November 2007


The tone of this NY Times article on the use of adjuncts struck me as odd. Perhaps because I am inside the ivory tower, the handwringing over the quality of education provided by adjuncts seems over-exaggerated. A bigger problem seems to be how the adjuncts themselves have no power and no real support, a point which is mentioned in the article but with a different spin. Some of this came out in the letters to the editor, but I think the article’s bias shows a bit about who the NY Times’ audience is — parents worried about whether they’re getting a good deal for their money on their kid’s education.

I thought a good use of part of my Sunday would be to (re?)learn a little Perl and make my life a bit easier. Suppose you have a paper that’s split up into many files. This script will parse your main LaTeX file and generate a single LaTeX file for the whole paper. It searches recursively for “\input{}” commands and replaces them with the relevant file. It seems to be functional enough to use, but everyone has their own LaTeX usage conventions, so YMMV.

This is particularly handy for submitting papers to ArXiV, which requires a single .tex file, and cutting and pasting in 20 little files can become a bit of a pain. With the perl script for stripping comments, you can generate the .tex for your ArXiV submission on the fly.

I spent a little time searching for a script like this online, since I’m sure many people have written such a thing, but I didn’t turn anything up. Hopefully this will be of use to others looking for a similar hack. Sorry for the lines getting chopped off in the display — it should show up if you cut and paste the text.

#!/usr/bin/perl

# mergetex.pl
#
# Script for merging tex files into a single monolithic file.  This
# script should make it easy to generate an ArXiV-friendly single
# .tex file from a paper that is broken into subfiles using LaTeX's
# \input{} command.
#
# USAGE:
#     ./mergetex.pl  [input]  [output]
#     ./mergetex.pl  mypaper.tex  mypaperMerged.tex
#
# mergetex takes two arguments, the [input] file and the [output]
# file into which the merged files should go.  It recursively
# searches [input] and adds any file given by uncommented \input{}
# commands.
#
# v0.1 by Anand Sarwate (asarwate@alum.mit.edu) with tips from Erin Rhode.

use IO::File;

if ( scalar(@ARGV) != 2) {
   die "Syntax Error : use 'mergetex.pl [input] [output]'"
}
$infile = shift;
$outfile = shift;
print "Generating tex file from $infile and storing in $outfile.\n";
my $outputfh = new IO::File($outfile, "w") or die "Could not open $outfile: $!\n";
my $inputfh = new IO::File($infile, "r") or die "Could not open $infile: $!\n";
parsetex($inputfh,$infile);
$outputfh->close();

sub parsetex {
  my $fh = shift;
  my $file = shift;
  print "Found $file.  Merging into $outfile.\n";
  while () {
    # strip out comments
    $decom = $_;
    $decom =~ s/^\%.*$/\%/;
    $decom =~ s/([^\\])\%.*$/\1\%/g;
    # search for lines with "\input{}"
    if ($decom =~ /\\input{(.*?)}/) {
      #get new file name
      if ($1 =~ /.tex/) {
        my $newfile = $1;
      } else {
	$newfile = $1 . ".tex";
      }
      # recurse to input new file
      my $newfh = new IO::File($newfile, "r") or die "Could not open $infile: $!\n";
      parsetex($newfh,$newfile);
    }
    else {
      $outputfh->print($decom);
    }
  }
  $fh->close();
}

Link yoinked from Volokh. This brought to you by Meaningless Statistics LLC, where simple features with poor descriptive power are dressed up with fancy names.

Also, the link they give you on the site points to a site advertising cash advances, one of the most rapacious and terrible industries in our country, so if you use it, make sure to edit that part out of the HTML.

As I reread the Burnashev-Zingagirov paper on interval estimation today, I came across a new (to me) spelling of the mathematician Chebyshev‘s name. I found a page with variant spellings, including

  • Chebyshev
  • Chebyshov
  • Chebishev
  • Chebysheff
  • Tschebischeff
  • Tschebyshev
  • Tschebyscheff
  • Tschebyschef
  • Tschebyschew

I know that “Tsch” comes from French/German transliterations. But today I saw “Chebysgev,” which is a totally new one to me. Where does the “g” come in? The name is actually Чебышев, which may or may not show up depending on your Unicode support.

UPDATE : Hari found “Tchebichev” in Loève’s Probability Theory book.

I saw an instance of the the dreaded loose/lose error in the latest issue of the Transactions on Information Theory. Of course, for many authors, English is their second (or third, or fourth!) language, so errors will happen. But whither copy editing, I ask?

I read Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese last night — what a great graphic novel. It weaves together three story lines — a mythic tale of an arrogant Monkey King, a personal narrative of being one of a few Asian kids in grade school and high school, and a satire/sit-com of an All-American kid, Danny, who is embarrassed by a visit from his cousin Chin-Kee, a buck-toothed cariacture of the Chinese immigrant. Yang jumps from storyline to storyline and of course they all converge in the end. It’s a great piece of visual storytelling (or sequential art, or whatever you favorite term is). I checked this one out from the Morrison Reading Room, but I’m probably going to buy it the next time I go to Comic Relief.

Frank Chin’s Donald Duk is another book I read in the last year, and it deals with a lot of the same issues — it’s also set in San Francisco and deals with a kid named Donald trying to grapple with his identity. Chin also flashes between storylines; Donald has a recurring nightmare about building the transcontinental railroad. His dreams are also laden with epic storytelling, this time influenced by his Uncle’s Chinese opera stories. I knew Chin from his play The Chickencoop Chinaman, so I was excited to read his novel. It may be a bit tricky to find, since it’s published by a smaller press, but it’s well worth it.

If I was running an Asian American literature class, I’d definitely pair these two books up for discussion. The best thing about them is they got me thinking about my own writing again. Identity politics was starting to feel passé, but these stories still seem fresh.

For those who think writing in the blog precludes doing work, here’s a snapshot of something due in Sunday’s ArXiV update:

Limited feedback achieves the empirical capacity
Krishnan Eswaran, Anand D. Sarwate, Anant Sahai, Michael Gastpar
(Submitted on 2 Nov 2007)

The utility of limited feedback for coding over an individual sequence of DMCs is investigated. This study complements recent results showing how limited or noisy feedback can boost the reliability of communication. A strategy with fixed input distribution $P$ is given that asymptotically achieves rates arbitrarily close to the mutual information induced by $P$ and the state-averaged channel. When the capacity achieving input distribution is the same over all channel states, this achieves rates at least as large as the capacity of the state averaged channel, sometimes called the empirical capacity.

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