Vincent Cheung

Vincent Cheung's Blog

« Newer Posts Home Older Posts »

Friday, March 31, 2006

Seattle recap

Thursday - arrived and volleyball
3.5 hours after landing, I was on the volleyball court at the Pro Club for some pick-up volleyball and to say "hi" to all the people I played with when I was there. Most of the regulars were there, so it was good :)

Friday - MSR
Moved furniture

Saturday - Crystal Mountain

Convinced Manuel (a post-doc with Nebojsa) the day before to come skiing/snowboarding with me (he was very easily convinced :)). We went to Crystal Mountain. Got a freakin' $132 speeding ticket on the way :s. 47 mph in a 35 mph zone.... in the middle of NOWHERE on the highway in the boonies! 35 limit on the highway??? C'mon! Not that I was going that fast, it was just b/c I let the car roll down a hill. I'm so used to speeding like 10-15 over down there b/c everyone speeds like crazy on the freeways. Plus, it was like 8 freaking AM on a Saturday!!! First speeding ticket ever. Fortunately, it shouldn't affect my merits and insurance/license fees b/c it was down in the States and not in Manitoba.

It was a great day - sunny (for most of the day), warm, and great snow conditions. The runs were great, though the signage kinda sucked... We got lost in our first 3 runs and somehow on our second, we ended up down a black diamond when we wanted blue and in our third, we ended up down a double-black diamond with moguls when all we wanted was an easy blue run down to the base...

The runs were harder than Blue Mountain. Greens had parts that looked like blue, blue was more like black diamond, and black diamonds were steeper than Blue Mountain's black diamonds, though I think a tad easier than the double blacks.

Manuel was pretty good on skis and we were both having fun and being challenged on the same runs. Black diamond runs from nearly the top right to the bottom, almost a kilometre down was a lot of fun :)

Beware of the burgers from the grill there. I think mine was a little undercooked, but I was too lazy to do anything about it. My stomach felt a little funny for the next few days and I felt bloated. No diarrhea though!

Sunday - Stevens Pass

Hit Stevens Pass with Alex, Stacey, Minnie, and Ernie. It was busier (Crystal Mountain, even with a snowboarding competition going on had barely anyone on the slopes and lifts), but not too bad. The lifts were busy, but not many people on the runs, not like at Blue Mountain where you have to constantly watch out for people.

The runs were more like Blue Mountain in difficulty. The best was when Alex (the more tentative snowboarder out of all of us as he just started this year), led us down a trail that he said looked good from the chair lift. Started off as blue, then we went into the trees and some narrow areas that weren't too bad. Then we hit this really steep section with moguls and a post from the chair lift in the middle of it! I managed to make it down decently, turning a few times and then falling. It was great! Deep snow, so it was fun! The rest of them edged down, except Ernie, who on skis, took a diversion.

It was that run that made me love ungroomed trails. The soft powder was SO nice to snowboard on! Makes me want to go back to Snowbird and go down that ungroomed black diamond that I tried to ski on and killed myself b/c I didn't know how to ski in powder and I literally flipped head over heels and rolled down the hill.

The rest of the day, while we went down blue trails, I would take diversions onto the short black trails and looking for powder. The problem was that all the black trails there had moguls. It was pretty bad to learn there actually. The trails were either blue and too easy, or black with moguls and too hard. I went on most of the blues and blacks and fell many times on the moguls. I just have a hard time turning fast enough to get around them, but now I'm at the point where I can do a few of the turns, edge a bit, maybe another turn, and make it down without falling.

I had people on the chair lift laugh at me when I was trying to make it down one of the mogul runs as it was right under the chair lift route and I was edging down for a bit in order to get the courage to point my board down hill and attempt to carve around the moguls. I'm not a big fan of an audience when I'm trying new things on snowboard. When we were on that small trail with the post in the middle, some people were like "YA! DO IT!!!!"

