The blog of DAVID KOUŘIL

Hungary and Pohoda festival in Slovakia

What an absolutely packed week!

Leaving Vienna on Tuesday, I was going to Balaton in Hungary with our work group for something that’s called Closed Meeting. It has two purposes: a) talk about organizational stuff for the next year, and b) get drunk with the guests we invite (people call it networking).

The real adventure started when I departed on Thursday morning. I needed to get from Balatonszemes, Hungary to Trencin, Slovakia. This meant three trains and a subway ride in Budapest.

I am not very well-traveled. I was used to going on vacations with my parents around Czech Republic. I was 23 the first time I went outside of Czech Republic (and Slovakia, I don’t count that as being abroad). Going with a train in Hungary and getting around in Budapest was really something new to me (don’t laugh!).

I was surprised by how much I actually got used to being in Vienna, how many of the signs and words in German I know already. Hungarian—totally different, not catching anything.

This was my route:

I’ve got to say that mostly everything went well. I did miss one train in Budapest because of the queue at international tickets office (and because I was waiting at a wrong place at first) but that “only” meant waiting two hours for another one.

I left around 10:30 in the morning from Balaton and arrived around 20:30 at the festival in Trencin.

We had a tent rented for the festival and I wasn’t very well prepared for it. I didn’t think it would be so cold in the night so I didn’t bring a sleeping bag, just some warm clothes and a blanket. I am not a smart man.

We experienced two thunderstorms while hiding in the tent. It was actually pretty nice. I recorded the sounds, I don’t think I will have the opportunity to listen to a storm that closely any time soon.

The absolute high point was the headliner on Saturday night—alt-j. If I had to name my favorite band, alt-j would probably be it. The performance was ace. The only thing is that I kinda expected a little bit more emotional experience. In the end, it’s just three people playing music you know in front of you. I felt that I had more “spiritual” connection to their music while listening to it alone at home some evening. But that’s absolutely not something that’s degrading the experience in any way. For me it was a great show and an item crossed out off my bucket list.

I have some bands that I discovered at Pohoda and I’m starting to build up a spotify playlist which I plan to share soon.

I am really glad that we went. It’s something you can’t really appreciate while you’re in it, worrying about having to go pee, then getting water, then going pee again, hiding from sun, hiding from rain, and trying to survive in the middle of all the (mostly drunk) people. But once it’s over you kinda miss it. I guess you really need to see the discomfort as your friend. That’s where the real experiences happen.

Getting ready for a busy and exciting week!

Gabi was gone almost this whole week, she’s on a yacht sailing trip in Croatia with her colleagues.

I’m getting more and more excited about next week. Two things are going to happen:

  • we (the VisGroup, the group where I work) are going to Balaton in Hungary for a “closed meeting” which is a gathering of our group and some guests where we talk about stuff. And then,
  • we (me and Gabi) are going to Pohoda festival in Trencin, Slovakia.

I will be leaving on Thursday and going to Slovakia straight from Hungary. I’m counting on the trip itself to be an adventure.

I’m incredibly hyped up for Pohoda. The biggest headliner is alt-j, but I’m looking forward to the festival atmosphere in general. I’ve been there in 2014 I think and I loved it. I hope we’ll have similarly good time this year.


I’ve seen two things that I very much liked and they had some impact on me:

  1. a documentary about 3D printing and the business around it: Print the Legend.
  2. a GDC talk about the development of a game called Thumper.

The 3D printing documentary was interesting mainly because I don’t really know anything about the technology and the business of it. So it was interesting to see how it all got to be.

The Thumper talk was game-changing for me. I really love that guy’s calm approach to all of it. He’s not complaining how hard it was. He’s just explaining the journey and talking about how they got through. I like the simple approach. Just put something on the screen. And iterate. I like the idea of learning as you go but lot of the time I get stuck and I think that I’ve arrived at an impossible obstacle. But seeing them make this game made me think about the way I approach stuff and be more of a “deliver-it” programmer. I want to deliver things, not to do them right and overengineer it.

