The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Tag Archives: future directions

An Introspection At A Million Views: Reaching A New Milestone

“Don’t focus on having a great blog. Focus on producing a blog that’s great for your readers.” –Brian Clark

The Infinite Mirai is roughly six-and-a-half years old now, and it is at this point where I’ve crossed the million-view threshold. Seeing this number on the all-time views metric leads me to reflect on what this means: a million of anything can be either a lot or a little depending on one’s perspective. A million milliliters of water would weigh a million grams (a thousand kilograms). A computer display with the resolution 1280 by 800 would have 1024000 pixels, and a million one-dollar USD bills would weigh a thousand kilograms (USD bills weigh one gram). It would take 11.57 days to count to a million if one incremented once every second. This is where the Infinite Mirai currently stands, and this milestone is the culmination of the readers’ continued interest – it is no exaggeration to say that readers are the singular reason why the Infinite Mirai has a million views, and consequently, it makes sense to give my thanks to all of you for having helped this blog reach such a milestone. Taking a leaf from TheRadBrad’s page, you’re the best readers ever, so thank you – I know you’ll probably get sick of me saying it, but thank you for giving me the inspiration to watch and write about things for you guys. It means a great deal to me, and without you, this blog would probably not be what it is now. There’s quite a bit of road that was covered to reaching a million views, and this post represents a break in tradition from what I usually do.

  • Every time I did a milestone post, I said that I might quit. Six-and-a-half years in, I think that it’s safe to say that this blog is likely to stick around in its current incarnation, using the methods that I’ve found that work well enough for me. Over the past year, I find that I’ve been a lot closer to parts of the WordPress anime blogging community, and it’s been a fun experience to interact with other WordPress bloggers, all of whom have their own strong points, struggles and experiences with both life and anime.

Up until now, I have not particularly been keen on sharing my site metrics, nor have I given any suggestions and learnings I’ve accumulated to other bloggers. The reason for the former is simply because my traffic does not and should not impact what I do: while professionals bloggers need to be mindful of their visitor count for good reason, I blog as a hobby, and as such, it matters little if my posts reach ten people or ten thousand people. As for advice, I’ve long felt that in the population of casual bloggers, the number of ways to run an operation equals the number of members in that population. In other words, speak to ten bloggers and you’ll likely get eleven different approaches, all of which are functional. However, with this million views milestone, I’m breaking the tradition: first, all readers now know that a million pages have been viewed in some capacity, and basic arithmetic means that I get around 416 visitors a day. There are a total of 943 posts excluding this one, so each post averages 1060 views. Of course, these numbers are quite skewed – my earliest posts are not visible on search engines, and since I started my blog in October 2011, the years 2011 and 2012 are characterised by a very low visitor count, corresponding to my not using this blog to its full capacity until 2013. Looking through the archives will show just how different my style is now, compared to what it was when I first started. As an aside, I was secretly hoping that I would reach the thousand-post milestone close to when I reached a million page views, but as I’m still some sixty six posts out, that certainly won’t happen now. Having now dealt with the hard numbers about the Infinite Mirai, I move to the next topic which has hitherto not been covered here: any learnings that I’ve accrued over the past six-and-a-half years.

  • This is what things look like from my dashboard. Rudimentary statistics from my site are shown here, and I share a few interesting points: compared with the remainder of the community, my site has a much smaller number of followers, fewer comments and fewer likes. While I cannot say anything definitive about traffic for other blogs that I enjoy reading, the Infinite Mirai enjoys relatively consistent viewership coming from social media, Reddit and other platforms, as well as a high search engine visibility (try doing a search on Google for “Kantai Collection” and “Frostbite Engine”).

