May 132009

I am now in the midst of hiring the next class of Stanford CS106 section leaders for the fall quarter. Section leaders (SLs) here at Stanford are typically undergraduates (and occasionally graduate students) who teach a small section of a larger lecture class. These classes often also have a head TA who will help coordinate the high-level academic aspects of the class. CS106 is Stanford’s introductory computer science sequence, and includes CS106A, CS106B, CS106X, and CS106L. The enrollment is so high that we now maintain an active pool of around 60-80 SLs who will teach every quarter. The entire teaching program even gets its own course designation: CS198. You can read more about the semi-complex structure of the teaching program [more . . .]

May 042009

I have always been against teachers’ unions. If you do form a teachers’ union, it should be formed around the mission of education rather than blindly protecting jobs. This article makes me sick. Teaching jobs and pay should be merit based. Public school districts and their teachers have always bemoaned the fact that that lacks equality and oversight and is difficult to assign merit accurately, but please, just suck it up. The best teachers will almost always be recognized, and rewarded under a merit-based system. True, some teachers, good and bad, will slip through the system, but that system sounds much better than the current system in many districts where bad teachers stay for years, and good teachers lose interest [more . . .]

Apr 302009

About a week ago, I, along with some friends, read a shocking article in the SF Chronicle detailing a plan by the Contra Costa County DA to stop prosecuting misdemeanors and certain drug felonies. To quote the article, “People who are suspected of misdemeanor drug crimes, break minor traffic laws, shoplift, trespass or commit misdemeanor vandalism will also be in the clear,” but that “prosecutors will still consider charging suspects with certain misdemeanors, including domestic violence, driving under the influence, firearms offenses, vehicular manslaughter, sex crimes and assault with a deadly weapon.” The full article is here. Hey criminal breathren, want a new hard drive? Go to Contra Costa County’s Best Buy and steal one! You won’t be prosecuted! Hey [more . . .]

Apr 302009

This is one of Lawrence Lessig’s classic speeches. I’m sure most people who read this already hold the viewpoint that copyright law needs a major overhaul, so this video will just be a friendly and clear reminder of why that is true. For those of you who believe that copyright law needs no change, hopefully this video will explain why so many people believe firmly that the current system is broken. The highly ironic part of this is that Warner Music has issued a DMCA take-down notice on the presentation. Really?

Feb 042009

Ashley Baker, who I know from tutoring at East Palo Alto Charter School (EPACS), and who now teaches there as a humanities teacher, referred me to this video: Absolutely amazing. I think I even recognize some of those kids, not to mention E-40, Keak da Sneak, and some other big names in Bay Area rap. This whole thing was put together by Kontac, that rapper wearing yellow stripes near the kids and the turntable near the end. He’s a bay area rapper, and also an incredibly dedicated physical education teacher at EPACS. And here is a pretty powerful interview with Kontac. You HAVE to watch this: If you stop by EPACS any time, just look to the playground, and you’ll [more . . .]

Feb 012009

Do a Google search for “Yellowstone.” The first result is is the National Park Service’s official Yellowstone National Park web site, as expected. The second site is, which promises to help you “plan your yellowstone vacation.” Still as expected. But the third is for the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. Wait, what? Isn’t Yellowstone a volcanically inactive geothermal cluster? Why can’t we see black lava flows like on Kilauea or even St. Helens? The answer is complicated, but in a sentence, Yellowstone sits on top of a volcanic hot spot that enjoys blowing up in a “supereruption” every few hundreds of thousands of years, but in the meantime, keeps itself fit by spewing geysers, unleashing thousands of earthquakes, and triggering hydrothermal [more . . .]

Nov 162008

The following is a hilarious segment of one of former Secretary of Defense William Perry’s lectures in my Stanford MS&E 293 class on national security: “The Washington Post responded to the announcement by running an article observing that I was soft-spoken and humble, and questioning whether those were the right personality traits for the job of Secretary of Defense. They were simply reflecting the well-known fact that those in Washington that traveled the high road of humility are never bothered by heavy traffic. As a result of the Post article, my confirmation hearing was a surreal experience. Senator Byrd, instead of asking me questions about my views on defense issues, took off on the Washington Post article. He observed that [more . . .]