An eclectic day in the life

Posted October 18, 2005

Today just randomly ended up being interestingly busy, in that a lot of unrelated events all piled up back to back. So I thought I'd run down the list just to show how varied things sometimes get for me.

First up was a lecture at Harvard by Ian Condry, an MIT professor who specializes in Japanese culture and has taken an interest in looking at the fansubbing community from a sociological point of view. His talk was good, though not especially insightful from my perspective as an "insider" in fansub culture: his purpose was mainly to explain the situation to others... that there is this weird phenomenon where groups of fans make and distribute professional-quality subtitled versions of their favorite shows, and have this strange uneasy truce with the industry, falling somewhere between pirates and creators in their own right.

Then back to my home campus for a lecture in Biomedical Computing, one of the classes I'm sitting in on this term. The particular topic today was asthma, as a springboard to talk about the understanding of complex genetic diseases. Asthma has both an environmental and a genetic basis, with complicated interactions among lots of factors and genes, and it's an interesting problem in bioinformatics to tease them apart and use that to create treatments (there's even a genetic basis for how well someone will respond or not to a particular medicine, etc.).

Next was the weekly astrophysics colloquium, where we got to hear Sebastien Lepine talk about his virtually solo work in creating a catalog of nearby faint stars by examining old photographic plates to see which ones had moved appreciably over the last 50 years (if they move, that generally means they're close, like a signpost whizzing past your car while more distant buildings generally stay fixed in about the same direction of view). Interestingly, we really didn't have a complete census of nearby stars: they have such a wide range of brightnesses that it's very hard to tell apart a nearby dim star from a far-away bright one. Once we have a good catalog, we can make some interesting analyses about the structure of our galaxy, etc.

The MIT Entrepreneur's Club meeting was next. I've started attending these get-togethers this year, since the startup community around the Boston area is pretty vibrant, so a number of interesting people and interesting ideas float through. I haven't found anything sufficiently Cool to sign up for myself, but I keep hoping, and sooner or later something will come up, or else I'll pitch my own ideas to the group and try to gather a team and some capital.

Last was a talk given by Google. They're on campus doing some recruiting this time of year, so they organized a little event to give a presentation and hand out some free stuff, in the hopes of gathering some new super-bright employees from the MIT ranks. They really went all out, actually... I counted something like fifteen Google folks scattered in the crowd, some of them former MIT folks themselves.

Oh, and when I got home, my answering machine kindly informed me that the Republican party wants to give me a National Leadership Award. Geez. Yeah, it's a fundraising scam, of course. The Do Not Call list is great, but it's not perfect.

So that was my eclectic day. Between walking to Harvard and everything else, my handy pedometer reports a total of 10,960 steps, or just over five miles. Excellent...