The list of things I’ve seen both professional bloggers and fellow anime bloggers present is a large one: suggestions have included tips for extending one’s presence and promotion, how to maintain consistency in one’s content, what sorts of topics to cover in anime reviews, and even how to pick a suitable layout for one’s blog. I’m going to say this openly: none of this matters unless one is writing for a professional blog, where search engine optimisation and inbound traffic corresponds with advertisement revenue, which keeps the lights on. For non-professional blogs, I have a very simple credos: be yourself. Traffic is not the end-all for us, and the joys of blogging are community building; it is a joy to be able to talk with other individuals sharing similar interests, and the close-knit nature of anime blogging in this age means that differing perspectives are eye-openers, instructive, rather than fuel for flame wars. With this in mind, one might then ask, if I’ve not followed any particular approach that both professional and casual bloggers advocate, then why is the Infinite Mirai as visible as it is? After all, searches for certain keywords will find the Infinite Mirai at or near the top of Google searches. Some folks have even remarked that my blog appears almost everywhere in searches related to slice-of-life and military-moé. The answer to this is that I’ve been unknowingly doing a form of search engine optimisation: I take a very unusual approach to my anime and gaming discussions, comparing things that seemingly cannot (or should not) be compared (e.g. comparing Les Stroud’s survival tips with what is seen in Yuru Camp△). I also dabble in conversion of Japanese information into English articles, write about games and reference various shows that I watch, and in general, approach things differently enough so that search engines can find the content, and that people end up finding what they sought when encountering my content. This is how I roll, but it wasn’t how I always rolled: it takes time for bloggers to find their structure and workflow, so when I say “be yourself”, I refer to finding a workflow that one should enjoy using, and then applying their own take on things. This is what keeps blogging enjoyable for me, and the reason why I’ve stuck around for a non-trivial period of time.

  • So, on a quiet April evening, where the winter weather has finally given way to the warmth of spring, I pass a milestone that, like my all-exotic loadout from The Division, I never really expected to reach. From what I’ve heard, this blog’s contents have been somewhat useful and mostly enjoyable for readers, so I’m very happy to have been able to positively impact a number of individuals out there. It is my belief that positivity is a choice, and in a world where negativity can be overwhelming, I aim to bring a piece of happiness into whatever it is that I do. Blogging is no different, and as such, I find that the best way to enjoy entertainment is to be open-minded; while some folks prefer the challenge of assessing what they don’t like, for me, life is too short to be doing this unless one is doing so in a professional capacity, so I stick with reflecting on what I like. Having said this, what would you, the readers, like to see from me in the future?

The lingering question for readers then becomes what will the future have in store for the Infinite Mirai. I’m not sure whether or not the Infinite Mirai will be around long enough to hit the two or ten million view mark, and on that note, I’m similarly uncertain as to whether or not I will reach the two or five thousand post mark. With that being said, there are some things that are a bit more certain. This blog has proven to be unexpectedly resilient, and I’ve said this previously – I will keep the party going here until there’s a suitable endpoint for this blog. In the meantime, readers can expect more of the same from me: unusual, unorthodox and unconventional approaches to talking about anime. I will continue approaching shows from a high level and exploring who a given show is for, as well as what aspects about people the show is trying to present. I will continue referencing the obscure or unusual, and I will continue to have a good ol’e time with those who participate in discussions. As for fellow bloggers who have begun their journey, I will note that the million views milestone is merely a part of the journey, and would encourage them to stick around; by the time one’s blog reaches a million views, they will have encountered a host of interesting individuals and ideas, and have created content that’s likely helped someone, somewhere with their own endeavours. In the meantime, I would like to thank all of the visitors and fellow bloggers alike for having done so much to inspire and motivate me to continue writing, to the point where a milestone I once thought unreachable is now something that is very much a reality. ありがとう!

An end of summer reflection: On pleasant weather and the dog days of summer in Yuyushiki

“August has passed, and yet summer continues by force to grow days. They sprout secretly between the chapters of the year, covertly included between its pages.” —Jonathan Safran Foer

