My Faults My Own

…beleaguered by the same

negation and despair,

show an affirming flame.

IN WHICH Ross Rheingans-Yoo, a sometimes-poet and erstwhile student of Computer Science and Math, oc­cas­ion­al­ly writes on things of int­erest.

Reading Feed (last update: February 3)

A collection of things that I was happy I read. Views expressed by linked authors are chosen because I think they're interesting, not because I think they're correct, unless indicated otherwise.


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Blog: Shtetl-Optimized | Interpretive cards (MWI, Bohm, Copenhagen: collect ’em all) — "[W]hen (at the TAs’ insistence) we put an optional ungraded question on the final exam that asked students their favorite interpretation of QM, we found that there was no correlation whatsoever between interpretation and final exam score—except that students who said they didn’t believe any interpretation at all, or that the question was meaningless or didn’t matter, scored noticeably higher than everyone else."

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Donations 2017

I don't write about it much on this blog, because it it's slightly awkward to talk about, and I'm a small little mind that isn't used to fighting against hyperbolic discounting. But I remain committed to donating at least 10% of my income to the organizations that I think best make the universe a better place, and to talking about it on this blog. Here are my thoughts for 2017.


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These reflect a relatively small amount of thought, reading and discussion with people in the Effective Altruism community, and effectively no independent research. I don't expect that I'm particularly advantaged in evaluating charities, and so my opinion-forming strategy this year has mostly been to seek out the opinions of better-advantaged friends who I believe share my values, ask for their thoughts and reasons, and attempt to understand them.

However, I want to support a culture of sharing and building

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Congratulations, Margo!

It's outside my typical poetic gamut, but as tradition dictates, and with apologies to Dr. Seuss...


She's got courage and brains
and a heart of great size,
and she's witty and clever
and patient and wise.
No fictional hero (though no challenge melts her),
she's our one and only Margo Ilene Seltzer!

She's taught 61, 161, and its 2---
she's taught so many courses, and flipped quite a few, too!
She's taught 50 and 51 -- really, it's true!
But really the one thing that matters a lot
is the incredible love for students she's got,
for it's no good at all to take a genius rare
and put them in a class for which they don't care.
But that's not our Margo!
No, our Margo gives
cooler lessons than any professor that lives.
And though it's said lecturers pump into sieves,
it's the flippers that give teaching new perspectives!

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What I found in the desert

A month and a half ago, I took a plane to Reno, a bus out into the desert, and spent a week at Burning Man. This is an attempt to order some of my thoughts about that week.


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Surviving (even in relative comfort) wasn't as hard my pre-trip reading billed it as. Of course, it helped that I was camping with engineers who could reliably make a plan, ask themselves what would cause it to go wrong, fix that, repeat -- and then problem-solve when something unanticipated broke. Basic competence, responsibility, and leadership -- together with a well-adhered-to norm of "make sure you have everything you personally need, even things the camp has plans to provide" ('radical self-reliance' is the usual term) -- left us with a lot of slack.

From there, it was mostly just a matter of drinking enough water / electrolytes, noticing when I needed to eat,

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Chelsea Manning / HKS IOP / "Visiting Fellowship"

Here are some Harvard Crimson headlines from this week:

So here we go...


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One of the more annoying things about this affair has been the way the discussion has chased a dramatized, misleading version of the facts. To borrow a phrase, the commentators (in my social bubble) seem content with -- if not actively interested in -- framing the matter to produce heat, instead of light.

The easiest antidote for this is actually to read Dean Elmendorf's statement announcing and explaining the withdrawal of the IOP's Visiting Fellow appointment. I say this not because I agree with the decision or Elmendorf's justification, but because it at least explains what the decision was:

Some visitors to the Kennedy School are invited for just

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The dark joke that was Shkreli's voir dire

Two things. First, these selected quotations from the voir dire of Martin Shkreli's trial for securities fraud are widely understood to be hilarious:

The Court: The purpose of jury selection is to ensure fairness and impartiality in this case. If you think that you could not be fair and impartial, it is your duty to tell me. All right. Juror Number 1.

Juror no. 1: I’m aware of the defendant and I hate him.

[Defense attorney] Benjamin Brafman: I’m sorry.

Juror no. 1: I think he’s a greedy little man.

...

The Court: Juror Number 1 is excused. Juror Number 18.

Juror no. 18: Both of my parents are on prescriptions that have gone up over the past few months, so much that they can’t afford their drugs. I have several friends who have H.I.V. or AIDS who, again, can’t afford the prescription drugs

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Mass Ave, Mt Auburn, and a Tale of Two Schools

Still, this report shows that Harvard could learn a lot from MIT about how to run a university.

Harry Lewis, "The Report Harvard Should Have Asked For", 2013


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Around the time I came to Harvard, both Mass Ave schools were dealing with the fallout of embarrassing, messy institutional mistakes. Both started with relatively small incidents, compounded by administrative decisions that were incredibly contentious during and after the fact.

Harvard's began with the Gov 1310 cheating scandal -- and it escalated when scandal erupted over the administration's search of faculty emails to find which sub-dean had spoken to the press, raising both privacy concerns and unease about the relationship between the faculty and the administration.

MIT's began with the arrest of Aaron Swartz for downloading academic articles from JSTOR -- and escalated over the Institute's complicity with the US Attorney's Office, which many members of the community felt betrayed

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Thoughts on "Be Reasonable" as a collaboration policy

I drafted this one back in May when the controversy described was live, but never quite got around to pushing it out the door. There haven't been any real developments in the news since then, and I still believe in the points I made, so I'm publishing it now before it gets any more stale.

A course I used to teach -- cs50 -- has seen some on-campus news (and editorial) coverage recently in the wake of a leak that 60 students in the course were reported to the Administrative Board on suspicions of academic dishonesty. I don't have much to say, not having any relationship with the course since 2016 and not having any particularly relevant inside information as a former Teaching Fellow. (As a relatively junior member of the course staff, I wasn't asked to work on any cases of academic dishonesty, and the revelations that

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