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Me at the Getty
Anyone know someone looking for a great place to live? Our kick-ass apartment is in Somerville, walking distance to either Harvard or Porter, with an off-street parking spot and central A/C is about to have an open room.

The room is $650, 12' x 11, with a decent but not huge closet.

My female roommate has a preference for another female... but I think there may be some flexibility there as we'd both rather have someone in the apartment than get stuck paying extra rent.

Here's the Craigslist ad: http://boston.craigslist.org/gbs/roo/1825719193.html

Rant About Bad Driving

Me at the Getty
I know, I haven't updated in a while. At some point, I'll have a real entry with all sorts of exciting news. But for now, just this rant about some incredibly bad driving that I saw today.

I was walking on Huntington Avenue earlier, at a point where there are two lanes in each direction with the Green Line tracks on the median in between. A driver in the sidewalk-side lane slowed down and stopped for several pedestrians, who were waiting to cross from the median to the sidewalk, at a crosswalk.

The driver of the car directly behind that car made a quick lane change into the median-side lane, and slowed down to a near stop as she approached the crosswalk. The pedestrians, thinking the second driver had slowed down for them, stepped off the curb into the crosswalk.

Unfortunately, the second driver had actually slowed down to scold the first driver for getting in her way. Driver #2 rolled down her passenger-side window, screamed something about stopping in the middle of the !#?*@! road, then hit the accelerator and sped off. She was still giving Driver #1 the evil-eye, and hadn't turned her head forward to see that she came within inches of hitting the pedestrians. It was absolutely terrifying to watch.

Challenge Questions

Me at the Getty
I just had to sign up for an account on a website. As is becoming common these days, in addition to a user name and password, I had to choose two challenge questions so that there's an extra layer of security beyond my password. Unfortunately, I had to select my two questions from a list provided. Here are the choices that were available:

Name of your favorite movie character.
Name of your favorite TV character.
The person you most admired in high school.
Your least favorite food.
The destination city/town of your first airplane flight.
The destination city/town of your first train trip.
Your favorite childhood stuffed animal.
The city/town where your mother and father met.

Seriously?

I have to pick two of these and remember the right answer? Maybe I'm in the minority here, but none of these are questions that I have a quick and reproducible answer to.

If I have to use this absurd system, at least give me a few more options to choose from. Also, "least favorite food?" Really? Is that something that anyone consistently has in mind?

Also, 2007 Sucks

Me at the Getty
I know I've been posting like crazy today, but one more quick note.

What was Microsoft thinking when they redesigned their Office suite for 2007? Fortunately, I still have the previous version on my work computer, but co-workers are starting to get Office 2007 as they have their computers replaced or upgraded. Because I'm usually pretty good with computers, people often come to me for quick help questions... and it's absurd how many times I've been asked where something in Word moved to in the 2007 version.

I think this excerpt from an article by Jonathan Blum at CNNMoney.com sums it up:

Microsoft's hard work paid off in many ways: Word 2007 is lovely to look at and use. But Word's 450 million global users can expect major, unwelcome surprises from the new code. Everything you've learned about Word over the years is now wrong. The familiar menu names - File, Edit, View, Insert, Format and the rest - are gone, replaced by cryptic new headers: Home, Insert, Page Layout, and Reference.

And clicking on a header no longer triggers a flurry of pull-down menus. Sure, Microsoft's bloated menus were a design catastrophe, but at least you knew where things were. No more. Now you get a long horizontal bar called "The Ribbon" that holds - no, hides - most Word commands. Although Mac OS X users will find the ribbon familiar, they will have no leg up in battle to learn the new Word: most commands are slightly, but devilishly, different.

-- Microsoft's four-letter #&!? Word by Jonathan Blum

Also, the 2007 versions of Office apps use default file formats that earlier versions can't open. As a result, I have had professors who beg students, "whatever that DOCX file thing is, don't use it -- I can't open it," and work with researchers who have been sharing files by e-mail for years but suddenly can't open each other's work.

Oh, and another thing. We create MS Access databases here that staff at other centers use to collect research data. Access 2007 can open them, but the user has to go through a convoluted process of adding our databases to their "trust center" before any of the code we've included can be run. I suppose that makes it harder to sneak malicious code past the user, but it also makes it VERY difficult for people who aren't good with this stuff to make our code work.

BLARGH!

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More Good News

Me at the Getty
I'm just having a great news kick lately, aren't I?

A while back, I realized that my various stages of military training and education had almost earned me an associate's degree from the Community College of the Air Force. Even though I don't really work in a world where a 2-year degree means anything, I knew that having the CCAF degree couldn't hurt, and might be helpful if I ever apply for a position somewhere within the military. So, I sent my civilian transcript to CCAF to see if any outside courses would complete the requirements, and found out that I had everything satisfied except for 3 credits in Oral Communication (I've never taken a public speaking course).

