I've had about 15 hours of sleep since Thursday, but I just spotted this review as I was going to bed. Be sure to click the picture & see the review of our favourite cafe! (And be sure to look carefully at all the people & laptops on the couch :-) [2015 whoops, the review got updated without us...]
I was in Washington DC for 3 days for some symposia -- I had three papers there, two with coauthors who also managed to come. Avri Bilovich, who had a paper from his undergraduate dissertation, and Philipp Rohlfshagen, who had a paper from his very short postdoc with me. They both did totally brilliantly. The meeting was frustrating because I really wanted to attend two of the symposia a lot, but I could only be in one place. There was a great one on culture (which was also therefore on a lot of humanoid AI), but I spent a lot of time in another one on Naturally Inspired AI, because it was a lot of my old friends from MIT (and some rather powerful other people) talking about a topic I really cared about. Since big decisions sometimes get made at these things, sometimes you have to actually sit through a meeting on a topic you already know about.
It was really great to see a bunch of my friends from MIT -- one even came through DC by coincidence (fortunately, a coincidence picked up by our social networking sites) and spent late Saturday evening with us. I also saw my friend Cyril Brom who does more with my thesis work than I did, and he has invited me to Prague again in January, so that will be great, and a bunch of friends from Edinburgh. Still, I wish I could have sat in longer on the culture meeting and met even more people -- I'm always curious.
I don't mean to complain too much though. Avri and I had a lot of fun arguing with the MIT guys about whether statistical models of natural language (like Will does) are actually anything like what human minds do. Avri hadn't realized the full significance of his project until he heard all the arguments, so now he is very excited so will hopefully do the extra work we need to make this into a journal article. That was actually a great talk to have for your first talk. He was really very poised. Philipp is a brilliant researcher and has spoken many times before, so he also did fine. It was his first time in the US and Avri's first time in DC so they came a day early and toured around.
Sunday afternoon (after the meeting which ended at noon but before our flights at 6pm) I went into town with Philipp and my friend Jeremy Wyatt and we had a nice lunch and walked around the White House. The taxi driver asked if we wanted to say hello to President Bush, and I said "no, we'll wait on that one" so then he asked if we wanted to say Good-bye" -- Philipp and Jeremy did! It was an unbelievably pretty and warm Fall day so great for walking around.
Anyway, I never really got over my jetlag and kept waking up at 4am and then just working or reading about Barack Obama and his future plans. I haven't been this excited about someone/something since I got into the Beatles in highschool. Everything has just been done so well and so elegantly so far. Of course, we are all crossing our fingers (and even offering our help) hoping it will continue going well now that the really hard work has started.
We had a party at our apartment Wednesday morning, but the election was already all over by the start of the party at 8am. A surprising number of my friends came over and we watched the concession speech and then the victory speech off the internet. We shared a bottle of champagne and fresh orange juice and ate amazing Viennese pastries. Then Will left to go to Nottingham and I went to the KLI to work and to attend a talk. The talk was pretty interesting, it was about which species get funded for study in government labs and how we really need more. Then I went to a meeting at the Austrian Academy of Sciences that Richard Gregory had told me about in Bristol last month, he said we should meet up. I only saw half a talk, but I took Richard and his friend out for a drink while they waited for dinner, and then I got invited by the Austrians to come along to dinner as well. So that was Wednesday, and then Thursday I flew to DC, and I flew back this morning. So I guess I should really go to bed now.