Winning the bet dollar

About a year ago, I was playing a word video game on facebook, which involved shooting electronic birds and then obtaining a letter.  It was like hangman, except you weren’t allowed to run out of bullets.  At one point, I decided that the game was too taxing on my fragile brain to attempt it by myself, so enlisted the help of the rest of the Blandfill.  At one point, there was a word that had me completely stumped; Tom assured me that it was in fact a word that is so ridiculous that I wiped it from my memory.  I said to Tom, “I will bet you a dollar that you are wrong.”  It turns out that he was right, and despite it just being a dollar, I felt obligated to make good on my bet, so he received the dollar.

Now, a year later, I received the dollar for being the first to perform a mildly creepy task for Charles (I won’t repeat it here or anywhere, in case you’re wondering.  And no, it was not sexual).  As the owner of the dollar, it was necessary for me to make another bet so that someone else could receive it.  This time, I offered the dollar to the first one of us who posted a new blog.  It’s been 3 days since anyone’s posted, so I’m going to think of a new bet.

I used to think I didn’t need mail goggles.

Last night, at around 4:36 A.M., after drinking more than I’d care to remember, I got back, and decided what I needed more than anything else was a copy of Windows 7.  Tom told me the best thing to do was to e-mail and ask whoever was on the other line to send me a username and password.  Here is how I went about doing that.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Duncan Watts <>
Date: Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 11:30 AM
Subject: Re: CS50 software
To: *********

Sorry, I meant to type MSDN Academic Alliance, on the page

On Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 4:42 AM, ************** wrote:

I would like a username and password for 5h3

Decrypt please.

This is my favorite manifestation of this meme

Charles found this on the interwebs, bless his heart.

Charles found this on the interwebs, bless his heart.

I guess they’re making a computer on a spaceship…

Tonight marks the first time that I’ve finished a problem set well before the deadline (read: more than 12 hours) and having not crammed it all into one sitting.  Not to be a nerd, but I actually enjoyed solving the problems.  This makes me feel like I would really enjoy my schoolwork if I executed it sensibly, which I never do.  Maybe I will start this semester.

I spoke with Professor Dave Charbonneau on Tuesday, between a section and a dinner with the HSS to talk about why I should or shouldn’t concentrate in astrophysics. (more…)

The pursuit of career

Hmm, I’ll write a blog to warm up for my essay.

So, life is interesting and complicated. One of the things people sometimes do in life is enter careers that involve doing jobs. A question arises: What kind of career would I like to do?

I like science a lot. I think that, at a philosophical level, improving the level of mankind’s understanding of the natural world in which we all find ourselves is one of the greatest pursuits there is — here we are, some mammals sitting around wearing clothes sometimes, and we spend years figuring out what the heck everything is and how it got there. Almost as amazing as the fact that anything got there in the first place. (I think Stephen Hawking is a well-known proponent of essentially this idea.) And my favorite branch of the sciences is the science that deals with most of the universe: physics (and astronomy). Understanding the whole universe seems like an extremely ambitious goal, but people have made such big achievements already in figuring out what exactly is out there, beyond the Earth. Space is cool! And the mathematical relations (i.e. laws of physics) that most “stuff” on and near Earth follows seem to hold true throughout the visible universe, as far as we can tell. For me, the idea of being a part of this process of figuring out how the universe works is both extremely appealing and intellectually engaging. This is why I’d like to be a scientist.

