Archive for May, 2011

Carpe-ing the Diem

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Mark Twain knows what's up.

“Never let schooling get in the way of your education.”  – Mark Twain

You came to Stanford because you realize that there is significantly more to an education than merely the classes you take, the books you read, and the problem sets you solve.  There’s no doubt that Stanford has top notch academics.  But we have so much more.

And yet, during the supposed “sophomore slump” of my Stanford career, I’ve sadly seen too many of my peers take way too many core classes and, to a certain extent, forget the initial Stanford magic that brought us here.

This is my two cents on rekindling that passion and “doing it right.”  I’ll readily admit that at the ripe old age of 20, I don’t claim to have it all figured out.  (I also don’t claim to speak Latin, as you can probably tell.)  But when the things that made you happy become the things that drive you crazy, it’s time for a quick reset.

It’s not about the schooling; it’s about the education.

Making the Grade

In Soviet Russia, sleep gets you!

Too often, I see students so focused on the end result, getting that right answer or passing that midterm, that they ignore the lesson.  Write numbers without comprehension.  Miss the learning process.  I’ve sat in too many lectures with students frantically scribbling last minute answers.  “Wait, why is that right?”  “Heck if I know.  The TA said so.”  Didn’t we all have to write an essay about intellectual vitality to get in here?  What’s going on?

If you’re writing down answers you don’t understand, you’re doing it wrong.  If you’re busting your butt on hour 22 of that problem set for the incremental difference between an A and an A+, you’re doing it wrong.


And a Happy Dead “Week” to You, Too

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Searching like Dr. Livingstone for some time to get my work done.

Spring quarter seems to elicit a stifling set of canned interactions near its finish. We talk about our summer plans, remark on how shockingly fast the quarter has gone, ask seniors how it feels to be leaving, do our best to have a fling or two, and then, inevitably, lament the period that threatens to darken every drop of sunlight we enjoy: Dead Week.

Stanford students reserve a special place in their groaning repertoires for Dead Week, and this spring’s version promises not to disappoint. Those hoping for a respite from the typical stress mentioned above can take comfort in the fact that this “week” makes even less sense than usual: one holiday, two packed days of class, one study day, and then exams starting on Friday. We might as well be members of the Amondawa, an Amazonian tribe that according to American and Brazilian researchers possesses no abstract concept of time.

One would think that, under the circumstances, we might get a break for those two little class days so that we could concentrate on our finals. However, Dead Week is so prevalent in our study culture that the Registrar has developed specific policies to standardize its mayhem. Although such standard operating procedures might help during most quarters, they have now crafted an environment of insanity. According to the Registrar Office’s End-Quarter Policy Statement, which addresses the last week before finals, “Major papers or projects about which the student has had reasonable notice may be called due in the End-Quarter Period.” This means that, as is my case, one can have a major paper due on Tuesday and then a final term paper due on Friday in the midst of preparing for exams on the following Tuesday and Wednesday.

The end of the academic rainbow is within our reach. If only it could be this pretty.

No matter how “reasonable” the notice I receive happens to be, this situation is a classic example of an organizational process model revealing its human flaws. Other students may face much more daunting tasks than I, and there is little they can do about it other than complain to the Registrar’s Office, which is famous for dragging its feet in any official academic complaint. One could argue that a sensible student would have planned ahead for the crunch time. I would respond that I planned to the extent that I could, as I would in any other quarter. Unfortunately, this quarter gave me less time to do the same amount of classwork, along with an uptick in non-academic work as I sought, among other things, to secure a job for the summer. The most I could do was plan to be stressed.

So, instead of Dead Week, we now have a Dead Week time-lapse, complete with a new energy drink called “eVolv.” At least the primal scream will sound the same. Although I normally opt for the stoic approach, I may even participate this year, especially if some partially deaf aficionado of electronic music sits across from me in the library with erratic beats emanating from his or her earbuds. If we are loud enough, perhaps someone at the Registrar’s Office will notice.

Verizon (and kind of Stanford) presents: Third Eye Blind

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

On May 26th, for the first time in my undergraduate career, I think Stanford finally hosted a legitimate alternative rock band! Unfortunately, it wasn’t really Stanford’s gig – this time the student body owes thanks to Verizon. As part of their Coffee Shop Series, Verizon Wireless invites local bands to have free events for the coffee shop cultures around the West Coast. For some reason that I haven’t quite picked up on, they chose the CoHo!

And unfortunately for the CoHo (and fortunately for the rest of the student body) the event was moved to Memorial Auditorium. Lead singer Stephan Jenkins explained on stage that the fire marshal had a few problems with Third Eye Blind playing in such a small coffee shop. I’m glad he did, especially since the student population came out in droves. MemAud was packed with students who stood swaying to the music who eventually crowded the aisles to be closer to one of their favorite bands. Fans sang along to songs from the band’s new album Ursa Major, and to old favorites including Jumper.

