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Jason Eisner
Computation, language, and learning
Computation, language, and learning

Jason Eisner's posts

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Ever wondered what I'd do if I only had a brain? Come see The Wizard of Oz at Charm City Players. Large cast, song & dance, the works.  You also get to see Debbie and our munchkins in the ensemble (see photo).  Opened last Saturday. Runs through January 11, including holiday weekends. Tickets at 

Double-blind review is a "reasonable effort" standard, just like locker room etiquette. :) You shouldn't flaunt your identity or try to spot other people's.  Discretion is good.  But elaborate disguises or blindfolds would interfere with the business at hand.   So sometimes you might catch a glimpse of something private ... you're just supposed to put it out of your mind.

(just sent this to a reviewer who was worried he might know who the author was)

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I just supported #MAYDAYUS , a crowdfunded, kickstarted campaign (started by Larry Lessig) to reclaim U.S. democracy.  Fixing our political process seems like the first order of business -- it's getting more and more impossible to do anything about the substantive issues.  Happy July 4th.

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People often ask me about NLP vs. CL, so I wrote my answer down ...

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Here's math education held up as a real-world example of Searle's Chinese Room:  "Students are making statements to fit a pre-existing proof-pattern, not because they mean them.  They are being trained to ape arguments, not to intend them.  So not only do they have no idea what their teacher is saying, they have no idea what they themselves are saying."  (From a mathematician's lament.)

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Attacked on Halloween by the notorious serial killer "John saw Mary" (a copycat criminal inspired by Typhoid Mary's more aggressive cousin, "Phillips screwdriver Mary").

The name "engineering" is just poorly chosen.  Engines?  They're greasy, intimidating, and so 19th-century.  I never knew what "engineering" meant when I was in high school.  Mostly it sounded like maintenance.  I was aware of civil engineering, but was just glad that someone else had gotten the plumbing system working and we didn't have to think about it anymore.

A  more accurate term would be "inventing," at least for the kind of engineering that goes on in academia.  Let's rebrand all of the Schools of Engineering as Schools of Invention.  Who wouldn't want to major in that?

L (age 6): What do exasperation marks look like?
Mommy: Do you mean exclamation marks?
L: No.  Exasperation marks.
Mommy: I don't think they exist.
L: Then how do you show you're exasperated?

(Time to teach him his first emoticon.  But what?)

Loved this New Yorker article about the artificial language Ithkuil.  The article's got everything: Ukranian neofascist mystics, a cryptophasic identical twin, the secretly laboring patent clerk DMV employee, the third degree of the affix for contextual appropriateness, and a cameo by George Lakoff.  My dad suspected a spoof but I say that's the best kind of real life.

How should I present technical material in a way that takes advantage of the online medium?  Often I feel like writing tutorials, research surveys, or software documentation.  But I haven't found a platform that will let me be maximally helpful, i.e.:

* The main text is written by one or a few authors.  The authors are responsible for the content, viewpoint, and style.

* But readers should be able to start web discussions about any sentence.  Their questions, corrections, clarifications, additions, and suggestions will be useful to other readers -- and to the authors.

* Authors should be able to embed side discussions similarly.  If I'm writing for the web, I shouldn't have to design a linear flow for a "typical" reader.  Different readers have different questions and should be able to get them answered by clicking:

   - "Help me on equation (3), I'm rusty on linear algebra"
   - "How would that work out on the main example?"
   - "How efficient is that step?  How would I implement it in practice?  Are there any good tricks?  Is there code or pseudocode for me?"
   - "I know about Wu 2008; why not do that instead?  What's the relationship?"
   - "I get it, but how about my harder or easier version of your problem?"
* The side discussions shouldn't be distracting, but should be at hand when one wants them.  Highly rated material should probably be more visible.  (Collaborative filtering?)

* The document should look beautiful, including math and diagrams.
Some version of it should be convertible to a nice PDF.

Any suggestions??  I don't want to play Don Knuth and invent my own typesetting system -- hasn't anyone designed a nice platform?  Thanks!

p.s. For a possible design, see my reply below to Gordon Woodhull.  Other uses: Anyone looking for public feedback on a technical proposal.  Creative writing workshop students required to give one another feedback on their drafts.  The student "scribe" who is assigned to write up notes of a lecture (reasonably common in math/CS) -- the other students and the prof can annotate the result where it falls short.
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