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O my dear Wife, said he, and you the Children of my bowels, I your dear friend am in my self undone, by reason of a burden that lieth hard upon me: moreover, I am for certain informed, that this our City will be burned with fire from Heaven, in which fearful overthrow, both my self, with thee, my Wife, and you my sweet babes, shall miserably come to ruine; except (the which, yet I see not) some way of escape can be found, whereby we may be delivered. At this his Relations were sore amazed; not for that they believed, that what he had said to them was true, but because they thought, that some frenzy distemper had got into his head: therefore, it drawing towards night, and they hoping that sleep might settle his brains, with all hast they got him to bed; but the night was as troublesome to him as the day: wherefore instead of sleeping, he spent it in sighs and tears.
--John Bunyan, "Pilgrim's Progress"

This month I have begun the draft of my thesis proposal. Even without any superhuman efforts on my part, I think it is inevitable that it will be finished at some point. Other than that, research continues. Results so far are equivocal, but might be improved if I am fortunate. Also, I (and most of my labmates) plan to go to the NESCAI student conference in April.
I have still not bought tickets to go home at Passover, but still plan to. This will be about the 19th through the 23rd, so if you plan to be in MD at that time, let me know.
Otherwise, the last month was for the most part uneventful, and the next one promises to be the same (though with slightly improved weather). Therefore I will cut this short.

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Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom
I am a consciousness without a body! Moloch
who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy!
Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch!
Light streaming out of the sky!
Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs!
skeleton treasuries! blind capitals! demonic
industries! spectral nations! invincible mad
houses! granite cocks! monstrous bombs!
--Allen Ginsberg, "Howl"

Work has been going ok this month. I believe I'm still on track to propose this spring. On the other hand, the paper was rejected as I predicted. Ah well, can't win them all.
California was fun, but tiring fun. A day with my cousins was pretty cool; visiting Stanford afterwards was also enjoyable, but required some mental effort, since I kept meeting researchers, as well as just visiting former labmate David. I got soaked to the skin the morning of my talk and shivered all through it, but I think it went well. The Google visit was a lot of networking. Their campus is huge and designed to fulfil practically all the urges a techie might have without them having to leave-- naps, massage chairs, game rooms, food, exercise-- even laundry. They scrupulously avoided any comment on the China situation, though, and the talks they gave were mostly uninspired. (One exception: a blind guy who designs user interfaces for the iPhone. His main point was that accessibility isn't just for the disabled-- it's also for the distracted, the multitasking and so forth. Given a better user interface, we're likely to use the device in more situations.)
In other news, my brother's band True Womanhood released their EP, "Basement Membranes". You should go check it out!
Plans for this month: keep working, get together a committee, submit two short papers to ACL, social stuff. Thinking about going home for Passover in early March, so if you'll be there then, let me know.

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Pass it along to Stand-to.
To peel back those eider-ducks me slumberin' lovelies---Prince Charming presents his compliments. Who's this John Moores in his martial cloak---get off it, wontcher---come away counterfeiting death---cantcher---hear the bird o' dawnin'---roll up---it's tomorrow alright.
Sergeant Charming's through your thorny slumbers, who bends over sweet Robin's rose cheek.
Morning sergeant---kiss me sergeant.
--David Jones, "In Parenthesis"

Been a slow month, which is to say I haven't wanted to work, and by and large haven't. I did get a short paper on the copyediting project typed up... but the results aren't very good. I've also been working on fixing up the broken software from last month's awful submission, and trying not to be the kind of reviewer who will print everything.
There's been snow twice, which I like to watch and shovel, but mostly followed by warmish days when everything turns to sludge. A few people have been around over the break, leading to the usual games, movies, interminable conversations... My social circle has recovered pretty well from all the graduations, actually.
I'm going to California later in the month to visit Google at their invitation. That should be cool. On the minus side, it isn't really compatible with the Rochester idea, since that was around when I'd planned to go.
This coming semester, I really do need to get my thesis proposed, results or no results. My most recent status report says May is the deadline. Well, if I don't get it done by then, I can't think what I'll have been doing.
Happy new year to all!

