Andrew McCallum UMass logo



  • My wife and I met in 1993 in Rochester, NY, where we were both regulars at the weekly contra dance. Several years later in Pittsburgh, we happened to be at a big charity swing dance; we were pushed into entering the swing dance competition, and after several elimination rounds we were surprised to win! ...beating out a pair of dance instructors! Not only were we particularly in sync that evening, but I think we are also simply more in love than the instructors, and looked like we were having more fun.


In 2003 I felt like I was trying to hold down two full-time jobs at once, as we designed and oversaw the construction of our new house. We didn't really want a new house---we wanted a 100-year-old Victorian like we had in Pittsburgh---but the timing for such a find didn't work out in Amherst, and so we decided to design a house that looks like it was built 100 years ago; (we were aiming for 1890, actually). Our wonderful architect was Richard Morse.

Other Interests

  • Cooking. Especially bread baking.
  • Carpentry.  Our perpetually unfinished house still has a few cabinetry projects remaining, but we had a great time doing the first-floor interior trim in stained oak, and putting lots of Victorian spindles high and low on our front porch.  I'm now treating my table saw with renewed respect after a Rochester friend was hurt by a piece of wood kicking back.  Someday I'd love to build a barn, but we'd need more land.  I'm pining for chickens and goats anyway.
  • Sculpting 3-D birthday cakes from 100% edible yummy-ness.  Each year my kids make their shape requests and I bring them to life.  Foot-high rook and knight.  One-by-two foot soccer field with marzipan players to scale.  Mountain lion laying on belly with fruit-leather ears.  Moon rocket.  Cow with patches of chocolate and cream-cheese icing skin.  Stegasaurus on four legs with chocolate wafer back fins.  8" diameter soccer ball and cleat in mid-kick, with thin licorice laces.  Three-foot long water dragon with half-bunt-cake body curves.  An offset stack of three Harry Potter novels, with cover pictures rendered in colored sugar.  An erupting volcano (OK, non-edible dry-ice helped here, but the sweetened red-dyed milk bubbles coming out the top were absolutely edible).
  • Sailing. Although I sold my Compac Suncat sailboat before going on sabbatical to France.  I recently bought a consolation prize that is more practical for the area: a 10'10" Mirror dinghy.  I'd love to sail and row it all the way down the Connecticut River to the Long Island Sound.
  • All things French.  Especially cheese.  When we lived in France 2009-2010 we conducted regular post-family-dinner cheese tasting quizzes.  My two sons learned to identify about 30 different kinds of French cheese... only ~200 more to go!
  • Hiking. Especially in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, our local western Massachusetts natural beauty, and the Alps around our sabatical home-town of Grenoble. In 2016-2018 my younger son and I have been climbing the 4000'-ers in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. By September 2018 we had summitted 36 of them. Ten more to go.
  • Contra Dancing. It's traditional New England Folk dancing, and it is not the same as Square Dancing. See Wikipedia's Contra Dancing article and the definitions here. My wife and I learned to call dances from Ron Buchanan during a multi-week workshop in Pittsburgh. We used to call regularly in Pittsburgh, but have only called once so far in Amherst. My wife ran the local Northampton Family Dance for a few years.
  • The game of Go. I learned from Dana Ballard and Patrice Simard.
  • Juggling. Passing clubs. My cousin Ernie Petrides taught me to juggle balls. My wife taught me to juggle and pass clubs. We enjoy passing with our long-time friend, Joel Harris, a professional juggler who lives in Amherst.
  • Photography.  I'm happy that my old Nikon lenses fit my circa-2003 digital SLR body.
  • Hacking. I guess I can't get enough of it at work, because I even do it for fun. Crazy me.  In addition to the software projects listed here, I also enjoyed following projects.
    • In 1995 Richard Stallman named me to be the chief maintainer of GNUstep, the Free Software Foundation's effort to implement NeXT's OpenStep standard. Adam Fedor took over in 1997.
    • I also hacked on libguileobjc, an interface between GNU Guile (a Scheme interpreter) and Objective C.
    • I wrote persia, a toolkit for building virtual reality environments on Rochester's SGI Onyx RealityEngine2. The kit is based on SGI's Performer library and ELK Scheme.
    • I wrote rlkit, a software library that makes it easy to test various reinforcement learning algorithms in different environments with different sensory-motor systems. It's implemented in Objective-C and Guile.