Academic Politicians

November 29th, 2006, 11:36 pm PST by Greg

I don’t watch the news very often. I find that mostly, the world can get on just fine without me paying too much attention. I watched the CBC news tonight. There was a bunch of stuff about the Liberal leadership race. I noticed a trend…

Michael Ignatieff is the front runner. Ignatieff is a hardcore public academic, having worked at UBC, Oxford, LSE, and Toronto.

Stéphane Dion is the son of an academic and has had faculty positions at the Universities of Moncton and Montreal. A less impressive CV, but nothing to turn one’s nose up at.

Bob Rae is the least academic of the bunch. He was merely a Rhodes Scholar. Rae and Ignatieff both studied under Isaiah Berlin—seems like there might be some kind of conspiracy in there.

But, they were all in political science or public policy. As a computer scientist, I’d probably have to settle for being a lousy Premier or something.

Even our “populist” leader, Stephen Harper, has an MA in Economics.

Snow Day!

November 27th, 2006, 7:47 pm PST by Greg

As most of you know, SFU Burnaby was closed today (sorry, Paul). So, I had an unexpected day off. Or, more correctly, an unexpected day to work at home.

So, what did I do with my day?

I saw that they had closed the campus before I went to bed, so I could sleep in. My mother phoned at 8:00 to… uh… tell me it was snowing? I grumbled something about the University being closed. “Oh, were you asleep?” “Yabayngh.” I phoned back later and confirmed that it was indeed snowing. I took a few more pictures.

Then I heard the landlady shoveling the sidewalk. I went out to do it for her, thus a five minute conversation ensued about what I was trying to do. It almost ended with me saying “give me the damn shovel and go back in the stupid house where it’s warm!” She’s afraid of going outside. Possibly because it was icy, or possibly in general. As usual, I only caught about every third word.

While I was at it, I brushed off the car. The locks were a little stiff, but I managed to get in. Since then, the temperature has gone down, and they’re totally frozen shut. I had to walk over to the Safeway to get a few supplies, instead of getting proper groceries.

Did some laundry. That was a long time coming—the supply of socks was running a bit low.

But mostly, I worked on my CMPT 120 final exam, which I’m hoping to have done and sent to duplicating by Wednesday. By the way, I have one more reason to not cheat on assignments: the instructor isn’t exactly in a generous mood when making up your exam. I might not get the drunken “favourite instructor” honour at the next LAN party.

A full day, I’d say.

Snowy Night

November 25th, 2006, 9:32 pm PST by Greg

It’s snowing in Burnaby as I write this. That’s strange, particularly since I don’t remember it being all that cold when I was out earlier.

Having been inspired by Anne (who said she was doing the same), I went out to take some pictures. My Rebel XT is at school, but I did have the Canon A710 that I got Dad for Christmas (but haven’t sent yet). It has image stabilization, so it seemed quite well suited to night shooting and the long exposure times that come with it.

Indeed, image stabilization is cool, as you can see from the results.

The first shot I took, that metered to a full second was too long for my hand and the image stabilization to hold still.
blurry night shot

While I was waiting for my beverage at Starbucks, I found the exposure compensation setting on the camera (so I could tell it not to try to get a bright picture, and leave it a little underexposed—that shortens the exposure time). Back out on the street, things got better.
Hastings Street at night Albert Street at night

The exposure time on that last picture is 1/4 second. That’s really long for a clear hand-held shot. I wouldn’t get anywhere close to that without the stabilization. Thumbs up.

But, my vanilla creme wasn’t nearly hot enough to offset the cold and damp that came from going to get it. Should have stayed home and made hot chocolate or something. Thumbs down.

