[I]f U.S. companies can go online to outsource their programming, why can't U.S. computer students outsource their homework -- which, after all, often involves writing sample programs? Scruples aside, no reason at all. Search for "homework" in the data base of Rent A Coder projects, and you get 1,000 hits....
Indeed, some programming students appear to be outsourcing their way through college. "Pascal Rookie," from Colorado Springs, Colo., has put five school projects to bid. And while he may be a plagiarist, at least he treats his helpers well: Mr. Rookie has received the highest marks possible for a buyer in the eBay-like rating system used by Rent A Coder. "A pleasure to work with him," said one....
Coming as I do from a long-ago era when elaborate stories were required to explain academic underachievement -- tragic passings of beloved relatives; life-and-death emergencies involving close friends -- I was struck by how today's cheaters often don't even bother to invent an excuse.
"This is a fairly simple program," wrote "Goradia" of Sammamish, Wash. "It is my homework, but since I am busy, I want someone to do this for me."
Take solace, Goradia: With an attitude like that, combined with a programming marketplace like today's, after college, you'll never be busy again.
QANTAS chairman Margaret Jackson was suspected of being a terrorist and frisked during a visit to the US last year. The airport security guard who checked her was reluctant to believe that a woman could be the head of an airline.
Mrs Jackson said yesterday her briefcase was searched after she went through a security check at Los Angeles airport.
Among her documents were detailed plans of new aircraft, including cross-section diagrams showing seat layouts.
"The guy said 'Why have you got all of this?'," she told the Herald Sun.
"And I said, 'I'm the chairman of an airline. I'm the chairman of Qantas'. And this black guy, who was, like, eight foot tall, said, 'But you're a woman'."....
After proving her identity, Mrs Jackson produced paper with her letterhead on it and wrote a note to the guard, whose name was Bill.
"And I wrote, 'Dear Bill, this is from the chairman of Qantas, who is a woman'."
[PFS Inc. president Mary] Rich remembers attending the National Computer Conference (NCC), a now-defunct computer convention, where the male attendees outnumbered the female ones by a ratio of 300 to 1. Convention officials as well as hotel staffs were extremely suspicious of single women, Rich said. Women were often suspected of being prostitutes trying to solicit show attendees. Rich said she once tried to go to the hotel room of a colleague for a drink only to be kicked out by security when trying to get in an elevator.
Rich, who co-chaired the 1986 NCC with another woman, said that as recently as three years ago one of the primary concerns was how women were being treated at the show. `We still had problems with security not believing [the credentials of] women trying to get onto the show floor,' she said [LaPlante 1989].
When visitors to Walmart.com requested "Planet of the Apes: The Complete TV Series" on DVD, four other movies were recommended under the heading "Similar Items." Those films included "Martin Luther King: I Have A Dream/Assassination of MLK" and "Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson."
While I'm firmly against racism, I have some sympathy for Wal-Mart, as I've written and deployed an automated recommender system, which had its share of humorous results, although fortunately no offensive ones that I'm aware of.
This also brings to mind Jeffrey Zaslow's classic Wall Street Journal article, What to Do When Your TiVo Thinks You're Gay.
I've long had an interest in social networking and have been happy to work on orkut at Google. I finally got permission from ACM to post a paper I co-authored about orkut: Evaluating Similarity Measures: A Large-Scale Study in the Orkut Social Network, which describes research I did with fellow Googlers Mehran Sahami and Orkut Buyukkokten. While the paper would only be of interest to computer scientists (especially working in recommender systems, data mining, and collaborative filtering), I also described the highlights in a non-technical manner in Too Much Information, an occasional column for orkut media:
Last spring, orkut began providing related community recommendations, which are displayed on the bottom-right side of community pages. They were generated automatically based on common community membership. For example, since many of the same people belonged to both The Simpsons! and South Park, links to each community were displayed on the other community's page. Some of the associations were amusing. For example, there was a link from C++ (a computer programming language) to What's she trying to say? (a community for men who don't understand women). Another interesting relation was between Chocolate and PMS.
If you weren't around for the 1986 claim that an unmarried forty-year-old woman had a greater chance of being killed by a terrorist than getting married (which turned out not to be true), here's a new horror story. According to a recent column (soon to be a book) by feminist Maureen Dowd:
"A 2005 report by researchers at four British universities indicated that a high I.Q. hampers a woman's chance to marry, while it is a plus for men. The prospect for marriage increased by 35 percent for guys for each 16-point increase in I.Q.; for women, there is a 40 percent drop for each 16-point rise."
This factoid (which I predict will also be shown untrue) would have been terrifying to me before I went to college, where I found that smart women are very much in demand. (Actually, I'd already found that out at high school math club.) Among heterosexuals I've known in CS, many brilliant men have been unsuccessful at finding partners, while almost all of the women who want to be appear happiliy partnered.
