Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

A few more hours to 2010. I wish everyone a great new year ahead; hope all your dreams, aspirations, and resolutions are fulfilled. Hope the world becomes a more better place in 2010.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Broken internet and The Mystic Masseur

Going back to reading books over break has been refreshing. I just finished reading Naipaul's The Mystic Masseur. I don't think I ever read a book by Naipaul before, but I have to say that I am pretty impressed. I like the imagery that permeates Naipaul's writing. The Internet in my apartment was down for the last few days, and that definitely put me in the mindset to pick up a book. I also realized that my life has been deeply interwined with the Internet; I felt something was amiss in my life, that some portion of my daily life has suddenly disappeared - an appalling dependency on technology.

The net is back, since I am writing this entry, but the irony is that I need the technology to talk about my appalling dependency on the technology.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Lifted first order and first order languages

I spent a week or two exploring first order and lifted first order languages. The idea is very simple; express models in first order, and the system creates the necessary graphical models to perform inference. From a machine learning perspective, this is a very useful idea. Since graphical models are not always in the repertoire of machine learners, this kind of first order language specification of probabilistic models will be advantageous. I think the eventual goal is to have such a system as a library to a standard programming platform, where the complexity of graphical models is abstracted away in the form of a blackbox.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Transfer learning and kernel based multitask learning

I have a number of papers on transfer learning that I have started looking through for one of my research projects. Transfer learning is a machine learning technique where the basic idea is to learn multiple related tasks simultaneously, rather than learn each task independently. Previous work have shown that this works better, especially for predictive performance, compared to independent, single task learning. For my problem, I am interested in using multitask learning techniques based on natural extensions of kernel based methods for single task learning, such as the Support Vector Machines (SVMs).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Go programming language

One of my friends from the compiler group sent me an email regarding Google's new programming language, Go. From the Google talk presentation it seems this language has some unique and amazing features, and most interestingly, it feels like a language where one can code like python and get power of C++. Check out this talk if you want to know more about the language.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Procrastination weeks

Procrastination has been an old friend of mine, going back a long way. We lost touch at some point in college, except occasionally crossing each others path. The last two weeks of this quarter, procrastination has become my constant new friend. It's probably time to cut loose of this friend, except the occasional visits.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Why $\textstyle l_2$ norm?

Recent progress in signal processing theory has generated a renewed interest in the effectiveness of using the $\textstyle l_1$ norm. It is interesting to note that, for example, in sparse signal recovery one can do a more accurate signal reconstruction minimizing the $\textstyle l_1$ norm.

The reason I have been thinking about $\textstyle l_1$ norm is because it apparently looks more useful for a portion of my current research. Maybe over a hundred years ago, or so, whenever mathematicians started thinking about norms $\textstyle l_2$ won, but current research trends show that $\textstyle l_1$ norm is very handy for a number of practical purposes.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Convex optimization reading group

I am now part of a reading group on convex optimization. We are going through the amazing optimization book by Professor Boyd.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Getting busy...

This is only the second week of the fall quarter, and things have already started to pick up. I was expecting that anyways, and now that it is here, might as well embrace it. Although, there is some reluctance to accepting the busyness, not really sure why because I just got out of college a few months ago, maybe because my feeling of being 'out of school', rather then 'being in school', has not subsided as much as I thought.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Compressive sensing, again

I am currently reading a paper titled 'Random projections of smooth manifolds' by Baraniuk and Wakin. From a machine learning point of view, this paper is very interesting since it deals with dimensionality reduction, a very useful technique in machine learning research. The other great aspect of this paper is its close relation to compressive sensing (cs) ideas, a topic that I have been excited about for a while.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Graduate orientation...

Graduate orientation starts from tomorrow. It is a whole day session tomorrow, from eight in the morning till six in the evening. I am looking forward to the event tomorrow, since it is the official beginning of my new life as a phd student. There are numerous other orientation events throughout the beginning of next week, till classes begin at the end of the week. That reminds me, I need to explore more class options.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Unemployment vs PhD

This is from phdcomics,

Makes one wonder whether it is worth getting a PhD or stay unemployed.

