Author Archive - kevin

About kevin:

If the site is broken, I'm not surprised. Oh, it's also probably my fault.

Why Campaign Rules Turn Politicians and Voters into Bad People

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

When presidential campaign season gets fully into gear, I seem to always arrive at the conclusion that the best form of government would be rule by the elite: it just seems like there’s too much ignorance (driven by our personal biases and media coverage) to make the votes of most people at all valuable in deciding who should have power in the United States. I’ve been thinking about it a little more, though, and I’m beginning to think that the problem is worse than that. There are a lot of smart people around, including in the government, and at the moment, it doesn’t seem like they’re making things better. I think the system is working against us, and I’ve a story for why that is. Here’s a rough outline of my argument:

  • Our government isn’t doing very much right now
  • In a 2-party system, it’s better for politicians not to compromise
  • As voters, it makes sense to pick extremely polarizing candidates
  • 2 parties is the natural product of a capitalistic society
  • Public campaign finance will moderate the effects of this process

For full disclosure, I have never studied either economics or political science and thus have a naive understanding of the system. I’m very liberal, get most of my news from The New York Times and reddit, and worse, I’m Canadian. Despite all of that working against me, I hope you take the time to read my argument seriously and at least explain to me why I’m wrong. I like to think I’m at least open-minded enough for that.


Being the 12th Man: A Guide to Being Noisy Fans

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

I’m sure if you listen to the football players and coaches in interviews after the Oregon game, they will all take responsibility for what happened, give credit to the Ducks for playing well, and insist that we all move forward. I have one request: all Stanford fans take exactly the same attitude.

Whether you like it or not, we’re not the team we were 4 years ago, and the nation doesn’t have the same perception of us that they did 4 years ago: we’ve become a football school with national attention, and we need to step into that role. The good news is that we’ve taken the first step. We’ve gotten past embarrassingly low turnouts like the top-15 matchup against Arizona last year to having a packed stadium for each game. Being at the game, however, is almost a responsbility: through red zone loyalty or ridiculous amounts of alumni cash, you have earned the right to be the 12th man.

Being the 12th man is doing everything you can to help out the home team at the game, which so far has been minimal. Being the 12th man is NOT having the distinction of being the politest fans around. It’s the deafening effect of the stadium going nuts. We’re talking about Autzen Stadium, Kyle Field (watch them switch sides to be near the ball), or The Big House. When you hear that rumble on the telecast of games, you know that those fans live for their college football team, and although you might not, you better convince the opposing team and the television viewers around the country that you do. Here are a few tips on how to do that:

1. Go crazy and get loud when the opposing team is on offense.

You should be aware this fact already since the announcer tells us to “Make Some Noise” when the opposing team is on 3rd down. The gist of this is that being loud can make things really hard for the offense. They need to call plays and hear the snap count, and when it’s loud, it’s hard for the players to hear what’s going on. The good things that this can cause are false starts (when the players can’t hear the snap count), slow reactions (same reason), delay of game (when they can’t call the play quickly enough), and slowing down the offense in general.

The last one would’ve been especially critical yesterday as Oregon runs a hurry-up offense where they don’t go into the huddle. On several plays, I noticed our defense scrambling to figure out their assignments and get into position. Had we managed to delay them a few seconds, we could’ve helped them get into much better position.

Currently, the announcer usually only tells us to “Make Some Noise” on 3rd down, but that’s not a necessary requirement. The defense plays 1st and 2nd down, so we should, too. Our only breaks are when the play count (the red timers around the field, not the game clock) isn’t running. Otherwise, the opposing team’s offense if trying to get ready, and we better make it very difficult for them.

2. Be quiet on offense.

Basically the same reasoning as above, in the opposite direction: our offense runs better when it’s quiet, so give them that opportunity.

3. Still cheer.

Support the team! Even while we’re mostly quiet on offense, still cheer when one of our receivers makes an play. And when we’re on defense, pretty much anything short of a touchdown is good enough for applause. Even if the other team pushes through for 4 or 5 yards on a run, give props to the linebacker who managed to pull him down.

4. React strongly to penalties or calls that you see.

If you pass interference committed by the opposing team, yell and scream to draw attention to it. I’m certain that referees are trained to ignore fan reactions, but in those 2 or 3 seconds after the play, they need to make snap decisions, and we can help out there. They only have so many eyes, but with thousands of us, we can collectively have a much better idea of what happens on the field. Let them know that something happened.


This Week in Stanford 3/7/11-3/13/11

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Here’s the finals week edition of “This Week in Stanford,” which I’ll use as an excuse for why this one will be somewhat abbreviated and late. I’m also not certain whether this feature will continue in the spring, but we’ll see whether it’s picked back up again in the spring.

