Hooboy, have I gotten some interesting questions in the interview meme thread, which I started 28 Jan 2004.
Interview from masteralida of foejournals:
- 1. What do you think would be the best way to encourage more of the best and the brightest to take positions as teachers/instructors, instead of seeking work in technical fields?
Oh, this is a good question. As my recent entry on virtuosity addressed some of the ways that bright and talented young people are discouraged from attaining the level of education sometimes needed to become university instructors, I'm glad you're making me think about the flip side.
I think that incentivizing education with the following (in roughly descending order of priority, IMO) would help:
- discretionary scholarships and teaching assistantships
- merit pay
- training teachers of X, not just X professionals with a little teaching experience on the side
- free training in technology, pedagogical practice (from writing exams to lecturing)
- teacher certifications and awards
- funding for facilities and supplies
- alumni visits: "how Mrs. T inspired me"
Sometimes one voice can ring very loud over all of the above. A little anecdote might serve to convey my point. My youngest uncle was interviewed by Chinese television a few times while at Microsoft Research China (MSRC), and after he came back to the USA. Being the head of a corporate R&D lab, he naturally had to strike a balance between saying it was preferable to stay at a university and earn your undergrad or postgraduate degree, and saying that sometimes it's worth while to defer or even halt your university studies to pursue a dream. (Bill Gates, who famously left Harvard in his junior year, is an example.) Well, the reporters had a field day with the headline "Li Kaifu encourages kids to drop out!" --- which of course was misrepresentative and sensational. Still, the clamor of the crowd can often be drowned out by one person with a megaphone.
- 2. If you weren't in the position you hold now, what could you see yourself doing?
I've always wanted to write science fiction. I have had a little practice, have some intriguing ideas, and think I could make a living at it. I've never worked as a professional scriptwriter or humor columnist before, and I doubt I'd be able to support myself cold turkey in those professions, but I could do them and enjoy them. As a child, I also wanted to be a cartoonist and a stand-up comedian. I have a tiny spark of talent in each, but probably not enough to warrant my quitting my day job. :-)
Becoming a medical doctor was recommended to me a few times, before I turned 10 and decided I wanted to be a computer science professor (researcher and teacher). I did toy with the idea of an M.S./Ph.D. program and weighed it against my original plan of a second Ph.D. in EECE or Math. In the end, I decided to just stick with CS and Mathematical Sciences.
If I weren't in a faculty position here, I'd probably take a year off to travel around the world, starting in Western Europe (3 months) and the Mediterreanean (1-2 months) and moving to East and South Asia (3-4 months) and NZ and Australia (1 month) before ending in South America (1-2 months). Yes, of course I'd have to set foot in Antarctica. ;-)
- 3. Who had the biggest influence on your life and what you decided to do with it?
That would have to be my uncle, whom I've always looked up to, but who was a demigod to me when I was 10.
He gave me a copy of a tech report ("Boltzmann Machines: Constraint Satisfaction Networks That Learn") by Geoff Hinton and Terrence Sejnowski in 1986, when I was 13, and not being able to understand much of it, I decided to learn more math and CS so that I could.
- 4. What is at the top of your 'to-read' list that isn't technical?
The Harry Potter books were at the top, but now it's a mixture of SW (Thrawn, etc.), McCaffrey (Pegasus), Lackey (Mage Storms), Kurtz (original Deryni trilogy #2 and #3), Brooks (new Shannara). Zelazny's Lord of Light and Stephenson's Snow Crash are high up. Then Brin, Varley, Bradley, Tolkien's History of Middle Earth... Outside SF, I'd say a good mystery (Busman's Honeymoon by Sayers, or some of the early Poirot, Dumas or Holmes) would do me some good. I really need to type this list in so that it stabilizes a bit.
- 5. Do you *ever* actually sleep and eat or do you run on adrenaline and chocolate?
I run on desire (ambition), procrastination, and a little healthy fear.
CHOKLIT is optional.
