31 July, 2009

To Singapore

Filed under: Student life,Travels by Joel @ 6:03 pm, 31 July 2009.

I’ve neglected this blog for quite a while, but as one does on long flights, I might as well say hello. Yes, I’m flying again, for the third international trip this year. This is in great violation of an ideal I’d conjured up a few years ago: that international travel should be minimal and efficient.

On that scale, perhaps it’s not as terrible as Athens in April (it’s a shorter flight — the shortest I’ve made out from Australia — for a slightly longer stay), but it is another quick-and-dirty conference trip. I’m out of Sydney for 10 days, for the Conference of the Association for Computational Linguistics. (The astute will note this is similar to the last conference title, but lacking “European Chapter of the”.)

While slightly up on the flight efficiency, there is less reason for me to attend, as I’m not presenting any papers, just supporting my co-authors who are. I have my name on two papers in the ACL Workshop on Collaboratively Constructed Semantic Resources, which, for the jargon-uninitiated, basically means “research using wikis to help computers understand language”.

But I do hope to see and taste a bit of the city too. Singapore’s taste sensation is sorely limited by my choice of diet. Fortunately, there are many vegetarian restaurants which should suffice, and a Jewish community centre not far from my hostel or the conference site. At 42km long by 23km deep, about half of which is built up, most places I might want to go aren’t exceedingly far (thanks to Fisher Library‘s Lonely Planet collection for providing geography tidbits).

Sadly, I’ve booked my return flight for the morning of the 9th of August, not realising it is Singapore National Day, one of the highlights of the calendar. If only I’d arranged to stay a few more hours… (and maybe it still can be arranged? is it worth it?)

As a perk on the side, I had not realised that I would also be travelling further west in Australia than I’ve ever been. On the flight, I happened to want to know the time, and turned on the only reliable channel on the barely-renovated 1980s inflight entertainment system of Singapore Air’s Boeing 737-400, which pinned its pixelated aeroplane icon at Uluru. This surprised me, as I’ve previously only travelled northward to Asia. So I’ve finally been to Central Australia (not that I could see it from row G). Next time I should make a stop-off.

2 April, 2009

Talking syntax at Syntagma

Filed under: Europe,Student life by Joel @ 6:28 pm, 2 April 2009.

I’m in Athens for a week. It’s the shortest trip I’ve ever made out of Australia, with a day’s padding on either side for travel. I’m here for the 12th Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics, a small mouthful, like many titles of the papers being presented here.

Conferences are all about communication and learning, but I feel like the main thing I’m learning is how to attend conferences. My supervisor considers that having spent a lot of money to get here, we should make sure we see as much of the conference as possible. Other people seem to think, that having spent so much to get here, one should make sure to see as much of the city as possible. It’s a matter of learning to know which sessions to take off and get out to see the city. And I’m apparently a slow learner, and have seen almost nothing of it, which means I’ll be cramming it into the next three days.

And then there’s the idea that once I’ve travelled halfway across the world, I should at least stay here for a little longer than a week. I was bound by two major concerts last week and Pesach (which I enjoy spending with my family in Sydney) next week, but I still feel guilty to be hopping back on a jet so soon.

And of course I could do with learning a little better how to present a paper. I gave my presentaton on Analysing Wikipedia and Gold-Standard Corpora for NER Training yesterday afternoon. Having gone over-time in my practice runs, I cut it down a little on stage. Apparently too much. The session chair didn’t need to hold up a single warning sign. Still, it left more time for questions, which showed people were interested, and I’ve had many compliments on an interesting presentation. I also need to work on fluency a little, but my supervisor tells me I’m much improved…

The learning curve’s a little steep. There are many PhD students here who seem to be becoming naturals at conference-going. Soon by me?

PS: I’m not really doing much on syntax myself; nor is the conference actually at Syntagma Square, the focal point of modern Athens…
PPS: Typed on my new MacBook.

1 March, 2007

One person’s rubbish is another person’s…

Filed under: Montreal,Student life by Joel @ 2:35 am, 1 March 2007.

I’ve been catching up slowly on the blog of Simon Holloway and was loathingly jealous of his—as a postgraduate—being able to grab as he wished from the USyd Library Undergraduate Collection, as he described, “Like a child in a candy store…“, collecting 31 titles.

IMG_2710out This was redeemed only a little by McGill’s library going back to their Wednesday night practice of leaving recycling bins full of books outside in the cool air, waiting for people to come and rifle through them for anything of use. (more…)

7 February, 2007

Activist campus

Filed under: Montreal,Student life by Joel @ 5:00 pm, 7 February 2007.

Today was a National Day of Action for students across Canada to demonstrate their longing for “high-quality, accessible post-secondary education.” Students were meant to meet at 1:30pm at the Roddick Gates and march out to the Premier’s office, before a gay afternoon of “food, drinks (of all kinds), and festivities” alongside a screening of the movie “My Student Loan”.

Wow. It’s a little different here from what I’m used to back home. (more…)

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