My Faults My Own

…willing to sacrifice something we don't have

for something we won't have, so somebody will someday.

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: November 24)

A collection of things that I was glad 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: Marginal Revolution | The Republican Club — why is this painting interesting? — Tyler plays art critic; see also The Democratic Club, by the same artist.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | A Time to Fast — on calorie reduction strategies.


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Blog: Marginal Revolution | The best results on assortative mating and inequality I have seen — "Individuals face a large degree of uncertainty about their permanent wages early in their careers. If they marry early, as most individuals in the late 1960s did, this uncertainty leads to weak marital sorting along permanent wage. But when marriage is delayed, as in the late 1980s, the sorting

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October 17: Bucket o' Links, "Back on the Wagon" Edition

Well, I said I was going to do this as a regular thing, and then did only two before stopping. So here's an attempt to un-stop. It's a day late, but that's better than never, right?

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According to a Harvard FAS report (as reported in the Crimson), there are now more students at Harvard studying "Engineering and Applied Sciences" than "Arts and Humanities". But fear not that we're losing our liberal-arts soul; there are still half again as many students in NatSci than SEAS, and more students studying Social Sciences than SEAS and NatSci put together.

Graph shows decreasing numbers of concentrators in 'Social Science' and 'Arts and Humanities', and increasing numbers in 'Science' and 'SEAS' over the past nine academic years. 'Special concentrations' is also graphed, but remains vey close to 0 throughout.

personal disclosure: As a student jointly in Computer Science and Math, I'm counted as one tally-mark each in SEAS and NatSci, over my strenuous objections that "the science of computation" is as much an 'applied' science as is "the science of arithmetic". But that's a topic for another day.

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One of the awesome benefits of the House System at Harvard (think kind of like Hogwarts's house system, except the Sorting Hat is

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I Want to Major in Everything!

Today, former Dean of Harvard College Harry Lewis has a piece on Bits and Pieces proposing a characteristically Lewisian crazy idea modest proposal to reform higher ed:

"[W]hat if there were ONLY [minors]? Get rid of [majors]. Have departments, and interdepartmental committees, offer '[minors],' and require students to earn at least two, but allow students to earn several. (Of course '[minor]' is no longer the right term if there are no [majors]. I'll use it just to convey the idea of a small cluster of courses with some disciplinary coherence and a bit of depth.)"

(some translation from "concentration"/"secondary" Harvardese for my non-Harvard readers) And, heading off the inevitable question before it asks itself:

"So how do we incentivize a deeper education, and the engagement of students in advanced scholarship and research, while not requiring every graduate to have a concentration?

"Well, first of all, having two or three secondaries, say in CS and biochemistry, might be more of an intellectual investment in the

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Who goes to class, anyway?

To quote another another commentator today:

The Crimson has an op-ed on simultaneous enrollment that I agree with.

(That's Michael Mitzenmacher, blogging at his own My Biased Coin, whose own op-ed in response is also worth reading.)

I'll let Prof. Mitz do the explaining-of-background:

Harvard does not like simultaneous enrollment, which means a student taking two classes that meet at the same time -- any time overlap counts (whether the whole class or half an hour once a week). If you want to take a class via simultaneous enrollment, you have to petition the Administrative Board, and your professor is supposed to provide direct hour-per-hour instruction for the class you can't intend. As a previous Crimson article states:

The Faculty Handbook requires that "direct and personal compensatory instruction" for simultaneous enrollment, but only recently has the Ad Board refused to recognize videotaped lectures as a stand-in for class time.

The article references that for the past several years the Ad Board has accepted recorded lectures, under some additional conditions, as

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September 5: Bucket o' Links, Back-to-School Edition

Today on Bucket o' Links (sorry, what?), we've got fall classes, textbooks, book-books, Harvard admission statistics, and, of course, Guardians of the Galaxy.

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It's shopping week at Harvard. Study cards aren't due until next week, so students have a week free to test-drive classes, skip class entirely, or just mess around.

Wednesday, I was just messing around. Finding myself with no afternoon classes to shop, I instead dropped into the first lecture of Computer Science 50.

CS50 is...well, it's difficult to explain. Any year now, it's going to pass Economics 10 as the largest class at Harvard. It's almost singlehandedly responsible for a tripling in the size of the CS department in the last five years. It's what happens when you give one of the best lecturers in the world a multi-million dollar operating budget and the mission to teach a class, not just for Harvard students, but for anyone in the world who wants to learn. CS50 is an experience. CS50 is what the future of what

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Dear Brother: These are the Friends I Met

This is part 4 of a 4-part series addressed to the author's brother, discussing the author's perspective on "elite education".

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First, to wrap up our interlude of other people's insights, a zinger from one of my favorite professors ever, Dr. Margo Seltzer:

If I had as much disdain for my students as Deresiewicz appears to have for his, I'd get a new job. Seriously -- I view my students so differently from the way he does that it's hard to imagine we teach at similar institutions, and yet we do.

Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled...


Dear brother,

I haven't said much about my actual experience here, have I? Most of it's been the sort of broad descriptions you could have gleaned by just looking in from the outside; what's it like to actually live there, you ask? I'm glad you did.

Let's start with the people. Here are a few snapshots of my friends, in no particular order:

  • One helped me run a FIRST Lego League team at
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Interlude: More Links on the Ivies

This is part 3 of a 4-part series addressed to the author's brother, discussing the author's perspective on "elite education".

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Sorry, friends; my jet lag (from returning from Hong Kong on Saturday), seems to have finally caught up with me. Part 3 proper is probably going to have to wait a day, since I went to sleep last night instead of writing it. To tide you over, here are a few excerpts from around the internet:

I'm a Laborer's Son. I Went to Yale. I Am Not "Trapped in a Bubble of Privilege." by Andrew Giambrone, Yale grad now writing for The Atlantic, on the New Republic:

First, his argument effaces important economic, social, and personal differences among students, conveniently neglecting the fact that elite colleges allow athletes and engineers to sit around the same seminar tables as sons of farmers and daughters of CEOs. Second, his turgid derision of elite schools risks dissuading lower- and middle-class kids like myself from applying to those very same institutions.

The Ivy League

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Dear Brother: Here's How to Get Admitted to Harvard (if you want)

This is part 2 of a 4-part series addressed to the author's brother, discussing the author's perspective on "elite education".

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Dear brother,

Yesterday, we talked about the (for some) counterintuitive fact that an elite education isn't just for those with elite pocketbooks. (Fun fact: for 90% of students, Harvard is cheaper than state school.) Today, we're grappling with something a bit more meaty.

Deresiewicz's swipe at the financial cost of an Ivy education is delivered offhand, but his critiques of Ivy League admissions policy are full-throated. We, he alleges, were admitted not because we demonstrated true passions and talents or showed any real promise as peers and fellow-students-to-be, but merely because we were "manufactured" to be "fit to compete in the college admissions game."

Well, to borrow a phrase, "it almost feels ridiculous to have to insist that colleges like Harvard" attract truly talented students. What, an admissions committee with basically free choice of the nation's graduating seniors, some of the business's most talented officers, more than a few

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