I sleep about 6-7.5 hours a day when I can get it, 4.5-6 when I can't, 1.5-4.5 when I really can't.
I've never actually pulled back-to-back all-nighters, nor gone more than 27 hours without sleep.
I skip meals only to drop weight I gained carelessly during crunch-time snacking.
6. Do you see yourself with a sproglet of your own, as cute as your niece, in the future? ;) (totally optional, of course!)
Cynthia's my cousin, but yes, sure.
I love kids, but producing them usually requires two people, or so people keep telling me. :o)
Let's say, as andrewwyld puts it, that I look forward to assisting someone to have children.
A very nice interview - thanks.
Interview from hempknight of teunc:
- 1. When did you discover that you liked writing parody songs like Weird Al? Was it a gradual process or you just knew you had to?
Two of my close friends in 7th grade were Christian Muly and Todd Kover. We were inseparable, and in fact they were the ones who finally got me to read The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings. Todd and Christian were huge fans of Weird Al Yankovic, and so to have some fun and show off, we all wrote parodies of Christmas songs together. I spent about 4 years (1985-1989) doing this, then lay dormant as a song parodist for about 9-10 years (1989-1999). Then, in 1999, a student named Peter Johnson told me he had started posting crossover humor between the Star Wars universe and Tolkien's Middle-earth to alt.fan.tolkien. After glancing over the thread, I was hooked. I started writing Star Wars parody filks in July, 1999, when I was moving to K-State and a bit bored, and The Red Songbook of Westmarch later that year, and I've never looked back, as the saying goes.
- 2. The mandatory teunc question. Why did you join?
Peter's summer, 1999 thread and a follow-up I titled Pulp Silmarils introduced me to some relatively new posters in alt.fan.tolkien named Mia Kalogjera, Adam Barnard, and Warren Crowhurst. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that these people were mutual fans of O. Sharp's Tolkien Sarcasm Page. Mia (then already known to many as jereeza) eventually invited me into TEUNC by asking "why aren't you in TEUNC?". I couldn't think of a good answer. That's why I'm still there.
- 3. As a scientist and a religious person (by upbringing if none other) at the same time how do you reconcile the two?
Um, "very carefully"? With careful thought, at any rate. A satisfactory reponse to this would require several very length posts in their own right, not to mention hundreds or thousands of comment follow-ups. Faith and science address nearly orthogonal issues and human needs. I see no reason why they cannot normally co-exist, for the most part. I am not a "seven day" creationist, but I personally view the phenomenon of divine creation of the cosmos as the origin - directly or indirectly - of life, sentience, and humankind. To me, the creation account of the Judeo-Christian Genesis is "compatible with" our observation of the mechanistic properties of the universe. This compatibility fades with increasing degrees of literal, fundamentalist interpretation of origin stories, but for me it's important to just admit that there are alternative interpretations when it comes to cosmology - and doctrinal issues, for that matter. But that's another discussion, for another time.
- 4. Why did you pull me into the LJ thing? You bastard! I hate you!
Hah! Silly Maggie!
I have you too!
And now you are in the vile clutches of LJ and will never, ever, ever escape!
- 5. If you were not doing what you are doing now, what other profession you think you would have ended up in?
Hm, this seems to be a popular question.
I would refer you to my answer to masteralida's second question above, but as the communist interrogator in The Last Emperor said: "Now then, there are two types of confession. We call them toothpaste and water tap. The toothpaste prisoner needs to be squeezed every now and then, or else he forgets to keep confessing. The water tap man needs one good hard twist before he starts.
But then everything comes out. Now, you're an intelligent person. I'm sure you understand me..."
Now, exsqueezen mesa.