That’s it for today, see you next Sunday.

The week when I was sick

I was sick this week. I wrote about that already. It means however that there’s not much to say about my week other than that. I stayed home and I slept a lot.

The weather has been extremely hot, 35 °C at some point. It’s hard to say if it was good or bad that I didn’t go anywhere and was at home the whole days. I guess it was a good thing. Although the amount of sweating I did…

I remember last year when I was sick like this. It was very similar—also in summer (right before our vacation in fact) and I was also hit so hard that I could barely move. And the same as last year, I didn’t drink any coffee and I’m thinking about continuing with that. I haven’t had any coffee since Monday and I kinda like it. But I have to say that being at home makes it very easy to have a nap after lunch (instead of the cup of coffee).

The only thing about drinking coffee that I don’t like is that I don’t want to be dependent on something so much. I want to be able to focus and work whenever I want, without the need to get some caffeine before I dive into something (that’s a state of mind that I’ve been gravitating towards lately). I guess I’ll try to not drink it for a while and see how long I can do it.


On Friday we went to Donauinselfest. It’s a free music festival that takes place on the island in Vienna. We wanted to see Cro. We did and it was awesome! I really really liked it. Although being sober at this type of an event is not that much fun.

I’ve got to say that I’m very much looking forward to going back to my normal functioning routine.

The value of sheltering yourself

I think I need to cut myself off from a certain type of social media. Maybe it’s going to be enough to just do it mentally…let me explain.

I’ve got projects to do. Personal, side projects. Things that I’ve come up with to learn stuff. They are not the best ideas in the world. They will not make a hole in a world. But it’s still important to finish them. I don’t want to be a quitter. I want to be a doer. And you can’t be a doer without finishing what you’ve started.

I have a bad habit of going on twitter and looking at the stuff other people make. Sometimes it’s good to get inspired like that. But most of the time it just makes you look at what you’re working on and get bored of it. Maybe you’ve had an idea that you liked at the beginning but, now that you’ve spent some time on it, it’s not so new/exciting/easy-to-do.

Or in my case, I’m worried that I’m learning the wrong thing. The way technology world works is that it’s constantly changing, programming languages are going in and out of style. Everybody makes you feel that you’re doing it wrong if you’re not using the same programming language, framework, or paradigm they are using. It makes sense—everybody wants to be on the wave of what’s popular.

It makes sense to just ignore that. There’s no way of predicting future. You just need to get your head down and finish your things. You will learn something even if you work on the wrong project, using the wrong stuff. The important thing is that you’ll learn something. And finish something.

Had being sick always sucked this much?

I got sick this week and it’s been awful. I think I got some kind of flu or something. I get sick like this maybe once a year and I have a suspicion that it get’s worse and worse as I’m getting older. This time I got completely smashed. I got headache, runny nose, throat ache, fever, and I was almost not able to move. Maybe it’s because when you’re a kid, you don’t really care that you’re sick. You just don’t go to school.

But as an adult, you have responsibilities. You’ve got shit to do. Maybe that’s why it’s been extra hard for me this time.

Tuesday and Wednesday was the worst, now it’s a bit better. It’s still not as easy to breathe because of the stuffed nose and I’m still coughing. But at least I can stand up for a while.

Also the better I feel the more I’m motivated to go back to my normal schedule, back to working. I really need just a few days to reset, but I can’t spend doing nothing more than 2-3 days.

I got a new phone

My old phone was an iphone 5s which I got in January 2014. I’ve had a lot of fun with it.

I thought that I don’t need a new phone, I thought that I really just wanted one. But now that I been using my new 7 plus, I realized that I actually already needed to upgrade.

