Sunday, May 25, 2008


One way of thinking about spring is when certain flowers bloom, but that is generally more meaningful for people in the countryside. City people, like me, can only observe the seasonal appearance of certain local fruit, in the case of ye olde England, berries. The strawberries in the picture come from Hampshire, which reminded me of Southampton, my port of arrival in this land of Anglo-Saxon mystery, and gave me a sense of nostalgia. The blueberries, however, are Spanish, which makes my picture of English spring (above) somewhat farcical. But it is a pretty picture, is it not?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Computational Theology

This week has been spent mostly looking for prospective jobs for when I finish my PhD, and one thought crossed my mind, that of trying to apply for a postdoc in a university in the Vatican. There are a number of universities supported by the holy see, so I wondered if the catholic church would be preoccupied with the virtual world as well as the spiritual one. But sadly, it turns out that the only university in the Vatican itself has a rather narrow range of departments, consisting only of Philosophy, Theology, Canon Law (nothing to do with firearms, I'm afraid), and Missiology (whatever the fuck that is).

What a disappointment.

Portugal and AAMAS

I spent the whole of last week in Portugal, more precisely, in Estoril, where the 2008 edition of the conference on Autonomous Agents and Multi Agent Systems was held. A view from the conference hotel can be seen in the picture above, which instantly conveys the idea of what the place is, a beach resort. Unfortunately, despite weather forecasts to the contrary, I believe I managed to bring the notorious English weather with me, because it seemed to be rainy and overcast virtually every day (this picture was taken in one of the best days).
Tension was high for me, because not only did I have to give four talks about various papers on agents, one of my talks was essentially a summary of my thesis, the first presentation of it to an audience not consisting entirely of my supervisor. This time, the audience consisted of a designated mentor, and the chairs of the doctoral mentoring program. Luckily for me, my presentation was not a complete disaster, and although I might have said more than I should about some controversial topics, people generally felt my PhD was not a smoking pile of crap. Encouraged by that, I went on to present my other papers, but things of course never stay nice for long, and in one of them my laptop did not feel like working together with the projector which forced me to do half of the presentation without slides while trying to make an intelligible history out of the disordered thoughts I had at the time.
Now, going to the end of my thesis, I am looking at various possible positions, and who knows where I will end up.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Into the Real Wild and Lars

Although this week I have been busy with preparations for AAMAS 2008, in which I am expected to give four different talks, I managed to relax a bit by watching some movies I have been recommended, namely Into the wild and Lars and the real girl. These are two wildly different films.

Into the wild is a movie about a moron who thinks he is accomplishing something while he kills himself of starvation in an abandoned bus in Alaska. It may sound mean to call a dead man an idiot, but the fact that many Americans formed a sort of a cult around this example of idiocy deserves strong words.

Smile idiot, smile.

This guy Christopher McCandles, self-styled survivalist (and self-pictured above), after falling out with his family, decides to vanish and try his luck surviving as a bum around cities, which is essentially possible thanks to human charity, and wilderness, his main mistake. In his last attempt at surviving in the wild, he went beyond what his meager knowledge of survival could keep him and could not find his way out of a trail that was good enough to take a whole bus into a certain spot. A very good comment about that was made by a park ranger, essentially saying that if he had a map of the area he would need to walk two miles into safety.

The second movie is more lighthearted, and tells the story of a socially inept man who finds the solution to the social pressures to get a girlfriend in a love doll. Not a crappy love doll, mind you, but a Real Doll, pictured below.

Oh Roxanne.

Of course, just buying such a doll would not suffice for a movie plot, and the movie is not about a man satisfying his masturbatory needs with an artificial person. Rather he pretends that the doll is an actual woman, bound to a wheelchair, which makes for very funny situations, as his entire town tries to play along because the main character is such a likable figure. This last movie is definitely recommended.