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Monthly Archives: January 2009

Your Beautiful Parts

Today Shakesville asks what part of your body is most beautiful/handsome?  It’s a bit awkward to think about, and that’s why I’m forcing myself to answer here.

I think I have to follow suit with Melissa and choose my eyes.  I like their blue (though sometimes I prefer to call them grey), and I have really long eye lashes, which I make wishes on whenever they fall onto my cheeks.

Anyone else care to choose a favorite part/feature of themselves?

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Posted by on January 29, 2009 in Garbage In, Garbage Out

 

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Pearl Harborer

Last year at Zandperl’s Halloween party we were playing “The Coachride to the Devil’s Castle” (aka Die Kutschfahrt zur Teufelsburg), and we spontaneously came up with the following definition of “Pearl Harborer”:

Pearl Harborer

In the Card Game “Die Kutschfahrt zur Teufelsburg” (“The Coachride to the Devil’s Castle”), a Pearl Harborer is someone who is surreptitiously hiding the “Schwarze Perle” (a.k.a. “Black Pearl”) card.

Brian’s going to declare victory this turn, unless he’s a pearl harborer…

I submitted this definition to Urban Dictionary.

It was rejected.  Superficially, that’s not a big surprise, nor do I care.

coachride_small

What surprised me, initially, was that it took so long for them to get back to me.  I submitted the entry on October 27, 2008, and received my “entry not published” email three days ago.

Peer review is known to take ages, but still I could not imagine why the rejection would be so slow (compared to Wikipedia rejections, which can happen within minutes).  But the real surprise here is that Urban Dictionary has standards at all. The rejection letter came with a link to Urban Dictionary’s publishing guidelines (you may need to sign up to see the link):

As an editor, you decide what gets published. Use these guidelines while you make your decisions.

1. Publish celebrity names but reject friends’ names.
2. Publish racial and sexual slurs but reject racist and sexist entries. 
3. Publish opinions.
4. Publish place names.
5. Publish non-slang words. Ignore misspellings and swearing.
6. Publish jokes.
7. Reject sexual violence.
8. Reject nonsense. Be consistent on duplicates.
9. Reject ads for web sites.
10. Publish if it looks plausible.

So anybody can sign up to be an editor, and some consensus of arbitary/random editors decides which entries get accepted and which get rejected.  According to these guidelines, my entry should have been published.  However, whichever editors saw it disagreed, probably because they didn’t “get” the definition, so now it’s lost to the world forever.

The sad part is that this isn’t so far off from academic peer review.  Sometimes you discover or create knowledge that you know is right, and you try to put it out there but the people reading it don’t think it should be seen, and they reject it, often with little or no explanation why.  If it’s this hard to publish in the haphazard, anything goes environment of Urban Dictionary, imagine how hard it must be to publish in a journal, where entries theoretically have consequences.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2009 in Alchemy, Entertainment

 

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If Knowldge Were Power

gutlogoLast weekend was the 2009 MIT Mystery Hunt, and it was a grand old time as usual.  I don’t have anything extremely insightful to write about it for a general audience, so I’m going to go list format for highlights:

  • We wrote a national anthem (bootleg version).
  • We built a spaceship/robot.
  • I was reminded again how bad I am at solving puzzles*.
  • I *saw* a lot of cool puzzles that I didn’t get to participate in because I was too busy on something else.
  • I had a lot of trouble sleeping Friday night…  I think it’s because I gave up coffee in mid-December and one D+D medium was enough to keep me going until 4AM.
  • There was a puzzle that required having an XBOX live membership looking up XBOX Live achievement data.
  • The hunt was HUGE — well over 100 puzzles…  Can anyone confirm how many there were?
  • Our team (Grand Unified Theory of Love) is composed of a lot of cool people that I wish I saw much more often.
  • I have a tendency to have very little forgiveness for people not doing what they’re asked with respect to team organization.
  • Tony’s coverage.
  • Zandperl’s coverage.
  • Jeremy’s Intro and Wrap-Up.

