Happy (belated) Birthday to this Blog!

Somehow I missed the fact that I started this blog one year ago this week on March 16, 2003, having really no idea what blogging was all about, or why it was different than just maintaining a web site. I’m still not so sure it’s that different, just a bunch of tools to make updating easy. Anyway, what a year. It was a good time to start a blog, what with the war starting and everything. As I sit here listening to my 03.03.14 playlist.

Looking back, it’s interesting to see what was on my mind over the last year, but more interesting to me is to see all the things I didn’t write about. I’ve been determined that this blog wasn’t going to be one of those narcissistic personal journal where I talked about my dog’s flea treatments and other stupid shit that nobody else cares about. Rather, I was going to write about things that I thought other like-minded people would genuinely be interested in. As a result, though, a lot of my own personal stuff isn’t included in the record, like…

  • I kept quiet about basically the entire process of doing my dissertation proposal, the stress of having a hard deadline for it, the seemingly stress-induced neck- and back-spasms I had while writing it, and the great feeling of accomplishment after finishing it.
  • Though I mentioned that Laura and I bought a house. I didn’t explicitly mention here that we’re getting married. Arrangements are proceeding for our May 8th date, with all the incumbent hassle, cost, and stress that everyone says is normal for the process. I really should devote an entry to the ridiculous wedding industry and the way dollar-signs go *ka-ching* in the eyes of vendors as soon as you mention the word “wedding”.

Looking back, my blog content was much more political a year ago. That got boring. Plus, I think the Dean movement and the Democratic primary brought to the forefront the basic issues (e.g. the Bush administration sucks).

I’ve been neglecting this space lately. Mostly because school has kept me quite busy, and with the impending wedding, it’ll only get worse from here. Actually, if I’m heading for an academic job, things will probably only get busier until… uh… retirement, I guess. ;-) I’ll try and post a few good things anyway…

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Two Great AI Talks Next week

I’ve been remiss in not blogging the Forum for AI talks this semester, but we have two good ones coming up next week on natural language learning and artificial life, respectively. The abstracts are kind of long, so I’ve just included snippets. See the FAI page, for the complete abstracts. Here is the info:

Large-Margin Methods for Natural Language Learning
Michael Collins
, MIT AI Lab
Monday, March 8th, 2004
10:30 a.m.
ACES 2.402
Abstract: Sequential data is everywhere: obvious examples being text (the web, or digital libraries), speech, and biological sequences. Algorithms which recover structure underlying this data are becoming increasingly important. This leads to an interesting class of learning problems: how to learn functions which map strings to other discrete structures such as trees, segmentations, or underlying state sequences? …

The Dynamics of Open-ended Learning
Jordan Pollack
, Brandeis University
Wednesday, March 10, 2004
10:30 a.m.
ACES 2.402
Abstract: How could something as complex as the brain, or as rich as cognition, be the result of a random evolutionary process? The difficulty in imagining how a chemical reaction far from equilibrium could dissipate energy and, through a local reversal of entropy, achieve an organizational complexity which exceeds human engineering design has led to a broad belief in the need for an outside creator. It has also led to disproportiate scientific funding to focus on “what exists” in biology rather than the more foundational question of “how can it come to exist?” …

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