Weeks 19-20

perfectionThe new year has started, and life continues. I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, because I believe that we should start on self-improvement today, and New Year’s resolutions make it seem like we have to wait until the start of something– the start of the week, the start of the month, the start of the year, the start of a decade– rather than doing it now. I prefer looking at personal improvement as a constant continuum. It’s ok not to be perfect and to slip up sometimes. Of course, I know that New Year’s resolutions work for many people, and more power to them!

In terms of broad strokes, my goals over the last few months and now have been to work on staying within the limits of a reasonable budget, keeping active and healthy, and not failing my master’s degree. Where there are goals, you need an actionable plan to fulfill them. In my case, I have managed to fulfill some of the plans I have made in the last few months to various levels of success, but it is a constant struggle. I think that’s just the nature of plans — you have to constantly adjust them at every stage in your life.

In any case, the start of the new year has certainly not changed my workload. Most of my assignments have involved learning new tools, but not too much on the algorithm implementation side of it. Last week I just had a handful of assignments:

  • I wrote a naive Bayes classifier (for two classes) with absolute discounting for out of vocabulary words.
  • I compared the performance of the Stanford and Berkeley parsers using Evalb and approximate randomization.
  • I prepared for a presentation I have to give on Monday on some papers (so nervous!)

These assignments were a lot easier than the Viterbi and CKY algorithms, so I also managed to sleep at night, and even went bouldering with some friends. Yay for exercise! I’ve also enjoyed the interesting weather. The year started out with hoarfrost and fresh snow, turning the whole world white. After that, it seemed like the weather couldn’t decide whether it wanted to snow or rain. Then there was some crazy wind in the middle of the night. There’s a tall coniferous tree right outside my window, and it seemed like it might fall right on my room and squish me. I’m too young to die in a freak tree accident!

Last week, there was some sort of horrible 3-day bug going around our department.  Something like 80% of my colleagues were sick last week, including myself. We have an international group from different places, and I think this helps bugs like this rapidly spread. I have been sick once a month since I got here 5 months ago. I’m optimistic that it will lighten up in the coming months though. I’m hoping that I’ve built up enough of a catalogue of bugs now… I guess we’ll see.

At the end of last week, a bunch of us went to Chinese hot pot. I was still recovering from being sick, but it was just so great to sit with friends and enjoy a night off.

My fortune cookie was not optimistic though. Uh oh:


I’m sure it’s not wrong. My to-do list over the next 1.5 months includes:

  • 3 finals
  • 1 oral exam (maybe)
  • 1 paper (probably)
  • 1 presentation
  • 1 programming project
  • 8 hrs/wk of HiWi work

Plus normal homework assignments in the meanwhile, and a dentist appointment and a doctor’s appointment.


I went out a lot these couple weeks, but I am actually on a pretty good track to hit my budget this month. Being too sick and busy to do crazy things seems to help.

  • €225 – rent
  • €90.31 – health insurance
  • €117 – dinners/lunches with friends
  • €79.15 – groceries
  • €2 – laundry
  • €4 – video games
  • €10 – bouldering
  • Total: €527.46

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