Third Eye Blind performs at the Stanford Memorial Auditorium as part of Verizon Wireless’ Coffee Shop Series. PHOTO CREDIT: Colson Griffith for Verizon Wireless

But the night started out a little bit earlier for the some of Verizon’s VIP winners. These lucky students arrived around 6:00 pm to meet and take a picture with the band. Students excitedly waited in line to have their picture taken, which they received when the show was over. I got a few minutes with the band as well. Jenkins and drummer Brad Hargreaves were kind enough to answer a few questions for me before the show:


Jack Dorsey on the History of Twitter and Square

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Jack Dorsey Pic
Image Credit: James Ryang

Last Wednesday evening, I attended a talk at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco with Jack Dorsey, co-founder and executive chairman of Twitter and co-founder and CEO of Square. On this day, Jack walked us through his past and the history of how Twitter and Square came about. It was truly a fascinating story.

Cities and What Happens In Them

It all started when Jack was about 8-years old. He grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and always had this unexplainable fascination, perhaps borderline obsession, with cities. He couldn’t explain what it was about them but because of this, Jack would collect maps of all sorts of cities. To him, Manhattan was the holy grail because there were 8 million people there on any given day doing all sorts of things. This meant lots of activities and various things going on inside Manhattan. And he found all of it interesting. At age 14, he would stumble onto programming solely for the purpose of being able to plot dots on a digital map so that he could visualize these cities. At first, the dots didn’t have any real meaning to them. They were just dots he could add to the maps. He just wanted to be able to do it and self-taught himself programming to do just that. However, at the time, his parents had an old police scanner and he found that by listening in, he could hear about all the things currently going on with the ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars. They would often report what was going on, and where these emergency vehicles were located, and where they were headed. Suddenly Jack has this idea to map out the coordinates of these emergency vehicles and color code them to indicate which was an ambulance, which was a fire truck, and which was a police vehicle. Now, he could roughly see where they were and roughly estimate the path and routes they were traveling to get to their intended destination through these moving dots on this digital map.

He would later find out that there was an official name and profession for what he was doing called dispatch. A few years later, when he was older, he landed a job with Dispatch Management Solutions in New York. A company that tracked various activities throughout the city including trains, taxis, couriers, and emergency vehicles. It was much more sophisticated than the dot system he had programmed years before and he felt like he had just landed in heaven. To be able to visualize the pulse of the city and see what was happening was amazing to him. Eventually though, Jack left DMS and decided to relocate to northern California, where the internet was booming and everything web related was happening. He wanted to build his own dispatch system, one that would be web based. Although things didn’t work out as he planned and his dream failed, one thing he did noticed through all this experience was that dispatch gave a pulse of what was happening in the city at any given time, but the one thing gravely missing from all this were the citizens. Where were they and what were they doing? This was the seed that would eventually give birth to Twitter.


Bridesmaids-A Nice Surprise

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

I’ll admit I was skeptical when I first started hearing about the movie Bridesmaids and seeing the trailers for it.  The name sounded frightening enough, out right about the time of most weddings and thoughtless rom coms or chick flicks, including the Brides Wars of a few years past and the Something Borrowed out now.  These two movies not only had Kate Hudson in common but they also lacked the charm and humor at least of past movies like My Best Friend’s Wedding (that at least also had some justice, unlike Something Borrowed-recommended to not waste your money on that one).

It is nothing new to say that strong, leading roles for women have been disappearing faster than good, solid movies in general.  A bunch of women in a Judd-Apatow-like, gross-out comedy though?  Call it old-fashioned but for some reason The Hangover would not work as well with a group of four women.  It is not really fair but it just is not as funny.

Bridesmaids then was a pleasant, hilarious surprise.  There were a few pretty gross scenes (who can ever forget the dress store scene when the women all have food poisoning) but the movie’s best part was its heart.  Amidst the over-the-top gags and laugh-out-loud scenes there were some touching, quiet moments, especially between the two best friends (played by Maya Rudolph and a wonderfully quirky  Kristen Wiig).  More along the lines of Superbad, there is also a great part where Melissa McCarthy’s funny, take-charge character helps Kristen Wiig’s character out of her funk by literally biting her derriere and saying “I’m life.  It’s unfair and I’m biting you in the ass!”

Overall Bridesmaids was one of the funniest movies of 2011 and came together quite nicely.  Also, instead of leaving the movie theater with a headache, as most spring movies in the dead-zone after the Oscars and between summer blockbusters tend to give, I left the theater still laughing.

