August 13, 2006
Omak Stampede Indian EncampmentGalactic Civilizations II, a great turn-based strategy game that everyone should buy. We drove back to Brewster in the evening, barely avoiding some deer on the three hour trip, and then on Sunday I went to Omak to visit the Indian Encampment at the Stampede. The Indian Encampment is a neat thing where there are some tradiational teepee encampments, and there is Native American dancing judged over different groups. It was really interesting. There is great drumming and singing to go along with the dancing. I stayed for a few hours and watched that, and have some pictures and videos here to share. Stampede weekend is a lot of fun overall, the little town of Omak is full of people that weekend, there is a big carnival, and lots of things to do and see. There is a lot of (sometimes kitschy) shopping, and food stalls. I had fry bread for the first time, and while I thought it was good, I didn't think it was good enough to be the scourge on the nation that is has been made out to be.
August 11, 2006
The World Famous Omak Stampede and Suicide Racea set of pictures about the Omak Stampede on Flickr that you can check out. I've also got a few short videos up on youtube.com from the stampede.
2006-08-10 New Directions in Multilingual Information Access
- David A. Evans' invited talk: From R&D to Practice - Challenges to Multilingual Information Access in the Real World
- Combining Evidence from Homologous Datasets
- Translation Disambiguation in Web-based Translation Extraction for English-Chinese CLIR
- Real World Understanding for Multilingual Statistical Tables
- Multilingual Summarization at DUC and MSE
- Identification of Document Language in Hard Contexts
- Integrated Content Presentation for Multilingual and Multimedia Information Access
- Studying the Use of Interactive Multilingual Information Retrieval
- The Remarkable Search Topic-Finding Task to Show Success Stories of Cross-Language Information Retrieval
- The Future of Multilingual Summarization: Beyond Sentence Extraction
- New Directions in CLEF
- The Way Ahead of Multilingual Information Access Evaluation at NTCIR
- A Data Curation Approach to Support In-depth Multilingual Evaluation Studies
- Designing Multilingual Information Access to Tate Online<
- Implementing MLIA in an existing DL system
- What is the Future of Multi-lingual Information Access?
August 9, 2006
2006-08-09 SIGIR NotesWednesday's keynote:
Information Access in the Extended Boeing Enterprise
Overview of Boeing's information technology and information distribution structure.
read more (1146 words)
August 8, 2006
2006-08-08 SIGIR notesKeynote:
Social Networks, Incentives, and Search
Jon Kleinberg, Cornell University
An introduction to social networks, and some parallels to information retrieval.
read more (1507 words)
Back in the USA, and jetlagged (or, "Sleepless in Seattle")I'm back in the USA for the first time since early March in 2006. I flew into Seattle from Tokyo on Saturday August 5th, 2006. The flight left at about 6pm in Tokyo on Saturday, and arrived in Seattle at about 9am on Saturday. Unfortunately I don't usually sleep well on airplanes, and didn't get much sleep at all on the flight over. Professor Kando was meeting a friend of hers from Singapore who has been living in Seattle for the past few years for lunch, and invited me along. The plan was to go to the best pizzaria in Seattle. We had a bit of a tough time reaching the place due to traffic, since it was SeaFair (some sort of Seattle festival type thing) and some parades shut down the roads to the place. As we drew closer to the place, I became more and more sure that we were going to Tutta Bella Pizza, also said to be the best pizza in Seattle by the Weaver family. So it has been confirmed by two independant sources, the best pizza in Seattle. The next day I woke up and had the complimentary breakfast at the hotel. The star of the meal was the waffle in one of those rotating auto-timer waffle irons, just like back in the dorms at SMU. Actually, I was really full after that breakfast, and decided to walk to the University of Washington to register for the conference. I got a map from the hotel desk, and struck out for campus. I didn't know how the map or I was oriented though, and walked for about fifteen minutes in one direction before realizing that I went the wrong way. I went back to the hotel, and tried another direction. About fifteen minutes walking on a nice biking path, I realized that was the wrong direction as well, and turned around. I got it right the last time, and made it to the conference site. After registering for the conference I walked back to the hotel (about half an hour when you know the way) and collapsed on the bed for a few hours before the reception. I also met with Professor Kando briefly and gave a practice talk. I received a lot of good feedback, and a list of changes to make to my slides. In the evening we took busses to the Boeing Future of Flight center for the welcoming reception. It was really nice. I met many people, and by the time we made it back to the hotel, where I was not tired at all. I stayed up maybe until 5am or something stupid like that. The first day of the conference was just terrible. I was ready to go to bed at about 3pm, and had a really tough time following the talks. I decided to skip the poster session, went back to the hotel, and fell asleep for about four hours. I then got up and spent four hours working on my slides. I'll do slide review with Inoue-san from NII today, and probably work on them some more tonight and tomorrow as well. Since I got a full six hours + 4 hours of sleep yesterday, I hope that the worst of the jet-lag is over. It has been horrible though. It doesn't seem to be as bad when I go to Japan, but we'll see what happens on the way back.
