Spending the entire day on a single problem

I spent the majority of today working on my neural network. I am having this problem with smoothing it out, and it is bothering me.

I have created a model of primary visual cortex (V1). It all started out as just a fun project for myself, but eventually developed into something I really care about. In fact, I care so much for it that I have turned it into my Masters project.

The plan is to graduate this year, and so I have to start testing my algorithm and writing up the thesis. I have a paper in the works that describes good ways to validate models, and using those techniques, I am trying to develop a good model of V1.

Now, according to some of those measures, my model is very good. However, there is one thing that my model lacks, and that is a sort of “smoothness” that other models and real data contain. My approach with this neural network model is that of simplicity. I want to show that by taking a simplistic approach and using biology as our motivation for creating the network, we can develop maps that look strikingly similar to what we see in reality.

I spent the entire day trying to think of good, computationally inexpensive ways to accomplish this, and so far I have come up fruitless.

Below is an indexed image representing a primate cortex from an Obermayer et al (2003) paper, and then my “best” map just after that. They do not look overly similar… yet. However, I am getting there. I am pleased that I am starting to get groups of neurons as I see in the real maps, and yes I have the “pinwheels” as well as the iso-orientation domains, but I do not have the same visual appeal that many of the real maps do. I’m getting there though. I’ll figure it out.

This is one of those problems that I just cannot let go until I solve it! I’ll get there, eventually…

Pumpkin Day

Today, BF and I carved a pumpkin. This is his third year carving, and this time he chose to do a pumpkin face.

It was a nice Saturday. Yesterday I met with my MS advisor regarding my neural network, and everything seems a-ok. She helped me form an MS committee and well, now all I have to do is send her an outline of my thesis and we’re good to go. I’ll get to walk at graduation for my third (!) degree along side BF, who just recently successfully defended his PhD. We will both graduate from the College of Engineering. How exciting!

I also spent part of the day doing some catch-up on grading, as well as started work on this other neural network project I’ve committed myself to. There is a conference with a deadline in the beginning of January that I hope to make. I am quite sure I can do it, I just have to commit the time. One of the researchers involved gave me a data dump, and now all I have to do is create a predictive model, within certain constraints. My favorite!

Tomorrow, BF and I will go to the movies, to which we haven’t gone in *years*. Years! I cannot believe it. We are quite the homebodies. But, its OK. We enjoy our work (or at least I do), and I enjoy home. This is the life I live and enjoy!

Starved Rock

This weekend, the boyfriend and I went on a trip two hours out to Starved Rock and the surrounding area. It was a nice, relaxing trip. We did a lot of hiking and saw the sights.

I really enjoy nature, and its too bad that my skin is so sensitive to the sun. We were out “hiking” for approximately 4 hours on Saturday and then another 2-3 on Sunday, and the skin on my face got wind-damaged and dry. It looks especially bad under florescent lighting, which unfortunately was what the hotel bathroom had!

However, overall I really liked it. The weather cooperated and created the most perfect conditions for really taking in all of the fall colors. There were too many people on Saturday, but I guess with any popular tourist destination you have to put up with the crowds.

We had dinner at Mark Allens which exceeded my expectations. I am not used to restaurants outside the city to understand that I prefer quality in smaller portions over massive quantity any day. While the portions were still larger than I would have preferred, the quality of the food seemed better than I would expect. It seemed as though the chef knew how to prepare food using fresh and simple ingredients, which I appreciate. Despite eating more than I usually would at dinner, I didn’t come away feeling overly full or sick to my stomach. This is good, because I usually don’t eat out for that reason.

One thing I was paranoid about was that of ticks. Despite staying on the trails, I was pretty concerned about a tick hitching a ride and making a meal out of me. Boyfriend and I sat in the grass for lunch and only afterwards did I realize that this was the prime opportunity for such a hitchhiker. I did wear lots of layers and covered all of my skin, and today I don’t believe that I have any ticks, but still I was pretty paranoid.

Third Place Podium Finish!

The triathlon was pretty awesome. I placed 3rd in my age group – my first podium finish! What was even more awesome was that it was my very first olympic distance triathlon, so to win that is so motivating!

It was a good race, but I totally did not wear the appropriate clothing. I accidentally wore my bike shorts instead of my triathlon shorts. Oh well. I also did not have an appropriate top. There was no wetsuit allowed and so I swam in my bra. Meh, oh well. I messed up a little on the swim because I couldn’t find the buoys, and also I nearly missed the turn to the finish line on the bike. Also, some guy’s water bottle cage fell off his bike in front of me and I nearly crashed into it! Grr!!

But, despite all that, I still did well! I was very happy with my time of 2:42:48. The run was good. I did it at my goal marathon pace (8:13/mile). This is all with about 50 pounds I want to lose. Imagine how fast I could be if I were leaner. Yes…

Therefore, the goal for Chicago Triathlon is to do the race in much better shape. I want to be lean and so, for the next 7 weeks or so, I will be focusing solely on dropping this weight. I know I won’t get down 50 lbs, but I will lose something, and I will be faster.

I’m starting this week after some recovery and following some of the philosophy from Racing Weight. I am planning on doing cardio workouts in the fasted state as it has helped me before. I just get so lazy with weight loss because I just love to eat. However, I am so motivated now I feel like I can really do it. It all seems so realistic!

Time To Race!

Time To Race!
Tomorrow I’ll be participating in the Lake Zurich Triathlon. This means today I eat normally and I will not be doing any workout. I don’t want to drain my muscles of their glycogen stores!

The weather has been extremely hot lately and the lake temperature is reported to be around 81 degrees! That definitely means NO wetsuit. That’s OK though as I am sure I can swim without it! Haha. It will save on the transition time anyway.

Because I am afraid of the sun, I also ordered a white, Under Armour Heat Gear Compression Top from Amazon. I am hoping that it will protect me from the sun. I remember that last year at Ironman Racine 70.3 I got the worst burn ever, and I do not want a repeat of that to happen again.

Today after lunch the boyfriend and I will make our trek to the hotel and scope out the course. We are both excited as this will be our first Olympic Distance triathlon. Given my splits and training paces, I hope to finish in around 2:30 or 2:40; might I make a podium finish? It is really close, and if I were in better shape (aka with a BMI of around 19 instead of 24), then I am sure I could close in on it.

In any case, this event will be used as my “baseline” for the Chicago Triathlon. By then, I should have lost some weight and perhaps then I can measure my performance differences given the weight loss. We shall see!