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.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Pandemic Atlanta Lockdown - Week 26

Thunderstorm at Hunting Island Beach

This week went fast as Monday was off with the long weekend. During the weekend, I made an Everclear hot cocktail drink inspired by Glögg (Finnish Christmas hot spiced alcoholic drink). I tried Glögg first time in 2013 when we visited Helsinki by a cruise from Stockholm. 


Today, I first made the non-alcoholic version following the recipe except that I added sliced and shelled almonds as it should be in the original recipe (following the quantity suggested in the Norwegian alcoholic recipe). Then I filtered the drink, mix Everclear to the glass, and top it up with sliced and shelled almonds. 


I also used vodka, absinthe, and whiskey in place of Everclear for the drink in 3 shot glasses. The vodka version tastes precisely like the Finnish Glögg. A Finnish person may say no. But I cannot differentiate much. Everclear one is a bit too strong. Absinthe has tints of Anise flavor, which should not be strong in Glögg. The whiskey version interestingly tastes sweeter. This drink has heat properties because of all the spices and herbs for the cold winters. I am drinking it on a hot summer day. I am stupid.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

The Airport Sleeper

Sleeping in BRU Airport in July 2019

I used to sleep at airports quite often. Once, In 2013, I flew from Stockholm to Lisboa and had an overnight layover in Zurich. Since it is night, I realized I could not do anything if I go to the city. I had a flight in the morning anyway. So I stayed at the crowded airport and witnessed it turned empty as shops started closing by midnight. Lisboa (LIS) and Brussels (BRU and CRL) are the other airports I have spent more nights. LIS is because the last metro arrives at the airport around 1 a.m, and the first one arrives around 7 a.m. So earlier flights, I had to leave the night before. Due to my frequent travels, LIS airport even felt like a second home to me. I mean, that was the location second to my house where I had spent most nights in Portugal. 


I intentionally spent some nights in CRL and BRU in 2017 when I did not have a proper apartment amid several short stints, back and forth between Lisboa and Brussels. With COVID19 spreading rapidly, sleeping at the airports has become a distant reality. But I believe we will eventually go back to the normal, and then I can consider the airports my second home again.


When I spent one night camping for the first time, I was quite confident that it should be a piece of cake. If I can sleep literally on the airport's hard floor or weirdly shaped chairs with my head resting on my backpack and feet on the suitcase, sleeping in a sleeping bag in a tent should be a piece of cake. Although both sleeping at airports and sleeping in a tent both give you discomfort, they are different.

My tent in the camping site
First, airports have electricity and closer access to the water, with hand soap (usually). The campsite we went to had a nearby washroom with a shower, also with hand soap. So it was similar in that aspect - although I was prepared for it to not having running water. On the positive side, though, if you find the right spot, especially in a good airport, you may have access to electricity and strong wifi. Some airports offer better sleeping arrangements for free, although sometimes you may end up sleeping on the cold ground. I have seen people setting up their sleeping bags in the airport to sleep more comfortably too.

The camping grounds give more privacy as you have your tent. You can also set the light as you prefer, whereas most of the airports tend to have bright lights most of the time. Our camping ground had a few pine cones. Although I cleared most of them, one broken one remained intact below my tent and was poking me once in a while when I moved to the side as I slept.

One good thing about sleeping in airports is, of course, most of the airports still at least have one cafe open. So a quick bite or hot drinks are always accessible. Moreover, airports give me hope. They are part of significant life events in most of the cases for me. Either migrating, going for a conference, family reunion, or a long-expected trip. As such, sleeping in airports has remained a pleasant memory for me despite all its discomforts. Every single time. Now that the COVID19 ruins all our travel plans, I am counting days to travel again eventually. Fingers crossed.

Pandemic Atlanta Lockdown - Week 25

Moonlight by the lake
I have this habit of repeatedly listening to my favorite song until I get bored of it. This year, I had a few favorite songs that I kept listening on repeat. The song gets a timestamp of the memories of the moment/time. Then I stop listening/watching. Years later, I listen to it again (often by chance) and feel like I have time-traveled to that first time when I listened to it on repeat. I indeed feel bad for the songs that I am listening for the first time in 2020. Quite boring/lonely memories are tied to them now.