Let's start at the beginning, as Julie Andrews once sang, a very good place to start.
My name is Justin Busch, and I'm a computational linguist at Science Applications International Corporation, better-known as SAIC. Since I mentioned that up front, I should also mention that everything published in Semantic Compositions is my own opinion only and in no way reflects the opinions of SAIC, its employees, or management. With the disclaimer out of the way, a bit more about me and how I came to publish this blog.
I actually had my first, very brief contact with linguistics in 8th grade, when a wonderful Spanish teacher noted that I was especially good at the cross-linguistic guessing games that were part of our workbooks, and commented that I might make a good linguist someday. I didn't really know what that was -- except to think it might be a translator -- but I filed it away for future reference.
The gift of a compact disc during my sophomore year in high school -- which I owned exactly none of up to that time -- had the surprising effect of awakening an interest in music reproduction, which led me to think I wanted to be an electrical engineer. Thus, after graduating in 1994, I went to Harvey Mudd College, a small school full of the smartest and quirkiest people you'll ever meet. Although my path was to swerve considerably from being an EE, the two years I spent there were profoundly formative, and when I went to a class reunion in 2003, it was at HMC rather than the school I ended up graduating from.
For those not familiar with Harvey Mudd, it's part of a five-college consortium known as the Claremont Colleges. Sometime during sophomore year (funny thing about that year, isn't it?) I realized I wasn't having much fun, and I started thinking about changing majors. While I wanted very much to stay in Claremont, Mudd didn't allow for majors in the other schools' disciplines at the time, and so I transferred to Claremont McKenna College. I then promptly took up a major in linguistics, a joint program offered by Pomona and Pitzer Colleges (a decision which astonished the CMC registrar). Although no proof is firmly established, the linguistics faculty in Claremont believes that I was the first CMC student to major in linguistics. I'm pleased to say that despite a GPA-killing two years at Mudd, I rebounded sufficiently to graduate in 1998 magna cum laude and with membership in an honors society that I appreciate greatly for having me, even if I don't take it too seriously (Groucho Marx comes to mind again). Pardon the chest-puffing, but like Satchel Paige said, "It ain't braggin' if you actually done it". More important than any degree or honor, while I was in Claremont, I had the privilege of meeting the future Mrs. SC, whose credentials are considerably more formidable than my own.
For those wondering about which of the schools I meant in a recent post about donations, it was CMC, not HMC. I give to both, a fact which neither of them understands enough to appreciate.
While I was in college, I spent a lot of time playing with OS/2 and its built-in speech recognition (in 1996, that was something), so I decided that the best way to join my interests in EE and linguistics was to become a computational linguist. I went off to UCSD for their Ph.D. program, where I took two courses that set the outlook you see here today, Gary Cottrell's course in statistical natural language processing and Farrell Ackerman's course in lexicalist syntax. I was no Chomskyan beforehand, but Prof. Cottrell's class in particular was a revelation for me about the shortcomings of introspection, and Prof. Ackerman gave me a whole new outlook on how the linguistic pie could be divided (those who know Prof. Ackerman know I'm also borrowing one of his favorite cliches).
I was hired as a summer intern at SAIC to help build a linguistically motivated search engine, which resulted years after the fact in this patent (and another still pending). It's deadly boring reading, I'm afraid, but briefly paging through it should be enough to establish why I'm such a fan of the Linguist's Search Engine. As it happened, I ended up leaving UCSD to stay on and try to commercialize my work, but it never quite came off (darn collapse of the tech bubble!).
In order to burnish my credentials as a computational linguist, in 2000 I enrolled part time at the University of Southern California's then-new master's in computational linguistics program. Although it wasn't intentional when I started the blog, people in the know from the beginning have claimed that I picked the acronym SC in homage to, well, SC. It is a good pun, but I wasn't actually that clever about it; I just lucked into it. As for the degree, it's sitting in a frame at home, and one of the reasons I was quick to start the blog when Radagast suggested it is that I was out of time in the academic world, and didn't want to lose my connections to it. Readers know that not all of my day job involves linguistics, and so this is a valuable way for me to keep it up.
So that's the story of how I came to be a linguist, and what I've been bringing to the table. There are, of course, a lot more biographical facts scattered throughout the blog, mostly under the heading of "background information". Readers who now hope to Google me should be aware that I am not the bassist for a group called The Sweet Sauce (although I am a saxophonist), nor am I the EE from the University of Michigan (although they have a fine linguistics department that I was very nearly associated with myself). There are, in fact, very few references to me online, and it's my plan to continue writing in the style that you're all accustomed to and avoid proliferating hits for my name.
Some readers may be feeling a bit cheated because while the site is definitely graphically different, there aren't a whole lot of new features as of yet. That brings us to the proximate cause of why the mask is now off, the article on George Lakoff that will be coming out shortly. The article was written by a reporter named Michael Erard for the Texas Observer, and I am told it will likely appear in this week's issue. So I went with some of the design changes that I'd already settled on, and more will be following soon (although practiced readers know how to correctly interpret "soon" when I say it). When the article is out, I will be sure to post news of it here, as well as any comments I have. Ironically, Languagehat posted an article by Mr. Erard shortly after I talked to him, and so I had to stifle not only a few giggles but the urge to just 'fess up immediately. For now, I'll just add that I was very impressed with Mr. Erard when I talked to him; the traditional SC skepticism towards journalists does not apply in this case. Also in this vein, I've gotten a few e-mails from readers who suspect that the Observer is probably not the sort of magazine I subscribe to, and not only because I don't live in Texas. They're right, but I also haven't gotten any e-mail accusing me of being unfair and I intend to keep it that way. SC is a partisan, but Semantic Compositions is not.
Finally, a word about the logo. Strictly speaking, because of the placement of the universal and existential quantifiers, it's not a well-formed semantic expression. If you ignore those, though, it's a lambda-expression which abstracts the name Semantic Compositions into a predicate, and then makes an individual (me, represented by my initials) the person that the term applies to. It's also a visual pun suggesting that I've signed off on what appears below. While I'll probably play with its appearance some more, I think it's a fitting expression of what I'm up to by writing here.
So that's the Semantic Compositions story. Welcome to SC 2.0.