Computational tools for cooking

You don't need to be surprised reading the title, it does put Computational tools and cooking together in the same sentence. One of the perks of being a new graduate student is cooking for oneself, or rather, as in my case, learning to cook for oneself. It aptly fits in with my area of interest, machine learning, since I am learning to cook, identifying patterns in cooking from my training experience, and using those ideas to further refine my cooking to perfection.

However, I am not referring to myself by the term Computational tools in the title. Besides all the traditional tools necessary for cooking, my list involves a laptop, webcam, and internet. Honestly, I don't have a good idea of the quantity of spices to use or how to cook certain food items yet, so I take help of Google to find out recipes and figure out how much of each spices to use, if any. It is not as simple as searching for a recipe though; most times I don't have all the necessary ingredients mentioned in the recipes that I find, so I improvise by abstracting information by combining multiple recipes and some experimentation. This technique has served me adequately so far.

In the extreme case, which, very fortunately, has not happened yet, I have no idea of how to go about cooking something, skype and video chat seems like a great resource that will come in handy. Just call up someone who knows how to cook, and use the cam to show what disaster you have been up to and follow directions from that person. One great advantage of this telecooking technique is that you are not limited by geography, and can potentially go international; except that time zone might be a contributing factor.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Graph theory and probabilistic inference

Graphical models and probabilistic inference have become an intimate part of current machine learning research. I came across a paper by Professor Michael Jordan that gives a great introduction to probabilistic inference techniques based on graphs. Here is a link to the paper.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Getting into research

I have set up my workspace in the office, and have started going regularly. Because of summer, many of the senior phd students are not around but will probably be back by next week before classes start. So far, I have been spending a good amount of time reading a lot of the background work that my advisor and his collaborators have done, and current work they just completed. And of course, also thinking about my own research problem.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Keys to my office space

I got the keys to my office and access card to the cs building today. After picking up the keys and card, I went into the office to claim my desk. I got a nice, lighted space on the corner, with a set of lock and key drawers as well. I am feeling pretty excited having my own office space, a sanctuary to delve into deeper thoughts and understand the intricacies of computer science. It will be a while before I become a regular at my office, but I am looking forward to it already.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Law of brain activity and temperature

I think this law is generally true, $\textstyle \text{level of brain activity in research} \propto e^{-(\text{outside temperature})}$ Please don't quote me on this.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

California heat...research

I have been back a few days only, and the heat has already started to kill me. It has made me listless, not that I wasn't before, and almost sucked out all the energy in me. Amidst all this, I met my advisor today to discuss a research problem to start on. Since classes don't start till later, I can use the time in between to, hopefully, take a few stabs at the problem. Let me try to summarize the general research problem,
Use some form of probabilistic machine learning model to tweak segmentation/recognition of objects in natural images using high level knowledge (forming the ground truth).
The summary is very vague, but I will try to give exact details in later blog entries.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


My summer at home has come to an end. I am leaving today, flying back to California for graduate school.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My books wishlist

I am adding these two books to my wishlist. From what I have read in the reviews, both of these are going to be an enjoyable read.
Actually, the second one was recommended by a college friend.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Using Latex on Blogspot

I have been looking for a way to incorporate Latex code on Blogspot to write math, and here is a great way of doing it.
It looks quite nice too, $\sum_{i=1}^n 2^i$

By default, the math, as a rendered image, is displayed within a border. The border can be easily removed by modifying the html content under layout -> edit html

.post img{
border:1px .......

Simply set the border attribute to 0px. I think this also means your uploaded images will no longer have a border, but you can probably give that up for the sake of Latex.