Learning how to understand the awesome stuff that we see in the universe is really satisfying

Learning how to understand the awesome stuff that we see in the universe is really satisfying

But, hmm, sometimes becoming a scientist is hard, and maybe in real life it’s not as cool or satisfying as it’s cracked up to be. When I come to it, maybe the actual experience of being a scientist is tedious, unrewarding, and takes too much grant-applying & dealing with bureaucracy, and not enough exploring & appreciating the wonders of the universe. If I were to choose a career that I enjoyed, even if it didn’t have the philosophical benefits of being a ‘man of science’, what would I do with my life? (more…)

Dr. Beardface

Hey internet. Today I was looking at my beard, and it was looking extra frizzy, mostly because I hadn’t showered for about 36 hours and had been doing things like being in a sweaty room and playing powerball. So I decided the best thing to do would be to trim my beard with a beard trimmer. It was electric, and it was looking good until I hit the skin around my left jaw, and I quickly realized there was no way I would be able to salvage it. So now I am shorn. I’ll provide some before and after shots for funzies. Incidentally, I think a haircut is now necessary, since my hair just looks ridiculous now.

Top actually took this picture to capture the man behind me who looked like Skip Gates.

Tom actually took this picture to capture the man behind me who looked like Skip Gates.

I'm too tired to think of something witty.

I'm too tired to think of something witty.

I have a request to our readers (wherever you are). If you could leave a comment on one of the posts if you read it, that’d be great, because it would make us feel loved, and you can never have too much love in your life.

Please disregard the post below.

Nothing to see here, move along.

Blogging from the basement

Laundry is now so close to my room that I may even consider doing it on a semi-regular basis. It literally takes less than a minute to walk to the machines, this is awesome.

This will be a brief post, mostly because I don’t know much to talk about. Last night we sang in the new members of the Glee Club, and that was a great time, partly because they seem like a cool group of guys, and partly because there was a small party afterwards, which was short, but definitely a lot of fun. Today was the first rehearsal with the newies, and it was also the first time it really hit me that freshman year was over. I spent the first fifteen minutes comparing how I felt the first rehearsal last year to how I felt today, and I suddenly realized that I was now one of the older members that I had looked up to for guidance, and that I currently don’t feel prepared to guide. I don’t feel like I know that much more than the freshman, or am more experienced or anything else that’s helpful. Of course, this could just be a sign that I need to actually shape up and start being more experienced and using what I know, and maybe get some kind of an education along the way.

As a side note, I love that I can do my CS50 homework on any computer that has internet.

My dear Watson, and: How to “upgrade” your notebooks for free! (DOUBLE FEATURE)

Hello world!

Last Wednesday, Dr. James Watson of DNA fame decided to visit our school. While he was around, he gave a lecture in a biology class or something. I am a physics student and don’t find myself in biology classes very often, but I heard of his impending appearance so I dragged Duncan and Danny down to go see him talk for an hour. It was pretty cool and I drew a picture of him while he was talking:

I drew it with a pen and made a couple of mistakes that I scribbled out

I drew it with a pen and made a couple of mistakes that I scribbled out

About science, he said “It’s better to have an idea that’s wrong than no idea”, and about which topics are best to do research on, he said “Go to the frontier. Try to get into a field where there are only a couple of people working.” It’s pretty sweet to go see old famous scientists talk, especially when they’re not completely senile (Dr. Watson is the same age as my grandpa and seems to be ageing well, mentally.)


The other day I was thinking about my school notebooks (the kind with spiral rings and paper). My school bookstore sells two variations of spiral notebooks: one kind with the school’s insignia, and one without. The notebooks with the insignia cost over $4, while the plain ones are only $2.19.

$4 vs $2. A careful examination notes that the leftmost one has 20 more pages, but that is far from a $2 value.

$4 vs $2. A careful examination notes that the leftmost one has 20 more pages, but that is far from a $2 value.

The rational response here is: “Big deal, just get the cheaper one and save lots of money.” But observe: The expensive notebooks have one additional feature, an inside folder pocket:

Folder pocket vs no pocket. Pockets are soooo useful for collecting handouts, syllabi, graded assignments, etc.

Folder pocket vs no pocket. Pockets are soooo useful for collecting handouts, syllabi, graded assignments, etc.

I love this sort of folder pocket because it means I don’t have to lose class-related papers everywhere in my bag! But I don’t intend to spend $20+ instead of $10 every semester if I can avoid it. So I decided to make my own inside-pockets.

