Saturday, August 23, 2014

LaTeX is code...

I'm giving a talk on LaTeX this Monday as part of our new grad student "boot camp" series. It's really more of an interactive presentation: I'll use writelatex (or sharelatex) to demo examples, give student simple assignments, and use real-time chat to see how things are going. It should be quite interesting. 

Here's the talk announcement:
Did you know that every time you use $..$ to italicize text, or use \\ to force a newline, Leslie Lamport cries out in agony and Don Knuth starts another fascicle of Volume IV of TAoCP ?  
Come and learn about how to use LaTeX, and use it well. Your collaborators will love you, your advisors will love me, and you'll realize that the most awfully written drivel looks awesome when typeset well.  
This will be interactive!! I'll be using a shared space for editing and viewing latex documents, and there will be class activities, so please do bring your laptops/tablets/other editing device so you can follow along and participate. 

For this talk I solicited comments from colleagues as to what they'd like their students to learn. Probably the most useful comment I got was from +Robert Ricci and +Eric Eide: to whit,

LaTeX is code.

This might seem obvious, but once you internalize it, all kinds of other things become very natural. For example
  • You should really use some kind of IDE to write and build your documents
  • Version control is your friend
  • *sections should be separate files. 
  • Text should be readable. 
  • Use macros where convenient
  • Don't reinvent: use the many many built-in packages at
  • Use to learn how to hack whatever you need in LaTeX. 

A corollary: to see a theoretician editing LaTeX close to a STOC/FOCS/SODA deadline is to realize that theory folk are AWESOME programmers.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Long Live the Fall Workshop (guest post by Don Sheehy)

An announcement for the Fall Workshop in Computational Geometry, by Don Sheehy

In all the conversation about SoCG leaving the ACM, there were many discussions about ownership, paywalls, and money.  This leads naturally to questions of ideals.  What can and ought a research community be like?  What should it cost to realize this?  Isn't it enough to bring together researchers and in an unused lecture hall at some university somewhere, provide coffee (and wifi), and create a venue for sharing problems, solutions, and new research in an open and friendly atmosphere?  There is a place for large conferences, with grand social events (Who will forget the boat cruise on the Seine at SoCG 2011?), but there is also a place for small meetings run on shoestring budgets that are the grassroots of a research community.  

The Fall Workshop on Computational Geometry is such a meeting.  It started in 1991, at SUNY Stony Brook and has been held annually every fall since.  I first attended a Fall Workshop during my first year of graduate school, back in 2005.  This year marks the 24th edition of the workshop, and this time, I will be hosting it at the University of Connecticut.  It is organized as a labor of love, with no registration fees.  There are no published proceedings and it is a great opportunity to discuss new work and fine-tune it in preparation for submission.  It is perfectly timed to provide a forum for presenting and getting immediate feedback on your potential SoCG submissions.  I cordially invite you to submit a short abstract to give a talk and I hope to see you there.

Important dates:
Submission deadline: Oct 3 midnight (anywhere on earth)
Conference: Oct 31-Nov 1, 2014. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Interdisciplinary research and the intellectual richness of data analysis

Slides on a brief introduction to themes in machine learning from an algorithms perspective, and some thoughts on the mathematical richness of the study of data.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

A brief note on Fano's inequality

I've been bumping into Fano's inequality a lot lately, and have found the various explanations on the web somewhat lacking. Not because they aren't useful, but because their perspective is very different to the kind that I'd prefer as an algorithms person.

So after grumbling and mumbling and complaining, I decided the only solution was to write my own ! And here it is, as a raindrop.

Eh ? What's that you say ? And here we're just getting used to twitter ?

Raindrops are a web publishing form designed by the company run by our very own V. Vinay. When I was in India last I visited him in Bangalore, and he showed me the system. It's a nice way to make presentations or short lectures.

The raindrop I created is embedded directly in my blog, but can also be viewed directly at this link. I hope you like the medium, and the content !

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