April 15th, 2006

krazy koati

I Mech, EMAC, Diff Eq and Chem Mat, BTM, STS, IEA, and MPS

I liked seeing in Doonesbury that Mike's daughter Alex was accepted to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI if you must, please; not Rensselaer), even though she won't be going there despite upstate New York's natural humor resources. I'd like to be more optimistic, but I did go to RPI, and we don't have any self-esteem about our school or location, apart from reflecting that we're better off than the poor folks at Rochester.

Anyway, a part of the plot was Alex was sure she would get rejected by everyone, and would have nothing but thin envelopes. That reminded me of something I'd heard but never thought much about when I was in high school -- that you couldn't judge from the thickness of the response envelope whether you were accepted or rejected, because sometimes schools pack a rejection letter with miscellaneous information pamphlets so they looked like acceptances.

I realize now this has got to be an urban legend. First of all, who wouldn't open and read the response anyway? And second, what possible point would any college have in making a rejection look more an acceptance? Building up and cutting down student expectations turns what would have been a disappointment into cruel toying with the student. Now I'm curious where whoever it was advising me about college applications in the late 80s (it can't have been my guidance counselor, as I only saw her once a year, when she advised me I was taking a lot of math and science courses, and I pointed out I was in the math and science magnet program, to her perpetual surprise) got the idea there were colleges trying to make rejections even more painful.

Trivia: By some estimates the ductile-to-brittle temperature (the point where the material becomes easy to fracture) for the Titanic's steel was about 20 degrees Celsius. Source: Why Things Break, Mark Eberhart.

Currently Reading: Mercator: The Man Who Mapped The Planet, Nicholas Crane. A popular ditty, used by Danish cartographer Claudius Clavus to give place names to Greenland sites which were otherwise uncertain:
     There lives a man on a river in Greenland
     His name is Spjellebod
     He owes more fell of louse
     Than he owes fat of pork
     From the north is the sand drifting.

I hope that it at least rhymes in Danish. It still seems an odd thing to be a popular poem, even for early-Renaissance Denmark.