Yearly Archives: 2013

Last work day of 2013

Day 854 of 1000
Betty Blonde #26 – 08/21/2008
Betty Blonde #26
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This is my last work day of 2013.  Tomorrow, Christian and I will start work on two of his undergraduate research projects.  I am not doing much other than provide a little programming support.  The first one is just the installation and final tuning of his blackbody source project which will be all Christian.  The second is a fairly complex image processing problem involving the integration of a couple hundred images into a single, higher resolution image.  It should be fun and educational.

Kelly’s and Christian’s cousins Dayanita and Jorgito will get here the day after Christmas.  We very much look forward to that.  We have tickets for an NCSU basketball game, plans of museum trips, and much more.  That also should be fun and educational.

One more semester to go at NCSU

Day 851 of 1000
Betty Blonde #25 – 08/20/2008
Betty Blonde #25
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The kids both had a successful first semester of their Senior year.  Kelly’s was fun and included a trip to present her first undergraduate research.  Christian’s was downright ugly.  He took two very hard graduate math classes in Linear Algebra and Probability and Stochastic Processes as part of a normal amount of undergraduate credits for a total of 15.  In addition, he continues to perform undergraduate research at NCSU’s Optical Sciences Laboratory.  I honestly believe Christian will never have another semester where the material is both as complex and voluminous as this semester.

Their grades were great.  They have both made the Dean’s List for every semester for which they were eligible.  They are both signed for their final semester at NCSU and the tuition is paid.  Christian has a much lighter class load, but a pretty heavy research load.  Kelly has 15 hours of relatively tough classes, so she might be the one to struggle this semester.  One of those classes is a continuation of her undergraduate research which takes a lot of time.  Graduation day is May 10 and they are still on track.

The other really good news is that I am home now through the holidays.  I work on Monday and am then off until I fly back to Arizona on January 5.  Hopefully, I will be able to help Christian with some of his research.  Kelly’s is on a hiatus for awhile.  The funny deal is that Christian’s research area is one in which I have something to contribute, while Kelly’s research area makes her more able to contribute to me than vice-versa.

Life away from home

Day 844 of 1000
Betty Blonde #23 – 08/18/2008
Betty Blonde #23
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I checked my frequent “stayer” status for Marriott Residence Inn today.  After this trip, I will have been there for 184 days this year.  If I add the other hotel stays for the year in San Francisco, Denver, and other hotels here in Prescott, the number is well over 200 days.  That is not so good.  My goal for next year is less than half that amount.

A gift for Lorena from the CEO

My company has had me on the road for about 2½ weeks per month for the last year.  It is very gratifying work with a great bunch of people, but it is hard to be away from the family so much.  That should change in the next few months and we hope to move back out west sometime this spring or summer, but in the mean time, the company CEO was kind enough to send Lorena some flowers to thank her for putting up with my absence.
Lorena's flowers from my boss

Big Data, Quantum Computing breakthrough

Day 843 of 1000
Betty Blonde #22 – 08/15/2008
Betty Blonde #22
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IBM made a big breakthrough that could have a big impact on the cost and performance of “Big Data” systems.  The breakthrough has to do with something called Quantum Computing that allows for much faster processing than with certain classes of problems.  Big Data is an area where Kelly and Christian will probably both work.  The breakthrough is the ability to demonstrate Bose-Einstein Condensation at room temperature.  I am sure we are quite a ways from use of the techonology in the wild, but it will make Statisticians with Big Data skills more employable before too long.

Math, engineering, opportunity, and hard work

Day 840 of 1000
Betty Blonde #20 – 08/13/2008
Betty Blonde #20
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My buddy Jon sent me a link to an interesting article in the New York Times about the falling number of students interested in pursuit of a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM).  I think the Times, not normally a bastion of veracity and evenhandedness, describes a difficult problem fairly well.  This paragraph describes the problem fairly well:

Nearly 90 percent of high school graduates say they’re not interested in a career or a college major involving science, technology, engineering or math, known collectively as STEM, according to a survey of more than a million students who take the ACT test. The number of students who want to pursue engineering or computer science jobs is actually falling, precipitously, at just the moment when the need for those workers is soaring. (Within five years, there will be 2.4 million STEM job openings.)

Studying for the really hard stuffI think this is certainly true.  It is not fashionable to study the hard stuff.  And the interesting thing is that there are more jobs available for people who study the “kind of” hard stuff (I imagine that means studying through Calculus, Diff Eq, and that sort of thing) than those who study the REALLY hard stuff like high level math and statistics (Real Analysis, Mathematical Statistics, and the hard proofs classes after that).  Here is the quote from the article:

Only 11 percent of the jobs in the STEM fields require high-level math, according to Anthony Carnevale, director of the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University. But the rest still require skills in critical thinking that most high school students aren’t getting in the long march to calculus.

This morning, Lorena found Christian’s books laid out on the island in the kitchen looking like this.  He and Kelly are both going through lots of pain getting ready for finals in classes that feature really hard stuff.