While Yuyushiki is primarily about Yuzuko, Yui and Yukari’s time in their high school’s data processing club, one of the aspects that is often passed over during discussions of Yuyushiki is its depictions of the summer season. Throughout Yuyushiki, the lighting and colours are typically of a moderate intensity and saturation to convey a gentle mood throughout the anime as Yui and the others go about their everyday lives in the data processing club, looking up uncommon topics and having enjoyable discussions about the things they learn during their time in the club. However, when the hottest days of the year arrive and classes are no longer in session, the atmosphere in Yuyushiki takes on a different tone. Summer skies are of a a dazzling blue hue, with the landscapes fading away closer to the ground, where moving air creates a sense of heat. The brightness of the landscape reinforces the sun’s intensity to accentuate the hot days of summer, and to complete the presentation, the sound of cicadas are openly heard. In spite of the simpler artwork of Yuyushiki, it’s quite evident that summer is in the air. There’s a palatable sense of excitement at the unlimited possibilities conferred in a season characterised by long days and pleasant weather; all of these feelings are captured in Yuyushiki to give the sense that this is really an anime to be watched during the summer, and from a personal perspective, the summers of Yuyushiki remain the most vivid in my memories of this anime, despite the fact that only two of Yuyushiki‘s original twelve episodes were actually set during the summer itself.

  • One of the things about Yuyushiki that took some getting used to were the unusual facial expressions. They’re very much a part of Yuyushiki now and are a fantastic visual indicator that a character is feeling exasperated, mischievous or confused. Close inspection of this image finds Yui rendered in rather higher detail in some parts than others, while background characters remain quite two dimensional.

  • I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this, but Yui is my favourite of the main characters. I’ve not actually been to a pool in the summer for quite some time now; while I have basic knowledge of swimming and could probably survive in water, but I’m generally not fond of pools, owing to the smell of chlorine, which lingers for a while after leaving the pool. Even the unseasonably high temperatures of this summer have not been sufficient to motivate me to visit the local pool: the most I’ve done this summer to cool off on a hot day was to buy a Pepsi-flavoured slush by evening.

  • The hot summer weather of this image evokes memories of a quiet neighbourhood following the aftermath of the Great Flood of 2013: on Canada Day, the weather had been most beautiful, and I spent the day at home in the cool, playing Tribes Ascend and Vindictus after stepping out to a nearby Dairy Queen for a burger. Quiet summer days of this sort can induce a melancholy if one’s schedule is not filled, but in the time that’s passed, I have come to appreciate a quiet summer afternoon to myself, if only for the fact that I now only experience thus on weekends.

  • Most of my summer activities this year involve hiking in the mountains: during the course of the summer, I made three trips out to the National Parks, compliments of the free Park Pass. The first trip of the summer was out to Yoho National Park, then I visited the Vermillion Lakes and had dinner at Melissa’s Missteak in Banff, and more recently, hiked to Lake Agnes and the Big Beehive. It’s been fantastic, and into the autumn, there are plans to visit the mountains again provided the weather is favourable.

  • Besides going into the mountains, I’ve also enjoyed our equivalent of a summer festival in the Calgary Stampede, attended the GlobalFest 2017 fireworks finale show and watched Dunkirk. The weather this summer has also been quite conducive to eating watermelon and corn on the cob: we’ve had one watermelon a week since July and nothing defeats the summer heat quite like a chilled cut of watermelon. Other notable summer activities include enjoying a vast BBQ dinner at Big T’s.

  • The only real downside about this summer was the fact that, the beautiful weather that has given so much opportunity to spend time outside and the associated heat also means that conditions were ideal for wildfires. To our neighbour in the West, vast fires having been burning since July, and at least twenty days have seen smokey skies. According to old weather records, the last time my city was covered by this much smoke, it was 1969. The smoke’s wrecked havoc on my lungs, and just last night, I awoken to a face full of smoke.

  • It’s actually somewhat surprising to note that as I’ve enjoyed this summer to quite an extent considering my busy schedule: work’s been an uphill climb since I returned from Japan, and I fully appreciate weekends now that I’ve finished university for good. Back in Yuyushiki, Yuzuko, Yui and Yukari make for the beach. There are precisely two episodes set during the summer: the first has the girls going to a pool and spending time at Yui’s house under the air conditioning, while the second is the finale, which sees Yui and the others visiting the beach.

