Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Shoot First, Write Essays Later

"Under what conditions, if any, may a country wage a preventive war of self-defense?" That's the first question on last semester's War and Justice exam at the University of Edinburgh. In layman's terms: When can you go to war in order to address something not happening now, but something you expect to happen later? It's a very practical question. In 1941, Japan struck Pearl Harbor, presumably to prevent the U.S. navy from being able to strike at them. In 1967, Israel launched the Six-Day War by decimating Egyptian air fields in anticipation of a massive Egyptian-Jordanian-Syrian-Iraqi invasion. In 2003, the United States went to war in Iraq in order to prevent - in advance - the use of weapons of mass destruction. Wars are often justified in terms of self-defense, but does it count when the defense happens before the attack? Thanks for tuning in; it's philosophy night.

Monday, December 17, 2012

How to Scam Tufts (for Dummies)

It's Sunday, 3:52pm EST. It's nighttime in Edinburgh, and I'm typing away at my computer, studying for upcoming exams. Suddenly, an email notification. The subject reads: "(Suspension Of Your Email Account)*". The message claims to come from "". That seems pretty legitimate. There's a link... it wants me to submit my Tufts username and password. "Failure to comply will lead to the termination of your email email account in the next 48 hours." Scammer, let's get a couple things straight, here. This was pretty good. You probably picked up a few email account passwords. But you weren't exactly the brightest hacker of the bunch. I've got a few pointers for you.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Highland Hanukkah

Scotland isn't exactly known for its Jewish population. Despite the recent creation of a Jewish tartan, you can tell the Jewish communities aren't too large by the mere fact that one organization, the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, represents all of them. (Aside: Excerpts from Voices of Grandchildren were recently published in the December 2012 issue of their Four Corners newsletter). But the fact that 0.1% of Scots identify as Jewish (2001 census) doesn't stop the Hanukkah celebrations from happening, even during our exam weeks.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Study Break: War and Profit

Those familiar with my end-of-semester study habits are aware that I enjoy experimenting with a wide variety of study techniques. One which tends to show up about this time of year is study-by-blogging, a process by which I take something I'm trying to learn and turn it into a post for all to see. Sure, it's added pressure if my professors happen to follow me online, but it embeds the information in my brain in a way that flashcards can't compete with. This time, I'm not designing inspirational philosophy posters or personifying historical characters in mock-Facebook chats, nor will I be applying new-found vocabulary to Restaurant City. For this term's study break, I will take a closer look at the board game "Settlers of Catan." Well, three closer looks, to be precise.

Monday, November 26, 2012

I Have a Little Playlist

Christmas is December 25th this year (and every year). But sure enough, as soon as no more holidays stand in the way between the present day and nativity celebration, Christmas music is sure to be played on radios and laptops everywhere. With no Thanksgiving here in the U.K., that means we've been listening to it for weeks. Well, Hanukkah is December 8th this year (the 25th of Kislev, just like every year, my Dad reminds me), which means I say it's about high time we start blasting the Hanukkah music. And I'm not just talking about Hebrew prayers; there's a whole world of Hanukkah pop out there. Presenting: Peacelight's Favorite Hanukkah Tunes, 2012.

When Hanukkah comes early, are Christmas plans foiled?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Back to Binary

With my Facebook page flooded by classmates posting their schedules, I figured it was only appropriate to reveal mine here. Despite having stayed up past 5am to watch the US presidential election, I was up by 8am Eastern (okay, you caught me; that's like the middle of the afternoon here) to register for courses at Tufts. Whereas in Edinburgh I tell people I'm a "politics" student, my return to Boston will be marked by a fairly dramatic shift back to my other major: computer science. In part to compensate for this semester, and in part to compensate for a late overall start in the field, I'm loading up on a schedule that's 75% informatics, 25% government, and, of course, 95% Tufts Mock Trial. Can you tell I haven't taken math in a few months?

