Michigan

Tony Rosenthal, 1914 -- 2009

Michigan Today has a slideshow tribute to Tony Rosenthal, abstract artist and sculptor, who passed away this July. A Michigan alum, I know of him primarily from his Rosenthal Cubes, a pair of identical 15-foot cubes called Endover and Alamo. Endover is located near on Central Campus in Ann Arbor, while Alamo is located at Astor place in Manhattan, New York.

I think the difference between the two is that the New York cube has a platform and is a little harder to spin (yes, I’ve spun both!). I still find it amazing that the 41-year old sculptures are fully functional despite being exposed to the elements for so long.

PrivatePond: Outsourced Management of Web Corpuses

This paper was presented at WEBDB 2009 at Providence, Rhode Island. The PDF version is available here.

My colleague from the database research group Dan Fabbri just presented our work, “PrivatePond” at WEBDB 2009. This paper is a clear example of the research environment at Michigan. Dan works on database security, while I work on database search. Given that we sit across each other at the lab, there is always a constant amount of crosstalk. Add in a few brainstorming sessions and a few work-intense weekends, and you have a secure database search paper!

The core idea of the paper is simple. Everybody uses Google (or Yahoo! or Bing). They’re fast, they’re easy to use, and they’re free. Now let’s say you had some secure information, like your prescription information from your psychiatrist. Obviously you don’t want Google to know about it, because they can do bad, bad things with it. So you encrypt it. But you still want it to be searchable. But you can’t search encrypted data! So what do we do?

Enter PrivatePond. Basically, we’re encrypting private data just enough that its possible to search with decent ranking, while still keeping it secure.

We call this the “Secure Indexable Representation”, and we study how increasing the encryption decreases the quality of search, and vice versa.

Update: We actually have a demo of our system. If you would like to see it, please contact me!

Here are the slides for the talk:

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My year in cities, 2008

This year was less crazy than last year . Nonetheless, here is a list of cities I have visited in the year 2008:

  • Seattle (+Bellevue +Redmond)
  • Traverse City, MI
  • Los Angeles
  • Las Vegas
  • Mumbai
  • Delhi
  • Kolkata
  • Fairfield, CA
  • San Francisco
  • Mountain View, CA

And of course, home snowy home:

  • Ann Arbor, MI

Here’s wishing all my dear readers a wonderful and happy new year ahead!

First Day at Microsoft Research

And so it begins; yet another crazy summer, this time at the world’s largest Computer Science department outside of a university. Today was my first day of my internship with the Database Group at MSR. Some lessons and observations:

  • MS Recruiting is a refined and well-oiled machine. HR departments everywhere should learn from them.
  • Apparently it rains in June in Redmond. That’s ALL of June. Every single hour. So much for the picture-perfect weather I saw a couple weeks ago. As my mentor put it, “That was the demo”.
  • Seattle traffic is rather well behaved. Being a driving newbie making millions of driving-etiquette faux paus per second during rush hour would have got me into serious trouble in Michigan.
  • You will shake hands with luminaries. Many of them. In a span of 10 minutes. Try not to jump around and look like a giggling preteen.
  • This one’s important: Before you start working for Microsoft, it is advisable to at least try using Windows. Going from a life completely devoid of Internet Exploder or LookOut Express into a world where EVERYTHING carries the Microsoft logo, is not ideal for the brain. My eyes literally had trouble focusing for the first few hours. Running a Vista / Outlook / IE / Studio stack after an elegantly simple life in unix-land is like jumping from a well-oiled bicycle into the cockpit of a thundering fighter jet.
  • “Google” is not a verb. Live Search. Live Maps. Live Live Live!

reaching out

  • Russel Davies painted his laptop to work as a blackboard. I think the acrylic casing for the iBook makes an excellent whiteboard too.
  • Friend and mentor Cong Yu just got an honorable mention in the SIGMOD Dissertation Award:
    …Two other nominees receive Honorable Mention recognizing their outstanding work on theoretical foundations and development of algorithms with great impact on important practical problems: Cong Yu, for his dissertation on “Managing Complex Databases in a Schema Management Framework” at the University of Michigan, and, Nilesh Dalvi, for his dissertation on “Managing Uncertainty Using Probabilistic Databases” at the University of Washington.

    It’s interesting to see the hiring trends : the Award was won by now-MSR researcher Ariel Fuxman. Nilesh and Cong are both Yahoo! Researchers.

  • Natalie Du Toit’s “wonderful story of courage, determination, discipline, hopes and dreams”, becoming the first amputee to qualify for the Olympics.
  • It’s not every day that the White House asks you to become a Vampire Slayer.

fictionews

In the light of the American Media Machine, I find this article very disturbing:

When University of Michigan social psychologist Norbert Schwarz had volunteers read the CDC flier, however, he found that within 30 minutes, older people misremembered 28 percent of the false statements as true. Three days later, they remembered 40 percent of the myths as factual.

Younger people did better at first, but three days later they made as many errors as older people did after 30 minutes. Most troubling was that people of all ages now felt that the source of their false beliefs was the respected CDC.

I’m really looking forward to the day when they’ll have a “Top Story” about how eating organic food inside hybrid vehicles causes certain chemical reactions in the food that trigger “bouts of homosexuality”.

The Big House

I’ve been going to the home games this season, thought I’d post pictures. It should be noted that The Big House (the nickname for the Michigan Stadium) is the largest American football stadium and the fifth largest stadium in the world.

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snowing already

Holy iceflakes! It’s snowing already in Michigan! Kaushik has a cool photo :)

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rahman in michigan

…along with Sekar, Kailash Kher, and Vasundhara Das! At Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti. Poster, Press Release, and (expensive) Tickets.

I’d love to go, but it’s right when my finals are, and the tickets are forbiddingly expensive anyway.

mit's U of M hack

University of Michigan at Cambridge.

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