May 2012


The NIPS deadline is coming up, so I’ve been a bit harried. However, there are many cool things out there on the internet…

IIT Kanpur wants to open an office in the US to recruit faculty.

Via my father, don’t you wonder where the center of mass of a pizza slice is? This is more of an issue for those New York-style fans — in Chicago the deep dish is a little more stable.

A fascinating post from the NY Times about ephemeral islands which appear and disappear as sea levels shift.

Via BK, a musical film about coffee. It’s part of the Jazz Dance Film Fest, which promises to be my undoing, productivity-wise.

An interesting article on the Dalit movement in Maharashtra.

ISIT 2012 early registration ends today — you can register here before the fees go up. I think I only got one email about this, which is sort of disappointing. So register today!

White pepper and honey green beans

I stole this chicken recipe from Serious Eats to cook the long beans I had in my fridge. It also gave me a way to use some of the cilantro I planted in my back yard. I decided to make a veggie variant using the same marinade. This is more of a thing to riff on — I imagine it would be super tasty with brussels sprouts.

4 cloves garlic
1/3 cup cilantro, minced, stems and all (I used the leaves too since I am lazy)
2 1/2 tsp white pepper
2 1/2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp fish sauce (or golden mountain sauce)
1 Tbsp oil (something neutral)
1 lb (or more) Chinese long beans (or green beans) cut into 1.5″ pieces
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced (or shallots)

Grind up pepper, garlic, and cilantro in a mortar and pestle (also very important) into a paste. This will take time. Scrape out and mix in sauce and honey and oil and mix thoroughly. Marinate veggies for 10-15 minutes and then pop into an oven at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, mixing occasionally. Remove and carefully drain off any liquid that has sweated out, then turn on the broiler and finish them for 3-5 minutes under the broiler.

Notes: It’s really important to use white pepper. This really makes the dish. A little less honey may be good if you are not using fish sauce, as the sweetness counteracts the funk and the truly veggie version will have less of that. The liquid is a super-delicious addition to rice — I just kept in the fridge for a little zing. I’m on the fence about the oil — sesame may be good too but it might overwhelm the other flavors.

In case you want to tell someone who is not an academic why open access to research is important, check out access2research and the video there. It’s important even for non-academics to sign the petitions — this is about access for everyone, not just cheaper access for universities.

Signing this petition is something that you can do now to help make taxpayer-funded research accessible to taxpayers.

This post is a bit of a start towards thinking about things. The two things do not immediately connect, but they are both in my mind.


We have chosen the wrong weapon for our struggle, because we chose money as our weapon. We are trying to overcome our economic weakness by using the weapons of the economically strong – weapons which in fact we do not possess. By our thoughts, words and actions it appears as if we have come to the conclusion that without money we cannot bring about the revolution we are aiming at. It is as if we have said, “Money is the basis of development. Without money, there can be no development.”

Arusha Declaration (1967)

The president of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn, was the speaker at my commencement at MIT in 2002. While it poured rain upon us, he basically said “we messed up the world, it’s your job to fix it.” (I am paraphrasing). It was a non-startling abdication of responsibility, but it has stuck with me since.

Yesterday I marched in common cause (the meaning of the word “solidarity”) with a few thousand others against the militarization represented by NATO and its presence in Chicago. The Chicago media and the city have, through repetition, convinced many in the city that the protest is primarily a disruption of their lives. It’s like the snow, only one can blame someone for it. This media campaign is aimed so that people will not ask the questions. Why are people are protesting? What does NATO represent? What actions are being taken in out name? The city asks us to not think. It analogizes as animals — sheep who meekly follow, parrots who unthinkingly repeat soundbites : “the protesters are scary, I am afraid of being hurt,” “why do they have to come here and disrupt our city?”

Don’t be sheep or parrots. Be humans. Think and listen and try to understand. If you disagree with the message of the protest, take the effort to actually disagree. Don’t fall back on the petty concerns of how you are inconvenienced.

When I was a freshman I took an intro bio class co-taught by Prof. Lodish. One of the things he harped on (and which annoyed me) was how you could make a lot of money if you discover things like how EPO works. I guess that is true if you hype your claims, but is that how science is supposed to work?

The EU pushes for publicly funded research to be, well, available to the public.

Via Bookslut, Richard Rorty on Heidegger as a Nazi, and how to negotiate the line between a writer’s politics (which may be abhorrent) and their ideas (which may be brilliant). Not sure I agree with him, but it’s worth reading.

Alex Smola makes a case for not sharing data. As someone who works a little on data sharing now, I appreciate his point.

I grew up on a steady diet of David Macaulay’s books, including the fantastic and hilarious Motel of the Mysteries. Via MetaFilter, here’s a collection of links to interviews and other fun stuff.

I have written a little standalone script in python that parses a LaTeX file with \cite{} commands and the relevant BibTeX file and produces:

  • formatted HTML suitable for dropping into your homepage
  • individual .bib files for each paper
  • linking to archival versions via a DOI reference or URL
  • linking to a local pdf via the local-url field

The point was to make updating the publications on your homepage just epsilon more difficult that updating a BibTeX file/your CV. Of course, this is moot for people who have other folks to update their pages, but for us plebes, it could save a little hassle.

Clearly you could customize the output format to your needs. However, at the moment it’s not very robust (or efficient, or pretty). I’d like to test it out on likely readers of this blog’s personal .bib files to make it useful before sticking it on github. A subset of readers of this blog are likely to be people who might use such a thing, I’d like to know what your .bib files look like. Because BibTeX has a fair bit of variability, I am pretty sure that I did not catch most of the corner cases in my regexps.

So if you are interested, please do send me a representative file to my TTIC address. Thanks a ton!

I’m in this concert next week, which should be fun (and different) — early music from the Iberian peninsula. Fans of chaconnes will approve.

¡Viva España!

Early Music Ensemble
David Douglas and Ellen Hargis of the Newberry Consort, Directors

Tuesday, May 22, 7 PM
Fulton Recital Hall
1010 E. 59th Street
Goodspeed Hall, 4th Floor

Free Admission

Music by Victoria, Padilla, Arañés, and Flecha

Via Inside Higher Ed I learned about a case in which university presses brought a suit against Georgia State over fair use for excerpts in course readers and online course materials:

Her challenge, she writes, is to determine what size excerpts are “small enough” to justify fair use. Here, after reviewing a range of decisions, Evans settles on 10 percent of a book (or one chapter of a book) as an appropriate measure, allowing professors enough substance to offer students, while not effectively making a large portion of the book available.

I guess this is how sausage is made — 10 percent seems like a nice round number, let’s go with that one. By the way, that’s 10 percent including front and back matter, not 10 percent of the text.

It’s a 300+ page decision, but there has been some analysis already.

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