Wednesday, September 27, 2006

So the Vassar student government election results came in today... and...

Wow... you actually thought that I would run for student government? For shame, for shame. Beaurocracy is not my game.

However, I did find the election results to be particularly interesting. Vassar has a run-off system, where when you vote you list your top three candidates for each position, and if your first choice candidate has the least amount of votes in any "stage", then your vote goes to your next candidate. Each "stage" eliminates one candidate. Astute readers know what that means: the computer system that does the calculations is able to tell who got last place, second-to-last place, all the way up to first place.

But here's the kicker. They posted all of those calculations of a public web site. Yes, that's right, I can click on that page and find out who got last place in every one of the elections, and, yes, by how much. Even better, since facebook is so rampant and everybody has one, I can simply copy-paste their name into a facebook search and look at their profile. "Guess this one wasn't quite pretty enough," or, "he should have gone with the clean shaven look for his profile picture," immediately popped into mind. A middle school could have a field day with this system.

Anyway, one of the most effective tools I have ever seen to revel in other's (albeit small) failures. Instant self-esteem booster. A great way to look at election results, Vassar College. This blog lauds your efforts.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

One day later

Yesterday I went through an entire day of september 11 without hearing about the attacks on the world trade towers once. I read opinions//stories about it in writing, but nothing in person. I guess it just comes down to there being nothing to say about it. It sucked. That's it.

On a side note, I was also internally pissed for a couple of minutes that we didn't have a holiday to celebrate what happened, but then I realized that that would have been somehow playing into what the terrorists wanted in a way (although it's hard to say what they wanted to do by killing so many innocent people). If they hate capitalism, then not working is acquiesing to their beliefs in a way. Indeed, from then on I set out to make sure that I put extra effort into everything I did yesterday. A great way to avoid procrastination.

Monday, September 4, 2006

Steve Irwin: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

Famous crocodile hunter Steve Irwin died today of an apparent sting ray stinger to the heart. It's pretty amazing what has happened since his death, just about everybody I talked to liked the guy in some way. His enthusiasm and geniune nature made just about no one be annoyed by him which is pretty impressive in show biz. I bet that'd be the way he'd want to go out too, in the field doing what he loved.

Anyway, I will always remember where I was when I found out that Steve Irwin the crocodile hunter died: downstairs in my basement doing my laundry for the first time in my life. Coincidence? You tell me. All I'm saying is that I'm not sure that it's worth the risk.

Friday, September 1, 2006

Informative article about Grigori Perelman, the man who refused the Field's Medal

The Field's medal, according to wikipedia, is the "noble prize" of mathematics, only awarded once every 4 years to 2, 3, or 4 mathemeticians. Anyway, this article from the New Yorker describes the reasons that Grigori Perelman refused it. One reason, as the article quotes Mikhail Gromov (another Russian mathmetician), "the ideal scientist does science and cares about nothing else." Another reason that Perelman refused it appears to be that he was upset with the mathematics community because they were not being "honest" and playing politics instead of doing math. By turning down the award Perelman (who lives with his mother and is unquestionably strange--he lets his fingernails grow without trimming them, for example) is giving up financial gain as well as an oppurtunity to be recognized for what he has done.

While he has been made fun of in some arenas, his reasoning appears to me to be pure and well-intentioned. The problem that he helped to solve, by the way, The Poincaré conjecture, has been unsolved for 106 years and is invaluable to the field of mathematics. It will likely help many other scientists solve problems in their own respective fields.

There's some quality about keeping your head down to your work that I respect a great deal. Keep doing what you do, Grigori. We'll try to stay out of your way.