This Week in Stanford 2/28/11-3/6/11

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

Happy March? I should really stop trying to put intros on these posts.

  • Stanford has its foot on the site Luminosity, highlighted by Time Techland
  • Stanford is headed to the US Supreme Court to rule on a patent dispute with Roche. We’ve discussed Stanford’s IP policy before, and they clearly mean it to have fought this long in court
  • Caroline O’Connor, MA and Levinthal Fellow, has a blog post on the Harvard Business Review about how the Launchpad course offered by the encourages pivots (big strategy changes). The only question left is whether they also teach you how to pivot a couch
  • Michelle Monje and her neurology group have found a target for treating a type of childhood brain cancer
  • John Taylor, economics professor, has been quoted as support for the GOP’s budget cuts that cutting government spending will create jobs. His original blog post is here
  • John Williams, the new president of the SF Fed and PhD ’95, has a profile in the Wall Street Journal
  • Alex Stavros, GSB student, is quoted in this article about the importance of writing and communication. I recommend we ship off PWR from undergrad education to the GSB

This Week in Stanford 2/21/11-2/27/11

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Let’s catch up on the week:

  • Stacey Bent, chemical engineering professor, is working on research for solar cells using quantum dots. They apparently also add something called SAM (not the Sam you might associate with the word “quantum”)
  • The remodeled Stanford Hospitals are getting an assist from Ron Johnson, the guy behind Apple Stores. Stanford medical is announcing that in addition to accepting payment via your typical healthcare (or soon, your ObamaCare), they will also now be accepting AppleCare
  • Joe Chen, Stanford MBA, is IPOing with the Chinese social networking site Renren. His story parallels Mark Zuckerberg’s in many ways, though he was inspired by a girl wearing Harvard underwear
  • Dana Paquin, PhD ’07 and director of the math program of EPGY, submitted a few problems for Numberplay
  • Zhenan Bao, chemical engineering professor, is making stretchable, solar cell, sensitive artificial skin. The important question, however, is: is it sensitive to chafing?
  • Carrie Lemack, BS ’97 MBA ’04, is the executive producer for “Killing in the Name,” a documentary about Ashraf al-Khaled, who’s worked actively against terrorism since a suicide bomber attacked his wedding
  • GSB professors apparently came up with the term BHAG, or big hairy audacious goals. This is perhaps a description of trying to remove hair from a shower drain
  • The Peninsula Press has a piece on Stanford owning discoveries or inventions made using Stanford resources. Although this blog only exists using Stanford resources, I think they might be willing to pass us up based on the quality of our (or at least my) product

This Week in Stanford 2/14/11-2/20/11

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

I hope all of you are enjoying your long weekend. Here’s a quick mid-weekend update on Stanford-related news:

  • John McCarthy, professor emeritus of computer science, gets a shout-out in this article on the state of artificial intelligence surrounding IBM’s Watson competing on Jeopardy!. And if you didn’t hear, Skynet might be coming online soon
  • Michelle Wie, ’11 (I think), wrote this piece for the Peninsula Press about research from the Stanford Center on Longevity showing how household changes can reduce childhood obesity. Instead of eating in front of the TV, we recommend eating in front of you computer while readings The Unofficial Stanford Blog
  • Jung Il Choi, Mayank Jain and Kannan Srinivasan, EE grad students, have developed radios that can send and receive signals simultaneously, making signal sending much faster. No report on whether this can be used to more efficiently send signals to the cute girl across the bar from you
  • Fadi Quran, ’10, was quoted in this article on the role of Arab youths in today’s political and cultural climate
  • Craig Heller, biology professor, is quoted for research discovering that black bear body temperatures don’t drop much when their metabolism plummets during hibernation. So if you see a black bear hibernating, perhaps you’ll want to touch it and see for yourself: it probably won’t be hungry enough to eat you
  • Elias Aboujaoude, psychiatry professor, has a book on how our online personas are affecting our offline personas. I would make another cheeky remark here, except I’m worried that it might change me*

*too late!

This Week in Stanford 2/6/11-2/13/11

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Having missed enough Saturdays recently, I’m bumping this feature to Sundays. Expect it to shift to Mondays next quarter when I get even lazier. So, here’s what happened in the past 8 days:

  • Sam Woodward ’12 was interviewed by the Morning Swim Show about her swimming career here at Stanford
  • Sally Ride, former astronaut and 4-time Stanford degree earner, spoke at Cal about making science cool in public education
  • According to this article at WSJ, Stanford has been pushing hard to recruit top-notch student-athletes and has been successful. Look forward to our recruits next year
  • An engineering team with researchers both from Stanford and EPFL have developed a new type of thin-film solar cells inspired by waffles. They clearly were not inspired by the waffles in the dining halls, or else the cells would have Stanford trees in the middle
  • Ricardo Dolmetsch and his team have published a paper on developing mini hearts to use as models for studying heart problems
  • The New York Times has a feature on Andrew Luck ’12 and his decision to stay here at Stanford. Put me down for being against the use of seat-bagging as the wrapper for the story

