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14.5 miles (somewhat to our surprise since it was the shortest section - but we carried on to Avebury at the end and we weren't suicidal enough to take the shortest route via the main road so there was a bit of a detour through East and West Kennet before we ended up at one of the avenues leading into Avebury).

B walking along a large earth work bank

More Under the Cut )

A Digression into B&Bs )
purplecat: The family on top of Pen Y Fan (General:Walking)
19.5 miles (give or take) in seven and a half hours. The Ridgeway has far fewer interesting Roman Forts with attached tea rooms and the direction of travel is hugely obvious so we lost hardly any time to either sight-seeing or consulting the map. As a result our guesstimate of the time it would take us to do today's walk turned out to be over-pessimistic.

My feet were complaining slightly suspiciously at about 12 miles, so I aggressively applied compeed plasters and they seem to be fine now. So 20 miles and no blisters.

Most of the day looked like this.

More pictures under the cut )
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
While I was in Texas an old friend and his wife took me out for the day including a trip around Texas' Capitol

Piccies Under the Cut )
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (academia)
At the start of March I spent 2 Days in Washington at a slightly odd workshop on Incorporating Ethics into Artificial Intelligence. I knew, from following [livejournal.com profile] gregmce on Strava, that there was a nice looking run around the National Mall and so most of the photos below are from that - often early in the morning because Jet-Lag.

Picspam Under the Cut )
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A final few miscellaneous images of Delft. Including some of medical instruments, just to warn those who may not like such things.

Under the Cut )
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
I've been in Delft for the past two weeks for work reasons but I was able to spend the weekend doing touristy things. I've got quite a few photos, but I need to pack this evening so I'm only posting a handful now. Maybe more later. I also had to take selfies for Corporate Communications, so I may be posting a link to that at some point.

Pictures under the Cut )
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (agents)
The weekend before last, I flew out for a one day workshop on AI and Ethics as part of the American Assocation for Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) conference. I will probably blog about that in more detail soon, but I've suddenly ended up on the radar of Liverpool University's Corporate Communications unit (I think because of my two appearances on Radio Merseyside making soothing noises about the imminent rise of the machines) and so they want me to run something past them first for potential publicity generating reasons.

Those following along on Facebook got a front row seat of my 4am discovery (I had jet lag) that all my flights home had been cancelled since they went through New York JFK and the resulting conversion of a crisis into a minor irritation when, in an entirely unexpected fit of competence and efficiency the departmental purchasing team managed to get everything rebooked onto a wonderfully empty British Airways flight. The minor irritation was was the 8 hour wait to check-in at Austin airport and the frustration of knowing I had just purchased a special "Priority Pass" card that would have let me spend those 8 hours in a first class lounge if only I had been able to get a boarding card and get through security to reach the lounge.

Photos of the Hotel under the cut )

The workshop was interesting, and certainly worth attending. It would probably have been more sensible to stay the whole week and go to the conference as well but I have another paper deadline looming.


Sep. 5th, 2014 08:46 pm
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I went to Prague for the European Conference on Artificial Intelligence. I did not get ripped off by any taxi drivers - the websites I consulted about an hour before I left for the airport warned strenuously against trusting taxi drivers in Prague but it was too late, by that point, to order the hotel shuttle service to pick me up. As it was I ordered a taxi from a booth at the airport for a firm the Internet grudgingly allowed to be usually OK and was ferried to my hotel for a third of the price the shuttle service would have charged.

My schedule was pretty packed but, having established that the conference dinner was on the opposite side of Prague to the hotel, I decided there was probably time between the final conference session of the day and the dinner for about an hour's wander, particularly if I took the metro to the city centre. As it was I got a bit confused about timings, missed the final session of the day and found myself in the centre of Prague with about three hours to kill - just as most tourist attractions shut for the evening. However I was armed with the Lonely Planet guide book that my boss had thrust into my hands as I was leaving Liverpool.

You are spared most of my photos because my iPhone really wasn't up to the light conditions.

Clock )

Prague Castle )

Hrad čany )
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (academia)
A couple of weeks ago I once again enjoyed the "sensible arrangements" (seemingly limitless alcohol on an honesty system) at Schloss Dagstuhl. It occurs to me to marvel, slightly, at the way the Dagstuhl staff ruthlessly organise us. Seminar leads endlessly entreat us not to be late for lunch, supper, morning coffee or afternoon cake and there is the ritual of writing your abstract by hand into the book of abstracts.

This was a particularly successful Dagstuhl from my point of view and I came away with an invitation to give a talk, a revelation about a paper two of us were currently working on, discussions that may lead to two further papers, not to mention a list of references to check out that may be useful for my work.

The seminar itself was slightly derailed when a logician* announced that he couldn't possibly discourse sensibly on the topic without a formal definition of coordination. A working group was set up to come up with such a definition with... moderate success? Accounts suggest the working group spent a lot of time not talking to each other or, at least, all working individually on their own and then having 5 minutes intense argument at the end of the session. I rather liked one of the definitions they came up with but apparently no one else did.

There were three working groups in total but the other two quickly combined, together with some refugees from the "let's define coordination" working group. We decided to tackle the rather easier question of how you should go about engineering a solution to a coordination problem. We were aided in this by the discovery that our meeting room had an entire wall that functioned as a white board** with which we (well I, because I appropriated the whiteboard pens) had a lot of fun.

Pictures under the Cut )

*I was tempted to write a Russian logician since most good logicians in Computer Science are Russian. However this particular logician was Bulgarian with a Ukranian surname (and a family history involving the White Army) who was about to move from Denmark to Sweden. So I'll just go with "a logician".

