Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Jury Has Reached a Verdict

What an incredible weekend! My first collegiate Mock Trial tournament: it was fantastic. We drove out to Worcester, Massachusetts to compete at Clark University with 26 teams, 8 of which would advance to the next level of competition. As was pointed out in the opening ceremony, 70% of us would be eliminated.

Our first round was plaintiff; I was an attorney. Each round is scored by 2 "judges;" winning a ballot means getting a better score than the opposing team, according to one judge's score-keeping. On the first round, we split ballots, meaning our record was 1-1. It wasn't a great start; at that rate, we would end the tournament 4-4, with no chance of earning a bid (earning the right to advance) to the next level of competition. It is notable that, in judges' comments, my captain was considered "spunky" and a "BS artist." In a positive light, I think. Our sister team, Tufts A, went 2-0.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

3:17 PM

The following takes place between the hours of 1:00 PM and 4:00 PM on the Thursday that was a Monday.

Please, I Beg!

It's not every day that one gets to write a grammar post, but today's Daily simply leaves no choice. Thursday's paper features the article: "Rise of Google Art Project begs the question: Can an online work replace the real thing?" And that makes me cringe.

Quick, before reading on...can you spot the error?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Happy CII

Each time I go to write a new blog post, I come to a screen which tells me how many posts I already have. The problem is, it counts posts that were never published; drafts I wrote which are sitting on Google's servers, collecting virtual dust and awaiting much-needed editing, reconsideration, and ultimately fundamental rewriting. The post-count, therefore, is off; it measures too many posts. And so, although it's been displaying numbers over 100 for the past few days, I haven't paid it much attention.

I realized, however, that it would be neat to note the 100th post. The counter said I had 106 thus far, but I went through and counted all the ones that neither made it to the spotlight nor the trash can. There are currently five purgatory posts floating out there. Which means that, at the time of this "107th" addition to the collection, I am writing my 102nd post.

So I seem to have missed the celebration altogether. The true centennial is my Mystery sQuaRe writeup. Then again, 100 is just an arbitrary number as any, right? Why not celebrate 102?

In other blog-related news, The Daily never replied to my submission of the Onion article as an op-ed (their loss), and admissions also never replied to my inquiries about getting involved with the official Tufts Blogs. Let this be a lesson to every human being living in our time: check your email! I'm currently pursuing the latter via alternate routes. We shall see.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Study Break: Elementary IR

What better way to study for IR than via a blog post? So welcome, good readers. Today, you are going to learn a thing or two about international relations.

One nation, under...damnit.
Nation, or State? (by Abby and Brian)
Let's start with the basics: simple terms. The world is divided into states. The United States is not, in fact, comprised of 50 states; rather, it is one big state. Likewise, the United Nations is not comprised of nations; rather, it is comprised of states. So the United Nations really ought to be called the United States, but the name was already taken by the humongous power that should perhaps be called the United State, for clarity. Furthermore, the United States is neither a great nation, nor a good nation, nor a moderate nation, because it's not a nation at all. It's just a state. A really big state. The Kurds, on the other hand, are a nation. And Japan is a nation-state. We don't use the term country; it has nothing to do with international politics.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Mystery sQuaRe

Taking a warm-cut through the campus center the other day, I noticed a funky little QR code pasted to the door. Now, my phone is not equipped with QR decoding software, not to mention an internet plan, but it does have a nifty 2.0 mega-pixel camera (someone with a fancy pocket-sized 50mpx/800iso prototype is laughing at me right now. And our children are laughing even harder, from the future, with their 2.0 petapixel contact lenses). So I snapped a photo. Looks like this:

The QR code. It's like a bar code. You're supposed to scan it with your phone.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Office Assistant

Remember the days of Microsoft Office 2000(ish), with the Paperclip and his friends? According to Wikipedia, the Office Assistants were in use from 1997-2003, and included not only Clippit (the original paperclip), but also Dot, Hoverbot, Genius, Office Logo, Mother Nature, Scribble, Power Pup, Will, F1 (robot), Links (cat), and Rocky (dog). These adorable animations interacted with the user, performing such tricks as rolling over, spinning, fetching a bone, or conjuring a spell.

Each action was meant to be associated with an office function (saving a document caused F1 to open a compartment in his metallic structure and drop a piece of paper into it; Rocky retrieved the mail when new Outlook messages came through), but could be cycled through randomly at a user's will.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

"Onion" Event Pulls $33 Million

A doctored image of what the evening may have been.
"An Evening with The Onion," sponsored by the Tufts Lecture Series and Programming Board Thursday evening, brought to campus two alleged "employees" of The Onion, America's Finest News Source (and satirical web/print publication). In fact, as university president Larry Bacow later explained, the event was nothing more than a prank dreamt up by himself and his wife, Adele, in order to, as he put it, "go out with a bang. The metaphors were pretty clear. We, like onions and ogres, love our time in the spotlight. But having been around since 2001, we, like the Shrek movies, have decided to give it a rest."