My first American Thanksgiving in 8 years…

November 24th, 2006, 7:17 pm PST by Kat

… was definitely interesting, in a good way. I was invited to Thanksgiving dinner at Mukta’s place. She’s one of Sabrina’s (my boss Keith’s wife) grad students. She’s from India, as were the majority of the dinner guests – either grad students or post-docs. The other guests were Mukta’s Japanese friend from Duke and her boyfriend and another guy from the Duke lab. Both Duke guys were African American, making the two of them and me the only Americans there. So, throughout the night we were asked “is this right?” or “are we doing this right?” referring to the set-up of the food. It was the first Thanksgiving for many of the guests, so things like the canned cranberry sauce were a mystery. I had to explain that it just gets put in a bowl and is eaten with the turkey, well in our case chicken. Apparently they don’t have turkeys in India (at least noone at the party had had turkey while in India, and had only heard of them when they came here). So, I think they were all a bit intimidated to try to cook a turkey. Had I known I would have offered to cook it, but alas I didn’t know. Oh well. Instead we had roasted chicken which was just as good!
After dinner there was dancing. Salsa music was played, and one of the guys who had been taking salsa lessons taught a few a steps. Then Punkabi music was played and Mukta showed us how to dance to that, and then the hip-hop came on and Marcel took over the dancing. It was a good time.
Today I exercised a lot of control and did NOT go to the after-Thanksgiving sales. The stores were open at 5 am, but I was good and didn’t go. Instead, I spent my day doing laundry, mailing Christmas presents, and feeding the birds. I’d say that took a lot of willpower on my part.

Only 12 days until I go home!

My Own Personal Boil Water Advisory

November 24th, 2006, 12:16 am PST by Greg

The stuff coming out of my tap is looking a lot more like water and a lot less like languid mud.

I decided a few days ago that it wasn’t even close to worth it to worry about the water for teeth brushing, and other incidentals. I also did dishes, because it was getting a hard to find somewhere to put down new dirty dishes. I’m still alive.

I’m still boiling water for drinking, mostly because it’s not that much of a hassle. I tried an experiment tonight: I boiled water, let it cool and ran it through a Brita. I’ve got to say, it’s downright tasty—the filter seems to suck the earthiness right out of it.

But, I grew up with really hard water, so I might have a different baseline than others. To give you an idea, you could never drink the last inch out of the jug of water in my house. A surprising amount of stuff would come out of solution and settle as it cooled. That was always swirling around the bottom of the jug.


November 16th, 2006, 11:18 pm PST by Greg

I don’t know what’s going on in the rest of the GVRD, but this is what’s coming out of my tap right now:
my water

Apparently, the problem is turbidity. According to Wikipedia, 1 NTU (turbidity units) is the bar to clear, and 0.1 NTU is the target. The GVRD turbidity page (who would have thought they had one?) says we’re at 53. I will repeat the title: Mmmmm.

So, we’re supposed to boil the water. I’m undecided. Option 1: saying “fuck it” and calling people pussies for not wanting to deal with water that has a little character. Option 2: not taking the chance on being that one stupid bastard who dies after not boiling his water.

I’m also wondering how long it takes particles like that to settle out. I boiled some water, partly to conduct that experiment in the fridge.

Curriculum, woo!

November 15th, 2006, 9:40 pm PST by Greg

I haven’t really written anything about my recently aquired admin duties. Mostly, that’s because everything falls into one of three categories: hopelessly boring, hopelessly boring to everybody but me, confidential.

At this point, we’re mostly chasing the deadline for calendar changes, roughly the end of November for changes to leave the department and be sent up the chain. What with teaching two courses, there isn’t much time in my day to deal with much else.

Now that most of our changes have been dealt with, I’m now dealing with the peripheral problems. These are changes Engineering is making that affect us in some way, changes Interactive Arts is making that we don’t like, etc.

Since a picture is worth 1000 words, here’s an illustration of how far I am from caring about what Engineering and IAT are doing with their curriculum:

nowhere close

Geek Songs

November 14th, 2006, 10:59 am PST by Greg

Okay, this one’s pretty geeky, even for me. Hold on tight.

I have heard many times that there is a correlation between musical talent and mathematical/formal reasoning abilities. None of that rubbed off on me, but it’s a good theory. I have recently been collecting links to prove the point.

