April 28, 2011


I am not superstitious, but this morning something happened in our dorm room that I cannot explain with any physical knowledge that I know. By the time I went to bed, the room light was off, and the A/C was on; the lights in the bathroom were on too.

About 5:55am this morning, I was woken up, by the sudden turning on of the room light and the simultaneous powering off of the A/C. I woke my roommate up, and told him what happened, and he had no idea why either. The electrometer for the A/C was not working; I tried to switch off the light, but despite that the switch can be moved, however many times I hit the switch, the room light stayed on. My roommate went up to the bathroom, only to discover that all the lights in the bathroom went off as well.

I called my electronic-engineering-major father, but he couldn't explain this. Before I finished my phone call, everything went normal all of a sudden: The A/C turned itself on again, and the room light switched off. The lights in the bathroom were also back to work again. This unnatural event lasted three to five minutes.

Until now I still cannot think of a good explanation for all the linked events. Can anyone help me on this? I think I will report this to the Student Residence Office.

April 25, 2011

How to produce an asterisk in LaTeX

Strangely I cannot find a document online showing how to produce a single asterisk (*) in LaTeX, except the centered version (by \ast in math environments). Multiple asterisks in a row are fine (**, ***), which are displayed as they are, but if you simply type * or \*, nothing will be displayed in the compiled file. After trial and error (which fortunately didn't last long), I figure out a solution by typing \** (yes, two asterisks) in the normal environment, which produces a single asterisk (*) in normal size and position.

April 8, 2011

A US government shutdown?

"They've got to be laughing at us right now" in China, said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry. "How terrific that the United States of America can't make a decision."

But a democracy that cannot resolve on a decision is still better than a dictatorship, very efficient might it be. Reuters: Lawmakers bicker over budget as shutdown looms.

April 2, 2011

Official transcripts

One TMer, philecon, posted on Feb. 22 ,
I logged in on Virginia's applyyourself webpage, and my application status still says Incomplete. I actually e-mailed the admissions office, and they informed me that I could send a pdf copy of my transcript, but I should send an official copy if I get admitted. And I already sent them a copy a month ago.
I do agree that some graduate programs are really inefficient in documenting the application materials, and I have no idea why would some programs refuse to accept an unofficial copy (whether of transcripts, or GRE/TOEFL reports) for review purposes. I mean nobody is going to fake this since the true copies are sent for check later, but this will save a lot of effort (and money) for the admissions officers as well as the applicants. Why can't we just make life easier for everybody?