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First publication! - Lindsey Kuper [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Lindsey Kuper

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First publication! [Jul. 11th, 2009|09:26 pm]
Lindsey Kuper
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My research group has had a paper accepted to the 2009 Scheme Workshop! This will be the first publication that's come out of our work this summer.

As it turns out, it will also be the first academic publication with my name on it. I didn't know until yesterday that I would be listed as an author, and since we already knew the paper had been accepted at that point, I never even had a chance to bite my nails about it. It's hard to imagine a more stress-free first publication experience.

Actually, the work that resulted in this paper started a long time ago. This spring, Will was working on his dissertation, which is about miniKanren, the logic programming system that's been the focus of our group's research (and of Will's research for the last several years). Will noticed that some of his miniKanren code was a lot more verbose than the equivalent code would have been in Prolog, the most well-known logic programming language, because miniKanren didn't have the pattern-matching capability of Prolog. Will told Dan about the problem, which at that point was chiefly an aesthetic consideration. It was a Friday, as I recall.

Dan, Will, and Ramana had a wouldn't-it-be-great-if-miniKanren-had-pattern-matching? conversation, and by Monday, Ramana had whipped up some clever pattern-matching macros. While playing with the macros on Tuesday morning, they realized that this pattern-matching stuff could be good for more than making the code listings in Will's dissertation look nice; we could also use it to more effectively teach miniKanren to our C311 students. So I scrambled to learn the new language features, Dan used them in his C311 lecture on Tuesday afternoon, and they made it into the homework assignment I posted on Tuesday night.

That might have been the end of it, but then Dan challenged our B621 class to make the macros more efficient and easier to use. Andy worked on this off and on through the rest of the course and on into the beginning of the summer, and we all helped by asking lots of questions and by using the macros a lot (and, in my case, watching the students using them). Andy ended up rewriting the pattern matcher completely. His version was more efficient and more robust than the original had been, and the implementation, which used CPS macros written using Scheme's syntax-rules macro system, was interesting in its own right. It was potentially worth a paper, so Andy, Will and Dan began writing one.

My contribution to the paper mostly amounted to asking the right question at the right time. We were discussing the pattern matcher one day in B621 when I thought of a particular situation in which it would behave unhygienically. When I brought it up with the group, we realized that it was not only a bug in the pattern matcher, but an example of a limitation of CPS macros in general. At that point, the direction of the paper shifted from "our pattern matcher, let us show you it" to "CPS macros written with syntax-rules considered harmful when used to generate bindings from a non-unique list of user-specified identifiers". Our colleague Michael joined in and helped Andy, Will, and Dan turn the paper in that direction. They submitted the completed paper, including a couple of alternate implementations that worked around the limitation we'd found, and we found out a few weeks ago that it had been accepted.

I couldn't help feeling a small amount of ownership in the paper, because it would be the first published research that had grown out of something that I helped teach. Moreover, I thought the story of how it had come to be was a nice illustration of the symbiotic relationship between teaching and research in our group. So, I was pleased, even before I knew I was going to be listed as an author. It wasn't until yesterday, after I'd helped them polish up the final version of the abstract, that the other authors told me that they were adding my name. They said that since I had been the one who had set them on the path they'd ended up taking with the paper, I should get an author credit, too. And so it came to pass. We've now submitted the final title, author list, and abstract; all that remains is to polish up the paper itself, and then Andy will be presenting it at the workshop in August. Huzzah!

If you think you've seen this post before, you're right; I apologize for the déjà vu. I had briefly posted a public version of it two days ago, but I'm not yet very good at being what danah boyd once referred to as a "punk-ass public grad student"; I lost my nerve and made that post non-public after I found out that I was on the author list for the paper, because I was embarrassed by how little I'd contributed compared to the other four authors. After all, all I had done was ask a question. But Peter pmb Boothe said something that emboldened me: "Asking the right question is the most valuable skill in research except for the ability to work hard. And it can't be taught. So they are doing the right thing." Thanks, Peter!

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Comments:
[User Picture]From: sstrickl
2009-07-12 01:36 am (UTC)
Whooooo! Congratulations on your authorship! :D
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2009-07-12 01:42 am (UTC)
Thanks, Stevie! Are you going to the workshop? I wish I could be there, but time and money will both be in short supply next month.
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[User Picture]From: sstrickl
2009-07-12 01:51 am (UTC)
I would like to do so. Obviously it's quite convenient for me!

Hopefully it turns out that your time/cash crunch will allow you to go though -- if you need anything like lodging to help defray some of that, let me know. Crash space here shouldn't be a problem.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2009-07-12 02:16 am (UTC)
It's very tempting. But I have to take written qualifying exams on the 25th and 26th, and a weekend out of town might not be the best way to prepare for those. Also, Alex and I both have to watch what we spend a lot more now, considering that we're now both going to be students.