  • In these moments, Yuyushiki conveys the sort of carefreeness associated with summer; even I feel the effects of pleasant weather on Fridays leading into a weekend, and productivity typically declines by a small margin when the day grows late. The images above illustrate the sort of skies in Yuyushiki that so effectually capture the summer feeling despite the minimalist art in Yuyushiki – other anime, including The Garden of Words, CLANNAD, Non Non Biyori and Ano Natsu de Matteru, are rather more detailed with respect to foliage and environment details to convey a sense of warmth and brightness.

  • Unless I’m mistaken, Yuyushiki‘s manga is still running: it’s been four years since the anime’s original run, and there’s likely quite a bit of material that could be adapted into anime form. Having said this, Yuyushiki‘s premise is remarkably basic, even for a Kirara-kei anime; while I’d likely watch a continuation, there’s no guarantee that there is a market for more Yuyushiki.

  • It feels appropriate to conclude this post with an image of Yuzuko, Yui and Yukari walking home after their day at the beach under a sunset. As summer turns to autumn, days begin shortening, and winter will be upon us once again. No longer do I mind the end of a season so greatly loved, knowing that it light return once again.

It’s been some four years since I’ve watched Yuyushiki, and the fact that the summer episodes remain quite memorable is a powerful testament to the effectiveness that the use of visual and aural elements can have in shaping the viewer’s recollections of an anime, and in retrospect, some of Yuyushiki‘s best moments are set during the long days of summer, when Yui, Yuzuko and Yukari capitalise on the weather to create their own memories. The fantastically agreeable weather also brings to mind the events of my own summer. While I’m no longer a student and therefore have no summer vacations, this has not diminished my enjoyment of the season. Owing to a high pressure system in the area, the whole of this summer has been sunny and hot: from the various hikes I’ve taken, to the quiet days spent at the local library or bookstore, from the journeys out into the mountains to watching a partial eclipse happen, this summer certainly has been enjoyable. Today is the last day of August, and with it, we march into a season where students begin returning to classes. For me, this means the gradual cooling of things, the transition of the landscape from verdant to gold, and traffic jams. In my Tamayura: More Aggressive review four years ago, I reviled this, saying that it was a return to “that most hated of seasons”; looking back on my old words, it’s a bit of a surprise to learn that my outlooks on things have changed considerably since then. Autumn is a beautiful season, with its own merits that make it worthwhile, and I imagine that this shift of heart perhaps is a sign that I’m growing older. Furthermore, contrary to my assertions four years earlier, I’ve not completely forgotten Yuyushiki, and that in itself is an indicator that the anime was worthwhile to watch.

Five years since the MCAT: A Personal Reflection

“You’ll do really good you know, I’ll pray for your success! But you got it. Tell me how it goes after, and go buy something sweet afterwards! You should reward yourself with something yummyy~” —Ab imo pectore

As the title states, five years have now elapsed since I took the MCAT, and in the time that has passed, quite a bit has changed. For one, the AAMC has revised their exam such that there are now five sections, taking a total of seven-and-a-half hours to complete, compared to the 1994-2014 version of the exam: the computerised variant in 2007 could be finished in around five hours. In this time, my old MCAT expired, meaning that if I were to still retain any aspirations for a Medical Doctor degree, I would need to face down the new MCAT. This is something I’m unlikely to do, but at this five-year mark, the impact of taking an MCAT and the associated preparation for the exam remains a very profound one for me. There are bits and pieces of these recollections in the blog, especially in the Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare posts, and the short of it is that I spent three months of my summer in 2012 preparing for the exam, spending many a summer day poring over textbooks and review material, occasionally stopping by the medical campus to review with friends who had previously taken the exam and were gracious enough to offer assistance, or else whiled away short breaks in the library, watching anime on an iPad during mornings before my MCAT preparation courses. Through the combination of sheer willpower, unending support from my friends and a bit of luck, I left my exam feeling as though a large weight were lifted from me: under the golden light of an evening sun, I stepped out for dinner at a Chinese-style bistro and greatly enjoyed this despite it not being something sweet as one of my friends recommended. I then proceeded to sleep the best sleep I’d slept all summer. Now, the summer lay ahead, and I spent the remainder on it working on my first-ever publication, as well as shoring up my old renal model in preparation for my final year in the Bachelor of Health Sciences programme.

