Monday, February 21, 2011

Spring Semester Update

I see it's been two months since my last post.  I must admit, there are times I miss blogging.  I've often felt I have something interesting to post about, but then I let the feeling pass, and I find I feel no worse the wear for letting it go.  The world spins on, and I use the time for other things.**  I still try to comment on other blogs when I feel I have something worthwhile to say.  If you haven't seen it, Claire Mathieu has a blog now.  But it seems like other blogs have slowed down significantly.  Maybe the time for blogging is over.  (Apropos, this pointer from Luca's blog.)

Spring semester is always my busier semester, and while being Area Dean has only made it worse, it would have been bad anyway.  My undergraduate Algorithms and Data Structures class is in the spring -- around 55 students, with another 20 or so in the Extension school version.  That class is always more work than my fall graduate class.  Spring semester means graduate student admissions, and planning for the graduate student visit day.  And there are interviews, as we're hiring this year, leading to multiple talks (and meetings with candidates) per week.  Not coincidentally, it's also time to write letters for students, for internships/postdocs/jobs.  As Area Dean, I'm also involved in various promotion paperwork, class planning issues, and budget exercises.  Hiring and promotions remain my #1 priorities in the job, but other issues do seem to take time as well.  I'm also happily managing a fairly full consulting schedule.  Yep, busy semester.  

It seems that spring must also be the time for submissions, because it seems I'm asked to review things a few times a week.  I'm saying no much much more frequently, so please don't be offended if you get a no with no other response from me.  At the same time, I still say yes enough that I think I'm definitely doing my fair share of reviewing...

Research continues -- mostly thanks to eager students and forgiving co-authors.  Various things in the pipeline (some of which have already gone up on the arxiv).  I went (for the first time) to the UCSD ITA (Information Theory and Applications) workshop.  The highlight was a Scrabble game with expert Amit Chakrabarti (while I lost, I think he beat me by less than he originally expected;  the benefit of low starting expectations...).  And there were some good talks.  Some are described over at An Ergodic Walk.  Nicely, we made his list -- our paper On the Zero-Error Capacity Threshold for Deletion Channels is described as:  "A nice piece of work on connecting zero-error capacity for deletion channels with longest common subsequences."  This was a problem I had lying around as an open question, which some of the Harvard theory students adopted in their open question problem session;  a couple months later, we have a (short) paper!  (Though I think the paper probably introduces more questions than it answers...)  I also think while there I got myself on the ISIT 2012 program committee;  strangely, I've never even been asked to be on the ISIT PC, so when asked I found myself saying I'd be happy to do it.  (Maybe the asker will have forgotten by the time they get home...)

And that, for now, is probably about all to report.

** One free time activity is introducing my kids to classic board games.  I was shocked to find things like Clue, Risk, and Stratego are no longer standard games, but have been revamped, revised, or utterly removed from the shelves.  Luckily, there's a nice Clue The Classic Edition available at Amazon, as well as a Risk Vintage Wood Book Edition.  I got both and like them, though Risk is still a couple of years away, I think -- Clue is a bigger hit.  I'm going to try the Stratego Vintage Wood Book Edition next.