30 November 2008

Weekly Vlog Post #18

Here's my eighteenth weekly vlog posting, with Thanksgiving and my parents in town. Also is the first time (at least that I can remember) my wife appears in my vlog posting.

My Favorite Class in my 1st Semester of College: Introduction to Informatics

Drew at computer in fall 2000 at IUIn my first semester of college at Indiana University eight autumns ago (yeah, I'm dating myself), my favorite of my five classes was Introduction to Informatics, taught by Professor Gregory Rawlins. Not only was it my first semester, but it was also the first semester of both this particular course and the Informatics program at IU.
For those unfamiliar with informatics, the IU website describes it as follows - "Informatics develops new uses for information technology, is interested in how people transform technology, and how technology transforms us."
At the time, on my IU student website (which expired sometime after I graduated, thus there is no hyperlink here), I wrote
The School of Informatics is the first of its kind. The class is an experiment and we are kind of roaming around trying to identify where this course is and ought to go. The topics we are covering are very interesting. Professor Rawlins has an extensive experience with computer science so he is kind of used to teaching facts and so forth with computer science, so this approach is new to him.
I think what was particularly neat about this course for me was thinking differently about many things (both computers and otherwise). One instance is the following (from my notes* (that I wrote in class and typed up afterwards (before the ubiquity of laptops (yes, I'm dating myself again))) of 10 October 2000's class):
Reification - To make an abstract thing real.
If it wasn't for reification, it would be impossible for humans to do anything humans think.
In the following class (12 October 2000), he described the difference between software and hardware:
Facetious definition: "Anything that if you drop it on you, it will hurt."
Real definition: "Anything which is tangible."
Computers are about reifying thought
With computers, hardware becomes software.
Firmware - software which has been reexpressed through hardware
To demonstrate the aforementioned, he used the example of how hotels operate:
hotel=office building + beds + showers + cafeteria
What makes them different are their operations, which are not physical.
There is no procedure for checking into an office building, but there is one for checking into a hotel.
The procedures differ.
The structure is not just physical but also procedural.
Throughout our lives, we have been acquiring software to know how to function as a university student.
I really liked that line about what the difference between an office building and a hotel.
Anyways, this class was on my mind recently and was looking through the notes and thought I would share it with the blogosphere.
*Disclaimer: I am not saying that these notes are necessarily verbatim what Professor Rawlins said or everything that he said, so please don't judge him harshly for these notes of mine from eight years ago.
PS I just found this set of slides from an Informatics class that seems good.

25 November 2008

Two Pet Peeves with Some Articles

Often when reading articles, usually of the Jewish topical variety, I get irked by two main issues. The first of these concerns quoting an author by name and the second of these concerns where/how to place a citation note.
As to quoting an author, there’s a famous rabbinic statement that espouses the importance of quoting the sayer of a particular statement (although, ironically, it is not clear who said it, as there are multiple rabbis identified with saying it). I feel this is important in writing as well. People write books. Let me say this again, people write books. I have yet to find books writing books. Therefore, one who writes a book should be quoted/cited in such a way. An instance of this would be that one does not say Adventures of Huckleberry Finn wrote such-and-such - rather, one would write, Mark Twain wrote such-and-such in his Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Similarly, one would not write the Magen Avraham wrote such-and-such, but rather Rabbi Avraham Gombiner wrote such-and-such in his Magen Avraham.
The other issue is the proper placement of a notation. I've seen in some articles that will place the notation after the name of a person (or, even a book) rather than after the complete thought that is being noted. Generally, such articles follow the humanities style (such as Chicago style), thus
The superior numerals used for note reference numbers in the text should follow any punctuation marks except the dash, which they precede. The numbers should also be placed outside closing parentheses.
Wherever possible a note number should come at the end of a sentence, or at least at the end of a clause. Numbers set between the subject and verb or between other related words in a sentence are distracting to the reader.
Preferably, the note number follows a quotation, whether the quotation is short and run into the text or long and set off from the text. Occasionally it may be inserted after an author's name or after text introducing the quotation.1
Although I am getting some of these things off of my chest, I also hope these are helpful to writers out there.

1 - John Grossman, ed., The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th ed. (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1993) 494, 495.