  • Besides long days spent studying for exams, one of the most vivid memories I have of 2012 was the fact that, owing to a frayed cable coming into the house, my broadband internet connection intermittently disconnected that summer, making doing full-length practise exams at home impossible. I recall a memorable July morning that I spent doing a practise exam and finished, scoring a 30T on it, right before the internet cut out. After lunch, I watched Survivorman and took the day easy. The connection eventually became so problemmatic that I did my final full-length exam on campus, using my lab’s Mac Pro, during one afternoon, before heading out to dinner at Bobby Chao’s with family. Here, I scored the 33T, and entering the exam, I was feeling much more confident.

  • This is a screenshot of my exam results. With encouragement from a friend, I walked into the exam a little nervous, but striving to do my best. Said friend’s constant, upbeat encouragement and support gave me a huge sense of comfort, and when my exam results came out, I was pleasantly surprised. However, as my undergraduate thesis wore on, I wondered if medicine would really be the best career path for me, and so, I took another year to figure that out while my friend took an exchange program in Japan. Our paths diverged here – they were broadening their horizons and chasing their dreams in Japan while I busied myself with learning more about software and learning to appreciate my home town more.

  • While we have gone our separate ways, it is appropriate to thank this individual once more: looking back, these experiences have also been integral in shaping who I am. Perhaps in the future, there’ll be a chance to do things over again properly. For now, this brings my reminiscences very nearly to a close: I do not think I will mention the MCAT again as it fades into memories past. I assure readers that future posts will return to the realm of the subjects I am wont to dealing with; this unusual segue is the consequence of the five-year mark passing on my MCAT, the point where scores usually expire.

A month later, my results arrived; I have previously not mentioned my scores at this blog, but with my scores expired, there is no harm in revealing them now. On my MCAT, I scored a 35T (the true score is likely between 33 and 37, inclusive), having managed to squeak by in verbal reasoning with a 10. The AAMC conversion estimates that of the people taking the exam, only four percent scored above me, and in today’s standards, a 35T approximates to a 517. Five years after the MCAT, my score has largely become a number now, with limited applicability except perhaps acting as a conversation topic for dinner parties. While the exam score itself may not hold a particularly great deal of importance, the experiences leading up to the MCAT and the attendant learnings would forever change the way I approach challenges. The summer also led to a first for me: I liken it to a variant of Tsuki ga Kirei where things don’t work quite so nicely, but as that story’s already been recounted in full previously, I won’t detail it too much further. While undoubtedly painful, I do not regret that things happened; it was reassuring to have someone provide support and encouragement during the MCAT, and although our paths have separated, I’ve not forgotten what they’ve done to help me. While the MCAT may initially appear to have been quite unnecessary, considering my eventual directions and the costs associated with preparing for the exam, in retrospect, this was an exam where the experiences conferred were those that proved to be quite helpful, whether it be learning how to read and problem-solve efficiently or how to handle stress. These learnings would subsequently allow me to wrap up my undergraduate and graduate programmes on a high note, contributing to how I approach problem-solving even today.

Reflections on the 2017 Summer Solstice

“I am a summer person.” —Elin Hilderbrand

The longest day of the year visits the world today: it’s the first day of summer, and while the light is welcomed, today is forecast to be a little cooler, with a projected high of 18°C. We thus enter the most favourable time of year, when the skies are pleasant and the air comfortable, conducive for hiking along the river in the mountains or unwinding with a novel and cold beverage in hand. A year ago today, I was gearing up for my graduate thesis defense, and while I was feeling quite confident that things would go well, there was also a healthy bit of nervousness. When the defense ended, I was most relieved, having passed, and with that, a new chapter on life began for me. I was set to begin work, but before that, I attended the ALIFE XV Conference in Cancún. Since then, I’ve been working: time has passed in the blink of an eye, and we’re stepping into another summer. While the days of summer research have long passed, and I’m busy all weekdays, this has done little to diminish my plans for the summer. I’ve yet to capitalise on the complementary parks pass that I received as a part of the celebrations for Canada’s 150th Anniversary; on my list of places in the nearby National Parks to explore include Takakkaw Falls and Peyto Lake of the Canadian Rockies. Closer to home, walking around parks in the neighbourhood and ending with shaved ice is also a simple but pleasant way to enjoy the summer. Finally, the long days of summer also afford me time to return to my old hobbies of sketching and reading. It’s a far cry from last year, when I spent all of my walking moments preparing for the thesis: without this occupying my every thought, free time is finally, for the lack of a better word, free. Of course, today is a Wednesday, so I will be heading off for work once this post is done: the weather may be warm, but iOS apps won’t implement or test themselves.