Halligan: Home of Computer Science (and me, most days next semester...)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

UK Take on US Election

I walked into my politics lecture at 11am, set my bag down beside me, and began to take out a notebook. "Hello everyone," began the professor, "Thank you all for coming out this morning, taking a break from your essays and the US election." Only, this wasn't an American professor, and I wasn't sitting in an American Politics class. I wasn't even in America. This was all taking place at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom. Whether we realize or not, the American election is big news worldwide. So, on the suggestion of my American colleagues, I've set up shop here in Edinburgh to provide live coverage of the US election... as seen by the UK. This will be my first live-blogging experience (I'm a more versed live-tweeter), so get your finger on the refresh button (starting perhaps 6pm EST) and let's see what happens.

Today's BBC homepage is overflowing with US election material

Monday, November 5, 2012

B for Bonfire

You're walking the halls of English Parliament. Little do you realize that under your feet sits 36 barrels of gunpowder, guarded by a man named Guy Fawkes. And he's prepared to blow the place. Such was the case in 1605, on the eve of the Gunpowder Plot, midnight, the fifth of November. But the plot was foiled, Fawkes hanged, and a British celebration born. But was is really so clever for me to be walking through Scottish Parliament on the anniversary of the plot?

Debating Chambers, Scottish Parliament

Thursday, November 1, 2012

It's Bananas

Here's the problem with sharing a kitchen with four other flat-mates, having no minutes on your foreign phone plan, and passing a supermarket on the way home from class every day: Bananas. Last week, my flat-mate and I each independently realized the flat needed more bananas; so we each bought them. The result? One week later, we were staring at 11 over-ripening bananas. What does one do when faced with such fearsome fruit? Rather than go bananas, we came up with a few creative solutions.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Voices of Grandchildren

A smiling, young-looking man walked into the room, wearing a blue tie. I was standing with my back toward the door, just a few feet away from the man, talking with students from the Politics Society, Jewish Society, and Model UN who had gathered. "Hello, hello everyone," said the man, so I turned around. I didn't think he was the Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom, though perhaps he was about to introduce him. This man, after all, was much too young, much too short, much to cheery to be a hardened negotiator. "My name is Daniel Taub," he began, "I'm the Israeli Ambassador to the UK. Shall we sit down and have a chat?"

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hairy Coo! A Highlands Visit

What's a trip to Scotland without castle ruins, ancient battlefields, and whiskey distilleries? Throw in a few sheepdogs, some mountains, and a trip to Loch Ness, and you've got yourself a complete Highlands experience. How 'bout we hae a wee look.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Plea from a PoliSci Major

Last week, I sent a rather stuffed envelope back to the United States. It contained both a signed form and another, smaller envelope, in which was folded one piece of paper bearing seven black X's. While it is true that I have voted in the past (in local elections, or for Congressmen, and so on), I had never before influenced the presidential outcome. My grandparents, undoubtedly, have a long list of presidents for whom they voted (or voted against), dating back many decades. My parents, too, have accumulated something of a voting record. For me, that list officially begins this year: 1. 2012: Barack Obama.

Yup, that's the real ballot, currently en route to Pennsylvania.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Matchup: Edinburgh vs. Boston

Granted, 10 days in any country probably isn't enough time to develop a thorough understanding. Yet, with the novelty of British phrases and coinage still fresh in my mind, I find it appropriate, here, to examine a few key differences between life on campus in Boston, Massachusetts and Edinburgh, Scotland. It's time for a good ol' fashioned show-down: Edinburgh vs. Boston.

My new home in Edinburgh

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

When It Rains, It Shines

One of the most noticeable features of Edinburgh, Scotland is the weather, and how frequently it changes. Never mind that, while Philadelphians are sweating out highs of 81°F and Jumbos are fighting off 82°F with no air conditioning, it's 57°F here with a low of 43°F. No, the real trouble is the rain, which seems to come and go with the passing clouds. As one local woman put it, "No dear; we don't close [the farmer's market] for the rain. It's Edinburgh; we'd never be open!"

