SIGBOVIK 2011: What words ought to exist?
(01 Apr 2011 at 23:06)
Today was SIGBOVIK 2011, the fifth one. This is my favorite CMU CS tradition; a fake conference thrown with real aplomb (carefully bound and printed proceedings, entertaining talks, product demonstrations, awards, promotion, budget and steering committees, paper management systems and reviews, etc.). People use it as both a venue for childish drivel and for deeply satirical but essentially real work that in my opinion is too good for actual conferences. I love it because of how it simultaneously scorches (for its pointless navel-gazing) and celebrates (for its pointless navel-gazing) academia.
I always participate. This year I was emcee and I did not have enough time to execute all of my ideas (do I ever?), but I did write two papers. The first was just the slapdash results of the thing I posted earlier, Who is the biggest douche in Skymall?. It's more fun to continue to play the on-line game than read the results, though I did add a douche-detecting image recognition "algorithm" to that paper, at least.
I tried something different this year. I feel like the conference is filled with loads of satire and irony (which is great), but that the best way to celebrate what I feel is the SIGBOVIK spirit is to be off-puttingly impenetrable about where the work is even coming from. Like "Is this real or a joke? Why did you even do this? I don't understand" is the ideal reaction. So, controlling for SIGBOVIK tenor, this time my paper is a completely earnest and thorough attempt to answer an interesting philosophical question (titular). It starts with a maximalist approach, my variant of Scrabble called Scrallbe (where they can all be words), which is pictured above. It's like God mode for Scrabble. I dismiss this as too coarse and then look at a bunch of different methods for figuring out what words should exist, and justifying that mathematically. I tried to write it for the layperson, but I think my notion of layperson may be distorted. Read the paper to decide for yourself.
I won another award this year (keeping my perfect batting record!), this time for "Most frighteningly like real research," which I think is apt.
SIGBOVIK 2009 has come and gone, and was a great success. This is a real simulated conference that we've been holding at CMU for the past few years. It's hard to really describe the vibe, but it's a bunch of academics getting together to make fun of the academic conference and publication system by putting loads of work into making very sophisticated and polished papers and presentations about nonsense ideas, or to put together disturbingly real implementations of things that pretty much should not exist, just for fun. This year was great, I think better than last year's. My contributions were as follows:
(2) The "LFMan" game and associated ephemera. If you have never seen the old TV Show "Square One" then you should watch this video of Mathman to understand the referent. It is a paper and talk and sort of an actual game: LFMan. (Use the arrow keys and '1' or '2' to select between SERVER OK and ABORT). The talk and demo went well even though I think there were a lot of people that are too young to have seen Square One.
The award is itself an unplayable Arkanoid clone. This was playing on the screen during the awards presentation, and had just one dot left (you'll see it takes like 10 minutes for it to get that last one) for a long time, with people continuously going "awwwww" when the ball just barely missed the last dot. For the "people's choice award" we used the Clap-O-Meter to determine the favorite paper from a short list, but while we were using applause to determine that, the final dot was struck in the Arkanoid award, which was met with the clearly most enthusiastic cheering of the Clap-O-Meter phase. So the People's Choice award ended up being given for my own Award drawing, which I think we are pretty happy about the way that turned out.
If you like this kind of thing, do check out the full proceedings. There's lots of good stuff in there. Long live SIGBOVIK!
Well, I did it! There were lots of people that came (thanks!) and it went pretty well given the little amount of sleep. If you want to see what it's all about and for some reason didn't want to read the 396 page dissertation, you can take a look at slides from my talk: defense.swf. You need a newish Flash player to view it properly, or otherwise you'll know since all you'll see are monsters and rainbows.
I still have to do some revisions for my dissertation and then there is paper and signature shuffling and margin measuring, but basically this is it. Re: grad school, put a fork in it.
Trip summary: Philadelphia and France!
(16 Nov 2007 at 16:44)
I'm almost recovered from my trips last week so now I can post a summary. This was a bit of a strange trip because it was a two-in-one (really a one-in-the-other). I started by going to Philadelphia to visit the University of Pennsylvania for a project kick-off meeting. Since I plan on graduating imminently, a kick-off for a new project is a little bit irrelevant for me, but they are possibly going to use some of my thesis work in the new project. This trip was more fun than I expected... I think having a group of likeminded people together with a singular purpose is pretty interesting and productive. Somehow I wound up "driving" for a good fraction of the discussion (meaning that I was writing code in the fanciful programming language yet to be invented, projecting onto the easel for all to watch) which was funny to me because there were half a dozen eminent tenured professors (meaning much more qualified) in the room. I think they just like my tasteful syntax highlighting color scheme in emacs. I had 90 minutes free at one point during which I ran down to the Delaware and back as part of my "3D World Runner" project (the scope or purpose of this project is so far unknown, but I do know that running in more cities is progress!). The route I took is not the best, because there are like ten busy traffic lights every mile, but the river was fun and I enjoy seeing a city this way. Chris graciously let me use his couch on the last night to avoid the hotel's Parents Visit Weekend gouge prices, and we played guitar hero late into the night and talked about hoarde-cleanup-oriented puzzle games.
