tales from the njtransitcrypt

March 20, 2009

going back to jersey from spoons’ in nyc, for a group meeting today.

ugh train ride today. first one entire side of this car is a no-go zone cause some bum decided to get on and promptly take off all 6 layers of sweaters, thus enticing anyone who comes near with the sweet sweet fragrance of his BO.

and now the guy sitting across from me decides to spend 20 minutes clipping his nails. right onto the floor.

nasty ass shizzle.


speed dating

January 27, 2009

the grad school admins send out a weekly email with invitations to activities.  most of these activities require signups.  once or twice a year, they will set up a speed dating event for all of the graduate students.  as if our relationships aren’t incestuous enough.  last weekend spoons came down and we went to a party with my friends.  first, she met The Ex (who I will from now on call UFAB: Ultimate Frisbee-loving ambivalent/autistic blonde).  second, the pattern of exes in that room was almost a complete graph.  i could have closed my eyes, pointed at a random guy, pointed at a random girl, and told you when they had had a relationship, hooked up, whatever.  this incestuousness was the main reason I decided to date in nyc, which quickly led to meeting spoons.

coincidentally, spoons pointed out that our party was like The Big Bang Theory squared.  isn’t it great when your brilliant phd girlfriend calls you and your friends ultanerds?  sent my heart all aflutter.  anyhoo, back to the speed dating email.  the university sent a followup invitation with the following addition:

Currently Needed: women interested in meeting men, men interested in meeting men and women interested in meeting women.

good luck with that one guys!  thanks for the giggles.

(Update: What was I thinking?  Complete bipartite graph.  There were only two bisexuals in the room, and they’re currently, er, not creating any odd-length loops.)

vim mode for WHAT?

January 26, 2009

D: http://www.viemu.com/viemu-vi-vim-word-outlook.html.  It’s so wrong its right

me: that is one of the most distressing, yet uplifting, things i have ever seen.

it’s like finding out a drag queen actually is a woman, after all.

when maybe you didn’t mind her being a drag queen in the first place.

D: That’s kind of profound.

phd in the era of the great depression

January 26, 2009

Being in a PhD program makes excellent economic sense in today’s times.  It’s also consumerly fun.  Let me tell you why.

The NYT just posted an article about how suddenly everyone is laying off workers.  Know one sector that’s not laying anyone off?  That’s right, graduate programs.  Know why?  Cause we cost fucking nothing.

According to basic economics, the short term opportunity cost of entering a PhD program is quite high, at least for the natural sciences.  Compare a constant $28k/year stipend to an average 4-6 year salary of at least $120k/year, calculate the accured interest on the difference over a 20 year period, and you know how much money we generally lose going to grad school.  But, er, before we get too excited, consider the economic model at work here.  Our basic assumptions are somewhat faulty in the world of the depression.  First of all, you have to factor in the possibility of losing your job in your first year out of college (also, anyone feel bad for all those finance majors that lost the jobs they were promised on wall street… before they even started?  boo hoo.  should have learned a real fucking trade.).  Then consider the interest rate on even the best CDs (ING Direct and HSBC direct being two notables); you realize that interest is barely keeping up with inflation.  Don’t even get me started on what used to be your stock investments.

Let’s move insufferably along to my second argument about why it’s great to be a PhD student right now.  Job security.  That’s right.  So long as you do MINIMAL WORK towards your PhD (enough to get your adviser off your back), you have guaranteed cash flow and a shit ton of free time (ok, sorry, I work in theory.  experimentalists need not apply.)  I have a fellowship with guaranteed stipend love, and the university adds a teensy bit on top of that.  My second year of grad school, during which I interned at Big Tech Company for 3 months, I worked 10x less and made more cash than my full-time-school-teacher big sister.

The job safety gives me strange urges.  Every time I read about companies closing shop, people getting laid off, or economic misery stories, I suddenly get the urge to shop.  I shit you not.  On a bad financial news day, you’ll find me browsing woot, fatwallet, and spoons’ favorite website (and fatwallet’s archnemesis): slickdeals.  Sometimes I run out of ideas for shit to buy.  At this point, I go to my favorite ideas website, Stuff White People Like.  I know I’ll always get a good recommendation there!

Anyway, in the last couple of months I’ve bought a netbook, about $500 of sporting goods (tennis racquet, backpacking boots, 2 fleecen, a GoreTex Pro shell [at $150 down from $400, i am proud of my deal-finding jewness], woolen socks, long underwears, a balaclava, a daypack, windproof gloves, etc), a DVD player (that plays divx files from USB sticks), and god knows what else.  I’m also about to get a shnazzy new data phone plan.  All this while paying for $2000 worth of maintenance on my car.  And the $120/month for weekly sessions with my psych (worth every fucking penny).  What a consumerwhorish time I’ve had!

Purchasing plans for the upcoming two weeks: A Blackberry Pearl Flip, and a new point&shoot camera.  My trusty Canon S400 has lasted me 5 good years, weathered all the elements known to man, has 4 visible dents and makes me squee every time I see it.  However, it’s time for an upgrade to the new DIGIC version billion processor.

fucking hell and the phd

January 22, 2009

last night i slept over at spoons’.  i always seem to dream more lucid dreams at her place.  this time i had a telling nightmare.

i stand at the front of a table. it’s outside, cold and windy.  at a table sit 5 profs from dept minor (the bastard ones), also at the head sits the dept head. we’ll call him rich. or in this particular instance, let’s call him dick: in real life he’s a nice guy, but tonight he’s a big bastard.

i present the slides of my pre-dissertation work; that is, the stuff i plan to defend on.  i don’t actually remember any of it, probably something i worked on last semester.  my balls are sweating.  after an hour of my talking and their silence, dick gets up and says:  garble garble garble (i can’t HEAR him); and then, to the only nice prof there, one i don’t actually know: you are responsible for his review.  i try to ask, ruh roh, what did you say?  but am shuttered out of the “office”.  i’m lost.  all i know is this: my defense committee will consist of adviser brilliant, adviser stable, and ProfNice.

ProfNice seems like a reasonable woman in her 40s, but for some reason at the mixer the next day, (again outside and this time in the rain); i can’t seem to ask her what the hell dick said.  did they decide to drop me from the program, and i have 2 months to finish a master’s thesis?  or were they very happy with my work and i should start writing my phd thesis now?  should i halt all my projects or continue following up on all five of my superwizzycool ideas?  what do I do?  what’s going to happen to my life?  am i going to be a homeless bum in a year?  fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.  fuckity fuck.

i woke up with sweaty balls and stared at spoons for a bit, then went back to sleep.

yay for lucid dreams.

oh well, i’m back in jersey this morning.  and oh look, meet with adviser stable (AS) in t-10 minutes.  good thing i had a productive workday at spoons’ lab yesterday.  at least i can get him to talk math with me, and that’s one less day he thinks i’m an idiot failure (of course, there’s always tomorrow 🙂