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Freshers' Week and Student Unions

I've been in Scotland for only a few days, and already so much has happened. I cannot possible get through everything, and I won't bore you with those details, besides. I've selected a topic to write about for now, and others will come later. Today, one stunningly unique aspect of the University of Edinburgh: the quality of facilities for student enjoyment.

This week is "Freshers' Week," or orientation. Note the elaborate website and posters.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Summer Cookbook

Toward the start of the summer, I found the website (and pretty cool App) "BigOven", which I've been using to record recipes. The dishes are then accessible from any phone, laptop, or tablet I can find, which should make cooking in Scotland (or back at Tufts) a little bit easier. I expanded past Asian dishes in the last month or two, and it's time to share the most delicious ones with you.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

How to Vote in College

Congratulations, you're 18 years old (or older). You can order off of infomercials, buy lottery tickets, and, as a U.S. citizen, vote. When I matriculated to Tufts, our university president at the time, Larry Bacow gave us a homework assignment. The internet reveals that he gave this homework assignment to previous classes, too: Vote. Vote in the November election, and make voting a lifelong habit. You see, we're Americans. Our nation is responsible for some of the greatest inventions of all time: harnessed electricity, the internet, manned flight. Most importantly, democracy. We did it first, and we're still improving it every day. It's your patriotic duty to help make that happen. So how do you do it from college?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Disney Movies (In 5 Easy Steps)

One of my favorite science fiction authors, Kurt Vonnegut, once graphed the story of Cinderella in order to examine human happiness. He argued that the story followed a particular story arc, moving from misery to ecstasy, back to misery, and off to a happy ending. "People love that story," he told a New York audience, "And because of it, people think their lives are supposed to be like this...So people pretend there is drama where there is none." This ties in nicely to a recent XKCD comic, Connoisseur, which argued that "Our brains have just one scale, and we resize our experiences to fit." Randall (the comic writer)'s point, here, is once again that we invent drama when our lives otherwise lack it.

Vonnegut's "Cinderella" Arc

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Abort, Return, Renew?

I'm all for technology. Really, I am. I run my own computer repair company. I take class notes on a laptop, not in a notebook. I check online dictionaries before using certain words. I organize my life on a digital calendar. I think cars should be driving themselves. I prefer self-checkout at CVS because I want to see how good the tech is.

But when I walk into my local library and check out my own books, without interacting with a librarian, something is wrong.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Treading on Thin Ice

For decades, the northeast corner of Alaska has been designated the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It means that area is protected from development and, most famously, oil drilling. But all that may be about to change. In March, Royal Dutch Shell won permits to begin exploring the viability of oil drilling just off the shores of ANWR, in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. If successful, oil companies are projected to flock to the Arctic in search of more oil. Things are getting heated among activists and icebergs alike.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Wanted: A Grammar Lesson

Anadiplosis. Anadiplosis is your new reason to get excited, because you're about to learn what that word means. That word means repetition; specifically, a type of repetition with which you take the last part of a sentence or clause and use it as the first part of the next sentence or clause, tying the two together. Together, the ending and beginning create a doubling up, or folding up, as it means in the original Greek. Greek etymology aside, this post examines the fun bits of English interspersed throughout The Wanted's hit single, "Glad You Came." You came to the right place for a blend of pop music, linguistics, and everything between.

Fun Fact: This Blog post didn't save the first time I wrote it. Ouch.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

An Educated Guess

I was talking about Sudoku with my dad and my brother the other day over lunch, when we got into an unexpected argument. I had been considering how a computer might go about solving a Sudoku. I talked about how it could test many possibilities near-instantly; it could look at a square and think, "Could a 1 go here? Well, this would lead to that, and then we'd have a conflict. So, no, it can't be a 1." And my brother objected. "That's just guessing," he said. I was certain, however, that this was how people solved the puzzles, too. What my family was calling "logic, not guessing" was no more than mental guess-and-check. I set out to demonstrate it.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Chop Sticks, to Taste

It's summer time, and that means unlimited access to a fully-stocked kitchen. That, coupled with the mounting anticipation of having to cook every meal for myself in Scotland (who needs a meal plan when the supermarkets have haggas?) means that I could really benefit from learning a few recipes. My hunt for a fun  recipe program for my PC may appear in a later post (sources report that the PC culinary app market far exceeds Mac equivalents; take that Apple-lovers), but for now, I'll focus on the few new dishes I've been cooking up this summer. They're Asian-cooking-themed and can easily be done vegetarian. Enjoy!