August 7, 2006
2006-08-07 SIGIR in Seattle NotesKeynote talk is by Keith van Rijsbergen (recipient of the Salton
award, the highest SIGIR honor.)
Talk entitled "Quantum Haystacks", and is more on the fun side of things according to him. Early work has been on clustering, and went over other areas he has worked in as well.
read more (1099 words)
July 22, 2006
Notes from Friday 2006-07-21 COLING/ACL conferenceNotes from Friday's sessions at the last day of COLING/ACL.
read more (3229 words)
July 20, 2006
Wednesday, 2007-07-19 Part II: Seasickness, food poisoning, or a heart attack?!?We headed back to the boat, and I think the next stop was a two hour cruise with drinks. I decided that I wasn't too comfortable on the boat for two hours, so wouldn't have any alcohol. read more (1213 words)
Wednesday, 2007-07-19At Coling, traditionally one day is reserved for an excursion to see the sites in the area. I think this is a nice idea. I'm fairly bad at planning sightseeing when I'm on my own, so it is nice to have a large group to go with.
Part I: The Zoo and Manly Beachread more (404 words)
July 19, 2006
Notes from Tuesday 2007-07-18 COLING/ACL 2006 session2006-07-18 Invited Keynote Tuesday morning
Argmax Search in Natural Language Processing
read more (1617 words)
Tuesday 2006-07-18I went to lunch with Min-Yen Kan and Kathy McKeown. We had a very nice lunch, and Kathy was very helpful with career advice. Met up with a Group of Columbia related people for dinner.
July 18, 2006
Monday 2006-07-17Yesterday I met up with Stephen Wan and got the keys to his sister's apartment. The plan was to take a nap and get up at 7pm to go to the welcoming cocktail party for ACL/COLING. I started my "nap" at 4:30pm, woke up at about midnight, and then kept sleeping up 7:30am. I somehow managed to find the convention center, about a fifteen minute walk from the apartment, although it took me closer to half an hour on my first try, and attended the conference. I've got blog posting with my notes from the talks over in my research section if you are interested. The first day was very nice.
Post-conference drinksI met up with Stephen and his crew, which was large, and we went out to a bar for dinner and drinks. During the conference I had a nice chat with Professor Nanba from Hiroshima University at the conference.
July 15, 2006
Mitama Matsuri at Yasukuni JinjyaOn Friday, I with some friends from work to the Mitama Matsuri at Yasukuni Jinjya. This is a very interesting trip all around, because it is a traditional Japanese Matsuri (festival) that takes place in a temple that honors those who have fallen during wartime (Yasukuni Temple.) The temple itself has been the center of, in a peripherial manner, a long-standing controversy between Japan and its neighbors, mainly China and Korea. The main controversy is not over the temple itself, but visits to the temple by Prime Minister Koizumi, who has been going there for the past few years. He says that he goes to the temple as an individual, and not a representative of the government.read more (1717 words)
July 10, 2006
Decision making in the absence of informationDid I ever tell you the story of Eunice "The Cutey"? It is a favorite story of mine. Years ago, when I started the PhD program at Columbia, I met a guy in my Program Languages and Translators class that I thought was totally awesome. He was wearing a Hoagie Haven T-shirt (I liked that place when I was in high school, so was shocked to see it randomly showing up in a class of mine in New York) so I thought it was my moral duty to talk to this guy. Our first conversation was about palindromes. He mentioned that he liked that. I mentioned that I had been trying to think of a good way to use golf and flog in a palindrome, and on the spot he came out with "Re-flog a golfer". I don't know how I could have missed that myself, but anyway, we became fast friends. His name is Carl Sable. In that class, at some point we had to do a project in groups of three. Carl and I had worked together before and worked really well together, but now we needed to pick up a third person. I suggested that, in the absence of any information about other people in the class (because we didn't know any else in it) then we should view everyone else as intellectually equal candidates (being the progressive that I think I am) and use some sort of exterior quality to make a decision about who to work with. As long as we're judging on purely superficial qualities (since we assume in the absence of any other evidence that everyone is intellectually equal) then why not choose to work with a cute girl, because if nothing else, she is at least cute. So I asked a girl named Eunice, who was really cute and will henceforth be named "The Cutey", if she would join our group. She did, and we got to work on the project. I'm going to cut this story short, but I'll just say that my progressive view that you shouldn't judge people's intellectual ability based on their exterior qualities just did not pan out well in this case. I mean, in general, just because a girl is blond, I don't think you should assume that she is an airhead. Over the course of our project, The Cutey did absolutely nothing to help us progress, and in fact set us back by probably a few days. When she didn't contribute to our planning sessions (either saying nothing when she showed up, or not showing up at all) we tried to minimize the work she would have to do. We gave her some sort of simple task to program, and she somehow managed to delete the entire codebase, losing us maybe two or three days work because we had to go back to some backup files that Carl had luckily kept. (Of course, that's Carl for you. You can count on him to be nothing if not consistent and detail-oriented. He consistently keeps backups. Although, also following one of Carl's traits, he didn't use CVS or RCS or any sort of technology-based solution. He just copied all the files to a folder, backups.2 or something. And there are backups.1, backups.3, ..., backups.n folders for some value of n.) So what is the point of this story? Sometimes I make decision based on utterly idiotic ideas, like choosing project members based on how cute they are. I'm sure we could have picked out some random asian male and ended up with a good partner[*]. Even if things don't work out in the end, you are left with an amusing story. Also, The Cutey was, true to her name, very cute for the entire length of the project.
