They stole my pOMpkin! I am soooooo sad.

the pompkin

Today I went to an evisceration party and created the following:
A light pompkin
Here’s a more nocturnal (and blurry) image.
A dark pompkin
I hereby dub it the POMPKIN.

Amy Is Now In Lesotho

That’s right, and here is some music for her.

  1. All Or Nothing — Casey Dienel
  2. My Beloved Monster — Eels
  3. You have a long journey ahead of you — Samrat Chakrabarti/Sudipto Chatterjee (feat. Tanmay Dhanania and Anand Sarwate)
  4. Is You Or Is You Ain’t My Baby? — Dinah Washington (Rae and Christian Remix)
  5. Skokiaan — Louis Armstrong
  6. Nothing In This World Can Stop Me Worrying ‘Bout That Girl — The Kinks
  7. Once in Love with Amy — Frank Sinatra
  8. Walk Or Ride — The Ditty Bops
  9. In The Aeroplane Over The Sea — Neutral Milk Hotel
  10. Noah’s Pub — Paul Kotheimer
  11. Les lumiéres Pt. 2 — Bell Orchestre
  12. Everything I Have Is Yours — Billie Holiday
  13. Sound And Vision — David Bowie
  14. O Boundless, Boundless Evening — Samuel Barber/Thomas Hampson
  15. That Old Black Magic — Ella Fitzgerald
  16. Hymne L’Amour — Edith Pïaf
  17. Obsolete — MC Solaar

Love is a Dream House in Lorin

Last night I saw the Shotgun Players new production, Love is a Dream House in Lorin, by Marcus Gardley. It is an amazing piece of community-generated theater. The production is important to see, especially if you don’t usually go to theater, because it can turn your whole view of the possibilities of theater as a tool for dialogue within the community. Lorin was the name of a town that was annexed by Berkeley in the early 1900’s. It goes from Dwight to Alcatraz, Sacramento to Telegraph. The neighborhood was one of the only places people of color were allowed to own property — as such this area of South Berkeley developed a complex multiracial composition and was one of the first neighborhoods to voluntarily desegregate its schools. As a student, I am far too ignorant of the environment surrounding where I study — Berkeley is a temporary stopping place for me on my road through life, but this neighborhood, in and around which I have lived my entire time, has a complex history that is not at all apparent from its modern-day incarnation as the ‘hood.

The play is centered around a house in the Lorin district and its history. The play’s characters, residents of the Lorin District, are all named after streets in the neighborhood. The story starts with the house being bought by Russell and Adeline Wheeler, a biracial couple ready to start a family in the early ’80s. As we follow their story the history is revealed, from the original Ohlone inhabitants of the area through the building of the first Victorian homes, the internment of the Japanese-Americans who lived there, the black families who made their homes their and on through to Vietnam. The narrative is not linear — although the play is grounded in Adeline’s experience, it is not merely a story being told to her. Each stage of the story is paced differently — the heterogeneity keeps the play breathing and unpredictable. Aaron Davidman has created a physical language for the piece using recurrent physical patterns and motifs that helped the stories maintain their individual consistency while drawing parallels between the different residents of the house (as when a couple in love dances in the living room). The overall effect is hauntingly beautiful but not sentimental. Always looming over the production is the current situation of the neighborhood — drive-by shootings, gang problems, and drug abuse. The play reminds us that everyone who lives here has a story to tell.

I could go on rambling about the play and spoil details of the production but I won’t. If you are in the area, you have to see this play — it is probably the most important piece of theater I’ve seen in years.

Transactions growth

On a similar tip as my comments on ISIT’s size, the IT Society’s Board of Governors formed an ad-hoc committee to talk about the ballooning-out-of-control of the Transactions. They filed a report at the ISIT in Seattle. Some highlights:

  1. “… the exponential curve, which corresponds to an annual growth rate of 7.5%, is by far the best fit to the data… we may well find ourselves in the following situation within less than 10 years. The Transactions will be publishing over 10,000 pages per year…”
  2. “… it appears the growth will be sustainable as long as we charge for the cost of producing and mailing hard copies.”
  3. The average length of a regular paper was 10.3 pages in 1989 and is 15.8 pages in 2006.

Something that is distinctly missing from the plots provided in the report is the variance of paper length or a histogram of paper lengths. Although papers of average length 15.8 doesn’t seem so bad, if the distribution has a heavy tail some other solutions might present themselves.

The report describes several possible solutions, including doing nothing, splitting the transactions into two journals, limiting page lengths, going to all-electronic publishing except for libraries, etc. The recommendations they make are threefold:

  1. Go to all-electronic publishing except for libraries. This limits the financial burden.
  2. Make a hierarchical organization of the editorial board with sub-editors in chief for different areas.
  3. A 5-page limit for correspondence items

I’m not sure how I feel about all-electronic publishing. Libraries want to have hard copies of things for archival purposes, and this seems to be a neat way of passing the buck to them — will more expensive binding mean more cost on their institutional subscription? On the one hand, you save money by printing fewer copies, but on the other the hard copies may cost more. Probably this saves money all around though.

The sub-editing is a way of making the large page numbers tractable. They specifically don’t want to narrow the scope of the journal, which is good, but they also don’t want to cut more papers by making the acceptance rate lower, so the only way to keep the quality high is to add more reviewers and editors. But they simultaneously note that the number of reviewers is not increasing at the same rate as the number of pages.

The 5-page limit is somewhat odd — ISIT papers are already 5 pages and the difference would seem to be better peer-reviewing and very long publication delay. While this would help control the page numbers, they specifically do not recommend adding a page limit for regular papers. What happens in the gap between a 5-page idea and a 15.8 page regular paper?

Taken together, the proposed solutions seem to consciously avoiding taking the problem head-on. A more aggressive solution might include things like

  • Imposing page charges. At the moment the policy is:

    Page Charges: If the manuscript is accepted for publication, the author’s company or institution will be requested to cover part of the cost of publication. Page charges for this journal are not obligatory nor is their payment a prerequisite for publication. The author will receive 100 free reprints without covers if the charge is honored. Detailed instructions will accompany the proof.

    The Signal Processing Transactions charges $110/page up to 8 pages and $220/page thereafter. Making page charges mandatory for longer papers or adding a mandatory charge per page for papers over 20 pages may encourage authors to write shorter (and perhaps more readable?) papers.

  • Encouraging editors and reviewers to more aggressively promote correspondence items. They bring up the point that correpondence items suffer from “inflated introductions and similar excesses, designed by the authors in order to avoid the correspondence classification.” If there are more specific instructions to editors to… edit things down, then both regular papers and correspondence items can be trimmed.

In the end, the recommendations of the board are more carrot than stick, which may work or may not. The big message seems to be that exponential growth is good but it needs to be somehow managed. However, it may be that more active feedback is needed to control this system which is going unstable exponentially. It has been noted that there is insufficient communication between the information theory and control communities…