I had originally heard The Eternal Flame/God Wrote in LISP a long time ago and thought it was a novel song.

Now, some folks on the Internet put their faith in C++.
They swear that it’s so powerful, it’s what God used for us.
And maybe it lets mortals dredge their objects from the C.
But I think that explains why only God can make a tree.

Then, I recently stumbledupon a page of math love songs. A Finite Simple Group of Order Two is particularly funny

When we first met, we simply connected
My heart was open but too dense
Our system was already directed
To have a finite limit, in some sense

A link there led me to the U Washington CSE Band. I had to stop Theory Girl to let the laughing stop at this line: (to the tune of Uptown Girl)

She never touches keyboard, mouse, or screen
Because she uses an abstract machine
It’s nice and clean.

It’s probably the only thing I’ve ever heard that’s only really funny if you have taken an advanced, possibly grad level, CS theory course. Others might enjoy None: (to the tune of U2’s One)

My friends show my no forgiveness,
they’ve all taken me for dead.
While I sit here reading Sipser,
they go out for drinks instead.

Finally, I happened across a link to Les Horribles Cernettes, who have the distinction of being the subject of the first photograph ever on the WWW, by virtue of having an office down from TimBL, who was at CERN in the beginning. From Daddy’s Lab:

I only like those guys who live to study matter
I’m gonna find my sweet one
And teach him more…
Much more than daddy knows

There’s no conclusion to this. Just a dirty feeling that I might be nerdier than I usually let on.

Update 2006-11-27: Monzy the CS rapper and his single So Much Drama in the PhD.

Top 20 things to do/see/eat when I get home

November 10th, 2006, 6:12 pm PST by Kat

In no particular order:

1. Hang out with Greg
2. Visit the family
3. Bubble tea! Bubble tea! Bubble tea! From Pearl drops on Willingdon. Bubble tea, oh how I miss thee.
4. Chana masala and butter chicken with naan from Bombay Bhel
5. Sushi from Toyotomi, and from Sushi Town, and from Yummy Yummy Sushi, and from…
6. Deep fried salty prawns, gai lan, and spare ribs from Top Quality Chinese Food.
7. Feenies – I still haven’t been!
8. Go to the dentist. Sucky, but essential.
9. Haircut with Niel at Halo. Yay, good hair!
10. Following Bad Girl Chocolates around to all of the local Christmas markets and craft fairs!!! Can’t wait!
11. Shopping at Granville Island. (mostly to get the bread; see 12.)
12. Yummy pumpkin seed bread from Terra Breads
13. Lattes from Renaissance. Drool… NC has amazing BBQ, but the coffee sucks.
14. Gingerbread decorating at Kelly’s (it’s a tradition, right?)
15. IKEA! This is the first time I’ve lived somewhere where the closest IKEA is like 5 states away! I don’t even need anything. I just want to go. Ooooo… and I can get meatballs with lingonberry sauce!
16. Boxing day shopping! Who wants to brave Metrotown with me? Warning: Boxing Day 2003, I may have broken Suyoko. She may or may not have needed 2-3 days to recover. Shop with me at your own risk.
17. Pad Thai with prawns, spicy eggplant, and red curry with tofu from Thai Cafe
18. Lab party at Tony’s
19. Moderne Burger: Steak burger with bacon and cheddar, fries and a chocolate-cherry shake
20. Multiple Christmas celebrations!
Everyone is welcome to join me on my food tour of the GVA.

The fun starts Wednesday, December 6th!

Knowledge and Truth

November 9th, 2006, 12:49 am PST by Greg

I was talking to one of our grad students today. He mentioned an old email sig he had seen, and I convinced him to send it to me:

When you realize you know everything, you can get your Bachelor’s.
When you realize you know nothing, you can get your Master’s.
When you realize your supervisor knows nothing, you can get your Ph.D.

Have truer words ever been spoken? Since I think we have readers nearing the end of each of those phases, I thought it would be appreciated all-around.

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