[Update on August 17, 2009] I don't like the size of the rendered image displaying the math, it creates white space between consecutive lines if the math is put in as inline, making a large blog entry with lots of inline math equations look ridiculous. Wordpress does a much better job in handling latex code. Blogspot should incorporate latex handling if it wants to be popular among bloggers who like to use math in their blogs.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Reading list... my conscience

This is for my conscience, that I am also spending valuable time in the summer looking at 'valuable' things. This list depicts some of the cs related books that I have, or been pretending, to read/skim over the summer.
Notice that the list does not include anything related to machine learning, but, again for my conscience, there are some machine learning related stuff that I have also been paying close attention to.

Three men in a boat, a comedy of human folly

This summer, I have taken an interest in reading some classical literary work. The detective stories that I have been reading, which I have mentioned in my previous post, is a testament to this fact; though, one can argue the inclusion of such detective stories as ‘classical literary’ work, let us not delve into that matter. I recently took up a classic book titled ‘Three men in a boat,’ by Jerome K. Jerome. Through the comical nature of three, seemingly lazy, English friends as they embark on a journey by the river to relieve the stress of their overworked lives, Jerome brings out some follies of common human nature. I haven't yet finished reading the book, just over half way through, but as I come across new incidents in the lives of the three English gentlemen on their revitalizing river trip, I can't help but reflect as to how, surprisingly, the behaviors portrayed seem to reflect within the intricacies of modern life.

Rabindranath Tagore, a question, and a hope

Tagore was the first Bengali to win the Noble Prize in literature. He created masses of amazing songs, poems, and stories that were translated into many different languages, appreciated by Bengali people as well as from people around the world. Well, I am digressing from the point of my post, which is not to acclaim Tagore, because there are far able people who can do a better job, but to raise a question that suddenly popped into my mind while I was watching a program on Tagore. Why haven't we seen any other Bengali noble laureate in literature after Tagore? It has been decades since Tagore passed away, and I don't think we have seen anyone else in Bengali literature rise to the pinnacle like Tagore. Are the Bengalis losing their creative and literary minds, I hope not, the ability to stitch together words that talk about simple life, and sway people's mind - maybe materialistic nature is burgeoning on the creative minds before they can bloom, who knows? But I do hope, and I will be greatly elated, that at some point we get to see another Tagore rise up to transform Bengali literature into new directions.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Holmes, Dupin, Feluda, and more...

An exciting affair this summer, right before I start graduate school, is taking some time to go back to reading some of the classic detective stories. I have always been an avid fan of Sherlock Holmes, Dupin, and one of the most brilliant Bengali detectives, Feluda. Of course, the list of my favorite detectives is not exhaustive, it includes other famous characters like Poirot and Marple, two incredible creations of Agatha Christie, and other Bengali detectives. We had a collection of detective books in our house, and even though I have been away from home for college for sometime, I was glad to find some of these books still lying around in the bookshelves. These books not only help me to reconnect with some of my favorite characters, but bring back memories as I open them, for many were gifts from 'folks'.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Change in blog look

I decided to change my blog look to a simpler, more elegant white background instead of the blue one. There are also a few other changes, all for the purpose of making the appearance simpler, and putting less strain on the eyes. Hope you all like this new look.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Quote 0

"A mathematician is a machine that converts coffee into theorems." - P. Erdos

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

Netflix Prize grand winner 2

In my last post, I did not make it clear that the paper describes one part of the total system. It only deals with one of the many models that comprise the whole system. Hope this clears it up.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Netflix Prize grand winner

I got my hands on the paper describing the system that is now the grand winner of the Netflix competition. The paper is written by Yehuda Koren. Koren basically showed how to improve Netflix's recommendation algorithm by incorporating information about the changes in the ratings over time. I have only read a few beginning parts of the paper, but it looks very intriguing, and I am interested in knowing the details of the technique.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bangladesh wins first test series, yay!

For the cricket crazy nation of Bangladesh, the most amazing thing has happened - Bangladesh has won the first ever test series. And what a win! We whitewashed West Indies in the Caribbean venue. The final innings of the second test match was almost a disaster for Bangladesh, losing a few quick wickets and struggling to keep the run cycle crunching. However, a brilliant partnership turned the match in Bangladesh's favor, leading to a terrific 2-0 test series win. Great job!