June 26, 2006
Go-Con! Japanese Love CultureThis weekend I watched a movie, Go-Con! Japanese Love Culture that I had spotted quite a while ago, and thought might be interesting. A Go-con is certainly a formal institution in Japanese culture, although it isn't really quite clear to me what role it plays, and how I personally should relate to the phenomena. It is basically an en-masse blind date, where one male invites a number of his single friends and a female invites an equal number of her single friends to a dinner, everyone meets everyone else, and people chat over drinks. I know that I have never encountered this kind of thing on such an organized level in the United States. Of course, blind dates exist, and group outings with friends exist, but it seems to me like one of the main points of a Go-Con is to introduce single people to each other, with the hope that some permutation will result in non-single people eventually. I didn't particularly think the movie was very interesting, despite a reasonable score from the imdb. The main joke, that three guys organize many go-cons over and over, and follow a predictable script in each encounter, was played out in the opening minutes. It was interesting to see who their chosen fourth patsy would be for each evening, and what character foible would be used to highlight his complete unsuitabilty (hence improving the other three's chances at having a good conversation with one of the ladies, who effectively outnumber them by one now) but otherwise there wasn't much interesting until the closing scene. In the final scene there was some introspective commentary about the surface nature of Go-Cons, where judgments are made quickly based on appearances, and the competitive nature was just a way to comparatively measure one's own worth against the others in a battle to impress the women. An alternative viewpoint is offered by the older Japanese chef narrator who says that this is just a modernization of a long-time Japanese cultural practice (which I can't really comment on since I don't know the historical basis) and that despite the surface appearances it is important to speak from the heart. That viewpoint is hardly shown by any of the male actors outside of the final scene, and even then they have all been portrayed in such a superficial light that I can't believe any of the emotion that they try to bring about to redeem their characters to make for the happy ending. A thid semi-interesting point is the view that the Go-Con is a team endeavor that requires brains, thinking, and planning in order to "win". Of course, I don't really like how this sets up the Go-Con as essentially a battle of the sexes in which women must be tricked into thinking that men have some redeeming quality, because as everyone knows, we're devious beasts after only one thing. Which, indeed is the impression that the movie gives out for 95% of the movie! Most unbelievably, if I was the main female lead, a waitress who works in the restaurant where the Go-Cons all take place, I certainly would have no interest at all in any of the repeat Go-Con attendees. That was the hardest leap of faith of all to make. All that being said, I'm going to a Go-Con set up my by friend Watanabe-san this week, and have been thinking about what sort of role I play in the outing. Am I the unlucky fourth, chosen because my lack of mastery of the Japanese language will confine me to a corner seat where I'll eat my food and nod my head? Or am I going to steal the thunder of my fellow Go-Conners and dominate the conversation because I'm exotic? Most likely I'll just have a nice evening chatting with people about inconsequential things because frankly, I'm not Japanese and I don't think too hard about what a Go-Con is supposed to be. I don't really know what it is to the Japanese experience, and no matter how many bad movies I watch, I won't; I'll have to form my own (slightly biased) opinion as seen from foreign eyes. If anyone knows of any other Go-Con related movies please let me know.