This side of chicken-less chicken goes great with the chicken-stock soup behind.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Forever Floor

My days of RAing a freshman dorm at Tufts are now months gone, but I'm still feeling a bit reminiscent about the year. The new Pixar-themed forever stamps couldn't help but remind me of our hall. Sure enough, we had a door (or more) decorated for each of these stamps. Let's check it out:

"...and from way up here you all look like little freshman"

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Tilton: The Gathering

As this year at Tufts comes to a close, I realize I've learned some new things from my freshman dorm. And no, this isn't where the post gets sappy - it's where it gets nerdy. Over the past few months, I've been introduced to a sprinkling of awesomely nerdy pastimes, from card games to computer games. Here's the rundown.

Cards from "Magic: The Gathering"

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Visualizing in Degrees

Students at Tufts University are happy to know that the old SIS (Student Information Systems) is being updated, scheduled to be operable by my senior year (2013-2014). It is certainly a much-needed improvement; the current system, aside from being incredibly slow during course registration and simply looking text-based and ugly, has an interesting sleep schedule. For example, the entire system goes down between 6pm-8pm every night, and "may be unavailable on Sundays from 6AM to 10AM EST/EDT for scheduled maintenance." I'm sorry, your database needs 18 hours of down-time per week? Yikes. So wonderful; SIS is getting an upgrade. It took a whole new building on campus, but it's going to happen. But what if SIS wasn't the only thing changing? I propose a makeover for our Degree Audit Reporting System, DARS. And it would look something like this:

(click image to enlarge)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Paint it Blue

During reading period, Tufts Mock Trial set out on our third attempt to paint the cannon. Our first attempt was undercut by Tufts Wilderness, which got there a few hours earlier to guard. Our second attempt was rained out. But the third time's the charm, they say! Here's a recap of our season, and some great shots from out painting expedition.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Middle East Timeline

Since my first semester here at Tufts, I've been studying with the help of technology. And every college student knows there's no technology more intriguing during finals than Facebook. That's probably why I used examples from Facebook to study for Psychology the fall of my freshman year. But with the new Facebook timeline, it only seems fitting that this technology be used for a history course. After all, I've already written about ideas for an historical Facebook of sorts, so this exploration of middle eastern politics is simply the next logical step. Presenting a brief compilation of Facebook-timeline screencaps for important figures of the middle east. Disclaimer: Without having taken the class, you might not find these as hilarious as I do.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

On Pesach, Don't Pass Over Tufts Dining

One might imagine that the Jewish holiday of Passover is a bad time to be eating in the university dining halls. After all, the most observant of Jews will be seriously restricting their diets, so what good would it be to swipe into Dewick, only to be tempted by endless cereal displays, fresh-baked pizza, or piles of pasta? But every year during Pesach, Tufts Dining whips out the fine china (or rather, the paper plates) and prepares a small Passover buffet. Sure, it gets old after a few days of the same options, but if you pace yourself and focus on a few items at a time, you'll be set for the week.

Where would we be without the Passover staple, Matzah?

Monday, April 9, 2012

15 Best Courses at Tufts

Thanks to the magic of Facebook questions, I've been conducting a university-wide poll over the past few weeks. Students in the Tufts Facebook network were asked to respond to a poll, asking: "Which were your favorite Tufts courses (Course Title, Professor)?" The sample is, admittedly, biased; I invited all of my Tufts friends on Facebook, and they perhaps invited theirs, but that makes me some kind of focal point. To try and balance this, advertisements to vote were distributed to all of the on-campus dormitories, and Tufts Admissions encouraged students, via Twitter, to vote. At the time I wrote this post, the poll had 328 votes, allowing multiple votes per respondent. The results give us the top classes at Tufts University, as voted upon by (a portion of) the students.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Spring Fashion

It may be a few days past April Fool's, but someone's been up to an interesting on-campus prank. Students wandering around downhill yesterday would have noticed something rather peculiar about the local trees: They're wearing clothes. A case of yarn-bombing has struck campus, a colorful non-permanent decorative phenomenon which involves covering the local scenery in yarn. Let's take a look.