  • The vast blue skies and long, warm days of summer are a blessing, a far fry from winter days where it is forty below. It is a time of adventure, both large and small, and for appreciating the small things. While it’s my favourite time of year, summer melancholy is very much a real thing — it is caused by a longing for something (or someone) and a regret that opportunity gives way to routine. It’s an unpleasant experience, but one that can be surmounted by a willingness to appreciate the small things, whether it be a particularly beautiful sunset or a chance to enjoy a cold drink under sunny skies following a walk. Of course, there’s also the Steam Summer Sale to look forwards to: I’m eyeing Ori and the Blind Forest, Poker Night at the Inventory 2 and the legendary Stay! Stay! Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

  • Because I travelled in May, a time where temperatures remain comfortable in both Japan and Hong Kong, I have the whole summer free to enjoy the pleasant air in and around my city, as opposed to burning alive in the heat of a Tokyo or Hong Kong summer. I used to wonder what it would be like to live in the inaka, but ever since my travels, I’ve realised that the quiet suburban parks of Canada are about as peaceful as the rural parts of Japan. A day well spent is one that need not necessarily involve my overly-large Steam library — one spent out in the sunshine of a nearby park is surprisingly similar to walking in the inaka and is remarkably cathartic.

In my summer solstice post for last year, I mentioned that Your Name was something on my radar. Originally, I had been anticipating a release pattern similar to that of The Garden of Words, but this was plainly not the case. As such, my review and discussion for it will come out in late July. With Your Name in mind, the future of this blog finally enters the discussion: because this blog has proved surprisingly resilient against matters of scheduling, the only thing I can say with any confidence is that blog posts will be written as I find the time to do so. Sometimes, there will be more time, and other times, there will not be any time. However, I am not packing it in any time soon: besides Your Name, Koe no Katachi, Kono Sekai no Ktasumi ni, Kantai Collection: The Movie, Gundam Origin and Girls und Panzer: Final Chapter remain on my stack of anime to write about. In addition, Battlefield 1 has proven to be one incredible adventure, and I will be looking to continue telling my stories as walk the path to rank 110 (hitting the level cap has been something I’d never done before), and finally, with several new games on the horizon, there will be material to write about, as well. This blog’s continued existence is also largely thanks to you, the readers: knowing that folks are enjoying the discussion and content here is more than sufficient a motivation to write. Having said this, two more posts will be coming out later today: I will be looking at Metro: Exodus and revisit The Garden of Words with a renewed perspective.

ISAL’s ALIFE XV Conference: A Personal Reflection

“I was in Cancún, Mexico, sitting in a disappearing-edge swimming pool, on a bar stool that was actually under the water, watching palm trees sway in a sultry breeze against the unmistakable aqua splendour of the Caribbean Sea; drinking coconut, lime, and tequila from a scooped-out pineapple, with salt spray of breaking surf and sun kissing my skin. Translation: I’d died and gone to heaven.” ―Karen Marie Moning