A Masters Degree in Statistics in parallel with a PhD in something else

Day 837 of 1000
Betty Blonde #19 – 08/12/2008
Betty Blonde #19
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Kelly and I have been talking about what she should do next.  She loves Statistics.  We are all, she included, are amazed at her passion for her degree.  She knows she wants to use Statistics in her work.  She also knows there is a very important distinction between the use of Statistics and the study and research of Statistics.  She wants to do the former, not the latter.  Still she believes she would like to increase her Statistics toolset.  She also believes she would like to get some specific domain knowledge in a field where Statistics is highly valued.  Marketing appears to really fit the bill.  It is very interesting and Statistical tools are critical in Marketing.

The problem is that these seem to be competing goals.  Does she want to improve her toolset with a Masters Degree in Statistics or go straight to the domain knowledge with a PhD in Marketing.  It turns out that it is possible to do both at the same time without staying in college any longer.  We found the following little gem at the bottom of this page on the UC Irvine website:

Students who are currently enrolled in a doctoral program at UCI and wish to pursue a Master of Science degree in Statistics at the same time should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies in Statistics to register their interest with the Department, to develop a program of study, and to establish a relationship with a faculty advisor in Statistics.

We were ecstatic.  This is exactly what Kelly wants.  It is pretty hard to get into a good PhD Marketing program without 5-10 years experience, exceptional GRE scores and a Masters Degree, but they let a few, very qualified students with only a Bachelors Degree into some programs.  She is resigned to the idea that she might have to go to work for a few years, but we are keeping our fingers crossed for this year.

That was such a cool thing, we decided we should check into the same thing for Christian.  If we find something, we will post it her.

The grading at Harvard is meaningless

Day 836 of 1000
Betty Blonde #18 – 08/11/2008
Betty Blonde #18
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More and more, the smart money sends their kids to the best state school available where they live.  It really does not pay to go to an expensive private school even if it is Stanford or one of the Ivies for an undergraduate degree unless there is a full ride involved.  Maybe it especially means you should not go to one of them if everyone gets an A every time.  Who knows whether anyone is learning anything.  Stories like this one that describes grade inflation at Harvard (the median grade at the school is an A-) help make the case.  The best Japanese universities have had the reputation as being impossible to get into, but after you were in, almoste equally as impossible to fail.  This surely has that feel to it.

A very good list

Day 835 of 1000
Betty Blonde #17 – 08/08/2008
Betty Blonde #17
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We are big fans of Dave Ramsey.  He put a list up on his website that I like very much.  Virtually every item on the list is a worthy habit to engender.  The only thing I do not like about it is that it is characterized as a list of the differences between rich people and poor people.  I am sure the statistics for the calculations were made with some arbitrary definition of rich and poor.  That is fine, and I have a good level of confidence that they are true.  My problem with it is that the rich-poor distinction makes the list way less interesting.

I think of poor people who would be characterized as rich if they were measured against the items on the list.  Those people are WAY more interesting than the people who are rich that have established those habits.  Examples of such people might include Mother Teresa and other Christian ministers who have left everything to help people they had never previously met.  It might also include academics, authors, and artists who, for the love of knowledge, literature, and art, have given up more lucrative careers to follow their passions.

There are other examples, but my sense is that engendering such habits for the purpose of getting rich is not so worthy.  The nobility of a goal has little or nothing to do with how much money one earns in doing it.  I suppose it could be argued that riches will come if one establishes these habits, but it is a secondary artifact, not a noble goal in an of itself.  I do not want this to be misconstrued to suggest, one should not pay their own way.  People need to be financially responsible for themselves.  Nevertheless, riches will get no one into heaven.  The habits list stands alone, as a noble goal, whether or not they lead to riches or to something else, a lot more noble.

Busyness for busyness sake is not good

Day 833 of 1000
Betty Blonde #16 – 08/07/2008
Betty Blonde #16
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This morning noticed our friend Troy liked an article on the subject of “busyness” so it showed up on Lorena’s Facebook page. Lorena and I talk about this.  This is one of my problems.  I like to keep busy, but sometimes it gets in the way of reflecting on life and engaging with people.  And it IS a point of pride.  That is ridiculous.  There is absolutely no value in remaining busy at the expense of engaging with family and friends.  I recommend this article.

Krispy Kreme Challenge – The last one for awhile

Day 832 of 1000
Betty Blonde #15 – 08/06/2008
Betty Blonde #15
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I just signed up Lorena, Kelly, and Christian for the 10th Annual Krispy Kreme Challenge.  It is a five mile fun run to raise money for charity and let the college kids get silly for a little while on what is usually a cold winter day.  I think this will be the kids’ third or fourth time.  Lorena wanted to get in on the fun.  The kids will be moved out to the West coast by the time the next one rolls around.  Lorena will be out there, too, if the house sells.  This is one of those events that makes us love Raleigh and NCSU.

All graduate school applications complete!

Day 830 of 1000
Betty Blonde #14 – 08/05/2008
Betty Blonde #14
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The graduate school applications are all complete, we had a great Thanksgiving with LOTS of leftovers, Christian has one problem left on his take-home test (the computational problem, not the really hard proofs problems), and we are reconciled to the fact that there are two and a half weeks of pretty serious pain left for this semester.  The big deal is that we are now in a waiting game to see which schools, if any, accept the kids.  We probably will not know the whole story until March or April.  At least we have that money monkey (Was that a freudian slip or what?) off our back for now.  Life is good.