Author Archive - Crystal

About Crystal:

I love anything involving stories, tech, the internet, and social interaction.

Rachel Maddow talks about Ethics, Stanford, and Her New Book

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Yesterday, Rachel Maddow, host of MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” spoke to the Stanford community about her time as an undergraduate and about her new book “Drift.” Memorial Auditorium was packed, filled with students drawn by the chance to see one

Rob Reich and Rachel Maddow, answering questions during the Q&A.
Photo credit: Charles Russo

of Stanford’s most famous alumna.

You could almost miss the fact that the talked was sponsored in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Program in Ethics in Society. But Maddow and the people that introduced her, Professor Rob Reich and senior Jessica Asperger,  gave us reminders that the focus of the talk was about ethics, about how the choices we make have consequences.

Maddow first introduced us to this subject by talking about her time at Stanford. Although she didn’t have any prior plans to complete a Public Policy major or honors thesis, they became steps towards completing her personal goals. After coming out and deciding to become an active member of a gay community she believed was being terminated by AIDS, Maddow said,”At age 17, I came out and thought my role was to fight.” She didn’t know what exactly she was going to do or how she was going to accomplish it but the program was one of her first steps down the long road that has allowed her to become one of America’s most thoughtful political commentators. (more…)

Stanford Love?

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

It might be the romantic in me talking, but I think it was fate that I learned about this gem the day before Valentine’s Day: StanfordUSeshes. Stanford may not have the greatest track record when it comes to dating but I never expected to see a Twitter account fully dedicated to kisses and the casual hook ups around campus.

Although the Twitter account has some cute captures like this:


You’ve Been Pep Talked.

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

It’s week 5, and Kid President is here to tell you how to be awesome. If you haven’t already seen his pep talk (or even if you have) check it out for words of wisdom before midterms:

embedded by Embedded Video

The Internet is Public

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

That shouldn’t be a shocking statement by now. 2012, specifically, was a year where the lines between what was private and public online were especially blurred. It raised questions about the privacy of minors and adults who are active in social media.  Writers for Jezebel made it nationally known how easy it was to use hashtags to find out who made racist comments about the president on  Twitter. Programmers and data scientists were able to come together and create a website called that tracks homophobic comments through Twitter as well. Taking a step back from the fact that all the things listed were offensive, this raises important questions about how much responsibility individuals should have for what they share on personal but public accounts.

In both the circumstances  listed above, Twitter hashtags were combined with nonexistent privacy settings  to create both the article and the website. The two projects listed above were only possible when the users left their profiles public. People have a right to be public online. They also have a right to say protected speech. Unfortunately, too many people have forgotten that the Internet is a sound box that records what you say and allows everyone on the Internet to replay it. Over and over again.  And unfortunately they chose to say very negative things.

But the investigative data mining that solely belonged to Twitter will now get its turn on Facebook. Facebook has started to roll out its new search engine, linking its users in a social graph. Through the new service you’ll be able to search for friends and connections through likes, comments, locations, photos and more.  On the outside, that actually seems pretty cool. I can look up all my friends who  live in my area that are fans of the beloved but short lived show named Pushing Daisies, just in case I want to have a heated discussion about it one day. The social graph can be seriously beneficial.


TUSGraph: Career Fair Reality Check

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Between my past experience at career fairs as an underclassman and my more recent research into upcoming job fairs, I’ve been barraged by listings for computer scientists from companies of varying shapes, sizes and fields.  For all you humanities/social science majors, I have one piece of advice:  be prepared when a clothing retailer asks you if you have experience coding, and think of other ways to let your skills and value shine through.

*Please note, that this graph does not say that companies are only looking for computer scientists; it simply states that most companies come to Stanford to look for programmers in addition to other roles.

Dear Freshmen

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Welcome, Class of 2016! As a Frosh enthusiast, I’m incredibly excited that I was on campus for NSO all 4 years of my Stanford career. You’ve all worked incredibly hard, seen amazing things and made it after 4 years of jockeying for place at this institution.

We know exactly how hard you worked, thanks to Confessions from Stanford. We got a play by play. That’s not a bad thing in itself. Despite some of the Stanford Community’s criticism of the blog, we still love frosh. But I’m not here to talk about that blog. I think Lilliana did a great job writing about the subject.