Friday, July 17, 2009

An evening of hanging out in Dhanmondi

I spent a great evening in Dhanmondi today, hanging out with Murad, Lenin, and Khaled. All three are friends from high school with whom I have been out of touch for a while. I saw Murad almost after three years, Lenin it has been about four years, and Khaled, I think it has been almost ages.

It was truly amazing to see these people from my good old high school days. Although, I have been in touch with Muard quite often electronically, and sometimes with Lenin, but nothing makes up for the excitement of seeing friends from the past in person. When I got the call from Murad in the afternoon that he is hanging out with Lenin and Khaled in Dhanmondi, and if I can come over, I was really excited in getting the opportunity to hang out with some old friends after many years - and let me just say here, these people have changed, or rather evolved, into some great human beings. We tried calling two other friends from high school, whom I haven't seen for two years, but they couldn't make it today.

Dhanmondi is also a place that holds lot of memories for me -- both my sister and I went to our beloved school in Dhanmondi for many years, till high school. I took a walk around Dhanmondi with Murad later in the evening, heading towards Dhanmondi lake to hang out. Dhanmondi lake is an amazingly beautiful place with lot of memories of playing cricket between classes in school, after labs during high school, and of course, the exquisite chicken roll from this street shop at the corner. The street shop still exists, but unfortunately they no longer make that chicken roll. Hanging out there was still great, except the place was overcrowded because of the weekend. The evening event then reluctantly concluded after a few hours.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Machine learning blog

I just added a link to a machine learning blog in 'some interesting links'.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

User friendly error messages

I am pretty sure most of you are familiar with the many 'user friendly' messages that Microsoft Windows often spits out. The new firefox (with TraceMonkey) just crashed on a particular webpage, and simply failed to recover the page after restarting a number of times (no, my net connection is not the issue). It has been a while, as far as I remember, since I came across such a nice error message.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The awesomeness of home cooked meals

I have been back home in Bangladesh for about three and a half weeks. It has been two years since I last came home, and I realize this time how much I have missed home cooked meals and traditional foods! I never really felt this craving while I was away; I did miss the food, but I had come to accept this hollowness quite well. But being back now, and tasting the food that I almost never got to taste for the last few years in college, my craving for traditional foods has spiked tremendously. One goal for summer at home -- discover the intricacies of Bangladeshi cuisine and what makes it so delectable.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Mozilla firefox 3.5 with TraceMonkey javascript engine

Firefox 3.5 is now available! Why am I excited? Well, I am not excited about the fact that Firefox just released a new browser version - they do it quite often - but this version has a JIT (just in time) compilation technique built in, the TraceMonkey javascript engine, which I have been hearing about for a while. I just changed some configurations in my browser to take full advantage of TraceMonkey. Hopefully Firefox already did a good enough job to prevent a catastrophe of my browsing experience.

Three Cups of Tea - An amazing tale of a real life Indiana Jones

I finished reading this book a few days ago. I simply want to go on and talk about this book, but I am going to restrain myself and say this: this book is an amazing, epic tale of a real world person, and if you get a chance to read this book, just grab it. I can promise that it will be worth your while. Here's a link to the book.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Great kabob house

I went to visit the University Center at my graduate school, and came across this small middle eastern restaurant in the courtyard. The price is very reasonable, and I think this place can potentially get a spot in my list of great kabob houses that I have encountered so far in California. I will disclose the name as soon as I get to hit that place a number of times, and find out whether the food is consistently as good.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A great book that I forgot about

I read this book over last summer, 2008, when I was doing summer research at The University of Chicago - Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community by Robert Putnam. It took me a good portion of the time I was in Chicago to read this book, mostly due to time constraint with several other activities, but it was a great read on civic engagement. The book has more of a neutral tone, but it provides a vivid picture of the transformation of civic engagement in American society over the last few decades. Just thought I should mention the book if anyone is interested in such sociological discourse.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Finally leaving college campus

