Another Only Connect Game

I wrote another Only Connect that I presented on Floor Pi. This one was really close, where the two teams had scores of 23 and 22, decided by the last item.

MIT context is not necessary for any items in the first two rounds.

Round 1: Connections
Canada | Yosemite | United Arab Emirates | aboriginal
Answer: Consonants and Vowels Alternate
[was an audio question]
Mahler’s Fifth Symphony | Rachmaninoff’s Op. 3 No. 2 Prelude | Chopin’s Fantasie-Impromptu | Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata
Answer: Classical Music in C-Sharp Minor
Frederick Sanger | Marie Curie | Linus Pauling | Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Answer: Multiple-Time Recipients of the Nobel Prize
Saxony | Denmark | Brandenburg | France
Answer: Switched Sides in the Thirty-Years War
fur | abjurer | vex | tang
Answer: English Words that rot13 to Other English Words

Round 2: Sequences
Suffolk | New York | Queens | Kings
Answer: Highest-Population Counties in New York
635318657 | 1729 | 50 | 4
Answer: Smallest Number that can be Written as the Sum of Two nth Powers of Positive Integers Two Distinct Ways
te | mind | birdplane | star
Answer: Last Words of Last Versus of the Four Chord Song
Zulu | Sesotho | Afrikaans | English
Answer: Languages of Consecutive Sections of South Africa’s National Anthem
Poseidon | Ouranos | Cronus | Zeus
Answer: Planets by Greek Equivalents of Roman Gods
Tunisia | Egypt | Libya | Yemen
Answer: Countries whose Governments were Overthrown in the Arab Spring, in Chronological Order

Round 3: Connecting Wall
Canyon National Parks of the USA
Squares in Boston
North-South Streets in East Cambridge

Read That
Spike Lesson

Characters in Shakesperean Plays that Survived to the End Despite Many Characters Dying
Country Capitals, Back in the Day
Art Installations on MIT’s Campus
Avengers (Female: Iron Man, Mercury: Quicksilver, Read That: Scarlet Witch, Spike Lesson: Thor)

Round 4: Missing Vowels
Unfortunately Named Concepts in Mathematics
Answers: Killing Field, Cox Ring, Tits Group, Homicidal Chauffeur Problem
Musical Modes
Answers: Lydian, Ionian, Aeolian, Arabian
Answers: Puzzle Hunt, 1,3-dichlorobenzene, Even this acronym, Only Connect
Answers: Atlanta, South Ossetia, The South, Sandwich Islands
Categories in Floor Pi Only Connects
Answers: Memorable Lyrics, Phases of Mitosis, Categories in Floor Pi Only Connects, Spoilers
Answers: Base Case, Stem Cells, Hall of Fame, Duck Tibia
Answers: John Dies at the End, The Emus Win the Emu War, The Last Category is “States”, Microorganisms
Answers: Denial, Proclaims, Bose-Einstein Condensate, Georgia

An Only Connect Game

I wrote a game of Only Connect which I hosted for Floor Pi this past night. Here’s the items in the Only Connect game. If you’re not familiar with Only Connect, you could read up how the four rounds work here.

Several of these hints depend on an MIT context.

Clues beyond the first clue (for the first two rounds) and answers are in white text. Highlight to see.

Yeah, I know, this presentation leaks some meta-information beforehand. Deal with it.

Round 1: Connections
decay | less | gloss | wuss
Answer: Words that Become Cities when Said before ‘ter’
50 | 19 | 26 | 82
Answer: Atomic Numbers of Elements whose Symbols are Unrelated to their English Names
50 | 12 | 27 | 5
Answer: Numbers of Stars on Some Country’s Flag
50 | 64 | 51 | 32
Answer: MIT Buildings Not Usually Referred to by their Building Numbers
51 | 1001 | 501 | 11
Answer: Numbers whose Roman Numerals are also Valid Chinese Names
we | seem | sea | yeah
Answer: English Words that Sound like ‘Yes’ in Other European Languages

Round 2: Sequences
x | r | q | j
Answer: English Consonants that Don’t Typically Make the Sounds Represented by Them in IPA
f3 | e5 | g4 | Qh4#
Answer: Fool’s Mate
Rhode Island | Alaska | New York | Hawaii
Answer: US States with Highest Proportions of Population Living on Islands
θ | ζ | ε | β
Answer: Greek Letters that Contain Other Greek Letters in their English Names
123 | 101 | 250 | 100
Answer: Room Numbers of Largest Lecture Halls at MIT
50 | 2 | 2 | 1
Answer: Panels of Loss Meme Interpreted as Roman Numerals

Round 3: Connecting Wall
Triple Alliance
Spanish Succession
Star Market
War of the ______
2018 Major California Wildfires
Recently Closed Stores in Cambridge, MA

Major US Rivers
Indian Restaurants in Cambridge, MA
Streets that Intersect in Central Square
US Time Zones

Round 4: Missing Vowels
Amino Acids
Answers: Phenylalanine, Asparagine, Tryptophan, Pyrrolysine
[redacted category]
Numbers that have Appeared So Far in this OnlyConnect
Answers: Eleven, Sixty-Four, Eighty-Two, One Hundred and Twenty-Three
MIT Student Groups
Answers: Lecture Series Committee, The Tech, Ohms, Association of Student Activities
Answers: Suez, Panama, Erie, Root
Roman Numerals of Prime Numbers

MIT Buildings, Numbered More Consistently to Their Numbering Patterns

In this map, I renumber some MIT buildings to numbers that more closely follow the helpful geographical patterns in numberings that the rest of the buildings suggest.


