Been a While

And not for lack of stuff to write about! I’ve still been v tired (exercise/going out levels have been v low) and I had grading (bleah) and eye troubles (triple bleah…I’m going to need to massively adjust my setups; dark mode for me).

BUT, my promotion case to Professor was successful so as of Aug 1, 2020, I will be a Professor of Computer Science. I never again have to think about a promotion! I won’t get the customary pay rise (due to COVID belt tightening).

There are still things I can apply for (pay rises in the future where they exist again, fellowships, a higher doctorate, etc.) but…they are all nice to have, not need to have. For some reason, making it to Professor was need to have for me. At least, in the sense that it felt obligatory to go for. Each year that I failed to make my promotion case felt like a real failure and cost me. I hope I’m now free of all that.

(Part was due to the weird detour my career took and feeling “behind”. Part was the unfortunate instillation of the feeling that if you didn’t make “full professor”/Professor you somehow didn’t have a proper career. <– This is super toxic! In any case, I feel relief.)

There’s a bunch of other cools stuff including that we have a first draft of a feature complete Imperial Model…which desperately needs optimising just to ru with 50,000 agents. The ball is back in my court and I’ve already had some interesting results which I’ll write up (I hope) shortly (I hope). I’m feeling pretty good about our chances of doing a full UK run by the end of the week.

(And I’m feeling SO GOOD about my adhering to the “measure first” philosophy. It’s been winning hard for me right now and we’ve had some nice object lessons for some students.)

A Bloggy Year?

The year before last I blogged about a post a day. There are some days I didn’t manage to post and some catch up days.

Last year I blogged occasionally. Lots of things interfered. For some things, I’m rather frustrated with WordPress. But switching is a big ole pain.

One thing blogging everyday did not do is effectively increase my other writing. It stayed pretty static. Oh well!

People read stuff (I had students mention that they read it; not sure how accurate those reports were ;)) but not a ton. Engagement (at least in the form of comments) was low. As one should expect, merely being consistent with decent (I think) writing and content doesn’t get you very far.

Some tooling is getting worse. The great Google Reader debacle continues to haunt us. The need to at least be seen to try to stem the flood of faux content means sharing and aggregating is harder. (Basically, we have info security threats that we handle poorly at best. Which means when we do try to tackle them usability goes down.)

Zoe writes in notebooks no one sees and she doesn’t reread and has for decades. She writes for herself and for the process. It’s a bit weird to do something like that in the sorta public view of a blog. But I think that’s the way of things.

I Hate Waiting

I clearly have a bit of obsessiveness. I hate waiting.

For the past 5+ weeks I’ve been working in my new role as Deputy PGR Director (i.e., Deputy Director of the PhD program) to get our students to respond to the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES), For those in the biz in the UK, it’s basically the NSS for PGR students, but much less abused. Our school uses this data to make real changes, we hope for the better. Good things have already come from it.

Last time (2017) our response rate was about 54% which put us amongst the lowest. Maths had ≈90%. The director tasked me with getting our rate up and I really went at it.

I emailed. I spammed the research symposium. I held contests. We contacted supervisors. I tracked our numbers obsessively (we get them each week). I knocked on doors.

Our last official rate (on Monday with 5 days to go) was 78% and my current estimate is 83%. The rest of the university seems to be lagging over 2017 (they were seriously lagging on Monday). We have a reasonable shot at the number one spot.

The survey closes in 45 minutes but I won’t know how we did until MONDAY!

Gonna be a long weekend.


Blogging has been light these past few weeks. That’s partly because the Cold of Doom has wrecked me and party because it’s been busy. The cold makes it more busy.

Oh well. Maybe I’ll have a burst and catch up. Maybe not. Daily blogging was fun but didn’t have any material benefits. For example, I’m pretty sure it sucked some writing from other stuff instead of stimulating more. But who knows?

Hair Trigger Blocking/Unfriending/Social Media Dropping

I’ve become an increasingly strong proponent of ruthlessly curating one’s online interactions and relationships. It’s actually a pretty good idea for off line ones as well.