[Note: An earlier version of this post listed some of my current and past employers (MIT, Microsoft, and Google) as places where heterosexual women were likelier than men to be partnered. I realized, though, that I can't back up that claim. It could just be that my female co-workers are more likely than male ones to share information with me about their romantic status, and I falsely assume that men who don't say anything are unpartnered and women who don't say anything are satisfied with their relationship status. I should stick to quantitative science.]
Nevertheless, after reading the above article, I felt grateful to be married, which my high IQ should supposedly preclude (although I consider IQ tests bogus). If it's on the Internet, it must be true.
- "I know it's tempting, but you should never lick a soldering iron."
- [In lecture on character encoding:] "Why do we use Unicode if ASCII was good enough for Jesus?"
- [When a student's cell phone rings:] "Could one of you leap on that to save your comrades."
- "For homework, eat a stick of butter."
- "Don't anthropomorphize computers. They don't like it."
- "We didn't have GUIs back then. We had to use the command line, like animals."
- "I know my sense of humor can be strange, so please let me know if anything I say offends you. You can put a note under my door, a rock through my window..."
This is the first of a series of posts about my life as a professor. Back in 1997, I had an exhaustive and exhausting job search, which I wrote up as Tips for a Massive Academic Job Search. (A more interesting title that I considered was "The Only Job Search Guide that Advises You to Call Prospective Employers in the Middle of the Night and Tells You What to Do If Your Mucus is Green".) The complete document is likely only of interest to people looking for academic jobs, so I'll only give a summary and some highlights here.
I interviewed at both research universities and liberal arts colleges because I wasn't sure which environment I'd prefer. This was unusual for an MIT student, almost all of whom go to research universities or industry. When I first mentioned an interest in a top liberal arts college, my then advisor reacted by telling me he was sure I could find a job at a research university. He didn't understand that watching him and the other junior faculty at MIT made me question that goal. Specifically, I saw how stressed assistant professors were, having to work all the time and worrying about whether to get tenure, and how women in particular had to choose between children and tenure.
A question I asked all junior faculty was what hours they worked. I ruled out one research university when a professor answered, "This week I've been getting up at 6:30 [AM] and going home at 2 AM, but this is an unusually tough week. Normally, I go home at 1 AM."
I liked to ask administrators whether any women who became a mother while on the tenure-track had gotten tenure. When no data was available on that, I would sometimes ask about the retention of female faculty. Of course, nobody told me that I couldn't get tenure if I had a baby. One president said, "I don't see why that would be a problem. That's just three months out of six years." (Presumably, he would have told a prospective father that it's just fifteen minutes.) While it's good to ask administrators questions, you should take their answers with a grain of salt. For example, it's fun to ask administrators how important teaching is ("very important") and to report the answer back to professors, giving them a good laugh.
I accepted an offer from Mills College, a women's liberal arts college near San Francisco. Even though Mills is considered less prestigious than many of the research universities I interviewed at, I felt I would be happier somewhere I wouldn't have to neglect or exploit my students. Instead, I'd be rewarded for what I considered important: high-quality teaching, encouraging girls and women in computer science, and remaining an active researcher, although not necessarily overseeing large projects or grants. I'll write about how things turned out at Mills in later entries, but the short answer is that I'm still there. :-)
I'm not sure I can legitimately call my own writing beyond satire, but here are some excerpts from a set of laptop computer mini-reviews I did for Glamour (November 2004):
[Complaint about bargain laptop:] "If I wanted to lug around an extra 7.5 pounds, I'd still be eating dessert."
[About the Apple iBook G4:] "Like my ideal mate, this iBook is attractive and rugged, with an artistic side."
They cut this line from my review of the top-of-the-line PowerBook:
Whenever I looked up from changing the world on this powerful computer, I pretended that I was the one attracting admiring stares, but I knew it was the PowerBook.
My recent use of scare quotes ("patriot") reminded me of some work I did a while back on automatic recognition of insulting messages. I believe I was the first person to write (or at least publish about) flame recognition software. For a humorous account, see "Of Flames, Fan Mail, and Software That Can Tell the Difference" (published in The Chronicle of Higher Education). I'm proud to say the work was also mentioned in Maledicta: The International Journal of Verbal Aggression.
For the boring technical details, see:
"Smokey: Automatic Recognition of Hostile Messages", Innovative Applications of Artificial Intelligence (IAAI) '97.
I recently bought a container of Dannon yogurt whose label cheerfully proclaimed: "Room in every cup for your favorite mix-in". Apparently, they now put 6 instead of 8 ounces of yogurt in the same-sized container for the same price. It never ceases to amaze and amuse me how marketers tout shortcomings as features.
I guess I shouldn't complain, since my own industry launched the phrase, "That's not a bug -- it's a feature" [definition 6]. Consider the iPod Shuffle advertising, which presents the lack of an LCD screen as a feature (supporting randomness). (If you'd like to reduce randomness and are a computer scientist, try the Martin Shuffle.)
Years ago, when shopping for a diamond with the man who is now my husband, I was amused to learn than a flaw in a diamond is called a feature. I hoped to see a diamond with a gnat on it, which would let me exclaim, "That's not a feature -- that's a bug".