Right at the end of the day, Minnie and I were the last to leave the mountain (trying to cram in a few more runs) and on the way back, we went through one of the small terrain parks. It was actually pretty fun. There was this rail made out of snow, but didn't really know what it was and thought it was a jump or something and I tried to go over the side of it :p. I went in the half pipe, which was cool, and I went over some small jumps, but I didn't really catch any air. I'll have to check out the terrain park next year.

Flew home

I managed to cram in pretty much everything I wanted to do in the short time I was there and had a blast! I guess the winters in Seattle would be bearable despite the rain and lack of sun because of all the mountains close by (Crystal and Stevens were like 2 hours away, Baker is a little farther than Crystal, and Snowqualmie (which isn't as good apparently) is only like 45 min. and then Whistler is just over the border). This whole snowboarding thing is really gonna damage the bank account as I can see myself making at least one snowboarding trip a year...

I was pretty pooped after my trip as I was active like every day that I was in Seattle. I think I need to rest for a little now b/c my left knee is hurting a little bit. I'm a little concerned considering that a lot of volleyball players have bad knees, but I've been fortuante enough to not have any problems. I think it's from snowboarding two full days in a row (falling may not have helped much) and then playing volleyball soon after.

Today, I realized that the best thing would be if they just left Yonge Street unshoveled so that you could snowboard to school (if you lived uptown).

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


What champions look like

School of Graduate Studies' Men's Div 1
Volleyball Intramurals Team

Greg, Jansen, Jon, Anthony
Ron, Bu, Vince
Missing: Utku, Gadi, Ahmed, Sam

Defeated UTSC (University of Toronto Scarborough) on their home court tonight in men's div 1 (the highest level) volleyball intramurals!!! We lost the first set badly, like 16-25. Then, we rallied back in the second to win it 25-20 and rode the momentum to win it all in the third 15-7ish.

Our first game was pretty bad. We just weren't playing well and looked dead out there. In the second, I was like screw this, I'm just gonna start screaming and try and get the team pumped up. I like to think that it helped because we started playing much better. We still didn't hit very well (probably b/c Jon kept setting right side all night and we weren't hitting well from there), but we won it on blocking and defense. Bu came up with some clutch blocks. They were demoralized in the third and we were up like 8-2 when we switched sides.

First time winning it all in volleyball in anything! It's all about the championship t-shirts!!!

Hit up Rowers back in downtown after the game and New Ho King for some late night Chinese food.

Gonna be fun making the figures for the paper while buzzed...

Monday, March 27, 2006

Stop with the Uma Thurman already!

4 flights. 4 movies. Only 2 different movies. All Uma Thurman.

On the way there, it was the same damn movie between Toronto and Phoenix as it was for Phoenix and Seattle. Now, on the way back (I'm on the plane from Phoenix to Toronto), it's the same movie that they just played from Seattle to Phoenix!!! I guess they just really don't expect people to take this route :s

I wouldn't have minded it as much if the actress playing on the little TVs on the plane for 8 hours of my life was actually likable or attractive.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


And by "research", I mean helping Nebojsa (my Microsoft advisor) move.

So I go to MSR (Microsoft Research) today to meet up with Nebojsa to discuss research. Turns out that for my 1-day internship, he's enlisted me and his two post-docs (Manuel and Joe) to help him move furniture from his old house to his new one!

It was pretty weird, and pretty fun just hanging out with these guys again. We did talk a bit of research in the moving van :p. And I did manage to mend fences.

Hey, I got a free lunch (really good near the Kirkland marina), free pizza for dinner (at Nebojsa's place), and wine. Apparently Nebojsa's having us over for dinner on Sunday now that he has furniture.

So, right now I'm at MSR by myself, a little drunk (like 3 glasses of wine), waiting to sober up a bit before I go back to Alex's place. Oh, and I'm swiping office supplies :)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

:( No internet access on the plane

I was frantically using the free internet access here in the Phoenix airport (yes, not quite a direct route to Seattle...)

