My Faults My Own

One's ponens is another's tollens.

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

Reading Feed (last update: April 2)

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: Don't Worry About the Vase | On Automoderation -- Zvi concretizes much the the vague disease I was feeling around Automoderation, despite it being an eminently plausible approach to its design specification.


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Blog: JeffTK | Slack tool: predict -- Note that Jeff's implementation is of a market mechanism that's not budget-balanced, and rewards marginal improvements of the "last price", rather than marginal improvements of the "current best price". I suspect that these design decisions have the net effect of denoising the signal of predicter quality.

Blog: Schneier on Security | New Gmail Phishing Scam -- "The article is right; this is frighteningly good."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The Baffling Politics

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Necessary, True...

Just a short post today, dumping something that I found interesting out of my brain and into plaintext.

Today, I had someone pull me aside and ask me if I was alright; several people had noticed that I was really worked up about something the other day, to the point of getting angry at one of my coworkers.

It took me a few seconds to figure out what he was talking about, and when I did, I laughed a little. "Oh, Lucian and I go way back; we've been roommates for two years now. We're in the habit of giving each other a hard time; there's nothing wrong."


Afterward, I realized what I should have said -- something like: "Oh. I understand what it might have looked like, but actually everything's okay. We've been roommates for two years now, and I was just giving him a hard time."

The crucial

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Oh, say...

A year ago, the school (and the city) was just getting off lockdown after the manhunt for the marathon bombing suspect(s). And looking backward, there's a few things I remember quite clearly:

  • the spreadsheet of students offering couch space, spare beds, and sleeping bags to 'stranded' students unsure if it was safe to be crossing campus
  • the Dining Services workers who crossed a city on lockdown (by bike, as I recall) to come in to work, and the students who volunteered to work the dining hall with them
  • the pre-frosh who came to Visitas Weekend despite its cancellation (including mine!), and the hosts who did everything they could to make their stay worth its while (in the fall, the school would announce record yield numbers...)
  • the sudden, temporary freedom from work -- afterward, a friend would recall "I've never felt so free as that day we were trapped inside!
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[OGPS] A Letter Home

So, I was forced to write a letter home to one of my robotics kids' parents yesterday:

A letter to one of my students' parents, complimenting his work in class

I was inspired, I suppose, by that Taylor Mali video. Not that I'm that awesome yet. Someday. I recently read a quote that I hope sticks with me for a while: "It's harder to be nice than clever." But then again, this letter wasn't even remarkably nice; it was just the honest thing to do.

And then I gave the student a bag of Hot Cheetos and some bite-sized candies. At which point, he informed me that I was "all right". Which might have been the best thing I've heard in a while:

"Ross, you all right."

I couldn't help but smile the entire bus ride back to Harvard.

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Epiphany at the Petting Zoo

Harvard owns a petting zoo.

In the grand scheme of things, this is not exceptionally surprising. Harvard also owns such disparate objects as a hundred-year-old printing press, a forest in central Mass, and a fleet of Harvard-insignia waffle irons.

In Harvardese, "Veritaffle". You can't make this stuff up.

I don't know how long the zoo has been Harvard's; at least, I remember the bunnies being used to promote Leverett House (whose mascot is a hare) on housing day in March, and the full zoo making an appearance at Eliot House's welcome-back barbecue in September. Nowadays, it's become a weekly fixture in front of the Science Center on Thursday afternoons. To paraphrase one of my professors: "There's no more relaxing way to spend 20 minutes on a Thursday afternoon."

Particularly in need of quick relaxation after Math 131, I made my own stop by the petting zoo. At that point, they

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A Day's Worth


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"Make someone's day better!"

...was my parting words to a friend today, as she left for her afternoon shift at the Science Center IT help desk. I meant them sarcastically. Everyone knows that IT help is useless, and that the people who go to the help desk with problems will never find help in this world or the next. (I may or may not still be being sarcastic, and should probably mention it before aforementioned friend murders me in my sleep...)


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But it got me thinking. What am I doing with my days to make (other) people's days better? What is the marginal happiness that results from an hour of my time spent working on heterogeneous-source, free-text medical data mining? (For those of you who don't know, MDM was my summer research, and it's stuck around as a part-time thing I do sometimes during term-time.) What's the absolute

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[OGPS] [China] Week 2 Disasters


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I had a surreal moment today. At about 8pm, and OGPS janitor walked in to find me still in the classroom, and asked "Aren’t you too old to be playing with Legos?"

You see, I was busy finishing the FLL game board models (that is, obstacles and scoring objects for the FLL Robot Game) and was completely engrossed in constructing a six-inch-long truck. Now, there are a few answers I could have given:


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No, I’m not too old. No one’s too old.

I was, after all, completely relaxed for the first time in several days. Though I’ve not had a serious Lego project for years, I had managed to slip back into the flow of pieces fitting together the way they should, and the way I knew they were going to.

Incidentally, I’d encountered the same nostalgia earlier in the day, when I

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(Not really) About Math

This post brought to you by a lovely dinner conversation with a non-biological aunt and a dear friend who I definitely don't see enough, given that we've known each other for almost precisely our entire lives.

note: this is not the post on vegetarianism that I promised. I got distracted in the middle of drafting that one. It's sort of complicated, and I haven't quite yet figured out how I want to put what I want to say, but I promise that I'll get back to it, and to China, eventually. In the mean time, just enjoy this ramble on a very important thing.

Girls are bad at math. It's a simple matter of statistics. Statistically sound double-blind studies done in the US in the last twenty years clearly indicates that girls perform significantly worse on tasks related to math and logical-reasoning than their male counterparts, controlling for, well, everything.

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