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Showing posts from July, 2011

Making Seattle my home

I moved to Seattle about 4 months ago, after having lived in Boston for a little more than seven years. Now that I've settled in a bit I thought now would be a good time to write up some of my thoughts on the city and lifestyle here.

Upon leaving Boston, I could have moved pretty much anywhere. Most of the cities with a strong tech industry had good job opportunities for my wife, as well, and of course Google has offices in most major cities in the US. So we had plenty of options. We both went to Berkeley for grad school and absolutely love the Bay Area, but we decided not to move back there for a bunch of reasons. The main one being that I would have been working in Mountain View and my wife would have been in SF, and that would have meant a hell of a commute for either of us. It was also not clear that we would have been able to afford a decent house in the Bay Area in any neighborhoods that we would want to live. Our preference would have been to live in the East Bay, bit that …

How do you evaluate your grad students?

One of the issues that I always struggled with as an academic -- and I know many other faculty struggle with -- is keeping grad students on track and giving them useful feedback to help them along in their careers. PhD students often get lost in the weeds at some point (or many points!) during grad school. Of course, part of doing a PhD is figuring out what you want to work on and doing things that might seem to be "unproductive" to the untrained eye. On the other hand, many PhD students grind to a halt, spending months or even years on side projects or simply doing nothing at all. One problem my own students often had was working super hard to submit a paper and then doing almost no new work for 2-3 months while waiting to get the reviews back.
When a student gets stuck in a rut, how do you help them out of it? How do you help students clear a path to productivity?
One thing that many PhD programs lack is any regular and formal evaluation of a student's progress. Harva…

My experience with Amazon Cloud Player

As I've posted here before, I'm an avid music fan and collector. A few years ago I decided to go all-digital with my music collection, and since then have mostly refused to buy CDs in favor of digital music online -- mostly from Amazon's (excellent) MP3 store, as well as iTunes. However, this created a new problem: where to keep the music, and how to keep it synced between my various devices -- home laptop, work laptop, work desktop, home desktop, phone, iPad. Lots of people have this problem. My music collection is now more than 50 GB and it's no small feat to keep it synchronized between devices.

For a while I had this crazy scheme where I would only buy new music on my home laptop (the "master" library) which I could sync directly to my phone. From the home laptop I would push new music (using rsync) to my home desktop, which would allow me to listen to it on the stereo at home (via a first-generation Squeezebox player). I would also push it to my desktop …