Can you spot the yarn? (Taken outside Dewick)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Elastic Strikes Back

It's back, and it's bigger than ever. In February, the RAs of Tilton and Haskell halls ran our first-ever game of sock Assassins, with great success. With 85 students playing, we had a fantastic 6-day tournament. Now, we're playing again, with sign-ups closing tonight at 10:00pm. The game generally goes as follows: Players are assigned "targets," who they must "kill" by tagging them with socks. When logging these kills, players provided some pretty fantastic battle reports, highlights included below.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

So You Got into Tufts

Good work, member of the class of 2016 (or, as you're probably more used to, 2012)! So you got into Tufts, now what? If you're still deciding, like I was when I was in your shoes, this post might help you pick to live on the hill next year. If you're already coming, then here's what you've got to look forward to. Presenting: What's Good at Tufts University.

Got this during orientation; they give away lots of free stuff.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Textbooks for Even Less

Last year, I posted about shopping around for cheap textbooks. With more experience at college, however, I've found new ways of getting your books on the cheap. Presenting: How to Purchase College Textbooks for Even Less, in four easy steps.

Friday, March 23, 2012

How to do Spring Break: Montreal Edition

Tufts let off from school last Friday, so three of my best friends and I packed up a car and headed five hours north, right across the Canadian border. Destination: Montreal, the French-speaking spring break destination of choice for many, many Jumbos.

Photo credit: Abby 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Shalom & Salaam

I just came back from a lecture and discussion with David Keyes regarding "The Arab Spring: Human Rights and Revolution in the Middle East." The event was part of Israel Peace Week, the second annual Friends of Israel event promoting the peace process in the Middle East. This week followed so-called "Israeli Apartheid Week," a protest by the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) against the state of Israel.

Jumbos focused on the Israeli/Palestinian peace process

Having listened to, and spoken with, SJP members railing about Jewish supremacy and Israeli rights violations, I was at first appalled. But during the Keyes lecture, one Palestinian Tufts student raised her hand and (unlike her more disruptive peers at the previous day's speaker) agreed with much of what Keyes had said. She then asked where her place was as a Palestinian who does not support Hamas, does not idolize suicide bombers, and does not teach hatred of Jews and Christians. Keyes' answer: "You have a role to play. Support moderation in Gaza...convince people that Hamas is not the answer." And now, for the first time since the anger and frustration began on this campus, I am beginning to see what we all have in common.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Of Hearts and Tarts and Liberal Arts

At this time last year, it seemed as though all of my classes were alterations on the same concept; it's funny how many times "prisoner's dilemma" or "determinism" come up in academia. But this semester, it's happening again (and I wasn't even trying to theme my classes this time around!). In Literature of Chaos, we've been reading Lewis Carroll* (Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass), while Discrete Mathematics has been discussing Carroll as a logician, drawing on his amusing logic puzzles as examples. And so, I present to the world a problem I've invented (for extra credit), inspired by the Carroll's universe.

*Funny phrasing, no? Reading Carroll? I'm reading books...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Bring on the Socks

It's midnight, February 1st, 2012. You give a frantic glance to the left, to the right. Are you safe, down here? Not really, no. Darn it! Why is your computer upstairs? You knew the game was starting...but somehow that wasn't on your mind. Wait, what's that sound? Someone's coming, down the stairs! He's asking about your whereabouts; you can hear him! You quickly gather your belongings and bolt for the bathroom, fumbling with the lock. Assassins has begun, and everyone's a target.

Comics featuring their RAs explain the rules of the game to residents