The End of Pirates (We Can Only Hope)

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Enough Disney.  We know you like to rake in the money from Pirates of the Caribbean but no more of your sequels!  You’re up to the fourth one now with no end in sight and in talks for a fifth and sixth one next.  Somehow people still get sucked in, including this writer, I must admit sadly.  I saw the fourth one-Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides-so what?  I hoped for some sort of an ending for Captain Jack Sparrow but alas instead left the theater dissatisfied and with a headache.  There is really was nothing new, except for a lackluster Penelope Cruz who came off looking exhausted more than intrigued by Captain Jack.  Mermaids were the only new thing, and frankly the only interesting thing.  At least they kicked ass.  Disney supposedly wanted to keep the plot tightly under wraps until the release but they needn’t have bothered.  Old pirates who we thought were dead are still alive and reappear and basically everyone just wants to find the fountain of youth.  When they finally reach it, though, the fountain is pitiable and kind of sad.  Could they not have afforded at least a believable fountain of youth, one that didn’t look like the garden fountains they sell at Target?  Maybe they ran out of money by the time they had to film that scene.  All I can say is forget the plot being implausible (we know that-it is a fantasy after all), it made no sense whatsoever.  Please put us all out of our misery and end this string of what we call films.  Johnny Depp may still look good and be enjoying himself but most of us certainly aren’t.

I Love Stanford in the Springtime.

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

No, really.  There’s something magic about it, even if we are approaching that weird time of the quarter where you form weird temporary friendships in the library and what you think about is how many hours in a row you can spend studying before your head will explode and anything you attempt to learn after that point will translate in your brain recorder as “Me learn this.  Wait, try again.  Oh no! Brain fire!  Evacuate the building!”

Then again, maybe that last part is just me.  Anyways, even if finals are approaching, it’s still incredibly amazing to spend half an hour looking at Stanford like you are a tourist.  Pictures (there are lots!):


The 3rd Annual Unabridged List of Suggested Dorm Themes

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Institutionalized punnery doesn’t get much better than Stanford’s annual dorm themes. But even the most pro-pun RAs can’t do it alone, and that’s where I step in to lend a friendly, possibly not-PC hand with my list of annual suggestions for themes for each dorm and house on campus.

This tradition started two years ago, when, as part of the student sketch comedy troupe, The Robber Barons, I spearheaded the creation of a list of fake dorm themes. That list is available here (on page 2), and that got such a positive response that I did it again last year here on TUSB.

Welcome to version 3! Special thanks to fellow blogger and Robber Baron Carlo for helping out with this year’s list. I will be graduating this year, and thus not doing this again, but hopefully Carlo as well as some others can come together to keep doing this crucial, crucial public service for the Stanford campus. Without further ado, the list of what I suggest should be the themes of Stanford residences next year:

Stern, home of Academy Award Winning-Dorms

All parties in Serra will end in a Bollywood dance number.



-TRANCOS (0) = 1
-MUAMMAR OKADAFFI (Manages to make MubaRinc look like a nice guy)


We Really Do Win At Everything

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

Others seem to agree:

The Stanford Arts Review – A New Publication Discussing the Arts on Campus

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Stanford has musicians. Stanford has artists. Stanford has fashion designers. Stanford has writers. We create. But Stanford has not had (many) people who review these creations. Until now.

I recently got an email promoting a new institution devoted to the arts on campus, the Stanford Arts Review. It is an online publication currently staffed entirely by undergraduates and it looks like it is aiming to be the hub for conversation about the arts.

This arts review site is very new with archives only going back to April. It covers all kinds of arts activities: dance, fashion, film, literature, music, theater, and visual arts adorn its navigation bar. And the posts/pieces/stories/whatever-you-want-to-call-thems do not just cover on-campus student work and visiting performers, they also discuss creative culture outside the bubble, from exhibits in San Francisco to movies.

But why should we care about a site that talks about the arts? Wouldn’t it be more interesting to simply go to the concerts, the exhibits, or read the stories?

Well, I doubt anyone is an expert in film, fashion, music, visual art, literature, dance, and theater all at the same time. Nor does anyone have time to to see and experience all the arts on campus. This kind of publication can give you more background in areas of the arts you might not pay attention to, and it can show you what is going on in those areas you do care about. And for those students who aim to pursue an artistic career, getting feedback from other students is important.

Plus, it is awesome that they seem to be able to pull a discussion of all the different types of arts into one place. It highlights the breadth and depth of artistic culture we have on campus.

Anyways, go type into your navigation bar and poke around the website. Put it in your bookmarks bar and visit it regularly to keep up with artistic goings-on. You are going to procrastinate anyways, why not make it cultured procrastination that links you more deeply into your local arts community?

