Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

IN  WHICH Ross Rheingans-Yoo—a sometime economist, trader, artist, expat, poet, EA, and programmer—writes on things of int­erest.

In the Crimson Again

We've had, what, two posts in the past six weeks? Sorry, guys, I had a senior thesis (pdf) to write. And we're only kind-of back, since I'm luxuriating a bit in the calm after the storm.

But an article I read in the Crimson on Monday got me mad enough to jolt me out of my stupor (this is usually how I get un-slumped from blog hiatus), and I've got an op-ed in today's paper:

Harvard’s a funny place. In the span of a single day, I can attend a lecture about securing the University’s computer systems from foreign hackers by Jim Waldo, Harvard’s former Chief Technical Officer and, just a few hours later, read an article in The Crimson about the Undergraduate Council’s uninformed request that Harvard postpone its plans to upgrade the same outdated password system that makes it difficult to defend the school’s computers. (...)

It begins, as do some of the best op-eds about computer security, with a quote from Chesterton that


Notes from the IOP's UC Debate

Okay, here we go again. As before, I'm paraphrasing throughout, trying to capture substance but not style.

Gene Corbin

This meeting makes me think about the importance of good leadership in our country and on this campus. Let's thank Dhruv and Ava for their leadership, and for all the candidates bravely putting themselves out there in this election.

Ground Rules

Time limits announced per-question. Keep it civil, and try to generate good ideas.

Opening Statements

Shaiba / Danny

We're here to open Harvard. That means opening social space, opening dialogue on mental health and sexual assault, and putting students in those discussions, and making the first-year experience feel like a home.

We'll hit the ground running, because for the past year, we've been working on this issues. We've lobbied the administration and planned parties. We've been crafting a bystander intervention program.

All of these issues are intertwined because students feel like they don't belong on this campus. You don't belong when you have nothing to do on a Friday, when you


Greenlaw and Morris for the UC

Bar "Issues of Varsity Athletics" on the varsity athletes' platform, the only difference between the three tickets' platforms this year is that the Rather/Banks ticket collapses sexual assault and mental health into the single issue "Open Dialogue", while adding the plank "Open the Yard", read "Freshman Life".

I'd be inclined to write this off as a matter of branding and rhetoric rather than ideology, except that at the Crimson-hosted UC Crossfire debate, Danny Banks tried to make hay out of it -- claiming proudly that "We are the only platform with a third of our platform dedicated to freshmen."

I don't think you can believe that those words mean anything if you don't also believe that they mean other planks holding less importance. The time, energy, and political capital of the UC presidency is limited, and if you believe that freshman social life deserves attention at the expense of mental health on campus, then your candidates are Rather and


Notes from the UC Crossfire Debate

This is not a faithful transcript of the questions or answers, since I can't actually type that fast. Instead, it's mostly loose paraphrase throughout. Again, I did not grab all of the rhetoric or issues that candidates nodded to, and most of this is not direct quotation. Nevertheless, it'll give you a bit more of a sense of what candidates' talked about than will the Crimson article you can expect tomorrow.

Opening Statements

Nick / Jeff

We were both disenchanted with Harvard as a whole...but then we realized how lucky we are, and how many things are wrong at Harvard. We can do better as a community, and we can do better as a whole.

Our platform stands on:

  • Mental Health
  • Sexual Assault
  • Social Spaces
  • Issues surrounding Varsity Athletics

Shaiba / Danny

Opening Harvard includes making truly inclusive social spaces, putting students in high-level administrative decisions, and re-imagining the first-year experience.

  • Social Spaces
  • Sexual Assault & Mental Health
  • First-Year Life

Will / Will

People complain about social spaces, put on a band-aid


Not Quite a Dissent: On Solidarity [Guest Post, Response]

A friend and classmate offers the following anonymous guest post in response to yesterday's post on (empty) declarations of solidarity. Their post follows with no edits by me.

The internet is a great and terrible thing. I say this often. We are inundated with a dramatically larger \(N\) of events to process and, thanks to social media, a larger audience to say it to.

I don't claim that the UC does a good thing by spouting largely empty declarations of support. I agree that it's trivializing, condescending, and mostly devoid of meaning, particularly when we seem to stand in solidarity with every cause that comes our way to demonstrate that we are caring, compassionate, and informed citizens of this world. I remember back in April when the #bringbackourgirls hashtag in support of the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls exploded on Twitter--for two days. We offer our solidarity when it is easy, convenient, and painless, and move on with our lives.

All the same, I think there is something valuable in the exercise


Empty Declarations


Context: The Crimson | UC Passes Act of Solidarity in Light of UNC Shooting. But first, Scott Alexander writing in Slate Star Codex | I Can Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup (himself quoting Chesterton):

There are a lot of people who say "I forgive you" when they mean "No harm done", and a lot of people who say "That was unforgiveable" when they mean "That was genuinely really bad". Whether or not forgiveness is right is a complicated topic I do not want to get in here. But since forgiveness is generally considered a virtue, and one that many want credit for having, I think it's fair to say you only earn the right to call yourself 'forgiving' if you forgive things that genuinely hurt you.

To borrow Chesterton's example, if you think divorce is a-ok,

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