February 1st, 2009 optical illusion girlfriend

Brilliant concept for a video sketch:

Old witch/young lady optical illusion

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December 29th, 2008 best review ever

This review on Amazon of an algebraic topology textbook is perhaps the funniest review I have ever read:
Hatcher's Algebraic Topology Review

Algebraic Topology

By the way, this textbook is available completely free directly from the author as a gigantic PDF file:

I personally prefer Munkres’s Algebraic Topology textbook, but the Munkres does not cover homotopy theory, and is not free (no pun intended).

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December 15th, 2008 no you can't

So apparently, Barack Obama was rejected from Swarthmore (when he applied as a high school student to hopefully attend Swarthmore). According to this month-old Swarthmore Daily Gazette story (which I completely missed when it first came out!):

Senior Joel Mittleman ’09 actually had the chance to personally confirm the rumor when Obama held an open town hall at Strath Haven High School during the Pennsylvania primaries. “I did ask Obama [whether it was true],” he says, “not during the actual question and answer, but as he was walking the line shaking hands afterwards.” Mittleman recalls the Senator laughing in response, asking him where he heard the information, and then saying “Yes, it’s true. It really broke my heart, actually.”


But the plot thickens. Apparently, MSNBC picked up on this story, but almost copied the above Daily Gazette story word-for-word. Although the MSNBC story attributes the story to the “college newspaper”, the wording of the story is lifted almost exactly, including even the “mismatched quotation marks” according to @mskorpe1 on Twitter.

The link to the MSNBC story is here:
And in case it changes, the screenshot is shown below:
MSNBC on Obama and Swarthmore

This story fascinates me on multiple levels. First, there is the obvious point: Swarthmore rejected a future world leader. But, what would have happened if Obama was indeed admitted to Swarthmore and decided to attend? Could he still have eventually become the president of the United States? Would he still have formed the crucial social connections that probably led him to success, like the ones he probably made at Columbia? And what does this say about a Swarthmore education? Swarthmore is often criticized for having a “bubble” – almost like an intellectual monastery cut off from the rest of the world. I can see how this is an apt description on many levels. And this insularity is sometimes even looked upon as a positive trait. But the more I think about it, the more I suspect that Obama would have never become who he is today had he attended Swarthmore. He probably would have become a professor, or something just as obscured from the real world.

November 5th, 2008 obama loses (in a way)

Barack Obama has just been elected – under what I believe are insurmountable and impossible expectations. In a way, Obama just lost- when the honeymoon period is over, the fickle public opinion will fall just as fast as he rose. But more on this later.

September 27th, 2008 speechless

this country is fucked.

September 15th, 2008 joe biden, a man i admired

During the primary season, Joe Biden was my favorite pick. If I had not been swayed by the exciting prospect of having a women or a half-black man on the ticket, I probably would have supported Biden. I really liked his frank and direct way of answering questions, and he wasn’t afraid to show his emotions. It gets too tiresome to see politicians mincing their words all the time. Sometimes, it’s really refreshing to see some fiery oration. And of course, this is in the great traditional of America’s founders. And Biden’s competence was not just in his passionate speaking – he always had answers that were slightly unconventional and sensible. He really appeals to the contrarian streak in me.

But since he’s been picked as the VP candidate, he seems to stepped down his rhetoric. This is a little disappointing, but it is also expected. It can be argued that his strong rhetoric may hurt Obama’s campaign. On the other hand, the VP candidate has traditionally held the “attack dog” role, so perhaps Biden needs to step it up a bit.

In the end, I will be very disappointed if Biden allows the normative powers of the national spotlight to curb his personality.

For an extremely entertaining demonstration of Biden’s fire-power, check out his speech from the Senate floor:

P.S. By the way, I noticed a spike in traffic to my blog. Did you find my blog through a link from elsewhere? If so, please comment and let me know, or at least tell me how you got here. Thanks.

September 15th, 2008 insanely great sandwich

Walking into Essie Mae’s for a late dinner at 10:30PM is usually a dismal experience. The grill is off, and the cold lunch meats are already half-packed and ready to be put in the fridge. Of course, all the pizza and wings are gone, and for some reason the lazy staff isn’t frying up fries or fingers anymore. But severe limitations always yield the best creativity, and this is no exception. 

I ordered myself an egg salad sandwich (in whole-wheat bread, of course) with Jalepeno peppers and some sliced tomatoes- and voila! Perhaps one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. If you get the chance, you should try this someday. The creamy and savory egg salad goes perfect with the tart tomatoes and the spicy peppers. Mmmm.

Great Sandwich

August 22nd, 2008 marriage and separation

Many who advocate civil unions for gay couples argue that it is a practical way of granting equal rights to gays without ruining the ‘sanctity’ of marriage as that between one man and one woman. Some even argue that marriage is fundamentally a religious institution. Buy wait- there is a problem here.

First, if civil union couples have the same legal rights as that of married couples, then what is actually the difference between the two? Tradition? Religious distinctions? But the government does not have the constitutional right to be engaged in either of these issues.

If marriage is a religious institution, why is the state handing out marriage licenses? This would be a violation of the separation of church and state. And separating marriage and civil unions by name only for matters of tradition? This is just as bad as ‘separate but equal’.

If we as a society recognize marriage as an institution that the church has a say in, then the state should only issue civil union licenses, even to straight couples. But as long as the government sanctions ‘marriages’ for straight couples, it must do so for gay couples as well.

Without real legal differences between marriage and civil unions, granting one to straight couples while another to gay couples would be unconstitutional, while distinguishing the two with real differences in legal benefits would be discriminatory.

August 20th, 2008 Iphone

Just got my iPhone today! I am writing this post from the wordpress application ! It’s pretty amazing to be able to make a blog post from a phone. And this touch keyboard is actually surprisingly easy to use. I find that if I just type fast without worrying too much about typos, I get amazing accracy!

Overall I am very impressed by this phone. Quite unexpectedly though, the third party apps are mostly useless. I was expecting the app store to be the best part about this phone – not the case!

I think it is great that I have already done email, twittered, looked up directions, and made a blog post from this phone- all things I never did once on my Treo because it was such a clunker.

July 29th, 2008 more stupidity

From The Telegraph:

At least 50 people have lost their sight after staring at the sun hoping to see an image of the Virgin Mary, according to reports.

Alarmed health authorities in India’s Kottayam district have set up a sign dispelling rumours of a miraculous image in the sky and warning of the dangers of looking into direct sunlight.

Forty-eight cases of sight-loss, allegedly caused by photochemical burns on the retina, have been recorded at St Joseph’s ENT and Eye hospital in the region since Friday.

Despite warnings, and the potentially harmful effects of their actions, believers are allegedly still flocking to a hotelier’s house in Erumeli near where the divine image is said to have appeared. 

Here we are, surrounded by computers and aircrafts, and people are still stupid enough to do this kind of thing. As somebody famous said, ‘We take airplanes to get to an astrophysics conference. But when is the last time somebody got on a magic carpet to get to the spirituality conference?”