weezer from clango.org


Felt really sick today with congestion, aches, malaise, and sore throat that developed out of the blue.

Still made myself meet up with partners to work on assignments for three of my four courses. Then sat through two hours of anime. It's amazing how similar geek populations are across different schools. Also managed to lose my wallet, but it was found by good-hearted folk and I'll pick it up tomorrow.

Got home and spent two hours making chicken noodle soup for myself. It helped. I made latkes yesterday. I am clearly turning into a Jewish mother.

Of interest only to paulstansifer, the one class I didn't work on today is Programming Languages, which is super-awesome. An upcoming lab has us building a website using the platform of our choice as the "before" to the "after" of Scheme-y continuation passing magic. At least that's my guess. This should get me working with web.py for the first time in months.

Of interest to no one and apropos of my music, Cora Hoover Hooper is the voice I imagine Sarah Palin ought to have.
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Living in Providence now, splitting an apartment with tolchocky. Courses start in two weeks and orientations are even sooner.

Life is going to be a tricky balancing act for the next five years. My top-level goal is to become some sort of scientist in that time (hence applied math and not the pure stuff) but there are a lot of paths that will get me there. Giving the talk at the Ecological Society of America conference and having spent six days immersed in that problem domain is pushing me towards ecological applications. I need to get in contact with at least three Brown profs whose names came up at ESA.

On the other side of the fulcrum is trying to have a life. Running, guitar, cello, piano, cooking, programming, internet culture, having friends, and spending a lot of time with tolchocky are things I want to keep doing. As opposed to being vestigial lists of comma-separated interests on social networking sites.

In the past, I've guilted about not posting frequently. Enough. Now there's Twitter if you don't feel you're getting enough of me.

Finally, I found a copy of Günter Grass' Die Blechtrommel at a yard sale and I'm trying to use it to further my learn to read German project. Is this a poor and inefficient idea Y/N?
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I spent most of this weekend at BarCampBoston3, a web/computing/networking/entrepreneurship unconference that left me exhausted when I got home at 8:30 pm and exhilarated now that I'm up at 3:45 pm. For an event that demanded mostly sitting, listening, thinking, and talking, I'm surprised how much it took out of me. One explanation was the absence of any real downtime; there was no buffer scheduled between sessions so conversations were pushed into the breaks. Twitter/blogging/IRC/etc. ate up the spare seconds.

Schedule Board from BarCampBoston3
(Photo by jeckman, who gave the Twitter talk.)

I'd heard about BarCampBoston3 (#bcb3, hereinafter) from Shimon Rura when I ran into him at another event (ROFLcon). I got the impression that this was typical of how folks found out about #bcb3. Beyond IRL contact, tweets and blog posts seemed like the primary vectors. Getting there was a trivial walk down Mass. Ave. to the Matignon High School; I'm really going to miss Boston.

Next time I go to a conference, I'm planning on taking notes that I can clean/flesh out into a comprehensive post. Since I didn't this time, I'm just going to briefly hit on the memorable stuff.

Matt McKeon of the IBM Visual Communication Lab gave a talk on the very cool Many Eyes collaborative visualization software and led an open discussion on data visualization. There are great tools out there for finding patterns but I think that grasping the uncertainty in inferences still requires a statistician.

Talked with one the founders of Lingro, a dictionary for language learning. This should be useful for the German project.

The Wearable Computing talk started off with a ten minute introduction to teledildonics. Including a demo. Sort of. Some of the ideas were followed up in the Brain Computing session the next day. The consensus seems to be that getting information into the body is the easy part. There's room for clever stuff, e.g., putting electrical arrays on the tongue, but there's more than enough bandwidth in the typical senses. Getting information out seems more interesting. We may not be able to carry an fMRI around with us but an EEG helmet plus eye-tracking might take us most of the way there.

I had some regrets about the session choices I made on Day 1. tolchocky was pretty incensed when she heard that I missed the Arduino intro and Your 'Fridge on the Web (Roomba!). Same with Better Democracy through Software, although that's more of her interest than mine. I wasted twenty minutes in an Open Education discussion education that never really took off while missing the Public Data Roundtable. Picking sessions is a tricky problem and I still don't have a good idea about the right way to do it. Shopping, i.e., jumping between sessions as they are going, is probably effective but it would ruin a conference if everyone did it.

The after-party, such as it was, was dinner in the back room of the Burren. After putting up with the swimming pool acoustics of the Matignon cafeteria, it was good to be able to speak without strain. Absurdly good luck had me sitting next to and across from computational scientists. There was some solid discussion of molecular dynamics approaches to protein folding and scientific collaboration.

As someone who is Smart and has aspirations to Get Things Done, #bcb3 was a bit painful. Most people there had done really cool things with technology and I felt like a bit of a wannabe. The API talks I made it to (Twitter, Google AppEngine, processing.js, iPhone) were particularly frustrating because they showed how low the barrier of entry could be. The only real solution to this problem is just to go out there and make. I'm just not sure how realistic this is knowing what I know about myself.
sad choo-choo by kalijean

Rolling On Floor, Laughing

I'm posting from ROFLcon. The talks (so far, forums on the LOLCAT phenomenon and on Pwning for the Good of Mankind) have been alright. More audience participation (including chunks from tolchocky) than I've ever seen at events like this. But the people, wow. I had a simultaneous conversation with Alexis Ohanian and Anonymous.

