Archive for the 'Columbia' Category

not so great columbians

Yowza, not a good week to be working the PR desk at Alma Mater:

RIP LionLink.   DSA hardly knew ye.

Columbia on Twitter

Behold, SEAS has a Twitter account (@CUSEAS), with all of 28 followers. Those 28 must be very, very loyal soldiers. Also, I thought, as per the edicts from Marketing, the short name would be “Columbia Engineering” or “CU Engineering”.

Can we make a list of all known Columbia University twitter accounts?

  • CU School of Engineering and Applied Science: @CUSEAS
  • CU School of Journalism: @j_school

Maybe someone should start a fake Columbia account and tweet as if they were a large ivy-league university, encumbered by a polarized student base and claims of anti-semitism and racism, with a small endowment in the most expensive city in the U.S. “Small endowment, Big City” is an INSPIRED banner title. Run with it, people.

columbians: Just when I thought I was out…

“It would be (good for me) if I graduated. It turned out I really liked my job so I didn’t come back after the first year. But evidently [Columbia] thinks I’ve graduated because I was recently invited back to a class reunion for class of 2004. I was rather surprised. I don’t know how that happened… I don’t technically know what my enrolment status is.”

Anna Paquin, one-time Columbian, on returning to finish her degree.

It may be a fair assumption that she also receives alumni donation envelopes, hand-signed by the Dean, with glitter in them.


Reunion was fairly successful.  An executive summary:

  • As usual, pushed, and perhaps exceeded, the bounds of “formal attire”.   
  • Received a commemorative pin for my non-work1  as an alumni committee member2.  
  • Bragged that I had nurtured a personal publishing empire3 with an audience of two.  
  • Unabashedly hit on one now-married classmate, remarking on her ravishing, eternal beauty, while giving her absent husband one backhanded compliment after another.  
  • Delighted in the sad state of one loathsome classmate, who had, in the interim, lost locks of hair, found 30 pounds, and has a crooked hunched posture.  He is the nightmare embodiment of To Catch a Predator.  Sweet, karmic justice.4
  • Received a job offer to join a firm making software modeling government and finance information.  Outside The Heights.
  1. I am really sorry. []
  2. When your committee contains 27 people, getting 10% participation from a class of 300 should not be difficult.  Perhaps your school’s core demographic just does not give away money to large, impersonal causes []
  3. Three blogs, one twitter feed, and a prolific facebook updater []
  4. “At age 50, every man has the face he deserves.” –George Orwell []

Really thought it was spelled “phishing”, not “pfishing”

basket-ball & flag rush

Photo:  now-Dodge Gymnasium at Columbia University circa 1908 (via kottke). The semi-circle room, second-level running track, the distinct cross-hatch rail design, the stone columns (now covered with cushions), it’s all there, and is now over 100 years old apparently.  The students pictured are playing a brand new game called “basketball” (invented 1891).

See also: Flag Rush in 1910, a tradition wherein sophomores stake a flag and defend it from an onslaught of freshmen.  Taken in front of Hamilton Hall.

great columbians: Suzanne Vega, “mother of mp3”

NYTimes: Singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega’s ruminations on her song Tom’s Diner. The original MP3 codec developers in Germany debugged the early versions of the MP3 algorithm using “Tom’s Diner”, relying on the song’s warm acoustic tones to test the limits of the audio compression algorithm.

When I was at Barnard College in Manhattan, I used to go to Toms Restaurant for coffee, and after I graduated I also ate there before going to work. It was then a cheap, greasy place on 112th and Broadway, and it still is, in spite of its celebrity.

* * *

So Mr. Brandenberg gets a copy of the song, and puts it through the newly created MP3. But instead of the warm human voice there are monstrous distortions, as though the Exorcist has somehow gotten into the system, shadowing every phrase. They spend months refining it, running Toms Diner through the system over and over again with modifications, until it comes through clearly. He wound up listening to the song thousands of times, the article, written by Hilmar Schmundt, continued, and the result was a code that was heard around the world. When an MP3 player compresses music by anyone from Courtney Love to Kenny G, it is replicating the way that Brandenburg heard Suzanne Vega.

