Saturday, July 19, 2008

Grocery Shopping

I really enjoy shopping for groceries. This week, I went to Walmart, and spent about $50 on groceries for the week. When I got home, I was curious about what I had gotten. I was hoping I actually had a whole week's worth of food; it seemed to me as though I had far more than a week's worth.

Here is what I bought (click for a giant version):

So, I was curious how this compared to my calorie intake. Assuming I might eat about 2000 calories per day (and ideally I would eat a bit less and lose weight, but in fact I think I eat a bit more, so I just chose this as a nice round number), I need 14,000 calories per week.

The groceries above come out to 12,475 calories - not quite a week's worth.

Of course, some of the groceries above will likely be wasted, some (like the jelly) will last beyond the week, and some rely on ingredients not shown but that I already own (like peanut butter to go with the bread and jelly, and pasta for the spaghetti sauce). And I also have other food in my house.

Assuming I eat about 2000 calories per day, the per-calorie cost of this group of groceries suggests I will spend about $8/day on food. It is, of course, quite possible to eat more cheaply than this - even much more cheaply, depending on your willingness to make more food from scratch and/or eat the very cheapest boxed dinners and the like.

But $8/day appears to be about my comfortable average, under present circumstances.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Taking the GRE

I took the GRE yesterday and man did it suck.

It's on a computer now, which is great for the analytical writing - I was so glad I got to type. I think I wrote a really kick-ass essay for the first analytical writing task (where you respond to a position), and a decent take-down for the second (where you analyze someone's argument about something unrelated).

But in addition to being on a computer, it also uses adaptive testing for the multiple choice parts. This means they give you a question of medium difficulty to start with, and then based on whether you get it right or wrong, they go up or down in difficulty. Your score is roughly based on the level at which you start to miss about half of the questions (or so I've read).

What this means is that, unlike in normal standardized testing, being above average doesn't mean you can mostly answer all of the questions. It means you get consistently really hard ones, and it sucks so bad.

The first section I got was the quantitative, and I only finished 22 out of 28 questions in the time allotted. It was terrible. I really hoped it was maybe not the one that counted, because they sometimes put in an extra section that they are testing for difficulty. And I felt like I had really blown it.

Then I got a verbal section, which was fine and relaxing. I finished it in plenty of time. I think verbal questions are relaxing because you don't really have to work at them and try to puzzle them out - you pretty much know what MENDACIOUS means or you don't. (I don't. Just for the record.)

And then I got another quantitative section, which did indeed mean that one of the two (the one I'd already taken or this one) was going to not count as part of my score. I tried to be smarter on the second one, and on some questions I gave up and just guessed early rather than wasting a lot of time. I still only completed 26 of 28 questions, and it was still murderously hard.

At the end, you get a choice to either keep or discard your scores. If you discard them they are gone forever. If you decide to let them stand, you then get the chance to see them, if you want. Naturally you can't see them and then decide. (Thanks, ETS!)

I was slightly tempted to just throw my scores out, but, you know, fuck it. Hopefully my future grad plans aren't going to require me to have super high scores, and I didn't really want to throw away the afternoon. So I kept 'em.

720 Verbal / 780 Quantitative

Wow! I was aiming for a 750 on Quant, and didn't care too much about the Verbal, so that was just an awesome result for me. I'm thinking it means that the second quantitative section counted, because I can't imagine how I could have gotten a 780 on the first one. I guess I got lucky there.

My advice to anyone taking the GRE:
  1. Practice the math a lot. Get a workbook or something. Especially, if you can, try to practice the timing, and figuring out when to give up on a question instead of wasting time on it.
  2. Expect taking the test, at least the quant part, to suck.
  3. Don't take the horrible feeling of failure and misery as a sign that you did poorly.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Book List Meme

I don't really know where this comes from, but here's how it works:

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you started but did not finish.
3) Underline the books you LOVE. (Note from Tam: I am going to underline any books I did love, even if I don't love them anymore.)
4) Reprint this list in your own blog so we can try and track down these people who’ve read 6 or less and force books upon them.

1. The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
2. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
3. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
4. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
5. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
6. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
7. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
8. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
9. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
10. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
11. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
12. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
13. His Dark Materials (trilogy) - Philip Pullman
14. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
15. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
16. The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
17. Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
18. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
19. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
20. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
21. Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis
22. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
23. Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne
24. Animal Farm - George Orwell
25. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
26. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
27. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
28. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
29. Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White
30. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
31. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
32. Complete Works of Shakespeare
33. Ulysses - James Joyce
34. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
35. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
36. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
37. The Bible
38. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
39. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
40. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
41. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
42. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
45. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
46. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
47. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
48. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
49. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
50. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
51. Little Women - Louisa M. Alcott
52. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
53. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
54. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
55. Middlemarch - George Eliot
56. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
57. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
58. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
59. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
60. Emma - Jane Austen
61. Persuasion - Jane Austen
62. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
63. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
64. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
65. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
66. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
67. Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
68. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
69. Atonement - Ian McEwan
70. Dune - Frank Herbert
71. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
72. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
73. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
74. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
75. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
76. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
77. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
78. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
79. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
80. Bridget Jones’ Diary - Helen Fielding
81. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
82. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
83. Dracula - Bram Stoker
84. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
85. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
86. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
87. Germinal - Emile Zola
88. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
89. Possession - A.S. Byatt
90. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
91. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
92. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
93. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
94. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
95. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
96. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
97. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
98. Watership Down – Richard Adams
99. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
100. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas