A good year for archaeology

And to think, we’re only 6 weeks into it and an Egyptian and Macedonian tomb have come to light.

I kind of wished I had taken some of the archaeology classes at MIT — they did some cool materials analysis stuff and it’s pretty technical as historical professions go. But I don’t think I could get over my fear of mummies. They’re just so… creepy.

On a related note, I was pretty underwhelmed by the DeYoung’s special exhibit on Hatshepsut. The upcoming Frank Lloyd Wright thing could be interesting though, and I’m definitely looking forward to the Jasper Johns retrospective.

we’re jammin’

I’ve been meaning to write some notes towards a contextualization of the research I’ve been doing lately, as part of an effort to find a better angle on things and also spur myself to actually tackle some harder/more interesting problems than I’ve looked at so far. At the moment I’m looking at communication scenarios in which there is some unknown interference. The crux of the matter is that the communication strategy must be designed knowing that the interference is there, but not what it is like. There is a disconnect between two different strands of research on this subject (so much so that the papers in one don’t cite the other as relevant). In both the interference is viewed as coming from a jammer who wants to screw over your communication.

In the world of arbitrarily varying channels (Blackwell, Breiman and Thomasian, Ahlswede, Csiszar and Narayan, Hughes and Narayan, etc), mostly populated by mathematicians, interference is treated as malicious but not listening in. Perhaps a better way to view it is that you want to provide guarantees even if the interference behaves in the worst way possible. This worst-case analysis is often no different from the case when you have a statistical description of the analysis — the average and worst-case scenarios are quite similar. However, in some situations the worst-case is significantly worse than the average case. Here, if a secret key is shared between the transmitter and receiver, we can recover the average-case behavior, although the reliabiliity of the communication may be worse.

On the other side, we have wire-tap situations in which the jammer not only knows your encoding scheme, but also can try to figure out what you’re sending and actively cancel it out. Most of these analyses initially took the form of game-theory set-ups in which one player tries to maximize a function (the capacity) and the other tries to minimize it. The space of strategies for each player take the form of choosing probability distributions. In this highly structured framework you can prove minimax theories about the jammer and and encoder strategies. Extensions to this view take into account channel fading for wireless, or interference for multiple access (Shafiee and Ulukus).

But never the twain shall meet, as Kipling would say, and it’s hard to sort out the connections between interference, jamming, statistical knowledge, and robustness. Part of what I have to do is sort out what is what and see if I can make any more statements stitching the two together and finding real scenarios in which the unreasonableness of the models can be made more reasonable.

spelling “lose”

I know that I’m the last person that should complain about spelling (thank you, Rhode), but there’s one spelling mistake which is so common that I wonder if the language is actually changing. I refer, of course, to spelling “lose” as “loose.” As in “you have nothing to loose,” which, although perfectly grammatical and even appropriate in some contexts (fishing, for example?), does not convey the meaning of the idiom as it is commonly understood.

Am I hallucinating, or has anyone else noticed this?

an upcoming concert

The concert mentioned earlier now has a website with useful information on it. Hooray for useful information. In case you’re too lazy to click the link:

The Haydn Singers
dir. Paul Flight

a concert in honor of Mozart’s 250th birthday, featuring his Misericordias Domini (K222) and Missa Brevis in F (K192) as well as Haydn’s Partsongs and other music.

Fri., March 10, 8 p.m.
First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto
1140 Cowper Street Palo Alto, CA

Sat., March 11, 8 p.m.
Church of St. Mary Magdalen in Berkeley
2005 Berryman Street (at Milvia), Berkeley

Tickets at the door: $15 general, $12 seniors, $10 students

6 degrees

1403 Solano (in Albany). This is a new vaguely European small-plates restaurant near the Albany/Berkeley border. I went there with my research group after reading about it on Chowhound. The menu is still a little in flux and the wheels of the operation haven’t yet been oiled, but I’m pretty confident that they could work out the kinks by the end of February when they officially open. At the moment, however, the restaurant leaves a lot to be desired.

I ordered the Roman Manhattan, which was Maker’s and Cinzano and was a bit watery. This might have been due to the 10 minutes they spent making it — it had that left-in-the-shaker-to-melt taste to it. For a restaurant that was so empty, it was a little disappointing.

There were a lot of things missing from the menu — the venison was absent to lack of availability, and the Holland crepes were also out, which was surprising since as far as I could tell they are like Dutch quesadillas. The menu also had some pretty glaring typos; not something you expect in such a high-end place. It was especially bad if you knew French. It was hard to tell what was vegetarian and what was not. Lots of the things had ham or something hidden in them.

We ended up getting the pommes frites, saffron rice croquettes with pancetta, breaded olives stuffed with ricotta, ham, marjoram, “amalfi grilled vegetables,” crostini with various spreads, mussels cooked in white wine and garlic, and the vegetarian grill, which was an entree with lots of veggies and some vegetarian croquettes. The bread that came initially was clearly not that fresh, which was a real downer, especially since the Acme bakery is so close by. Of the dishes we ordered, the saffron rice was a clear winner — lightly fried and the saffron was clear but not overpowering. The wine from the mussels was overpowered by the intense brine flavor and the garlic was mostly absent. The vegetarian grill had some sauce on it that was a little sour but absolutely delicious. The olives kept losing their breading but the ricotta was surprisingly good as a stuffing. I didn’t really get to try the crostini so I can’t comment.

Dessert was cheese and fruit and a creme brulée. The latter didn’t have a crunchy enough top — certain movie characters would have been sorely disappointed. On a different day I would have chosen something more chocolate-oriented — there were some other tasty options on there that may have been more exciting.

All in all it seemed like the whole place was getting into the rhythm of things, and I think they have a lot going for them. I’ll definitely try it out again sometime.

Afterwards, we went bowling, and I managed to bowl a 151, which is shockingly good for me. I attribute the score to the white Russians.