Friday, April 28, 2006

Too Busy To Blog

This week I have been way too busy to blog, but I have had some really great ideas to blog about. I guess I will do something I really hate, advertise what I will blog someday in the future.

  • CS Drug = Coffee, Physics/Math Drug = Beer (Dr. Barnard should have warned me!)

  • About Web Design (My hacker's guide to looking like you know what your doing - requested by many)

  • Being a Well rounded Scientist (response to Lance's commenters and a few ppl in my dept)

  • How I really really really loathe Mondays (it seems to be a theme in my blogging)

But anywho, I get to play softball today HOORAY! I might enjoy spring, oh glorious day. I am sure that Carly (who played in college) is going to handle me my lunch ... well life goes on.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Fun music animation

About Blogging

So when I first started blogging on this site, it was merely to give my family and friends some insight to my thoughts. I also decided to have other blogs to put opinions and work related stuff, but that didn't work. So now this blog is a catch all for everything in my life, no matter how silly, boring, opinionated, or interesting it might be. But recently Lance Fortnow, a blogger who I greatly respect, has an entry pointing out the negatives of student blogging (although I think his entry could be more widely applied to any blogger). I also came across this entry by a blog that I think is well done arguing the other side of things. And finally another link that was left in the comments of the Lance's blog, just talking about blogging from a psychological perspective.

So since my blog has been getting more traffic, probably since I had that flaming post the other day about scientist being jerks, I think it is time for me to re-evaluate what blogging is to me.

  1. First I see my blog as a medium of expression. Now this is a personal blog so it should reflect me as a person, meaning not only my work but my opinions and insights in the world as well.

  2. This form of expression is written down so I should probably be as nice as possible here (something that I usually fail at doing), but not out of fear of losing a job but rather fear of hurting someone. Basically hold to my goal of offending by true content not argumentation style.

  3. I should not shy away from the fact that I do have an opinion and my work is only one part of my life. If somebody can't see past my opinion (and it could certainly be false) and see that I am human being underneath, then I probably don't want to impress that person anyways.

  4. Finally, as David Amulet pointed out to me, I blog for myself. Whether it be for my personal fear of being transparent in the world or just a way to relax, I'm not going to worry if people read it or not. I want a blog not to make me popular but to make me a better person.

Of course, Lance points out a very important fact: "The internet never forgets." It also makes people more accountable for their actions off of their blog, such as a professor in my department that made a racist remark about Indians, or the high school teacher that had his epitaph of Bush bashing recorded. My response to this is more about how much weight we should give to blogs, basically not much. While it is publicly available media, it is not peer reviewed and usually not official in any respect. And to any readers who have a problem with a blog (mine especially) I encourage them to send a private message and let them know. Bloggers are amateurs, we don't know when we really offend someone so be brave and let us know, politely.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Art in motion

I mostly wanted to see how this works, but I like the video too.

Great Science

So yesterday I heard one of the best research talks I have ever heard by Markus Püschel about his project Spiral. Not that the talks I hear are usually bad, but this one was just that good. Just a outline:

  1. He started out by talking about a problem ("Common signal processor transformations such as the DFT seem to have arbitrary decompositions"),

  2. then he developed an algebraic theory to pose the transformations,

  3. he built the machinery apply his theories (it generates the code that will do the transformation),

  4. finally he has made the code generation highly portable (that is he can generate for most environments)

So the talk went from some pretty deep math (I read the paper before hand so I knew most of the stuff he skimmed over) to some highly applied/systems areas (he talked a lot about optimization on compiler levels such as hyperthreading). As Dr. Niyogi, my AI professor, said about Turing, "He had a problem and he learn the mechanisms to solve it." He also had excellent presentation skills, as Dr. Dupont pointed out last year, "You not only need to have the great idea, you need to sell it."

Now it seems a lot of people debate over systems and theory, but this is the kind of science I want to do. Find a problem and go with it, doing what it takes to solve it. So that goes against the grain of many mathematicians who really just want to further math, but hey they are developing the theories that guys like Markus, Turing, and (hopefully) me use. With that thought, in answer to Peter's question ("Shouldn't you at some level consider yourself in theory?"): Yes I am at some level in a theoretical part of the world, but I am also at some level in a systems part of the world. I would rather just be called a problem solver, well a problem solver in training.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Arrogant Language

Yesterday I had a discussion with several undergraduates about language and I guess I was pretty appalled by their lack of social responsibility around the subject. Let me explain. The conversation starts:

"We were listing off the languages that we speak"

"I would have listed Tex-Mex"

"That's a dialect not a language"

" 'Dialect' is a pejorative word for language. Give me a definition of a language such that dialect would not fit."

