You call *that* a weird course?

October 5th, 2008

Over on the UMBC GAIM Blog, Marc Olano wrote about UMBC Art 380, a required class in our game track that was in the Baltimore Sun’s Weird 101: Baltimore’s unusual college courses.

History and Theory of Games @ University of Maryland, Baltimore County:

Students attempting to break into the gaming industry take a lot of atypical ­— and very technical — classes, but this is a class everyone can wrap their head around. “Games are as old as people. They are what humans do, when they can,” said professor Neal McDonald. “It’s a serious, interesting, rapidly maturing field of scholarship.” This guy has the best job ever. McDonald plays a myriad of games, some dating back to the Stone Age, to show his budding game designers the origins of today’s games and the infinite possibilities for tomorrow’s.

Somehow I don’t think this class belongs on the list, which includes local courses like The Art of Juggling, The Theology of Eating, The British Invasion, and Fitness for Scuba Divers.

But maybe this is just my bias as a computer scientist. We see the game industry as a very practical business and one that will need a constant flow of better computer science technology to evolve and thrive. Moreover, advances in nearly all areas of computer science are needed, e.g., graphics, AI, HCI, parallel computing, software engineering, distributed computing, social networking, etc.

Besides, I’m pretty well schooled in The British Invasion as it is. Actually, the course on The Theology of Eating does sound pretty interesting.

Barski on How To Tell Stuff To Your Computer

October 3rd, 2008

How to tell stuff to your computer Conrad Barski, M.D. will give a talk on “How To Tell Stuff To Your Computer — The Enigmatic Art of Knowledge Representation” at UMBC at 1:00pm on Friday 17 October in Lecture Hall 8 in the ITE building.

Barski maintains an interesting site, Lisperati , that has graphical introductions to a number of topics, including Lisp, Haskell, Emacs, etc. and well as serving as he home of FringeDC an informal group of people interested in “fringe” programming languages.

Here’s the abstract for his talk.

“Have you ever wondered how we take information from the “real world” and put it into our computers? When we do this, do we lose parts of the information? Are some concepts just too hard to turn into ones and zeroes? How is our ability to enter information limited by the data structures we use inside of our computers? These questions enter into a science that is rarely discussed: The science of Knowledge Representation.

My presentation on KR will include some navel gazing, but also some nitty-gritty practical examples of Description Logics, RDF, and other modern approaches to capturing complicated information within a computer. We will also discuss some likely future directions this field may head into.”

Dr. Barski is a Medical Software Developer working on cardiology procedure documentation for Wolters Kluwer Health. He is also currently working on a textbook on the Common Lisp programming language.

You can submit a question either before, during or after the talk here.

Guess who is coming to grad school!

October 2nd, 2008

UMBC alumnus Alark Joshi (PhD 2007) pointed out this great comic yesterday on Jorge Cham’s Phdcomics site. It shows one upside to the current financial crisis. Now that might sound self-serving, since I am part of the higher education industry that stands to profit. I think our society benefits as a whole if more people pursue an advanced degree, especially if the alternative is to become a yet another hedge fund manager.

Wiacek on the Google App Engine, 1pm Thr 10/2 ITE325

October 2nd, 2008

UMBC alumnus Mike Wiacek (MS 2007) will talk today (Thursday, October 2) at 1:00pm in 325b ITE on the Google App Engine. Mike is on campus today to represent Google at career day, but will take time off to talk about and demonstrate Google’s App Engine. The App Engine enables developers to build massively scalable web applications on Google’s hardware and software infrastructure. Mike’s talk will explain what App Engine is and how it uses BigTable and other Google technologies to make launching and scaling web applications easy. He will also demonstrate the process of building and deploying a small web application.

Mike graduated from UMBC in May of 2007 with a MS in Computer Science. He is currently a Software Engineer working on Google’s Information Security Team. He thoroughly enjoys taking advantage of his 20% time developing App Engine applications. Prior to joining Google, Mike was a Software and Network Security Analyst for the National Security Agency in Ft. Meade, MD.