Archive for June, 2006

From the train

I’ve got so much time on the train now, I might as well use it for something productive. So I will take this opportunity to update you, my fearless readers, on the status of my life.

I’ve joined the real world, at least for the summer. In a flash, I got an internship at Numenta, which is a company that makes a learning system based on a model of the cortex. Their founder (Jeff Hawkins, who also founded Palm and Handspring) thinks the key to the cortex is the fact that it is largely the same everywhere. Your vision regions seem to work just like your motor regions and your auditory regions and so on. It also seems to have a hierarchical structure, with some regions learning higher-level models of the world. So, they’ve designed a hierarchical, temporal model. It is a hierarchy of nodes, each of which learns sequences. The low-level ones learn simple, low-level sequences and summarize them for the next level. The higher ones get these summaries and summarize them in turn, and so on. If the system can predict its next inputs, then it is learning. That’s the concept, in a nutshell.

The catch, of course, is that they don’t pay as well as other internships around here do. Other CS grad students earn obscene amounts of money as interns, while my salary is merely uncouth. My advisor is supposely talking to them about that, but I suspect that he actually thinks I should just shut up about the matter. Frankly, I think earning 2/3 of what my friends make (for doing the same things, essentially) is rather disturbing, and I think if Numenta knew that I was earning so much less, they’d fix it. I’m trying to contact my advisor to be sure that he’s really working on this, but if he’s not, I’ll strike out on my own and talk to my boss about my salary. We’ll see.

The other catch is that I have to spend 1.5 hours commuting each way to work. I can spend it doing worthwhile (or semi-worthwhile) things like updating my journal, reading books, and otherwise entertaining myself, so it’s not all bad. But 3 hours a day is a long time, and I’m the sort that would rather live within a short walk of my job. But in this case, it doesn’t make sense to move for a summer internship, as that would take me away from Kate. Instead, I’ll just deal with it for the summer. I know that some people live like this all the time, but in the long run it’s certainly not worthwhile.

On the personal front, my mom is doing extremely well with her cancer. There’s no more m-protein in her urine, which means good things. She’ll still go through some unpleasant chemo, but the long-term prospects are that she’ll live for the forseeable future. That’s a lot better than she feared, but I never really believed otherwise anyway. It’s hard to really believe that your mother’s life is in danger, and in this case my disbelief seems to have been right.

, meanwhile, has been feeling depressed lately. I’m not entirely sure why, and neither is she. Her family visited recently, and she had a good afternoon barbecue with my friends. She’s been corresponding regularly with her European friend, so she’s been having more social contact than normal. I don’t really know how to cheer her up. If we were wealthy, I’d advise that she take a month in our country cottage, or stay for a while in the healthier climates of the Mediterranean. But as it is, she is stuck in perpetually moderate Berkeley looking for a new apartment with me this weekend. We could do something fun, but I really don’t know what sort of activity would make her excited.

So, that’s the story of my life. New job, healthy mom, sad wife.

3 Comments

Don’t vote for Westley

I got a “push poll” that asked leading questions, suggesting that Angelides is bad and Westley is good. Such push polls are a very clever but highly unethical way to promote yourself politically, and I condemn any who would use such underhanded tactics. Do NOT vote for Westley!

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