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Tourist thing: Chinese Gardens

I finally got around to uploading the pictures from my "tourist trip" to the so-called Chinese Gardens. They're a 3-minute walk from my apartment, so I figured it would be an easy way to satisfy my "tourist thing" without involving too much hassle. I have to say, though, I was underwhelmed.

The grounds themselves reminded me of Vanier Park -- that's the park in Vancouver that's next to the museum, planetarium, and the Vancouver Academy of Music. It has same kind of grassy hills, light forest, a few streams and ponds, etc. Granted, the architecture of the buildings is different... but I didn't find that to be such a big deal.

The Chinese Gardens also contained a "Live tortoise and turtle museum", which was every bit as boring as it sounds. I'm really starting to re-evaluate my whole "do one tourist thing each week" -- I'm a terrible tourist. I mean, I'd never dream of going to a zoo or temple or special waterfall or whatnot in Canada, so why on earth am I forcing myself to do that here?

In a similar vein, my "tourist activity" tomorrow (this report is 6 days late) is running around the nearby lake. I don't know how long it is... when I glanced at a map, it looked smaller than Burnaby Lake (which is 11.6km around), but now I'm wondering if it's actually bigger. I should know tomorrow; if it takes me more than an hour to get around it, it's definitely bigger than Burnaby Lake. (to my family: yes, I'm definitely taking a water bottle with me. And this first time, I'm not going to do my "absolutely cannot stop for any reason" thing. I'll stop, drink, look at any maps that are posted, etc.)

Anyway, pictures are here:

PS tomorrow I'll also catch up on emails and stuff.

English lessons 2

Happy Friday the 13th! Today's English lesson featured me being lazy.

I began by spending 20 minutes showing the mistakes in last week's papers, discussing a few other mistakes that I didn't add deliberately (I mentioned the sigh "mistake" about the multiple holy grails, explained both sides, and let them make up their own minds). I also pointed out that the problems I added deliberately were common ones in their own writing (I'll keep on adding such mistakes), and ended with a few remarks about professors being human, too.

I suppose that last bit deserves some more explanation -- I was suggesting that a few jokes or slightly less formal language could be good. If the paper isn't engaging, you'll lose titles. At a conference, your choice of title alone could double your audience. Remember your readers: they've just been on a plane for 10 hours, they're jetlagged, they meet a lot of old friends and collegues, and they're scanning the paper titles. You're competing against the other presentation(s) that are occurring at the same time, having coffee or beer with collegues from around the world, or simply returning to the hotel to sleep. If you want an audience, you'd better make the title worth it!

Err, I still didn't explain it. Despite the common opinion amongst most undergraduates and first-year graduate students, professors are not mindless automata who do nothing but read papers in stuffy, formal English. Frankly, nobody likes formal English, let alone profesors. Other than possibly my father. If you have sufficient command of the language -- and I must admit that most of them don't -- then spice it up a bit! In a tasteful way, of course.

In the similar vein -- actually, mostly because I didn't start it until 9:30pm on Thurs night and was too tired to pretend I had a pole up... err, I think naughty words might be censored here... *cough* anyway -- my paper for this week is written in a distinctly informal style: Ideas are a dime a dozen.

Unlike the previous (and future) papers, I didn't add any deliberate mistakes. Of course, in this informal style, sentence fragments like "Get real." are perfectly fine. That said, I can't break any rule of grammar I please. So if you see any mistakes in it... mistakes that don't follow the style of that style of writing... please let me know. I'll be putting an updated version of this on their English wiki in a few days.

PS I'm not actually quite as dismissive of position papers and surveys as this paper suggests. The history here is that I've received about ten papers forwarded from people in the group saying "there are some fantastic ideas in this paper!", when upon examination I found nothing that would be at all novel to the UVic MISTIC group. Now, maybe the UVic crowd are all super-smart or something, but I suspect that the problem is simply that these kids don't know the field.

English lessons

I held my first English session on Friday. It seemed to go fairly well, although I won't really know until I see their papers.

I told everybody write a 1-page introduction to a (possibly fictional) academic paper. On Friday, we all gave our papers to somebody else to peer edit. Next Friday, they'll do the same thing (after fixing mistakes), or hand it in to me.

I tried to scare them by emphasizing that it's a waste of my time to fix spelling mistakes or grammatical mistakes -- almost all of them have enough English skills that they can fix those things. Instead, I should be working on issues of organization and style -- pointing out how to make things sound more natural. I warned them that if I found obvious spelling or grammatical mistakes, I wouldn't spend any time on the more interesting issues, and they would have wasted their chance to get useful feedback from me.

I added a page to the group's wiki: English sessions. If you have any suggestions for other things to do, I'm all for it. My current plan is to do the same thing every Friday.

Oh, and I also wrote a 1-page paper introduction. Mine was about a fictional "tongue-based music browsing" project. It started as a total spoof, but now I actually think it might be a worthwhile paper to do. I'm certain it could be published in ISMIR... unless somebody else has already done it. I didn't bother looking for any related work. :)

Oh yeah, one final note: so that the person proofreading my work wouldn't get too bored, I deliberately added a number of mistakes to my paper. I aimed for common mistakes that I've noticed in their own writing. Test your own proofreading skills! See how many errors you can find in Tip o' the Tongue!