Game 4

In a 7 game series, Game 4 is always the toughest. Except when it’s not, of course. If you’re up 3-0, then Game 4 is just a prelude to the end. So fine.

If you’re not up 3-0, then someone is up 2-1. And where does the series go? 3-1 is a strangehold. 2-2 is a new, three game series. Huge change of momentum there. We’ll see where tonight leads. 2-1 Detroit about midway through the second. Go Wings!

Graduation Protests

Today is the 385th Harvard Commencement, so the yard is draped with banners, ceremonies have sprung up all over campus, and the Houses are serving the annual luncheon feast featuring the typically rubbery/frozen chicken.[1. When multiple parents mentioned the frozen-ness to me, I pointed out that as the chicken warmed, the texture deteriorated. Pick your poison, I guess.]

My good friend Mark Hempstead received his degree at Lowell House, my alma mater. Suz and I walked over there midday hoping to see him receive his degree[2. GSAS students affiliated with a house as tutors often choose to receive their degrees at the house, since the GSAS ceremony is huge and fairly impersonal. I mean, as a Computer Scientist I don't really know many Romance Linguists, so I'd rather receive me degree in a smaller setting surrounded by fellow tutors and undergraduates that know me. Definitely my route next year.] After a few moments of poking around, looking for the distinctive pink Ph.D. robes, we called him and found the Lowell SCR sequestered in the courtyard of the Masters Residence, enjoying their meal (which didn’t seem to include the frozen/rubbery chicken) out of site of the undergraduates and their parents. Ah, Lowell House! I saw Channing and should have stuck around to say hi to people like Dr. Pechet, but former House Master Professor William Bossert began the toasting, followed by current House Master Professor Diana Eck, and Suz and I figured it was time to beat a path to the exits. At Lowell that sort of toasting can go on for a while.

Later today, on my way to the office for a few hours of emailing and work-type activities, I noticed a group of green-clad protesters outside of Johnston Gate chanting:

1..2..3..4
Harvard is not poor!
5..6..7..8
Layoffs are what we hate!

Certainly these guys were buoyed by a nice sense of timing. There’s still a sense around here that the quiet that typical follows Commencement will be the point at which the University quietly announces further staff cuts and other cost-cutting measures. However, I have heard the odd and encouraging word decapitalization being thrown around recently, so maybe that’s a good sign? Should be an interesting summer, at the least.

Source Code Visualization Tool

As part of a post-CS161 discussions last week over lunch, we decided that it would be neat to have a tool that would allow you to visually annotate, comment, or file bugs on code snippets. I’m envisioning something web-based with a nicely rendered version of the source on the left and user comments or bugs filed on the right, next to the source, in little call-outs or whatever. Does this sort of thing exist? Anybody?

Google Reader

Poking around today, I noticed that Google Reader seems to have fixed some of the problems I had had with it when it was younger1 I’m going to give it another shot and will report back in a week or two.

  1. 1. Primarily its inability to retrieve anything but the post "summaries" from certain sites, which meant you ended up at the site reading the whole posts anyway. Not much value add there. []

Running on E

I always feel a great deal of lassitude at this time of year, which makes it extra difficult to get anything done. I’ve always pinned in on a few changes. First, the academic year is over, and the last push is usually a bit exhausting, either getting through exams or getting a class through exams, grading, etc. Second, the weather is warming up, and that screws with my system. I don’t like hot weather and have learned to live with the four months of stickiness that is summer in Boston, but I usually take a week or two to acclimate. This year the weather has been all over, up and down for the usual run-around that passes for spring, so I haven’t had quite enough time to really get things straightened out. Looks like this is going to be the stretch though.

This year is no real exception, and it’s probably heightened by a few additional factors:

  • The Red Wings are in the playoffs. It’s always struck me as bizarre that the NHL finals are now, in early June. This is not hockey weather. A couple of suggestions: shorten the season, or start in early enough that you can finish in February. That would be ideal, really, since the finals would fall right after the Super Bowl, the weather would be hockey-like, and heck, you could even perhaps hold the playoffs or at least a game or two outside!
  • Suzanna and I have to move next week. Packing up for the first time in three years is not particularly fun, but given that I don’t have a great deal of stuff it’s easier than it should be. I shouldn’t complain. Suz is packing up to move for the fourth time in three years. Ugh.
  • Due to our position as summer school Co-Assistant Deans I’m a bit suspicious about how restful the summer will actually be. We’ll be in our “summer home” out in the Harvard Quad, which will be nice, but supervising 400 or so summer school students? Will that be fun? I hope so.