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"Listen, Petra, I know whatever I say, you'll always have a dozen answers for me. If this were a high school debate, you'd win, no question. That still doesn't make you right."
--Alan Elsner, "Romance Language"

The above is my Dad's standard argument-ender. I always hated it, since it boils down to "You're so *cute* with your 'reasoning'." Of course, Petra is trying to talk a guy into bed, so the rest of the scene has nothing to do with me. It's odd to see little bits of yourself reflected in a family member's writing-- my dad's using my quiz bowl t-shirts as a metaphor for horrible unattractiveness, for instance, which is fair, I admit. It's a bit like reading your own Securitate dossier and realizing that all these years you've been living with a spy.
If anyone reading this wants to read the book, by the way, I have two copies, so I can lend you one.
Rest of the month-- horribly stressful trying to get the NAACL submission out. All the software turned out to be broken, which is totally my fault. We got the simplest model working again and wrote it all up over Thanksgiving-- Eugene thinks it has a fighting chance. Some reviewers will print anything!
It was nice to be at home for a while even though I had to work... the family's doing pretty well, as are several friends I got a chance to catch up with.
I ran a great 10k this year (42:15 net time) by running fast off the front.. It's the best strategy, but makes you feel like a loser in the back stretch because you're ahead of your proper pace group, so people keep passing you. The time makes up for it though.
Taking things a bit easier this month, trying to fix the stupid software and also write a short paper for ACL in February. Maybe in Jan. I'll have a chance to go to Rochester for a few days.
Hope all reading this are well... merry Christmas, happy Chanukah, good end-of-semester, and for all you atheists with real jobs, Bah Humbug and a happy new year.

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Here let me rest- and snatch myself, while I yet am able, from the fascination of EGOTISM:-a monster who has more votaries than ever did homage to the most popular deity of antiquity; and whose singular quality is, that while he excites a blind and involuntary adoration in almost every individual, his influence is universally disallowed, his power universally contemned, and his worship, even by his followers, never mentioned but with abhorrence.
--Frances Burney, "Evelina"

Through October, I managed to get a moderate amount of work done on various projects-- the one for Eugene's class, the one I have to write for NAACL, the one I have to propose as my thesis, and the stupid journal paper. Unfortunately, I haven't actually *finished* any of them except the journal paper, which hardly counts since Eugene's express instructions were to do as little work on it as possible. Now it's time to work hard and focus. I could accomplish a lot, or I could just miss all the deadlines and end up with nothing. Since I don't think I can graduate this year, at least publishing something would be nice.
The newcomers to the department are all working harder than I am, which doesn't surprise me (classes encourage it, since there's a definite endpoint to each assignment), but they seem to be doing fine. This is good, since by the end of the year, I will be the lone survivor with more than a year's experience in my lab-- it's been confirmed that Mark Johnson, my coadvisor, is going to Australia in January, and his students will probably also leave.
I, by contrast, have managed some hanging out and exercise and so forth this month. It appears that I can still run ten miles if I want to, though I regretted it a bit the morning after, when I was horribly stiff. I also managed a bike ride, since we've had excellent fall weather, although the wind on the bike path was so stiff that I rode over some of the bridges with my feet out of the clips in case the bike blew sideways.
I am planning to go home for Thanksgiving, so if you'll be in town, give me a call. Other than that, I am unsure of my schedule over the winter and might go anywhere (although one possibility is that I'll live like a hermit in Providence trying to do more research).
My father has just published his latest book, "Romance Language", which is set in Romania, partly during the revolution against the Communists and partly in the present day. You can find out more at his website, alanelsner.com .

