June 11, 2013
Algorithms dont care about the 4th amendment

On Friday, I read this defense of the PRISM program, written by some law prof at Emory who has clearly never wrote a classification algorithm before. The author claims we shouldn’t freak out because the FBI wont see all the metadata but “Rather, a computer will sort through the millions of calls and isolate a very small number for further scrutiny”

Oh, thank god, we can all stop worrying now. If we were ever worried that humans might abuse their powers or be biased in their decisions for who should get looked into, we no longer have to worry because COMPUTERS ARE MAKING ALL THE JUDGEMENTS! Computers, as we all know, are unbiased, perfectly programmed, and immune to human manipulation. So everyone just calm down.

Seriously though, if there was ever a time that we need to stop treating “ALGORITHMS AND COMPUTERS” as infallible objects that are immune to all the shortcomings of their creators and users, now would be a good time. The FBI’s use of technology, no matter how smart, cannot justify that PRISM (or anything like it) respects privacy anymore than if it we had teams of humans combing through all of the collected data. 

May 15, 2013
Research Aesthetics

The hardest part of theoretical research, particularly in the computer science/economics area, is generating the right research problem. As such, developing a research aesthetic is an important part of a reearcher’s career. There’s not an easy way to really express an aesthetic (I just know what papers I like and dont like after I read them) but I am trying to develop a series of tests or criteria that I use to decide what I like. Here’s one

- A paper solves research problem X. If my first reaction is “why not solve related problem Y instead of X”, then the paper is probably not very good. On the other hand, if my first reaction is “why not also solve Z, which is an extension of X”, then the paper is probably good. 

April 11, 2013

tastefullyoffensive:

[jonaszimmer]

April 5, 2013
More bullshit about academia

See this article in Slate today 

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/culturebox/2013/04/there_are_no_academic_jobs_and_getting_a_ph_d_will_make_you_into_a_horrible.single.html

Okay, so everyone seems to know that getting a PhD in the humanities is not a good bet and yet tons of people still go (probably because of the “oh well that wont be me” sort of attitude). Maybe this article will dissuade some people. 

But what I want to focus on is the claim of the author in the last paragraph that “humanities B.A. degrees make people the most hirable”. She supports this claim with a link (always a good way to support a claim) to this NYT article: 

http://www.nytimes.com/1997/12/26/business/philosophers-find-the-degree-pays-off-in-life-and-in-work.html?sec=&spon=&pagewanted=1

Without even reading the article, notice that it was published in 1997. And then notice that its a study of like 40 philosophy majors (so not even humanities as a whole). And then notice that most of the employed people in the study either went on to law school or to get a PhD. 

I mean, I generally support bad arguments (its the only kind I make!) but c’mon.

March 8, 2013
By this point in the day, each fall was followed by a 5 minute break. @aliaj09  (at breckenridge peak 9)

By this point in the day, each fall was followed by a 5 minute break. @aliaj09 (at breckenridge peak 9)

February 21, 2013

wbez:

“A Cup of Cafe”

by Britt Julious

The right cafe can make all the difference. Not a coffeehouse full of working students on laptops and cowering behind piles of books and a small level of grime nor restaurants for an evening with a beau, but rather a place to drink and think and do nothing and have that be okay. Sometimes you will talk to a companion, but you can go to one and be alone. 

I like sitting and thinking. I like no interruptions. I like glasses of wine. I like to eat real food, not pastries or bagels. I like to have all of these things and I like them to not just be a restaurant. This is difficult to find. Chicago usually has one extreme or the other, but never the cafe which sits somewhere in the middle. 

If anything, cafes welcome both silence and noise. They work perfectly together in this space and customers are able to have both without feeling like one rules over the other. This can’t happen in regular coffee shops which often feel embarrassingly quiet or restaurants that require shouting thoughts rather than speaking in a normal speaking voice. 

Cafes are made for the wanderers of the mind. I do my best thinking in cafes. They are a perfect storm of contemplation. Expectations are low. Accessibility to the outside world seems impossible. The space is the inspiration. What I get out of a cafe is not truly quantifiable, but each day spent in one is full of grace. Cafes are grace.

I never realized how much I loved cafes until I found the perfect one in the city. And then I couldn’t stop going there. It’s been nearly a decade. This affair feels true. 