Fortunately, CCAF will accept a certain number of credits through test-for-credit programs, and I signed up to take the public speaking DSST test. I left the test center feeling that I did great on the written portion, but lousy on the impromptu speech (I had 10 minutes to think about a topic, then 5 minutes to speak into a tape recorder). Well, I just got the news today that I passed both sections. Now I just need to see what I have to do to get that CCAF degree processed.

It will be kind of interesting to get my associates and bachelors degree at around the same time, huh?

Insert Witty Title Here

Rose & Eric
Lots of good news lately. Now that I'm all done with mid-terms, I have time to post about them!

Live maple or die!
Rose and I drove up to New Hampshire for a weekend getaway at our favorite (only one we've been to) Bed and Breakfast, the Rosewood Country Inn. In addition to a cute room with a cozy fireplace, we enjoyed two awesome 3-course breakfasts, explored New London, and got a tour of a sugar shack, where we got to see maple sap boiled down to maple syrup and taste some right out of the boiler.

My Home! Where I sleep, where I come to play with my toys.
As she mentioned in her post, 99catsaway and I decided to shack up, and we found an apartment! It's in Somerville, just outside of Ball Square, and also within walking distance of Davis and Porter. It's also just BLOCKS away from the Somerville Community Path. We're looking forward to some awesome biking! We're excited about the new place, and look forward to having people over sometime after we move in on June 1st. (also... davis_square community, here we come!)

Doing alright, getting good grades.
I got my graded mid-term back in my Cell Bio class. The instructor warned us ahead of time that it would be a very tough exam, so we shouldn't be worried if we don't do all that well points-wise. The average (out of 100 points) was 62.7, so that's what a B will be. I did a little bit worse than average, but less than one standard deviation away from it, so I should still be within the general neighborhood of a B. I also have done pretty well on my problem sets, and think I did ok on the paper I turned in yesterday. Same for the paper I turned in tonight for my Animal Cognition class.

Pomp and Something-or-other
In a related note, I'm on track to graduate (finally) in June.

The Grape Debate

Me at the Getty
A real fox calls sour not only those grapes that he cannot reach but also those that he has reached and taken away from others.
-- Friedrich Nietzsche

Which grapes do you like better?

Red
5(38.5%)
Green
5(38.5%)
Other color
0(0.0%)
They're all the same
0(0.0%)
Depends on my mood
2(15.4%)
I hate grapes
1(7.7%)


If you go into your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes, as many as you wish, but you shall not put any in a container.
-- Deuteronomy 23:24

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I Just Aced a Quiz

Me at the Getty
I just totally ACED this quiz:


</td>




Lunchtime Quiz: Elton vs Billy




Score: 100% (18 out of 18)




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Mocking the Stimulus

Me at the Getty
I was SO frustrated with a piece I heard on the radio this morning about Paul Ryan's (R-WI) speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference yesterday. Ryan, like many other Republicans these days, attacked the stimulus package and picked out some specific parts as examples to ridicule. Here's what he said:

"This budget buster did not have a single republican vote in the house, and do you want to know why? 600 million dollars to buy green cars for bureaucrats, 50 million dollars to subsidize more obscene art through the NEA. 400 million dillars to study sexually transmitted diseases.... "
I'm just not sure what Republicans are going for with these attacks... the idea of the stimulus is to stimulate the economy, right? And the way to stimulate the economy is to inject cash into it. That can be done one of two ways -- either the government gives the money directly to taxpayers, or the government spends money.

Non-partisan economic research has shown that the latter provides more stimulus to the economy than the former. (See Mark Zandi's 1/21/09 report here, specifically Table 2: Fiscal Bang for the Buck, which shows tax cuts providing "Bang for Buck" rates in the 0.25 - 1.28 range, and spending in the 1.38 to 1.73 range). Government spending also has the added benefit of getting things done for the country

Let's look at some of the projects that have been mocked...

"Buying green cars for bureaucrats..." I have the final text of the stimulus bill as passed by congress and signed by the president. I searched for this (contrary to what Rush Limbaugh told his listeners, a PDF file is searchable), and found $300, not $600, million in a section called "ENERGY-EFFICIENT FEDERAL MOTOR VEHICLE FLEET PROCUREMENT." The section provides money to the GSA to replace older vehicles in it's huge fleet with new, energy efficient (commercially available hybrid, electric, and plug-in hybrid) vehicles. That sounds like a good idea, right? Higher fuel economy, lower emissions, and lots of BUYING CARS which will stimulate the auto industry and the thousands of people it employs. I've driven and/or ridden in dozens of GSA vehicles due to my military travel... I wonder if that makes me a bureaucrat.