I was hoping to still be able to get the wireless access here on the plane, while we wait to depart, but no go. At least once I've been able to get wireless access on the plane...

So, not sure when I'll be able to post this...

(I'm now in Seattle in my friend's apartment on borrowed wireless internet access :D - 6:19pm PST)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The secret to being a grad student

Here's my secret to suceeding as a grad student:
Do whatever you want to do and don't tell your prof until you've done it

I realized after advising Sars about her current situation, that I've just gone and done my own thing many times and didn't tell Brendan until I had done it and had some preliminary results. Sometimes Brendan is indifferent to the idea when I first mention it, but I will go and do it anyways, and after I show him results, he's impressed. Other times, the idea just comes to me and I just do it without telling Brendan and show him if it turns out. This is how I developed my distributed computing system, did a lot of the "award winning" video epitome work, and factorgrams. I often found myself doing similar things at Microsoft. Nebojsa didn't always know what I was doing, except that I was doing "stuff" and he loved that.

My advice:
  1. Do what you enjoy doing because then work doesn't feel like work

  2. Don't be afraid to do things without specific approval from your prof (or even mentioning it) in order to satisfy #1

Well, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying just do your own thing and don't listen to your prof. I'm saying, listen to your prof, talk with your prof, but also take the initiative and don't feel that everything you do has to be approved by your prof. Sometimes you just have to take things into your own hands.

Of course, your mileage may vary. Both Brendan and Nebojsa are pretty easy going and don't micro-manage me and I'm able to put myself on cruise control between meetings. But if you've got an inkling about something and want to try it out, I say just do it. You don't have to tell your prof everything that you're doing (unless you're using expensive lab equipment, etc.). I don't mean you have to dedicate months, weeks, or even days to it. Just explore the idea, try it out, and if it looks promising, show your prof and pursue it further, if not, drop it. Of course, if your prof has you working on something, don't neglect it, keep doing that, but you can still work on your own thing on the side. Consider it a 20% personal project, Google style. Just for the record, I was doing this naturally before I had heard of Google's 20% rule. Though I don't consciously try and dedicate exactly 20% of my time to doing my own thing, I just do what seems appropriate.

This works for me, but as with most things, use your own judgement.

@ Library from opening to closing...

Got to the library at 10:45 am. Left at 10 pm when it closed. Though, there was a brief lunch break and an hour and a half dinner with Sars, Gaj, and Wolfman in there (of which like 45 min. of was walking to Spring Rolls, who's bright idea was that?...). All in all, a very productive day! It felt great!

Occupation: Writer

I've given up engineering to become a writer.

Two and a half months into 2006 and I've already submitted 2 papers (latest one today at noon). I'll have another one next week. And another hopefully before I leave for Google for the summer, but it'd be for NIPS, due in June. Maybe a second one for the NIPS as well. Then maybe another in Nov. for CVPR (but would be published next year). Plus, there's the old undergrad thesis turned journal paper that may actually get published this year and a bio journal paper with me in a 3-way joint first author if the biologists get their act together and write the paper.

I wonder if I'll have some time to actually do some research. If not, I'm going to have nothing to show for myself in 2007 :p.

I...umm...don't watch Canadian Idol


I also didn't go see Rex Goudie and Melissa O'Neil in concert on Friday (who I didn't know were 2nd and 1st respectiviely in Canadian Idol 3) with Sarah, nor did I go see Hedley tonight (and I didn't know that their lead singer, Jacob Hoggard, placed 3rd in Canadian Idol 2) with Kevin. I also never went to any live Canadian Idol 2 shows and saw Jacob Hoggard back in the day, nor do I have his and other Canadian Idol 2 contestants' autographes. And I didn't want to go to the live tapings of the Canadian Idol 3 shows, but couldn't because I was out of town in Seattle at the time.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The new Google Desktop is amazing!