Iguana Cafe, located on Halsted off the Grand Blue Line stop calls itself a “European coffee house & lounge,” but make no mistake, it is a cafe. It is darkly lit at night and bright during the day. Large windows overlook the street. The food is quite good and hearty. The wine is solid and dirt cheap. I’d never get drunk there, but if I had all the time in the world, I’d sit at a little table in the back and maybe find myself in that place of intoxication by closing time. 

Most things in Chicago have a purpose and a cafe, a true cafe, rarely has a purpose beyond “a place to settle.” Perhaps that is why it is difficult to find another true cafe in the city. Iguana Cafe fulfills that need. 

A year ago, Caffe Streets did not have a public internet connection. One could go there to work and they would have to actually work. I’ve never gotten as much work done as I have in spaces like Caffe Streets. Restricted to just the white screen of a word document, the only thing one can do is work. Structure is important. There is a belief that structure will hinder the creative spirit or the flow of ideas, but structure often forces one to think clearly and succinctly. Time is of the essence. Ideas must come immediately, or not at all. 

I am sitting in Caffe Streets as I write this. A year ago, it became my local source for focus. Without the internet as a constant force of distraction, I was forced to settle with my thoughts and only my thoughts. My writing flowed easily and quickly. I often entered the shop without a laptop, instead relying on a tattered black notebook or even scraps of paper – a receipt, a flyer – to take notes, write down anecdotes, or even craft entire essays. 

The owners of Caffe Streets understood something inherently about what is found in cafes and currently missing from most coffee shops: the room to “not” work. Although internet access has been added and increased from only an hour to unlimited, the core principles of the space remain. A Saturday here is louder than many bars I’ve gone to, with groups of friends, strangers, and regulars interacting, speaking, and working without the chain metal fence that is a screen. And much like my love of Iguana Cafe, the appeal of Caffe Streets is born in what it can not provide as much as in what it can provide: noise and quiet, crowds and solitude, “accomplishments” and the room to do nothing much at all. 

Follow Britt on twitter @britticisms

Places to try when I go back to Chicago. Now I need to find the Boston equivalent of these places. 

February 15, 2013
Various Thoughts and Summaries

- Making a simple plot, i.e. just visualizing a simple curve, is unnecessarily complicated on OS X (and maybe on other platforms too), especially for researchers that don’t often make plots and thus want a quick and easy fix.  That being said, here are three tools that I have used with some success.

OmniGraphSketcher Costs some money, but a nice tool if you have a super simple application or want to draw some simple curves by hand. Gets the job done quick but not too good for even minorly involved tasks. 

Plot Much more powerful and free. There’s a small learning curve but after that there seems to be a decent bit of power for graphing more complex things (i.e. lots of data points and different curves). Unfortunately, it doesn’t produce nice looking plots if you have more than 1 curve, so not really useful for making paper-worthy plots. 

Magic Plot The student edition (which seems to be a limited subset of the full edition) is free and this gets the job done. It has a reasonable interface and gives you a fair amount of control to format the graphs well. My plotting needs were relatively simple but this got everything done with some speed and ease. 

-Websites that should get over themselves: Quora, LinkedIn, Klout. Seriously Klout, no one cares about you. Quora, nobody is now following me on your site because I haven’t posted a single thing (I just signed up to see three posts and you are stupid for making me do that). And I have never received more spam from any website than LinkedIn. 

January 18, 2013
Northeastern vs Boston U. Great game (at Agganis Arena)

Northeastern vs Boston U. Great game (at Agganis Arena)

January 8, 2013
Somewhere in the mix, my simple grocery trip took a turn for the ridiculous.

Somewhere in the mix, my simple grocery trip took a turn for the ridiculous.

January 2, 2013
Crockpot Pulled Pork + Beer Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.
Jessica, howsweeteats.com
I’m so ready to ring in 2013.I have champagne and glittery tights and in about eight hours, I’m going to have HUGE hair. Huge. No really. Huge. I have a $33 bottle of hairspray to prove it.Oh and I have pork. Seriously… 2013, bring it on.Could a…

Score one for the crockpot

Crockpot Pulled Pork + Beer Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.
Jessica, howsweeteats.com

I’m so ready to ring in 2013.I have champagne and glittery tights and in about eight hours, I’m going to have HUGE hair. Huge. No really. Huge. I have a $33 bottle of hairspray to prove it.Oh and I have pork. Seriously… 2013, bring it on.Could a…

Score one for the crockpot

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