Alkahest my heroes have always died at the end

September 28, 2006

this is *so* wrong

Filed under: Funny,Personal — cec @ 1:27 pm

You are 54% white and nerdy.
How White and Nerdy Are You?

September 27, 2006

Piled higher and deeper

Filed under: Funny,Personal,University Life — cec @ 10:14 pm

Last week a friend pointed me to a comic that accurately described my life for four and a half years. Piled Higher and Deeper is a PhD comic strip. After reading just a few, I couldn’t help but think, “how did I miss this for all these years?” It turns out that the comic started publishing just before I graduated and by the time it became (relatively) popular I was out of grad school. Anyway, a few of my favorite strips from the archives so far:

A spoof on Kurt Vonnegut’s graduation speech


A Janis Joplin spoof

A series on grad students as an anthropology reseach subject

Newton’s Three Laws of Graduation

Young Nicholas as a grad student

I’m only through mid-2002, so another four years to go!

September 25, 2006


Filed under: Personal,Security — cec @ 9:14 pm

I survived giving my presentation today – in spite of the fact that I showed up to the wrong hotel, in the wrong part of the city.  I blame my boss.  I mentioned that the talk was at the Sheraton Imperial (although I hadn’t looked to see where that was yet) and he said, oh yeah, the one down on Campus Walk road.  Get to the hotel on Campus Walk – oops, that’s the Millenium.  Call my administrative assistant, she looks up the location and it’s 15 miles away.

I still made it on time.  Had a room of 25 people or so.  I asked, no one wanted to do the more interesting version of the talk (the one with volunteers, paper airplanes and silly hats).  I’m not sure why.  Maybe because I didn’t have any silly hats on me.

There was a reception at the end of the day (about a half hour from when I finished).  As usual, I didn’t stay.  It’s funny – this is the real difference between introverts and extroverts.  I am fairly introverted, but at the spur of the moment can still give a dynamic, well received talk to a room full of people.  I’m not self conscious about being goofy or making jokes.  What makes me introverted is that after that, I’m done.  I’m just out.  I want to go home, have a drink, relax.  If I had gone to the reception, I would have sat in the corner with my drink ignoring everyone.  Introversion and extroversion have nothing to do with presentation anxiety.  The difference is that extroverts get energized and are ready for more.  For introverts, not so much.

September 24, 2006


Filed under: Personal,Security — cec @ 9:22 pm

Checking my schedule for tomorrow, I realized that I have to give a talk at a major “human studies” conference about security risks in web-based surveys.  Unfortunately, I haven’t actually prepared anything.  I’ve got my slides from the last time I did the talk, but I really wanted to do something more interesting and interactive this time – preferably with audience volunteers wearing silly hats.  I may still try to put something together in the morning.  I have an idea – but no sense of the feasibility.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the silly hats.

Stock spam

Filed under: Security,Technical — cec @ 6:26 pm

One of the disadvantages of having so many email accounts is the number of spam you get. Recently, I’ve been noticing an increase in stock spam making it through my spam filters. I’ve been wondering how effective the spam is and whether or not one could make money shorting these stocks.

Apparently, I’m not the only one. The local paper carried a NYT article titled “Many people fall for stock spam.” In the article, the author describes the work of Frieder and Zittrain. Frieder and Zittrain found that pink sheet stocks that were heavily touted in spam were significantly more likely to be traded than non-touted stocks. Purchasing these stocks would lead a 5.25% loss within two days. For the most heavily touted stocks, the average loss was almost 8% in two days.

To get a sense of what these look like, I read through the 700+ spam messages collected in my spam folder over the past week. I feel like I’ve been dumpster diving. However, amid the emails claiming that I can enlarge body parts, get cheap watches and drugs, improve my sex life and buy human growth hormone, I found a few dozen messages touting 10 different stocks.

Looking at the stocks online shows that, sure enough, in the day or two around the time I got the spam, there was a substantial increase in the trading volume and in several cases, there was noticable increase in the share price. Now if I really wanted to test this, I would start selling these stocks short any time I received stock spam. Figure maybe a thousand dollars per stock. A 5% drop on a shorted stock in two days is nothing to ignore 🙂

September 23, 2006

Rad cat

Filed under: Personal — cec @ 10:45 pm

Just picked up our cat Whisper from the vet today. She’s been over at the Carrboro Animal Hospital in their RadCats facility for the past two weeks getting her thyroid treated. It seems that cats are prone to tumors on their thyroids. The tumors produce excess hormones which cause them problems.

