RIP Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz, who most recently made headlines for expropriating a large amount of information that was on JSTOR and making it available to the public, committed suicide. Cory Doctorow has a remembrance of Aaron and also a reminder of how we should remember how terrible depression can be. In making sense of what happened it’s tempting to say the threat of prosecution was the “cause,” but we shouldn’t lose sight of the person and the real struggles he was going through.

Linkage : Black Friday edition

This is an amazing video that makes me miss the Bay Area. (via Bobak Nazer)

Also via Bobak, we’re number 8 and 10!

Since it’s holiday season, I figured it’s time to link to some profanity-laden humor about the holidays. For the new, The Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog, and the classic It’s Decorative Gourd Season….

A Game of Food Trucks. (via MetaFilter)

Larry Wasserman takes on the Bayesian/Frequentist debate.

LCD Soundsystem + Miles Davis youtube mashup.

My friend Erik, who started the Mystery Brewing Company, has a blog called Top Fermented. He is now starting a podcast, which also has an RSS feed.

The editor-in-chief has a new stick

Here’s a little bit of news which may have escaped notice by some in the information theory community:

“In view of its concerns about excessive reviewing delays in the IT Transactions, the BoG authorizes the EiC in his sole judgment to delay publication of papers by authors who are derelict in their reviewing duties.”

Reviewers may be considered to be derelict if they habitually decline or fail to respond to review requests, or accept but then drop out; or if they habitually submit perfunctory and/or excessively delayed reviews.

I’ve said it before, but I think that transparency is the thing which will make reviews more timely — what is the distribution of review times? What is the relationship between paper length and review length? Plots like these may shock people and also give a perspective on their own behavior. I bet some people who are “part of the problem” don’t even realize that they are part of the problem.

IEEE PDF “Express”

So IEEE wants PDFs that appear on IEEExplore to have two properties:

  • all fonts are embedded
  • the compatibility level is 1.4

Seems simple, right? Except that their instructions for PDF Express are for those who use Adobe Distiller, which I don’t have. You’d think there would be a simple workaround, but no…

This post suggests using ps2pdf command line options, which works if all of your figures are in EPS, but not if you have PDF or JPG figures. Daniel Lemire suggests converting the PDF to PS and then back to PDF.

That didn’t really work for me — I alternately got errors saying they wanted Adobe version 5 or higher (corresponding to compatibility level 1.4) or that fonts were not embedded. I blame Mac OS. On the 10th attempt at uploading, I finally got it to work. Here’s what I did:

  1. Generate the PDF however you like (command line or TeXShop)
  2. Open the PDF in Preview, duplicate, and save a copy. This will embed the fonts but make the PDF version 1.3 or something. Say the file is called copy.pdf.
  3. In a terminal, run pdf2ps copy.pdf to generate copy.ps. This will create a PS file with the fonts embedded.
  4. Run pdf2ps14 -dEmbedAllFonts=true copy.ps to generate a new version of copy.pdf that is both 1.4 and has fonts.

This is dumb. I wasted about an hour on this idiocy and still don’t understand why it’s such a pain. It seems that on a Mac, dvips does not embed fonts properly by default, and pdflatex also cuts corners. Furthermore, it doesn’t seem like one can pass command line options (and make them default in TexShop) to automate this process.

I am sure there are better ways of doing this, but for the time being, this at least works.

A new record for the IT Transactions?

I was walking back from a seminar today and talking to Yury Makarychev and he mentioned that he and his brother Konstantin had written a paper and submitted it to the IT Transactions more than 10 years ago on a new proof of the Gács-Körner result that common information is much less than the mutual information. They submitted it, got reviews back, submitted a revised version, and then it was lost in the aether of Pareja. Now, a decade later, it is finally available to read and will appear in a future issue.

Linkage

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.

Fair use for excerpts

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.

The value-add from Elsevier?

I got an email today from Elsevier:

It is our pleasure to inform you that your publication has been cited in a journal published by Elsevier.

Through this unique service we hope we can offer you valuable information, and make you aware of publications in your research area.

The service is called CiteAlert. It sends you an email every time you’re cited!

Clearly, it’s little touches like this that justify the price gouging and subscription bundling. Kind of like the little chocolate on your pillow at the expensive hotel.