Monday, May 29, 2006

japanese traditional entertainment: lost in translation

in hakodate, at the aamas conference reception, we were treated to some traditional japanese entertainment. the japanese people in the audience were fascinated by this husband-wife pair, clapping and singing along. the foreigners, from my observations, were a bit dumbfounded. i really got into it after a few minutes. the woman's jumping was hypnotic.

my podcast lineup

over on winky's blog i just posted a comment that lists my favorite podcasts, and then i figured i wanted to spread my love of podcasts here.

i listen to so many podcasts. i've been doing this for almost a year now. here are the ones i like:

democracy now: great daily independent reporting show that really sticks it to US media and does a fantastic job covering the latest stories.

bbc's documentary archive: radio documentaries from the bbc. some are amazing.

bbc's in our time: it's always a discussion about some historical person or phenom. always fascinating, very scholarly, if you're into that. a recent show on john stuart mill was just great. i learned that his father essentially treated him as an educational experiment, and in fact jeremy bentham was his godfather.

kqed forum: discussion of topics of interest in america and abroad. a panel discusses a topic, and the last half of the show there are callers. quite good, though the host has a way of talking too loudly and hurting my ears at times.

cbc's quirks and quarks: bob mcdonald is amazing. he makes science so much fun. the recent segment on happiness was fantastic. "if you're looking for happiness, skip bulgaria.'

in addition, i listen to the new york times podcasts of their opinion columns. finally, a good search engine for podcasts is podzinger.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

insults on the street: how to respond?

while walking around the mission yesterday evening, neha and i were heckled by a loud, perhaps drunken man carrying a guitar. this guy certainly seemed drunk or crazy. he asked, "is your woman for sale?" and then proceeded to make some racist comments concerning arabs, which i didn't quite catch. we kept walking and largely ignored him, even as he shouted loudly (but not coherently) in our direction.

as we walked away, neha commented that maybe the best thing to do to this guy would be to kick him in the balls. she said she'd get a sense of satisfaction, and maybe next time he'd think twice about insulting people and saying rude things, especially to women if it was a woman who beat him up. i thought that violence wasn't the answer, as it could get ugly, but also because i don't think violence is a good tool for teaching people lessons. i imagined that this might just make this heckler violent towards others, if he himself was attacked (note: interestingly, now that i think about this, if someone told me that in this case violence was the ONLY way to teach a lesson, i still don't think i'd endorse it.. so my original argument certainly isn't enough for me). at the time, i thought that ignoring him was the best strategy. though now i'm not so sure. i guess the question is whether some harm (verbal, physical, emotional) should've been meted out on this jerk? neha pointed out that in a reasonable world, we could just tell him that what he said was very insulting and we were hurt. but such words wouldn't have worked here.. so then what...

at the same time, i remember feeling so violated by the miami immigration agent and i think i did imagine punching him at some point (though of course that would've been very, very bad, at least practically speaking). i had this strong sense of "he can't do this to me, and i shouldn't let him. i should teach him a lesson!" of course, punching him probably would've taught no lesson, but my point here is more about the strong reaction i felt when i was mistreated.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Buying Clothing Online, revisited

if you recall, about a year ago i wrote about an idea i had for getting all your clothing online, shipped to you, styled for you (see here).

well, while this isn't exactly the same, is in the business of making clothing that fits you well, and matches your style. you send them a shirt and they'll measure it, and you choose your shirt/jacket/etc style and they will custom tailor it, in hong kong, and send it to you.

it's a start! i found out about MyTailor from this times article.

Monday, May 15, 2006

graduate school: the horror!

recently we were asked to fill out a form concerning our experience in our graduate department. the responses were sometimes uplifting, often funny, and downright depressing at times. here's a sampling of answers. note that i've gone with more funny ones than anything else.. to be honest, there were many happy responses. but those aren't interesting!

update: my sister seema tell's me that my samples below are more depressing than anything.. i tend to think of them as quite amusing. perhaps there's some schadenfreude here

on advising and graduate advisors:

After my advisor received tenure, he stopped showing interest in most of my groups' research projects. It has been very frustrating.