The treatment is a dose of radioactive iodine (I-131) injected under the skin. She then had to stay in isolation for three days and at the vet’s facility for another week and a half. Technically, we brought her home early and we still need to take precautions, but it’s good to have her home.

img_1978_m.jpg img_1980_m.jpg img_1979_m.jpg

September 19, 2006


Filed under: Wildlife Rehab — cec @ 2:29 pm

just heard from K – the flying squirrel didn’t make it through the night. She’s guessing that the impact of the truck caused internal bleeding.  unfortunately, there wasn’t much she could do 🙁

September 18, 2006

Wildlife rehab notes

Filed under: Personal,Wildlife Rehab — cec @ 10:50 pm
  • I haven’t put up the baby squirrels’ seven week pictures yet – I’ll do that tomorrow.  They’re getting huge (~150g each, up another 40g from last week)
  • Just had a guy drop off a flying squirrel to K.  Apparently, it swooped down on him at the intersection of 15-501 and Europa and he (not his fault) hit it with his truck.  Fortunately, he wasn’t going that fast.  Assuming the squirrel makes it through the night, I’ll post some pictures.  Since s/he’s a full grown adult and still only about 4″ long – he’s adorable.
  • Just registered a new site for K and a friend.  They’re planning on posting box turtle rehabilitation information there as well as information about a box turtle re-establishment project for which they are seeking approval.  Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you

Dr. Strange-Opinions: or how I stopped thinking and learned to attack the straw

Filed under: Social,University Life — cec @ 9:53 pm

You can bet that any article written by a conservative that starts with “Liberals don’t value a college education?” will be full of crap. The only relevant question is “what kind of crap will it be full of?” In the September 22nd issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Chronicle Review,” Anthony P. Carnevale writes an opinion piece titled “Discounting Education’s Value.” The first couple of paragraphs give you a flavor of his arguments:

Liberals don’t value a college education? Since when? Since a growing chorus of pundits, all with elite-college credentials, decided to prove that a college education may no longer be what’s best for other people’s children. While their predecessors fought to open college doors to members of minority groups and working families, influential voices on the left today allege that a college education may no longer be a pathway to equal opportunity. Such claims deny decades of evidence.

Last winter The New York Times pundit Paul Krugman, a Princeton University professor with a B.A. from Yale University and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, proclaimed that “a college degree has hardly been a ticket to big income gains.” The notion that education provides increased income is comforting to politicians, Krugman said, but improving our educational system is not the most important way to mitigate inequality.

followed by:

The problem is not that those who discount the value of college in providing economic opportunity are wrong to press for more direct measures of economic inequalities. The problem is that their argument has the unintended effect of validating an elitist view that “not everybody needs to go to college” — with dire consequences for “everybody” who doesn’t. In America, “everybody” usually means the children of poor and minority families.

Discounting the value of college in order to make room for more direct interventions into the economy also creates a moral hazard. I’ll bet the farm that those elite-college men don’t tolerate talk of dropping out around their own kitchen tables or counsel their own children to forget about college and get a trade. Until they do, their public pronouncements just add up to a lot of bad advice for other people’s children.

Carnevale’s argument is that Krugman and the other liberals are claiming that a college degree is not worthwhile. He then goes on to show how census statistics indicate that increased education leads to a higher salary. Therefore, liberal economists are either wrong or lying. Q.E.D.

Unfortunately, this is a strawman argument. Nobody, literally nobody, is claiming that education is not positively correlated to salary. What Krugman and others are claiming is that education is not a sufficient explanation for wage inequality. The problem these economists are trying to address is why is the mean income rising, while the median income is falling? When you dig into the problem, you find that unless you are in the top 5% or higher of wage earners, your income has been falling with respect to inflation over the past several years.

Having a college degree is (almost) a necessary condition for being in the top 5%; however, it is not sufficient. A college degree is no guarantee that your salary increases will keep pace with inflation. A quick show of hands – how many of you with college degrees received a raise of at least 4.1% last year? If your raise was less than 4.1%, you are making less money this year than last due to the effects of inflation.

Of course, you are still better off with a college degree than without; but that has nothing to do with the wage inequality issues being addressed by most economists.

September 17, 2006

i apparently picked the wrong profession

Filed under: Social — cec @ 1:51 pm

As I read the newspaper this morning, I came across Charles Krauthammer’s latest piece on how Iran is in the crosshairs of a U.S. decision. In the opinion piece, he lays out the costs of action and the costs of inaction and concludes that the U.S. has less than a year to decide how to handle Iran.

Leave aside the callousness of someone whose costs do not include tens or hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties. The thing that struck me most is why do we let this man write a column at all?! He been wrong about everything he’s written in the past five years. He’s been wrong about how to fight terrorism, he’s been wrong about the war in Iraq. He hasn’t gotten a thing right in all the years I’ve seen him in the paper.

If I was that wrong and that incompetent in my own job, my boss would have fired me by now. I know I work at a university, but we have this little thing called accountability and people who are consistantly wrong or consistantly fail to do their jobs properly get fired. Why can’t someone fire Krauthammer?

All credible sources tell us that Iran is a decade away from a nuclear weapon – assuming that it is pursuing one. It also doesn’t have a missile that can reach outside of the local region. Finally, it has not been demonstrated that Iran is in violtation of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty which allows for the peaceful use of nuclear technology.

Given all of this, does Krauthammer have any reason for thinking that Iran is a serious threat in the next year? Only that he’s a warmongering loon. But apparently, if you are a columnist, that’s okay. Unlike those of us who work for a living, there is no accountability.

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