June 12, 2006
Moving to Oyamadai
Moving by bicycleOn Friday, 2006-06-09, the movers came to move the furniture from the apartment in Fukuzawa to my new place in Oyamadai. Officially I was able to move in from June first, but I wanted to move as much as my stuff as possible before making the actual move. I also needed some time to prepare for the move, so I waited until the 9th to make the big move. Over the week prior to the move I made two to three trips on my little bicycle from one place to the other. Each trip takes about fifteen minutes, and there is a fairly large hill in between the two so either way half the trip is pedaling up a hill, and the other half is braking down the hill, trying to avoid hitting people on the sidewalk. Over the course of the move-in, I've probably made about twelve or thirteen trips between the two places on that little bike. It is a great bike. It can fold in half, and I recently put a basket on the front just for cases like this when I would need to move things around in it. Sadly, it is a bit small, and even with the seat as high as it can go, I can't stretch my legs out far and long trips on it are quite uncomfortable. Still, I get the feeling that if everyone in America rode a bike as much as I ride that little bike, we wouldn't have a national obescity epidemic. Of all the things in my apartment, probably about twenty percent of them by volume arrived on my bike or in my backpack. That doesn't sound like much, but if you go by item count instead of volume, that number rises up to about eighty percent I think. I really have gotten a lot of mileage out of that little red bike since I bought it early last year.
Paying $140 to not use a bedThanks to my friends Eric and Tai, I was very lucky to be able to receive a lot of furniture and appliances. I received a refrigerator, microwave, rice cooker, washing machine, television, and things like that. I also got some of Eric's furniture for compenstation that has yet been determined, but it really was useful for me because I didn't have to worry about buying furniture for my apartment, I only had to worry about moving it. Of course, since I am the worrying type, I still did plenty of fretting and worrying, but in the end it all worked out. The one thing that I was worried about was Eric's bed. For some reason, he bought the most monsterously large bed he could find, it was 200cm long by 140cm wide. Now that I've moved to Japan, I've become more used to the metric system, but the bed is about 4.6 feet by 6.5 feet. I took measurements of the door and staircase, and in general the bed would fit, but I wasn't sure if it would be possible to get the thing around the corners of the staircase. The movers were good at their job, it took only two hours to pack things into the two (small by American standards) trucks, and unload them into the new apartment, but when it came to the bed they just could not get it up the stairs. So I had to do something with that bed. I couldn't just leave it out on the street, because that would be breaking all sorts of rules. Usually you have to pay to have large garbage taken care of in Japan. Luckily the movers would haul the bed off, but I had to pay them about $140 to do it. It is a real shame because the bed was very comfortable, and only about a year and a half old. Even worse, I had to buy a new bed, but of course I made sure that the new one was small (a single) and that the frame could be disassembled so it could make it up the stairs. It should arrive in a week. Until then, I'm sleeping on a futon on the floor, with a few blankets folded up for extra padding.
On the dangers of relying on a bicycle to moveOn my last trip to the Fukuzawa apartment, my bike picked up a thumb tack in the rear tire, and it went flat. I had to walk the poor thing back to Oyamadai. I didn't think this would be much of a problem though because there is a cute little bike shop right on the main street where I should be able to get the puncture fixed. I went down to the main street, but the bike shop was closed. Since it was noon, I guess the owner must have been out to lunch or something. So, back to the apartment for a while to unpack. Returning later, the bike shop was still cloesd. I went next door to the Diving Shop, and spoke to the owner there. He said that the bike shop next door was open randomly, would often shut down business for good, then mysteriously open up again a few weeks later. Now, I don't generally base my impression of a business based on what the owner of the diving shop says, but he seemed like a nice guy, and it looked like in any case, I wouldn't be fixing my bike's poor tire at the shop next door. So I had to find an alternative. A quick trip to the local police box got me the information I needed: there is another bike shop about fifteen minutes down the rode. So I walked the bike down to the other bike shop, and got the tire fixed for 1000 yen. While he was at it, he also fixed the squeeky rear break. I just wish the shop wasn't a fifteen minute walk away, because that is a long walk when you don't have a bike. It is an interesting walk though. The road to the bike shop is lined with some opulent houses. It seems like a really rich and nice area. I wonder what I am doing living in the vicinity?
Pros and ConsAs of today, I am completely moved-in to my new apartment in Oyamadai, and I am really very happy with it. There are many positive points about this place, and only one real negative point. First, the positive points:
- It is a large apartment for Japan
- It was just renovated, and has a beautiful interior
- The bathroom is absolutely excellent; toilet and bath are separate (desireable in Japan) and there is a separate area for the sink (very rare in single person apartments)
- I have a small balcony that is protected from the rain to dry laundry, and there is a space for the washing machine
- Two closets, both large
- A huge shoe rack / storage closet at the entrance
- I absolutely love the neighborhood
- Very close to Jiyugaoka station, which I use for my commute (a bit closer than where I used to live even!)
