dancing tetrahedra

It’s not as glorious as my smoke videos of old perhaps, but I’ve finally got some decent video of my current research work. What’ you’re seeing is a tetrahedral mesh of a cube with the tetrahedra (pyramids) colored according to their quality. As the quality improves, their colors shift toward green, and when they’re good enough, they disappear. At the bottom right is a histogram of qualities for the entire mesh. Should be a fun little clip to show when I give the talk at the International Meshing Roundtable in Seattle in a couple of weeks.

still in germany

Yep, we’re still here. We went to Amesterdam last weekend, and posted the few pics we took there on the ol’ gallery. We just happened to be there the same weekend that Ali was meeting up with Karen to head on to their awesome-sounding trip to Italy, so we grabbed some dinner with them. Ali had his nice new camera with him, and got some great shots of what is really a beautiful and perfectly functioning little city.

We’ve been catching our breath back here a bit, and I’ve been working on the camera-ready version the mesh-improvement paper I wrote with Jonathan, which was finally accepted to the International Meshing Roundtable. So I guess I’ve got a trip to Seattle coming in October.

Next week we’re heading to Prague, and then we’ll have just a couple more left before we pack up. It’s amazing, the slowness and quickness of the way time passes over here.

deadline two, qual exam: check.

Another big sigh of relief: on Thursday I gave my qualifying exam talk–and passed. The qual at Berkeley is a bit different from most places; it’s basically a proposal of your thesis topic in the form of a two-hour talk given to a committee of four professors, who pepper you with questions throughout, ostensibly to test your knowledge of the area and to confirm that your thesis topic is “good enough.” I’ve spent most of the last two weeks making the slides and otherwise preparing for the talk. Although in theory you can fail your qual (and be kicked out of the Ph.D. program), I’ve never heard of it happening. This is because your advisor really shouldn’t let you take your qual until he knows you’re ready to pass. In reality, the hardest part of the qual is getting four professors to all agree to be in the same place for two hours on your behalf.

Anyway, it went fine, which means my thesis topic (TETS!) has the stamp of approval and I’m officially ABD (all but dissertation). I wish I could say that’s the last loose end for the semester, but I’m currently working on the take-home final for my graduate theory class and optimistically polishing up the SGP paper for it’s final “camera ready” version. We don’t yet know whether it will be accepted (and hence whether a camera ready version will even be necessary), but because the deadline for submitting the camera ready version is right in the middle of my honeymoon, I think I’d rather hedge and do the work now.

Oh yeah… we got an apartment in Germany. It’s smack in the middle of everything, about 15 minutes on foot from WIAS where I’ll be working, and 500 feet from a major transportation hub. Literally the ‘B’ in Berlin:

berlin apt map

deadline one, SGP paper: check!

Yesterday afternoon Jonathan and I submitted our paper for the Symposium on Geometry Processing, marking the first big sigh of relief for the spring. I promised pictures, so here’s one, for what it’s worth:

figure from tet paper

On the left is a tetrahedral mesh of… uh… a tire incinerator! Exciting. But it’s a sad tire incinerator because of all its bad, skinny, flat, tets shown in green, yellow, and red (increasing badness). But then I save the day by swooping in and lovingly molding all the sad tets in to plump round ones. And that has been my life for the last three weeks (and to a lesser extent, the last nine months). Oh yeah.

i’m drinking my beer!

Okay, so I’m a bit early. I’ve only waited two weeks where I was supposed two wait four. But damn, it’s actually beer. When I popped off the top, it made that little hiss noise just like it was supposed to. It smelled like hefewiessen. The taste was good… a bit too hoppy, and not as clove-y or fruity as I had hoped, but it was beer! Leslie agreed. It’s thrill for sure that for $25 I can make five gallons of good beer… actual beer. What fun. We’ll see how it tastes when it’s been through it’s full bottle-sitting time.

I’ve settled into my classes for the semester… I’m taking three, which is one more than even I expected. I thought at first I’d stick to one, but Jonathan persuaded me to stick with my theory class by reminding me that it’s actually not necessary to ace every class you take. So I’m planning on a nice B+ and by the end of the semester, I’ll only have one more class to take for the Ph.D.

In other news, three distinct Wii modchips have been announced. Those of you who know of my video gaming proclivities are no doubt aware that all the other consoles in my life (PS2, Xbox, DS) have been mercilessly soldered into submission to deliver me free games, emulators, media centers and whatnot. The potential to do the same to my Wii brings me joy… I can go back and take a look at some of those Gamecube games I never had a chance to buy (the Gamecube avoided my onslaught by such simple physical measures as having mini-DVDs burned backwards), as well as trying out the new Wii gimmicks without throwing down $50/pop. I’ll be sure to document the debasement of my little white beauty.

the semester begins; also, making beer

This was the first week of class in my 6th (!) semester at Berkeley. Here at Berkeley EECS they believe in making grad students take plenty of classes, and I’ve got a few more to get through before I’ll be done. I’m taking one class that’s a full-blown lecture setup, with problem sets, a project, and even a midterm and a final. Yuck… but if I make it through I will have completed my inside minor in “Theory,” and I’ll have just one more class left to take. I’m also in a “reading” class taught by James, which basically consists of reading a paper or two every week and discussing it in a group–much lower work load. If only I could find a theory class that fit that same mold, I’d be a happy camper. I’ve got a paper deadline in April, and also around that time I’ll be giving my quals, which if I pass I will be “ABD” (all but dissertation), very exciting.

