winterkoninkje: shadowcrane (clean) (Default)

I have a new academic/professional website:!

There are still a few unfinished areas (e.g., my publications page), but hopefully I'll be finished with them shortly. The new site it built with Hakyll instead of my old Google-Summer-of-Code static website generator. I'm still learning how to implement my old workflow in Hakyll, and if I get the chance I'll write a few posts on how I've set things up. Reading through other folks' posts on how they use Hakyll have been very helpful, and I'd like to give back to the community. I've already issued a pull request for adding two new combinators for defining template fields.

In the meantime, if you notice any broken links from my old blog posts, please let me know.

winterkoninkje: shadowcrane (clean) (Default)

Anyone who thinks sexism isn't such a big thing anymore, needs to read the following articles. Anyone who has been raised as male and thinks women's lives are essentially the same, needs to read the following articles. Anyone who wants to believe they aren't sexist or who wants to think of themselves as an "ally" to women, needs to read the following articles. Anyone who lives or works in academia, needs to read the following articles.

The terrible bargain we have regretfully struck
quoth @juliepagano: "If you are a man and have been confused about some of my anger and frustration recently, read the post."
Teaching Naked, Part 1
quoth @jenebbeler: "Incredibly thoughtful post about how a young female prof handled an inappropriate student comment"
Teaching Naked, Part 2
Followup to the first post, on how the administration responded to how she handled the sexual harassment.
winterkoninkje: shadowcrane (clean) (Default)

So, a friend of mine wrote a scathing review of the ACM's recent refusal to open access. As he mentions, the ACM claims to be a non-profit organization with the purported mission of fostering the open interchange of information, and yet it refuses to open access because that would cut into the bottom line be "too hard". This is absurd when USENIX, ACL, NIPS, JMLR, etc are all open; to say nothing of the arxiv. If the ACM publicly admitted to being a for-profit organization that would be one thing. I'd still be upset with them, but at least they'd be honest. Until the ACM updates its out-of-date practices, I will not support them because they are not a professional organization that represents the ethical standards of the computer science community I am a part of. If you're also part of this community, then you can help tear down this paywall.

Math envy

31 Dec 2012 02:22 am
winterkoninkje: shadowcrane (clean) (Default)

I have often derided those who are susceptible to math envy. Y'know, the idea that math=intelligence. This utter foolishness leads to the simultaneous fear and awe of anyone who throws math around, as if the presence of mere symbols and equations demonstrates the clear superiority of the author's throbbing, bulging,... intellect. This utter foolishness leads, therefore, to authors who feel the need to add superfluous "mathematics" to their writings in order to demonstrate that their... intelligence measures up that of their colleagues.

Well, turns out, someone finally got around to doing a study on math envy: Kimmo Ericksson (2012) "The nonsense math effect", Judgment and Decision Making 7(6). As expected, those with less training in mathematics tend to rate utterly irrelevant "mathematical content" more highly than its absence. Lest anyone start feeling smugly superior, however, I'll note that I've seen this effect most strongly in those who should know better, i.e., those with just a little mathematical training. This includes, for example, computer scientists who are not formal theoreticians. Not to name names, but I've read more than one NLP paper that throws in some worthless equation just to try to look more worthwhile. (These papers are often fine, in and of themselves, but would have been better had they not succumbed to math envy.)

As Language Log points out in their coverage, this isn't limited just to math. Some people also have brain-scan envy and similar afflictions. That's definitely worth watching out for, but IME people seem more aware of their pernicious effects while being blind to math envy.

winterkoninkje: shadowcrane (clean) (Default)

For those readers of an academic nature who haven't heard yet, there's a general boycott of Elsevier going on, which I encourage you all to join. For anyone unacquainted with the evil practices of Elsevier check out Cosma Shalizi's links or the links on n-Category Cafe. While this is a general boycott, you can specify separately whether you (1) won't publish with them, (2) won't referee for them, and/or (3) won't do editorial work for them. For the young academics, there's also some discussion on [personal profile] silmaril's LJ crosspost about the potential costs of joining such a boycott. While it is a non-trivial commitment, I do encourage you to join us.

