Does this post finally herald my return to regular blogging after a months-long absence?
I don’t know. For me, writing a Shtetl-Optimized entry always followed the same process: I’d get an idea and start typing, furiously rocking back and forth in my chair. Then the voices in my head would pipe up: no, I can’t say that—what will everyone think?—judging from past experience, they’ll probably take offense—I can already see the commenters boiling me alive—maybe if I rephrased it, or, y’know, provided some context—but to explain the real context, I’d need a whole book—and who has the time for that?—better wait till after tenure—meantime, maybe I could blog about something light and uncontroversial instead—but then what’s the point?—we already have one GASARCH—well, I could always put off a decision till later—
Back in the blog’s heyday, I’d win these fights about 40% the time and the voices would win about 60%. (In other words: if you’ve ever taken offense at an entry of mine, rest assured that you haven’t even seen the half of my drafts folder.) But now that I have an actual stake in this shabby world—students to advise and look after, a tenure case to build, conceivably even a family to start—the voices win more like 98% of the time. And that’s why my blogging fell off.
Occasionally, though, something comes along so uncomplicatedly joyous that I feel no reservations about sharing it with the world. Such was the case this weekend, when I was somehow called upon to represent MIT’s EECS Department in the annual “Professor Talent Show” at Campus Preview Weekend. This is an event where six faculty members square off, taking eight minutes each to
(1) explain why their department is the coolest,
(2) crack jokes, and
(3) possibly demonstrate a musical or athletic talent.
Then, using electronic clickers, the several hundred prefrosh in attendence vote for which major carried the day. Though I had no absolutely no talent of any kind to demonstrate, and was up against a banjo-player, violinist, and basketball-spinner among other tough competitors, for some reason EECS won! You can see my PowerPoint slides here:
(You can read the jokes that go along with each slide in the slide notes at the bottom.)
Update (4/15): I hadn’t realized at all that there’s actually a video of me giving the talk! (Click on “Part 2.”)