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Last Saturday (May 15) was “μŠ€μŠΉμ˜λ‚ ”, “Teacher’s Appreciation Day” in Korea. In the US, college and graduate students don’t do anything special for that day. It’s mostly a preschool to high school teachers’ day. After all, college “professors” are not really teachers in the commonly used sense of the word.

So I was pretty surprised to see many of my colleagues receive flowers and other gifts from their graduate students on Friday. Taesik was treated to lunch by his students and brought home a box of chocolate (and I ate ~90% of it). And as I saw some Twitter messages saying “I got these flowers from my students”, I was pretty jealous, I have to say. πŸ™‚ At the same time, I wondered what it all means. Do Korean students feel more appreciative of their graduate advisors’? Do the advisors take on more responsibilities, other than purely academic advice, for their students?

There are definitely cultural differences between the American and Korean advisor-student relationships. Certainly the language shows clear differences. American graduate students (at least in computer science) address their advisors by first name. In Korea, my students call me “Professor”. Students use an honorific form of the language to their advisors, and the advisors do not. I feel that the formality of the language acts as a barrier against really open discussions and exchanges of idea between the student and the advisor. In general, the Korean advisor-student relationship seems much more vertical, and hence, I think, the ballyhoo on teacher’s day.

Anyway, as I was pondering these thoughts, I felt relieved that my students did not shower me with flowers and presents. I felt that I am not really a “teacher” to my graduate students, as they seem to teach me more than I teach them. I also felt that I don’t really deserve the label “teacher” yet, since I have not graduated any students, and in perhaps ten years, by the time I have produced a few Ph.D.s, I will feel more deserving of the label “teacher”.

But as I walked into my office this morning, I found flowers and balloons on my desk, and messages of appreciation and love on my board. And all my “deep” thoughts about what it means to be a teacher just disappeared into the cloud. I am just enjoying the flowers, and most of all, the love of my students. πŸ™‚ As I read somewhere in Twitter this morning, people crave power because ultimately, power brings them love and attention. I hope that my students love me not only because I have the powers to sign or deny their theses, but because they truly appreciate what I try to do.

I love my students. πŸ™‚


I got back from CHI 2010. It was a great conference! I will write another post about the interesting research I saw there, but first, here’s a post about people I met, which is probably the best part about attending a conference.

(I am sure I left out more than a few here. Please remind me!)

Old Friends

Krzysztof Gajos (Harvard)
Christine Alvarado (Harvey Mudd)

Jaime Teevan (Microsoft Research)
Rob Miller (MIT CSAIL)

Max Van Kleek (MIT CSAIL)

Aaron Adler (MIT CSAIL)

Maurice Chu (PARC)

Frank Bentley (Motorola)

Tracy Hammond (Texas A&M)

Stuart Schechter (Microsoft Research)
Jaeyeon Jung (Intel Research)
Taemie Kim (MIT Media Lab)
Erik Stolterman (Indiana University)

New Faces

Jimmy Lin (Google)
Greg Little (MIT CSAIL)
Elena Agapie (Harvard)

Hiroshi Ishii (MIT Media Lab)
Ed Chi (PARC)
Gene Golovchinsky (FX Pal)
Miles Efron (UIUC)
Julia Grace (IBM Almaden)
danah boyd (MSR New England)
Shamsi Iqbal (Microsoft Research)
Joan DiMicco (IBM Cambridge)
Michael Bernstein (MIT CSAIL)

It was great meeting you all, and I look forward to seeing you at CHI 2011 (or sooner).

Spring semester is starting!

There has been much change since my last post, over a year ago…

The biggest change in my life is the birth of my second child.

He’s certainly a bundle of joy!

Unlike our daughter, who is very cautious, thinks deeply, and takes a while warming up to new faces, this baby seems very happy all the time, even with new faces.

It’s a bit challenging to manage time with a newborn, second grader, and a more-than-full-time job as a tenure-track junior faculty, but I am very very lucky to have my parents helping out with our two kids. Very grateful indeed!

Good luck to all academics, faculty and students, starting a new semester!

Here is an interesting site I found called It has a number of academic videos, sort of like academic channels (e.g. UC Berkeley channel) on YouTube, but this site has academic videos from many institutions and individuals. Also, it seems to have partnered with conferences (e.g., NIPS) and university programs (e.g., OpenCourseWare from MIT) to put together many many academic lectures on-line.Β  Like YouTube, this site seems to let users post their own videos. I am not sure how (and whether) they verify the (academic) quality of the videos. Here is one of the shortest videos I could find so that you can have a taste.

Artificial intelligence: An instance of Aibo ingenuity
by Michael Littman

It’s been a looooong time since I’ve posted on this blog. I’ve been busy, among other things, playing with my new MacBook Air. πŸ™‚

One of the coolest things about the new MacBook lineup is the updated multi-touch. Now I can use 3, or even 4!!! fingers to manipulate within and between applications.

Firefox, my browser of choice so far, has a beta version, Firefox 3.1 Beta 2, which supports multi-touch. So I can use 3-finger swipe motion to go back, forward, top of page, bottom of page, and use two-finger motions to zoom in & out, and piching/twisting motions to switch tabs. All you MacBook users, you MUST try it out!

Try using Google’s new feature, “SearchWiki”, where you can promote or remove a search result. You have to be logged into your google account to do the promotion/removal, and the action will only affect your search results. But your action will show up as part of the community comments when other people view the results you have promoted/removed.

**Alas, it did not work for my Google Korea search results, I had to switch to English Google to see the effect.

Read this google post for a bit more information.

Tomorrow is my birthday!

I would like to urge *EVERYONE* (yes, that’s YOU!!!) to leave me a short birthday wish.

I just want to know who my readers are (though you don’t have to reveal your identity).

There aren’t that many readers, partly because I haven’t been blogging for very long, and I have not been active in visiting other blogs. But lately I’ve been getting at least a dozen views per day, more on days when I make a new posting.

Let’s see if this experiment works.

a friendly photo to encourage comments

a friendly photo to encourage comments. πŸ™‚

Today is the Presidential Election Day in the US. Since I don’t live there anymore, I feel a little aloof, but I have a strong preference for one candidate over the other, so I am following it very closely.

Here is something the New York Times is doing. “What one word describes your state of mind?” And they tally it up for the three categories: everyone, McCain supporters, Obama supporters. They use visualization techniques similar to tag clouds, where they put the most popular words in big letters, and the less popular ones in smaller letters. For the McCain supporter words, they use red font, for the Obama supporters, they use blue font.

It’s a hint that people outside of research are picking up on the trend of caring about emotion language on the Web. It’s pretty cool, check it out!

What one word describes your state of mind?


This blog will serve as a communication platform for me to have dialogs with myself and with others who may be interested in my musings.

I will try, though I cannot guarantee that I will succeed, to restrict the contents to those related to my research topics. Since they will appear frequently in the form of acronyms, I shall list them here:

AI: artificial intelligence

HCI: human-computer interaction

NLP: natural language processing

CS: computer science

UI: user interface

UX: user experience

IR: information retrieval

I welcome and invite everyone to join me in the dialogs.

Welcome to This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!