For those who believe in the public sharing of knowledge, there's also a more general pledge, Research Without Walls, to only do business with journals who provide their articles online and without paywalls. I wholeheartedly support this cause, for many of the same reasons that I support F/OSS. If you notice my name isn't on the pledge yet, it's because I need to do a little more research on which conferences and publications this would bar me from before making a public commitment to prohibit myself from (rather than merely disprefer) venues which do not support the freedom of knowledge.

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Last week was a whirlwind. It was the first week of classes, which normally wouldn't be a big thing, except this semester I'm teaching a course. The first couple months of summer were pretty sedate up in Canada. But the last month, leading into the start of fall term, was full of traveling. I came back from Canada for a couple weeks, then left for a week with Licia, came back for a couple days (literally) and then flew off to California for Lindsey and Alex's wedding, arriving home the night before I needed to teach my first 9:30am class. Things've settled down now, though I'm heading off to ICFP next friday.

One thing traveling is good for is getting caught up on pleasure reading. In addition to the Vinge mentioned last time, I also got to read some new C.S. Friedman. After returning from Canada I got a bunch of new games for the PS3 too. Portal 2 is good fun, though the atmosphere feels like a bizarre hybrid between the first Portal and the Fallout franchise; fitting in its way, but very strange. I've also been playing through El Shaddai and reveling in the beauty of Amaros. Unlike a lot of Japanese games, the US version lets you keep the original voice acting, which is fabulous. Dunno how good the English voices are actually; maybe next time I play through it I'll find out. And then there's Catherine: an adult romantic horror by the team who did the Persona series. It's actually a puzzle game, where you're trying to climb a tower that crumbles beneath you. Both the puzzling and the plot are top rate, as to be expected from Atlus and SMT. There are other books and other games, but I'm not feeling like doing any proper reviews just yet.

In addition to teaching, I'm taking two courses this term. Advanced Phonetics, continuing from the Phonetics course I took last spring. Back at Reed for my undergrad we didn't have any phonetics courses, only phonology; so I've been getting caught up on that, as well as filling out the requirements for the Linguistics half of my dual PhD. The other course (Q551) is an intro to cognitive neuropsychology. It's something of a psychology methods course, with a bit of neuroanatomy and the briefest mention of how the imaging technology works. Last spring I took a course on neuroscience for speech and hearing, and up in Canada I spent the summer with a bunch of computer scientists who work on optimizing the algorithms behind the imaging technology; so I'm not sure how much I'll get out of Q551, but it's a requirement for the CogSci half of the dual PhD. As a (meta)theoretical computational linguist, neuroimaging isn't really my area; but as it turns out there are some interesting problems there and plenty of room for theoretical mathematics. Even after the imaging is done, interpreting the images runs into a lot of the same statistical problems that you get in NLP. Both fields are in need of a new statistics, one which doesn't break down when you have enormous data sets. Maybe one day I'll try working on that.


12 Mar 2011 11:55 pm
winterkoninkje: shadowcrane (clean) (Default)

I find it terribly unfortunate how susceptible academics are to Not Invented Here syndrome. Especially in disciplines like computer science where one of the primary acts of research is the creation of artifacts, a great amount of time and money are wasted replicating free publicly available programs. Worse than the effort wasted constructing the initial artifact is the continuous supply of effort it takes to maintain and debug these copies of the original. It's no wonder that so much of academic software is unreliable, unmaintained, and usable only by the developing team.

It's reasons like this why I support the free/open-source development model, demonstrated in academic projects like Joshua and GHC. The strong infusion of real-world software engineering methodologies that come from designing reliable software in F/OSS and industry seems to be the only way to save academia from itself.

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