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Showing posts from June, 2010

Cocktails for Computer Scientists

One of the keys to success in academia is being able to make a good cocktail. Many a night I have slogged through a grant proposal or stack of recommendation letters for students with a Sazerac or Martinez in hand. One might think that regular imbibement of cocktails and the demands of faculty life are not exactly compatible, though I disagree. Moderation is important, of course; but not nearly as important as the requirement to stop working once you've finished off your third drink. It is a nice timeout mechanism.
Most of my friends know little about cocktails, or their idea of a cocktail is a boring old vodka martini or a margarita. (On the other hand, Michael Mitzenmacher is a fan of the Long Island Iced Tea, which essentially involves dumping whatever booze you have laying around into a glass.) Any time we have friends over I am in instant bartender mode and pushing new drink discoveries on them. So, I give to you, Matt's Guide to Classic Cocktails for Computer Scientists, …

Working for The Google

I am about to take a one-year sabbatical from Harvard to join Google. If you haven't heard of them, Google is this little startup company with this really neat website that lets you search for just about anything on the Internet. It is very cool.

I'm going to be at the Google office here in Cambridge (since I can't move my family right now) but expect to work with folks at the Seattle and Mountain View offices. This way I can also keep tabs on my research group at Harvard and hopefully keep things moving along here. But largely I am going to be stepping back from my academic responsibilities -- I intend to fully dive into the Google job and immerse myself in that environment.

A lot of people have asked me what I'll be doing at Google. I can't say much, but I will hint that it has to do with using high-energy lasers to digitize real objects into a computer system called the MCP. I am sure nothing can possibly go wrong with this project.

Seriously, I only have a vagu…

Editor in Chief

In a bout of temporary insanity, I've agreed to serve as Editor-in-Chief of ACM Transactions on Sensor Networks, which is probably the top journal in the field. Feng Zhao, the Assistant Managing Director of Microsoft Research Asia, has been the EIC since the journal's inception some six (?) years ago, and has done a fantastic job building up the journal and putting together a fantastic editorial board. I've been on the editorial board for a while and overall the quality of the submissions is pretty high. It's an honor to be selected for this role and I hope to keep up the great work that Feng has started.

Systems people tend to eschew journals in favor of conference publications, but I still think that TOSN has an important role to play in the sensor nets community. We need a place to publish longer, more thorough papers than what you can typically cram into a 14-page conference submission. We need a place for papers of high quality that just won't make it into a de…

Margo Seltzer is blogging

My colleague Prof. Margo Seltzer has started blogging at She is joining the ranks of such distinguished Harvard Computer Science faculty who maintain blogs, including Michael Mitzenmacher, Harry Lewis, and Stuart Shieber. (Apparently, we have nothing better to do than stuff the interwebs with our crazed ramblings.)

Margo, welcome to the blogosphere. It's a lot like real life, only weirder.

How to get tenure at Harvard

There is an old joke that says that at most universities, you have to write a book to get tenure, while at Harvard, they have to write a book about you. I am not sure who wrote that one, since I recently found out that I've been promoted to full professor with tenure. (Unlike most places, at Harvard, full professor is the only tenured rank. I've actually been an associate professor for three years now and the total clock is seven years.) So my time as a disgruntled junior faculty member is drawing to a close - on to the far more entertaining life as a (presumably) gruntled senior faculty member.

Harvard has a notorious reputation for not tenuring its own junior faculty. Indeed, some departments have not promoted from within for decades -- so long that they probably don't remember how to do it if they wanted to. In the math department, for example, junior faculty treat the job like an extended postdoc, with the goal of getting tenure somewhere else -- Yale or Columbia perhap…