Thursday, March 31, 2011


Fleeting: When I moved here I was told by one of those wise local types that I would never ski first tracks at Chamonix. Seemed like a reasonable prophecy. I don't live in Chamonix, I live an hour and a half away. Skiing in Chamonix is expensive and you pretty much have to invest in a lift ticket to access anything of interest. Add to that French toll roads, European gas prices, family responsibilities, and a general aversion to competitive crowds and the wise local saw no argument from me. He still wouldn't. That doesn't mean I wouldn't try, either.

It's the same for me with most backcountry lines around Tahoe. But it doesn't mean that one can't find surprisingly empty terrain. Read the whole thing.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Fairy Tales

Fairy Tales:
Goldilocks' discovery of Newton's method for approximation required surprisingly few changes.

How does he get so well that Haruki Murakami-like unsettling border between overactive, exhausted mathematical wondering and dream incoherence?

Why does Murakami come to mind so readily? The awful news from his homeland showing that he's been right all along about the deep channels between nightmare and reality? Fairy tales can turn to dread so easily, orderly worlds undone by the interdependencies that sustained them for centuries.

Days like this, the central limit theorem feels like a bad joke.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

ACM/IEEE copyright policy

ACM/IEEE copyright policy: Matt Blaze is annoyed at the ACM and IEEE copyright policy. So am I. In an update to his post he reports:

A prominent member of the ACM asserted to me that copyright assignment and putting papers behind the ACM's centralized 'digital library' paywall is the best way to ensure their long-term 'integrity'. That's certainly a novel theory; most computer scientists would say that wide replication, not centralization, is the best way to ensure availability, and that a centrally-controlled repository is more subject to tampering and other mischief than a decentralized and replicated one.

This is deeply ironic, because ACM bestowed both a Best Paper award and an ACM Student Research award on Petros Maniatis, Mema Roussopoulos, TJ Giuli, David S.H. Rosenthal, Mary Baker, and Yanto Muliadi, 'Preserving Peer Replicas By Rate-Limited Sampled Voting', 19th ACM Symposium on Operating Systems Principles (SOSP) , Bolton Landing, NY, October, 2003. for demonstrating that the 'prominent member' is wrong and Matt is right.

Even just thinking of the economics alone, and not of the systems issues, which preservation method would you rather trust? The prominent member's, which depends on the ACM's ability to extract rents from the scientific community into the indefinite future? Or a proliferation of copies in many repositories all over the world funded in diverse ways?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Slow blogging

Twitter and Buzz have dampened some of the urge. Between work and a great skiing season (first weekend not skiing or traveling to-from skiing since late December), there hasn't been much free time.

Shaking Down Science

Shaking Down Science: Why do IEEE and ACM act against the interests of scholars? [...] Some time in January, the IEEE apparently quietly revised its copyright policy to explicitly forbid us authors from sharing the 'final' versions of our papers on the web, now reserving that privilege to themselves [...] To be fair to IEEE, the ACM's official policy is at least as bad. Not all technical societies
are like this; for example, Usenix, on whose board I serve, manages to thrive despite making all its publications available online for free, no paywall access required.

All publications of the Association for Computational Linguistics, most recently its journal Computational Linguistics have become open access. Most of the main venues for machine learning, NIPS, ICML, and JMLR, are also open access. None of this happened by accident, it required leadership, organizational effort and sustained participation by many members of those communities. All of these venues are thriving, with steady growth in submissions and accepted papers. We need to build on the open-access success of Usenix, ACL, and other venues in computing to push for open access at ACM and IEEE.