Columbian: Charles L. Brieant Jr., Longtime Federal Judge,

NYTimes Obit: Charles L. Brieant Jr., Longtime Federal Judge, Is Dead at 85:

Judge Brieant graduated from Columbia University in 1947. He had originally been a member of the class of 1944, but served in the Army Air Forces in World War II. In 1949, he received his law degree from Columbia. (Emphasis added.)

great columbians: George Carlin

George Carlin (1937-2008), comedian, linguist. Carlin was obsessed with language and diction (think: William Safire without the pomposity) and devoted much of his routines to it. A routine of his, “Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television,” was at the center of a prominent 1978 U.S. Supreme Court decision, FCC v. Pacifica. The Court sustained the FCC’s power to fine the radio station that played the routine unfiltered. Many scholars largely regard the decision as wrong or, at best, a one-off. He did not attend the University, but grew up in a building behind the Teacher’s College. (see also, Google Maps). That’s good enough for me. RIP.

See also, Remembering George Carlin, Fresh Air, June 23, 2008.

vampire weekend: then and now

Last year, east river park summer show:

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One year later, at this weekend’s rainy show at SummerStage:

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I should have taken Neeta’s offer a few years ago to check out a new Columbian band named Vampire Weekend. In general, sometimes you find a new band you like, have a few good shows together, and then it comes time to part ways. Judging from the crowd, and the source of the crowd, after one short album by Vampire Weekend, and now it’s time to let them go. Man, that crowd reminds me of a few Dashboard Confessional shows.

vampire weekend

Perhaps, dear reader, you have been following the meteoric rise of the band Vampire Weekend, comprised of young Columbia alums, poised and full of the moment, who sweetly blend afro-pop with some Now.

Perhaps, then, you would like to follow this link to their open-air one-take Parisian street performances at La blogotheque. Charming enough to make me a fan, officially.



Brutal choice of imagery for the latest Columbia Alumni Association email newsletters banner.

RIP: Cyclotron

Columbia University is removing the Cyclotron from the basement of Pupin this week. One of the last remaining treasures in the tunnels:

Sealed off from public access, it could be reached only through the schools underground tunnel system. … After evading security guards and traversing the tunnels, the group reached the basement of the physics building, armed with word-of-mouth instructions: Find the out-of-order mens bathroom, and send the skinniest person in your party shimmying up the heating vent and into the hallway of the abandoned laboratories, where she can open the door for everyone else.

I was down there once for a secret AcIS (remember them?) UI tunnel tour, but we never made it into the cyclotron room.

Update: Even better, this New Yorker talk-of-the-town piece was penned by Kate Linthicum, BC ’08.

go cross campus

NY Times: Storming the Campuses: Yale kids and one Columbian, Isaac Silverman (CC ’08?), build “multiplayer locally social gaming” in GoCrossCampus, a strange amalgam of Risk and the social web. Don’t miss the fascinating slideshow, detailing plot twists of the Ivy League campaign.


My, New York knows how to best New Jersey. Sure, New Jersey’s last governor resigned in disgrace amidst a salacious affair. But New York’s governor has to go ahead and resign in disgrace amidst a salacious affair which actually involved illegal criminal behavior, for which penalties were strengthened by the stroke of his very gubernatorial quill. Stunning.

Also, just wanted to say that New York’s first black governor in history is going to be Davis Paterson CC ’77. Somewhat related, former NJ governor Jim McGreevey graduated CC ’78 (political science).

Honestly, I would not be surprised to see a Governor Gone Wild sex tape emerge. Internets, make it happen.

columbia join google book search

Columbia joins Google book search.Yes this is what passes for content around here, these days.

SEAS and the Patent Bar

Part of the honey that lured me to law school was that there was a barrier to entry to being a patent attorney. This barrier to entry is made explicit in the eligibility requirements for the Patent Bar: if you don’t have an engineering degree, you can’t sit for the Patent Bar.

As you can imagine, not many law students have such degrees; most are squishy history/political science majors. This has the effect of making patent practice exclusive, patent attorneys scarce, and market demand for patent attorneys allegedly high.

What constitutes a “technical background“? In short, if the word ‘engineering’ appears on your degree (i.e. bio-med eng’ring, electrical eng’ring, computer engineering), congratulations, you have met the technical background requirement. The purer math/science degrees are forced to qualify under “Category B”, by dissecting their transcript to find fulfillment of X hours of physics, chemistry, and lab work.

The asterisk here belongs to computer science (CS) degrees. CS degrees will qualify if the university’s CS program is accredited by an organization named ABET. The rationale for the special treatment is unclear to me, but I can imagine that computer science field often inspires less than rigorous analysis.

Guess what Ivy League school has not earned ABET accreditation for its CS degree, making it a pain in the ass to take the patent bar?