Alternative solution: number 10, 20, 30, and 40 as 9, 19, 39, and 49, de-emphasizing that the buildings are on the central axis, but avoiding slight problems with syllable-parsing ambiguity (thirty one-ten versus thirty-one ten).

(ERRATA: W98 should be grey (but I never specified what red and grey are supposed to mean, so I can say this isn’t an error, right?). The ‘k’ hanging out on Memorial Drive shouldn’t be there.)

A Clarification on ‘dzaefn’

I have mentioned before that I wish to stop going by ‘dzaefn’. I did mention as well, though, that I don’t wish to absolutely remove ‘dzaefn’ as a moniker, and will allow it to carry on in MIT-related contexts. I’ll do a bit more clarification here.

I prefer to not be called ‘dzaefn’. In contexts where it is customary to use one’s Kerberos username, though, please feel free to do so for me as well rather than go out of your way to write otherwise.

I value consistency, and I value respecting good standards. Reference by Kerberos username is a brilliant standard: it’s a unique identifier when name collisions are very common. In places where such a standard is adopted, I’d rather go along with it. Just in places where this standard is not the context, I’d like to make the distancing. Fortunately, most my other names don’t experience collision problems either.

Posted in MIT

Gradescope is a Pleasant Surprise of Well-Thought-Out Design in Academic Software

Having been a TA for 3 semesters (and a college student for 11) has taught me that most academic software is insanely bad. Like, really, really bad. Gradescope is, among this vast wasteland of despair, not only an oasis, but a really pleasant one.

Given the baseline, I of course fear that I may just be judging Gradescope on too excessively low a bar. Am I giving it credit just for being able to have expected middle-click functionality?

I don’t think so. I believe that for a reasonable bar for software quality, Gradescope not only meets expectations, but exceeds them. Gradescope is actively nice to use, particularly from a staff perspective, and from what I’m used to with academic software, this is completely incredible, and deserves a treasure trove of praise.

In short: most software comes with negative surprises, realizations that it is harder to use than it looked like it was. Gradescope often comes with positive surprises, realizations that it is easier to use than expected.

Someone on the Gradescope team really understands quality user interface design. Elements of Gradescope typically do precisely what one expects them to do; they are given helpful names that well describe their functionality. Where one would want to directly click and edit text, one can in fact use such direct input. (To edit rubric items, one simply clicks on them and they become text boxes. It is not indirected via an edit button or the such. And oh hey! These text boxes support LaTeX!)

Common functionality comes with an assortment of hotkeys, exactly what a grader would be seeking once they have done the same actions many times in a row, and hotkeys that take the same functionality as buttons pop up upon mouse hover over the corresponding buttons. For hotkeys for rubric items, they are simply presented next to the items themselves, without hover even necessary, since as these are numbers, one would naturally want to be able to see the associated numbers at-a-glance rather than memorizing them.

A common regret of graders when grading papers by hand is realization upon certain submissions that a certain penalty or credit on the rubric is probably too harsh or too lenient, and then realizing that one would have to go through the entire stack of papers again to find the students whose grades one should adjust to meet a new standard. Does one have to do the same, but electronically, when using Gradescope? Of course not. Gradescope allows you to filter by a rubric item to see all submissions which have already been assigned that rubric item, and immediately have all the papers that should be reconsidered. If one is only changing the point value of that particular rubric item, one doesn’t even need to go through the papers; one just edits the score associated with it.

Both students and staff benefit from an easy-to-use regrade request feature, which allows for a nice communication channel with which to deal with regrades. As staff, you could have all the submissions in front of you and compare one student’s submission with others and more quickly decide what a fair thing to do is.

Gradescope is software that actually makes grading massively more efficient; there is none of what the rest of academic software does in making you wish you were still doing things the old way.

And every so often, Gradescope rolls new updates. These updates are well tested, are actually features (more useful than shiny), and play along nicely with what has been around before. Recently Gradescope rolled out a prototype of a handwriting recognizer. I’m already really happy with how many names it successfully recognized that we don’t have to manually match anymore.

Gradescope is proper technological innovation.

331 Hours Below Freezing

On the evening of last December 25, Boston dipped below freezing.

This in itself is not unusual; this is quite expectable for Boston in the winter. What’s different is that this time the temperature did not return to above freezing until just last hour. Boston spent a consecutive 13 days and 19 hours—from then until now, in the negative Celsius.

