Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Memorization might be good for you

This article suggests that the ability to solve new problems can be improved by training one's memory.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Passover cooking

My favorite holiday is coming up! See here for an article on a chef who has written several Kosher cookbooks.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Illustrated BMI

I thought this was interesting. It has photographs of women with their weight and body mass index. Some comments:
  • I believe the purpose of this (or the purpose of links to this) was to show that "normal" is thin, "overweight" is normal, etc. Might also be a sign that America is becoming accustomed to seeing people of unhealthy weights. (When I go to foreign places--like France and LA--I am always shocked to realize that I am not nearly as thin as I thought I was...)
  • How is BMI being measured here? If you did a ratio of weight/height or something like that, that's not good enough because you don't factor in muscle mass. Not stating how BMI is measured makes pictures like "____ is 'overweight'--and a triathlete" less convincing...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Some things I learned as an undergraduate

I have always wanted to put up list like this to 1) reflect on how my undergraduate education has been good for my character development and 2) convey what I've learned to others (in particular, people who are younger). Below is an incomplete list of what I have learned in my almost-four years as an undergraduate in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

  1. Weather matters. Not saying you should choose where you go to school based on the weather, but especially if you go to school where there is a big campus you will probably walk around outside much more than you are used to. This is something to take into account when envisioning your life as a college student and when planning your wardrobe.
  2. Getting sick is much worse when you are responsible for making up class, homework, etc. and you might not have people to take care of you. Dress warmly, eat well, and exercise.
  3. Getting enough sleep is vital for productivity. Having so much homework that you cannot get enough sleep to do a good job or procrastinating such that you have to continually lose sleep to do assignments will degrade the quality of your work and thus the quality of your education.
  4. If you go somewhere rainy, galoshes (rain boots) are an excellent investment.
  5. If you go somewhere cold, invest in a good coat. It took me a long time to learn that wind resistance is orthogonal to warmth of coat. If you go to school in Boston, make sure your coat is not only the warmest in the store but also wind resistant.
  6. Acquiring a humidifier is also a good idea. Dry air compromises your immune system.
  7. Whether you go to the library is orthogonal to how productive you are. You shouldn't allow yourself to feel productive just because you got yourself to the library. (Doing this may be counterproductive.)
  8. That said, it is a good idea to figure out where you study best. This is different for different people--I prefer my room because it is quiet and there are no distractions; other people prefer the dining hall for its ambient noise.
  9. It is important to have an ergonomic setup. I got a neck strain from having a poor ergonomic setup with my computer monitor--I am still healing after 4+ months. Since then, I've invested in a better chair and a footrest.
  10. There will probably be many people with different goals in life and different ideas of the social hierarchy. Getting caught up with a a group of people who share a single set of goals (and corresponding idea of the social structure) might limit your character development.
  11. Don't assume people know what they are talking about just be because they sound like they do. The smartest people are often not the most confident ones.
  12. Having too much of an ego will get in the way, but having a healthy amount of ego is important.  Thinking you can't do things is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  13. Paying attention in lecture might save you some time later (from reading the book, from being confused, etc.), since professors tend to ask questions related to their way of presenting the material.
  14. Get a credit card if you think you can be responsible about it. Having a good credit score will be useful for taking out loans later in life, and you can't have a good credit score if they don't know anything about you.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Monads and Saint Augustine

I know the term "monad" has meanings other than the Haskell meaning, but I was nonetheless excited to come across "monad" in St. Augustine's Confessions:

"I distinguished between the unity there is in virtue and the discord there is in vice. I conceived that the unity consisted of the rational soul and the nature of truth and the highest good. But I imagined that in the disunity there was some kind of substance of irrational life and some kind of entity in the supreme evil. This evil I thought was not only a substance but real life as well, and yet I believe that it did not come from you, my god, from whom are all things. And the first I called a monad, as if it were a soul without sex. The other I called a dyad, which showed itself in deeds of violence, in deeds of passion and lust--but I did not know what I was talking about. For I had not understood nor had I been taught that evil is not a substance at all and that our soul is not that supreme and unchangeable good." [4.25.24]

Some definitions:
monad - from ""

2) A kind of constructor used in functional programming to structure programs that include sequenced operations. The primary use of monads in this context is to express input/output (I/O) operations without using language features. In general, however, monads are useful whenever a programmer wants to perform a purely functional computation separate from a related computation performed apart from it.

4) A symbol used by ancient Greek philosophers, including Plato, Pythagoras and Aristotle, to describe God or the totality of all beings. Metaphysical and theological theory describes "monism" as the concept of "one essence."

dyad - Greek philosopher's principle of "twoness" or "otherness"