Hello, dear Blandfill readers. This is a slightly more serious post, I suppose, so you’re in for a treat!
I’d like to talk a little bit about “resolutions” that I think I’d like to adopt in my life. These are sort of like New Year’s resolutions, but different in two ways. First off, I think that 01 January of every year is a little too arbitrary to be meaningful, and it seems like overall it’s a pretty atrocious way to attempt self-changes (at least statistically speaking: Wikipedia says “Recent research shows that while 52% of participants in a resolution study were confident of success with their goals, only 12% actually achieved their goals.”);  and secondly, it’s common for New Year’s resolutions to be pretty specific: “Work out more”, “lose weight”, “get better grades”, “spend more time with family”,  “get more sleep”, et cetera, and I’m not super interested in small specific changes.

So, Tom, what the heck are you talking about?

I’ve more or less alluded to this in previous blog posts (such as, in chronological order, pursuit, advance, funny, ‘trospection) but college has really helped me confront myself and my beliefs and such – not so much politically or religiously, but personally and emotionally. Living at home with my family was a sort of painful box for me; not because of anyone in particular’s fault, but because of my overall situation; and though I numbed to the pain and managed to “be good at stuff” to whatever extent university admissions folks think is important, it’s only since I’ve come here, living without my family, with my roommates, in a new community, that I’ve been able at all to address bigger questions.

I’ve been thinking about ways I’d like to change myself, become better, perform self-improvement — whatever the hell you feel like calling it — and the following “pieces of thought” (they happen to be cartoons) struck a chord in my mind.



I had a phone interview with D.E. Shaw today (I’m applying for a summer internship there). I was kind of afraid I’d get asked about what I wanted to get out of it and where I wanted to be in ten years, which I would’ve had an awkward time answering (that is, arguably, a bad thing in its own right, but never mind). It turned out to be basically fact-based, so that was okay. I talked about the work I did with an astronomy professor last term; the interviewer had me talk about how we processed the data, then asked me some questions about the statistics of it. I remembered the process pretty well, though I guess I wasn’t very clear and had to retry some of it. I remembered the Poisson distribution, but he asked about the conditions for one to be approximated by a normal distribution, which I didn’t really remember. I said it’s acceptable when the expected number of events is at least 20, which turns out to be about right.

After that he asked how to do quickselect, which I answered fairly well, and how to partition an array in place, which was okay, though I didn’t say it very smoothly. Then he asked a pretty simple probability question, which I sort of figured out how to do pretty quickly in kind of a neat way, but it was different from what he was expecting and I didn’t explain it very well, so that kind of fell down. I got the expected method with some prompting, but I really should’ve made it more clear that I actually knew what I was doing. I think he did somewhat recognize what I was saying, at least. Still, I think that was quite a trip-up.

“I will stomp on things to focus my mental energies, or ‘menergies’.”
— T-Rex