Testing Rebecca Black’s Claims

Posted by Kurt on March 25th, 2011

I was unsure about some of the bold claims that Rebecca Black made in her latest hit video, so I wrote some unit tests for it. It turns out she is telling the truth!

public void testRebeccaIsntLying() {
    Calendar rebeccasCalendar =

    // The song went viral on Friday, March 11, 2011
    rebeccasCalendar.set(2011, Calendar.MARCH, 11);

    // Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday
    rebeccasCalendar.add(Calendar.DAY_OF_MONTH, -1);
    assertEquals(Calendar.THURSDAY, rebeccasCalendar.get(Calendar.DAY_OF_WEEK));

    // Today i-is Friday, Friday (Partyin’)
    rebeccasCalendar.set(2011, 2, 11);
    assertEquals(Calendar.FRIDAY, rebeccasCalendar.get(Calendar.DAY_OF_WEEK));

    // Tomorrow is Saturday
    rebeccasCalendar.add(Calendar.DAY_OF_MONTH, 1);
    assertEquals(Calendar.SATURDAY, rebeccasCalendar.get(Calendar.DAY_OF_WEEK));

    // And Sunday comes afterwards
    rebeccasCalendar.add(Calendar.DAY_OF_MONTH, 1);
    assertEquals(Calendar.SUNDAY, rebeccasCalendar.get(Calendar.DAY_OF_WEEK));

I sent this code out for review at work, and received quite a bit of insightful feedback from my co-workers:

  • As you mentioned two lines up, “yesterday was Thursday, Thursday”. Do we need to assertEquals twice?
  • I appreciate the attempt, but I have to say I find your test lacking. For starters, you only assert that yesterday was Thursday once.  I’d see two sequential assertions as the absolute minimum. More concerningly, a crucial property of the calendar is that it can be used to determine whether or not we need to get down.  Yet I see no assertion that we need to get down if and only if it is indeed Friday. Even if, in fact, it proves that no one is looking forward to the weekend, I don’t believe your test will catch it, to say nothing of our current observed state of partying. But these are just examples.  Who needs a Calendar object if this is all it’s good for?
  • Shouldn’t the time zone be determined dynamically? Rebecca may be traveling.
  • I’d ask you to assert that she has chosen the appropriate seat, but this may be out of the scope of this change.  A TODO will be fine.
  • While you are adding the above test, I would like you to consider updating this test case as well to assert that Rebecca is indeed looking forward to the weekend, as well as partying partying during the weekend, as appropriate given the day.
  • Can you devise tests for the following constraints made in the original documentation: 1. Gotta get down on Friday.  (e.g. ASSERT(didGetDown) 2. Everybody’s looking forward to the weekend.

CS4HS Workshop

Posted by Kurt on July 6th, 2010

After a nice relaxing weekend down on the Jersey shore, I flew up to Rochester, NY on Sunday, June 27th. My 6pm flight out of JFK quickly turned into a 9pm departure due to storms in upstate NY. After a rocky landing and a quick ride to the Radisson hotel on campus, I got started on my slides. Something about procrastinating on RIT campus just felt right ;-) After 4 hours of working on the slides, I called it a night and caught a few hours of rest.

CS4HS LogoOn June 28-30th, RIT hosted a 3 day workshop for area math and computer science high school teachers called Computer Science for High School, CS4HS@RIT. The workshop was sponsored by the RIT Computer Engineering department and Google. On June 28th, I gave the workshop’s keynote talk on “Life of a Software Engineer”. I fielded a bunch of awesome questions from the audience of around 100 teachers. In hindsight, I should have anticipated that teachers would have come prepared with tons of questions and should have allocated more time for questions.

After the keynote, I met up with some old professors and advisors and later discussed some future plans for Video CAPTCHA research with my old thesis advisor. And finally, no trip to Rochester would be complete without a trip to MacGregors to sample some of their delicious beer and food with some old friends. After another couple of hours of delays, I landed back at JFK around midnight, grabbed a beer with a friend in the city, and made it back to my apartment by 3am…just in time to grab a few hours of sleep before work in the morning.  I love my life :-)

My Erdős Number is 5

Posted by Kurt on March 15th, 2009

For fun, I calculated my Erdős number tonight (using the AMS Collaboration Distance Calculator).  Your Erdős number represents the number of hops between you and the famous Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős (where a link is established between two authors when they have collaborated on an academic paper together).  It was created as a joke to approximate your importance in the mathematical community. Erdős was assigned a number of 0.  Each of Erdős’ collaborators were assigned a number of 1, their collaborators were assigned a number of 2, and so forth.  The shortest path I could find between Erdős and myself was of length 5:

  1. Paul Erdős and Paul C. Kainen
  2. Paul C. Kainen and Vladik Ya. Kreinovich
  3. Vladik Ya. Kreinovich and Hung Trung Nguyen
  4. Hung Trung Nguyen and Leonid K. Reznik
  5. Leonid K. Reznik and Kurt Alfred Kluever (via IEEE Sensors 2007)

I also found a couple of length 6 paths with interesting researchers (bolded below) in them:

  1. Paul Erdős and Dieter Kratsch
  2. Dieter Kratsch and Jitender S. Deogun
  3. Jitender S. Deogun and Shashank K. Mehta
  4. Shashank K. Mehta and George Nagy
  5. George Nagy and Richard Zanibbi
  6. Richard Zanibbi and Kurt Alfred Kluever (via IEEE WNYIP 2008)
  1. Paul Erdős and Andrew M. Odlyzko
  2. Andrew M. Odlyzko and Colin L. Mallows
  3. Colin L. Mallows and Henry S. Baird
  4. Henry S. Baird and Dorothea Blostein
  5. Dorothea Blostein and Richard Zanibbi
  6. Richard Zanibbi and Kurt Alfred Kluever (via IEEE WNYIP 2008)

An interesting article here states that “the median Erdős number is 5; the mean is 4.65, and the standard deviation is 1.21.”

Here are some great links for more reading about this topic:

Data structure for weighted sampling

Posted by Kurt on March 9th, 2009

I was asked the following question: Design a data structure that supports 2 operations:

  • insert(element, weight)
  • sample()

When you insert an element into the data structure, you specify a weight. This weight divided by the total of the other weights in the data structure, is the probability that the item is returned when sample() is invoked. You should design your data structure with both speed and space in mind.

Here is a good solution. The insert() operation requires O(1) constant amortized time and the sample() operation requires O(lg n) time due to binary search. The space requirements is O(n) as well.

public final class BinarySearchWeightedSampler<E> {
  private final List<E> elements;
  private final List<Double> weights;

  public BinarySearchWeightedSampler() {
    this.elements = new ArrayList<E>();
    this.weights = new ArrayList<Double>();

  public void insert(E element, double weight) {
      if (weights.isEmpty()) weights.add(weight);
      else weights.add(weight + weights.get(weights.size() - 1));

  public E sample() {
    return elements.get(
        binarySearch(Math.random(), 0, weights.size() - 1,
                     weights.get(weights.size() - 1)));

  private int binarySearch(double val, int low, int high,
      double totalWeight) {
    if (high < low) return low;
    int mid = low + ((high - low) / 2);
    int midValue = weights.get(mid) / totalWeight;
    if (midValue > val)
      return binarySearch(val, low, mid - 1, totalWeight);
    else if (midValue < val)
      return binarySearch(val, mid + 1, high, totalWeight);
      return mid;

If we ignore the space requirements and assume the weights have finite precision (I chose integers for clarity, but any finite precision number can be made to work), we can sample in O(1) constant time:

public final class DiscreteWeightedSampler<E> {
  private final List<E> elements;

  public DiscreteWeightedSampler() {
    this.elements = new ArrayList<E>();

  public void insert(E element, int weight) {
    for (int i = 0; i < weight; ++i) {

  public E sample() {
    return elements.get((int) (Math.random() * elements.size()));

CS Department’s “5 Minutes with Kurt”

Posted by Kurt on March 8th, 2009

You knew you were headed for a career in Computer Science when…
I witnessed the thrill and the excitement of the dot com boom in the late 90’s.

What is your favorite class and why?
Theory of Computer Algorithms. This course is the first formal, in-depth course on algorithms, complexity, and data structures. These three components are the foundations of Computer Science and I highly recommend that everyone take this course (although it is a very difficult course).

One piece of advice I have for 1st year students is…
Establish a relationship with your professors by asking questions in class and utilizing office hours when you are confused.

If you could have dinner with a famous computer scientist, living or dead, who would you choose?
Luis von Ahn. His work on CAPTCHAs and human computation has inspired me to pursue it as my thesis topic.

What is the most interesting project you have worked on, either in a course or on the job?
The most interesting project I’ve worked on has been my thesis. Reading all of the existing research has helped me develop a brand new idea that nobody else in the world has worked on.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Hopefully back in school earning my PhD in Computer Science.

Original post: http://www.cs.rit.edu/about/profiles/Kurt_Kluever
PDF version: http://www.cs.rit.edu/five_minutes/pdf/Kurt_Kluever.pdf

Also check out 5 Minutes with Richard Zanibbi (my thesis advisor) and 5 Minutes with Brian Renzenbrink (a good friend).

A new job, a new apartment, a new life?

