Sunday, October 4, 2020

Pandemic Atlanta Lockdown - Week 29

Time flies fast...
This week went ahead as usual. I got some time to reflect on my 2010s. Interesting how people come and go in our lives. 

If we consider our life a novel or a teledrama, some people just take a few pages, some - perhaps a footnote, and some take whole chapters. Some people appear briefly before and later come back to occupy the later chapters. Life is quite dynamic, and more so for me since 2012 as I keep moving between countries. My friendships have become relatively shorter, as my friends and I, we all have been in continuous migrations thanks to the Erasmus Mundus, and its mobility during my MSc (2012 - 2014) and PhD (2014 - 2019). Sometimes, life is more interesting than a movie, with its twists and turns. Not forgetting to mention how nightmarish 2020 has been so far, for the whole world!

Monday, September 28, 2020

The 2010s

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Pandemic Atlanta Lockdown - Week 27

Roswell, GA

When working from home started in mid-March, I did not know that this will go on forever. Now, it is already half a year has passed with no end in sight. I made some plans for the work-from-home, and most went quite well. However, overall, my happiness was at an all-time low. Most of my approach to handling the loneliness and separation induced by the COVID19 lockdown and travel restrictions was through distraction. I used my cocktails, some music, and two Chinese dramas (The Disguiser and Nirvana in Fire) to effectively spend my free time, especially during the weekends, while being stuck home alone for most of 2020 since Mid-February, and more so since Mid-March since the work-from-home.

I never compare my life with others. I do my life at my own pace. At least not after 2006, as until 2005, I had to compete for the university entrance examinations. Every year since 2010, I have had one and only one new year resolution. That is, to outperform my previous years. It has been true for most of the 2010s. Although there were years with slow-downs (specifically, 2016 and 2018), overall, I was happy and each year went on to become better than the previous. As such, 2019 has been my best year so far (followed by 2017, 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012). 2020 indeed, started with a positive note. But with the COVID19, it took a dark turn by mid-February. Personally, 2020 also brought me to an all-time low in overall happiness and peace of mind. But I must acknowledge the fact that this is a global low, outside my control. Such a normalization will help me avoid judging the year too harshly.


We are still not sure how 2021 will be. We need to be prepared for a long fight. I must try to be positive again and reset my mood, rather than distract myself during my free time - as distractions are a short-term strategy.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Duolingo and how its "rewards" work

I use Duolingo to practice my Portuguese and Chinese knowledge. I am always intrigued by their reward/point mechanism which uses multiple combinations to reward and motivate the users to continue with the lessons. I find them quite interesting. Especially when you do not have a premium account, maintaining all the rewards are not easy. One day you take a break and you may lose some of those rewards. Duolingo's reward mechanisms are good for motivating us not to give up. But at the same time, they also have the risk of us focusing on not losing the rewards and gaming the system, rather than genuinely focusing on learning the language properly at our own pace. As such, these rewards have received a fair share of criticism.
1. League
It is a 10-level series. Diamond level is the final. I have reached the diamond. To reach a higher level, you must be among the top-10 among your bunch, consisting of 50 learners who learn different language at different phases. On the other hand, the last 5 among the 50 will be demoted to a lower level. The remaining 35, stay wherever they are. Since Diamond league is the last, the top-45 stay wherever they are whereas the last 5 are demoted. So there will always be a competition not to be in the last 5 during the last minutes when these numbers are tallied.
2. Streak
This counts how many days you have managed to continue to practice a lesson.

3. Lingots
If you did not touch Duolingo for a week, you do not enter the week's competition. As such, your league will be preserved wherever you are. But you will lose your streak. This is where lingots come to help you. Lingots are virtual currency of Duolingo. You can earn them by completing the lessons or participating in competitions such as "Double or Nothing." If you are going to be away from Duolingo for a week, you can buy "Streak freeze" to keep your location for a day or two, and keep buying the streak freeze as your previous streak is used. However, once you run out of the lingots, you will come to the difficult decision making. Should you not touch the lessons for a week to protect the league, or protect the streak by doing the sessions but not to the expected speed and lose your league. Since I am in the diamond league, I try to protect my league.

4. Crowns
Each skill gives you a crown. Unlike the first 3, crowns are language-specific. That means, if you study 2 languages, each will have their own crown numbers. Crowns will never deplete unlike the other 3.

5. XP Ranks
How you rank among the 50 in a weekly basis as well as among your friends by measuring the all-time XP (Duolingo points). We can earn XP by completing new lessons, stories, or repeating an old lesson.

Monday, September 14, 2020

[SIIM CMIMI20] A DICOM Framework for Machine Learning Pipelines against Real-Time Radiology Images

Today I presented our Niffler open-source framework at SIIM CMIMI 2020 at ML Algorithms & Toolkits + Infrastructure to Support ML session. We had slightly more than 100 participants, including the 90+ attendees and 10 panelists. We had 8 minutes presentations followed by a unified Q&A session. My presentation slides are given below.

This is my virtual conference experience where I presented a paper. I have attended several virtual conferences such as KDD, EuroSys, and DisCoTec this year, thanks to COVID19 lock-down. I also presented my work at IEEE SDS this year. However, SDS was a recording. We already had pre-recorded the videos and shared. As such, CMIMI becomes my first virtual conference experience where I was also a presenter.
I miss attending conferences in-person. The virtual conferences do not feel the same at all. Yes, we still see the presentations. But I value that coffee-hour talks, going out with newly made friends/colleagues, finding potential collaborators, personal connections, and many more. But something is better than nothing. We could still watch and listen to the presentations and interact with the presenters. But the face-to-face communication -- I miss that. 
I hope we will overcome the pandemic together and be back to in-person or even better - hybrid conferences soon! KDD 2021 has planned to be hybrid, online as well as on-site in Singapore. I am optimistic! The 2 days with CMIMI were great. I wish success to everyone in their research.