I’m also wondering if I returned from HotOS’09 with a bit of a cold. At least I’ve been more exhausted than usual for the last couple of weeks. Good time for a vacation.

A Futurist’s Manifesto?

Bryan Brady II, the director of training for Locals 40 and 361, said, “The future is going to be a lot different than it is now.”

I actually ran across this great quote (from this New Yorker article) on the way to HotOS’09, where Adam Greenfield was the featured keynote speaker. At the time I was venturing through “Everyware”, his first book, and was curious about meeting a self-described “critical futurist” in person. He turned out to be nice enough.

Anyway, just keep it in mind: the future is going to be a lot different than it is now. In ever-changing world of critical futurism, at least we can be sure of that…

Academics v Industry

I found Colin’s blog today.1 And then I found this post essentially asking, for not the first time, whether the academic community has “lost its way” because we don’t invent things that people use anymore2

This isn’t a complete thought, but I was reflecting on this a month or so ago as I tried (not for the first time) to separate what I do at my desk every day (or most days) from what colleagues and friends that I know that work at Microsoft, Facebook, Google or even smaller outfits like Sentilla do at their desks every day. What makes what I do “research” as opposed to what they do (“work”)?

To me at least it seems that the clearest separation emerges from considering the role of the “consumer”. To put it simply, I think that the job of someone working at Microsoft is to do what consumers want. That doesn’t mean always giving them what they want, since you can certainly lead the market and people aren’t always good at describing or predicting what technology or design will really please them. But that should still be at the front of your mind. It probably isn’t for most engineers that aren’t customer-facing, but someone else is there or there’s some structure encouraging them to pay attention to these things.

Me? I don’t think much about consumers. At all, really. Not about “consumers”, per se. To avoid getting into trouble, I should be fairly specific here. I think a lot about the goals and desires of the people that are using my contributions. Are these users “consumers”? You might be able to make the case that they are, but it seems different to me somehow. Maybe because we interact differently? I don’t really know.

OK, this rapidly morphed from a “deep thought” to a “I have no idea what I’m talking about” post. Wow. Sometimes its good to get these things out onto paper, just to find out how little sense you make once they get there. Sheesh.

  1. 1. Which I'll start reading along with a few new additions: Successful Researcher, A Gentleman's C, and FemaleScienceProfessor. []
  2. 2. The post should be read in its entirety, since my reduction of it is probably neither complete nor accurate. []

Seat Stealer

Our dog Chuchu has, as most dogs do, many amusing qualities. It’s the day-to-day observation of these qualities that really animates dog ownership, at least for me.

Several examples: first, Chuchu has a tendency, when on walks, to act as if a great wind is blowing that emanates from home outward in all directions. Or perhaps that there is some source of inverse gravity rooted at home that only he can sense. This leads to a tendency to pull forward on the leash going away, and lag when returning home. I suppose you could create some sort of compass using this feature. Maybe it’ll be helpful if we ever get lost one day.

I noticed this particularly yesterday, as he and I went out for a little run in the rain. For weeks we have been running about 1.5 miles between Eliot House and the Eliot Street Bridge. Not knowing anything about his innate distance running abilities, I assumed that he was tired on the way back since he would switch from running along beside me to lagging a few steps behind1. However, yesterday we followed our trip out-and-back to the Eliot Bridge with an extension out-and-back to the Western Avenue Bridge and, lo and behold, he seemed to get a great burst of energy during the 3rd quarter of the run and then appeared tired again for the last quarter. It really is something having to do with going and coming from his home I think.

The other interesting habit that actually spurred me to jot this down is his tendency to steal your seat. Many times, after being settled on the couch with him on the floor in my apartment, after journeying to get water or use the restroom I return to find him looking up at me from my spot on the couch. WTF? Usually there’s plenty of room for both of us, but why? Is it the warmth left behind? I have no idea.

  1. 1. Perfectly OK by me, since he's less likely to trip me going after a squirrel that way. []