A fictitious "raffle" for a supposed "Kindle" lured large crowds to the event, but no raffle drawing ever took place, leaving one student wondering if she really was acting prematurely when she set fire to her entire paperback collection as a method of "pre-gaming."

Monday, February 7, 2011

Who's Laughing Next?

""We have heard nothing from our ambassador in Spain for two years," President Thomas Jefferson once told his secretary of state. "If we do not hear from him this year, let us write him a letter."

This was the example used in my International Relations reading to illustrate the changing technologies of communication.

It's easy to look back on history and laugh; we laugh at the period of time the president is willing to wait, we laugh at funny looking wigs (powdered, of all things!), we laugh at silly ways of speaking ye Old English, at those who thought the world was flat and that the sun revolved around it, at those who believed in spirits and cured diseases through bleeding, at muskets that took far too long to load and rarely ever killed anyone in battle, at misspellings on Liberty Bells and bronze Lady Liberties turned green, at telegram messages and punch-card computing machines, at VHS tapes and dial-up internet, at a generation that may have looked down on smoking but never looked up its deadly side-effects, at black and white television and over-dramatic vacuum cleaner commercials, at gigantic cell phones and door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen. At all these things, we can look back and laugh.

But, if we accept that we have not reached the end, and that our present is merely the next man's past, we can deduce that we are the next ones to be laughed at. Perhaps not directly next; we have yet to laugh at the men walking on the moon, for we have done little more on it; we have yet to laugh at telephones, for we have not yet made them obsolete. There are still generations to laugh at before ours. Yet, soon, our time will come.

What will the people of the future laugh at? Let's extrapolate, based on things we consider antiquated today.


Sure, it's cool to know what your friends have been up to, via Facebook. But history buffs everywhere might find it way cooler to know what dead people had been up to...via Facebook.

I'm taking about an Encyclopedia, but told through the same media that Facebook uses to tell everyone's story. Historical figures would be designated an official profile, on which they could post relevant photographs (if they lived within the past 200 years) or scans of important documents, create and attend historical "events," fill profiles with likes/interests/philosophies, and post statuses from throughout their lives. These profiles would be given special permission by Facebook to alter date-stamps, allowing Benjamin Franklin to post, "Signed the Declaration of Independence today" (or better; excerpts from actual letters and other autobiographical sources) with the date-stamp "July 1776," as opposed to "6 minutes ago." The profiles would be maintained by an organization of historians, updated with accurate information, and marketed as an educational resource to rival Encyclopedia Britannica.

Turns out, this isn't the first time this has been considered. Of course, these mock-ups from Cool Material are more of a joke than an educational tool, but they help get across the gist of what I mean.

Status Update: "Et tu, Brute?"

Isaac Newton has tagged you in the note: "Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica"

Mary Todd Lincoln is now single.

So perhaps those are a bit comical for a serious educational resource, but you get the idea. Brand new, next-generation-friendly educational tool...sounds profitable to me...


New, from the makers of Peacelight:

Reading a Blog post? Eager to share your opinion? Now you can, more easily than ever, with "Reactions."

Simply check off the adjective that best describes your experience with the article, and your vote will be instantly counted. Try it out below.

Contenders that didn't make the final cut include:
  • Enlightening
  • Heartwarming
  • Ineffable
  • "Like"
  • To The Daily!
  • WTF?

Got better suggestions? Want to revive a contender? Comment!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Elvish Lessons

I was recently reflecting on self-control, which led to me reflections on Kashrut, which led to me to vegetarianism, and finally, elves.

Movie was bad. Books were great.
The elves of the Eragon series (first manuscripts written by a then-15-year-old Christopher Paolini, by the way)  had quite a few interesting practices. Their mastery of magic allowed each of them to summon anything he or she desired, and yet there still were those who practiced, for example, the art of sword-making. Ultimately, it was the sword made by the experienced craftsman, by hand, the old-fashioned way, that was supreme; magically-conjured swords were inevitably inferior. The craftsman made her swords because she loved the craft and devoted her life to it, despite such a craft being technically obsolete.

