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: July 28)

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: Marginal Revolution | How well is Germany dealing with the migration crisis? — "Whatever respite Germany may have gained this week is offset, and then some, by the arrival of a new and frightening political dynamic. Mr. Seehofer succeeded by going nuclear; chances are, he won’t be the last. The politics of fear and menace may be here to stay, undermining the foundations of democracy. In sound democracies, policies are the results of compromise between parties representing a majority of the voters. Through the politics of artificial crisis, minorities take the system hostage. They create policies redeeming fictional problems for fictional

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April 17 Links: The Ecuadorian Tourism Agency, and Other Air Travel Pranks

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Ecuador, attempting to prove that it's indistinguishable from Costa Rica, tricks a tour group thinking they've gone to Costa Rica into believing that they were going to Costa Rica when in fact, they were taken to a part of Ecuador that was, apparently, indistinguishable from Costa Rica.

I'm really not kidding:

As Ecuador residents arrived, not in Costa Rica but another Ecuador airport, Tena, where they were given fake stamps in their passports as they went through a staged passport control. No attention to detail was spared as huge posters were placed over the welcome billboards at the airport. Adverts depicting Imperial beer and 'Esencial Costa Rica,' Costa Rica's national brand, were displayed in the airport to throw the group off the scent.

Even fictitious immigration documents and car licence plates were created to make the group think they were in Golfito, a port town in Costa Rica. On top of all that organisers used mobile phone and GPS blockers to keep passengers from using technology to discover

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January 23 Links: Sciences from Soft to Hard; Eggs from Hard to Soft

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The first was going to be about my favorite Operating Systems professor ending up in the Financial Times for her quotes at Davos on David Cameron's proposed policies banning strong encryption, but then it passed 450 words, and I spun it off into its own post.

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Instead, (speaking of economics and expert opinions,) The Upshot asks how economists came to dominate the [public-policy] conversation, beating out historians, psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, and demographers:

Two hundred years ago, the field of economics barely existed. Today, it is arguably the queen of the social sciences.

These are the conclusions I draw from a deep dive into The New York Times archives first suggested to me by a Twitter follower. While the idea of measuring influence through newspaper mentions will elicit howls of protest from tweed-clad boffins sprawled across faculty lounges around the country, the results are fascinating. And not only because they fit my preconceived biases.

Using the new Chronicle tool that catalogs the entire Times archive, I discovered that in

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January 9 Links: Futures and Pasts of Things

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The Upshot, when they're not putting out awesome data features, apparently publishes things like Obama's Community-College Plan: A Reading List, which is a useful read on (1) what is actually being proposed (2) how it compares to other similar proposals and programs (3) why any of this matters.

The odds of a Republican Congress passing an Obama proposal on any issue aren't very high... [But i]f nothing else, the Obama proposal seems likely to increase the profile of the universal-college movement. That movement echoes the universal-high-school movement of the early 20th century, as I mentioned in an article Thursday. (...)

And a short bit of opinion on the necessity of "universal college":

Yet we never stop to ask why 13 years of universal education has become the magic number -- and why it should permanently be so, given how much more complex our society and economy have become in the ensuing century. If nine years of free education was the sensible norm for the masses in the 19th century

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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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Bad Advice, Quantum Mechanics, Normalcy

(The title of this blog post brought to you by "potential romantic comedy plots in five words or less")


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A few months ago, Harvard's George Vasmer Leverett Professor of Mathematics recommended a movie to his freshman Real Analysis class -- on some tangent in class, he noted that "it's a fantastic movie; you should all watch it."

The movie, of course, was Spring Breakers. So, the other day, a few friends and I borrowed the Jefferson 250 lecture hall (where we had once-upon-a-time taken RA with GVL Prof. Gross) and threw the movie up on the giant projector screen.

We turned it off after thirty minutes of nauseating dialogue, uncomfortable soft-core pornography, and implausible montages of "college kids" drinking "beer". It was bad. Really bad. I'm really not sure how Prof. Gross managed to sit through the movie himself.

But really, the problem here is that I still don't know why we were told to watch this vapid, gratuitous, teen-star nonsense. What I've considered so far:

  • Benedict Gross
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