This Week in Stanford 1/30/11-2/05/11

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

While the rest of the US is freezing over, Stanford seems to quite nice, especially for the rainy season. Here’s where Stanford has popped up in the news this past week:

  • Students for a Sustainable Stanford (SSS) held a workshop where they demonstrated how row houses might harvest rainwater. Even this effort is unlikely to render the row houses dry
  • Joel Beinin, history professor, has been quoted significantly over the past week, including this Salon interview, for his knowledge of the history of US-Egypt relations in light of the protests there
  • Marc Levoy, computer science professor, has made an iPhone app, SynthCam, to simulate the shallow depth of field typically only in larger cameras
  • Stanford apparently has valet bike parking at football games to encourage people to bike to the games. This is surprising to me for 2 reasons. First, students are going to fill it up, and they’ll bike anyways. Two, I had no idea there was valet bike parking. I knew they did the parking areas, but not this much
  • Mohan Srivastava, alum, figured out how to game lottery tickets
  • Caltrain is considering cutting stops, including the seasonal one for Stanford football games

TUSB Redesigned!

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

For all of you reading remotely, I recommend you click through to check out the new design for The Unofficial Stanford Blog. The last site design lasted for about a year, but we wanted to move to a more open, minimalist style. The functionality is largely the same, but here are a few of the big changes:

  • Our header is all new. We wanted to move some of the content out of the sidebar up into the header to add more space on the right
  • The background has gone white. We’re suckers for what’s trendy in web design, and we wanted to get rid of stuff. Hopefully the site feels less noisy now
  • We’ve added a few more buttons on posts for tweeting and general social media links. Beyond general exposure, we also want to have tighter integration with social media, so click away at those
  • We’ll be starting a regular email digest of our content, so if you’re not already following us on an RSS feed or somewhere else, subscribe for that, too. Link either here or in the upper-right

If you have any comments on the redesign, feel free to let us know either below or in email at We’ll take positive comments and criticism, and if there are any features that are now missing or that you would like to see us add, or if you find any of the bugs that I’m certain ended up in there, let know about that, too. We’re flexible with changing the design, and if you have some ideas, we would love to hear them.

The last thing for this post is to thank the people who worked on this redesign. Josh tirelessly pushed for and worked through the redesign, and absolutely deserves credit for making it happen. Justin, our aesthetician, is responsible for why the site looks so much better than the last one, and without him, we very easily could’ve made things worse. Kristi will likely be taking over responsibility for maintaining the tech side of the blog, and she already helped out a ton on making the changes to the site.

I hope you like it! Let us know what you think.

This Week in Stanford 1/23/11-1/29/11

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

Here’s the rund0wn on the week:

  • Ana Matasantos, ’97, is the California financial director under Jerry Brown. Her job might be a little tricky
  • Stanford MBAs make the most money out of any business school, and the Career Management Center, with an eHarmony-like approach, probably has something to do with it
  • The is working with Stanford Department of Public Safety on improving bike safety
  • The Scope blog reports that Stanford is hoping on the first human embryonic stem cell trial
  • Stanford will have the first center from Intel Labs for research on computing and communications. Expect more construction on-campus
  • Stanford is #6 on the percentage of the undergrads living on-campus at 91%
  • Research by Alex Jordan, former psychology PhD, found that people were sadder when they overestimated the happiness of other people. The research was done on Stanford students and frankly comes as no surprise to me, though is probably better known as Stanford Duck Syndrome
  • Mark Jacobson, civil and environmental engineering professor, has managed to get his house off the grid

This Week in Stanford 1/16/11-1/22/11

Monday, January 24th, 2011

And this post comes a little late again, so my apologies. At least that means I had such a great weekend that I forgot about it until now. Here are a few links to take a look at:

  • Stanford’s King Institute continues to support programs in honor of MLK Jr., and MLK Day is always a good reminder of not only his work, but also of groups like this
  • Peter Thiel, BA ’89 JD ’92, has started a fellowship for entrepreneurial teenagers, with the assumption that they’ll drop out
  • According to Klout, Stanford has the biggest influence among colleges on Twitter. This surprises me a little as I don’t think Twitter is big among students still
  • Stanford has another claim to #1: application fees. Apparently, Stanford is not content only to get money from alumni on their way out after school but also wants to get applicants on their way in. Thank goodness for the discounts in-between while a student
  • Stanford is offering Palo Alto a large sum in benefits to get approval for new medical expansions
  • Laura Carstensen, director of the Center on Longevity, is quoted in a story about a 2nd shot for surburban malls as the population gets older

