Somethin’ Happenin’ Here…

Between my last few posts here and recent comments elsewhere, I’ve probably given the impression that I’m bearish on Pittsburgh, at least as far as the tech/start-up economy goes. Not so. While it’s sometimes hard for me to keep my mood up in the winter, this has actually been a bullish week for me, Burgh-wise.

Among the things that lifted my mood this week was lunch today with Matt Harbaugh from InnovationWorks. Before today I had lumped IW in with the slew of public/non-profit/consortium/partnership groups around here that purport to help the tech economy. And frankly, it was never very clear to me what any of them did, or whether anyone in the local tech industry would care if they just disappeared.

After talking with Matt, however, a couple of things became much more clear: (1) there is a burgeoning start-up scene here, and (2) a lot of it is in the IW portfolio. (Though by no means all of it!) I don’t think the scene reached the perpetual-motion-machine stage yet, but that just means you gotta keep pedaling. Just knowing that there are people out there taking real, concrete action to move things the right way is a great thing. Talk is cheap, especially in the blogosphere. Action, baby. That’s where it’s at. I expect exciting things from IW.

CCNC/SfN/Epirob/AAAI Conference Blogging

I am currently in San Diego, in the second day of a three-city, four-conference tour during which I’ll be attending the CCN Conference, Society for Neuroscience, Epigenetic Robotics, and the AAAI Fall Symposium on Computational Approaches to Representation Change during Learning and Development.

This is the longest and most complicated conference travel adventure I’ve ever undertaken. Especially since I’m presenting either a poster or a talk at all four conferences. In addition, it is my first time attending SfN, which draws 20-30,000 attendees, making it easily an order of magnitude larger than any conference I’ve ever attended. I have to wonder what the point of such a large conference is, since I’ve been told by several people not to expect to run into anyone I know if we haven’t planned the meeting in advance.

So far, CCNC has been nice — only 200-300 people — with lots of work focused on computational modeling of reinforcement learning and other decision making processes. I’ve run into a couple of people that I knew from elsewhere, as well as a couple of people from CNBC that I’ve met for just the first or second time. I’ve also been slightly disappointed that a couple of people I expected to see are nowhere to be found.

I’m going to try to blog at least once from each location. Newt Gingrich is speaking about research funding priorities for science at SfN on Monday. It’s during the first hour of my poster session, but I may try to attend anyway.

Welcome to the Q-Function

Welcome to the new incarnation of my blog. I’ve moved it from my old “Jefferson Provost” blog on typepad to wordpress.com, deleting some of the older archived posts that I don’t think are very interesting. I’m hoping to focus the postings a little more so that they’re at least tangentially related to A.I., neuroscience, or science in general.

Okay, now what?

I successfully defended my dissertation last week. It’s been filed and acknowledged by the graduate school, meaning I can finally end my self-imposed blogging hiatus. The big question now is, where do I want this blog to go, if anywhere? I started this blog as a way to entertain myself during the rush leading up to my dissertation proposal. Now, though, I don’t think I want to continue with a relatively unfocused “whatever Jeff happens to be thinking” style. So the question is what to do with this blog? Continue it, but refocus it more professionally? Or just end it and start something new — I’m thinking of something, roughly in the intersection of robots.net, Machine Learning (Theory), and Neurodudes. On the other hand, I could ask to contribute to those blogs, if they’ll have me, and keep my own blog for random thoughts on other topics — though maybe I’ll rename it to something a little less narcissistic. ;-) One advantage to starting a more focussed professional blog is that I can invite colleagues to be contributors, amplifying all our voices.

In any case, I’m really thinking of moving off of typepad to some kind of free hosting. The problem is that I hate most of the free hosting sites. I mean, threaded comments were perfected on Usenet 20 years ago, and every free community site in the world has them, but blogger still doesn’t have them? I’m thinking maybe wordpress.com is the way to go. No hosting fees, and lots of configuration options.

Anyway, if anyone is still reading this, I wouldn’t mind hearing thoughts…

Happy (belated) Birthday to this Blog!

Somehow I missed the fact that I started this blog one year ago this week on March 16, 2003, having really no idea what blogging was all about, or why it was different than just maintaining a web site. I’m still not so sure it’s that different, just a bunch of tools to make updating easy. Anyway, what a year. It was a good time to start a blog, what with the war starting and everything. As I sit here listening to my 03.03.14 playlist.

Looking back, it’s interesting to see what was on my mind over the last year, but more interesting to me is to see all the things I didn’t write about. I’ve been determined that this blog wasn’t going to be one of those narcissistic personal journal where I talked about my dog’s flea treatments and other stupid shit that nobody else cares about. Rather, I was going to write about things that I thought other like-minded people would genuinely be interested in. As a result, though, a lot of my own personal stuff isn’t included in the record, like…

  • I kept quiet about basically the entire process of doing my dissertation proposal, the stress of having a hard deadline for it, the seemingly stress-induced neck- and back-spasms I had while writing it, and the great feeling of accomplishment after finishing it.
  • Though I mentioned that Laura and I bought a house. I didn’t explicitly mention here that we’re getting married. Arrangements are proceeding for our May 8th date, with all the incumbent hassle, cost, and stress that everyone says is normal for the process. I really should devote an entry to the ridiculous wedding industry and the way dollar-signs go *ka-ching* in the eyes of vendors as soon as you mention the word “wedding”.

Looking back, my blog content was much more political a year ago. That got boring. Plus, I think the Dean movement and the Democratic primary brought to the forefront the basic issues (e.g. the Bush administration sucks).

I’ve been neglecting this space lately. Mostly because school has kept me quite busy, and with the impending wedding, it’ll only get worse from here. Actually, if I’m heading for an academic job, things will probably only get busier until… uh… retirement, I guess. ;-) I’ll try and post a few good things anyway…

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