Also exciting is the 6-gallon glass jar on the floor in my kitchen that is filled with fermenting beer. Now, lest you think too much of me, brewing beer is not, as far as I can tell, cool to do anymore. No, it’s squarely in that awkward stage between being cool and retro. I know this because whenever I mention that I’m doing it to someone the response is usually “You too?” or “Oh yeah, I used to brew beer a few years ago,” or something along these lines. But ponder this, hipsters: beer for $0.10/bottle in raw materials never goes out of style. My first batch is a wheat beer, which has been fermenting for about a week and is ready to go into bottles. After it’s in there, I’ll have to wait a couple of more weeks before I can try it. I’ll be sure to give a full report, assuming I’m not killed by some super bacteria I’ve bred along with the yeast.

if only i could bowl like this in real life

Well, classes for the semester are over. In machine learning, I trained a computer overmind to automatically tell when a DJ starts blabbing on the radio and change the channel. No, really. My last computational geometry homework (if you’re a glutton for punishment you’ll want a look at that, too) went like a great weight being lifted off of my shoulders. I’m working full time on tetrahedra these days, and I hope to even have some pictures for you soon.

I bowled 216 today in Wii bowling. Four strikes in a row at one point. It turns out that Marc’s excellent advice to “shake the hand of the head pin” works in the virtual world. If only I could translate my skill with pixels to the real thing. You should see the spin I can put on it.

In a week we leave for Christmas festivities in Texas, which include a lot of quality time in Dallas, some wedding-related festivities, and, after the new year, some skiing in Utah, which should be fun. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a lot more skiing in my future, as my parents are looking into picking up part of a condo that my uncle owns just down the street from Winter park. Amazing.

This is the calmest I’ve been at this time of year since I started at Berkeley. Why? Because I probably won’t have a SIGGRAPH submission (due late January), and even if I do, it will be on my terms and the fruit of a project I really love. Also, I picked up a (virtual) 6-4 split–Leslie as my witness–and that alone should keep a smile on my face for weeks.

goodbye io

Today I sold my shiny new MacBook Pro, so recently acquired. Why? Our research group had two of them donated very soon after I got mine, and one came my way. Luckily craigslist made short work of it so now it’s like i’ve got the same laptop except I didn’t have to pay for it.

Classes kicked off this week. I’m taking swimming, which looks like it will be a great way to get some more cardio, plus the pool it’s located at has a beautiful solid marble deck and a great view of campus. I’m also in a couple of hard-core CS grad courses that should be fine and move me that much closer to my Ph.D.

Today I gave the lecture in James’ graphics class–it was basically just a show-and-tell of recent graphics research–and I really enjoyed it. The pressure level was so much lower than the talks I’ve given recently, and I didn’t even have to rehearse. It was nice to remind myself what that kind of presentation can be like.

A couple of weeks ago my parents came up to Leslie’s parents ranch and had a great time eating and drinking and occasionally planning wedding stuff. They seemed to hit it off, which bodes well for the rest of forever our families will spend fused by “holy” matrimony.

Otherwise, things are just rolling along. We’re cooking and eating lots of good food, enjoying the dregs of summer weather before the rain comes. Leslie pointed out to me today that some of the trees here in Berkeley have started to change already, as we careen down into this second year of our Berkeley life.

school’s a comin’

I love that I may actually make it to my 10-year high school reunion and still be in school. I was planning to discuss my possible classes for the fall (Computational Geometry, Machine Learning, User Interface Design) and I realized that the first time I posted my class schedule was six years ago. And that was for my sophomore year in college. I’ve got this feeling after this I’ll be done with school for good…

siggraph: electronic theatre and the tale of the giant head

I got back last night from Boston. A long day of travel, but not too terrible. Since I last checked in with you, the rest of SIGGRAPH managed to happen, so maybe I’ll share a bit about that. Monday night was the Electronic Theatre, a showcase of a bunch of recent cool computer animations. One neat thing they had going on was that they gave each person in the theatre (probably about 2000 people total) a little reflective stick that had green on one side and red on the other:

reflective sticks

There were cameras mounted at the front that counted the number and location of each color. The point was that by showing red or green, you could vote to control the action of games shown on the big screen. They started with the Guinness-certified world’s largest etch-a-sketch, though the results were less than stellar:

reflective sticks

Things heated up with pong though. It was left side of the theatre versus right, and being right in the middle I took up the role of journalist. See an entire point played by the room here.

Wednesday morning I gave the talk. Things seemed to go off without a hitch, though my phone went off in my pocket about 5 minutes in with an alarm reminding me not to miss my talk, which threw me for a loop for about 30 seconds. Because this is quite possibly the only time I’ll give a talk like this, I got one picture before the session of my view (though really I couldn’t see anything because of the lights they had on me):

speaker's view

And finally a shot me in the act of “talking” or whatever the right verb is. Probably the biggest version of my head that will ever exist.

big head!

So with the talk over, I had several good questions, some meeting with people after the sessionand it seemed like the general consensus was that everything went fine. I’m told that the videos elicited both “oohs” and “ahs.” I made my way from the hall to decompress by watching about 3 hours of animation theatre, which ended with our clip. It was fun to see it on the big screen in full 1080p glory.

Wednesday night most everyone was done with talks so we went out to celebrate. Luckily for us we ended up at the EA party which not only had tons of free food and bowling, but an open bar. This was a nice change from the typical $7 beers you encounter in conference land. So we all drank a bit too much and I shamed my self (and my great mentor, Marc) by bowling one of the worst games of my life. Thursday was sleeping in and flying home, and now here I am. Three SIGGRAPHs under my belt–how many more await me?