"I bet your one of those people who want to list ebonics as a language"

There is this fuzzy social definition around what a language really is, and has proved throughout history to be one of the arbitrary factors that separates cultures. Language can be used as a political tool, for evidence of this I point to Franco's policy on only allowing Castilian being spoke in Spain or the new Dutch policy of requiring immigrants to speak Dutch. The tendency is to turn what could be its own viable natural language into a 'dialect' of another language then marginalize the people who speak said dialect. Ebonics is a bit of a special case of this mostly because it seems to be arbitrary in its composition. But it most certainly fits that if a child grew up in a community where only ebonics is spoken and goes out in the world, Americans will challenge the reasoning power of said child.

Then there is the way a linguist would look at the logical structure of a language to actually study it and compare it to other languages, but this post is intended to point out the arbitrariness of the social construct of language.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Another Monday

You know eventually these things have to go away...right?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Intelligent Walk

So as I was walking to school today, I noticed a magpie chasing a squirrel. It seemed that the magpie was getting a kick out of seeing this squirrel chase around. I can just imagine if they were speaking

"I'm gonna get you"

"What are you doing! Get away from my butt, don't make me throw an acorn at you."

This lead to a contemplation on the intelligence of birds, apparently scientist now think birds are highly intelligent animals. Well I just spent a whole quarter contemplating what it would take to make a machine intelligent but what about birds makes them almost as intelligent as humans? How intelligent are humans anyway?

Just then a car drove by with loud rap music playing, all I could make out "make them big ole breasts bounce."

So the answer is not much. Proof by drive by rap phrase. QED

Monday, April 10, 2006

When tolerance turns into intolerance of the intolerant

Maybe I'm being judgmental, but the Chicago Tribune reports that the Dutch are now requiring an entrance exam, which seems pretty intolerant to me:
The Dutch entrance exam, which became mandatory last month, has been praised by politicians who believe it is a good way of screening out people who are not suited to live in the Netherlands.

But it seems that the Dutch are doing this because they are afraid of the intolerance of Muslim lifestyle and this measure is one of many "symptoms of panic and anxiety." But I guess my question would be, does this really work? While I would agree that there are certain customs of certain Muslims that should be banned, such as honor killings or female circumcision, but it seems that the article portrays a general sense: If you don't embrace our counter-conservative culture, you aren't good enough for us. In the wake of all the immigration marches in our country and around the world, the Dutch government seems to be showing its colors with such an act of patriotic elitism. Tell me again why the progressive European movement is so awesome?

Sunday, April 09, 2006


Funny video, although my wife says it's kinda old: Troops. My only question is why does the storm trooper speak like a Chicagoan?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Why are Scientists Jerks?

For the usual I'm smarter than you stupidity that runs through the rift of theory and experiment in scientist, I point to Computational Complexity. Goo it just makes me mad, why can't they just say that some people are interested in other things rather than assuming that since they are not doing the same thing they are just stupid.

Same thing goes for Democrats and Republicans. Except their bickerings will always affect lives, scientists ... not so much.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


So I've seen some bloggers do this and I thought it was kind of neat. Basically shuffle my MP3 player and then flip through ten songs, write down the first couple of lines (as long as they don't give away the title) and see if people can guess what the song and artist is. So here you go, don't worry the songs are as eclectic as I am:

  1. Bad luck wind been blow'n at my back./ I was born to bring trouble to wherever I'm at

  2. Fine place for a day full of breakdown/ Takes more than a meltdown to show us how

  3. Don't worry mother/ It'll be all right/ Don't worry sister, say your prayer, sleep tight

  4. Well I heard some people talkin just the other day/ and they told me you were going to put me on a shelf

  5. Just around the corner there's heartache/ Just down the street that loser is you

  6. Love and hope and sexy dreams are still surviving on the streets/ Look at me I'm in tatters

  7. Well with bloodshot eyes, I finally broke/ I feel like I just had a stroke

Well poop my player just ran out of juice. God's way of saying stop wasting time and get to work. Funny though while all these songs are from separate genres, the first couple of lines all look really depressing.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Let me reiterate

I hate Mondays!

Especially dark rainy ones where I haven't finished the problem set due in an hour and can't get any of my examples to work for a discussion I have to lead and just to top it off I feel like I lost an hour somewhere...oh wait that's right daylight savings time sucks.

*Sniff* At least Metallica understands me *Sniff*