Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Day of Snow Play at Alpental

Here are some photos from the other day when we were all playing up at the mountain. It was Ananya's first day in the snow. She was initially very nervous about the white stuff, but eventually was jumping on the sled and screaming "more" repeatedly in Punjabi.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Vertical Searchers Unite

I ran across a post by Greg Linden discussing a couple research papers on search. Especially interesting is the Bender paper on peer to peer search. Basically the paper discusses a strategy on how to create "specialized" peers with topic based crawls of the web. While I think this is problematic in a true peer to peer system, due to the unpredictable quality of peers (or predictably bad depending on your level of cynicism) and their limited bandwidth among other things, it did make me think of a related idea. What if some of the myriad "vertical search" providers proliferating on the web could follow a standard for communicating the contents of their verticals along the lines of thinking in the Bender paper. Its not peer to peer, but to some extent it addresses the monopolistic concerns of the big 4, and it does address the dependability of a search node problem. In other words, create a meta search infrastructure, with built in economic accommodations of some sort, that vertical search providers could plug into; unlike the meta crawlers of yore that focus on meta crawling general search engines (e.g. metacrawler, dogpile, ...), they metacrawl niche vertical engines constrained by topic. If done right, this might lower the barrier of entry for small players to make an impact in broader search.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Saturday Snow Play

Here are some photos from this Saturday. These are all taken on a walk down to the beach. Ananya made it all the way down to the beach, and most of the way back. Nayan, for the first time ever, went all the way down and back with out whining.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Sun and Sun and Fun

Well its only been a month since we returned from the land of the sun, but I can hardly remember what its like to be outside and warm. We've had a chilling spell the past few days, so I thought I'd post some photos from a month ago to remind me that warm days will be back again.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Mass Disposal: From Forks to Friends

It seems to me, modern life can be so solitary and transient. It seems societally we pay such a high price for our fancy dish washers, fiscal freedom and uber mobility. Many of our societal psychopaths wake up, go to work, stare at a computer, maybe send a few emails, or chat on the phone, go home, open up a bag of fast food, stare at the tv for a few hours, sleep, and repeat; with the exception of an occasional murder or mutilation, they have virtually no human contact.

I'll rant a bit, and maybe some logic will emerge. I've been thinking, basically, in America, we've got plastic spoons, and paper plates that we whip out when guests come to visit since washing them is too much effort. We design our homes with a maximum shelf life determined up front. The building I lived in at college was specifically designed to last only 30 years. It was, of course 50 years since the buildings birth when I lived in it, but that's besides the point. In the modern era, divorce is nearly the norm.

In part since we move a lot, and are no longer connected for lifetimes to our villages or communities; people come and go in our lives, isolating us further. I keep in contact with no one from my elementary school years in Indiana, 1 person from my junior high school years, 2 from high school, 1 from college in Chicago, and 3 from my years in Boston. Of the nearly thousands of people I have encountered in my life and had atleast a few dozens of hours of communication with, I keep in contact with perhaps 70 or so, and maybe 15 on a regular basis. Of those, perhaps a handful are "good" friends and not mere aquaintances. I'm not terribly abnormal either. I read a statistic the other day saying the average male American over the age of 60 has 1 friend. 1! I read another statistic, I can't remember it exactly, but it was something like 200 years ago, the average person met, physically met, less than 50 people in their entire lives.

I was chatting with a guy from New York City a few years back. He was distraught since he and his girl friend had broken up. It turns out she lived in San Francisco, and he in New York. He said he hated San Fransisco. I asked why. He said, "Its very easy to meet someone in SF. In fact, some random person I met 5 minutes ago is my new best friend. I was there for a couple years, I thought I had some real friends. Then I'd show up at the airport, and call up a friend for a ride home, and they'd say they'd love to, but they're at a party, or out, or just can't. They'd say, just take the bus." He said something like, "maybe I can't make a new best friend in New York in 5 minutes, but atleast I know they'll pick me up at the @$@%##@'n airport!

We're all guilty. Sunday I was up at the mountain snowboarding. It was a terrible day with avalanche danger so high, that all interesting lifts were closed, and I was, needless to say, unable to go into the backcountry. In addition, the road home was closed due to avalanche blasting, so I did what any easily bored snowboarder does on such a day, I made my way up to the pub. I sat down and was enjoying a nice black and tan, when a guy asked if he could sit with me. I said sure. We started chatting and I was having a good time. Soon, his friends showed up, and I was sucked into their group, and we were chatting away. Eventually I said goodbye and made my way home. I was thinking that I will likely never run into these folks again, even though they only live a few minutes away from me.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

My New Book: Natural Language Processing and Text Mining

Well its not actually my book, but I did co-author the chapter titled: A Case Study in Natural Language Based Web Search. Nonetheless, I am pretty excited. I just got a hard copy and its pretty swank looking. I'm excited to read what other technologists in the field have been up to. For you fellow NLP, search, and text mining folks, you can buy a copy HERE. And here is a snippet from the back cover:

With the increasing importance of the Web and other text-heavy application areas, the demands for and interest in both text mining and natural language processing (NLP) have been rising. Researchers in text mining have hoped that NLP—the attempt to extract a fuller meaning representation from free text—can provide useful improvements to text mining applications of all kinds.

Bringing together a variety of perspectives from internationally renowned researchers, Natural Language Processing and Text Mining not only discusses applications of certain NLP techniques to certain Text Mining tasks, but also the converse, i.e., use of Text Mining to facilitate NLP. It explores a variety of real-world applications of NLP and text-mining algorithms in comprehensive detail, placing emphasis on the description of end-to-end solutions to real problems, and detailing the associated difficulties that must be resolved before the algorithm can be applied and its full benefits realized. In addition, it explores a number of cutting-edge techniques and approaches, as well as novel ways of integrating various technologies. Nevertheless, even readers with only a basic knowledge of data mining or text mining will benefit from the many illustrative examples and solutions.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

New Punjabi Video for Kids

The wonderful folks that put together the Chalo Hindi Bolo video that our kids have watched literally hundreds of times, have just put out a new DVD. There is such an utter dearth of high quality kids Indian content. I had given up on getting something in Punjabi, but apparently Punjabi is one of the DVD languages. I highly recommend the last video, and I eagerly await the arrival of our new DVD. If you are not located in India, and fret over your kids utter cluelessness on things Indian, I recommend starting the language exposure early, ideally before english. You can get the DVD along with other stuff at:
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