Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Rather Large Cats

Ligers, a cross between a lion and a tiger, are the biggest cats in the world. These things are enormous! I think Bree would agree that the ligers in the pictures need to go on a diet, but I guess no-one tells a 500kg cat they can't have any food. We have a hard enough time with William!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Computer science vs programming

I set up this blog with the intention of documenting my research, but instead have mostly focused on snippets of life for the benefit of friends and family. I'm going to try and include more research related items. If it suits I'll carry on. If not I'll find another venue.

My first link item it to link to The Geomblog: Computer science vs programming. Ah, undergraduate education! A topic I'll happily rant about for a goodly long time! It's well worth a read if you're involved in CS education. Unfortunately, current circumstances, with declining student numbers, are having the opposite effect to that suggested by the article. Instead of teaching becoming more personal, and interesting, most CS departments have responded by setting up professional Masters degrees, and making their courses even more programming, with the intention of attracting students interested in the relatively well paying career that programming is.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Busy Fortnight

Last fortnight has been particularly busy. Here's a wrapup:

Last Wednesday I went down to London, meeting up for lunch with my cousin Cass, and then on to the British Library to meet Shriram, before finally heading to LShift for a Scheme UK meeting. The British Library is fantastic; I can't believe I haven't been before. My highlight was Leonardo's journals, which are every bit as restless and energetic as his genius.

I had to head back to Birmingham that evening, as the next morning Bree renounced any vestigial sporting ability, and accepted British citizenship. The Lord Mayor presided in all pomp and circumstance. Included amongst the citizenship pack was a Christmas card from himself and the Mrs. How unexpected.

The following weekend was Bree's work Christmas party, held at a hotel outside Redditch. The hotel was fun: we went to the gym, then swimming (a salt water pool!), then sat in the spa for a bit. Party was also fun. Danced till they kicked us out. Both of us woke up the next day feeling not 100%. Initial thought it was the excesses of the night before, but as the day wore on it became obvious we had acquired colds. Spent the evening at Nick and Rosie's. They've really worked their butts off doing it up, and it looks great. Thankfully we didn't have carpet stapled (!) to the floor when we moved in. Saw the kit-peas for the first time since we gave them to Nick and Rosie. They are bigger but just as cute. I'm glad all those late nights nursing them were worth it.

Bree had this week off and spent most of her time doing two things: being ill, and fixing up the laundry. Oh, and also preparing for our Christmas party on the Thursday. All were carried off successfully. The laundry is done, and looks great. The party was a great success. And we've both lost our voices from talking too much with sore throats.

For a few photos, start here.


Blunketto, the epic, though quarter-hour long, opera of a man, his mistress, and his faithful companion Labradori. Brilliant! Listen before next Thursday, when it will be replaced with a new piece, hopefully just as good.

Monday, December 05, 2005


My cousin, Cassandra Catherine Coburn is currently completing a course at University College in the capital. She has been commisioned to create a chronicle of her capers which cannot help but make me covetous of her circumstances!

Monday, November 28, 2005

First Snow

First Snow
Originally uploaded by Noel Welsh.
A cold winter has been predicted. Today it arrived. From about midday we've had snow on and off. By the time I left University there was a good centimetre on the ground. Bree took this photo out the front window of our house.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The House

Originally uploaded by Noel Welsh.
This set of photos shows the house as it was a few weeks ago, before the builders and all the flatpack furniture arrived. Note that the house is clean and tidy, which is certainly not the case at the moment! (Note: click on the photo to see the whole series.)

Bree and William being cute

Bree and William being cute
Originally uploaded by Noel Welsh.
Does Bree love her cat, or is she trying to strangle him in her sleep?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Hedgehog exploring the world

Hedgehog exploring the world
Originally uploaded by Noel Welsh.
Incredibly, other things have been happening in the world aside from my accident. A couple of couple of days ago Bree brought a hedgehog home from work to join the campaign against slugs. As far as I know the little guy's scarpered next door (through the hedge) but we can always hope.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Operation Today

The operation on my finger is today. From 10am it's nothing to eat or drink. At 2pm I show at the hospital. Should be operated on around 5pm and out by 9pm. In case the anesthetic doesn't work I'm taking along Gaussian Processes - A Replacement for Supervised Neural Networks?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Stiff Little Fingers

There are many things I should blog about here: our trip to Austria, and our new furniture are two. However they are not going to be blogged, at least not yet. Yesterday I came off my bike. Didn't see a speed bump (at speed), took air, and then ate asphalt. Luckily the gear I've always felt like an idiot wearing saved me from losing a lot of skin. However I dislocated a finger on my dominant hand. I should post the x-rays. It was awesome.

Some guys walking down the road (who'd I'd been watching to make sure I didn't hit them, instead of watching the road) were great. They helped me lock up my bike and then drove me to A&E, where Bree met me. A&E were similarly great. Within 3 hours the finger had been reset, and I'd seen a specialist. Everyone was very friendly. All up as good an experience as a dislocated finger could be.

