Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Studying for the GRE

(why? I'm not going to grad school yet. So, I have no idea, other than, it's a good idea to do. And it's kind of fun. Yeah, I'm a nerd. That's going to be a theme.)

So, I'm sitting at work and I'm realizing what a nerd I am. I've bought a GRE study book and I'm reading through it.
Um, this sounds like fun.
It's on the computer, and it's long. But, the benefit of it being on the computer is that the questions are different for each person. So, if you get the questions right, they keep getting harder. They eventually want to find the level where you get fifty percent right.
So, the test gets harder as I do better. Isn't that kind of cool?
Also, I haven't gotten very far into it, but I have yet to get a practice question wrong (about fifty of them so far), and I've only needed to look up four words for specific definitions. And they told me not to waste my time doing that. I'm assuming that they're stupid, like all people who write tests, so I'm ignoring that advice. I'm sure that if I did follow their advice, my general impression of the word would be enough. But, that's not good enough.
'Cause, I'm a nerd.

My one complaint is that in the section that teaches us how to do the verbal section, they're making an all out effort to use the "special" "GRE words." And they're doing it badly. "Roots are an efficacious place to begin (studying vocabulary)" Can you tell which word is the one they're trying to point out to us? And, once you figure that out, you'll see they're using it only in a generally right sense. It's not the right word to use. In fact, to use their methods of vocabulary, using these words in such a stylistically incoherent way is not so efficacious for us trying to study. It distracts us and gives us the slightly wrong impression of the words they're trying to teach us.

Boo for them.

UPDATE: I got a study question wrong. I'm supposed to be working backwards on the analogies. An interesting and valuable idea, I think. They don't give us the stem words, just the five options for completing the analogy. We're supposed to pick the right choice by eliminating the others. It came down to a fifty-fifty guess between two that couldn't be eliminated. I choose poorly.

UPDATE II: this is a scary thought about the GRE. Since this book is written for the people who take the GRE and plan to go to grad school in whatever, why do I feel like the book is written at a 7'thish grade textbook? I can see keeping it simple so that it won't be tough to study, but complexity adds depth and makes the studying and practice better. And, if I'm wrong and this book is written at the level that it should be, well, what does that say about the relative intelligence/reading level of people going to grad school?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Trouble in Burma

This is presented as a "ha-ha" story - one where the dumb thieving teenagers kind of get what they deserve - but there's an elephant in the room. The country know as Myanmar is really Burma, and it's ruled by a dictatorship that has an iron fist which crushes dissenters. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that these "thieves" were actually people acting out against the government. Copper wire is pretty useful, especially in making bombs and distributing power. And, if the dissenters steal it from the government, it's almost like two strikes for the price of one. Of course, we have to trust the authorities, both in "Myanmar" and at Reuters when they tell us that these are simple teen-aged thieves, out to cause trouble and earn a dishonest dollar.


I don't get it. Why are so many people giving him money? I've been following his campaign, somewhat, and I haven't really seen anything that distinguishes him. Yes, he's not Hilary, his name is not John, and he's not visibly crazy. Yes, he's a personable politician - maybe even more so than other politicians. But, those things aren't really points in his favor, just points that aren't strikes against him.

I don't understand why people love the guy so much - we have no idea what his policy prescriptions are, and he doesn't have experience running large organizations. He hasn't even been a Senator that long, and he hasn't done much in the Senate.

Can someone explain this to me?

Addendum: As much as I don't like the feeling, I think Hilary or Biden are the best choices from the Democrat's side. And, none of the current "front-runners" 0n the Republican side would get my vote. Not Romney, Guiliani, nor McCain - Thompson might get it, if he announces, and if I feel comfortable that he'll get the right people around him. But right now, I'm looking at voting for a democrat, but, unless the campaign can change my opinion, it won't be for Obama. He's just not vocal enough about his ideas to overcome his lack of experience.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I agree with the artist.

If I am ever hung, it will be for my love of puns. The one at the link is a good one.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Dangerous Animals

I'm adding fish to the watchlist, where they'll sit right next to the squirrels.

HuffPo Train Wreck


So now we're six and a half years into Bush and everyone from Helen Thomas on down is declaring him the worst president ever. What no one is saying is the one overarching reason he's the worst: the Bush administration is the first that doesn't even mean well.


The guy who wrote that is saying that every other world leader is better than Bush, no matter what they did, because at least they said they thought they were doing the right thing to make things better. And, Bush obviously doesn't want that, so he's the worst world leader ever.

Um. Ok.

Go read the piece for your enjoyment, if not for your edification.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Ron Paul

He's a fool. Why is he still wasting his money with a campaign? He has absolutely no chance at winning the nomination - that much was clear after he said we caused 9/11 ourselves in the GOP debates. Whether or not that's true (I think you can make an argument that our actions pissed people off enough that they would want to attack us - I don't buy that, because it's not that simple, but there is an argument to be made), it was a stupid thing to say during the debates, and it proves that he won't win. If that wasn't enough (which any poll will show that it was), it shows that he doesn't have enough awareness as a candidate to know how to phrase his viewpoints in a way that will convince red-meat republicans to vote for him.

