Monday, April 28, 2008

Christos Anesti

Christ is Risen! to all the Orthodox out there.

At MIT, we use the opportunity to cook some Romanian food and have a party (and an after-party at my house, it seems). As prototypes of our post-communist generation, we don't really believe in anything, including religion. But it is a cool opportunity to get together.

To celebrate this atheist Orthodox party, let me share a timely joke told tonight.

Yitzhak is very sad: his son converted to Christianity. His friends advise him to talk to the Rabi.

He goes to the Rabi and tells him his story.

The Rabi says: "You know, Yitzhak, I had the same problem, and I asked God about it..."

"And what did God say, Rabi?"

"He said: You know, Rabi, I had the same problem... "
Incidentally, I flew back on Friday night, and I'm flying away in the morning... I promise to get back to some blogging in about 1.5 weeks, when my interviews and visits are over.

Monday, April 7, 2008

SWAT'08 accepted papers

Via Dense Outliers, the SWAT'08 list of accepted papers is out.

Evidently, if your paper was rejected, it is because *I* thought it was too good for this worthless conference.

Now seriously... if you've never been on a PC, the way these things get decided is the following:

  • people vote on what they want to review, by reading the author names (primarily), the titles, and maybe the abstract.

  • papers get distributed, and PC members may outsource them to external reviewers. I think it is a good idea to outsource the paper, because an expert might see things that you're missing (like "the main idea appears in this other paper that is not cited"). Alas, for some papers the class of experts on the topic coincides with the list of authors.

  • in addition to outsourcing the paper, you absolutely should read it yourself, to adjust the paper evaluation based on the average level of the submissions. Outsiders can easily overestimate or underestimate the level. I got comments like "this paper is crap, but it's good enough for something like SWAT" (for some terrible papers that we trashed very quickly), or "they give a better running time for an important problem using novel ideas, so I'd say it's a borderline accept" (for some of the best papers at the conference).

  • after all comments get uploaded, a blogging-style discussion starts, by leaving comments for each paper. Yes, ultimately, your fortunes are decided by some sort of blogging. And no, the comments for your paper are not much better than regular comments on blog posts, though they are more polite because people are not anonymous.

Friday, April 4, 2008


The well-known (and very often criticized) US News Rankings have been released this year. Here are the ranking for computer science, and specifically for theory. Apparently, you don't need an account to access them.

As we all know, it is a bad idea to take these ranking too seriously, but at least they contain a list of the top schools in some order. For the theory rankings, I would diagree with the position of Stanford (too high) and Princeton (too low).