Weekly Vlog Post #17

Here's my belated weekly vlog post. This one is about school stuff. Included is a segment on my morning commute to school (at 8x speed) with music ("Streetlights" by Phenotype) at the 3:57 mark.

17 November 2008

09 November 2008

06 November 2008

Jews in Articles

Jews Take A Gamble on Ohio BallotSometimes, there are articles which tout how involved Jews are with a given subject and, in my mind, be read a certain way by anti-semites. One such article is the recent "Jews Take A Gamble on Ohio Ballot".
Starting off with saying "Jews may make up only about 2 percent of the nation’s population, but they are 100 percent of the movers and shakers who are behind the push for Ohio to authorize the construction of a $600 million casino resort complex in Clinton County", already my mind conjures up that those who are non-Jew friendly could certainly see this in a very negative light. Moreover,
The two Cleveland-area entrepreneurs who are leading the campaign to convince voters to OK State Issue 6 on the November ballot are both Jews: Rick Lertzman and Brad Pressman. Meanwhile, two executives of Lakes Entertainment, a Minnesota-based casino operator, which is helping finance the multimillion-dollar campaign and proposed casino construction, are also Jews: CEO Lyle Berman and Vice President Jack Malisow.
And it gets better:
The spokesman for the Vote No committee is Bob Tenenbaum, who “just happens to be” Jewish.” He notes he is a paid public relations professional who’s been hired to promote the casino opponents’ stand. Two recent TV debates featured Tenenbaum clashing with Pressman, but Tenenbaum describes the all-Jewish verbal battle simply as “an odd coincidence.”
So there's all of these Jews involved in this issue! Anyways, as far as the Jewishness involved,
The religious background of the four men has not been discussed at all in the bitter public campaign, but Lertzman tells The New Standard that their proposal shows “Jewish entrepreneurial spirit.”
“Jews take chances on businesses all of our lives,” Lertzman says. “Risk-taking is part of the Jewish heritage.”
Interestingly, though,
When the four meet to map strategy, “it’s easier because you have a common perspective and heritage,” says Pressman. “We have common roots, and we can argue with each other without being offended.”
Anyways, I found it interesting. Also, if you're interested, the article goes on to survey various local rabbis' opinions on gambling. Oh, and the ballot failed.

Sleeping Direction in Judaism, Part 1: The Shulhan Arukh

When I was working on my avelus test two and a half months ago, I noticed the following interesting line written by Rabbi Yosef Karo in his Shulhan Arukh (YD 362.2):
נותנין המת על גביו ופניו למעלה כאדם שהוא ישן
We place the corpse on its back and its face upwards, like a person when they are sleeping.
From Rabbi Karo's having written this line, it would seem that he would say that people sleep on their backs. However, he also wrote in his Shulhan Arukh (EH 23.3) that
אסור לאדם לישן על ערפו ופניו למעלה עד שיטה מעט כדי שלא לבא לידי קישוי
It is forbidden for a person to sleep on one's neck and one's face turned upwards until one tilts a little in order so that one does not come to have an erection.
Although one could say that, with the latter text, Rabbi Karo means to say that it's kind of like one is lying on one's back, but with the modification of tilting, nevertheless, the first text is still rather interesting. I hope to continue further posts on the topic of Jewish sleep positioning, but, for now, I will end off with the following from Professor Jeffrey Woolf's recent article (HT), that
When it comes to sexuality, the Shulhan Arukh presents a markedly conflicted stance. On the one hand, the author dutifully codifies the relevant rulings that express a positive attitude toward sexuality. On the other hand, in a section of the work (Hilkhot Zeni'ut) that was more likely to achieve wider provenance (Orah Hayyim), he presents the student with a much more severe, ascetic view of sexuality.
- Jeffrey R. Woolf, "'La'avodat Bor'o': The Body in the Shulhan Arukh of R. Joseph Caro," in The Jewish Body: Corporeality, Society, and Identity in the Renaissance and the Early Modern Period, eds. Giuseppe Veltri & Maria Diemling (Leiden: EJ Brill, 2008), 177.

Weekly Vlog Posting #14

Includes segments from my going to the JACS retreat and voting.