This is basically how I feel about the arrival of the Class of 2016.
(Image Source: Sports Illustrated)

As an old senior, I wanted to impart other wisdom on you. The first thing is, now that you’ve leaped over obstacles to get here, please just sit back and relax on the windy river that is a Stanford undergraduate experience. College here is both an intellectual and social wonderland that you have to explore to enjoy. Starting from day one, you will be meeting people that will change your whole outlook on life. Take things minute by minute, day by day, and really stop to pause and smile at how beautiful everything is around. As blasé as I am nowadays, I still pause in my tracks sometime and grin at how many colors there are in the mural in front of Memorial Church or how incredibly comfortable it is to lie down on the grass..anywhere really and take a nap. So, appreciate things around you. Appreciate the people around you. Applying to college may have been a marathon, but slow down and stroll. You deserve a break.

The Smartphone Expectation

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

A few days ago, the iPhone turned 5 years old. Since it first hit shelves, Apple has released just as many versions of the phone as years it’s been sold. Even though it’s an inanimate object, many news outlets across the country decided to acknowledge this turning point for the device. The iPhone, of all the smartphones, has probably led the charge in making these devices seem like a cool, sleek, vital part of any modern person’s life. It’s helped create the illusion that not only should everyone want a smartphone, but that everyone needs one.

It's ironic how the iPhone 5 will actually be the 6th version of the phone released. (credit:

I think this has created a smartphone expectation. This idea that even though this is not the case right now, the connectivity features and access to app stores found in some phones will eventually be the norm for all devices. From your mp3 players to phones to tablets, everything will be connected to the Internet and life will be amazing. Considering so many students’ reactions to the Three Books choices – it appears that we understand that smartphone ownership isn’t a requirement to be a full participant in academia or life in general. (If you haven’t read it, I think there was a fair explanation from Dean Julie about UAR’s choice published about a week later.) But some may say that Stanford’s campus is the poster child for owning a connected device. With wifi seemingly floating through the open air, our campus encourages people to stay connected wherever they are. Although we understand the divisive problems this may cause when students initially come to campus, owning a smartphone eventually seems like the norm.


This Week In Stanford 6/4/12 – 6/11/12

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Hello Stanford! It’s Finals Week. The summer is coming and while I will have a few moments of glorious freedom on weekends, for the most part I’ll be working and thus very busy. If you want to keep up with all things happening in and around the Farm, check out Stanford News. Have a fabulous summer break!

This Week In Stanford 5/15/12 – 5/21/12

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

This past week has been eventful! From talks with Tony Blair and Tom Brokaw to performances by E-40 and Modest Mouse, this has been a star studded week. Here’s this week’s news from the Farm.

  • Tony Blair recently paid a visit to our lovely campus. Despite a bit of protest, he was able to have a highly praised conversation about the African Governance Initiative with GSB Dean Garth Saloner.
  • The Frost Amphitheater has been revived. This past Saturday students sunbathed and waited to “Float On” with Modest Mouse.
  • Alumnus Konstantin Guericke wants to support the missing link in medicine. This co-founder of LinkedIn has just joined the board of the social network Doximity, which has a special focus on doctors.
  • Speaking of protests, 70 residents of XOX demonstrated in front of the Office of the Vice Provost of Student Affairs in order to make another effort to make a change in the decision to revoke the house’s lease.
  • The campaign for a new hospital is on! The Campaign for Stanford Medicine, which aims to raise $1 billion dollars in order to rebuild the hospital so that it reflects the future of patient care and medicine.
  • According to Professor Steve Blank, Facebook isn’t just taking over the Silicon Valley – it’s choking the region. Social media platforms like Facebook are preventing venture capitalists from investing in long term projects, like life sciences or hardware. What do you think?

This Week In Stanford 4/30/12 – 5/7/12

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Between Stanford’s history and its scientific findings, it seems that there are a million new things to discover. Here’s your Stanford news for this beautifully warm week.

  • There were quite a few responses to “Get Rich U.” Check out writers defending  Stanford on Bloomberg’s Businessweek and the prominent online tech blog site PandoDaily.
  • Did you ever wonder what happened to Jane Stanford after she started our beloved university? It seems that her Hawaiian death was a murder mystery back in 1905. Regardless of what happened, I’m quite thankful for what she did while she lived.
  • It might be time to let your parents go, Stanford students. Stanford Professor Terry Castle not only shares crazy stories of helicopter parents, but also uses his her knowledge of literature to give compelling reasons for why parents and students may need to finally let go.
  •  Considering all the dire warnings generation Y has received about their online activity, the app Snapchat by Stanford student Evan Spiegel may seemlike  the answer to dealing with the impossibility of getting rid of media once it’s used.  The allows you to control how longer a viewer has access to a picture you’ve sent them. Yet researchers question whether apps like this are actually the final answer in securely sending out your discreet photos.
  • Stanford’s athletic director, Bob Bowlsby, has been hired to be the commissioner of the Big 12 conference. Do you have predictions of who will take the role at Stanford next year?
  • If you thought blonds were going the way of the dodo bird, think again. Stanford researchers have found that blond hair can and has evolved independently by examining an indigenous group in the South Pacific Solomon Islands.

