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Ethan Miller
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Interesting article on the growing impact of papers published outside the "elite" journals.  Search that covers all publication venues (Google Scholar) and online availability of articles means that researchers can get research regardless of where it was published. 

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Age is only a curse if you don't keep up with advances in the field.  If your reaction to Python, Ruby, and Go is "I don't want to learn a new language - C/Java/Fortran is enough", and your reaction to cloud computing is "mainframes will never die", you deserve what you (don't) get.  But if you continue to acquire new skills and new knowledge, the combination of your background and experience will generate efficiency and quality that'll trump youthful enthusiasm.

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I don't use pot myself, but I did try it a few times in college, though. (And, no, I didn't inhale - I couldn't hold the smoke in my lungs - but there's more than one way to get it into your system.  Mmm, brownies...). 

Having said that, I completely agree with this article.  I see no reason that we continue to demonize a substance that's less addictive and less harmful than tobacco, and that has numerous medical uses.  Why not legalize weed?  If we still feel it necessary, we can show ads about its "negative" effects, just as we do for tobacco.

It occurs to me that perhaps the best way to prevent hijackers from taking over airplanes is not to ban everything that could be used as a weapon (there's a lot of things that could be used to do that), but rather to provision each plane with several rolls of duct tape.  If a passenger acts up, the crew and other passengers will subdue him/her (it seems to happen on a regular basis these days), and the duct tape can be used to ensure that s/he remains firmly secured to the seat.

Duct tape is known for being strong enough to restrain people (think of all the "duct tape someone to a goalpost" pranks), and it's cheap.  Plus, you can't actually damage an airplane with it, other than the adhesive not coming off easily.  Of course, there's the chance that a restrained individual might have a potty accident if it's a long flight, but, hey, you shouldn't have acted up in the first place.

If we do this, perhaps we can be allowed to carry itty-bitty (2") pocketknives again.  Please?

In response to yesterday's debacle of an AMBER alert, I turned them off on my iPhone.  The first alert came at 1:31AM, and, despite my "Do Not Disturb" setting, blared the 3-tone emergency alert sound at full volume.  Since I was in bed and nowhere near a road, waking me to tell me to be on the lookout for a blue Nissan Versa did no good.  (And, for those who say to move the phone, I use it as my alarm clock, as do many people.)

The next 7 (!) alerts came during the day, all accompanied by the same tones, and all with the same description and license plate number as the first.  No new information, just a jarring sound that caused me to jerk the steering wheel during the alert that came when I was in the car.  Fortunately, I was in the Baskin parking lot when that happened, so I wasn't going fast and didn't hit anything.

I have no objection to AMBER alerts being sent to many people, including me.  But the "emergency" sound is unnecessary, and the alerts should respect the "do not disturb" setting on the phone.  If I'm asleep or giving a talk, I won't be looking for that car.  If I'm driving, do you really want me looking at the phone for the description?  If this were an imminent threat to everyone (severe weather warning, earthquake, etc.), that'd be different (you might want people to pull over and seek shelter), but a message about which license plate to look out for isn't so high priority that I need to look at it RIGHT NOW.  This is doubly true when it's been 15+ hours since the first alert and the driver could be anywhere in a 900 mile radius.  Besides, the description and license plate number were on every highway sign in the Bay Area, and those I could read while driving.

Sadly, all this will do is encourage a lot of people to completely disable AMBER alerts when all they want to do is stop them from making so much (uncontrollable) loud noise.

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StreamScale has bullied USENIX into (temporarily) removing the paper that Jim Plank, Kevin Greenan, and I published at FAST 2013 (see for StreamScale's press release).  They claim that, in 2011, they were the first to figure out how to use Intel SIMD instructions for Galois field arithmetic.  They're wrong.

In May 2009, H. Peter Anvin published a white paper on RAID6 ( that describes how to do 8-bit GF multiplies using PSHUFB (see page 8).  Our FAST paper cited Anvin's pioneering work, since it inspired some of the material in our FAST13 paper (and I have proof that I had a working version implemented in Sept 2010).

For those who are looking for our FAST13 paper, you can still download it from the SSRC web page (  Source code is still available from  Feel free to use either the paper or the library with no fear of infringing StreamScale's IP with respect to the use of SSE instructions for Galois field arithmetic (the only thing the press release claims we "stole").  Anvin's paper publicly disclosed the basic technique of using PSHUFB (the only relevant technique in our gf-complete library) more than two years before StreamScale disclosed their approach to anyone.  If you're still worried, simply copy the inner loop code for GF multiply from Anvin's 2009 paper—it's nearly identical to what's in gf-complete.

StreamScale should be ashamed of themselves.  Companies that use unsubstantiated claims to coerce publishers to remove academic papers should be soundly punished when their claims are shown to be false.

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OK, so this is an old article on MOOCs.  I read it over, and it's an interesting discussion of online courses.

I have one important question, though: the article mentions a "15-year old student in Mongolia" who "received a perfect score on the final exam" and is now applying to MIT and UC Berkeley.  Why?  If a MOOC is as good as the "real thing", why bother going halfway around the world and paying a lot of money (or, more likely, in this case, getting a lot of scholarships) for the "same thing"?  Either this student is a fool (which I doubt) or a MOOC from Berkeley isn't as good, for some reason, as being there in person.

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Amazing video of surfing at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz, shot from a quadcopter "drone".  Really brings a new perspective to a scene I've watched many times.

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I'm astounded (but happy) to see that CNN published this opinion piece, which points out that Europe tolerates a lot of anti-Semitism, especially as a reaction to issues with the Palestinians.
"At times, human rights activists seem to have no problem with anti-Semitism -- even of the genocidal variety -- condemning it forcefully only if it is accompanied by anti-immigrant or anti-Muslim sentiment."

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Louis Farrakhan was able to speak in Berkeley on Saturday, despite his racist and anti-Semitic diatribes. He was invited by the Black Student Union. He was denounced by many student groups and an online petition, yet he was allowed to give his speech without disruption by protesters.

Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to speak in Berkeley on November 28th (see Hundreds of protesters blocked the entrance to where he was to speak, forcing the cancellation of his lecture. One said "I don't believe in free speech for war criminals."

It seems that the folks in Berkeley believe in free speech for virulent racists and anti-Semites, but not for the former leader of a democratic nation with whose policies they disagree. For all their bluster about freedom and rights, "liberals" (at least in Berkeley) are only willing to give those rights to people with whom they agree. Shame on them.
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