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Best recommendation letter ever


nash equlibrium

Short and to the point.

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  • Emily68

    And at the opposite end of the spectrum–

    I worked in the Graduate Admissions Office for a big public university for many years. If a department wanted us to admit a guy for “non-matriculated” status, and the guy had a GPA < 3.0, the department had to write a little petition. One said (this is from memory, but I'm pretty sure it's word for word) "This student isn't Einstein, but we're reasonably certain he can pass the class."

    • aaronl

      There’s an apocryphal story about a senator who, when asked to write a recommendation letter for a supporter’s unimpressive child, wrote something along the lines of this,

      “Mr. Smith has asked me to write a recommendation letter on behalf of his son, Jonathan. Here it is.”

      • CJColucci

        My office has, or had the last time I looked, a policy that it wouldn’t hire anyone who had been out of law school for less than two years. On the merits, it’s a pretty dubious policy: the district attorney’s offices here take people right out of law school and two years of practice in an unrelated legal area doesn’t help that much. But I have been told that it was implemented so the boss, presented with the idiot nephew of some political supporter (who was generally a fresh-faced graduate), could say: I’d love to hire your idiot nephew, but we have a two-year rule. I have, however, passed his application, along with this letter, to various other folks. The various other folks could read between the lines themselves.

      • Warren Terra

        One of my favorite recommendation letter stories is about the time (several decades ago now) that an esteemed department chair at one of the country’s best schools, someone greatly respected who was then or later became a Nobel laureate, got a letter from the tenure committee of the similar department of a respectable, solid research university, asking him to comment on the tenure application of one of their young(ish) professors, someone who had previously worked in his department and with whose ongoing career he was familiar.

        This was a completely normal request, but in this case the letter named four people (let’s call them A, B, C, and D) and asked the recipient to rank-order the candidate with respect to all four. And the four weren’t remotely the candidate’s peers: all four were internationally renowned scientists in the field, whose careers and reputations had been established long before the candidate became a professor at all.

        The chairman pondered the request, and then wrote back “Candidate X is taller than A and C, is shorter than B and D, and is deserving of tenure at your university”.

  • matt w

    Something that makes me sad: I cannot find any online evidence for Quine’s alleged recommendation letter to Kripke.

    • Scott P.

      Such a tease.

    • ChrisTS

      ‘To’ or ‘for’?

      • Lee Rudolph

        In either case, Quine might have profited more from a recommendation by Kripke to invest some of his Harvard salary in the same place Kripke’s father had invested—his old friend Warren Buffett’s Berkshire-Hathaway. (Kripke fils‘s inheritance of that stock is said to have been the immediate motivation for his resignation—or was it only an indefinite leave of absence?—from Princeton, shortly after his father’s death; as to why he returned, I have no gossip to report.)

        • mikeSchilling

          Kripke also invested heavily in the original production of West Side Story, which is why there’s a character named after him.

  • Warren Terra

    The linked letter is indeed short and to the point. I was initially confused and thought the graph you’ve posted was meant to be the recommendation, or indeed to convey meaning. I have no idea what it is.

    • sibusisodan

      A Nash equilibrium?

      • Warren Terra

        Good to know. A Google reverse image search gets nothing, and If I’ve ever heard of a Nash equilibrium before I can’t recall it.

        • The Invisible Hand

          Lies I tell you! All Lies!!

        • Bill Murray

          I always thought this was when the reclining front seat of your Nash Rambler got stuck and wouldn’t move again.

          • Lee Rudolph

            I don’t know about that, but Nash’s square symbol in a graphic I no longer see at the link (standing, I think, for a modified Laplace operator) certainly should count as a rash nabla.

        • mikeSchilling

          It’s a funny concept, because Nash had trouble keeping his.

  • Bitter Scribe

    The shortest and most to-the-point recommendation letter I ever saw was quoted in the late Joe McGuiness’s Going to Extremes. It was to a banker asking him to loan a young fisherman money for a boat, and it was four words:

    “The kid catches fish.”

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  • Bill Murray

    I recommend this candidate with no qualifications whatsoever.


    I recommend this candidate, with no qualifications whatsoever.

    • Bitter Scribe

      I once saw a bunch of hilariously ambiguous referrals, which I wish I had bookmarked. I can remember only one now:

      “You will be lucky to get this candidate to work for you.”

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