This isn’t all that epic, nor is it particularly worthy of a blog post, but I think I have a really cost-effective and simple solution that requires only one sheet of standard copy/printer paper and about three staples per notebook. Here’s my walkthrough: (more…)


I’ve started using a scooter to get around:

a scooter

It's a scooter!

The flute section is highly appreciative; other people are generally less so. Or at least they don’t say it much.

Unrelatedly, all my sections for all my classes conflict with everything; the ones that don’t are at inconvenient times. I’m currently looking at having a half hour free between 11:00 and 10:00 on Wednesdays.

“I’m pooched, man! I’m pooched!”
– T-Rex

Writing writing writing

It wouldn’t be Harvard if I wasn’t behind on something. I found myself cramming in a bunch of reading for Chinese Pop Culture, which was actually entertaining (even though I probably should have gotten a better understanding/done close reading; damn my lack of interest) and I straight up haven’t done any reading for astronomy or sex lit. Of course, my inactivity in all my other classes must be due to some other commitment, right? Right. In this case, it’s problem set 0 for CS50. It’s actually the easiest problem set as far as technical skill goes, but it took me about five days to think of a project that I can even do. I’ll post a link to the problem set so you can see the software and stuff if you’re interested in that sort of thing.
There were really two roots for this problem (this problem being my inability to come up with an idea for the program despite thinking about it a long time). The first was that I had this desire, stemming from the last vestiges of arrogance I had from actually getting into Harvard and being the smartest person in a small high school, to make a project that was better than the average project. So I wanted to make it more complex than the dancing cookies video, but less complex than the DDR thing, but close to DDR, right? However, when trying to think up a program, the second root came up, which was that I couldn’t think of anything, simple or complex. That was a little distressing as well, since it sort of implied that I don’t have the creative skills to think up something cool (when I say implied, I mean mouthing it and pointing in my direction), which really made me feel worse about that first bit. [I have a really focused stream of consciousness, don’t I. /sarcasm/] I’m too tired to really belabor that last point anymore, but I did finally think of something that I can implement fairly simply. It involves Spongebob jellyfishing, but at the same time trying not to get stung by jellyfish. It’s definitely something I can get finished by Friday at 7:00 PM, but I could see myself finishing around 6:30. The most frustrating part about this project is that it is taking me a lot of time to implement (I’d definitely put myself in the less experienced column, btdubbs) but I know that when I’m finished with it, it won’t be very impressive. I suppose that’s what separates the boys from the men (or girls from the women, etc.), and no one said it would be easy. This is way too stream of consciousness. I’m gonna break it up with something high-larious.

I’m starting to get more excited about the freshmen for Glee Club. Less so for band, but that’s mostly because you can never tell if they’ll stick with it. But with Glee Club, it’s gonna be a lot of fun. Sing-ins are on Sunday, and I remember that being one of the most exciting moments of the first semester for me, so I’d definitely like to share that experience with new members, almost like new brothers. I tell you, the Harvard Glee Club is like a fraternity, but with less exploiting women and more singing.

Tom recommended a prescription for these blog posts that he’s sort of followed for his, but I can’t remember what it was, and I’m fine with however this turns out. But I do hope that these posts are interesting to people other than me. And I will try to cut down on the stream of consciousness in the future, but it’s just so much fun! Thanks for taking the time to read, I know this was a little excessive.


Hello everybody. Lemme tell you a story.

Once upon a time, I played the saxophone a lot and got pretty good. (They even wrote a newspaper article about me: ; tremendous apologies for the self-promotion.) Then my senior year of high school ended and I got lazy and stopped playing. Then my freshman year of college came, and I decided I wanted to focus on school more than music, so I didn’t join any music groups, and ultimately didn’t play my sax at all. In the end I left my horn completely unused for 15 months.

