Friday, April 26, 2013

Lighthearted Symmetry

I was in a conversation with thoughtful and confrontational folks -- technical people --- sometime ago, and they asked me in  a provoking way, "what is the big deal with Symmetry, why do we care?" This was obviously meant to skewer me trying to defend the math, science and beauty of symmetry. Humans make symmetric objects (airplanes, say), nature makes symmetric objects (leaves of trees, say), and symmetry abounds in the particles of the Universe. But the conversation was in a context where I had to reach for something more down to Earth. So, I asked the men in the group, "Say you need to go to the restroom and you hurry, but find the women's. Where will you look for the men's?" They understood the importance of symmetry. :)

ps: When I asked some of the women, "Say you need to go to the restroom and you hurry, but find the men's. Where will you look for the women's?" Some of them said, "I will ask someone." This was smart, and it killed my argument.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Blickets and Streams

I have been reviewing developments in streaming research and wondering if there were any new techniques beyond group testing and projections. In a related and unrelated note, came across blickets -- a game for testing the logic in children, developed at UC Berkeley -- which in its OR version is a simple group testing problem, and is more complicated in its AND variation:

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

On Writing

Someone asked me if I still get time to write fiction. Sentences twist in my mind and float, plots form and fade, and my mind struggles with the puzzles of how to start, continue and end, but the pages still remain empty. Here is the start of a story. Today I am fatigued and I will let this story go, like I have had to let go many other things.  I hope someone, someday pursues the following opening.
  • When people smile, you can tell when they learned to smile, was it as a child, fresh and without feedback,  or as a preening teen, practiced in the front of the mirror and as a invitation to be a friend, or as a grown adult, when one has identified and accepted their quirks and strengths, the smile is whichever element won out, and will persist until one is laid down under the ground. She of course had the smile she learned as a child, simple when it appeared, expressing her joy and nothing else. I cared for her and vowed I wont let her smile change, and of course I failed. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

EC 13 PC Kudos

As a PC member, some papers I review are sure accepts, some are sure rejects, it is in the majority of the middle solids I struggle. It is in how this majority is handled that PCs distinguish themselves.  I submitted something to EC 13. I got feedback that was more than the reviewers' notes. The feedback summarized the discussions the PC had, which was technical, found a flaw deep in the proof, discussed how to fix it pretty much how I would have thought about it, and also noted that the PC appreciated the contribution of the novelty of the model.  It felt like a two sided conversation between the authors and the PC. This feedback reinforced my belief and appreciation of the PCs in theory conferences. Thanks and congratulations to PC Chairs, Preston McAfee and Eva Tardos. The paper was not accepted, which was apt.

Indian Hiatus and Linguistics

It has been a while since I blogged, mainly because I have been more quantum than ever, focused on being at India for personal reasons.  I have been carrying many entries in my head, but alas,  if you dont blog them down, they are not real.

Here is humor for the fans of Indian vernacular. I found a way to stay in one of  Chettinad Mansions (some info). These are spectacular, super large multifamily homes, eerily empty, spread out in the South of India. I ate something amazing and asked for the recipe: the staff said, "Put one google". :)

I went to a tourist site and listened to the official audio tapes. And checked out some childrens books. Both these experiences reminded me that what India needs is new vernacular and narrative. The language in these media is so antiquated, they dont give modern Indians a new way to see their past or their present. Finally, I saw a clique of monkeys and tried to feed bananas and mangos to the mothers with  little ones, defying the hierarchy of the two big males. That experiment in breaking social structure did not work out well.