It’s not always easy to do. There’s a bit of pressure to be open, to be “nice”, to value social ties however tenuous. Cutting people out of one’s life seems rather aggressive and sometimes it is!

But fundamentally, there are not many classes people to whom you owe chunks of yourself. If they treat you badly (or you have no fault bad interactions) it’s ok to end theban experiences. Put your energy into finding new good ones.

In what seemed like a harmless exchange today I was told that since, from experience, my interlocutor knew I was indifferent to arbitrary levels of expertise or evidence, they were stopping the interaction.

Note, they didn’t just stop the exchange. They decided that it was important to express to me that I was a no-hoper, anti-intellectual person. Why they decided to startt the engagement, given this assessment, is beyond me.

So, gone. I probably will encounter them socially (though pretty rarely) and that will be fine. But I have no need for even the slight chance that they’ll read something I post, decide to respond, and then treat me this badly.

Note that they may be otherwise perfectly fine! I don’t care if their problem is a general character flaw or just a bad interaction with me.

So, be more relaxed about keeping your feeds happy for you. If I get under your skin, unfriend/block/mute me! If I’m connected to you, I probably have warm feelings for you and if I’m being disruptive to your happy (however unintentionally!) then do the easy thing and fix it! I won’t be mad or take it to heart or, indeed, be anything but glad you engaged in some self care.

Snow, Finally!

It’s snowing!

First of the year for me.

December was not-(alas)-freakishly-warm. It was freakish, but that’s becoming a normal. We had some 60F days which were undreamt of in my childhood. I saw cherry blossoms!

And lily of the valley. That’s not good.

But tonight, I enjoy the snow.

Digital Housekeeping

It’s resolution time! My digital life is pretty typically shambolic and every year I pledge to clean up at least some of it! Given GDPR, it’s extra important. The big areas:

  1. Passwords. I need to use a manager and get everything working across all machines.
  2. Calendars/diaries. I need to get synch working 100% and get myself using them properly. I made strides this year but they are still a mess.
  3. Machine uniformity. I use 2-3 MacOS and 2-3 iOS devices routinely and they are…not aligned. They should be!
  4. Backups. Backup regressed this year so that needs a-fixing.
  5. Browser tabs and bookmarks. I need to get my active tab set waaay down. It just makes my primary work machine unusable. I need a reliable tracker of stuff I’ve looked at.
  6. Shared data. I want a pretty uniform view of my stuff across all my devices.
  7. Old stuff. I’ve got decades of crap that needs some sort of sorting.
  8. Music and photos. These are so gross it makes my teeth ache.

There’s always more of course. But progress on any of these would be a big boon.

Happy New Year: 2019

Oy! 2018 had a lot of bad things, but there were some good things for me!

One weird bit about frequently being in two time zones (and WordPress not geo-locating me) is that some dates are messed up for analysis. Ah well! The world is confusing.

More reflection over the next week cause it’s late today. But here’s my XQuery extracted monthly breakdown of posting. Yes, there were 365 in total!

Month Posts Over
Jan 38 7
Feb 28 0
Mar 33 2
Apr 33 3
May 30 -1
Jun 32 2
Jul 29 -2
Aug 30 -1
Sep 32 2
Oct 28 -3
Nov 21 -9
Dec 31 0

This doesn’t fully capture the overlap that happened. For example, December had a lot of missed days and corresponding stacked days.

But still! Not bad!

Catch Up

This is the second time in the past two months where I went nearly a week without posting.

It’s somewhat related to anxiety and momentum. I definitely get into absurd ruts that are very difficult to get out of even though they are trivial, in some important senses, to get out of.

It’s sometimes hard to tell whether brute anxiety is at work…I have lots of mechanisms to protect me from manifesting those feelings. But endless avoidance isn’t a net help.

Ah well! Today will be a catch up day!

(I notice that since Facebook has stopped allowing autopublish from WordPress I have been somewhat less likely to post. That extra marginal effort and annoyance really put a damper on things.)