Monthly Archives: February 2006

Why after seminar chatter might best be ignored

I have heard such comments after lots of seminars for good and bad papers. In my field, many seminal pieces of research were rejected time and time again before finally making it into print. Short term impact does not always equal long term impact.

Original iPod announcement thread at MacRumors – Signal vs. Noise (by 37signals):

Original iPod announcement thread at MacRumors Jason 28 Feb 2006

I love this:

I still can’t believe this! All this hype for something so ridiculous! Who cares about an MP3 player? I want something new! I want them to think differently! Why oh why would they do this?! It’s so wrong! It’s so stupid!

gee! an mp3 player with a HD! how original! kinda reminds me of a JUKEBOX i once knew.

I’d call it the Cube 2.0 as it wont sell, and be killed off in a short time…and it’s not really functional.

All that hype for an MP3 player? Break-thru digital device? The Reality Distiortion Field is starting to warp Steve’s mind if he thinks for one second that this thing is gonna take off.

There are already two products similar to this on the market. The Nomad Jukebox and the Archos which can come with a 20 gig HD. The iPod is obviously a lot cooler and has firewire, but it is far from revolutionary. I for one am disappointed and think that apple is making a mistake by trying to get into this market.

Apple should have just listened to their customers and never released the iPod.


A shallow insight

Even since I have put less on my slides, students pay more attention to me. You would think that would be better. Not always. Now I cannot just bullshit and be sure that they have a good record to use for solving problems. I need to engage them all.

Still need to work on handouts, I guess. Even thought the students have a perfectly good textbook that they don’t read.

I still notice lots of great teachers have terrible slides. Maybe slides are not all that important.

Today I gave a lecture to 60 people in class. Three students were passing notes, and I finally had to ask them to stop. It was like a flashback to middle school, where I never got any notes, only watched everyone else pass them. Boo f*ck1ng hoo.

My faith was restored when good students asked quite perceptive questions in class. F*ck1ng A. Teach smart students interesting stuff, and they will get it. Don’t baby them.


I am always impressed with how powerful incentives are for most students. And the benefits of being clear about what you expect of them. If you are clear, then most will deliver; or at least do their best given their constraints.

I am also reminded how important it is not to take anything too personally. Students are busy, and will not do something unless they can clearly see the benefits. If they push, I need to push back and be firm.

Of course, most is not the same as all.

More presentation tips

Presentation tips (apparently from Tufte)

Just a taste:

PGP: with every subtopic, move from the Particular to the General and back to the Particular. Even though the purpose of a subtopic is to convey the general information, bracing it with particulars is a good way to draw attention and promote retention.

Not so much a tip as a law: Give everyone at least one piece of paper. A piece of paper is a record, an artifact from your presentation. People can use that artifact to help recall the details of the presentation, or better yet to tell others about it.

Worth reading the whole thing.


Why I like being an academic

The beginnings of a list:

  1. You can work on intellectually interesting problems.
  2. Almost everyone you work with is smart: other academics and the students.
  3. It’s great to see a student suddenly understand something new.
  4. It’s great to understand something new myself. Learning is fun, and that is what I mainly do.
  5. Freedom. I set my hours (mainly) and my schedule. The flexibility is great. I can run mid-afternoon if I want.
  6. The pay is good.
  7. My academic work has the potential for a practical payoff–I could have a real impact on the world (not yet, but maybe one day.)
  8. The topics I work on are fascinating to me.
  9. Besides being smart, most other academics I deal with are reasonable people (although most does not equal all.)
  10. In general, it is fun: you can be playful with it.
  11. Most of the other people I deal with are pretty much geeks in the same way that I am. I am not weird, and I couldn’t really say that until I entered grad school.

I am sure that I will think of more reasons, too.


Either I am getting too old, or need a vacation. I am getting annoyed with seminars. I don’t think that I ever noticed that before.

And now I am having trouble thinking about the paper before the weekly seminar. It used to be that I was obsessed with reading the paper beforehand and thinking about questions. Now, not so much. Why?

The field still fascinates me, and I like the technical stuff as much as before. But many of the papers don’t seem to be teaching me much; nothing new under the sun.

Help! I want my enthusiasm back. Or I need to see some more rigorous papers again. Probably just the winter blahs.


I am trying to use a google widget to post this morning. It seems pretty good so far.

I have been thinking about meetings again. There are proposals to replace meetings with electronic communications. That could work, but I think that decision making would change dramatically. I often notice at meetings that there is a wave—someone says something and then everyone starts to pile on. You can often see the current shift visually. It all seems so manipulable.