Tag Archives: mit

The Hacker’s Definition of Morning

Back at MIT, we pulled a lot of all-nighters.  Linguistically, it became convenient to know when “tomorrow” or “morning” happened.  Midnight?  Sunrise?  First class of the day? Do you have to sleep and wake up for it to qualify as tomorrow?

I don’t know who came up with this originally, and I can’t find it in an Internet search, but common MIT culture was to refer to the “hacker’s definition” of morning — namely, that “tomorrow” occurs when two out of the following three things happen:

  • You wake up.
  • The sun rises.
  • You eat breakfast.

I have just gotten home.  And I ate some eggs!  But since the sun hasn’t risen and I didn’t wake up, it’s not Saturday yet.  In fact, I’m going to go to sleep now, and when I wake up the sun will be in the sky, so even if I skip breakfast it’ll officially be Tomorrow.


First, in admin news, my caching plugin appears to have been malfunctioning the last few days, causing the site not to update if a user isn’t logged in.  I’ve deactivated that plugin now.  Sorry about that.

Next, in I-have-a-blog-so-let’s-be-arrogant-about-my-alma-mater news, MIT has come in first in U.S. News & World Report’s list of the world’s best universities!

MIT! MIT! MIT! Hee hee.

Of course, how much do rankings mean?  Not a damn thing, in my opinion.  But just like how I’m happy when one of my friends wins an award, I like seeing MIT score so well in the public consciousness.

Although, in U.S. News & World Report’s national rankings list of the top schools in the U.S., MIT only comes in sixth.  Which breaks my brain as a mathematician, because the world is a superset of the U.S., so if we’re first in the world, we should also be first in any particular country, right?  The only possible explanation is that U.S. News & World Report uses different evaluation standards for the U.S. list, which suggests that they’re separating lists not only by the nation the school is in, but by the demographics and desires of the nation the school is in, and that they think what makes a college great for an American is a distinctly different set of assets from what makes a college great for the average global citizen.  On the one hand, this makes some sense—for instance, on the world rankings they have scores for international students and faculty, and how universities handle international students and faculty does differ school to school.  But it leaves me with a slightly skeevy feeling, because the U.S. list linked above doesn’t call itself “the best schools in the U.S. for Americans.”  It calls itself a national rankings list, which to me implies “best schools in the U.S., full stop.”

Rankings.  Ugh.  Yet another good reason to think they’re pretty much meaningless.

Except, of course, when we win.[1]  MIT! MIT! MIT!

  1. Tongue planted firmly in cheek.

The Way the World Treated Aaron Swartz is a Disgrace

I have so many things I want to say about Aaron Swartz’s death.

How much the world lost when it lost his brilliance and drive.  How angry I am that the institutions of this world decided instead of valuing him to kick him in the face, and then, once he was down, to keep kicking him.

How ashamed I am of my alma mater that they blithely ignored the ideals of the MIT community in a rabid pursuit of injustice.  How absolutely furious I am that it took the suicide of a brilliant man to make the administration realize how outrageous and harmful their actions were.  How pointless their decision to reexamine their actions now seems.

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Oh, Fandom and Your “Inclusiveness”

Fandom?  Sexist?  ‘Cause that would never happen.

Just after Jim Hines posted about the false inclusiveness of SFF fandom, this happened.  Basically, a guy posted a dickish photo calling nerd women who aren’t “real” nerd women (according to his judgment, apparently) “whores,” and some people took exception to this, and then other people threw tantrums over them taking exception.  At the first link Nick Mamatas does a good summary of the responses to Mariah Huehner’s post on the matter, though I direct your attention to someone calling her a “bitch” and a “twat” in the very second comment.  The descent into true depravity started after that.

Setting aside the fact that it is a very big problem that someone expressing well-reasoned and articulate views of how calling women in your own community “whores” is bad for everyone (including, y’know, that community) is immediately attacked by that same community with all manner of curses and misogynistic slurs, this whole mess is a wearying repetition of a problem that that’s been cropping up a lot lately.  Only a few months ago we had Joe Peacock’s melodramatic whinge about women who dare to be beautiful and go to cons, with nice rebuttals here and here.  Also relevant is the (idiotic) Idiot Nerd Girl meme and the quest to reclaim it.

This brouhaha seems to have two parts to it: (1) Some people seem to think there’s some mythical “geek cred” involved in being a “certified geek” and if you don’t have such “cred” you’re a poser and you suck.  (2) More problematically, their attacks on those who are not “real geeks” are aimed, generally and in broad strokes, at women who are not “real geeks.”

The main responses from the sane part of geekdom seem to be (1) Geek “cred”?  Who the fuck cares?, and (2) targeting women in particular doesn’t do anything good but does fuel misogyny in geekdom and ostracize women, which is not only asshole behavior but is bad for geekdom.  So, considering the who the fuck cares answer to (1), propagating this anti-woman stuff is ridiculous.

But going a little deeper . . .

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Post-Election 2012 Thoughts

  • The math was right.  Sam Wang and Nate Silver called the election correctly in every single state—well, if you consider that both of them had Florida as the only tossup in the final hours.  Wang ultimately thought it was leaning Republican and Silver gave it a slight Democratic edge (of less than .02 percentage points!!), and it still hasn’t been called, so we’ll see which statistician prevails.  But either way, I like to think that math was the big winner last night.  Ha!
  • Maine, Maryland, and (probably) Washington passed same-sex marriage initiatives (happiness!).  California had rejected it in 2008.
  • Colorado and Washington passed measures legalizing marijuana.  California had rejected it in 2010.
  • Seriously, Republicans think we’re some kind of bastion of liberalism? Continue reading

My Professor Was On The Colbert Report!

Stephen Colbert interviewed Professor Donald Sadoway on Monday:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Donald Sadoway
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Professor Sadoway taught one of the most popular freshman courses at MIT, 3.091 (three-oh-nine-one), which was sometimes known as “three-oh-nine-fun” instead because of the type of lecturer Sadoway was.  3.091 satisfied MIT’s chemistry requirement, and Sadoway was so famous for making it entertaining that non-chem-majors usually chose it over the other introductory chemistry options (5.111 and 5.112, or “five-eleven-one” and “five-eleven-two”).

I took 3.091 my first semester at MIT and was not disappointed; the class was a blast (and also gave me chemistry from a materials point of view, which I hadn’t had before and was also a factor in why I chose it).

I wish someone at The Colbert Report had gone to MIT and been able to tell Stephen to “Ask him about—!” because Sadoway is famous for, among other quirks:

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