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.
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July 22, 2006
Notes from Friday 2006-07-21 COLING/ACL conferenceNotes from Friday's sessions at the last day of COLING/ACL.
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July 20, 2006
Notes from Thursday 2006-07-20 COLING/ACL conferenceRough notes from Thursday's presentations at COLING/ACL.
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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
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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
Notes from Monday 2007-07-17's talks at ACL/COLIONG 2006Notes from the second machine translation session at COLING/ACL in Sydney Australia. If you aren't a computational linguist, this will probably not interest you. Even if you are, I am not making any promises...
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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 16, 2006
Sunday 2006-07-16 (Trip to Australia)
Part 1: To the airportToday has been a long day. It started out as a Saturday morning, in a relaxed enough manner, at 9:30am. The previous evening I had gone with some friends from work to the Mitama (Soul) Festival at Yasukuni Temple, near work. Since the evening was late, I decided to leave my computer and conference announcements in the office and pick them up before going to the airport on Saturday. Since I have a commuter pass to work, it doesn't cost me anything but time to get to work and back, so I didn't see much of a downside to running out there to fetch stuff again in the morning.read more (1876 words)
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.
July 5, 2006
How to use Excel charts in LaTeX documents on Mac OSXI use LaTeX to write most of my research-related papers. I really like LaTeX. I think it has a high learning curve, but it does give very nice results, makes formatting something you don't have to think about, and is great with references and citations. I love how you can easily re-organize your paper's structure, and LaTeX (with BiBTeX and friends) will always make sure that your section and figuring numbering will be correct. What I don't really like about LaTeX is that it is very hard to set up, and doesn't integrate well with modern tools. Copy and paste for images is unthinkable in this model. The only real graphic format that is well supported is Encapsulated Postscript (.eps) files. You can argue that using pdf files for graphics works, if you use pdflatex, but that opens up a completely different can of worms. I like sticking with regular LaTeX. You can always convert a .dvi file to ps or pdf, you can use pdflatex with .eps files, but you can not go the other way around: you can't make a .dvi with a LaTeX file that includes .pdf files for graphics, at least in my experience. I wish LaTeX would support better graphic formats, like SVG. I use Inkscape a lot on Linux, and like it. Since LaTeX does use EPS though, isn't it nice that under Mac OSX we can print anything to a PostScript file? Here is a description (sans photos, for now at least) of how I recently included some Excel charts in a LaTeX paper I'm writing.
Create a .ps file for the chartIn Excel, select the chart you want to include. Print it, and in the print options box click "Page Setup...". Under the "Page" tab, make sure that Orientation is set to "Portrait", then click over to the "Chart" tab. For "Printed chart size" select "Custom". Click "OK" to get back to the regular print options, and click on the PDF drop-down menu. Select "Save PDF as PostScript..." and save the file as a .ps file somewhere. For reference, I based these directions on some information I found for windows users on the same topic.
Convert the .ps file to a .eps fileNow we have to convert the .ps file to an .eps file. While this is supposed to be a process you can do by hand, I've never had much luck doing it by hand. Instead, I suggest you use ghostview or The Gimp to convert to an .eps file. I have installed The Gimp on my Mac using fink, so that is the route that I took. Be sure to check "Encapsulated Postscript" in the Gimp when you save, and you might not want to have any offset at all. Also, you should crop the image to the correct size - The Gimp's auto-crop feature worked well for me. Save the file with a .eps extension.
Add graphic to your LaTeX fileI use the graphicx package for graphics usually, and just include the resulting file. I usually have to reduce the size of the charts, but it all works really well. I hope some people find this information useful. I know that I will in a few months when I ask myself "Now, how did I include that Excel chart in my last paper again?"
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.
May 10, 2006
We Are Scientists completely blow away TokyoSo last night We Are Scientists, one of my all time favorite bands who just happen to hail from New York, came to play the Shibuya Duo Music Exchange in Tokyo. One of the things that I've really missed since moving to Tokyo two months ago, or more to the point, moving away from New York city a year ago, is the great music scene that was available cheaply in New York. I would usually go to two concerts a month, maybe more, because it is only a $5 cover, you have a great chance to hear some local bands that might be excellent, and if you know some top-notch acts are showing up (like We Are Scientists or Bishop Allen) you probably will hear some other great bands. I really enjoy the local music scene because you get to hear new stuff, the bands have great energy, and it is just a fun time all around. Tokyo has an interesting scene as well, but the economic structure here is completely different from New York. First of all, cover charges are usually 4,000 yen and up. Tonight's show was 6,000 yen, which is about what I spend on food in a week and a half. Typically when bands play in Japan, if they are at a "live house" then the band has promised to sell X number of tickets at 5,000 each, and if they don't they have to pay the house out of their pocket. I don't know if they get a cut of drink sales or what, but the economic structure is completely different from NYC where the bands pull people into the club / bar, and cause people to drink, making money for everyone. More or less that is my understanding anyway. What is basically means is that I am not interested in taking a chance on bands that I don't know. It is a big decision to drop 5,000 yen, so I am going to be sure that if I do, I'm going to enjoy the show. Man, did I enjoy the show last night. We Are Scientists completely rocked the house. They went on first, promptly at 7:00pm, another rarity in New York, but common here. If you have a schedule, you stick to it. The place was pretty full, and up in front the crowd was just nuts. People were jumping around for the entire 45 minute set. They closed with "The Great Escape" and it was a complete riot. People also really were pushing around and jumping during "Inaction" and many other songs. A lot of people knew the songs as well, there was just so much energy in the crowd and room. It was one of my favorite shows, up there with the last CBGBs show I saw with the Scientists and Bishop Allen. The sound systems was really nice. I was able to chat with Keith, Chris, and Michael after the show, and it was really great talking with them again. It seems like every time I check their homepage they are touring in England or Europe, so I really wonder if they ever even make it back home to Brooklyn or not. It was really great to see them again, and got me thinking about all the shows I'd seen back in New York. It was nice to see some familiar faces after a few months in Tokyo. Another funny thing about the show was that each ticket had a number on it. They let people into the club based on the number of their ticket. They actually called out numbers 1-10, 10-20, 20-30, ... and so on. I was number 417. Can you believe it? All the tickets were standing room only, so I can only imagine that the Japanese just love their concepts of structure and order even when it does not really bring any benefit to the situation. I kind of like that though. Oh, just for fun, I've uploaded my absolute favorite We Are Scientists picture of all time. It was at a show a few years back at Princeton University. This was before the Scientists went on, and they were watching Bishop Allen play. That show was also a lot of fun. I remember Keith somehow managed to knock over a lamp and was just going nuts.
May 8, 2006
Tokyo Giants Baseball gameYesterday I went to the Tokyo Dome to watch a Tokyo Giants game with a friend. It was a blast. My roomate gave me the tickets, which he got from work. He's a lawyer and his company represents the Giants, so sometimes he gets cool things like this. The seats we had were amazing, right behind home plate. It was a complete blast. I've linked to some pictures up on Flikr, so take a look. I especially thought it was great how they have girls to pour your canned beer into paper cups when you enter the stadium. I was surprised they let you even bring any in from outside. Of course, you aren't supposed to bring more than what you can get into the paper cups at the door...
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