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devil duck

misc. news

Let's see, what's happened recently?

I spent four days last week at the Computational Complexity Conference in Buffalo, where I renewed contacts with various complexity theorists. I also gave a "rump session" talk on my work on "Delayed Binary Search, or Playing Twenty Questions with a Procrastinator". The audience seemed to enjoy it: I got more questions than the previous two speakers combined, I was invited out to a bar by two of the research gods of the field, and by 11:00 the next morning two of the audience had made significant additions to the theory: David Schweizer found a recurrence that seemed to correctly describe the delay-2 case, and Andris Ambainis found a proof that the optimal algorithm took time logψn + O(1), where ψ satisfies ψ3 - ψ2 = 1, exactly what would be predicted by Schweizer's recurrence. I decided this was significant enough to invite them to co-author. I told them I was busy for the next week, but wanted to submit the thing for a conference deadline July 7; I hope they're working on it now.

Thursday night I returned from Buffalo. I spent Friday grocery-shopping and pre-cooking for the SCA feast we prepared and served on Saturday. Various things went wrong: there was no firewood until over an hour after we arrived, so the legs of lamb started cooking later than they should have; we didn't know where to get water on site, so the rice started cooking later than it should have; the autocrat suffered a car accident; a misunderstanding led to me ferrying a search party up and down Flatbush Avenue searching for her while she was safely at the site and shalmestere was doing last-minute preparations; a rainstorm hit just as we served the first course; etc. etc. But everybody seems to have enjoyed the food, nobody went hungry, and I'd call the whole thing a qualified success.

Unfortunately, we couldn't stay around for the night or the morning: we had dogs at home to feed and walk, and I had to catch a plane Sunday afternoon to Houston, where I am now and until next Sunday morning, attending a workshop on how to teach beginning programming using Scheme. Most of the participants don't know the Scheme language, so they're struggling to learn it; I, on the other hand, am primarily trying to learn how to teach from Scheme from someone who's been quite successful at it.