Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Fun fact of the day

The Beaufort scale was developed almost exactly 200 years ago by Sir Francis Beaufort, an English admiral. According to the Beaufort scale, wind speeds of around 60 km/h are counted as wind strength 7-8 (“moderate to fresh gale”): “Whole trees in motion. Effort needed to walk against the wind” to “Twigs broken from trees. Cars veer on road.”

I’ve been living with fresh gales for several days now. As long as I can pretend the squeaking and rattling of my windows is really sails and planks, I feel totally nautical.

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Internet in Edinburgh

I am currently sitting at my gate at Edinburgh airport, waiting for my flight to depart. This airport is pretty nifty in that it provides rather comfortable numbers of electricity outlets, and it is also covered by BT Openzone Wi-Fi access points, which I just discovered I can use for unlimited amounts of time thanks to my BT broadband contract. So I’m now sitting next to the cafe writing blog posts on my laptop. I am so teh geek jet-set.

In other news, I am annoyed at Apple for making it currently impossible to run Java 1.6 on Leopard: Not only did they not release a final version with the new OS version (as many had anticipated), the clunky old beta version of 1.6 doesn’t run on Leopard any more either. This is a total show-stopper for me, and I’ll delay upgrading until they get their act together. (I mean, come on, Java 1.6 has been out for all other major OSs for almost a year now.) I just hope this will be soon, because some of the new features (particularly Time Machine and Spaces) do look pretty sweet, and with the new Finder I will finally be able to get rid of my old version of Yep that has been getting increasingly slow.

Boston

As I am posting this, I am sitting on the MIT campus, using the MIT wireless network. A bunch of students are playing volleyball on the lawn, and the sun is shining. Boston is one of the prettiest cities I’ve ever seen. I’ve just had two productive conversations with colleagues at MIT and Harvard. The computer science building at MIT has to be seen to be believed, the architecture and geek things lying around are so nifty. Tonight I’m meeting with two German post-docs for drinks. Tomorrow, I get to see the Media Lab, a book about which was one of the first things that ever attracted me to AI. And, hello, I get to spend two days at Harvard and MIT; I’m alternating between intimated, awed, and proud. Life is good!

Regular expressions

If I ever get the chance to teach a class on formal languages, please remind me to use the following cartoon in my slides.

Regular Expressions 450X455.Shkl

(from xkcd)

Quick Change Artists

How the heck do they do this? Wow!

New blog, first post

So as of a couple of weeks ago, I’m going to spend one year in New York City, doing research on sentence generation at Columbia University with a post-doctoral fellowship from Germany. There is so much cool stuff going on here that I want to share with people that I thought I’d try my hand at a blog once more. Who knows, perhaps I’ll read my blog entries again in ten years and reminisce nostalgically about this time. Unlike paper mementoes, I can keep it around digitally without ever having to throw it away.

What a shame that I’m only starting to blog now. It would have been worthwhile to blog the German-American Steuben Parade last weekend, which was this huge procession of clubs of old Americans with remote German ancestry, and high-school classes, and the car of a New Jersey retirement home that had an 80-year-old lady with a saxophone on top, and the Bergmannsverein (miners’ club) Recklinghausen, and various Scottish bagpipe bands, and a gaggle of Freemasons in it. (That was the moment when I realised you can simply not leave the house in this city without bringing a camera.) Or to blog the Anglican Evensong service at a church on Fifth Avenue that I accidentally attended on Sunday afternoon, mistaking it for a choir concert (the service did involve a pretty good boys’ and men’s choir, though). Or my battle against the bedbugs. Or my first barbershop choir rehearsal with spontaneous quartet singing during the break and afterwards. Or, above all, the utterly wonderful free Mozart Requiem concert in Carnegie Hall on 9/11, in which the audience was given scores and encouraged to sing along.

But it’s just not feasible to blog authentically about things that happened that long ago. So I’ll just start now and see where it goes.

As a consequence, I’ll blog that I just discovered a couple of days ago that my old friend Jakob, in the weirdest coincidence, is spending this same academic year at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton. This has been a kind of low-intensity friendship that we’ve managed to somehow keep up for over ten years, while not hearing from each other for extended periods of time in between: I only learned today that he’s been married for two years now and they had a baby this summer. (Congratulations!) But then, we did have to go to America to live within a one-hour radius of each other for the first time. His office adress is “Einstein Drive”, which is incomparably cooler than my “1214 Amsterdam Avenue”; whether it is cooler to live in the geeky “Von Neumann Drive” or in the more metropolitan West 49th Street is more debatable. Once they get settled in, he’ll have to come visit the city, and perhaps we’ll also get around to Einstein and Gödel walks in the Princeton countryside.

(This has nothing to do with New York, but the picture of the two is just so charming. Einstein looks as if he’s just been working in the garden, except that he’s holding a folder with notes. They were such geeks.)


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