Thursday, May 29, 2008

Taking Math Forever

For a while now, I have spoken of wanting to take math classes forever. I like how learning math makes me feel (the short version: initially frustrated, then brilliant as I figure something out). I should graduate in about a year, and then the question is, what next?

I could keep taking math at Metro for many more years - there's plenty of math I haven't gotten to. But it would be nice to have something to show for all that math. It would be nice if my resume could say something more than "BS in Geographic Software Engineering, and oh yeah, I also took 45 more hours of math after that."

While Sally was here, she helped me look for master's programs I might be able to do without quitting my job. And we discovered that Texas A&M has an MS program in Computational Math that is fully online. It was a great find, because math master's degrees are not that common as distance education programs. (You can find a lot of math education master's, but not so many other kinds of math.)

The program requires 36 hours of coursework, i.e., 12 classes. They give you 7 years to finish. I figure I can easily finish in 6, taking one class per semester, which ought to be doable. And if you have taken the GRE and graduated from college, you can enroll with "G6" status, which means you don't have to actually apply and get in. Once you've taken a couple of courses, you can then apply with (hopefully) great grades in the program already under your belt, and the classes will count towards the degree.

It'll be great to be working towards this degree. At worst, I'll get interrupted somehow and not finish it, in which case I'll still have been taking math as per my wishes; at best, I'll end up with a nice master's degree in math. Whee!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Shameful Confession

I love Moby. (His music, I mean, not him personally. On a personal level I think he's kind of a flake.)

I feel guilty about this, believe me. The music is...well, a bit formulaic, to be honest. Want to make a Moby song? The most common formula goes like this:

1. Get a clip of a black person or choir singing 1-30 seconds of something.

2. Play the clip a few times with a simple rhythm behind it.

3. Play the clip a few more times with some more sounds behind it.

4. Add some soaring electronic chords.

5. Continue adding more and more sounds to the clip, but never letting go of the original simple rhythm.

There are other types of Moby songs, but these are the kind I like best. And I mean, I totally adore them. I just put a new Moby CD in my car today and I could not get past the first song because I had to play it over and over. Here, see for yourself:

Embarrassing. Oh yeah, here's another one I like. This isn't the original video, just someone's collage.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Time Estimation

Let's say you had 53 categories or data items. And you needed to make four different graphs of each item, and then put them in a binder by data item, with tabs. You would have 53 tabs, each of which would have four graphs behind it.

You've been working on the graphs for days. New and corrected information has shown up, requiring you to redo a lot of the work. And you just now got around to making the fourth graph. And everything needs to be finished today, by 4 pm.

Let's further assume that you had acquired more than 53 tab dividers, the kind that use labels you print with a computer and then stick on, and you gave them to the receptionist at 10:30 am, confirming that she had time to do them.

How much time would you estimate it would take to put the finished binder together? Would you allot a full hour for this activity?

Guess what I just spent the last hour doing (including waiting for the dividers to be finished, punching holes, and watching the engineer - who eventually left to catch a plane with his mostly-but-not-entirely-finished binder - pace)?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Gas Tax Holiday

John McCain and Hilary Clinton recently both came up with plans to suspend federal taxes on gasoline over the summer. This is a stupid plan for reasons I'm sure are familiar to all of my readers. But what's refreshing about it is to see a public discussion of an economic issue that is actually simple enough that people can think it through. Understanding comes in stages that seem to go roughly like this:

  • It won't save people a lot of money, and it's bad because the government will lose revenue.
  • It encourages oil consumption, which is the opposite of what we need to do long-term.
  • Wait - it won't actually lower the price of gas anyway. It just means the oil companies will get more profits and the government will keep less. (Some might view this as a feature rather than a bug, but few Democrats would.)

Of course, many people get to the point of realizing merely that the oil companies will raise the price to compensate. If they can charge $3.50 (or whatever) now, including the tax, there's no reason they wouldn't continue to charge that in the future. Oh, those greedy oil companies - is there no level to which they won't stoop?

As far as I know, the oil companies (at least in America) are not a cartel. They do not actually control the price of gasoline. It's a free market, which means that the price is (more or less) a function of supply and demand.

Please note that I'm not saying they wouldn't control the price if they could. I'm not saying the oil companies are virtuous and trying to get us a fair deal. They want to make as much money as possible, just like we want to save it. But they no more control the price of oil than realtors control the price of houses, or than Kroger controls the price of oranges.

Ahem. I really didn't mean to lecture on points familiar to everyone. So, let me return to my earlier point - it is great to see some public debate on a simple economic issue. And this one is apparently so simple that Clinton's campaign couldn't come up with a single economist to support the gas tax holiday. People thinking their way through economic issues, even though it has mixed results, is a good thing.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Billable Hours

At my new job (which I started last Thursday), I have to do billable hours - we're a consulting firm. So I have a record every day of how many hours I've worked on various projects, and how many hours I did other things (generally recorded as "G&A"). This is how I've done so far:

Thursday (1st day at work):
Billable - 5 1/2
G&A - 2 1/2

Training - 5
Billable - 2 3/4
G&A - 1/4

Training - 1
Billable - 4 1/4
G&A - 2 3/4 [I ran out of stuff to do]

Training - 2 1/4
Billable - 5 1/2
G&A - 1/4

So far today (as of lunchtime):
Billable - 3

So that's all going rather well, I'd say.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Lovey Dovey

Sally is coming to visit me for Memorial Day weekend, three weeks from now, which is very exciting. She'll finally get to meet Ed, who I started dating just shortly after her last visit here. We drove practically right by his old apartment last time, but it didn't seem right to introduce them. Both of them have (rightfully) given me crap for this ever since.

Meanwhile, sometime around Sally's visit is our one-year anniversary. It's hard to believe that it's been nearly a year since we started this goofy experiment. The time has been well spent.

Overall, the relationship is just great. Sometimes when Ed is stressed, or I'm just weird, things get worse between us, a bit, and I start to wonder what the hell I'm doing here, but then we get some time together, talk, have sex, cry, or whatever, and things are fantastic again. I'm crazy in love with him and it seems to be mutual.

So, yeah, life is good.