Finally, I have functionality on Windows that I have on my Mac! You can now use Google Desktop as a program launcher!
  • Hit Ctrl twice

  • A floating search bar pops up

  • Type in something (maybe the name of a program)

  • Use arrow keys to select and press enter

  • Program/file/etc. opens up!

AMAZING! No more having to look for programs in the start menu or in folders! OS X (Mac) has had this functionality for a while now and in the equivalent of the start menu (the dock).

Best thing ever! I've been wanting this functionality for Windows for a while now. Now I finally have it!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

No Skule on Skule action...

Both Skule (Engineering) co-ed volleyball teams finished first in their pools and got by's to the semi's. Both teams lost today.

Our team wasn't too upset. The team I joined this semester didn't even make playoffs last semseter, so just making it as far as we did was an accomplishment. We played a good game today, but just made dumb mistakes (like serving out and not passing well in serve receive). It was a fun game nonetheless. I was quite pleased how well we did during the season considering the team we had. The other Skule team, the defending champions, was stacked and really cocky. They took the loss a lot harder than we took ours because they expected to win.

Monday, March 13, 2006

It's gotta be because of my youthful appearance and attractive personality

Not sure why I was chosen to give talks during the engineering high school recruitment. Not like I went to U of T for undergrad....

I guess I am the youngest ECE student in the group (Peter's in CS). I also like to think that I'm one of the most socially functional members as well. Plus, I don't go around barefoot, in slippers, or in sandals with socks.

So, several groups of prospective students came into the lab on Saturday and I gave a short talk and showed some demos. It was weird as I had to think back like 7 years and put myself in the shoes of a high school student. My goal was to convince them that ECE at the University of Toronto was the way to go.

I hit them from two angles. First, job prospects are good, "I myself went to Microsoft last summer and in 2 months I'll be going down to California to work for Google". That's just gold in terms of attracting students. Second, I made their jaws drop when I showed them my cool epitome videos.

Everything was a lie though. My situation isn't that typical and it's not b/c of U of T that I got my internships. It was Brendan's connection for MSR and my own application for Google. Plus, all the stuff I showed, none of them will be doing that even if they go into ECE. These students will never step foot in the labs that were shown to them.

Glad that Sarah was there to entertain me during the down time. She totally played up the part about going to U of T for ECE whereas I just talked about my group and my experience and didn't really say anything specific along the lines of "you should go here b/c of..." I showed her my slides and I can't believe that she hadn't seen my videos before. She's like been to my website and stuff and she was like she's seen images, but never looked at the videos. Afterwards, she was like "shit, epitomes are the best thing ever!" She even said "e-pit-o-me" instead of "epi-tome". She suddenly had much more respect for "e-pit-o-mes" :p

Not sure how many high school students I impressed, but the undergrad tour guides sure were. The tour guides directed the students and had to bring them from lab to lab and 2 tour guides with 2 separate groups asked about doing their thesis in my group next year after watching my presentation!

The best part of course was the free food. I'm all about the free food. I'm surprised that I ate it though b/c I have traditionally not eaten catered food. Not that I'm like above catered food, just that the pre-made sandwiches always have "stuff" in them that I don't like. Though these were pretty plain. I got the ham and all it had was lettuce and some white substance. I didn't ask what it was. Not sure if it was mayo or margarine, though I think it was the later. I ate it and it was good. I usually don't take either (esp. the former) with my sandwich. This is twice now (I had a wrap at the Hart House curling bonspiel). I'm making progress wrt my open mind project.

I need to kick it in gear. I was really gung-ho about it earlier in the year, but lately I haven't been working outside my comfort zone enough. I've just been doing the usual thing. Well, I guess I am going on a spontaneous vacation by myself (flight leaves for Seattle in 10 days). That's definitely something new! Plus I'm opening up more. I was gonna write a post about my new goals for the future (not really new year's resolutions b/c they're not just for this year and they kinda started before new year's), but I never got around to it. I should post it to remind me of my goals. If I recall, one of them is to stop procrastinating..... oops.