Specifically, these were the highs and lows of the days in passing:

Dec 26: 27°F/-3°C | 19°F/-7°C
Dec 27: 20°F/-7°C | 12°F/-11°C
Dec 28: 12°F/-11°C | 5°F/-15°C
Dec 29: 14°F/-10°C | 2°F/-17°C
Dec 30: 18°F/-8°C | 6°F/-14°C
Dec 31: 13°F /-11°C| 4°F/-16°C
Jan 01: 13°F/-11°C | 0°F/-18°C
Jan 02: 19°F/-7°C | 4°F/-16°C
Jan 03: 29°F/-2°C | 16°F/-9°C
Jan 04: 30°F/-1°C | 22°F/-6°C
Jan 05: 24°F/-4°C | 6°F/-14°C
Jan 06: 12°F/-11°C | 1°F/-17°C
Jan 07: 17°F/-8°C | -2°F/-19°C

For reference, the average Bostonian December high and low are respectively 41°F/5°C and 28°F/-2°C, and for January 36°F/2°C and 22°F/-6°C.

Winds weren’t forgiving in much of these times either. It often got too cold even in the inside of my dorm, so I actually spent a large portion of this time elsewhere, wandering from location to location, working on my thesis.

But yes, those of you who went home away from MIT for the winter vacation, this is what you missed.

Posted in MIT

dzaefn No Longer

Long story short: I no longer wish to go by dzaefn. You can call me by my real name, or other options listed three paragraphs below. I’m going to try to stop referring to myself by this, and I’d like for you to stop referring to me as such as well. I don’t intend to abandon this name as much as possible, just to ease it out, let it stay where it is not easily changed, and just indicate when appropriate that I prefer other names.

There have definitely been people that I’ve expressly told that I am dzaefn, particularly at times in my life that I just didn’t like that my real name was what it happened to be. (Some of these people even concluded that was actually my real name. Oops.) In any case, both from this and from other effects, a lot of people, maybe you, primarily refer to me by the name ‘dzaefn’. I’m sorry to tell you that I just do not wish to be called this name anymore, and I apologize for inconveniences in mental nomenclature reassignments.

Why has ‘dzaefn’ fallen out of my favor? Honestly, I’ve just gotten to a point where I feel the things with what it stands for and the z-replacing-s got too silly. It derived from a previous username that I used, ‘d684n’ (which, in fact, I first used when making this here very blog, 6.5 years ago), which stood for ‘dotted sixth and eight-fourth-th note’ (an expansion of ‘dotted eighth note’), in which I replaced the s with a z because I thought the string ‘dsa’ looked too qwertylike. I’m serious, this is the origin of this username. I’ve had at least a few really confused faces and at least someone ask me if I was trolling (trust me, I’m not nearly that good at trolling) among the various times I’ve explained this username. Eventually, after changing what it stood for a few times, I decided it really doesn’t stand for anything at all. And eventually (read: now) I decided if I’ve gotten to this point I should really just discard this. It really wasn’t a put-together-that-well name, and it didn’t become better. I don’t feel any remote sense of juiciness about the name anymore.

So what should you call me? Several options. My full first name is fine. Unlike the times in which I’ve told people to call me dzaefn, I’ve come to better terms with my own name. In case you’re not sure what my full first name is, it has six letters. More online, there’s at least three usernames over the past year I’ve gotten convinced I plan to keep as monikers permanently (which is honestly the first time in my entire life I’ve actually felt so): 004413 (my main username these days), 0xGG (the username I use in gaming), and xer0a (pronounced hay-ru-ah, [‘heɪɹuɑ]), the last of which you might have noticed is my username on WordPress now. If you don’t like that these names take more than a syllable to pronounce, the second half of my full first name is a fine shortening.

There will be several places where I’ll just let the fact that my username is dzaefn carry on. It turns out that my starting to use ‘dzaefn’ falls quite near my coming to MIT, and my current decision falls very near the end of my formal times at MIT, so it just makes sense and is convenient to have it associate with my MIT presence: I’ll still use it for logistical MIT business, and I’ll retain the /u/dzaefn account for posting to /r/mit, and I’ll just remind people that it only happens to be my username, and that I don’t wish to be referred to as such any longer.

That’s all. Happy birthday to Satyendra Bose today, and Isaac Asimov tomorrow.

Posted in MIT


I liked to sit on a radiator unit in the W20-575 cluster when battling The Alchemist gym in Pokémon Go. A few times ago, someone who was working on one of the computers told me they wish I could move, because my sitting on the radiator seems to cause it to make substantially louder noises, and that was distracting to him. So I went and sat on a different radiator unit that didn’t react as such.

Since then, I’ve noticed each time I sat on that particular radiator unit that it does in fact react to my sitting with louder noises each time. And even if there wasn’t someone that told me the noises bothered them, I moved. Somehow, despite the elevated noises never bothering me before someone told me (I don’t remember the noises back then, but I’m pretty sure it’s not that the radiator just happened to start consistently becoming noisier upon my sitting the one time someone happened to be bothered by it), I definitely couldn’t help but notice them afterwards, and feel that I should do something to fix the problem, even if no one complained.

Rethinking the situation, I’m actually not sure if why I consistently move afterwards is because the noise newly bothers me or if I feel the need to in-advance cater to a particular type of people who would be bothered by the noises. They both feel like they could be reasons I did the such, but one could easily get faint feelings of afterwards-justifications for actions, and I feel these might fall into this category.