate.


I'm not planning to post to this very often, but I suppose this is worth it.

The siggraph conference content is amazing: the quantity and quality of it all seems much higher than any other conference I've attended. The computer animations we're particularly cool, including a lot of oscar-level animations and special effects demos from various movies. Unlike most academic conferences, siggraph also has a exhibition floor, complete with lots of fun gadgets (3D displays, live motion-capture systems, 3D scanners), big companies (nvidia, intel, etc.) and a larger number of special effects/filmmaking companies. The whole thing is really inspiring me to get some real work finished for the next siggraph.

Then there's the socializing. Every evening has sponsored parties with free food and drinks at some hotel patio with a pool. When people aren't at the parties, they're jumping between bars and clubs. All week, every night, there's partying until 4am or later. (After the clubs close at 2am or 3am, you can sneak into a hotel pool or go out to eat at a 24-hour place.)

The best bars and clubs are packed into one small part of San Antonio: last night I was sitting at one table with my office mate, his drunken professor, a U. W. professor, and a berkeley grad student, then walked 20 feet to where Monzy and Cuban were getting drinks, then walked 20 more feet to a group of berkeley friends, then walked 20 more feet to Lydia, one of her ILM friends, and a group of ILM bigwigs. I also hung out with some MIT media lab people, and some georgia tech people (friends of a guy in my lab)... though they weren't in a 20-foot radius that night. It was all very fun.