I’ve returned from the ALIFE XV Conference now: held in Cancún, Mexico, for the first time, this conference deals with artificial life. This is a field where life and natural processes is studied by means of simulations, robotics, engineering and biochemistry; my research is related on the software side of things, since I primarily work on building agent-based models to illustrate biochemical reactions at the molecular level. The emphasis is on illustrate, since my models largely lack a solid implementation of protein-protein and protein-substrate interactions to act as a predictive model. So, back in February, my supervisor and I submitted a paper to the ALIFE Conference about my research, which was being held in Mexico for the first time. Another paper about a project a colleague had worked on was also submitted, and in both cases, our papers were accepted. Owing to logistics, I attended this conference alone, flying out to Houston last week. Unlike Laval, the flights proceeded very smoothly, although when I had arrived at Houston, I realised I had forgotten to arrange for transportation from Cancún International Aiport to the Zona Hotelera. Fortunately, some quick thinking rectified that, and by the time I boarded my flight to Cancún, my transportation was confirmed. So, I was able to reach the Zona Hotelera without difficulty and set about preparing for the pair of presentations I would give.

The first day of the conference was uneventful, and I attended several of the different workshops and keynotes. On the second day, I presented my paper and sipped a lemon daiquiri with my evening meal (chicken au tequila). The third day saw the trickier of the two presentations: my colleagues were unavailable, and I was to give a presentation on their behalf. Although I was quite nervous, that presentation went quite well. The remainder of the conference was dedicated to speaking with the other attendees (some know my supervisor and others were my instructors during my undergraduate), attending different keynotes and learning about the exciting research being done in the field of artificial life. As it turns out, NetLogo is gaining the capacity for multi-scale ABM, and I also heard a keynote about how tumour cells propagate (in addition to how blood vessel formation is disrupted severely during tumour development). There were other keynotes on how infants’ attentions gradually move from face to hands as they mature, and how networks might be useful in relating the different scales of a model together so that an individual’s behaviour can in fact, be used to predict what might happen throughout the system. ALIFE XV was a spectacular conference, and not all of the exciting elements lay in the conference itself. The food and locale were both amazing. During the mornings before the first keynote presentation was set to begin, I took strolls along the white sands beach near the conference venue. The weather was remarkably pleasant: there was no rain or even cloud cover during duration of my stay in Cancún. So, I was able to take to the beaches in the mornings and relax under the morning sun, marvelling at how warm the water was and walking along relatively quiet beaches. From the food side of things, the conference provided dinners on a few of the evenings (there was one excursion to Porfirio’s Cancún, where dinner included crab tacos, Mexican-style steak and Churros, and the farewell dinner was a surf-and-turf, featuring steak on a bed of mashed potatoes, prawns and vegetables). On other evenings, I stepped out and sat down to dinner at Casa Tequila, a restaurant serving Mexican and Mayan dishes that also has some of the best atmosphere I’ve seen anywhere: I dined under a sidewalk patio with Mexican music playing all around.

  • Nothing beats walking down the quiet beaches of Cancún at eight in the morning: this is before other beach-goers begin showing up, so for all intents and purposes, I had most of the beach to myself to stroll along and explore. Even at this hour, though, it was still around 29°C, so it was plenty hot.

  • A short ways down the beach from the entrance near Plaza Forum By The Sea, there’s a small rock face that juts out from the beach. The first morning I walked this, I brought my full shoes and tread carefully so I wouldn’t get sand in my shoes; during later excursions, I wore my swimsuit and brought sandals, walking bare-foot along the beach. To prevent myself from burning, I liberally applied SPF 60 sunscreen, and for the most part, it was effective.

  • Before anyone poses the question, these morning walks did not negatively impact my conference performances. I woke up at six in the morning, had breakfast by seven, spent around an hour on the beaches and returned to the conference venue (a mere 120 meters away) just in time to take in the first keynote of the day. The conference ran from nine in the morning to six-thirty in the evening, and I attended most of the sessions.

  • On my second morning, there were no clouds in the southeastern skies, so the photographs I took turned out amazingly well. Armed with my sunscreen, I stood on the water’s edge and allowed the waves to wash over me: unlike the icy waters of the Pacific near Vancouver or those of Lake Okanagan in Kelowna, the waters in Cancún are a comfortable 29°C. Aside from the clusters of kelp, they’re pleasantly clear.