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And death shall have no dominion.
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.
--Dylan Thomas

End of the first month of the new semester. Research is poised at a balance point... I think if I get just a bit further, several parts of the project could fall into place together, but so far, nothing really impressive has happened. Of course, I can't be sure about the balance point thing-- it could be I'm just stuck.
This has been a month that makes me want to reconnect with friends before I just lose track of everyone. A friend of mine was murdered-- not a close friend, but still someone I wished well. Yet another reminder that the universe isn't ordered so as to give people what they deserve. On Yom Kippur, we read that God saves Jonah and the Ninevites alike-- and they're basically a bunch of jerks. It's the sailors from Tarshish who he would have killed.
I skipped Rosh Hashana this year, though I usually manage to get to services. I signed up for a 5k on the same day by mistake, then figured I'd run it since I paid the fee. I ran 21 flat... felt like I was getting there faster, but apparently that last sprint was longer than it looked. Still a personal best, since my last timed 5k was high school. I'm trying to run with friends a few times a week. Now, if I can keep up training until Thanksgiving, maybe I'll finally better my 10k time.
My lab, and the department, seem to have survived the recent departures of several good friends of mine. (For the second time, I got to throw the doctoral rubber chicken... good times.) Despite missing them, I'm not really at a loss for people to chat with in off-hours or bounce ideas off. More departures are expected, including a member of my thesis committee, if I ever get around to having a thesis committee.
Plans for October: revise journal paper. Get some damn results, so I can make definite plans for the NAACL/ACL deadlines in the winter. Call, email or IM you. Yes, I mean you. But if I don't, feel free to preempt me.

Bowing before the inevitable...

I kept saying I'd get on facebook before the semester started, so now I am. If you read this, you are probably my friend, and should friend me. I plan to use facebook to get party invitations from people who no longer use email, chat with people who no longer use AIM, and keep track of people who no longer inscribe their accomplishments in cuneiform on giant granite obelisks... you know, early adopter types.

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Even the blooming flowers
Will eventually fade.
Even our world
Is not eternal.
The deep mountains of vanity--
Cross them today
And superficial dreams
Shall no longer delude you.
--attr. Kukai, "Iroha" (This is an ancient Japanese poem which contains every character of the Japanese hiragana syllabary exactly once. It was historically used as an ABC. The translation here is from wikipedia.)

So here's the start of yet another semester. Still no results-- my adviser doesn't think I can manage to leave within the year. I'm taking his class, a project-based seminar, which will probably occupy all my time this fall, so I'm also beginning to doubt. It'll be lonely being the last survivor of the lab-- two of the three senior students are already gone, and I know, because I helped pack all their worldly possessions into trailer trucks. There are more losses anticipated as well. We do have two new Phd. students and two masters students incoming-- they seem very enthusiastic, and make me feel cynical and bitter.
This last week, I've been trying to go to lots of orientation events to meet the incoming class for this year. Mostly it's been fun-- the new grads are pretty sociable, and some of my other friends are back from summer jobs and so forth. Some of the newbies already have a veneer of competence, others seem nervous. Outside one's own tiny little specialization, this aura of competence is almost always a combination of cockiness and thinking on one's feet, so I try not to form first impressions based on it. Of course I do anyway. I also met a few attractive single women... if you know me, you know where that will lead.
The days are starting to grow chilly here, although there are a few summery spots left here and there, especially in direct sunlight. It'll probably be true fall before we know it. This happens every year, and I'd like to say I'm not sure where the time goes, but I am-- I waste it doing stupid things that don't matter. I am pretty sure this is what everybody does, even you. You're reading Livejournal, aren't you?