This is a beautiful metaphor for industrialization, whereby factories can mass-produce many products cheaply, but these products are likewise inferior to that hand-crafted by an expert. I would extend the notion as far as to insist that, despite the large selection of website templates readily available to consumers, custom websites, built from scratch to fit the needs of the business or organization, are vastly superior, both in aesthetic quality and functional value. Which is exactly why the web design division of ABC Innovations is growing, rather than shrinking, in demand. While all of this is interesting, it is aside from my main point today.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Textbook Match-Up

Have I mentioned that I'm really just taking the same class, four times? Try and match the following scans the the course. Your choices are: (I) Sociology, (II) Language Thought and Culture, (III) Rational Choice, (IV) International Relations.

Sample A (click to enlarge). Sociology, LTC, Rational Choice, or IR?

Dude, You Have a Qur'an

Last year, a public burning of the Qur'an was prevented by Jacob Isom, who later was commended for his bravery during the Rally to Restore Sanity (and/or Fear). He famously shouted, "Dude, you have no Qur'an!" snatching the holy book away from a man who was trying to publicly burn it.

It is unlikely for that very Qur'an to have made its way from Texas to Massachusetts, but, somehow, a mysterious copy of the Islamic holy book appeared in the common space outside my room Friday morning.

To Thwart a Terrorist

In "Rational Choice", we have been learning about probability, one of the elements of which is dependence. It is important to know whether a second event is dependent upon the outcome of the first.

Rolling 6s again and again is for not especially unlikely.
For example, suppose I rolled a die. What are the chances of rolling a 6? If the die is fair, the answer is 1/6. I roll the die, and I get a 6. Now I am going to roll the die a second time. What are the chances of getting another 6?

Some might want to say that the chances are pretty low of getting another 6. After all, I just got one, and it's a fair die, so it's probably due for a different one of its equally-probable numbers. Besides, the chances of rolling two sixes in a row are pretty slim, right?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Cop on Drugs

When I told my friend that I was interested in going to hear the speaker at 8:00 PM, they wanted to know what it was all about. "It's a presentation by that cop, on drugs," I told them. Meaning a presentation on controlled substances, not a cop using them. And although it would be fun to say that, by the end of the evening, the easily misconstrued statement may have held true either way, I concede that would not be fair. The argument presented by retired detective Jack A. Cole was indeed a reasoned one, and presented a very convincing argument for legalizing drugs in America. Yet, I find there are still flaws. Let's explore.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Day

Last class of LTC, we were talking about how Eskimos (don't) have hundreds of words for snow. Despite the common misconception, it simply isn't true. Besides, we discussed, how does one define "Eskimo?" There are many different groups of people living in the Arctic, each with their own languages and cultures. Moreover, how does one define "word?" In English, would "snow" and "snowy" count as separate words, or does "snow" cover all of its "basic" permutations? And how do we define "snow?" What about "snowball" or "snowman" - are those terms describing snow? What of "slush," "flurries," or "blizzard?" In which case, how many "words" does English have for snow?

Regardless of what we call it, however, everyone on campus, speaking any language, can agree: today is a Snow Day. The first, but hopefully not the last.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Warning: Contains Graphic Content

Most people store digital documents in virtual "folders", and these "folders" are represented by a file-folder-like icon on most computers. Not mine.

I have recently customized the icons which represent the virtual storage containers of all documents related to each of my 5 courses this semester. The purpose in doing so was to both add color and friendliness to my collection of syllabi, readings, and essays, and also to create a visually-based method for more quickly selecting appropriate folders, bypassing the time-consuming task of actually reading folder names.

Each of the above represents a folder on my computer.

So far, it's working pretty well. I know right to go for the gamblers' dice for making Rational Choices, and the comedy/drama masks are an obvious cue for Acting. So far, the system is working.

Want to change icons on your own computer? (Warning: Windows-only instructions to follow.) First, you'll want some icons. You can make your own in a graphics editor by saving your images as ".ico," or download ready-made ones from sites like IconsPedia. Then, right-click a link or folder and select "Properties." Under "Customize," find the "Change Icon" button, and, from there, navigate to wherever you've saved some icons on your computer. Have fun, and feel free to link to screenshots!

Update: 2 Feb. 2011
Check out these old folders I dug up from sophomore year...I actually had to make these. Maybe I'll get back into that at some point.

Pretty pictures! And they actually look like folders...nice!
C'mon people...I know I'm not the only one who does some links...


Why, yes, come to think of it...that is a new logo! Excellent observation.

That's right ladies and gents, as of today, Peacelight has replaced its text-based header with our first ever graphic logo (below).

Peacelight logo as of 1 Feb. 2011

This post mostly exists so that you can comment on the graphic.