And then there's the fact that starting in August, we're both hoping to spend as little time on airplanes as humanly possible for a while, to make up for the last nineteen months.

But having said all that, it's still very tempting.
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[User Picture]From: oniugnip
2009-07-12 02:31 am (UTC)
It's only a thousand miles! You/we could just ride bikes! It'd take, what, ten days each way?

This is a very wide time zone.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2009-07-12 02:36 am (UTC)

Best idea ever.

Yes. Let's blow off quals, blow off your orientation week, blow off probably the first few days of classes, and ride our bikes a thousand miles to Cambridge to go to the Scheme Workshop.
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[User Picture]From: sstrickl
2009-07-12 02:40 am (UTC)

Re: Best idea ever.

I knew you'd figure it out!
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2009-07-12 05:19 am (UTC)

Re: Best idea ever.

Picture it: August 22, 2009. It's the last session of the day-long Scheme Workshop, and distinguished special guest speaker Guy Steele is 45 minutes into his presentation. He's nearing the high point of the hour-long talk, and the audience is rapt with attention.

Suddenly, the door bursts open with a slam. The entire room turns around as in stumble two sunburned, wild-eyed, and utterly disheveled graduate students, heaving for breath and completely covered in sweat, dirt, and grime. As they let their filth-encrusted bicycles clatter onto the floor, it becomes apparent that the taller one, the guy, is wearing a three-piece suit that probably looked nice when he first put it on, which looks to be about ten days ago. The other one, the girl, is wearing a tattered black t-shirt that reads "CHEZ SCHEME 0wnz0rz j00". She has some kind of unidentifiable roadkill in her hair.

"Sorry we're late," she gasps. "Where's the goddamn sandwiches?" She grins toothily in an appeal to Dave Herman, over in the corner, but he just looks at her and shakes his head sadly.

Shriram calls the cops.
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[User Picture]From: sstrickl
2009-07-12 05:20 am (UTC)

Re: Best idea ever.

Ooooh, this'll give me the perfect time to utilize my Flip Video camcorder. Brilliant!
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[User Picture]From: pmb
2009-07-12 03:06 am (UTC)

Re: Best idea ever.

This is a fanTAStic idea. Clear it with your advisor. I recommend suggesting it in a joking way at first and seeing if he smiles...
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2009-07-12 03:55 am (UTC)

Re: Best idea ever.

I could actually imagine attempting it next year. By then, maybe Alex and I will be as awesome as you and Tracy, by which I mean we'll have a tandem bike.

Of course, the minute we decided to do it, they would announce that the 2010 Scheme Workshop was being held in, like, Moscow.
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[User Picture]From: oniugnip
2009-07-12 05:13 am (UTC)

Re: Best idea ever.

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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2009-07-12 05:37 am (UTC)

Re: Best idea ever.

I think the best thing about watching that video was finding out that there's a German TV station called 3SAT.
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[User Picture]From: kel_e_o
2009-07-12 05:36 pm (UTC)

Re: Best idea ever.

Tandem bike = bigger commitment than marriage?
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[User Picture]From: pmb
2009-07-12 06:30 pm (UTC)

Re: Best idea ever.

Not quite, but when goteam and I got our bike we did end up feeling like it was this totally huge semi-public commitment.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2009-07-12 06:56 pm (UTC)

Re: Best idea ever.

Perhaps yes!

Cute story: Alex told me that whenever he had seen a tandem bike with a man and a woman on it, the woman was sitting in the back. He made me promise that if we ever got one, I would sit in the front at least 50% of the time.
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[User Picture]From: pmb
2009-07-12 08:08 pm (UTC)

Re: Cute story

It totally doesn't work like that. Riding in front versus in back is figured out by two things:

1) Weight - all things being equal, the heavier person should be in front.

2) Back seat driving / Type-A-ness / ability to lie back and enjoy when other people are a little stressed. People with the first two properties should be in front. People with the last should be in back. goteam and I have tried on a few occasions to trade spots, and it has always been a bad experience for each of us -- so bad that goteam now refuses to try further experiments.

On a funny note, goteam has been pretty lucky in finding bike gear that doesn't scream "SPANDEX BIKE NERD" despite its equivalence to that gear. This leaves me constantly trying to find the same for myself to avoid looking like a spandex bike jock who is forcing his partner around on their tandem, because she's wearing camoflage and I am not.

Example: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmb/744839273/ looks pretty normal. You could wear that most places.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tvancort/1470187051/ less so. And that one is chosen mostly because (thankfully) I couldn't find any pictures of me wearing spandex.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2009-07-12 08:51 pm (UTC)

Re: Cute story

Yeah, I kind of figured it didn't really work that way. Trading off doesn't seem like a great idea anyway, since differently-shaped people surely prefer different seats and different seat heights. So trading seats would be, literally, a pain in the ass.
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