"More Obscene Art Through the NEA..." The National Endowment for the Arts makes grants to a wide range of programs, including after-school, summer, and in-classroom programs for schoolchildren, public gardens, art and music festivals, independent film festivals and theater groups, and the creation of various fellowships in the arts. Some of the works that have been funded (directly and indirectly) by the NEA have offended some people. A number of years ago, the late Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) attacked the National Endowment for the Arts over what he called obscene and anti-religious artwork. I remember the works in question, and agree that some were quite critical of religion, and others featured adult themes and even (GASP!) nudity. These projects made up a tiny fraction of the overall NEA budget, and many were presented by theatre and performance groups who got general startup or support money from the NEA, not specific grants for these projects. Do Republicans really think that because a few artistic works offended some people's religious sensibilities, we shouldn't spend money putting people to work in the arts, or teaching the arts to children?

"400 million dillars to study sexually transmitted diseases..." I actually couldn't find this in the final version of the bill that was signed by the President. I know that earlier versions did have $400 million "for the screening and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV." I've heard complaints about that amount on two different fronts: First, that "sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV," shouldn't get research funding because people who contract them are to blame, and don't deserve to be helped. This is obviously absurd... I work in pulmonary research, and don't see anyone trying to eliminate funding for the myriad other diseases that are preventable via behavior modification. Lung cancer? COPD? Adult onset diabetes? Also, plenty of people are living with HIV today who contracted it without sexual contact.

The second argument against this research funding is that it wouldn't create jobs. I'm not sure if that's based on any logic, or just sounds good to angry mobs of conservatives. I sat in a research meeting this morning where we discussed staffing. Our research is almost entirely NIH (National Institutes of Health) funded, and when we learned that there was money in the stimulus for our field, we realized that more grants on the edge of the funding threshold would be approved. People whose positions would have otherwise been eliminated are now more likely to have jobs in the future. Our director actually said, "Depending on how much comes down to us from the stim, we'll figure out how many new staff we'll be able to hire." Republicans like to yell and scream that government doesn't create jobs, but what do they call that?

Oh, and speaking of projects that Republicans are quick to mock, I was equally furious about Governor Bobby Jindal's (R-LA) comments earlier this week about "something called volcano monitoring." That something is exactly what it sounds like: monitoring deadly geological features of our planet to provide early warnings to populations of Americans at home and abroad, all the while, employing scientists and support staff at an agency that faced layoffs during the Bush administration. More jobs and increased homeland security... that, my friends, is what Bobby Jindal mocked on national TV this week.

[Cross posted from Eric's Occasional Outburst]

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The Flakes of Wrath

Me at the Getty
I can't decide if an anonymous commenter on a local blog posting is serious.

The post (Shovels Needed) was about sidewalks that still haven't been shoveled after this weekend's snow. The author noted that Boston, like many other cities, has an ordinance requiring businesses and homeowners to clear the sidewalks adjacent to their property.

The second comment reads as follows:

Thanks for pointing this out. I had no idea the Republik of Boston requires private citizens to labor, without compensation, on public property! CRAZY! I'm thinking about not shoveling so I can get a ticket and thus will have standing to challenge this on Constitutional grounds.

It's sad, just as we're about to inaugurate the greatest President of all time, the city celebrates such an act by implementing Soviet-era social regulation. Hopefully, Barak will give Boston the CHANGE we need and get Menino and his crime syndicate out of office. "Yes We Can" say no to government imposed slavery on our sidewalks!!!!!!!!!

Lincoln freed the slaves, which allowed Barak to get elected. Now it's time for Barak to return the favor and free the slaves of Boston!

All I can say is... WOW. Soviet-era social regulation? Government imposed slavery? As far as I know, EVERY city and town that I've lived in where snow was a possibility had a similar law in effect, and I've never once thought that it was tantamount to slavery or oppression.

What do you think?

Poll #1334386 The Shovels of Wrath

Do you think that commenter was really outraged, being sarcastic, or just trolling?

Outraged
1(20.0%)
Sarcasm
2(40.0%)
Trolling
0(0.0%)
All of the Above
2(40.0%)

Does the city or town where you live have a shoveling law?

No. It doesn't snow here.
2(40.0%)
No. We don't oppress our citizens like taht.
1(20.0%)
Yes. What's good for the state is good for all of us.
2(40.0%)

How do you feel about shoveling laws?

Unconstitutional, and morally wrong.
0(0.0%)
Bad idea, but wouldn't get struck down in court.
0(0.0%)
It's a necessary evil.
2(40.0%)
What a great idea!
3(60.0%)


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Me at the Getty
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Eric Jay

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