However, I lied a bit above. Not just any poll will tell you that his candidacy is over. Ron Paul is currently tied with Fred Thompson on the Pajamas Media Straw Poll. In fact, Ron Paul does very well on internet polls - just, not at all well on national telephone polls. Internet polls are far from accurate, compared to the telephone polls, so, he probably is getting inflated support on the internet. My question is: How? Does he just have the support of a large number of extremely internet savvy people, and almost no regular people? (Is his campaign cheating?) And, the follow up question, Why? What does he think to gain from winning the online polls? They don't get widely reported in the mainstream press - in part because they are so obviously flawed, as proved by the fact that Ron Paul does so well in them. They don't change people's minds...and the number of people who actually look at them is extremely limited. So, why bother?

I think the two most interesting campaigns this cycle are the Ron Paul campaign, for it's strength in the face of obvious eventual defeat, and it's use of the internet, and the Fred Thompson Campaign, which has a chance largely because of the effective use of new media. In fact, you could say that it only has a chance because of the internet and the new ways to disseminate information.

We'll have to wait and see what happens, but at least we have these interesting campaign structure questions to keep us occupied - otherwise I might fall asleep until November 2008, and wake up not knowing who to vote for, or having missed the vote entirely. I know, small chance that will happen. But then again, look at the candidates...can I really stand another 16-17 months with these fools? I hope we get a better option.

Update: A Ron Paul supporter showed up in the comments, will he stick around? Also, will a Thompsonite show up to talk about what's happening with their side of the campaign? One can only hope.


I'm getting lazy in my old age and summer status. There's stuff to chat about, but to be honest, I'm thinking more about life at the moment, so my brain is firing on all cylinders, but they're the wrong ones to create really blog-able thoughts.
So, sorry bout that...not that anyone probably checks this very often anymore. So, as a heads up, I'm going to get back into blogging as soon as my schedule stabilizes.

In the meantime, watch the Fred Thompson for president campaign. Since there are no candidates who appear worthy of my support at the moment, I'm limited to watching how people are campaigning. Most are doing the same old, boring, tried and true, polls-well method of campaigning - even the "fresh-face" of Obama. Everyone, that is, except Fred Thompson. I think he might be a bit to rash for me, but I like the way he's running his campaign. I'll post more about this after I string some good sentances together. Until then, keep your own eyes open...feel free to comment here if you see anyting particularly interesting.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I hate taxes...

But I do like the idea of a gas-tax. I think it would be a good way to discourage driving, and encourage efficient cars without silly CAFE standards.

Trust the intelligent readers of the Economist Blog, Free Exchange to give me another reason to be ok with a gas tax -
"The costs of driving should show up in gas prices. These costs include road maintenance, medical costs from accidents, traffic law enforcement, and a number of other things. One study I read in the 1990's suggested that it would take a $9/gallon gas tax to cover these costs. If you phased that in over 10 years, you would see a big change.

I would have no problem transferring some or all of the costs of driving to the gas pump and removing that portion from income or property taxes. This would allow market forces to discourage driving. It would also create a more honest debate about the cost/benefits of mass transit relative to personal cars."

Good points, all. I like having my own car, but it's also nice to have the metro in a big city. I don't think I would have complained so much about how much it cost when I was in DC if I was comparing the cost of a metro trip to the real cost of driving.

It also just makes sense to have the people who use the roads more (and thus buy more gas) to pay a larger part of the cost of upkeep for the roads. It makes sense to allow market forces to work. (That last sentence was a trueism)

This point "I realize the logistics of such tax systems {editor's note: such as a pay per pound of waste collected by a garbage truck} are not simple, but a move in that direction would encourage environmentally responsible behavior and make research into greener technologies more profitable." is also granted, but I think it's worth it. We have the technology to do stuff like this, and I think we should.

Anyway, I hate taxes, but I think people should pay for the goods they use...and public goods need to be paid for, and negative environmental externalities need to be accounted for, so a tax should be paid. That tax should be as related as possible to the good purchased, however - not the income of the consumer or the value of their house.

The "War on Terror" isn't only happening abroad

(Crazy) People willing to commit violent acts for the purpose of a political show (Otherwise known as terrorists) live in America, too. And they aren't all religious, and they don't all look so different from "us."

I'm glad we come down hard on them too, even if some of their stuff doesn't seem as violent as a car bomb, both because we need to keep ourselves safe here, and because we need to keep our own yard clean. Every time a "homegrown" terrorist does something (even a small thing) in America, it helps create an propaganda atmosphere that promotes terrorism as a legitimate political tool.

In my opinion, using the political tatic of terrorism (causing fear in a target population for a political/ideological purpose, read this for more of my thoughts on the nature of terrorism) is almost (though not quite) as the violence that usually results. The violence isn't really the point of the terrorism; it's a tool used to cause people to feel fear and then give in to whatever political cause the terrorist believes. Anyone willing to use this tactic has completely discredited themselves, and having one of them on your side actaully weakens your position (in my opinion). So, the good cause of environmentalism is degraded by these idiots who think it's ok to start fires for the good of Mother Nature!

In America, we need to find and stop these fools so that we can have a legitimate political sphere (which we do, for the most part) and also so that we can be an example to other democracies and countries where violence is an acceptable part of the political process (Russia). It may seem like a small thing, but I think it's important.

Oh, and yeah, I'm back.