Now I need to go back to IRC, Twitter, Facebook, and IRL. Bai nao.
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I accepted the offer from Brown Applied Mathematics and I'll start working towards a Ph.D. there in the Fall. This presages good and bad things for this LJ. Good, because posting during the day will be legit and there will be fewer worries about "hai bosz, u can haz sum incriminating statements that might lead to my termination, loss of benefits, litigation, etc." Bad, because undergrads.

At least the first year will be all classes and no teaching. But eventually I'll be in a class and someone will raise his/her grubby non-degree-bearing hand and ask me what opinions do I have on Andropogon gerardii/soil relationships. And I'll respond "f-locked." And he/she will respond "Wayback Machine." And I'll hide under a desk until the thing blows over.

I don't want this to happen. So if you, the reader, are the aforementioned undergrad, you should at least start at my personal/professional/academic website. That's how I want to present myself. Except for the crappy photo that will be replaced whenever I start being photogenic.
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Social, Virtual, Academic

I've always wanted to play a house game of Apples to Apples. Because birthday parties are formulated around one's deepest wishes and longest-held desires, I got to play this game last Saturday.

It wasn't anyone's birthday in particular that day, but it lay nicely between tolchocky's and mine, so it was chosen as the day for festivites. Tradition was mostly ignored; there was no "Happy Birthday" and no cake. But we had massena, paul_stansifer, Katie, Emily, our Christine, cawthraven, Dina (who apparently has history with paul_stansifer and bananas), Colin, Seth, Gavin, Jake, and two acquaintances of Christine/Gavin.

Apples to Apples started as a way to pass the time before guests showed up. Index cards were cut into fourths; nouns ("check-out line at Shaw's", "othercriteria's abs", "the military-industrial complex", "risk aversion") and adjectives ("tubular", "soporific", "Irish") were scrawled and crudely illustrated. The nouns were exhausted by about four rounds into the game, so a crash program of just-in-time writing and recycling was instituted. And remarkably, the game continued through most of the night. It was not nearly as awkward as it could have been.

Meanwhile, in more virtual doings, I've written what's basically a "hello, world" for the Apache/web.py/MySQL stack. It's a todo list for myself with a read-only public interface and a read/write admin interface. It looks pretty primitive, with no chrome or bling beyond the favicon, but it was a lot of fun to piece together and should make me a bit less flaky.

Finally, I got my first grad school admit, to Brown's Division of Applied Math Ph.D. program, with fellowship support. Still waiting to hear from the other four schools I got applications in to.
sad choo-choo by kalijean


Today was fire day at my apartment.

I was in my room, coding up a storm with paul_stansifer. We'd made some real progress on the front-end and were moving into some of the machine learning validation, but that's another story. Ned poked his head in and asked if I smelled anything strange. I didn't, but as I walked towards the kitchen, an odor of burning plastic started to assert itself. We looked around, didn't see anything alight, and headed downstairs to see what was amiss. I went out the front and Ned took the back. It was fortunate that the competent and worldly one walked into the room where the charred hulk of a power strip was burning. He managed to put it out.

My contribution was to flag down a passing car--my cell phone has been missing for several days and no excuses can be made for Paul--and talk them into calling 911. Emergency response folks showed up, and had the courtesy not to take out any doors or windows while establishing that the danger had passed.

Even after extensive airing out, which had really started before the fire because it was such a nice day, there are still areas that smell of burning. I imagine it will be worse downstairs once the occupants, our landlords, get back from their trip.

Throughout the whole event, no smoke detector alarms sounded. I don't have renter's insurance. This could have played out in different ways that could have really sucked.

Plus, I can imagine the disappointed but not all that surprised look that tolchocky would have assumed upon seeing me and paul_stansifer gazing up helplessly at the house that we failed at not-burning.
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Updating from the OLPC XO-1. This thing is a barrel of green and white fun and a technological wonder.

This should prove very useful when we head out to Grammy and Grampy's for Christmas. I still have grad school applications to finish for Brown Applied Math, University of Minnesota Math, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Science, and NYU Math. What could be better than tweaking essays on a keyboard with little chiclet-style keys? Actually, tolchocky is of the opinion that the apps get done tomorrow. On a real computer. Concurring would be the not-stupid thing to do.

Bands seen since last post: B For Brontosaurus (twice), Fiery Furnaces, Spoon, Professor Pez.

Types of pants acquired since last post: used leather
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Because I work for the behemoth that is JNJ, I get to use the online company store that sells JNJ products at super discounts. I promised my mother, a while ago, that I'd try to get her most recent contact lenses (Acuvue is a trademark of VIstakon) through there.

Turns out that I can't. I apologize to mother, and ask if there's anything else I could get. I end up having obligated myself to buying as many tampons (o.b. is a trademark of McNeil-PPC) as the site will let me purchase. For my mother and sister. Yay?
  • Current Music
    Ben Folds (because I didn't get enough this weekend)
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