Today I have lots of bruising and a bit of pain, but otherwise I feel ok. I'll have an operation in a few days to repair some ruptured tissue (can't remember the name) and check the tendons are all right. Then it's a cast and rehab for 4-6 weeks. So I'll be a one-armed bandit for a while, which is an appropriate thing for a reinforcement learning researcher to be.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Going Batty

Last night, just as the last daylight faded, we glanced outside and saw silhouetted against the sky a bat. It moved incredibly quickly, presumably chasing insects for its evening meal. It did a number of laps of our back garden; just enough for me to get out the camera in the hopes of catching in it frame (this is where digital cameras really come into their own) and disappeared just as I ready to take my first shot.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

In The 'Hood

A most unusual occurrence yesterday: we talked to two neighbours whom we have never before conversed with. I won't try to extrapolate from these events to some general statement about the behaviour of people in Birmingham, possibly compared to that in London. I think their behaviour is fairly normal when you've been living in the same spot for over a year, see the other people every day, and happen to be outside at the same time.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A Week Without Kittens

Somewhat belatedly I'll note that Nick and Rosie have taken the kittens. In fact we have had a whole week sans kits. For William this is cause for some celebration.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Friday, July 29, 2005


View picture 2 of the Beeb's coverage of the Birmingham tornado. Make sure you read the caption

We are alright. To tell the truth I didn't even take the photo; Bree's mum did. All I knew at the time was that there was a lot of rain.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Shed Razing and Shed Raising

Last week's big project: taking down the rotten wooden shed, and erecting a new aluminium one. It was a big project, but we got by with a little help from our friends. Tuesday we destroyed the old shed, with help from Dave and Will. It was rotten enough we could kick down the walls. Hulk smash! This was the fun bit. On Wednesday Dave helped us erect the roof of the new shed. This was the unfun bit. A thousand screws, metal parts that didn't line up, and crazy instructions. On Thursday Rocio showed up with her magic electric screwdriver, and progress accelerated. The shed is up, though doors need to be attached. Anyway, it provided a handy box to store all the junk from the old shed, clearing the patio for yesterday's BBQ in honour of Bree's birthday. Which was a most excellent evening!

Friday, July 08, 2005

Wow, The New House!

Originally uploaded by Noel Welsh.
This photo is one of 25 of the new house. Just click on it to see the rest. This is a special bonus set of photos as it has cats in it as well!!

We Won!

Incredibly enough we won our football game 2-0. First win of the season!


I don't know anyone injured in the London bombings. Concerned parents, be concerned no more!

Looked at my cycle speedometer recently and see I have set a new (personal) land speed record of 52kmh! That's faster than the speed limit (30mph = 48kph)!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Broadband Cometh

This post comes from home, via the new wireless router that has just arrived, to complement our 2Mbps ADSL connection that was activated last week. Yay!

Well there isn't much more to say. I'm about to go to University to play in our weekly football match. No doubt we'll be thrashed, as usual. The kittens are rough-housing, as usual. The write up of my algorithm is going ok. I hoped to get it finished before my supervision today, but that won't happen. It is hard to get work done when one is being used as a climbing frame. And yeah, the broadband, that might have been a distraction.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Approaching A Result

I'm writing up an algorithm for learning variable size finite state controllers. It is mostly an amalgamation of other people's work, but it should give me publishable results, a hence a paper, by Christmas. It's nice to be making some progress on the PhD after so long thrashing around trying to find a direction.

Our Three Boys

Our Three Boys
Originally uploaded by Noel Welsh.

This post is a constructive proof that blogs are just made of cat photos. This is the two surviving kittens being supervised by the resident big cat.

The white and grey guy is eating well and looking like he will recover, though he is currently 200g lighter than his brother. He doesn't think much of his brother beating him up, though this is the most fight he has shown in days, and so is a good thing in some ways.

Update: Bree insists both kits are black and white. She's a vet; she wins this one.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Life and Death in Minature

The Four Kittens The Four Kittens
Originally uploaded by Noel Welsh.

About 2 weeks ago Bree brought home some kittens that had been found behind a shop. They needed socialisation, and looking after; if they stayed at the RSPCA they'd probably get ill and the nurses wouldn't have enough time to give them the attention they need. As we took last week off to fix up things around the house it seemed like a good fit.

You can see them in that photo looking very adorable. Now, two of them are dead, and one is slowly recovering from illness. It has been harrowing. One night we stayed up to 3AM nursing one of them; an hour later it had died.

Friday, June 10, 2005

The Definition of Finite-State Controllers

I'm working my way through Reinforcement Learning by Policy Search and I've come across one quirk in the definition of finite-state controllers. To me the natural definition is a straight forward extension of a reactive policy. A reactive policy maps an observation to an action. The straight forward extension to include an internal memory would be to map observation and current internal state to an action. Peshkin's definition maps current internal state to an action, ignoring the observation. He notes that this can emulate my scheme by increasing the number of internal states so you have one per 'real' memory state and observation pair. I'm not sure there is any particular advantage to either scheme, though his will have less parameters for the same number of internal states as mine. He does incorrectly state that in his scheme the degenerate case with a single internal state is a reactive policy. That is not so, though it is in my scheme.

First Post!

W00t. The first post on my blog. The purpose of this blog is to document my research, mostly for my own amusement, and to document my life, for the amusement of friends and family. Web development topics are covered on Untyping. From time to time this blog will contain deep-thought, but that is not a mandatory requirement for posting. Why Blogger? I didn't feel like using Moveable Type, I wanted to see what a big web-based app offered, and, yeah, I was too lazy to set up something different.