Friday, March 10, 2006

I need to go to a "real" mountain

After complaining to Mimi that it's raining and almost double digits (Celsius) at Blue Mountain and that it's gonna be shit conditions tomorrow and that I want to go to a "real" mountain, I remembered Stacey saying that if I was in Seattle, she'd bring me to a "real" mountain. It suddenly donned on me. Why don't I just go and visit! It'd be perfect, I get to visit friends AND do some good boarding!

I'm looking into heading over there in 2 weeks to visit. I really want to go snowboarding and use my board, but I don't want to board in slush at Blue Mountain.

I'm also considering Whistler and Eric Yau is pushing for this choice. I haven't spent much time in Vancouver and gotten to know the place...

California or Bust

I'm going to be a Googler (an employee of Google)! Well, at least for the summer... (May - July)

I finally made my decision after sitting on the fence for a month and a half. My ass is really sore from sitting that long.

I consulted with many people over this decision - Brendan, Anitha, Sarah, Jill, Rob, Rob (intentional repetition), Mimi (person, not cat, since cat was not here), Christina, Stacey (Microsoft employee and friend), Nebojsa (Microsoft guy), Ashutosh (Google guy), and my family. I probably missed a few. All non-Microsoft people said Google. All Microsoft people said Microsoft.

It was a hard decision. I was flipping sides like every few days. I enjoyed working at MSR and with Nebojsa and value him as a mentor. Plus we have some unfinished projects and there's the prospect of him nominating me for the MSR fellowship (not needed financially, but nice to have). My life in Seattle was also good and I have friends there.

Ultimately though, I decided that considering that I am still relatively early in my studies, I want to establish breadth before depth with respect to working environments, living locations, connections, projects, etc. Not to mention the free food at Google!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Couriers are the worst way to send stuff

Sure they advertise that they deliver in like so and so number of days, but what's the point when they don't actually deliver it to you? Worse yet, you can't go and easily pick it up, b/c there's like only one depot for every like billion sq. km.

Offer letters from G were being FedEx'ed to me. I go and leave my apartment yesterday and was like, wtf? There's a notice on my door. Damn, I missed the delivery... wait a second... 10:30 am?... I WAS HERE!!! AND AWAKE!!!! WTF??!?!?!!?? I even had my bedroom door open!! Ummm.... HELLO??? IT'S CALLED KNOCKING!!!!! They didn't buzz my number and I swear they didn't knock, at least not, by any means, loudly.

They give me the option of picking it up... on like the other side of the city between the hours of 8 PM and 10 PM. WOW! A whole 2 hour window when I can pick it up. No, that's not an error because it's a pre-made stamp that they used.

I decided not to go pick it up this time (I did it for my iPod, b/c I couldn't wait, but that was their fault b/c I was home and they delivered it to the wrong address, then they had to pick it up from them and then they didn't deliver it, just put it in the depot). I received the letter this morning. They actually knocked this time.

Stupid couriers never work the first time with me. Shit always happens or I'm not home (why do you think that I'd be home between 9 and 5 on a weekday???). And there's no reception person here to accept packages for me. Worst system ever. I much prefer Canada Post or USPS, where if it's small, they shove it in the mailbox, and if I'm not home, it'll be waiting for me at the post office in the Shopper's around the corner, which is a far better system. So if you send me stuff, don't use a courier b/c it won't get to me. Save time and money and just use the postal service.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Sports tape is the new duct tape: Engineering design at its best


Engineering design
The best possible solution within the available resources

-- First year Intro to Engineering, U of M, 1999

Usually I get stares when rollerblading, especially in winter. I get even more stares rollerblading in snowpants with a snowboard strapped across my back while also carrying a duffle bag with my boots, etc.