In Defense of Our Cultural Communities

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

This past Saturday, for the first time in my years here (only 2), gun shots were fired on the Stanford campus. This occurred in Lagunita Parking Lot near Roble Field where Blackfest was being held.

Our campus, other than shock at this occurrence, was virtually silent on the affair. Most people publicly complained about the lack of information about the gun shots and gunman and how, compared to other violent crimes that occurred this year, the police department gave out the least information while this seems the most potentially fatal. Yet, I think most people on campus couldn’t help but make a connection between the shootings and the “black” event at Stanford.

More than anything, Blackfest was a way for our communities to celebrate hip hop with other people from Stanford and the surrounding areas.

Other than mentions of proximity, only one person really brought up the issue that most people felt too polite to bring up: the reflection the shootings would have on Stanford’s black community. Autumn Carter wrote a compelling article in the Stanford Review  about the fact that being black in itself has nothing to do with violence. People are familiar with the black community here – this idea should be self-evident. Yet, even though no one made a big fuss over the connection, she felt the need to defend the community. And I can’t help but wonder why.


The Definitive Guide for Stanford Seniors

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

The only one not mentioned is Palo Alto "I need to postpone the real world and disparage suburbia for another year as a Stanford MS&E co-term" California

Exotic (Chaotic) Erotic was tonight,

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

It's downright Hobbesian.

and so far, six ambulances were witnessed driving down Campus Drive.

It would be irresponsible of me to speculate as to why those ambulances were there, but I thought that was an interesting fact.

BTDubs, it’s still a lame party

Bring Back Lake Lag

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Endless summer at Stanford. This is an actual photo. I'm suppressing my jaw-drop reflex.

Today’s sorry state of Lake Lag makes me nostalgic.

I gaze out upon today’s pseudo-marshy wasteland and recollect it in its former glory – a lake, a real lake, full of sailboats, canoes, and windsurfers.  Students lounge by the shore and toss Frisbees in the shallows.  A warm breeze teases the pages of my textbook which I’ve all but cast aside as I bask in the wave-reflected sunlight.

Granted, as a current student, I’ve never had those experiences.  But as Stanford Magazine oh-too-tantalizingly reminds us, Lake Lag was once a year-round wonderland, the perfect final capstone to our beloved Camp Stanford.  Can you imagine having sailing classes right on campus?  Being able to jump in a kayak to let off some post-midterm steam?  Taking a morning swim beside a Dish-silhouetted sunrise?  Given the recent surge in student wellness efforts, I’m surprised Lake Lag hasn’t been a top priority.

I want Lake Lag back.  Stanford is wasting what could be, should be, a wonderful resource on campus.  I understand that there are environmental, safety, and monetary concerns that have prevented Lag’s return, but I have a targeted plan for restoring our lovely lake.  Grab your swim-trunks and your flippy-floppies, ’cause I’m on a mission.

The Salamander

The culprit.

The widely-accepted reason Stanford won’t refill the lake is Ambystoma californiense.  The “vulnerable” (not endangered, just “vulnerable”) California tiger salamander.  Personally, I have yet to see any such creature in all my Lag excursions, but I respect its right to be protected.  That said, the California tiger salamander’s natural habitat is “large, fishless vernal pools or similar water bodies” which, to me, is just another way of saying “a habitat exactly like the past Lake Lag.”  Um, lame.


Ever heard of a Bacon Number?

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

That’s right folks, Kevin Bacon himself was on campus last night, speaking about the way he is doing good through his organization,

Kevin Bacon, anyone? Also sorry for the bad lighting. What are you going to do?

Six Degrees.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

A Bacon Number is like a funny version of the idea that there are only six degrees of separation between any two people in the entire world.  Only, it’s a lot funnier when the joke’s on Kevin Bacon.  (Can we get a tally started on how many times I say “Kevin Bacon” in this post?) Because of Kevin Bacon’s extensive acting career ( which, I’ve learned, includes a stint on Broadway and did I mention Kevin Bacon’s music career?), he has worked with a lot of actors.  I mean a lot of actors. The joke apparently started in the 90s, and Kevin Bacon himself wasn’t laughing.

Want a piece of the action?  It’s simple.  Go to and type in an actor’s name.  Any Hollywood actor.  It will bring you to a list of movies and actors that connect Kevin Bacon to the actor that you type in.

But time heals all wounds, and with time, Kevin Bacon learned to embrace the joke around his fame.  He created which uses social networking (facebook, twitter, blogs, LinkedIn, etc.)  to help people become celebrities for the causes they like.  To paraphrase Kevin Bacon, social media is out there, and it’s not going away.  Why not try to use it to do some good?