What I Wish I Knew At Admit Weekend

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Class of 2016 – we’re so excited to have you here again! Although I’m a junior and Admit Weekend is  just a beautiful memory for me, there are still a few things I would have liked to know before I set foot on campus.

  1. Map, Maps, Maps. – Even though I knew that I was directionally challenged before I came, I still underestimated how easy it was to get lost in Stanford’s sprawl of similar buildings and wide grassy areas. The map they provide you with will be one of your best friends when you hit campus. If you have a smartphone, you have an alternative – check out iStanford for navigation features across campus and fun facts about the school.

    Look at all those flowers and sunshine. And Admit Weekend is only a couple of days away.

  2. Don’t disregard the friends you make at Admit Weekend.  – Besides the fact that it’s nice to get to know people, you’d be surprised how many close relationships you develop with the people you’ve met at Admit Weekend when return in the fall. The may be in your freshman dorm or in some of your classes. Either way, it’s just good to have established friends if you’re traveling far from home.
  3. If your RoHo is busy, don’t hold it against them.  – While this is the end of senior year for many ProFros, for us Stanford undergrads, it’s the weekend before midterms. If your RoHo is running in and out and spending most of their time at Green Library, that doesn’t mean they were coerced into lending you their floor. They want to help out as many ProFros as possible, but they’re just busy! You’ll understand when you get here. We may be stressed occasionally but we’re also very happy.
  4. Don’t let the Marching Band scare you. –  One of the most intense and most beloved things about Stanford is the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band and the Tree. Their bright colors, fun songs  and ridiculous instruments aren’t a reflection of all things Stanford but they are definitely a sneak peek at part of our campus culture. We’re driven scholars, but we’re also laid-back, irreverent college students. It’s a fun combo.
  5. A lot of Californians go to Stanford. – It’s not the majority of the student body, but it’s significant enough to be noted. For someone from the East Coast (like me) who may have never even set foot in California before Stanford (also like me) this may be surprising. Although they may not know it, they are a fount of knowledge about the Bay Area and the state as a whole. Just as it’s important to get a good education, it’s important to understand the culture of the place where you’ll be living for four years. Let them be your guide to fascinating world outside Stanford and Palo Alto. I promise – it’s worth visiting.
  6. Visit another dorm besides the one you’re sleeping in.  – You’re going to have a packed weekend and may not have time for this, but it’s definitely a valuable experience. Although Stanford has a virtual tour of different room types, it’s not the same as seeing different rooms yourself. The living arrangements in Stern  (all frosh)  are very different from Florence Moore and Roble (4 Class Dorms).
  7. Bring a pair of sunglasses for the daytime and a jacket for the evenings.  – Stanford is a gorgeous campus with gorgeous weather. During the day time, you have to shade your eyes from the sun to prevent yourself from squinting as you travel across campus. But once the sun goes down, so does the temperature. The temperature can drop anywhere between 10 – 20 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Be prepared.
  8. Even if the Activities Fair seems overwhelming, attend.  – Besides the fact that you might get to meet some of the fabulous people from TUSB, you will also see the wide range of student groups and organizations. If you want to join a dance team for the first time, or have a new found passion for sustainability, there’s a table for you. O, and sometime you may even get free swag. And who doesn’t love that?
  9. Do one thing off the Admit Weekend prescribed path. – Kristi already listed many great ideas, but this suggestion is worth reiterating. Stanford is a place where students can allow their unique ideas and interests to flourish. We want everyone to explore different departments and ideas while they are in attendance here.  But you don’t have to wait till you get to Stanford – start now.

I wish I could give you more time to spend here, but  all I can provide is advice. Enjoy Admit Weekend!

This Week in Stanford 4/17/12 – 4/23/12

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Although other schools may be winding down, Stanford is getting into full swing! With the upcoming Admit Weekend and May flowers already blossoming all over campus, it’s a good time for Stanford. Here’s what’s happening on and off the farm.