Besides SF humor (which I have some small talent for), SF writing (on which the jury is still out), and cartooning (which is just a hobby to me now), I did once seriously consider becoming a surgeon. I don't think I'd have been nearly as happy, nor as true to myself: the tronkie mindset and the doctor mindset are not usually consonant in American culture. Also, back when I was a child of about 6 to 8, I was a very zealous fundamentalist and a creationist. Adults and children both speculated that I should become a minister, but I didn't really feel the calling. Also, you might be surprised at this next one, but I toyed with the idea of becoming a political activist in Asia when I was 13-15. I was a right little 1337 h@><0r back then, as you are, and wanted to do things that would have had me spending some quality time in Ye Olde Tannic Acid Spa and Resort of Manchuria had I actually gotten caught in flagrante delicto. Since then, I've mellowed a bit, but I still do have political opinions, which I'll gladly share if anyone cares to ask.
What other alternative jobs have I considered? Read on... :-)
A novel, eclectic, and thought-provoking interview. Thank you.
Interview from scionofgrace of teunc
- 1. What do you like best about teaching?
Haipeng Guo, my first Ph.D. graduate, asked me this in 2001 when we were at IJCAI-2001 together. We were having an after-dinner conversation at the hotel when he explained that he was still undecided on whether he wanted to become a teacher (as opposed to a pure researcher). Here's what I told him:
- Making a difference rocks. For me, it's all about actually sending out people who will have a strongly positive effect on the world, whether as practitioners or as teachers in their own right. (Oh, yes, I was really "laying it on" Haipeng. ;-))
- It takes a (good) teacher to make one. A lot of teachers glow about that spark of understanding in students' eyes, and the satisfaction they feel when students can answer questions and pose their own - showing that they have acquired or improved their ability to think independently about the subject. As you probably know by now, I'm an idealist; I really like that feeling, too, but what lets me sleep well at night is knowing that that spark is being propagated by people whom I had some small hand in helping to become teachers.
- Like academic research, academic advising at the university level affords some measure of intellectual freedom. To a limited extent, one can focus on one's own areas of strength and interests. One can also concentrate on areas of strong impact, in terms of benefits to the local undergrad and grad education programs, the research community, and finally society at large. Finally, within reasonable limits, one as some flexibility in setting one's own working hours. :-)
Oh, and Haipeng is a postdoctoral research scientist at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology now. Soon he will start his faculty career. :-D
- 2. Which teuncs have you met in real life (assuming you have, of course)? Who would you like to meet?
I have met sui_degeneris (the dragonk), Laurie Campos (the Nazgul), and Count Menelvagor (the Balrog) on 20 May 2003. You can read my brief account of DCMoot 2003 here and here. There are photos to be had for the teunc who asks.
On another occasion (03 Oct 2003, I met darana and phawkwood before they became TEUNCs. They drove 3 hours out from Missouri to come visit me in Manhattan, KS! I do wish I had more leisure time to travel outside of conferences. Even the DCMoot was logistically timed to coincide with one of my visits to the National Science Foundation.
To answer your ancillary question: I would like to meet every teunc, no question about it. I've been waiting longest to meet Oje, MOM, jereeza, and tamf. In order, the next TEUNCs I'm probably going to meet are: istari_ala (who is moving to K-State to take a systems administration and development position in my lab); gondhir, who will doubtless travel here to visit; and deire and octaviakrysk. (That's if I can get my students into cryofreeze and join the Forces of The Empire folks at a convention - a big if).
3. If you could live anywhere (real), where would it be? Why?
4. What got you interested in computers?
5. George Lucas hires you for a cameo in Episode III. What part do you play?
Interview from jereeza of teunc
Interview from aricadavidson of foejournals
[Questions requested, to be posted]
Interview from gondhir of teunc
[Questions requested, to be posted]
Interview from oxbastetxo of foejournals
Interview from elfaddict of foejournals:
[Questions requested, to be posted]
Interview from kissmyascii of thekcfunbunch (asked via AIM)
Interview from ldymlissa of foejournals
Interview from darana of foejournals
Interview from phawkwood of foejournals:
[Questions to be requested]
Interview from queenmidalah of foejournals:
[Questions to be requested]