Snowboarding was great today. I hopped onto the Saturday bus b/c they have space. In many ways, Saturday is so much better than Friday:
  • get your own seat on the bus

  • a lot less noise (i.e. no Marsha)

  • people are considerate of others and are punctual

  • good company

  • bus driver drives fast (we even passed cars!)

  • we don't make a pee stop for a 2 hour drive

  • we get dropped off and picked up right at the lodge so we don't have to walk

  • not having to rush b/c I'm meeting with Brendan right before and have to stop the meeting so I can make it onto the bus

Did pretty much every run that night skiing offered, except the double blacks. Erik was there again. This time I was also joined by John, Ian, and Winnie (the VP). I managed to convince John to try snow blades, thinking that that would slow him down for us, but it didn't really.

I came home and saw that one of the screws on my rollerblade had fallen off and my wheel was like mm's from falling off! This has never happened before. Screws have never been loose on my rollerblades. I checked the rest and they were all tight. The missing screw was nowhere to be seen.

Seeking a temporary solution, I remembered that I had a replacement brake in preparation for replacing my worn out one. I took the screw from there and surprisingly it fit, though it was too long and the axis would then be able to partially pop out, which would be bad.

So, I tied some string between the screw and the aluminium base to prevent the screw from being pushed in. Reinforced the ends of the string with sports tape and taped the other side so the axis wouldn't pop out.

If you look at the bottom of the left image, you can also see that I've used sports tape to reinforce my laces. They were fraying from being repeatedly pulled against the lace loops and was about to break. I've been using the tape reinforced laces for a few weeks now and they're working great. Rollerblades aren't quite in season and I haven't been able to find laces in stores. I'm going to need a new screw soon though...

Sports tape is the new duct tape. It looks better, is more flexible, sticks great, and doesn't leave as much crap behind when you peel it off.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Broke before I even got the chance to use it

I'm at the top of the hill. Excited to try out my brand spanking new virgin snowboard. Go to strap my boots into the board and the adjustment strap on my bindings snap off!!!!! I'm like "FFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCKKKKK....."

C'mon, not even a SINGLE run????

I strap in as best as I can and try to use my snowboards to help keep my back foot in. Fortunately it was only the bunny hill. I make it down carefully, thinking what the hell am I going to do.

Fortunately, the ski and snowboard repair shop was close by and this was apparently a very common problem with the Lamar bindings, but even the repair guy was surprised that it didn't even make it to the first run. The problem is that it's made out of really, really, really cheap, brittle plastic, which is retarded for something that's supposed to be outside in the cold!!! I decided to replace the strap on both bindings, b/c let's face it, the other one was gonna snap off soon anyways. The replacements are made out of a much more flexible plastic. Only set me back about $10.

Aside from that, my snowboard is awesome! Feels great, rides great. Considering that I changed the board (new height, new flexibility), bindings (instead of step-ins, which gives you less control), and stance (from duck to forward), I managed to adapt to it very quickly. Everything felt really natural and balanced, unlike others who had recently bought boards and seem to have to continually adjust them. Smoother and faster (esp. on the flat areas which is amazing) than the rentals and more control, plus no more gross rental boots!

I didn't wipe out today!!! Ok, well, a partial one, but I didn't hit the snow - I managed to recover. And another one, but that doesn't count b/c it was on a flat area and I was looking back to see if my crew (Erik and Johann) was keeping up. Oh, and that other one, but there were like bumps/horizontally stretched moguls.

I did all the blues again and did one black diamond (memory lane), and actually did it, didn't just ride the back edge. It actually didn't seem steep at all. Maybe b/c I desensitized myself by going down the double blacks the previous week (on skis). Pretty bumpy though, but at least not icy.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

One down, 4 billion papers to go

Finished the IJCV Video epitomes paper. At least 3 more to finish over the next two months. Maybe throw in an extra one before June and a small section in another sometime. Probably another one in Nov. Sheeh!

Quote of the day

Why are you washing my grapes?
« Newer Posts Home Older Posts »