Category Archives: Just for Fun

I Agree with This 121%

Via Punk Rock OR, I wish you will 133.1% agree with this post.

How long should your thesis be?

(A legend has been passed to me in verbal form, and it just occurs to me that I have read it before, except I have completely forgotten about it until this morning. The exact quantities below do not matter.)

A student Alice is finally finishing her very long thesis. Her advisor is, of course, Bob.

On page 50 of her thesis, in the middle of a very technical proof, Alice writes, “Bob, if you get to here, I owe you a case of beer.”

And on page 100, Alice similarly writes, “Bob, if you get to here, I owe you two cases of beer.”

On the day of her defense, Bob walks in to the room and proudly announce to Alice…

“You owe me a case of beer, ha ha ha, gotcha!”

P.S. In this electronic age, care must be taken if there is an electronic copy available. After all, if Bob has the PDF, imagine what terms he may search for… :P

Professor of Billiards

Some days ago I was walking in the University Center (a social activity building on our campus) and I saw Mike Shamos.

For those of us who studied Computational Geometry, Mike probably needs no introduction. Mike is also famous for being an expert witness in many computer software and electronic voting cases. (For a technical readership, the DeCSS case is probably the most notable.) But since Mike is often seen on campus, what makes this post interesting?

Well, when I saw him, he was actually standing at the billiards tables and speaking with a cue stick. This scene was completely unexpected to me back then. Out of curiosity, I stopped by the tables and from the audience I learned that he was in fact teaching introductory billiards that day. Having watched his amazing demonstrations, from that day on, I have a new understanding of billiards.

HP Calculators

I don’t know how, but my 15-year-old HP 20S calculator just “died” a week ago. As I am looking for a replacement, I learned that the legendary keyboard on HP calculators is now history, at least in the scientific series. Sigh…

When I was a high school student in Hong Kong, I had a couple Casio, a Sharp and I finally landed on the HP 20S because of its tactile feedback keyboard. In an exam, having tactile feedback takes away the “did I push that key hard enough?” guessing. I guess someone may say that 20S is not RPN and so it is not cool. But then Hong Kong has its own list of approved calculators and the 20S is the already most advanced HP calculator on the list. Basically we disallow any calculator that can graph or store alphabets.

And now I know why the other companies don’t have a similar keyboard. As Google just told me, HP holds a patent on it.

No wonder a used HP 32SII can sell for \$229.

Update: I must add that the HP 33S (the 32SII replacement) does have tactile feedback, but according to reviews, it is not reliable.

Invited Speaker

Imagine what can happen at the US border when you invite a speaker from a foreign country…

[T]he customs agents concluded that because Microsoft was covering my flight and accommodation, I was being compensated for consulting activities. In order to enter the country, Id need a work permit.

P.S. I don’t expect any speakers from the academic will have this problem, or so I hope.

Anonymnity vs. Anonynmity

I have to decide how this should be spelt. I guess since there is no dispute on how to spell “anonymous”, it should be “anonymnity”.

Google agrees, as of this morning:

787 for anonymnity vs. 564 for anonynmity

That’s quite a tongue-twister. I just tried to say an-non-NIM-nity ten times and I failed thrice. :P

UPDATE: Alex Tang points out in a comment that it should actually be “anonymity” (about 17,100,000 hits). Thanks!

Architects, Chefs and Academic Research Scientists

According to this article in CNN Money, these three jobs have at least one thing in common. Since I am not yet interested in being an architect and I can’t stand the heat in the kitchen, my perspective would be that

A career with one of the most disproportionate ratios of training to pay is that of academic research scientist.

Perhaps a Jedi knight training would have gotten me more pay. Patience…

And it’s made tougher still by the fact that in many disciplines, there aren’t nearly as many tenure-track positions as there are candidates.

I can easily imagine this being the case for liberal arts subjects, but perhaps this is also true, or getting more true, for Computer Science too. I don’t have figures to know the situation.

At the end of the article is this inspiring, surprising list of six-figure jobs: stunt driver; auctioneer; matchmaker; head groundskeeper; and fashion-trend forecaster.

I predict that next year’s fashion will be different from this year’s. Really, that makes my mom feel proud.

