Why I’m a Noob


At the beginning of the summer, I had the idea of setting up my own server at home. I’m getting tired of paying for hosting, even though Godaddy.com has served me well. Moreover, I’m getting tired of having my photos and other media files that I embed into my blog scattered across various hosts like Flickr and Picasa. One consolidated place would be much easier. Then there are also other perks that come with one’s own server such as remote storage.

We’re All Broke Now


Many European countries and American states are just plain out of money these days. Last week’s This American Life podcast will tell you just how broke and dysfunctional the New York state government really is. Countless headlines about austerity measures and their consequent social discontent in Greece have now spread to other European countries like Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Ireland.

A Spy? No! Look at Her Hydrangeas!


Recent news about FBI busting into suburban homes and handcuffing couples they accuse of being Russian spies are quite intriguing and ridiculous. The Times has an article with a money quote:

Jessie Gugig, 15, said she could not believe the charges, especially against Mrs. Murphy. “They couldn’t have been spies,” she said jokingly. “Look what she did with the hydrangeas.”

Hours of Clueless Toil by Me


I spent the entire day today tweaking the look and layout of this blog. After days of learning javascript, PHP, and mySQL, I decided I would rather swallow molten solder. I put down the books and hoped I was literate enough to dig deep into the bowels of WordPress code. I was wrong.

Have Grad Students Made a Terrible Life Choice?


Last time I wrote about college students entering the private sector. This time I want to talk about students who want to continue in academia. One of my friends who’s interested in neuroscience research recently called me in distress the other day. He told me to read this article in Miller-McCune. I read it. I was freaked out. No wonder he was so alarmed and depressed by the article. Miller-McCune argued that his interest in pursuing a career in academia would be one of his worst financial decisions. Why? Because there are no clear or easy career paths in academia anymore.

Gravity Doesn’t Exist on Planet Academia


Yesterday I read a Times article about law schools artificially boosting students’ grades to help them find employment in this tough economy. I knew grade inflation was bad, but I didn’t know it was that bad. The article also links to a website that tracks national trends in grade inflation. Across the board, the average GPA in public and private schools has been creeping up since the 1960s.

Advice for College Students Seeking Jobs


Attention college juniors! Right now you’re enjoying summer weather1, settling into your subleased apartment2, and getting ready to make some dough from that sinecure of a resume-padding internship.

Imagine Thousands of Rats Killing You


A couple of nights ago I saw a NOVA show about rats. It was terrifying. Here’s why:

Okay. That may be a bit dramatized, but I think it gets the gist of the conflict and that stakes involved.

Every 48 years Black Rats flood across rice fields in northeastern India devouring all food in sight resulting in famines and deaths. This is because every 48 years a certain specie of bamboo flowers and drops fruits. The rats, encouraged by an overabundance of food, start breeding like it’s the end of the world. A single female can give birth to 200 babies in half a year. Octomom, eat your heart out.

When the bamboo fruits are gone, the rats turn to rice grown by Indian subsistence farmers. This cyclical ecological phenomenon is called Mautam. In 1958 the resulting famine killed several hundred people. You can watch the entire NOVA episode here. The story follows one scientist’s efforts to discover the times of rat reproduction waves by tracking footprint frequencies and setting traps. I wonder if there are better ways to track and quantify these reproduction pulses to better inform the subsistence farmers about when to plant and harvest their crops. With the right information and planning, the farmers should be able to time when to plant (e.g. X days after the first bamboo flowering) and when to sow (e.g. when rat trap frequencies are Y). Add in a government safety net for unlucky villages and the farmers should do much better in the future.

Floor Plans


A friend recently wrote to me that he’s having a great time trespassing in dangerous buildings undergoing construction. He even e-mailed some photographs of the floor plans he filched. Show-off.