**This probably also counts as a sensible arrangement.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
I think the Museo di Storia Naturale deserves a post all of its own since it was the most unexpected treasure we visited in Venice. I picked it out of the guide book because it was listed as "good for children" and had some dinosaurs in it so I felt that it had pretty much something for all the family.

It took a bit of finding, once again much aided by Google maps and despite being in the guidebook it was obviously not part of the regular tourist trail. We mostly had the place to ourselves while the rest of Venice was not quite packed with people but well on the way to being so. All the labels were in Italian. However I'd been teaching myself Italian using the Duolingo app in my mobile phone* and B. knows a lot of natural history so between us we managed.

It is not a huge natural history collection but it has been presented spectacularly. Someone involved had, in particular, a real flair for lighting. Several of the rooms were also organised by collector rather than subject matter which was quite fun, giving you a sense of one man's interests. It also allowed them to play with having very traditional style display cases (though I strongly suspect even these were of modern design) in some rooms, with more modern presentations based around themes like flight or underwater in other rooms.

We embarrassed the little one by taking loads and loads of photos.

Loads and Loads of Photos )

*interestingly the level of Italian I'd acquired proved to be well up to reading descriptions in museums, but less good for interacting with waiters. About halfway through our stay it suddenly gave me the word for the bill (il conto) which did makes things a lot easier.


Jun. 24th, 2013 05:48 pm
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I've been volunteering, on and off, as a DreamWidth developer for about eighteen months - ever since I saw a post saying how easy DW was to volunteer for compared to other Open Source projects. I had the advantage, of course, of having programmed in Perl before, and some experience finding my way around other people's code bases. On the other hand, I've never worked on a project with a large team, let alone one that expected to put comparatively polished pieces of code out into an actual live production environment (academia, with a few notable exceptions, very much takes the view that code development ends at the point where you upload a prototype and say "feel free to use it if you're interested" or even, "it worked once, on my machine, which totally means it counts as a scientific result". User support generally ends somewhere around that point as well.)

Since DreamWidth takes its volunteers very seriously, they offered to pay (at least in part) for any volunteer who had submitted a patch in the last year, to go to a Perl Programming tech conference in Texas. YAPC::NA, to be precise. In a piece of classic programmer humour, that stands for "Yet Another Perl Conference: North America" - which is not a joke that is worth explaining.

Git for Ages 4 and Up )

YAPC Itself )

Bats )

Visiting the Servers )
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
I have written about Schloss Dagstuhl before. I do rather like the place, so seized another opportunity to go when one presented itself. I will not bore you all with the details of Verifying and Testing Multi-Agent Systems. I think the most interesting aspects, for me, were getting a better handle on some of the logics for reasoning about multi-agent systems, and getting a better look at some of the other model-checkers out there. There was also an interesting session on devising good examples for the specification and verification of multi-agent systems and, with luck, there may be some concrete outcomes from that.

However I will talk about the hike. The Hike )
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
At the end of march I went to a conference in Tallinn, Estonia. It was actually a really good conference and I came away with lots of thoughts though I'm not really intending to blog about them since they are along the lines of "more efficient ways to generate Büchi Automata" which I suspect won't mean much to my flist. Though there was an interesting and more generally accessible talk about load balancing in the German national grid with a side order on getting more trains onto a single European train track which I may give an overview of at some point (*stares dubiously at list of "things it might be interesting to blog about" which has grow scarily long of late*)

Anyway, I actually think my boss was a little bemused by my sudden enthusiasm for foreign travel when this came up. Our group was approached by one of the attached workshops and asked if anyone would like to give a talk and he rather dubiously passed the question on and asked if anyone was interested in going. Normally I'm not terribly excited at the prospect of spending a week away from home, but I'd seen pictures of Tallinn and it looked terribly pretty.

I was not disappointed. Gratuitously long Picspam under the cut )
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
I was really just in Taiwan for the conference, arriving the evening before it started and going directly to the airport from the venue when it ended so I didn't have any time for sight-seeing. However I did take a couple of photos.

Under the Cut )

My hotel was very western and charged accordingly. But elsewhere we were all amazed how cheap things were. In the "expensive" food court below the Taipei 101 where I had lunch every day, I could get a four course meal for the equivalent of £2.50. Similarly the bus I caught to take me to the airport (roughly a 40 minute drive along motoways) also cost £2.50. The conference banquet was a nine course meal with no rice or noodle dishes. We were told that this was because it was an expensive dinner and to have served rice or noodles would have suggested they couldn't afford to feed us properly.

Most of my other impessions are very fragmentary; glimpses of other people's lives as we were ferried to and from conference events and too brief to really draw conclusions from. Early in the morning you could see the staff in the little workshops the bus drove past, all lined up and standing to attention as their manager gave them their instructions for the day. Everywhere there was evidence of cheap labour, from the fact that all the bus seats had clean antimacassars on them which were presumably replaced and washed regularly. All the hoardings surrounding building works were decorated with hanging baskets of plants which were watered every morning. Every road crossing (at least in the posh business area where the conference was) was accompanied by a traffic policeman who would blow his whistle and direct commuters and traffic. The traffic itself, reminded me most of Italian traffic with hundreds of apparently suicidal moped riders of every kind from businessmen in suits, to teenage boys with their girlfriends riding pillion, through little old ladies going shopping. Almost ubiquitous piped Western classical music seemed to follow us wherever we went. At first I thought this was a particular obsession with Vivaldi's Four Seasons but it turned out to be a little more wide-ranging than that, but I've no idea what this signified beyond that places like westernised hotels, airports, conference centres and prestige shopping malls considered it appropriate muzak.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/43307.html.


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