I am leaving my college campus for my new apt tomorrow. I have been staying on campus after graduation for the last two weeks, relaxing and enjoying being on campus which I have come to love and treat as my home. Being an international student, and after leaving home for college, I never realized till now how homely my college and dormitory has been to me from the day I came in as a freshman. I have spent a lot of holidays being on campus, not able to fly home half way around the world - mostly for the expense - which has made my ties with my college even stronger. It has been four long years, filled with amazing experiences and great memories. Thanks to all the great people who I have come across over the last four years, and who has made my college experience an amazing one.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

French Open this year is with a twist

The 2009 French Open is very dramatic. A lot of the big players, like Nadal and Serena, are out and the lower rank players are dominating the tournament.  Federer has moved onto the semi finals after a not so convincing win against Monfils; 7-6, 6-2, 6-4. I guess the French just lost their dream of a French player winning this years French Open. If Federer wants to win the tournament, he needs to get his rhythm back. I am looking forward to the final.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

An intro to compressive sensing

Both my senior thesis in Mathematics and Computer Science in college were related to this new area of signal processing called Compressive Sensing, which I think is a really amazing area of research. The basic idea of compressive sensing is that given a few available measurements of a signal, where the number of measurements is far less than that necessary for exact reconstruction according to Shannon's theorem, it is still possible to exactly reconstruct a signal (with high probability) given there is certain structure present in the signal. There are amazing theoretical and practical results that are currently being developed based on compressive sensing ideas. For anyone who is interested in an introductory view of Compressive Sensing, I think this lecture is great. I also have a link to a compressive sensing page at Rice, in my 'some interesting links' section, which contains a number of great journal papers.

An interesting discussion

I just had an interesting discussion with Geoff, one of my good friends from freshman year in college. We both graduated this year, he took two weeks for home and is now back on campus to do research with a Professor. The topic of blogs came up during our conversation, and he brought up a good point as to what direction my blog is going to take. The answer to that question: I do not know. My idea of this blog, as I have mentioned in the short introduction to my blog, is to simply put down any thoughts that cross my mind and share it with my friends. Maybe it will weigh heavily towards technology, code, software, politics, literature, science, humor, sports or international issues - time will dictate the path my blog takes.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Being on campus after graduation

I graduated but I have been living on campus for the last two weeks. It has been nice to live on campus with other friends, who also graduated, and being able to spend time with them. There are a lot of other non-graduated students as well who are doing summer research on campus or internships. One of the perks of being an international student is that you do not usually have a place to go, unless you have relatives or friends who has a place nearby, and so you have a good reason to stay on campus and be around with all the familiar faces. Of course, my college has an amazingly nice policy of letting international students stay on campus, which gives us international students a home before figuring out where to move next.

I am leaving campus next Saturday for my new apartment in graduate school, which is a little sad since I will be finally leaving my college after four years, so I will be enjoying every moment of my last week on campus.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cutest dancing robot

I came across this in my robotics class during my last semester in college. At the time we saw this robot, we all thought it to be amazing, cute, and really funny. Keepon was originally developed by Hideki Kozima at the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) in Kyoto, Japan. The purpose of the robot was to study social development by interaction with children. It is amazing how this small, yellow robot can mesmerize one with its dancing.

Reading for fun...again!

It has been really long since I last read for fun. As far as I remember, it was the summer after freshman year in college that I read my last book for fun, Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code. Now, after graduation, I have more free time in my hands to go back to reading for fun, and I have been taking full opportunity of this free time. 

I just finished reading three books: Waiting for the Barbarians, Blink, and An Unquiet Mind. All of these books were great; I really enjoyed reading these books, taking in each page and somewhat finding myself closely relating to some of the ideas in them, and found it difficult to simply put them down. For anyone who is looking for an enjoyable book to read while cuddled up in bed, I would recommend taking up any one of these.  

Friday, May 29, 2009


Hi! I just started this blog and I am very excited about it. As you can guess from the blog title, this blog is simply a space where I can put down my random thoughts. I hope you enjoy reading the entries. Ciao.