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, 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 3d 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. 
  • 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 my favorite (third) definition 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 runs the local Northampton Family Dance.
  • 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.