Author Archives: Brian Geiger

NSA Director Speaks on Agency’s Duties, Leaks

Adm. Michael S. Rogers spoke in Richardson Auditorium March 10 in a rare public appearance for the director of the National Security Agency and the commander of the U.S. Cyber Command.

Admiral Michael S. Rogers (National Security Agency)

Adm. Michael S. Rogers (National Security Agency)

Noting that the “rights of the individual and privacy are inherent characteristics of our very self as a nation” while also bearing in mind the increasing number and potency of threats from cyberspace, Rogers cited his desire to begin a conversation with the public about striking a balance between individual rights and the nation’s security.

“I’m interested in a dialogue about how we will work our way through this challenge as a nation,” Rogers said. “What we are comfortable with, and what we are not comfortable with.”

Rogers briefly described the NSA’s chain of command and oversight mechanisms, including its accountability to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the U.S. federal court that oversees judicial warrants for certain kinds of domestic intelligence gathering.

“Every nation has their approach to this. I right now probably have more oversight and more responsibility to people outside my organization than any of my foreign counterparts, in some ways,” Rogers said.

In the question-and-answer portion, Rogers was asked about the NSA’s data-collection practices and its respect for the privacy of U.S. citizens. One exchange was tense. Continue reading

Students’ Open-Source Tech Project Enables New Voice-Command Apps

Computer science students Shubhro Saha ’15, left, and Charlie Marsh ’15. (Courtesy the Jasper Project)

Computer science students Shubhro Saha ’15, left, and Charlie Marsh ’15. (Courtesy the Jasper Project)

For Shubhro Saha ’15, the idea of developing an open-source platform for voice-controlled computer applications was born out of a simple desire: to have his house act like billionaire Tony Stark’s in the Iron Man films. “I was sitting around last June and I wanted to live like Tony Stark — I wanted the experience of sitting in a room and talking to my walls,” Saha said.

Jasper, the platform that Saha created with fellow computer-science major Charlie Marsh ’15, operates like a customizable Siri, allowing users to create their own voice-command tools. Its release earlier this month led to broad interest from programmers, as well as coverage from Forbes, Wired, and a number of niche technology sites.

The idea grew from a collaboration last summer: After Saha built a prototype of his idea, he reached out to Marsh to see if he’d also be interested in working on Jasper. Saha first met Marsh when the two worked on a project for COS 333: Advanced Programming Techniques.

When Saha video chatted with Marsh to demonstrate the prototype of Jasper, Marsh was “incredibly impressed” with the progress Saha had made. “From there I was sold,” Marsh said. “I really wanted to be involved.” Continue reading

Bernanke Speaks About Challenges of Chairing the Fed

Ben Bernanke was a tenured professor at Princeton and chaired the economics department from 1996 until September 2002, when he went on public-service leave to serve on the Federal Reserve board. Four years later, he was appointed as the Fed chairman.

Former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, pictured in a 2010 visit to campus. (Denise Applewhite/Office of Communications)

Former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, pictured in a 2010 visit to campus. (Denise Applewhite/Office of Communications)

“The biggest thing I’d ever run before [the Federal Reserve] was the economics department at Princeton, so there were a lot of new things to think about,” Bernanke said in a speech at McCosh 50 on April 2. While his work as department chair gave him “a lot of experience working with prima donnas,” Bernanke said that leading the Fed was filled with new challenges.

“The thing that surprised me the most about the job was how much of it involved dealing with political figures,” Bernanke said. “The Fed is independent and apolitical, that’s very true — there were no politics in our decision-making. But it’s still very important for the Fed to coordinate with and explain itself to Congress and the administration.”

Bernanke was invited to campus by the Whig-Cliosophic Society to receive the 2014 James Madison Award for Distinguished Public Service. Past recipients of this award include Golda Meir (1974), Bill Clinton (2000), and Antonin Scalia (2008). Continue reading

O’Shea ’16 Wins Jeopardy! College Tournament; Next Stop: Mathey Trivia Night

Terry O’Shea '16, pictured with Alex Trebek, is a lifelong Jeopardy! fan. (Photo: Courtesy Jeopardy! Productions Inc.)

Terry O’Shea ’16, pictured with Alex Trebek, is a lifelong Jeopardy! fan. (Photo: Courtesy Jeopardy! Productions Inc.)

Terry O’Shea ’16 won the 2014 Jeopardy! College Tournament, making her the tournament’s first ever Princeton and Ivy League champion. Despite filming the final round about a month ago, O’Shea has had to keep quiet about her success until the final episode aired Feb. 21. The wait did not, however, diminish the excitement when the news broke.

