Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Oxford Murders

Want to read a murder mystery with a mathematical twist? "The Oxford Murders", by Guillermo Martinez is a nice one (apparently, the movie is coming out next year).

A series of murders is happening in Oxford, tangentially involving people in the math department there. Supposedly, there is a mathematical series underlying the murders, and a couple of mathematicians are trying to figure it out before the series goes too far. A very nice and rather quick read.

VLDB 2007 Trip

I just came back from VLDB 2007 in Vienna and from giving a 2-day data integration course at the University of Aalborg, Denmark.

Traveling in Europe is always fun. I find it much more relaxing to assume (with some loss of accuracy) that the Euro and the American dollar are about equal in value. It seems more affordable this way. I've never been to Vienna -- a very nice place to visit. After spending 5 days there, I had 5 schnitzels (a favorite childhood dish of mine) and a large but finite number of Viennese cakes & tortes. Fortunately, I did have the opportunity to go for a couple of jogs while there, so am still able to fit into my clothes.

In Aalborg I gave a course on data integration. This was the first time I gave lectures based on the first few chapters of the book I'm writing with Zack and AnHai. The energetic students in Aalborg helped me debug the slides and the presentation, and overall it was a great experience. Though I knew this before, the database group in Aalborg is a very strong one and doing some exciting work (I was initially surprised to see that all the rooms in the department were labeled DatalogI, but then I was told this means computer science in Danish). My host, Christian Jensen, was very kind, and after making sure I got my exercise, took me up the coast to some very charming towns.

VLDB was very interesting. Yet again, I was pleased to see a lot of work going on in the area of data integration, uncertain data, web, etc. I attended two excellent tutorials: Adaptive Query Processing by Zack Ives and Amol Deshpande, and on Probabilistic Graphical Models and their application to data management, by Sunita Sarawagi and ... Amol Deshpande.

The high point of the conference was no doubt the video shown during the 10-year best paper award talk by Surajit Chaudhuri and Vivek Narasayya. The extremely hilarious video showed Surajit giving a demo of Auto-Admin along side Bill Gates during Gates' keynote at SIGMOD 1998. To put it nicely, the video showed Surajit's ability to mask certain unexpected mishaps during the demo and make it all appear to go extremely smoothly.

A few words on DBclips. Everyone I speak to says it's an excellent idea. However, so far, very few people created them for their papers. Since Luna posted the DBclip on our paper less than 2 weeks ago, it's already received over 180 views. Need I say more?

There are simply too many interesting talks and other events going on in parallel during most conferences. There is no way anyone can make it to all the talks of interest to them. Sadly, even people with the best intentions will not have time to diligently go through the proceedings and read all the papers either. A DBclip is an excellent way to reach a wider audience of people. While it takes some effort, it's well worth it. In fact, during my course in Aalborg I showed our DBclip instead of lecturing on data integration with uncertainty. I imagine that these clips will be a useful teaching resource in many graduate courses. Fortunately, it's not too late. You can create your DBclip after the conference (in fact, there are advantages to doing it now).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Web 2.0 Panel

This post is an experiment. We're holding a panel at VLDB 2007 on Web 2.0 and Databases. What are the opportunities for database research?

Our panelists are Sihem Amer-Yahia, Gerhard Weikum, a Donald Kossmann lookalike, Volker Markl, Anhai Doan and myself.

Given that the topic is Web 2.0, we thought the audience should post comments and opinions throughout the panel. Feel free to say anything. We'll monitor the blog during the panel and highlight your comments.

Comment away!

Monday, September 17, 2007


VLDB 2007 has announced a new program called DBclips. You can now upload a 5-minute video of your VLDB paper. (This idea may sound familiar to the readers of this blog).

You can listen to my first DBClip, created for the paper I wrote with Luna Dong and Cong Yu, on Data Integration with Uncertainty (also an idea that's been mentioned in this blog).

I can't wait to hear others' contributions!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Lives of Others

The Lives of Others recently came out on DVD (i.e., now available to parents of young children). We just saw it -- highly recommended!

I will not even try to write a review of this movie. Just google for reviews.

Anant on the Database Blog

Another fine post by Anant.