Posted by Kurt on September 22nd, 2008

Since beginning my new job as a Software Engineer in Test for Google at their Manhattan office, a lot has changed in my life. Here’s a quick rundown:

My Job (Google)

My job is going great. I really love the work environment and people at Google. Everyone is willing to take time out of their day to help you with whatever you need…which is good because the project I’m working on has a very high learning curve. It uses a ton of Google-centric infastructure pieces that all work together in a very specific way. Since I’ve had no exposure to these technologies before, work has been going a little slow (lots of reading of other’s code and documentation, not a lot of coding). It’s a bit frustrating because it’s hard to measure productivity when most of your time is spent inputting knowledge (into your own brain), not outputting knowledge (to others). However, this means I’m learning something new every day (which is exciting). I’ll also excited to report that I’ll be continuing my work on Video CAPTCHAs at Google :)

My City (Hoboken)

There are tons and tons of young professionals everywhere. According to Wikipedia, the median age here is only 30 (as a comparison, the median age in the US is 35.3). While that doesn’t seem like a big difference, you’ll quickly notice it walking around the streets. The city of Hoboken itself is actually a lot of fun. Since the young population drives the local businesses, there are tons of bars, restaurants, and coffee shops in downtown Hoboken. In fact, no matter what day it is, the streets and bars are always full of people.

My Commute (Walk, PATH Train, Walk)

Nearly everyone here takes the PATH train into NYC for work. The PATH train is a bargain: for $1.30 (if you buy in bulk), you can get to midtown Manhattan in under 15 minutes. My train (from Hoboken to 14th Street) makes 2 stops along the way (at Christopher St and 9th St) and still only takes 11 minutes. That’s a faster commute than it would be even if I lived in most places in Manhattan. The only bad part of my commute is getting to the PATH station in Hoboken. It’s a mile walk from my apartment which isn’t bad now, but once the bad weather hits it’s going to be brutal. I’m going to try to get my bike down here to speed up the commute though. Once I get to 14th St, I have another half a mile or so walk to Google. Others have recommended that I take the L subway, but I’d rather save the $2 each way and walk the two blocks. Overall, my commute into the city costs me $1.30, a few hundred calories, and about 40 minutes of my time.

My Car (A Sad S4)

One of the main reasons that I decided on the apartment that I’m in is that it came with a free garaged parking spot my for S4. However, I’ve quickly realized that having a car down here is rather pointless. I’ve only used it two times since moving down here: 1) buying furniture on move in day 2) returning an air mattress to BJs. Other than that, it sits in the garage and looks at me in anger: it wants to be driven. Next weekend I’ll be driving up to Rochester to present at the IEEE WNYIP 2008 workshop…that’ll cheer my car up :) Also, gas is really cheap (comparatively) down here: $3.30/gallon for regular.

My Eating (An Empty Fridge)

I do all my weekday eating at Google: breakfast (sometimes), lunch (always), and dinner (except on Fridays). Because of this, I have very little (read: no) food in my fridge. In fact, all I have at my apartment is 3 mini-bags of popcorn and some soda. On the weekends, I go out to eat. There’s no sense in going grocery shopping for the weekend only. I’m sure at some point I’ll stock my cabinets with non-perishables like soup, etc. Also I should note that I may end up dying of mercury poisoning due to the amount of fish I’m eating at Google every day.

Google Translate in Beta (for a reason)

Posted by Kurt on August 24th, 2008

The Google Translate service is quiet useful. However, I just ran into this little bug when playing around with it. If you submit a chunk of English text and ask it to detect the language and then translate it to English, it brings up an warning saying that they are “not yet able to translate from English to English”. Whoops :) I guess it’s in Beta for a reason.

Click the thumbnail for a full-sized image.

My Hobby: Tossing whiteboard markers

Posted by Kurt on August 10th, 2008

In the spirit of the many xkcd comics, here is one of my (new) hobbies: tossing whiteboard markers. In the massive amounts of time I spend alone in my lab, I’ve developed a new game similar to an egg toss to entertain me while my code is executing. I’ll caution you in advance that it’s both extremely addicting and surprisingly loud. Oh yea, you will get some funny looks from anyone who witnesses the game.

The Game: Toss white board markers at the whiteboard and try to get them to land in the ledge/trough.

My current distance record is 18 feet, mostly because that’s the width of the lab.  I might have to open my door and start tossing them from the hallway…

Switched to WordPress Platform

Posted by Kurt on July 15th, 2008

Well I finally switched to a real blogging platform, namely WordPress. Since it will be a lot easier to post content, that means I should be posting more often (in theory at least). Also, I stole my theme choice from my friend’s blog @ RespectCapitalism.com. There are very few good looking WP themes in my opinion…sorry Ben :)

Modified version of Webby Blue
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