Banazîr the Jedi Hobbit (banazir) wrote,
Banazîr the Jedi Hobbit

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Day 3: And banazir Shall Show Them The Meaning of Haste

UK Trip 2005: A Tronkie Travellogue
Day 3: Edinburgh, Scotland (UAI Conference)

05:50: Wake up, courtesy of a laughing gull; look out the window and lie down, still drowsy.
06:17: Roused out of bed by Banadad going to the bathroom down the creaky hall.
06:50 - 08:20: Go check with MacBackpackers and learn that they only have 2-5 day tours. Trask if I wouldn't pay nicely for proper net access at the hostel right now. I may have wireless access on the University of Edinburgh campus, but I have to leave part of my virtual brain there. "Google makes me smarter," remarked Tom Mitchell in his President's Address at AAAI-2002. Ain't it the truth. banazir's Corollary: Losing Google makes me dumber!
At length Banadad and I reach the top of the Royal Mile and find Timberbush Tours. The bus is due to arrive in 15 minutes, and we could hardly even get home in that time, much less bring Banamum back, so we decide that today is not a good day for a trip to Loch Ness.
02:20 - 09:05: We get some sandwiches at a news agents' shop and head home. I tell Banamum what we've learned and decide that I can miss half a day of UAI today and read the papers. I just need to be there in the afternoon for the invited talk and first poster session. Preparing for a morning of sightseeing, we have a few more cookies and discuss what we'll go to see.
09:05 - 09:55: Walk up the Royal Mile to Timberbush Tours to book a one-day tour to Loch Ness, Glencoe, and the highlands. From there, go up to the Mound on the north.

  • Deacon Brodie's Tavern, named after the Edinburgh magistrate who led a double life and was later hanged, supposedly inspiring Robert Louis Stevenson's novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde:

    "Stop in for a pint and you'll feel like a new man!"
    I took this especially for my old grad school classmate, Mark Brodie.

  • Yay, TARDIS!

    "The Time Lord is IN"

  • One of many beautiful churches in Edinburgh:

    A yodge-eye view

09:55 - 10:10: Wait for tour bus.
10:10 - 11:20: First bus tour of Edinburgh.

  • Edinburgh Castle. I got only the one good view, but others have taken a frooglepoopillion of them, so I will defer to their greater patience and technique:

    "I can see your house from here!"

  • Many cafes line the old and new towns. By "old" they mean dating back to the 15th century, when construction near the castle boomed, and by "new" they mean 18th century.

    Hey, deire! Check it out! (Click on the above.)

11:20 - 11:40: Second tour (partial, up to the Royal Mile). Since ours is an all-day pass, the Banafolks decide this is a good way to get where we want to go and resolve to find a restaurant for dinner on the tour route.
11:40 - 12:05: Walk home with a second set of sandwiches from the same news agents' shop.
12:05 - 13:05: Lunch, featuring the last of the sweet baked things.
13:05 - 17:08: Back to UAI.

  • Invited talk: Larry Blume, Cornell, on metareasoning work he's done with Joe Halpern. Must talk with Anindya Banerjee about this!

  • Poster Session 1 of 2. Some highlights:

    • Changhe Yuan presented a new version of Adaptive Importance Sampling (AIS) that he says is much better than the 2000 implementation by Jian Cheng. I asked him for the source code and he said he'll send it when he gets back.

    • Arthur Tsai and Adnan Darwiche presented a paper on approximate Bayesian network inference by edge deletion!

    • Avi Pfeffer presented a paper on asynchronous Dynamic Bayes Nets (DBNs) using the Continuous Time Bayesian Network (CTBN) representation. Kathy Laskey and I talked to him at his poster about it.

    • I talked with a theoretician from UMass Amherst about reinforcement learning.

    • Frederick Eberhardt, a Ph.D. student of Clark Glymour, presented some breakthrough results on causal discovery. (Edit, 08:15 CST Wed 10 Aug 2005 - Alison Gopnik of UC Berkeley later alluded to these in her invited talk at IJCAI-2005.)

17:08 - 17:18: Dash home.
17:19 - 17:25: Unwind, get ready to go.
17:25 - 18:45: Third bus tour (full tour, second-to-last of the day).
18:45 - 18:55: Fourth bus tour (partial, the last of the day). Stop on Waverley Street.
18:55 - 19:12: Decide against the touristy Chinese restaurant with its fake flames in the window and opt for the Great Wall on Lothian. I am amused that we have had Chinese food for dinner twice in three days in Scotland. This restaurant is mediocre, and I don't recommend it.
19:12 - 19:40: Finish dinner.
19:40 - 20:35: Go home; stop at a take-away place called Canton on the way back. (OMG! 3 Chinese meals in 4 days... way to experience Edinburgh!) Edit, 08:25 CST Wed 10 Aug 2005 - it was noted later that week on the BBC that the UK granted its first group visas to vistors from the People's Republic of China, and this was the first place they went. "None of your foreign muck," laughed the reporter. So! Remember: want lots of Chinese tourism? Entice a Marco Polo (heh) from our country to come set up shop first.

Upon arriving, Banamum opens the door to one of the hostel rooms and we are hit with a furnace-blast of hot air. She's left the heater on. Just as the hot air rushes out, the fire alarm goes off. It turns out to be a kitchen fire in another flat, but I mistakenly think that the hot air set of the alarm. We evacuate to the courtyard, where a fire engine arrives shortly. Everyone is chatting and laughing, and the tourists put their kids up on the engine and photograph them with the smiling firemen, one of whom lent his hat:

Left: Kids playing on the engine and being photographed with the firemen.
Right: The other side of the courtyard, about ten minutes after the evacuation.

20:35 - 21:00: Banamum had me get a place closer to the Edinburgh International Conference Center (EICC), so we will be moving on the 29th. Try to plan for the move, which will involve a cab, and for tomorrow's UAI.
21:00 - 23:25: Fall asleep and drowse for useless intervals. 21:00 - 21:55, 22:00 - 22:55, 23:00 - 23:25.
23:25 - 01:35: Get up; process the over 200 photos I took (160 on the morning tours alone).
01:35 - 03:56: Brush teeth; write, blog, plan, photograph the room, reboot my computer, which has gotten sluggish after three days of being worked rather heavily (even for me).
03:56 - 04:11: Read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for a few minutes.
04:11 - 04:35: Snap a few more photos and go to sleep.

Tags: bnj, conferences, edinburgh, research, scotland, teaching, travel, travellogue, uai, uk

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