Friday, December 21, 2007

Post-term blahs

Does this happen to you? I had the busiest semester of my young life so far -- two new courses to teach, a big grant deadline, and several papers to go out -- and was generally on top of everything. I was working with energy and intensity.

As soon as the term ended my brain turned to mush. I've got loads of time, and still plenty to do (though nothing immediately pressing), but I can't get organized to do anything.

So much for getting a jump on next semester.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Faux deep thought of the day

Professors are clearly in the business of rating students by issuing grades. So does the success of Rate Your Students suggest that grades are a flawed way of rating suitability and success of a student?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

On the difficulty of homework

Thanks, Toronto Star, for another gem:

Homework too hard, study finds: Almost half of all students in Grades 7 and 8 cited "difficulty of homework" as a reason for not completing it, according to survey results released this morning by the Toronto District School Board.

Shouldn't that headline actually be "Consequences for not doing homework not heavy enough"?

Also, looking forward to seeing you all in university! And then out of university four months later.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Peer review by the numbers

Papers reviewed for WCNC 2008: 3
Recommendations: 1 accept, 1 reject, 1 borderline
Papers reviewed whose presentations I would be interested to see: 0

Papers reviewed for ICC 2008: 4
Recommendations: 2 accept, 0 reject, 2 borderline
Papers reviewed whose presentations I would be interested to see: 0

Monday, November 19, 2007

A set of keywords you don't often see together

Information theory, channel capacity, calcium signaling, kinase phosphorylation/dephosphorylation

(from a paper I reviewed for a conference)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Tumbleweeds in the Open Problem Garden

When I saw this, my first thought was "Great -- a place to check out interesting open problems!"

But then I thought, if I had an interesting open problem, would I post it here? Probably not, unless I thought that I could not solve it myself. Even then, I might just keep it in my back pocket for another time.

A former supervisor of mine said that it is not the solutions that are valuable in research, it is the problems. Given that this "garden" is not heavily used, it seems many researchers have come to the same conclusion.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

They'll Take Anybody

I nearly choked on my coffee reading the Toronto Star headline: "Lindros worthy of spot in hall? Tough call".

But then I thought about it a bit more. Maybe he does deserve a spot in the Hall of Fame. After all, he pretty much singlehandedly won the Stanley Cup ... for the Colorado Avalanche.

Weather by Consensus

Here's a new one: taking the principles of Wiki into weather forecasting.

1999 called, they want their hokey website idea back. Seriously, don't people learn? etoys? Everyone remembers what happened next. Calling something "Web 2.0" doesn't insulate you from having to make actual money.

Then again, I remember being in grad school in 1999. It was a fun time; people were leaving left and right to start companies, and we all thought we were going to be millionaires. I'm all about riding the same bubble again, but this time I promise to get out before it tanks.

(Tip of the hat to Gawker for the link.)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

I Hate Beamer

Suddenly it seems like everybody is using Beamer to format their LaTeX slides.

I hate Beamer. I hate Beamer for the same reason that I hate PowerPoint, which it is trying so hard to emulate: fancy formatting options do not equal a good presentation. In fact I think fancy formatting detracts from a good presentation, as the mode of delivery is not more important than the content.

The best talk I ever saw had simple figures on empty slides. It was a great talk because the picture was a simple representation of what the speaker was saying -- there was not even any text on the slide to detract from the message. That's the model of technical speaking that for which we should be striving.