* Does anyone have any suggestions for how to fix this?

I was very happy overall, and glad to bring Paul and Sniperbunny along with me.

Turning to the week, I realize that for a long time I’ve been saying “I’ll get to that as soon as the hunt’s over” for a lot of important to-dos on my list…  More importantly I haven’t really started cracking at my recent resolution, which is an indicator that I haven’t personally accepted the gravity of my research deficit.

Update: Weirleader reminds me that I wrote a couple posts about the Mystery Hunt last year.  Apparently my lackluster puzzle solving ability hasn’t changed much in the past year.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2009 in Entertainment

 

1280 x 960

In 2008, I resolved to run 1000 miles.  This was a good resolution because it was quantitative, yet long-term, and challenging, yet achievable.  This year I want to resolve to do something that also meets these criteria, but I don’t want to just repeat my 2008 resolution.

I liked the running resolution in particular because I got something tangible out of it.  I’m in the best running shape of my adult life.  I feel good when I run.  I’ve improved my health and fitness.  Now I want to do something similar for my brain.

Recently, I realized that I’ve been learning more at the local trivia night than I have been working on my Ph.D. research topic.  This troubles me.  School is for learning, right?  So what am I doing wrong?  Part of the problem is that graduate research can have little tangible gratification along the way.  There are no grades.  We never feel the sweet release of final exams.  There isn’t always a clear measure of progress.

With that in mind, I wanted to make 2009 a year for learning new skills.  I made a list of goals for things to learn/practice over the course of the year.  It had everything from picking up a new instrument to doing 100 consecutive push-ups. This was a fun list to make, so I’m going to save it in a draft on my blog even though I eventually decided not to make it a part of my 2009 resolution.

Instead, I decided to take the practical route:

In 2009, I will finish my Ph.D. project, write my dissertation, and defend my thesis.

From my current vantage, this seems about as likely as a herd of cats carrying me to school tomorrow on their backs.  From your perspective, on the other hand, it may seem like a cop out to resolve to do something that I am pretty-much on track to do anyways.

But I assure you, this is not going to be easy.  I’ve been working on…  stuff…  for five years now, and I feel I have very little to show for it. Making this thesis happen is going to require discipline, planning, and maybe if I’m lucky, some learning. My running resolution was a success largely because of the logging and reporting I did throughout the course of the year. Completing my thesis will require a similar attention to progress.  I could record pages over time, or just blog more frequently about research, but I’m open to hearing any suggestions for reaching this goal.

What are your resolutions for 2009?

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2009 in Alchemy

 

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I Would Run 1000 Miles

Early in 2008, I made a New Year’s Resolution to run 1000 miles over the course of the year.  I liked this resolution from the start – it was quantitative, attainable, challenging, and spanned the entire year.  There were ups and downs, but with a few days to spare in December I hit 1000 miles (total mileage: 1013 miles).  I’m left with a really happy trend in my mileage over the last 8 years:

Milage_Per_Year_2008

I’m ecstatic I’ve been able to incorporate running into my life more substatially every year since I started grad school.  I’m not expecting another 30% increase in mileage for 2009, but I do think I can make good things happen by continuing consistent running.

An unexpected feature of the seasonal mileage pattern for the year was that I actually ran more in the winter-spring season than in the summer or fall:

Mileage_per_season_2008

In this chart, “WS” is the Winter-Spring season (January-April), “S” is the Summer season (May-August), and “F” is the Fall season (September-December).   Compare the winter of 2008 to any other winter and the difference is striking.  My mileage drop off in the warmer months is due to a number of factors — injury, illness, meeting my current girlfriend, but I’m really glad I put those hard miles in early.  Those up front miles made the 1000 mile goal possible.

I’ll close now with a collection of all my running posts from the year, but I promise another post with my 2009 resolution soon.

Running posts from 2008:

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2009 in Alchemy, No Easy Days

 

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