• Thoughts on the College Admissions News

    1. The fact that I have not yet received an email from Dartmouth saying that they are shocked! shocked! about this scandal and that they are the real victims here says to me that rich people do not need to do any crime in order to get their mediocre children admitted to Dartmouth. There is likely some sort of well-known quid pro quo that does not involve any crime. The Hood Museum isn’t going to expand and renovate itself, ya know.

    2. None of the status-driven children on our site are discussing this at all. One black kid gets admitted to a few of their favorite colleges, and they are making very unsettling statements on the message board, but a bunch of rich people are doing crime to get their kids admitted, and we are not seeing any outrage.

    3. The tricky thing about Harvard’s undergraduate product is that they need some of these kids, even without any crime. One of the reasons that people send their kids to this sort of east coast fancy school is because they are hoping that they’ll get a chance to hang out with one of the newer generations of George Bushes and other kids from influential backgrounds.

    4. Thought experiment: We can all imagine marginal students scraping by at most of the fancy east coast schools with their gentleman’s Cs (I am imagining a specific classmate of mine at Dartmouth right now). But my hunch is that no one would pay a lot of money and do crime in order to get a mediocre student into Caltech. I think that it’s because Caltech’s brand is focused much more on the actual education and less on the mix-and-mingle experience.

    5. With everyone on the internet talking about the value of the Ivy League education, I feel like I must have done everything wrong. Instead of becoming remarkably wealthy very quickly, I went to graduate school.

  • Tales from the Bugmaster

    The homework submission system is not hooked up to the language filter.

    Bug Report

  • Knitted Torus Pattern Generator

    Recently I wanted to knit a torus, but my old torus-knitting program was on my old computer, and enough things had changed in the world since the last time I used it that I couldn’t get it to compile, so today I rewrote it in JavaScript.

    I’m putting it here so that I can find it when I’m looking for it again. Maybe you want to knit a torus? You can generate a pattern here, too! (If you are reading this in a feed-reader, you will need to click through to the page in order to generate your torus.)

    Do note that I have not yet gotten around to putting in any error-checking, so if you tell the program that you want the hole in the middle to be bigger than the entire torus, it will oblige and generate a nonsensical pattern for you. Also note that this runs entirely as JavaScript in your browser, so putting stupid values into the form won’t do anything sneaky and will, at worst, make your browser irritated at you.

    The outer radius is the distance from the middle of the hole to the edge of the entire torus. The inner radius is the distance from the middle of the hole to the edge of the hole. The gauge calculation is assuming that you have knit a 4-inch by 4-inch gauge swatch and that you have counted how many stitches and rows are in 4 inches. (Or that you are reading this value off the ball band of the yarn. This program does not judge.)

    Outer radius (inches):
    Inner radius (inches):
    Number of stitches in 4 inches:
    Number of rows in 4 inches:

  • Words for Snow

    There’s that old line about how the indiginous people of Alaska have a lot of words for snow (and also the rebuttal saying that is not true). As someone from Schenectady, I felt like I knew a lot of different words for frozen precipitation. Of course there is snow, which is recognized by the hexagonal symmetry of the flakes. But as someone who has endured more than her fair share of winters in upstate New York and in New Hampshire, I also know the difference between ice pellets, sleet, and freezing rain. Hail is a summertime frozen precipitation that evolved separately from the others.

    So I find it somewhat ironic that I did not learn about graupel until living in San Diego, where there has not been measurable snowfall since before I was born. I don’t even know if graupel has a verb form. Since as a native speaker I have great leeway for changing the English language, I’m going to say that it graupelled yesterday in San Diego. Graupel is slushier than sleet, but it still bounces when it hits pavement. Needless to say, I did not drive on any of the local freeways while it was graupelling because that would have been really stupid. People here can’t even drive in the rain; imagine what it would be like with some sort of esoteric frozen precipitation.

    Sorry for the relative silence here, but I have been dealing with work-stuff that is challenging in the not-particularly-interesting way. The current project is limited by the infrastructure to exactly three tools, SQL, JavaScript, and React, and none of them are particularly well-suited for the work that I’m doing. Also, I didn’t know anything about React before starting this project, so that doesn’t help. Even worse, the tables storing the data are ginormous, and even the most straightforward queries take several seconds to run (which is too slow for a production server). And JavaScript was not designed to deal with manipulating and analyzing large datasets. But once it’s done, the dashboard is going to be nifty and pretty?

