Thursday, November 20, 2008

While in Paris...

My latest reason for being off the air has to do with the amazingly bad internet capabilities of Paris hotels. Yes, I'm in Paris, city of lovers, but certainly not of lovers of wifi. There are at least 30 networks visibile wherever you go, but they're all secure, so no mooching. The hotel-provided wifi is actually a generic service that costs 22 E/day for connectivity, with all kinds of bandwidth caps and a very slow connection. If I were to splurge for the "business" level, I get the luxury of paying 27 E/day, with unclear benefits (presumably I can now download my bootleg bittorrents (just kidding)).

Other things I've noticed since I last came to Paris: (which is not to say that they are new, just that I just noticed them):
  • Every second store on the podunk street my hotel is on is a fancy clothing store. Clearly the world-wide economic collapse has not hit.
  • Speaking of world-wide economic collapses, it really hurts to have a weak dollar. $7 espressos, sigh...
  • ....but it's always a pleasure to walk into a cafe and order a 'cafe' and just know that something good will appear. This is in contrast to the unbounded depth circuit needed to specify a proper cup of coffee at Starbucks.
  • Speaking of Starbucks, how on earth can they even survive in Paris ? I mean, you go to a Starbucks here, and you get the same experience as in the US, ending with a paper cup of coffee of questionable quality that you drink perched on a high bar stool. On the other hand, you go to a cafe, and they serve you with nice cups, and a little cookie, and let you sit there for hours nursing your coffee, and will even give you the WEP key for their secured WiFi. It's no contest !
  • You can change the world while nursing your coffee. I was staying in the 14th Arrondissement (the Montparnasse area) and had to have a coffee at the Dome cafe, a place apparently frequented by Lenin and Trotsky before the Revolution. I have to say that at the time I went, the clientele looked like they were plotting a revolution... in 1907.... I'd link to a verification of this, but I can't make any sense out of the search results on
  • Speaking of which, how does one tell google NOT to return results in french ? every time I edit the URL to go to, it sends me back to Suivant !!!
And why am I blogging from Paris, you might ask ? Well here's why. I'm an invited speaker, no less. Conference blogging was limited because there was no wifi at the conference site either. It's a long story involving military schools (and maybe even NASA). Details will appear shortly.

Friday, November 14, 2008


On the evolution of coffee drinking, by Malcolm Gladwell (he of The Tipping Point and Blink). I particularly like this line about Trotsky:
Give a man enough coffee and he's capable of anything.

Monday, November 10, 2008


I've noticed an inverse correlation between blogging frequency and "actual work", so boy must I have been working hard !!

Two items of note, as my blog and I pass in the night:
  • Michael Nielsen links to a great way of advertising a speaker: use Wordle on their work (delicious feeds/research papers)
  • ICML 2009 is going to a reviewing model where you can specify which area chairs you want your papers directed to (area chairs and interest areas will be listed). John Langford, one of the area chairs, goes further with what is essentially a personalized reviewer manifesto. An excellent idea ! He lays out his principles, and authors are fore-warned.

STOC abstracts due today !

According to Michael M, there are 150 and counting already. Papers are due next week. And here's where you do it !

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