I’ve been trying to do more and more on the phone. I’ve been editing photos for instagram on it. I’ve been writing notes all the time at work (and in general). Some blog posts have been written on my phone as well. I want my phone to be an ultimate planing and management tool. And from this perspective, the old 5s just wasn’t keeping up.

The 7 plus is amazing. It’s a shock when you see it for the first time, it looks just way too big. But it’s very easy to get used to the additional screen estate.


I’ve seen an interesting video. It’s Dealing with Performance Anxiety and I feel that, although it’s aimed for performing musicians, it’s perfectly applicable to other disciplines as well. For example, in my field of work you give lectures and presentations very often. And I usually do get at least a little nervous. So there are few things I got from that video:

  • to get nervous is a natural reaction of the body to the stress of performing something in front of people
  • there are three parts to every performance and you need to approach them differently: the training leading up to the event, few hours before the event, and the actual performance. you need to optimize what you’re doing and where your mind is in all of these
  • few hours before: box breathing to calm down, don’t try to catch up on the practice, go through your visual “cues” if you have any
  • when performing: you will always play/talk faster than when you are practicing, try to keep about 80% speed
  •  weeks leading up: practice the thing, but also practice the delivery: take a video of yourself, imagine that you are doing it in front of people, perform it in front of few friends.

You should definitely go watch the video for more in-depth information!

How not to look for bugs in your code

In the project at work I basically have data that I’m rendering with a very sophisticated rendering pipeline. I was not getting exactly correct results so this week I had to look into that. From my point of view, there were two parts where things could go wrong: the data loading or the sophisticated, complex, error-prone rendering routine. I’ve spent two days going through every single part of the rendering, making sure that everything does exactly what I need it to. Of course everything was fine. The problem was in a code which loads the data from a text file. At some point I thought that this might be the problem but I dismissed it because it was “too much work” to debug.

It was just a gentle reminder of how much I still have to learn. Sometimes I get really hyped up and I’m excited to deliver things. But then I get stuck for few days on one thing and I’m reminded how hard software development actually is. It kinda makes me appreciate higher-level programming languages and other people’s libraries.

I was at my colleague’s “proficiency evaluation” this Friday. It’s a new kind of exam at TU Wien for PhD students. You are supposed to do it some where in the middle of your PhD and basically you show what you’ve already done and what’s your plan for the rest of the PhD. He was the first one to do it in the Vis Group and even though he passed, it wasn’t 100%. I took a lot of notes and I’m going to make sure that I have a better plan for my PhD.

This week were also notifications for IEEE Vis 2017 conference and quite a few papers got through! The one that I was participating on too! That’s good news because more people are going to go to Phoenix this autumn.

Going to Bara’s habilitation defense

(Yes, another Donau picture, I really like it there!)

I’m really slipping up on these posts. I’ve been really good at writing every Sunday but now it’s been like three times when I’m writing this the next week. However, for whatever unknown reason, I see that there’s always some traffic on the Sundays. That’s motivating!

We had planned to have a movie night at the institute on Wednesday. We didn’t end up watching the movie. I made spinach lasagna for the group, we went to the garden to eat, and we started drinking there. Because it was so nice outside (and so hot inside), we decided not to watch the movie and stay in the garden instead. It was really nice thought!

On Friday, Bara (my former supervisor and friend from Masaryk university) had her final habilitation defense and we went there to see her. The defense was successful and we spent the day eating and drinking in Brno. Congratulations once again, Bara!

Now a little bit about my projects. I’ve revived an old project of mine. It’s a visualization of data from RescueTime. I’ve been using RescueTime for a very long time, it’s one of the first things that I install on a new computer. The idea I had two years back was that I’d like to see when in the day I’m usually being productive and when I’m having my “lows”. I’ve ended up with implementing a prototype using Swift and SpriteKit.

This week, I decided to take it a bit further. I would like to finish it and make it so that other people can use it. So that’s what I’ve been working on in my free time.