Adversarial Tetris

Unlike normal Tetris(R), however, Bastet does not choose your next brick at random. Instead, Bastet uses a special algorithm designed to choose the worst brick possible.

Surely this situation will sound too familiar among the algorithm designers. :P

I also checked my Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook. No, it doesn’t tell me how to survive Bastet. My high score so far is 5 lines, after trying about 10 games. At last, there is a game that I will happily accept my low scores.

P.S. Although not directly related, this reminds me of Tetris is Hard, Even to Approximate by Demaine, Hohenberger and Liben-Nowell.

Peekaboom Slashdotted

Luis officially launched Peekaboom a couple days back, but the even more “real” launch is actually today.

Here is the story on Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and this is the presentation Roy has made on it. Roy is a member of the Peekaboom team that Luis has assembled in REU.

foo bar

No, I am not going to admit it.

I’ve never used these geeky terms like foo and bar. There is no evidence of this. All we’ve got are just rumors on the Internets. :P

Emacs “Hello Kitty” Colour Theme Request

Just saw this at

“Hello Kitty” Colour Theme Request

After a discussion on #emacs, it was found that we could attract more women and young children to being Emacs users if we had a “Hello Kitty” colour theme; something with a soft pink and yellow.

Interesting idea, but is the color theme really the problem? :P

PowerPoint Remix

Edward R. Tufte is an expert in information design. Some of you may have read his pamphlet The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint (mostly bashing PowerPoint). Here we have his essential ideas in that pamphlet… in the PowerPoint bulleted-list format. :P

P.S. I don’t entirely agree with all of Edward’s ideas in the pamphlet, but the pamphlet is a starting point for those of us who really think about our presentations. Maybe I will write about it later.

Greek Food Festival 2005

The 44th Annual Greek Food Festival is coming!

The is one event that all is at CMU shouldn’t miss. It’s just a 5 minutes walk away from campus and you get really high quality Greek food. From May 8 to May 13, you can expect to see me eating their pastries non-stop. Yum!

Full menu is available at their website.

Mark Stehlik Poster

Today our undergrads put up a really huge poster in the NSH Atrium in honor of their beloved adviser Mark Stehlik. Kudos!

Click on the image to see it at its original size (6MP/2MB).
Mark Stehlik Poster

Higher Cohomology is inevitable?

An old but classic column by Bill Gasarch:

Inspite of Luis’s “proof” this poll still seems as relevant as ever.

“This is an ethical question. I am not the right person to ask about it.”

Today Sam Greenfield, Manager of System Development of the Sports Illustrated Magazine, gave a talk on the photographic technology behind SI. During the Q&A section, there was a great conversation:

Audience: A few years ago National Geographic got into some issues where they modified the cover image…
Sam: Yes, I know about that. They put two pyramids together.
Audience: So what’s your opinion on that?
Sam: That’s an ethical question. I am not the right person to ask about it. :P (Pause) Actually there are guidelines on what you can do and cannot do. [snip...]

P != NP

Proof of P != NP:

Proof by contradiction. Assume P = NP. Let y be a proof that P = NP. The proof y can be verified in polynomial time by a competent computer scientist, the existence of which we assert. However, since P = NP, the proof y can be generated in polynomial time by such computer scientists. Since this generation has not yet occurred (despite attempts by such computer scientists to produce a proof), we have a contradiction.

Does Google think your advisor is important?

Talking about Google funs, this is a must read.

From: John Byers
Delivery-Date: Tue Jan 6 16:33:16 2004
Subject: Smart people search for “Mitzenmacher”

How do I know this?

Because when I just googled you, the sidebar invited me to click on saying “We can’t hire smart people fast enough”.

No such luck with me, Jon Kleinberg, Dick Karp, or Mike Luby.

But boy should you see how badly they want you to work at google if you are searching for “Andrei Broder”. In this case, they assume you are an “expert computer scientist” :)

When you search for “Monika Henzinger” they dispense with the sidebar entirely and blast the jobs link right across the top of the page :)

– JB

Google = stream-of-consciousness + ADD

Check it out

Holy Toledo!

Just a harmless test…