Photos: PRICAI 2014 Conference – Gold Coast

During the first week of December I presented some research at the Pacific Rim Conference on Artificial Intelligence.

This year the conference was held 100m from the beach in the Gold Coast, Queensland.

As with most conferences it was really good, but also a really long week. The keynote by Kevin Leyton-Brown was the highlight.

PhD Graduation Photos

Two weeks ago I graduated with a PhD from the University of New South Wales.

The formal photos have finally arrived, and I’m pretty happy with them, plus some of the other photos taken on my own camera.

 

And I’ve just discovered that I have removed my BSc graduation photos from 2008 at some point. So here are four of the best of those photos.

Costly Opal Card Errors

I enjoy using Sydney’s new Opal card, I enjoy not having to queue and remember to buy weekly and travel-10 tickets. I especially enjoy the free travel after 8 journeys, especially as it is generally saving me money.

What I’m not enjoying is continually encountering problems using the Opal card. At least once a week I’m encountering buses with readers that aren’t working. And it seems to be getting worse.

In the last two week’s I’ve experienced a bus that I was able to tap onto, but not tap off of – encountering the dreaded default fare. I’ve encountered a bus where the two back door readers weren’t working – sending me on a mad dash to the front of the bus to tap off before the bus drove off.

But the two most annoying issues this week have been overcharging. The first is a tap on and a tap off being recorded as two tap on, encountering two default fares.

Opal Double Charging

The second is being charged $4.70 for a fare from Town Hall to Central (instead of $3.30).

Opal Overcharging

And making the problems even more annoying, the complaint form on opal.com.au times out and loses the message you are sending if you take too long to fill it out.

I’m assuming that many others are experiencing these overcharging issues without even realising it.

Finding time to read

Every workday I catch a bus to and from work. The journey takes around 20 minutes each way and until May this year I would spend this time using social networks on my phone. Since May I have replaced the phone with my Kindle and have read almost 30 books. This is more books than I have probably read in the last three years combined.

I am certainly not a massive bookworm but there is something about being able to get lost in a story and filter out the world in a way that books can only do. I primarily read non-fiction, with a particular focus on sociology, history, and theology. And the more I read, the more I want to read.

For instance, in the last week I’ve finished Cynthia Stokes Brown’s Big History, which covers the history of the world in a very detailed but also very easy to read manner and is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I’m now trying to read books on the histories of Australia, Iran, Boston and gangs in Chicago (my latest problem is trying to read too many books in parallel).

I am not alone in my desire to read more, in September an opinion piece was published on Slate about reading insecurity. The piece states:

It is becoming a cliché of conversations between twentysomethings (especially to the right of 25) that if you talk about books or articles or strung-together words long enough, someone will eventually wail plaintively: “I just can’t reeeeeaaad anymore.” The person will explain that the Internet has shot her attention span. She will tell you about how, when she was small, she could lose herself in a novel for hours, and now, all she can do is watch the tweets swim by like glittery fish in the river of time-she-will-never-get-back.

The author’s argument is that this desire to read more and use the internet less is a consequence of growing up in a time where reading books have been replaced by reading e-readers, tablets and computer screens. And we don’t read less we just read differently. The article as a whole is great (you should read it).

But despite this knowledge that we are reading different and not less, my desire to read more books and less social networks hasn’t changed. I am now trying to read smarter, to find time to lock myself away from digital distractions and to get lost in a book for 20 mins or an hour. Simply because it is relaxing, and fun, and the internet will keep on tweeting and facebooking without me.

Skiing Perisher 2014

In mid-September I went with some mates to Perisher in the Snowy Mountains. This was the first time I have been skiing in Australia and the first time in three years I have been on skis.

After an hour or so of slow blue and green runs I finally sorted myself out and got my skiing mojo back, and my the end of the weekend was happily skiing some “basic” black runs.

I have to make a massive mea culpa though, for the past four years I have written off Australian ski fields without even visiting them. But Perisher was amazing. It is huge, there are so many lifts and this means there are no big queues, the snow was great, yes there were trees, but there were no rocks and a massive variety of terrain to ski on.

The weather was brilliant, actually ridiculously hot for skiing, 13c at the base area, and I didn’t crash into any trees.

Below are some of the photos taken on the trip, the two of me skiing were taken by Stephanie Sandoval

Additionally, another mate put together this bloopers video from the trip:

Minor Blog Updates

Over the past week I’ve made some minor changes to the blog.

These are:

  • Brought a fourth domain which points to this site, bradheap.nz, the other domain names are: brad.net.nz, brad.geek.nz and bradheap.id.au
  • Changed the display of galleries inside posts
  • Made some minor CSS changes to fonts and sizes
  • Updated the research page
  • Skimmed over all 600+ blog posts from the past nine years and fixing any backward compatibility problems – mainly in the display of galleries and content summaries.
  • Noted that I am blogging so much less than I used to. The combined total of all posts so far this year is fewer than the number of posts I previously did in a month.

A Weekend in Brisbane

In early September I went to Brisbane for a weekend to celebrate a birthday with members of my family.

This was my first proper time in Brisbane, previously I have landed at the airport and immediately gone to the Gold Coast.

I was fortunate that the weekend I visited coincided with the start of the Brisbane Festival, which meant there was lots of fun stuff to see and do.