Like most of my nerdy friends I find twittering is replacing blogging. Poorly archived 140 character statements are a meagre substitute for thoughtful essays, but it's so much easier to tweet. Also I haven't had a lot to blog about. Which is why I'm starting on a short blog series about the interesting things I've done in my life so far.

In college I did a lot of fun and valuable things: academics, friends, Unix hacking, etc. I was very lucky to be at Reed, just the right college for me, and I look back on that as the most formative time of my life. But what did I do that matters?

The biggest thing I did as an undergrad was my thesis, Relaxation Dynamics of a Lattice Spin System. Catchy title, no? It was an outgrowth of some work I'd done as a summer intern at the Santa Fe Institute, a discrete dynamical system that is a useful foil for understanding solid state physics. Mostly I liked it because it involved computer simulations and pretty pictures. As far as I know this work has had no significant influence, although I learned a lot about how to do computational modelling research.

The most influential thing I did while in college was html-helper-mode, an emacs mode for editing HTML pages. I was offended by some crappy emacs code from a scrub named Marc Andreessen so as a way to procrastinate on my thesis I wrote a better one. I don't know what's more appalling: that an emacs lisp program is my most significant open source contribution or that I still use this code fifteen years later. But I did a good job on it at the right time and I'm proud of it.

  2009-01-03 18:38 Z