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THE TROLL KING. What is the difference between Trolls and Men?
PEER GYNT. There isn't any, as far as I can gather;
Big Trolls would roast and little ones would claw you
Just as with us if only we dared do it.
THE TROLL KING. True; we're alike in that and other things too.
Still, just as morning's different from evening,
So there's a real difference between us,
And I will tell you what it is. Out yonder
Under the skies men have a common saying:
"Man, to thyself be true!" But here, 'mongst Trolls,
"Troll, to thyself be enough!" it runs.
--Henrik Ibsen, "Peer Gynt"

Thanks to everyone who posted last month-- it seems that people still read this newsletter, and so I'll continue to write it. Not a whole lot to report this month, though. Mainly, this was the month for vacation, though that took a little more doing than it should have. My first attempt, a planned mountain hike with my dad, started off with an ugly family conflict, followed by a bout of the flu which hit me in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. So I had to take the rest of the week off, but sleeping, not hiking. Then the rest of my family got it too. We should all have stayed home. My next try turned out better-- I went home, overlapping my aunt, uncle and cousin from Israel. We did a bunch of Washington-area tourist stuff... I've now inflicted DC's awful weather on my Israeli relatives in summer and winter. Unfortunately, the timing of the trip kind of ruled out hitball for this year.
I keep telling people I'd like to finish in a year. If that's going to happen, I have to get some results soon. Some days this is a difficult proposition to contemplate. At least all three of my graduating labmates are now employed.
My brother's band is in some kind of net-based popularity contest. If you see this in the next few weeks, go to: http://popmontreal.com/en/popthumbs and use the amazingly crappy Flash voting program to vote for True Womanhood (and against everyone else). If they win, they get to go to Canada.

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Subterfuge was by no means a new tactic in Japan. Japanese culture has traditionally assumed that a distinction occurs between "public" or "official" reality (known as tatemae) and "private" truth (known as honne). It was accepted that companies would want to keep "embarrassing" secrets out of public view and LTCB itself had done this before. When the Bank of Japan announced that it was conducting an inspection of LTCB's operations in the early 1990s, for example, the most junior bankers were ordered to pack any "embarrassing" files into boxes and carry them down to a "B3" basement, three floors beneath the bank building, before the inspectors arrived. There they were hidden away in a concrete manhole. "It was an absolute pain", one of the young bankers later recalled. "We went up and down, carrying these heavy boxes, to put them in this manhole thing-- and then when it was all over we had to do it again!"
--Gillian Tett, "Saving the Sun: a Wall Street Gamble to Rescue Japan from its Trillion-Dollar Meltdown"

Seems I missed last month's post due to conference busyness, so there's a lot to cover. I guess the conference itself comes first-- it went pretty well, I think. My paper on named entities got more buzz than I expected, the clustering paper got at least some attention, and it seems there are a few people out there extending my chat work from last year. I also got the chance to hang out with various people, which was productive both research-wise and socially. (The coolest place to eat in Boulder was the Dushanbe tea-house, a tiled building which was apparently donated to the city by the Tajiks. They also had ceviche; Dan Jurafsky had just given a talk tracing the etymology of the word back to a Persian dish of meat in vinegar broth, so we had to order it.) After the conference, David McClosky and I stayed on for a few days to go hiking and be conference volunteers. The hiking was great; Boulder is only a few minutes from the Flatirons, huge slabs of rock that hover over the town and offer a great view. I did get a bit sunburnt though. The volunteering was at least bearable. My main duty was hand around the microphone to people who raised their hands during question period, which is like playing real-life whack-a-mole in a big room full of academics. On our last full day, we went to Garden of the Gods, another bunch of weird rock formations, with some Israeli NLP people. We finished up the trip eating breakfast in the most sought-after brunch place in Denver (we'd failed to get a table the day before, so we knew it was pretty popular).
Since then, I've been working on coreference again. I'm a little nervous that none of it will work-- so far, I've managed to replicate, but not improve, Eugene's results for pronouns using a more flexible type of model.
I'm also trying to get outside, when it's not clammy or raining. Luckily I still remember how to ride a bicycle. And the usual social stuff is ongoing.
What I'm wondering at the moment is if anyone still reads this thing-- it used to be, when I missed a month, at least one person (besides my Dad) would ask me what was happening. If you are reading this, please leave a comment to let me know... even if we haven't talked in a while. If you don't want to leave your name, anonymous is ok, I suppose-- at least it'll give me an idea of the numbers.