- Fourth-floor apartment, no burglers are going to climb up this high
- Low ceilings so I can easily change light-bulbs (contrast this with my apartment in New York, where even with the help of a step-ladder on top of the coffee table I needed to balance on top of two phone books to reach the lights. Typically I never changed the light bulbs until every single light source in the room was exhausted, and only then if the TV didn't give off enough light to serve whatever purpose was necessary.)
- Close to Oyamadai station
- Very close to Oyamadai station
- Fourth floor walk-up, no elevator (although, this could go in the positive list, since it means enforced stair-climbing exercise)
- Low ceilings. If my dad came to visit, got excited and jumped for joy, he would hurt his head. Luckily, I've never once seen him jump for joy, so I think overall this isn't really a big problem.
June 7, 2006
Traditional First MealAs with any true Evans Family move, the first meal in my new apartment was an ice cream dinner. The Great Ice Cream Debacle of 1986 (?) is still legendary in my mind. The whole family was moving cross-country, from Los Angelos to Princeton, New Jersey, and had to stay temporarily in the Princeton Scanticon Hotel. Of course, as 13 year old kids, this was just amazing. They had a swimming pool! We could go swimming every night! (Somehow though, our parents didn't seem as excited by that idea as us kids were.) Just about the time we got there, it was Alana and my 12th birthday. To celebrate the occasion (and perhaps try to placate the kids a bit, who were very upset at being moved all the way across the country away from all our friends!) Dad got a huge ice cream cake. That was really great, but after a slice or two, even kids start to get sick of ice cream cakes. Also, since we were in a hotel, we had no refrigerator. Dad was "forced" to eat the remainder of the ice cream cake before it melted. Sometimes being the responsible one is a tough job. Ever since then ice cream has always been one of the first meals that I have in a new place, even if it is only just a small cup or ice cream sandwich. Ice cream cakes, sandwiches, more types of food should come in ice cream form. This particular evening I had just finished a beef bowl at a nearby place, and couldn't resist the Baskin Robbins. I'm positive that that place will be a bad influence on me. It is open until 10pm every night, and I usually make it home before then... Anyway, the ice cream was delicious, and the apartment has been annointed. Moving into that place has been interesting. I've been riding my bike down there two or three times a day since I got the key to drop off small stuff, and I've probably only got maybe 5 or 6 trips until I've moved everything that I can without a truck. The truck will come on Friday, and hopefully they can get everything else. I'm not sure that the bed will fit because the stair are torturous. I don't see how they will be able to get the bed up that windy staircase, but I took measurements and at least at all points the bed should fit. I'm just not sure if they will have space to turn the thing at the corners...
June 5, 2006
Happy Road Oyamadai
Happy Road Oyamadai. It is a super cute little town.
This Baskin Robbins, a mere seconds from my apartment, could spell trouble for me.
My living room, sans furniture. The bedroom is off to the left. Click on the picture for more apartment shots.
May 21, 2006
Picnic in Komazawa Park, Apartment Hunting, Writing Proposals
In the past few weeks I've also been looking for an apartment of my own in Tokyo. It has been a trying experience because I've been spending 12 hour days at work, and then on the weekends spend all day talking with realty agents and visiting apartments. I estimate that about half of the apartments that I was interested in ended up not being available to me because when the agent would call the owner and tell them that I am a foreigner, they would decline to rent to me. That isn't really too surprising to me, but it does make things difficult because it reduces my options. In the end, I found a place that I really like based on its location, size, usability, and to some extent, price. It is more expensive than I would like, but that's life in Tokyo. The major drawback: it is next to train tracks, so I will have a constant soundtrack of city sounds to keep me company. I don't really mind that too much though, since it somehow reminds me of my time in New York. A benefit that others might see as a drawback: it is a fourth-floor apartment with no elevator. I like the idea of unavoidable exercise.
Finally, after two pretty hard long weeks of work and apartment hunting, on Sunday for the first time in weeks the Sun was out and Shining, the weather was beautiful, and I got a call from friends inviting me out to a picnic in nearby Komazawa Park. I met up with Maririn, the twins Moe and Nako, the birthday couple Gene and Emily, and soon-to-be-leaving Japan Sharon. It was really nice just sitting outside for a few hours, enjoying food, friends, cards (大公民 again) and the weather. I didn't even get sunburned. How shocking. Enjoy the pictures from my surprisingly competant camera phone.
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