Friday, December 26, 2008


I'm leaving to go to Tokyo right now. I take the overnight sleeper bus from Sendai, and it gets to Tokyo at 6am. Then, Stephanie's plane tentatively gets in around 3:30pm, if all goes well.

Of course, don't bother emailing me with the expectation that i'll read it before January 5th. It's possible but I can think of a million and one more exciting things to do in Tokyo and Kyoto. :)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Missing the snow

(Very near the Bansui Sodo 晩翠草堂 in mid-late November)

As all my friends in the midwest IM in or facebook chat me to complain or celebrate snow delays, I slightly realize that I miss the snow. It's pretty, and especially since I am not driving, there isn't much danger element to it. Sendai rarely gets below freezing, typically hovering between 0-10 C for most of the winter. The city is on the dry side of a mountain range (in Yamagata Prefecture), so there is rarely any of the terrible snow storms that affect the western parts of upper Japan.

At least we get a Pageant of Starlight. I'll have pictures of that up tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Top 60 Japanese words of 2008

Found this via Neojaponisme:

If you want a peek into how the twisted gears of 和製英語 (japanized english) and the Japanese mass media work, look no further. I found some of the ones near the bottom to be particularly funny.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A difference of paper

(A line of trees on the north side of the Kawauchi campus classroom laboratory building)

...And the paper reading continues. Lately i've been reading about Jikes RVM to gauge my interest in virtual machine/compilers research. While I've had a vague interest, I haven't exactly been hacking around in the code. I thought I would read some of the papers, and see how they compare to Programming language/type theory papers.

So far, they are a bit easier to understand on a first reading. Unlike many type theory papers, a typical breadth-first reading of compiler/VM papers seems to work, and I can selectively choose what parts to skim and what parts to digest. Unfortunately, many PL theory papers prevent this at a meaningful level, because they are highly linear. You won't understand the proofs if you haven't read the introduction and development thoroughly.

There are some similar things in VM papers. For example you won't know how to evaluate the graphs near the end until you can look at the algorithm and see what may be the cause of differences. But in general, an illustration representing a dependency graph is more readily understood than a page full of small-step semantics and judgements full of greek (which may or may not be greek to you).

I'll start hacking into the code probably tomorrow or on Thursday, and see what it's like to hack in a JVM written in Java.

In other news, the 忘年会 (bounenkai, or end of year party) is in a few hours, so I had better get ready.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Resumption of pictures

(Tohoku University Kawauchi Campus; behind Lecture Hall B, looking southward)

I updated to Picasa 3 on Linux, and while it is still bug-ridden (aka, can't use BlogThis to directly launch blogger on a picture), I can actually use it now. After I did my last dist-upgrade, the japanese localization got corrupted somehow for Picasa, rendering all of the menus and buttons blank. From here on, you get at least one picture per post.

Why do Japanese clubs cost so much?

So finally, after a few months of waiting, there's an act worth going to a club for:

【AFTER DARK presents 2008 KITSUNE MAISON 6 Japan Tour in Sendai】

In other words, the owners of the Kitsune label are DJ'ing in Sendai tonight. The Kitsune label has brought bands like Digitalism, Simian Mobile Disco, Hot Chip, etc to the forefront of electro, so I was really looking forward to going to this.

Unfortunately, I lost track of the days, and its on TONIGHT. And, I've spent a few hundred dollars on discretionary stuff in the past few weeks. And nobody else wants to go, because it costs THIRTY FIVE dollars to get a DOS (day-of sale) ticket. This wouldn't be so bad, except that it almost always costs this much, whether or not they have resident (shitty) DJ's, or they have some of the best talent from France and Japan.

Disappointing.. I will not be going, and instead probably drinking with Adam&co. I want to test this new Miyagikyo whisky (non-vintage) that I finally managed to find today at Daiei. I'd explain the intricacies of Japanese whiskys later, as I would rather get to the task now instead of talking about it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The ropes of paper reading

I'm getting a good feel for how the first few years of graduate school will be like: carrying around 5-10 papers at any given time, having a bag full of highlighters, pencils, and pens, and computing dependency graphs for paper references. Well, maybe not so much on the last one, but especially at the beginning, it feels like I'm always performing a depth first search on CiteSeer and other sites.