Then from Philadelpha I went to France via Heathrow. My prior visit to Heathrow was pretty good, but that was I think because I was leaving the airport upon arrival (to head to Oxford). I cannot recommend Heathrow for international transfers. The terminals are distant and the journey undulates between long pointless empty hallways or bus rides and feeding frenzy-like security choke points. All the while you are seeing billboards stating things like, "Terminal 5 is coming! We're working to make Heathrow an airport that London (site of the 2012 Olympic Games) can be proud of!" This of course underscores the point that Heathrow is not, currently, an airport that London (site of the 2012 Olympic Games) can be proud of. Did you know that London is the site of the 2012 Olympic Games? Because they will remind you at every opportunity as if someone from the ministry of self-promotion did a search on the entire country for "London" and replaced it with "London (site of the 2012 Olympic Games)." Oh, also, even if you are allowed to bring a backpack and carry-on onto the airplane, like as is standard, you can only bring one item period into Heathrow. Travel tip #n: Go to Frankfurt instead.
This conference that I was at, Trustworthy Global Computing 2007, was pretty good. There were surprisingly many good people there, although most from Europe. I gave a talk about my thesis work, Type-safe Distributed Programming with ML5. You will need the newest Flash player for that thing, or else you will see just the background and an occasional Universe or Planet. The thing that was kind of a shame about this trip is that here I was on the Cte d'Azur, being able to see fantastic mountain ranges in one direction and the Mediterranean Sea in the other, and the weather was beautiful, but I was stuck in an office park in Sophia-Antipolis. There is nothing there. You can go outside your hotel at night and walk by any number of closed office buildings, and that is it. The buses only run on weekdays and during times appropriate for people that want to come to work or go home. (Also, unfortunately, this time of year it gets dark at like 17:30, so it was difficult to do any sight seeing even if I could make it to like Antibes.) On the last day I skipped out on a talk to try to run my way to the ocean. This was like a last-ditch effort. I had planned out a route but soon became very disappointed: as soon as I got past the bus stop there were no sidewalks anymore, just big wide trafficky highways. I ran a bit in parking lots, hoping maybe the sidewalks would pick up again, but eventually I was done for. This town was not made for feet. But! Just as I was about to give up, I spotted a trail through the woods and figured I might as well follow it. After some false turns and about 4.5 miles (After the woods part this trail is marked by yellow paint on trees and highway dividers and curbs and stuff as you make your way through a little village, and so was tricky to follow; for example, at one point there is a sign that says Chemin Prive, which to me means "Private Drive" (i.e. Do Not Go Here), but that is the way you are supposed to go and there is no yellow paint to be seen. It is kind of like the Rachel Carson Trail in that respect but not 34 miles.), I made it to the ancient city of Biot, which is like a pottery commune—whatever that is—sitting on top of a hill. This was actually pretty awesome. Maybe all ancient French cities are like this and forgive me for gushing over my first one, but it was this crazy pile of dwellings made of shale that seemed like they had been piled atop one another over hundreds of years, with little secret passageways and deadends and extreme steep tiny streets that people somehow managed to get their extreme tiny cars up. There were people living there and stray cats, but no tourists whatsoever. I found it to be like a weird deserted Disney movie set. But the sun was setting and I didn't want to be running through the woods in the dark, so I did not see much, and that is pretty much the only vacationing or cool worldly thing I did other than science in France. Travel tip #(n+1): If you took the yellow trail through the woods to Biot then I'm pretty sure you did the single outdoorsy thing to do in Sophia-Antipolis, by way of leaving it.
However, thumbs up to French coffee and dessert. Wow.
I then returned to Philadelphia and immediately took my return ticket from Philadelphia back to Pittsburgh. That was a long day I would prefer not to think about.
Now that I am back I am engaged in full-time binge writing on my thesis. Maybe I will show you a graph when I get a chance so you can see how much I have been writing. I now have 57,000 words and about 300 pages... not much more to go!