  • Is Stanford Get Rich U? This article goes over the history and future of Stanford, as it feeds talent and ideas into Silicon Valley and subsequently the world at large. It also raises a tricky question – should we evenallow the open connection between Stanford and Silicon Valley?
  • Every day I’m dazzled by what my trusty smartphone can do. Now it can even help diagnose oral cancer. Thanks to OScan, created by professor Manu Prakash, we can now implement smartphones for oral health purposes in areas where larger machines may not be feasible.
  • Fumbling photographers (including myself), rejoice!  Stanford research has lead to the creation of the Lytro camera, that allows the both photographer and viewer to refocus a picture after it’s been taken. The camera catches light rays, rather than pixels adding greater flexibility in altering the raw image.
  • The art of pillow fort making is a fundamental lesson we should all carry with us into adulthood. Architects and engineering scholars around the country, including Stanford assistant professor Michael Lepech share tools of the trade.
  • Not only does Stanford want to promote peace in mind and body, they want to facilitate it. Plans for a new contemplation center have just been approved. The center is still a long ways off  – construction will not begin until the summer of 2013. Oh, and don’t forget the many changes coming to freshman requirements.
  • Coursera, the Stanford scientist led venture in MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) will begin to host humanities courses starting this upcoming fall.  The education portal’s creator’s have a partnership with 5 other major universities. If you’ve ever yearned to learn poetry at UPenn or history at Princeton along with good ol’ Stanford CS, now’s your chance!

This Week In Stanford 4/10/12 – 4/16/12

Monday, April 16th, 2012

If you aren’t still fuming over this past week’s election tactics, or Coachillin’ , you might already have a good idea of the things that have been happening on the Farm. Either way, here’s our weekly update on all things Stanford.

  • This year’s commencement speaker and Stanford alumnus, Cory Booker, is doing more than poring over his upcoming speech – he’s saving lives. Booker saved a neighbor from a burning building. It’s all in a good day’s work.
  • Last Wednesday, Stanford hosted the Cool Product Expo in the Alumni Center. If you didn’t have a chance to check out the gadgets there, here’s a list of some of the show’s highlighted products.
  • A new dawn of Artificial intelligence is just around the corner. With devices like Siri, and research conducted here on campus, it seems like machines are getting closer and closer to passing the infamous Turing Test: passing as a human in conversation.
  • Although charter schools may be good in theory, they may not be good in deed. A Stanford study showing that 37% of charter schools perform worse than regular public schools has helped prove that charter schools may not be solving all the educational woes they promise.
  • Congrats to Nneka Ogwumike for being the first Stanford student to become the #1 draft pick in the WNBA! Talk about a real baller.
  • Where else would someone have a Robot Block Party? The party was hosted at the Volkswagon Automotive Innovation Lab this past Thursday, impressing visitors with mechanical flair.
  • If we were to evaluate a bit of campus “politics,” regardless of the so-called mud-slinging, you’d notice that this week’s campaign season was relatively quiet. Few groups braved the rain to table in White Plaza, and although freshmen dorms may be the exception – there wasn’t much over the top giveaways and campaigning from senatorial candidates or class president slates.

This Week In Stanford 3/20/12 – 4/2/12

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Happy Spring Quarter, Stanford! I have more news from the past few weeks to give you a glimpse of all things Stanford.

  • Dean Julie is a poet and now we all know it. Stanford’s beloved dean of freshman and undergraduate advising will be stepping down from her position this summer in order to pursue an MFA, starting this fall. Good luck, Dean Julie!
  • Speaking of poets, California’s new Poet Laureate is Juan Felipe Herrera, the first Latino person to hold the position. He’s also a Stanford alumnus. We may be making waves in Silicon Valley, but we’re also changing the art world.
  • We love rankings and lists. And more than that we love being at the top of them. Yet, Stanford professor Matthew Jackson is calling out society on its need to put everything in numerical order. The rankings that were  supposed to celebrate excellence, may be stifling choice. It makes you think twice about those Top 10 iTunes app lists. You may find a game just as awesome as Angry Birds, if only you looked past the #10 slot.
  • The banking world (okay, maybe just Goldman Sachs) was stunned when Greg Smith published a very public, very disparaging resignation later on If you would like to learn more about the man behind the words, here’s a profile on the former Stanford student.
  • I would like to extend a warm welcome to the Class of 2016! Although people say it every year, with an acceptance rate of 6.6%, it really is getting harder to get in. TUSB and the rest of campus can’t wait to introduce you to the all the wonders that are Stanford.
  • Some people dream about being there the moment the universe was created. Before, it was an esoteric, impossible pondering. But thanks to some computer savvy scientists, you can watch a screening  of it at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. The short visualizations are based on calculations from the latest physics theories. SLAC is now hosting The Big Bang – the  3D video.
  • Facebook feels like only they can ‘spy’ on their users – employers need to respect their employee’s privacy. Facebook gave a stern warning to companies who are “shoulder surfing” or demanding the password to their employees’s private  social networking accounts. Stanford privacy researchers agree – this trend may be the beginning of a dangerous slippery slope.


This Week in Stanford 3/19/12 – 3/23/12

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

This week is:

We’ll be back with Stanford news after Spring Break!