Recently i've gotten really interested in gradual typing and (dynamic) contract checking as potential research topics. It seems that Suenaga-san's research on statically preventing deadlocks and other things with types (the APLAS talk he's giving this week) will not be further researched. This puts me in the position where I need to be bored out of my mind (the option where I join someone else's project in the lab here), waste a few months (the option where I wait for US exams and holidays to blow over before the Purdue project to get back to speed), or make up something on my own (the option where I get lost in papers, and have no support from anyone else).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The sheer joy of living in Japan (part 1)

11時51分19秒) Brian Burg: has anyone ever told you how fucking aggravating it is to pay bills in japan
(11時52分14秒) Emily Minnette: no, but like everything else in japan i would imagine it's unneccessarily complicated
(11時54分30秒) Brian Burg: for example..
(11時54分44秒) Brian Burg: i turned in an automatic withdrawl for paying the cell phone bill
(11時54分58秒) Brian Burg: and i initialed in the inkan circle instead of full sign
(11時55分12秒) Brian Burg: so i got a letter in the mail saying it was rejected because the sign was different
(11時55分44秒) Brian Burg: even though i EXPLICITLY signed a bank waiver saying that i accept any consequences of fraud of my signature
(11時55分51秒) Brian Burg: aka, they have no basis to judge whether its right or wrong
(11時56分51秒) Emily Minnette: wow, that sounds really dumb and tedious
(11時58分47秒) Brian Burg: then u have to mail the hagaki back to softbank in japan
(11時58分54秒) Brian Burg: they mail it back to the bank in sendai to get it approved
(11時59分02秒) Brian Burg: then maybe a month later i'll find out if it worked it not
(11時59分15秒) Brian Burg: i just got this back and i submitted it on 10-6

Monday, December 1, 2008

About CRA Outstanding Undergrad Award

Late last night, I received word that I have been selected as an Honorable Mention for the CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Award! Wohoo! I wasn't expecting that really, since it's a competition against the wunderchild seniors at Princeton, MIT, CMU, UCB, Harvard etc. Luckily every school can only nominate 2 male and 2 females :)

Also, congratulations to Rob Gevers, the other honorable mention from Purdue CS. Rob and I were the lone CS presenters at last year's Undergraduate Research Poster Symposium, and he won an award there as well. It is a strange coincidence that our advisors are married and got two honorable mentions.

Here's the email. The full list will be posted on the CRA website later this week.

TO: Brian Burg

FROM: CRA Undergraduate Award Selection Committee 2009
Dick Waters, Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs (Chair)
Geoff Keunning (Harvey Mudd College)
Clement Lam (Concordia University)
David Novick (University of Texas, El Paso)
Lynn Stein (Olin College)

CC: Department Chair and Nominators

We are very pleased to inform you that you have been selected for Honorable Mention in the Computing Research Association's Outstanding Undergraduate Award competition for 2009. Congratulations! Your award will be forwarded to you early in the New Year.

This year's nominees were a very impressive group. A number of them were commended for making significant contributions to more than one research project, several were authors or coauthors on multiple papers, others had made presentations at major conferences, and some had produced software artifacts that were in widespread use. Many of our nominees had been involved in successful summer research or internship programs, many had been teaching assistants, tutors, or mentors, and a number had significant involvement in community volunteer efforts. It is quite an honor to be selected for Honorable Mention from this group.

A list of the winners, runners-up, finalists, and honorable mentions appears below. A copy of the announcement as it will appear in the January 2009 issue of Computing Research News will be posted on CRA's website ( later this week.

On behalf of the Computing Research Association, we are pleased to have you as a member of the computing research community, and wish you the best for the future.

Today is World Aids Day