This Week in Stanford 1/9/11-1/15/11

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

I’m a little late with this one, but not because of a lack of news. Here’s what I found:

  • Cynthia Haven, writer for the Stanford News Service, has stirred up some controversy over edits to Huck Finn in her blog, The Book Haven. Quite a few other sources have covered it, but this seems to be the origin
  • Rhiju Das, professor of biochemistry, and his group have created EteRNA, an online game to fold RNA
  • ResEd is screening Zombieland later this week. You can never be too ready for the zombie apocalypse
  • Barbara Block and her group have contributed findings in the extent of the western-Atlantic bluefin’s spread. Given that they appear to be only in the Gulf of Mexico, they could be endangered, especially following the BP oil spill
  • Joe Gores, MA English, private investigator, and author died last week

Student T-Shirt Sizes

Saturday, January 8th, 2011
oversized t-shirt

They weren't very sensitive to his size. Can we do better for students?

We know a lot about the Stanford student body: their average SAT scores, breakdown by race, gender balance, majors, attitudes towards alcohol. Although there’s a lot of useful information here, I think there’s something missing that every club, every recruiting company, and every organization that comes to campus would love to know: our t-shirt sizes.

It’s a serious problem. I know a lot of groups that refuse to deal with the problem and ensure that everyone is equally dissatisfied by only getting XL shirts. Although it does mean I have a lifetime supply of nightshirts, these aren’t things I would ever wear around. And groups that try inevitably run out of the sizes that people actually need. For example, handing out Red Zone shirts at football games has been a mess every time every year.

The solution seems pretty simple: add another question to the approaching stanford material that all incoming frosh need to fill out. After being asked about your tidiness, sleep hours, neuroticism, weight you can squat lift, handwriting legibility, and sense of vengeance, it doesn’t seem weird to put down a t-shirt size as well. This information can easily be published online for anyone to use to get the right t-shirt sizes.

By the way, we’re making t-shirts. So that we get an accurate sample, if you’re a Stanford student, please indicate your t-shirt size (adult sizes).

What size t-shirt do you wear?

View Results

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This Week in Stanford 1/2/11-1/8/11

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

Welcome to 2011! Now that we’re a week into winter quarter, we have some more stories to pass on. Technically, news doesn’t only happen when class is in session, but at least my life pretty much turns off, then. Anyways, here’s what’s been going on:

  • The Miami Herald covers some of the more notable exploits of LSJUMB over the past few years in honor of their appearance at the Orange Bowl. There has also been tremendous misinformation about the Stanford band being allowed to perform at half-time. Their reputation truly does precede them
  • David Kennedy, professor emeritus of history, has a book out about the unifying characteristics of the United States. Is this a good time to talk more about Stanford’s diversity?
  • I heard Stanford football won a bowl of oranges and had to travel all the way to Miami and tackle a bunch of guys to get it. They should’ve just asked me for it and saved themselves the effort: I would have been happy to go to the farmer’s market and pick up a few oranges for them
  • A Stanford student reported being assaulted on-campus. Be careful
  • Ryan Calo at the CIS (a part of Stanford Law School) shares a few thoughts in this blog post about 1st amendment implications of the Wikileaks incident
  • The Chronicle had a piece on Jeff Ullman, professor emeritus in CS, under fire from a Iranian-American group about a comment made in an email to a student asking about admissions
  • California Governor Jerry Brown has appointed Michael Kirst, professor of education, to the State Board of Education. Hopefully he can help with the problem of many students currently in a state bored of education

(EDIT: It’s winter quarter, not spring quarter)

This Week in Stanford 12/12/10-12/18/10

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

Here’s what I found this week while lounging around at home:

  • President Hennessy won a leadership award for his work in semiconductors
  • Philip Zimbardo, professor emeritus in psychology, has started the Heroic Imagination Project, a non-profit to make more heroes. The WSJ article has not mentioned any efforts yet to use radioactive spiders or gamma rays
  • The SF Examiner highlights the good work done by P&TS on bike safety around campus
  • Joseph Kosinski, Stanford alum in ME, directed Tron: Legacy, released yesterday. That’s 2 in a row for Stanford connections with blockbuster sci-fi holiday movie releases
  • The Stanford University Press blog is recommending their printing of “Five Plays” by Anton Chekhov as a gift
  • Austin Keeley ’11 with FACE AIDS joined up with the Rotary Club of Los Altos to raise awareness about AIDS transmission in Liberia
  • Jimmy Bierman and Jaime Dorenbaum, law students, have a bit in the Sacramento Bee about California’s “three strikes” law