  • Besides the more obvious modifications I’ve made to each of the images, the colour balance, saturation and hue in each of my images have not been altered. The vivid turquoise colours of the water and white of the sand are exactly as I saw them on the beaches. Every image in this post was taken with an iPhone 6 and then subsequently resized to fit the 16:9 aspect ratio. The water colours arise from the shallow water that allows light to reflect off the sand or reefs at the bottom, preventing the longer wavelength colours from being absorbed and results in this distinct colour.

  • For the presentation I delivered, I used the original variant of my thesis defense presentation. I had enough content to last around 25 minutes, but the thesis presentation only allowed a maximum of 15 minutes, so I trimmed out quite a bit of content to ensure that I could succinctly describe my project. Armed with more time, I could elaborate further, and similar to Laval, one of the questions I got was concerning my background, given that my research involved molecular biology and simulations to a substantial extent. Thankfully, the questions I got were rather easier to answer than those of my thesis.

  • For my colleague’s presentation, I was mostly familiar with the project’s concepts, but less so for the implementation. I practised this one extensively and read enough of the background to give a reasonably solid talk. After the presentation ended, the audience seemed impressed with the project. With both presentations done, I took a few more liberties with my time and went souvenir shopping.

  • I realise that Cancún is probably too nice of a place for an academic conference, so I clearly must be bullshitting readers if I said I went to Cancún for a conference. To convince readers that ALIFE XV did indeed happen in Cancún , here are the conference proceedings published to the MIT Press. The entire thing, with all of the papers, is around 26.3 MB in size and consists of 753 pages of content.

  • During the second evening, after I delivered my presentation, I was feeling quite pleased and decided to have an alcoholic beverage of some kind. I eventually settled on a lemon daiquiri, sipping it under the warm evening sun at Casa Tequila after dinner. I got a minor headache of sorts and decided to close my eyes for a bit on the hotel’s roof: when I woke up half an hour later, the sunset was underway and gave rise to beautiful cloud patterns visible in this image.

  • All of the images in this post have been vacation-like in nature, so to thoroughly convince the reader that I was in fact at a conference, here is a poster bearing the ALIFE conference’s name. With this post over, it means I’m formally back, and while I will note later that I’m going to write about Amanchu! and Planetarian to some capacity in the near future, the two posts that are immediately upcoming (i.e. to be finished before July is over) will be When Marnie Was There and Pure Pwnage T3h Movie, both of which I watched while flying to and from Cancún, and both of which occupy opposite ends of the spectrum. The former made me cry my eyes out, and the latter, I could not stop laughing.

Thus, yesterday morning, I was a little saddened that the conference was ending whilst preparing for the journey back home. I flew back amidst thunderstorms and several delays, and are back now from my second conference. Like Laval Virtual, I learnt quite a bit about the diversity of research occurring in the field of artificial life, and some of these experiences will be useful even as I wrap up my thesis paper and gear up for application of my experiences in the industrial setting. The ALIFE XV Conference marks the first time where I travelled alone (in Laval, I was accompanying one of my colleagues); this definitely was an eye-opening experience. Lacking a travel buddy of sorts, there was no second person to converse with or bounce ideas off of with respect to itinerary. As well, I needed to observe double-vigilance to look after my belongings. However, I did experience all of the freedoms associated with travelling alone, and since I was travelling light (this is the first time I’ve given presentations off the iPad Air 2), moving about at the airport and in the city was quite straightforward. I further learnt that I have no problems with dining alone at all: while some folks are embarrassed to do so (solomangarephobia is quite real), I feel like it’s a scene straight from a Tom Clancy novel or similar when I eat alone in a restaurant. Given my experiences in Cancún, I would definitely like to make another return trip: perhaps on my next trip, if I’ve got a week, I will book visits to the Mayan ruins and explore those in greater detail, as well as enjoy the beaches once more. For now, it’s time to get my mind back in routine and start work. Returning to the blog side of things, I’ll be writing about Amanchu! and Planetarian for the summer season, at intervals that work best with my schedule: we’re in the depths of summer now, the perfect time to explore and enjoy the long days that summer has to offer.