The advisors should at least be living in Berkeley and not in another country! The advisors priority is his fame, industrial relationship and money more than the students research and progress.

Instead of explicitly turning me down, one professor would just schedule other people during our arranged meeting times so I would show up and he would be busy. He'd promise to email me and not follow through. It's not clear what professors are looking for in potential students. There were way too many students my year and not enough advisors to go around. [ed note: i especially liked this one because it can be read as if the advisor promised to email AND not follow through with his promises. ha!]

I had secured an advisor early on but had to change in the middle of my PhD as the previous advisor ran out of funding on the project I was working on. I was told to change topic or change advisor.

a happy one:

I feel that my working relationship with my advisor is excellent, but it would be nice to have a better working relationship with other faculty in the same area.

on improving diversity and position of women in computing:

Maybe making the environment a little more friendly toward women.

This question assumes that 'improving diversity' is a good thing. For the love of god, talk to people who've gone to programs with forced measures to 'improve diversity' (CMU's fiasco with women, first and foremost), and you'll get a good idea of how much that fucked things up.

some photos and a video from japan

we actually got to japan at a wonderful time. in hakodate, the cherry blossoms were just blooming, while in tokyo the temperature was perfect, albeit a little rainy.


omar, angry-looking, but really enjoying the cherry blossoms blooming in hakodate, japan.


some beautifully colored trees in a tea garden on the outskirts of tokyo


can anyone guess what these symbols mean? they sit between the up and down escalators, at 10 meter intervals. i thought the red symbols meant that you shouldn't place items on the middle area (see the guy placing something in the right-hand red symbol?) i was wrong. the red symbols mean "no smoking."

in this video, some crazy goldfish try to leap out of the water and eat me as i get too close to their feeding ground.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

hakodate, japan

i'm now in hakodate, japan, where halldor and i are presenting a paper at the ap2pc workshop. my presentation went well, and i think i may have found someone who wants to do some quick collaboration.

today halldor and i browsed around the city. we went up to mount hakodate, which gives a spectacular view of the city.

while there, we saw a crow that let us get really close. i mistakenly insulted the crow, and now it's haunting me and halldor believes i'm cursed. i took a video of this close encounter i've uploaded it to google video. Here it is:

Friday, May 05, 2006

Award Error

I TAed for a class this semester and won an award for excellence in teaching. I received the certificate in the mail and wasn't very impressed... can you spot the error?

Update: the department is sending me a new certificate. they didn't approve of the spelling either... :)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Dave's Wedding

a few weeks ago i was in philadelphia for my good friend dave's wedding. the wedding was a great place to meet up with my 3 roommates from my last two years of college, neal, dave and qiuwei.

after neal, q and i sat down and started reminiscing about dave (we actually freaked q out by telling him that he would almost certainly have to give a speech, since he was dave's roommate for 4 years) we realized that dave hadn't asked any of us to be in the wedding party. now, from the outset, i don't mean this to be a "tut-tut why didn't dave ask us" complaining blog entry. what it got me thinking about was friendship, and how easily we can become distant.

honestly, dave and i haven't really communicated that much since we graduated, and i think that's also true of dave and q, and dave and neal. however, it's weird to think about how close we were back then, and how so much can change so quickly! of course, we're all still friends, but somehow really not that close.

i guess what was so befuddling was to look up and realize that i didn't really recognize anyone in dave's wedding party, despite the fact that we were friends for all 4 years of college. was there really such a separation in dave's life between us and them? i guess we all have our distinct group of friends.

anyway i can't exactly pinpoint what is bothering me about this, but i know i don't like it! but of course i'm very happy for dave, for kirstin, and i was so happy to be there. all i know is that it must be tough being the bride and groom, making decisions that might make people like me miffed... can't please everyone. Posted by Picasa