The blog of DAVID KOUŘIL

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.

We just continue Vienning

This week’s blog post is also coming out late because I really didn’t feel like writing anything on Sunday, and I didn’t realize that I’m going to be at a conference from Monday till Wednesday.

I have a credit card y’all! I was having problems with my bank (debit) card last week (could make an online payment, could withdraw money) so I stopped by at my favorite Erste bank to see what’s up. While I was there, I also applied for a credit card. I’ve never had one in Czech Republic and from what I’ve read on the internet, it’s a little bit safer to pay with. Plus, some services (car rentals for example) want you to have credit card, not a debit card. The card came after two days, followed by the pin code the day after. So now I have a credit card and I feel very mature.

I went to a talk of Felix Krause on Wednesday. It was very nice! I’ve watched tons of talks like this (people talking how they’re doing what they’re doing) on youtube, but I have never gone to one. I guess that’s because not that many people I’m interested in come to Brno. I really liked it, it motivated me. I’ve been struggling to find a direction which I should take in my side projects and one of the things Felix said was that you should keep your eyes open on the things other people . You might be doing something, but maybe it’s more useful to develop something you’ve created to help you build that initial thing. I guess you never know where you’re gonna end up. What you need to do SOMETHING.

As I was saying, I’m having troubles choosing what should I focus on. I really want to make tools for myself. I want to learn how to make them on iPhone, because that’s what I see myself using all the time and it could be useful to use it more for work. On the other hand, I also want other people to be able to use what I make. And the third point is that I want to make some side money out of this. I think the money part should really be the last thing on my list. I really believe that if you make something good, the money will follow. But still, I think I have to keep that in my mind, because if I don’t, I might as well end up being an open source maintainer who gets zero income out of what he’s doing while it takes a full time job to do that.

I’m going to a conference from Monday to Wednesday. It’s actually my first time going to any conference (I have a poster there). So I hope that it’ll be fun.

After I come back, I really want to get an Austrian sim card with mobile internet. There’s an option to get a sim card which is not prepaid and nor contract. You just pay each month and get minutes/sms/MBs and when you want to stop this you just stop paying. This doesn’t exist in Czech Republic as far as I know.

First week living together in Vienna

First week of both of us living in Vienna—Gabi was back in Brno for 2 days, I went for a beer, we had a fight, and after we made up we cooked a lot of delicious food. That about sums it up.

The work week flew by very fast it seems to me. It’s actually really hard to get something done and it’s very easy to get distracted with little tasks. I have a lot of those.

Gabi was in Brno because of work so she didn’t really enjoy much of Vienna at the beginning. It really isn’t the same without her. Even in a nice apartment with all our stuff. And I swear, if I lived alone, I would have the nastiest apartment ever. I don’t have the slightest motivation to clean up when I’m all by myself.

On Thursday, we went for a beer with VisGroup. It’s fun, but I always feel so miserable the next day. I couldn’t eat anything and I was tired. Not a good idea to drink on Thursday. I don’t really drink very often so I need very little to get in the mood but I have a really hard time stoping at the right time. And also…peer pressure.

At least the weekend was peaceful. We cleaned the apartment, cooked, I did some work on my iOS project. We also went on a little ride along Donau on our bikes on Saturday. And on a walk to Augarten on Sunday (a rainstorm caught us on the way home).

I was losing my mind over the weekend a little bit. It felt like whenever I wanted to do something, I couldn’t because of technical issues:

  • I tried to buy a washing machine—my card didn’t work (“technical error”).
  • I tried to see what’s up with my Jahreskarte (public transport card)—couldn’t load the page, technical outage.
  • I had to submit a final version of a poster to a conference submission system—no way to do so, the review not even visible.
  • I wanted to login into UPC administration for the first time—credentials in the email instructions didn’t work, couldn’t reset it. I had to create a new account, for which then I didn’t know what the username is (it’s the email! thought it’s written nowhere!)

I was only able to resolve the UPC thing eventually, which means that I have other little errands to do next week…uhhh.

We are now completely moved to Vienna

Wow, it’s the first time I’ve missed putting out a post on Sunday. The reason is that I was just completely exhausted yesterday.

We spent all weekend with moving. On Saturday, it was another trip with a rental van, only this time without our friend’s help and with the rest of ALL our stuff. You don’t realize how much stuff you have until you have to physically, with your own hands, move each and every one of them from one location to another. We also bought a couch, which meant we had to somehow get 60 kg to the first floor. But we managed!

We went back to Brno to return the van, relax for a while, and sleep there so that we could hand over the apartment in Brno. There was also a lot to clean still.

I would say that we are very clean people. We can take care of the place we live in. That’s why we were pretty angry that we had to pay for a kitchen unit doors under the sink because it got wet and wrinkled slightly. Maybe I’m wrong. But I think we treated the apartment as best as we could and this was just an effect of actually living in the apartment. It was some kind of chipboard or something like that BTW. Something that almost wrinkles when you just breathe on that. I don’t think you can expect something made from the cheapest materials to last forever. But I don’t know, maybe I’m the asshole…

Oh no, it’s completely ruined!

But anyway, we handed the old apartment over, put the rest of the stuff into Gabi’s mum’s car, and went for lunch to her and her partner’s apartment. After that they took us and our stuff to Vienna. The rest of the Sunday was spent putting our things into places and cleaning. We also finally found out where our storage compartment in the cellar is. The door sign was “parteienkeller” which translated by Google Translate was funny—”party cellar”. It’s pretty nice to have something like that, in this previous apartment we had to keep everything in the apartment. We were lucky to have the bikes down in the bike room. The bike room there was able to only take 4 bikes. And there were 12 apartments. Here in the apartment in Vienna the bike room is HUGE. I guess it’s not surprising when you think about how many people use bikes for every day commute here.

The new apartment look awesome in my opinion. Even now when we are not done unpacking yet, it’s getting cozy. I like that. I can only hope that we are going to like it here. It’s been pretty scary and emotionally taxing, this whole procedure of moving. At this point, I’m glad we are doing this. I’m glad that we are trying this big scary and outside-of-comfort-zone thing. Now I just hope that it doesn’t turn out being a bad move.