This summer, though, I realized that I’d given up a piece of my life that I’d really enjoyed, so I decided once I got back to school I’d get back in the groove. And — somehow — I’ve held to it! After fetching my sax out of summer storage last week, I started practicing again on Thursday. I even decided that I’d audition for the Jazz Band here. With only four days to prepare, I didn’t think I’d do all that great, but it couldn’t have hurt in any case.

A clip of what I sounded like on Saturday, day 3 of me “coming out of retirement”: sax_prax2

Today was my audition. I played significantly better than what you can hear in the audio file, but nothing terribly impressive. Still, I told my story to the band directors and they were quite sympathetic to my situation, saying that “you’re at the toughest point, getting back into it right now, but keep on playing; it’s great that you’re picking it up again”. It was really nice to hear that encouragement. And, even though I got an email from them at 6 PM telling me that “we are unable to offer you a regular playing opportunity”, I feel like I’m ready to get back into regular practice again. Perhaps that is all that matters.

Well, tomorrow morning Charles is taking us out to Dim Sum, woo! It’ll be my first time. And today we saw District 9, which is way cool. I’ll go shopping tomorrow for school-related stuff; I’ve gotta get some notebooks and maybe binders if I hope to keep organized this year. And maybe I’ll even finish up my CS project. Things are going decently well for a new year.

Too Much Desktop Real Estate? Not Likely…

After receiving two 21″ CRT monitors today (involuntarily), we have a total of 11 monitors in our room (soon to be 12, Tom’s old laptop is being shipped).  I forgot how large CRT screens are; they’re about the same length as the desks.

Duncan's desk

Duncan's desk




Danny's desk along with his new laptop on the table

My desk

My desk

Order of acquisition:

  1. At the beginning of freshman year, Danny and I come with 2 computers.  Tom and Duncan have 1 each.
    Total: 6
  2. Tom buys a new laptop last year.
    Total: 7
  3. Duncan gets a second monitor off a senior.
    Total: 8
  4. For my birthday last week, I order a new 24-inch monitor.
    Total: 9
  5. Danny buys a new laptop.
    Total: 10
  6. Today, Danny spots a free desktop offered on an MIT mailing list, but the catch is we must take 2 CRT screens as well.  I guess the guy had to get rid of them somehow.
    Total: 12

I imagine that we will all be much more productive now even if the extra monitors are only used for email/YouTube/Windows Media Player (I’m just gonna ignore the diminishing marginal utility that we’ve been experiencing for a while now).

Next step: connect everything with Synergy.

The Freshman A Capella Jam, or Why the Crimson Key is a Terrible Organization

I love gullible freshmen, for one thing. We were the last in the a capella jam (we being Glee Club Lite), and in the announcement before Hey Julie by Fountains of Wayne, Umang announced that the next song was “…dedicated to a Julie in the audience, so if you’re here, this is for you.” No one laughed, there were only coos and ahs. Wonderful.

Now the Crimson Key is an organization that only runs events for only the freshmen, and does it poorly. We were scheduled for a sound check at 6:30, in full “costume”, and then we were to be in Sanders Theater at 8:45. What they neglected to tell us is that they had already calculated that we would be on stage at around 10:15. I don’t think any choir needs to be dressed and ready for a performance an hour and a half before their performance. Incidentally, it was scheduled to be a 2.5 hour concert, so a good deal of our audience had left by the time we got up on stage. On a positive note (a pun, get it?) they really did seem to enjoy our performance.

I haven’t posted anything yet, so I suppose I will.

I’m currently planning to take Physics 143a, Physics 15c, CS 175 (Graphics), Math 122, and English 182 (Sci Fi). I’m also intending to audit CS 50 (everyone’s taking it!) and Astronomy 17, and possibly CS 153 and CS 61, though 15c conflicts with a half hour of 61. Also, I have the 61 book, so I might just try to read it.

That will be all for now.

Failure is just success rounded down, my friend!
– T-Rex

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