Protips for Allerton Presentations

So you’re going to be presenting at the Annual Allerton Conference on Communication, Control, and Computing, you say? This annual conference, sometimes called the “Burning Man for EE Systems” by the younger set, has a much older pedigree. This year is the 54th anniversary, and you want to make sure you make an impression making sure you dress (your slides) for success! Here are some tips from old hands on how to make sure your talk is the Sun Singer and not the Death of the Last Centaur.

  • Library: You landed a slot in the library, the crème-de-la-crème of venues at the Allerton Mansion! There is ample seating, so even a moderate audience may seem sparse. Although your slides will be visible, your voice may be inaudible, especially for those “attendees” who are actually checking Facebook against the back wall. Invest in a stage-acting class or perhaps bring a megaphone.
  • Solarium: Afraid that early fall in the Midwest may be a bit chilly? Fear no more, for the Solarium is surrounded by glass and boasts a climate that is more Humboldt than Piatt. Even if the forecast is for rain, beware of light colors on your slides — they will be overwhelmed by the kiss of Phoebus. If the forecast is particularly sunny, consider polarizing the projector and handing out sunglasses for the audience
  • Butternut/Pine: Regardless of how esoteric your paper may be, you are nearly guaranteed a packed house: expect your talk to be punctuated by the door opening, a slight breeze filtering in, and the faint sound of light swearing. In order to maximize visibility, try to not obscure the view of your slides. Recommended places to position yourself include on a bookshelf or behind the screen.
  • Lower Level: Unlike a horror house, the basement of Allerton Mansion is where the fun is — the pool table and ice maker! Here you will be cool, comfortable, and nigh invisible. For some pre-Halloween fun, bring a flashlight and make your presentation a ghost story! Regardless, make sure your slides only have important information on the top quarter of the screen so that session attendees beyond the first row can get the gist.
  • Visitor Center: (Discontinued this year!) In the past, adventurous Allerton attendes would trek across the wild groves and through a manicured garden to the Visitor Center to attend special sessions al fresco (this was a change from the Tent, which may have been more properly au naturel). Hard times on the road make for famished session attendees. Consider offering complementary snacks and beverage to boost attendance.

Signal boost: DPCOMP.ORG is live

I got the following email from Gerome Miklau:

Dear colleagues:

We are writing to inform you of the launch of DPCOMP.ORG.

DPCOMP.ORG is a public website designed with the following goals in mind: (1) to increase the visibility and transparency of state-of-the-art differentially private algorithms and (2) to present a principled and comprehensive empirical evaluation of these algorithms. The intended audience is both researchers who study privacy algorithms and practitioners who might deploy these algorithms.

Currently DPComp includes algorithms for answering 1- and 2-dimensional range queries. We thoroughly study algorithm accuracy and the factors that influence it and present our findings using interactive visualizations. We follow the evaluation methodology from the paper “Principled Evaluation of Differentially Private Algorithms using DPBench”. In the future we plan to extend it to cover other analysis tasks (e.g., higher dimensional data, private regression).

Our hope is that the research community will contribute to improving DPCOMP.ORG so that practitioners are exposed to emerging research developments. For example: if you have datasets which you believe would distinguish the performance of tested algorithms, new algorithms that could be included, alternative workloads, or even a new error metric, please let us know — we would like to include them.

Please share this email with interested colleagues and students. And we welcome any feedback on the website or findings.


Michael Hay (Colgate University)
Ashwin Machanavajjhala (Duke University)
Gerome Miklau (UMass Amherst)

We’re hiring!

My department has gone through some changes in the last few years and we need new people to join us!

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the School of Engineering at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey anticipates multiple openings in Spring 2017 and Fall 2017 for full-time, academic year, tenure-track faculty appointments in the area of electrical and computer engineering at a rank and salary commensurate with the applicant’s background and experience. The School of Engineering is committed to building a faculty of individuals from diverse backgrounds. We encourage qualified applicants from all backgrounds to apply for consideration.

Hiring areas for this search are: (i) Electronics, including sensors, devices, bioelectronics, as well as integrated circuits and systems for RF and millimeter wave applications, (ii) Network systems, including massive MIMO, millimeter wave, future Internet, and Internet of Things (IoT), (iii) Information processing and machine learning for autonomous systems and robots, especially learning and control in autonomous systems such as vehicles or drones as well as in assistive technologies, (iv) E-health, especially wearable electronics and sensors, medical informatics, quantified self and personalized medicine, as well as (v) Cybersecurity, device and architecture-level protections, IoT security, and software security.

Exceptional candidates in the university strategic areas are also welcome to apply.

Excellent facilities are available for collaborative research opportunities with local industry through the School’s nationally recognized centers such as the Wireless Information Network Laboratory (WINLAB), the Microelectronics Research Laboratory (MERL), and the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT) as well as university centers. There also exist several opportunities to collaborate with clinicians at Rutgers University. Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS) is home to the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine as well as Rutgers School of Public Health. The Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the flagship hospital of the Robert Wood Johnson Health System, is located a few miles from the ECE Department.

A Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering or a related field is required. All new members of the School of Engineering faculty are expected to develop a research program and obtain external funding to support it. Candidates will work well in a highly collaborative and interdisciplinary environment and be willing to engage in existing and future large collaborative research endeavors. A commitment to excellence in teaching at both undergraduate and graduate levels is expected. Demonstrated ability in written and oral use of the English language is required. Candidates must demonstrate a commitment to diversity.

Qualified candidates should submit a CV, statements on teaching and research, and contact information for three references. The review process will start immediately for Spring 2017 openings and will continue until the positions are filled. For full consideration for Fall 2017 openings applications must be received by January 15, 2016.

Questions may be directed to: Narayan Mandayam, Distinguished Professor and Chair, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Rutgers University.

Personal versus work email

Rutgers is moving to a new email system based on Microsoft Office 365 and we’re required to conduct all University business through that emai address. This is all happening after a brief stint with Google Apps, around which I have built a lot of my work processes, so who knows how this will shake out. Our faculty union is concerned because Rutgers is exerting more corporate-like control over the email — they reserve the right to delete our emails without notification, and it’s unclear if they also reserve the right to read them. Time to adopt stronger encryption, methinks. In the light of email monitoring at the University of Wisconsin I imagine New Jersey may be headed down the same path.

All of this got me thinking about how I have tried over the last few years to keep separate work and personal emails, but that this is a bit of a new thing. Many people got their first “real” email address from college, and I sent all of my personal email from my MIT account. After college I developed an inconsisten approach to email: I used my forwarded my to my grad school account, used it as my login for Manuscript Central and reviewing sites, and even used it as my contact email for publications, since it was ostensibly “permanent.” However, in the last year I finally switched over and forwarded my college address to my personal address — as a student my email was personal, not professional, and I shouldn’t use that “identity” as my academic identity.

Every once in a while we get a story about inappropriate emails being sent from work addresses and I wonder if some of that comes from this blurry line between work and personal email addresses. How has that division evolved over time?


Raising Steam (Terry Pratchett). Mind candy. A bit later, chronologically, so a little overwritten and meandering.

No Good Men Among The Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes (Anand Gopal). A pretty harrowing narrative of the war, how terribly the US conducted itself viz. oversight of local “allies,” and the human impact it had. Stomach-churning at times, but very engrossing. I haven’t read many books on the subject so I can’t speak to comprehensiveness, but it was very affecting for me.

A Cat, a Man, and Two Women (Junichiro Tanizaki). This was a short novella (packaged with two short stories) about a schlub who gets along with his cat more than his wife (or his ex-wife). He’s more or less a leech: unmotivated, entitled, and wasteful. But he loves his cat. Tanizaki is known for his grotesque (often erotic) fiction. This book isn’t that per se, but is fairly frank and graphic about bodily functions, the state of the litter box, and so on. Cat lovers may enjoy and be repulsed by the prose at the same time. As a non-pet person I found it slightly uncomfortable but in a way I didn’t mind. Perhaps not the best introduction to Tanizaki, but worth it for the cat lover, perhaps.

Hopscotch (Julio Cortázar). A very important work of fiction, in the Rabassa translation. Hopscotch is a novel about Horacio Oliveira, an Argentinian intellectual who starts in Paris and moves back to Argentina during the novel. The story can be read 2 ways: linearly through the first 50+ chapters, or hopscotching back and forth though the novel with the next chapter indicated at the bottom of previous chapter, like a do-not-choose-your-own-adventure. Much has been written about the novel, and it’s got some pretty amazing literary devices which feel like they must have been untranslatable. What is a bit hard is that very important events happen in a flash or are not really spelled out, and as a reader it might take you a few pages to realize that e.g. a tragedy has befallen one of the characters. It merits careful reading.

The House at Mount Char (Scott Hawkins). A pretty stunning (and stunningly violent) vaguely apocalyptic fantasy novel set in a kind of contemporary world. If you liked The Magicians and Station Eleven, you might like this book as well. There’s got to be a name for this sub-genre but I can’t figure out what it is.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers (Katherine Boo) This was recommended and lent to me by Celeste, and it’s a narrative nonfiction/investigative report of a slum in Mumbai near the airport. Although I’ve read quite a bit about economies in the slums and life therein, both from fiction and nonfiction, Boo really does a great job of telling these complex and very human stories.

Sad Little Breathing Machine (Matthea Harvey). Quirky but often cutting and a little too real poems. I picked it up on a whim and was glad I did. Like I said, I need more poetry in my life. A bit I chuckled at: “But being / matter-of-fact is like a meatpie in / the pocket. It is the way to go.”

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Scott Lynch). Mind candy of a sort: noble thieves in a gritty European-ish fantasy world that’s somewhere between Renaissance and Enlightenment in sensibility. Recommended by a friend as a good summer read, and it fit the bill quite well.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (N.K. Jemisin). Since Jemisin just won the Hugo Award I figured I should read her books (not that awards make me read books, but I just bumped her up the list). Since The Fifth Season has a 58-person-long hold list at the library, I figured I would start with her earlier books. This is the first in a trilogy: a world with gods (who I kept thinking of as orbital weaponized AI satellite systems) and colonialism and all that messy stuff that good SF grapples with. Recommended for fantasy fans. I’ll read the others too, eventually.