“The Princeton reaction has been overwhelmingly supportive. I’ve gotten emails and Facebook messages from so many people, people I’ve lost touch with, some people I’ve never met,” O’Shea said. “I even received an email from a Princeton alumnus to congratulate me. He had also been on the show, and he wished me luck during the Tournament of Champions.”

At Princeton, O’Shea is tentatively majoring in English with a certificate in French. She works as the assistant prose editor for The Nassau Literary Review, the co-editor-in-chief for The Public Journal, and is a member of the Bee Team. The Princeton organization that had the most immediate impact on her exceptional Jeopardy! performance, however, can be found taking over the Mathey College Common Room on select weeknights.

“I’m a regular at Mathey Trivia Night. Twice so far the organizer has asked a question about what the fruit of a rose plant is called,” O’Shea said. “It’s called a hip, and that was a $2,000 question during the tournament.” Continue reading

Princeton University Ballet Prepares for NYC Debut

Princeton University Ballet is collaborating with student groups from Columbia and Harvard in a pair of New York City performances this weekend. (Photo: Courtesy Princeton University Ballet)

On Feb. 15 and 16, Princeton University Ballet (PUB) will take part in the first Ivy Ballet Exchange, a collaborative performance between ballet companies at Princeton, Columbia, and Harvard. Hosted in Columbia’s Miller Theatre, this will be PUB’s first performance off of the Princeton campus since the student-run organization was founded in 2008.

“We are performing for a much larger audience and performing in a much larger theater; we don’t really know what to expect, but we want to put forth our best,” said Jiae Azad ’15, vice president of PUB and a contributing choreographer for PUB’s pieces in the program. “We’re really emphasizing cleaning the pieces, making them the best we can, [and] representing what PUB is in the best way possible.” 

PUB dancers are excited to perform in the collaborative show. Due to the small size of the dance community, meeting with the other collegiate companies will be part introduction, part reunion. The move to New York has also drummed up excitement among PUB alumni. 

“Many of our alumni live in New York because it’s a great dance hub, so even if they’re working other jobs, they can still access classes or watch performances,” said Caroline Hearst ’14, president of PUB. “We’re kind of meeting them where they are instead of asking them to come to campus, and that’s exciting to them.” 

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Students Debut Documentary Films on Campus

Three student-produced documentaries premiered at the James M. Stewart ’32 Theater Jan. 17. The films were produced as part of a course on documentary filmmaking taught by Emily Abt, an award-winning filmmaker named by Variety as one of its “top 10 directors to watch.”

“Most of the students came in with no prior filmmaking experience, but they all really stepped up,” Abt said.

Students taking the course had to learn the basics of filming, cinematography, and editing within a few weeks. They also had to deal with challenges specific to working with film. “You either get the scene or you don’t, you get the shot or you don’t, so there’s no faking it.” Abt said. “There’s a very sharp learning curve in the class. These guys all know how to shoot and edit and conduct interviews now; there are a lot of skills that are quickly acquired.” 


A scene from “In the Plaid,” a documentary about the Princeton University Band, produced by students in a fall “Documentary Filmmaking” course at the Lewis Center. (Image from the film courtesy of the Lewis Center for the Arts)

The documentaries, produced by small teams of students over the fall semester, cover a range of topics. 

In the Plaid,” directed by Angeline Jacques ’16, filmed the Princeton University Band on the day of the Princeton-Yale football game. For Jacques, a prospective architecture major, the most surprising aspect of creating the documentary was the sheer amount of time required. 

“The time commitment involved was definitely a big factor,” Jacques said. “With film you kind of need to have your heart in it the whole time.” Jacques also noted that during filming, the biggest challenge that her team faced had much to do with it’s featured subject, “a large group of people that basically doesn’t stop moving for nine hours on football days.”

Natalie Gasparowicz ’16, the film’s editor, noted the need for effective teamwork. “There’s something magical about filmmaking, how you cooperate and compromise about certain things, and it’s a lesson in itself,” she said. 

Hey Jude,” directed and produced by Margaret Craycraft ‘15, profiled Brian and Megan Taxeras and the recent adoption of their second child, Jude. The film, created by interviewing the Taxeras family over four consecutive weekends, took on a special resonance for its subjects, all of whom were present for the screening.

“The team did a fantastic job,” said Brian Taxeras, holding Jude as he spoke on stage. “We’re so happy that now we have something on screen to kind of explain to him one day what the process was like, what we had gone through.”

The third film, “Ellipses,” directed and produced by Jack Thornton ’15, profiled Princeton’s slam poetry group of the same name. The documentary includes interviews with Ellipses members and examples of their work.

Below, view the full version of “In the Plaid.”

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