But speaking of going, I cannot test your parsing stack depth with my run-on sentences for any longer, because Jason and Adam and I are heading over to the Pittsburgh Technology Center for an all-weekend One Laptop Per Child Laptop game jam contest. I am pretty excited about this. Since they are making us program in slow grody proletariat languages, I have recused myself from my normal role of insisting on having my fingers on every part of the project: this time I am going to not touch any code and only make graphics and maybe music and design. Fun! We are Team Brazil, but I don't know if there is going to be any information on our progress up on the website through the weekend. Either way, I will show you our game when we are done! See you!
Well, the faux/real SIGBOVIK conference on April 1 was a staggering success. Basically, Harry Q. Bovik is a fake graduate student that the Computer Science Department uses for various purposes and in-jokes. His 64th birthday was this Sunday so we had a conference filled with joke papers and presentations in his honor.
The website has a full draft proceedings, and I think soon you'll be able to get a bound printed copy to enhance your office's gravitas or to place with randomly generated call numbers into your university's engineering and science library.
If you hate reading you can watch the totally pre-recorded version of "Generalized Super Mario Bros. is NP-Complete" (make sure your sound is on, and wait for the whole thing to load before starting it) (warning: this is very immature) or look at the talk for Wikiplia (but this mostly consists of words). Both need the newest Flash player. Since I really implemented the latter (I think the only SIGBOVIK paper that comes even close to being real) you could also just use it, at least until I eventually shut it down for taking up too much of my office machine's resources.
Hello everyone! I am in Germany. A common funny idiom here is to say "welcome at _____" (also "welcome in _____" or "welcome on _____") instead of "welcome to _____". That cracks me up every time. Did you ever consider underlining the underscore? It looks like this: ____. Actually it turns out that a lot of people prefer to speak their native language instead of having people like me chuckle at their speakos but I will still laugh anyway since I can't understand what they're saying so what else am I going to do? Getting to Germany like all international travel was a bit painful. I rebroke my glasses on the plane and since superglue is not a TSA sanctioned gel or liquid I had to put them back together using tape from the post office at the airport. Sometimes they fall apart when I'm just sitting there, like they slowly peel off my face like I'd imagine glasses would do if the frames were made of ice and I had a very hot bridge of my nose. That's okay, post office tape means my vision is First Class durch Flugzeug nerdstyle. Yesterday I was so jetlagged or food poisoned that I was up almost the whole night vomiting. I call such traveling sickness/food poisoning La Giardia, ha ha. Now that I am more synchronized with the rising and setting of the sun I think I'm doing okay.
The reason I came to Germany is for this conference on Web Programming, since my thesis project is sort of about web programming now. People here are very concerned with some words that I don't know what they mean, like "ontologies". I guess it is pretty ironic to not know what "ontology" and "semantics" mean. The conference is in a German computer science castle called Schloß Dagstuhl. This castle is way out in basically Nowhere, Saarland. (One of the locals asked us Americans, "What are you doing out in such a village?") I'm not sure I really understand what we're supposed to be doing here, but I think tomorrow when we break out into smaller groups I'll get it better. I prepared a ~30 minute talk about my work but when I got here someone forwarded me an e-mail that I didn't get that said our presentations should be 3 minutes, so I made one of those early this morning and then they changed their minds and said 2 minutes. Here is my 2 minute talk of a 'burning question'. If you don't have Flash 9 then you will probably only see pictures of fire and Skeletor.
ICFP trip, contest report, race, etc.
(23 Sep 2006 at 16:22)
The thing that chewed up all my time was my trip to ICFP 2006. For it I prepared and delivered three talks. The first two were in ML Workshop and they were called ML Grid Programming with ConCert [paper] and A Separate Compilation Extension to Standard ML [paper]. You need the Flash 8 player or later to view these, so you might need to upgrade. These are kinda straight-up research stuff, and also perhaps less exciting than usual because I was saving all my vim for my third talk. These talks went well but nothing particularly special.
All through the conference I had the odd but cool experience of being recognized by people who know my name from research or fonts or music or games or whatever. I guess these people probably see my blog so thanks! I'm sorry for not having much time to hang out more...
The third talk was the ICFP Programming Contest, which I spent weeks preparing for. The ICFP Programming Contest is a yearly open programming contest that the academic conference organizes; we organized this 9th incarnation. The contest itself, which ran July 21–24, was a huge success and the most ambitious ever in terms of its organization. You can check out the slides from the talk (again, with Flash 8 or later) but much better would be to watch the presentation video (130Mb Quicktime) that Malcolm Wallace shot. If you don't want to download 130Mb (for some reason it refuses to stream) you can check out the almost unwatchably low quality google video version. But really, go with the Quicktime. Also it's like an hour long so if you wanna fast forward to the end, my feelings won't be hurt. Isn't it a little eerie how, if you are wearing matching "Cult of the Bound Variable" logo polo shirts and conference badge and the same glasses and haircut, one can look so similar to his advisor?