  • In Defense of Alexa

    Lots of times I’ll see people trash-talking Alexa on Facebook. They’ll assert that they’ll never get Alexa because she is a dirty spy. I don’t deny that Alexa has an always-on microphone and my wifi password, but these same Alexa-haters all have phones. Phones have microphones, too! You don’t really know if your phone’s microphone is on or off. You have no idea if your phone is always recording everything in its environment and then sending the data back to some mothership. Your phone could be just as untrustworthy as you believe Alexa to be.

    One of my friends had some tin-foil hat argument in defense of his phone. Well, it was more of a potato chip bag argument. He asserts that if you turn your phone off and then put it in a potato chip bag and come back several hours later and turn it back on and if the battery has not significantly run down its charge, then your phone can be trusted. (Really all this proves is that the phone was not franticly searching for a signal while it was in the bag. If I were writing the software for a spy-phone, I wouldn’t have it constantly searching for a signal. I’d be more subtle about it.)

    This is why I was so gleeful when I heard about the FaceTime bug that allowed people to spy on their friends via their iPhones. Evidence that phones are capable of the same sort of stuff that Alexa has been accused of. But wielded by people who actually know you and who actually care about what you might be saying as opposed to Amazon, a company that is allegedly so inept with data that they have different SKUs for the same product in different versions of their stores.

  • Things To Do Without Electricity

    Yesterday we had a 14-hour power outage.

    If I had known at the beginning that it was going to be a 14-hour power outage (it was originally estimated to be a less than 3-hour power outage), I would have moved the ice and the ice packs and various other frozen things into the fridge to keep it colder longer. I suppose that this gives me a good excuse to KonMari the contents of the fridge.

    Deep down I suspect that the cats were responsible for the neighborhood being without power all day. I had been telling them that I was going to wash the fuzzy blanket and vacuum the couch. This is something that they can not abide. My couch is still covered in cat fur.

    I tried to avoid running my phone battery down during the day, so I did not rely on the internet and YouTube when I tried to fix my bike. This led to me driving to the bike shop to have trained professionals save me from myself. It also gave me a chance to charge my phone with the car charger.

    The taco shop on the corner must have a gas griddle because I was able to acquire a hot and delicious burrito. They must have also been without refrigeration, but I got my burrito just a few hours into the power outage, so any risk was pretty low. On the other hand, today I am avoiding eating at any restaurants that were without power yesterday.

    During the first two hours of the power outage, I read the newspaper and ate breakfast at the coffee/bar. Later on, I went to a cocktail bar that I know has electrical outlets along the bar and charged my phone and my computer while I had cocktails for dinner.

    Tried doing some tidying up. Totally did not follow the rules for tidying up. I know that I am supposed to start with clothes and put them all in a pile in the middle of the floor, but just was not up for the amount of folding that this would have led to. So I selectively culled without examining everything. In my defense, I have properly tidied my clothes in the past few years, and I have not bought many clothes since then, so I was starting out a bit ahead of the game. Much the same to be said for books and for paper.

    Stopped before entering the realm of the komono. It’s always the komono.

    Did not photograph the lunar eclipse because it was cloudy.

  • Secrets from the Workplace

    1. Although I denied it when confronted, I was the one who left the Oreos in the break room.

    2. If winter continues, I may have to sneak a space heater into the office.

    3. I have a Raspberry Pi on the office wifi. I signed it up to be a part of FlightAware’s botnet.

    4. Violating the spirit of an admonishment from the accounting team, I printed my W2 on the office printer. I printed it amongst work-related things in case anyone got to the printer before I did.

    5. BugMaster fixed the formatting of the answer from a student who complained about losing points due to a formatting issue.

    6. I didn’t tell anyone that different TeX installations seem to render our new official corporate font differently. This is why I quickly backed down from my suggestion that we put all the LaTeX source files on GitHub and acquiesced to the proposal to host them on our heavily modded (and, therefore, quirky) in-house system.

    7. Left 10 minutes early on Friday.

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