Weeks 21 & 22


Being on the German-French border, Saarland has the Laugencroissant — a most delicious pretzel-dough based pastry.

I am still here. Still in Germany. Still studying. So much has happened and so little. Things are getting really busy. Finals are in 3 weeks, and I signed up for probably way more than I should have (of course); I hope I can get it all done. I’ll just try to take it one task at a time. In addition, watching everything that has been going on at home in the U.S. has been kind of stressful, so need to try to spend my time in more productive ways here on out. Finally, I tend to use food as a way to make myself feel better, and since I’m not exercising enough either, I’ve also gained weight. It doesn’t help that the carb-based foods here are quite delicious! So that’s another thing I need to work on.

Part of last week and this week was spent on implementing IBM Model 1 for machine translation, using the Expectation Maximization (EM) algorithm for word alignments. I would say this one went easier than the previous implementations I’ve had to do, although I’m not sure if that’s because the assignment for the class was easier or because I’m actually learning more. Reading the math formulae is still really difficult for me, even when I conceptually understand what the story is about.

For a different class, I’ve also started playing around with Keras, a Python deep learning (neural network) library for TensorFlow/Theano. It really reminds me of the work  I did at my previous job for a speech recognition company, where I was training acoustic models, only this time I don’t have a fancy server cluster to play on, but just a laptop. It’s alright though, I don’t need a lot of power. I’m just making a rudimentary Twitter bot trained on Edgar Allen Poe’s works, which I probably won’t even bother to deploy.

In terms of life and culture, last weekend I went to a Charleston dance workshop, which was pretty fun. I have done some dance in the past, in particular west coast (8-count) swing, east coast (6-count) swing, ballroom waltz, ballroom tango, salsa, foxtrot, and cha-cha. I’ve always enjoyed it a lot, but I have never kept doing it in a consistent way, so I’ve never gotten past the beginning level.

However, since we had too many girls, this was my first time being a lead. Being a lead is stressful! You not only have to think about all the normal physical stuff, like keeping a good frame and doing the right step, you also have to simultaneously plan ahead on what you are going to do, and you need to correctly signal that plan to the follow. Plus, after the move is complete, you can’t let the whole thing fall apart– you have to keep going and plan the next one! On top of that, you have no idea if you are doing a good job or a bad job, and you just hope you aren’t fucking it all up for your follow. Finally, I still don’t speak German that well (since I spend each day in English at school), so even when I had questions, I didn’t know exactly how to formulate them, so I just didn’t ask. Oh well. It was still fun.


Though there were some unnecessary costs these two weeks, for the first time since I got here, I am completely under budget for the month. Also, I made extra money from my HiWi so I can actually save a lot this month. Yay! Of course, next month I have to pay school fees…. but, hey, let’s celebrate the victories as they come!

  • €101 – groceries and snacks
  • €12 (I think) – dance class
  • €10 – bouldering
  • €10 – video games that I probably won’t have time to play =(
  • €10 – new student ID because I lost mine ><“
  • Total: €143

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