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Lindsey Kuper

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Achievement unlocked: invited talk! [Feb. 27th, 2011|11:53 pm]
Lindsey Kuper

This past week, I went to Boston to give a talk at the Northeastern Programming Research Lab's weekly seminar. I had a great time hanging out at NU and talking shop with Aaron, Sam, Paul paul_stansifer, Stevie sstrickl, Carl, Jesse, Christos, and Mitch. As if that wasn't enough, my old Grinnell classmate Arjun happened to be in town for another reason and decided to swing by and see my talk while he was at it.1

I was pleased about how the talk went. I'd spoken about the project previously, but after reading Matt Might's advice for academic talks, I had decided to throw out my slides and start over from scratch. For those interested, here are the slides I ended up presenting (warning: 3.2 MB PDF). It was easily 40 hours of work to overhaul the talk, but I think it was worth it. And I got a nice laugh at my opening joke about the Zakim Bridge towers looking like lambdas.2

Aside from visiting Northeastern, it was great to hang around Boston for a few days. My uncle Joel took me on a walking tour of the set of The Social Network his neighborhood3, and we visited the Farm Aid office where he's been working for the last several years. He runs the Farmer Resource Network, helps organize the annual Farm Aid concert, and, depending on when you call 1-800-FARM-AID, is sometimes the person who answers. After reading the abstract I sent him, he graciously declined to come to my talk, although he insisted, "I love talks about polymorphism!"

Anyway: achievement unlocked, and all that! *whistles; busily adds new section to CV*

  1. I'm envious of people who live in a part of the world, e.g., New England, where cities and universities are so thick on the ground that such occurrences are possible. To come to a talk in Indiana, you pretty much have to intend to, you know?
  2. The audience also laughed at the irony of putting the words "low, low prices!" next to a picture of said bridge.
  3. In the used-books basement of the Harvard Book Store, I was unable to prevent myself from re-shelving The Devil Wears Prada next to something called God Wears Lipstick.

[User Picture]From: cos
2011-03-01 02:24 am (UTC)
You were here! huh.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2011-03-01 03:18 am (UTC)
Indeed! I wish I could have stayed longer.
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[User Picture]From: _tove
2011-03-01 08:10 pm (UTC)
After reading that advice for academic talks, I have to wonder if one of the reasons I've never felt particularly stressed about actually giving presentations is that I always run up against the clock preparing for them. So the takeaway is... procrastinators make better public speakers? :P
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2011-03-01 10:50 pm (UTC)
Because you use up your extra pre-presentation adrenaline by actually working on the presentation, you mean? For me, any nervousness-fighting advantage I might get from that would be dominated by the disadvantage of not having practiced.
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[User Picture]From: _tove
2011-03-02 07:51 pm (UTC)
Yeah; by the time I had to stand up and talk, I'd generally been running around all morning dealing with broken printers or somebody having stepped on my model or something. I always thought of the presentational calm as and effect of my having reached my stress limit (after which everything just seems funny/unimportant), but I like the physical explanation as well.

The not-having-practiced thing was somewhat mitigated by the way my department structured semesters, in that by the time you're talking about your project in front of the panel of Important People who have been flown out to talk to you about your work, you've already talked about it in front of lesser panels every three weeks or so, and to your advisor-equivalent thrice per week. Also, the emphasis of presentations for us was much less on the pre-planned talk (which should be Very Brief, as your [visual] work is supposed to Speak For Itself) and much more on the Q&A, so there's only so much practicing that can be done.
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