That's why I usually prefer to wear brighter orange shirts in group photos because like nobody has one of those.
The conference itself was really fun. I had a good time at the talks that I was able to make it to, and a much better time talking with all the smart people—some old friends—that attended over beers and hippie west coast food. There are a lot of great breweries in Portland, my favorite of which was probably Bridgeport. I can't believe that I somehow forgot that one of my favorite American breweries, Rogue, is in Portland. I also missed out on Powell's outrageously enormous book store, so I will have to go back some day with more free time.
I did get a chance to wake up bright and early and run in the Portland Race for the Cure, which they claim to be the largest West Coast race "event" (that means that when they say 46,000 participants they are talking about the Run and Walk for the Cure and Row for the Cure and Sleep In for the Cure), but it was quite fun and a nice way to see a new city. Also, as respects my last post, I felt a little bit good about the fact that I witnessed the very front of the pack (5–10 guys) go the wrong way and have to be turned around. Hah! Those were like, pros. The only other thing to say about the race is that I think my Pittsburgh training has been helping on hills, because when we came to the one like 3.5% grade hill in the whole race I started to be a lot faster than the local like permanent press runners and that was a pretty nice feeling. There were no chip timers and I have no idea how I did really except for my own inaccurate stopwatching, so I guess I have to wait patiently for the hand-tabulated chads like in the old days.
What else? On the flight home I saw a major lightning storm from above, which was perhaps the coolest thing I've ever seen while flying. The whole sky was lighting up all over, and every once in a while a huge bolt would shoot down to the planet or occasionally upward. Highly recommended.
So now I am back in town and ready to spend some time on projects and relaxing and friends. My birthday is in four days, in fact, when I turn 27. I'm going to try to finish my entry to the KVR VST Plugin contest (prodding will help, Destroy FX fans), catch up on some reading and video games and sleep, and then ease into my thesis. Talk to you again soon!
Open house weekend (where we try to recruit, I mean, see if CMU is a good match for, the admitted CS graduate students) was a blast this year. I went to a bunch of activities (including a nice dinner at Church Brew Works), and gave a talk on Saturday morning (one of two student research presentations) called "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Logic." This was "just-in-time" lecture style, as I was finishing my slides while the first speaker was giving his talk, but I think it went pretty well. Everyone seemed entertained, and I got a bunch of "how'd you do that??" questions after the talk. (They were of course all about my ostentatious presentation style using Flash, rather than the actual content of the talk, but you gotta make points somehow!)
This week I'm making a t-shirt design for the Random Distance Run again. Therefore, I am soliciting bad computer science puns in the style of previous years fake sponsors (browse the directory of previous designs for examples). Please, my well of wit runneth dry after 3 years!
February snows bring march thundersnows
(03 Mar 2006 at 10:48)
Some other things happened!
When I did my thesis proposal last week I also created a fake thesis proposal talk as a stress-relief exercise. Those who were on time to my practice talk saw it, but William didn't and asked me about it and so here it is for him and for posterity. Don't expect anything amazing.
I completed ListenQuest mini 2006. The last time I did this was in April of last year. It's when I listen to every MP3 in my collection that I didn't make and is rated 3 or higher. Since I accidentally enqueued them twice and then randomized when I was part-way through, I actually ended up listening to them all 2 times. This means about 38 hours of music, which took me several weeks to finish. Now I feel a little lost when I sit down at my computer since I need to, you know, think about what I want to listen to.
Every time I get back into running daily we get some kind of crazy snow or storm that does me in. Like two nights ago we had snow and rain and lightning all in one, and this morning the sidewalks are all frozen with invisible ice. Go away, weatherman!
What else? Puppet party coming up this weekend means for sure some nice photo opportunities. We also went to a bunch of concerts recently. Each had its problems, but listening to all of this live music is making me want to make music again. I gotta tune this piano and crap somethin' out, AAD-style.
Do you know where your thesis proposal is?
(20 Feb 2006 at 09:44)
I am proposing my thesis in less than an hour! Anyone awake and in town is welcome to come to Wean 4625 at 10:30am to watch.
You can also get the slides and follow along at home. Just page through them starting at like 10:35 and taking approximately 40 minutes. (The document is easier to understand without someone talking over the slides, but a lot longer...)