Archive for January, 2008

Pittsburgh Perl Workshop

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

I meant to write up the Pittsburgh Perl Workshop when I was there in October but didn’t get round to it. Mint has been writing about it lately, which reminded me that I hadn’t.

(This is only the second Perl Workshop I have been to and I haven’t been able to work out why they are called workshops. To me this implies something more practical with an exchange of information and not a series of presented talks.)

Pittsburgh isn’t exactly close to Tokyo but it was a good opportunity to catch up with some friends.

Sometimes things can be a bit chaotic at a grass roots event but this workshop was very well organised and there seemed to be very little that the organisers hadn’t thought of in advance. It wasn’t the first workshop they had put on and it showed. Like most Perl Workshops the event was inexpensive and great value for money. Given the low cost I was really surprised by how much food was provided. Breakfast and lunch were served at the venue. They also provided snacks on the Friday night before the workshop, dinner on the Saturday night and a beer at the end of the conference on Sunday night.

The event was held on the Carnegie Mellon University campus and the rooms were all an excellent size. This is always a hard thing to get right at conferences as you don’t know when you are booking how many people are likely to turn up. It was also within walking distance of shops and restaurants – which I think is very important for a conference. I don’t find it as enjoyable attending conferences when I am stuck on a university campus outside the city.

I didn’t attend many of the talks, as I ended up helping out at the registration desk, but I did chat to lots of the attendees. It was noticeable that some of them were not at all interested in the “Perl Community” and were much more interested in learning how to do things with Perl. This meant that some of the attendees I spoke to found the opening keynotes dull as neither the Perl Survey nor Perl Mongers were of interest to them. This made me realise that the workshops are different than the YAPC conferences. At first a workshop looks just like a mini YAPC but at a YAPC there is much more talk about “community” and people do want to know what it happening within the community and with organisations like TPF.

After the 2006 Pittsburgh Perl Workshop the organisers ran a survey, as they wanted to know what they could improve for 2007. One of these things was more teaching for beginners to the language and in 2007 they ran a one-day tutorial to do just that. YAPCs do run talks for beginners but they also have to cater for the very experienced Perl programmers who attend year after year. Marty and I gave a talk for beginners about CPAN at YAPC::Europe 2006 and in the audience we had some of the most prolific CPAN authors. I remember looking round the room to see if there was anyone there who hadn’t already released modules on CPAN. I imagine if I had given the same talk at Pittsburgh that the audience would actually have been full of the sort of people the original talk was aimed at.

Mint pointed out another difference in the workshop: the fact that there was a higher percentage of students in attendance than there was at YAPC::NA. As he mentioned, both conferences took place at universities, although YAPC::NA was held in the summer, but the workshop appeared to encourage student attendance more by reducing the cost for students.

I’m sure I had more to say about the workshop but his post already feels too long to me. Maybe, if I get to attend again this year, I’ll try to write things up a lot sooner.

Travel in 2008

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

I should really start to work on my travel plans for 2008. There are a number of conferences that I hope to attend as well as some family events I want to go to. At the minute I am planning on attending the following:


Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Marty has just pointed out to me that the venue for YAPC::Asia is within walking distance of our apartment. This surprised me as the Tokyo Institute of Technology is supposedly really big and I have never seen it. Seems I need to go exploring.

This will be good news for our house guest.

Brain Confusion

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

I have been watching the animated picture that Marty mentioned. And it’s been driving me mad. It kept changing direction on me and I couldn’t work out why until I realised I was being distracted by the television – both by the sound and the subtitles.

Quiet Rain

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

I could hear the cars drive through wet streets this morning. I could hear water dripping from the steps and pipes of the building next door. But I couldn’t hear the rain. Marty got me up to look out the balcony window as the quiet rain was the first snow fall in Tokyo since we moved to Japan.

Great Buddha – Kamakura

Saturday, January 19th, 2008

Great Buddha - Kamakura

We went to one of my favourite places today.

Too Cold

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

I was thinking today that I am glad that it doesn’t get really cold in Tokyo as I don’t want to spend the whole day shivering under a blanket. But then I realised that if it did get really cold in Tokyo then maybe apartments would be fitted with central heating and it wouldn’t be so cold in here. It may actually be colder in the bathroom than it is outside. I tried to take the temperature in there but my house thermometer doesn’t record temperatures under 10 degrees C so I still don’t know what the temperature is – just that it’s cold.

Cultural Difference: thoughts on Holland

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

As my Dutch step-sister is arriving on Thursday my Japanese lesson drifted towards the subject of “Holland”. My teacher wanted to know a little about Holland and Amsterdam and was completely horrified when I mentioned drugs, the red light district and prostitution. Her thoughts on Holland centre around cheese, tulips and windmills. She has never heard of the concept of a “dutch coffee shop” and thought I was joking when I said that cannabis products could be bought in one of these.

I think I have totally destroyed her romantic thoughts about the country.

Bed But No Breakfast

Monday, January 14th, 2008

At the end of 2007 the shops were full of cute little rodents to celebrate the fact that 2008 is the year of the rat (although since everything here was so cute it looked more like the year of the mouse.) This year for us it’s going to be the year of the guest – as so far 11 people are due to stay and we are expecting more to arrange flights later on in the year.

Don’t read too much into the fact that I am writing about guests and rats in the same paragraph as the main reason I remember rats is that I am one.

Defining Collocates

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

Now that Marty has made the decision that he will write a simple Perl script to pull collocates out of data for me I need to give him a more precise specification of a collocate. Carmen Dayrell wrote a paper on “A quantitative approach to compare collocation patterns in translated and non-translated texts” which contains a detailed section on how to decide what a collocate is.

The first step is to work out which words should be taken as nodes – but as I am interested in specific nodes, like the word “Perl”, I will not be doing this. Then we need to decide how we will define a collocate. Dayrell suggests that the collocations should occur at least 4 times to be significant with a span of up to 4 words on either side of the node. Structural boundaries in the text should also be ignored.

While Marty does this I am going to read the work that Church and Hanks did on word association norms and mutual information to see if any of that will help me get better results.