I guess I’m going full on learning Swift and how to develop stuff for iOS and macOS. Initially, I wanted to spread out more. Not just focusing on one platform and maybe learn something more multi-platform (like Python). But the things is, I’ve always wanted to learn how to code stuff for iphone. And Apple makes it very pleasant to learn, with all the official documentation. You don’t have to google answers to your questions. You just need to read the manual. I really like that.

The other thing is that I’m getting more and more drawn to projects that I think are meaningful. More specifically, I like to design and make personal management/productivity tools for myself (and potentially other people as well). In general, my goal for 2017 is to focus more on making things that are useful, solving problems, rather than just because they look cool.

Short week, weekend spent in Czech Republic

On Thursday, there’s been a public holiday here in Austria. That meant that I stayed at home while Gabi was working. I stayed at home for Friday too (because most of the people from the institute didn’t go to work either) but I tried to work at least a little.

I don’t really remember much happening regarding work.

For the weekend we went to visit my parents in Tlumacov in Czech Republic. I went with a train on Saturday morning (Gabi was going from Brno by a bus). We’ve had a lot of good food and enjoyed not being in the city for a while.

The most eventful was my way back to Vienna. I went with a train again, but it was completely full. It’s a long distance train that was full of Polish people with beers. For a while I was standing in the aisle and made some small talk with a woman who got on the next stop. I thought I have 2 hours of standing and constantly letting people pass by to go to the toilet ahead of me. But then, when the conductor came, he told the two of us to go sit down in the first class! So we went, sit down with the woman, and talked. It turned out that she’s Czech but living in Austria for a very long time. It’s very nice when you randomly meet someone like that.

The weather is getting crazy so I was very glad to come back home to our nice-looking, nice-smelling, and cool (as in temperature cool, but it’s cool as in awesome too) apartment.

Going to my first conference

As I’ve said before, I’ve been at a conference this week. It’s been SCCG 2017 in Mikulov, Czech Republic, and it has actually been the first conference that I’ve ever attended. I’ve presented my Master thesis (through a poster). It wasn’t a huge event but it was good.

Mikulov is in a famous wine district so we had a wine tasting one evening. It was pretty nice.

Even though SCCG is one of the smaller conferences, I still brought back a number of notes. The three invited speakers (Daniel Sykora, Niloy Mitra, and Kwan-Liu Ma) have been inspiring. I’m at the very beginning of my PhD, so there’s a huge amount of stuff that I can absorb. And by the way, I think that the most that I’ve learned was from the bad presentations. I don’t know if it’s mean of me, but I really like to learn from mistakes that other people make. I can see what they do wrong and I try to not do it too. I guess it’s a little selfish, I still need to learn to be able to take critique of myself.

On the way back we stopped by at one wine shop, so I also brought some wine back home with me.

The weather has changed rapidly while I was away. Coming “back home” to Vienna has been pretty overwhelming—it was so hot, lot’s of people everywhere, and I had another one of the moments of realization that we actually live here now. I kinda love it.

There have been two guests at our institute on Friday—both very senior and knowledgeable people. I’ve presented some stuff that I’ve been working on since I’ve been employed by TU Wien. It’s still a little weird to me, to be talking with these people who have been working in the field of visualization for a very big part of their careers. But I’m trying to take advantage of that and I tried to get some advices from them.

I also finally got an Austrian SIM card. I wanted something with unlimited mobile internet (or at least close to it) and I ended up going for T-Mobile’s My Klax Flex (that’s what Renata got few weeks before me and it seems like a good deal). Having mobile internet in a new city is super useful. Even just when you’re looking for something in a supermarket and you need to translate it, it’s awesome to be able to look it up now and there.

On Saturday we went out to celebrate Manu’s (a colleague of mine) birthday. I finally took Gabi too!

This week has been pretty full of everything, just not a lot of actual working, I feel like. But it’s all good, sometimes it’s needed to step away from it, focus more on building the relationships, connecting with people, and making friends.