Archive for February, 2008

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Did I Mention I Was Tired……

…frustrated, and depressed? I didn’t think so, because I try to maintain a positive outlook on life. To steal a phrase from our military heroes, I try to embrace the suck.

And right now, things really suck.

Based on recent test scores, things I think I know, I don’t; and things I know I don’t know, I really don’t know. The easy nonchalance of the first week of this semester regarding the Java programming language has been replaced with a fear and loathing that must approximate that a a lowly peasant living in plague- infested Bucharest in 1348; I just know it’s gonna get me……….

The sad thing is that I think my study habits have actually improved over the last 12 months.

But the fugue has persisted for about a week now, and as the weekend draws nigh all my thoughts are focused on surviving the latest impossible programming assignment, database queries that don’t return any results, and further adventures in the labyrinth of statistical hypotheses.

Spring Break cannot get here soon enough!


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Golly Gee!

The end of the worst week of my (new) college life is near. All that is required of me tomorrow is that I attend my classes. No more tests, assignments, projects, or any other forms of professorial torture.


The week actually began its hellish transformation late last week when a programming assignment appeared on our class web-site, with a pretty short deadline…..Tuesday at midnight. This development put a serious kink in my carefully developed schedule…..that was already filled to bursting.

Discrete Structures test Monday at 11AM. Stats II test Wednesday at 9AM, followed by an assignment in DataSets due at 2PM. Computer Science (programming) test Thursday. Calculus take home quiz due Friday at 8AM.

No, I was not happy to get the news about the programming assignment. Java remains almost impenetrable….the language so dense that it’s nearly impossible to develop algorithms. I’m too busy trying to get the damn program to compile to worry about whether or not the code actually works. The only array working for me is the dis-array in my brain.

As for Discrete Structures, let’s just say that my mind is the empty set and be done with it.

Ahhh, stats. I can give you the best damn z-statistic with multiple levels of significance, and a great confidence interval, in the neatest hand you ever did see……if I can ever figure out which test goes with what set of circumstances. Sheesh.

Calculus speaks for itself. Using the product rule inside the chain rule for a trig function is proof that the Devil had Sir Isaac and Prof. Leibnitz firmly under his control.

Datasets is not too bad, but I’m sure I’ll have a different opinion after that test on Monday. Perhaps I can use my putative query skills to comb the ocean of information for meaningful work in the long-haul trucking industry (a long cherished fantasy of my wife).

The good news in all this that the cycle doesn’t repeat until late March. The bad news is that the cycle repeats.

The only bright spot in this 168 hour long body-cavity search is that my professors have, to a person, been available, willing to teach individually, and patient beyond belief. In the words of just about any author (even that career option looks good, right now), any acts of omission are the fault of your scribe.

I know how Sisyphus felt.

What To Do With A Degree in Discovery Informatics?

See, that’s a question that comes up a lot. My wife is the originator of most of the questions, followed closely by her parents and then by my father. Then there’s the party question: “What do you do?”.


Initially, in place to trying to explain my somewhat questionable fancy for numbers, data, and analysis of same, I responded to inquiries with a deluge of techno-speak. The hope was that I would intimidate the un-initiated and cower them into refusing to ask tough follow-up questions. Plus, I couldn’t seem to construct a response that adequately explains my primary aptitude…….extreme curiousity.

But a new day has dawned. In its own inevitable way, data from the WWW has come to the rescue and supplied me with the key to happiness, a ready response to the pesky question, and a job that will be the envy of my peers. Here is the dream job. A slice:

The model was developed using SAS software and information provided by, and relies primarily on historical data. It was built on a database that captured characteristics of the choices of 3,395 recruits between 2002 and 2004. A large amount of player and team data was gathered for the task. The researchers then developed a special form of a statistical model known as a probit to try and capture the decision making process of recruits.

Yes, friends, assembling data, building a database, and then using statistical analysis to arrive at information not previously known. The work that will carry me, happily, into the sunset. And to do it in football recruiting!

I wonder if they have an online job application form?

DeMorgan’s Laws

Not (A or B) is the logical equivalent of Not A and Not B.

Trust me when I tell you that the difference is very, very important in the construction of a while loop….

Thanks, Patrick.

Widespread Panic – The Flu Version

Here’s a little message from the administration:

The College of Charleston, among other schools in our state, is experiencing widespread cases of seasonal influenza. During the past week, the staff of Student Health Services has seen a dramatic increase in the number of students with flu-like symptoms that include muscle aches, fever and chills, headache, dry cough and weakness. The current wave of influenza illness is expected to last for the next two to three weeks at the present level and will gradually taper off in the following weeks.

This is not new news. My calculus class, full of youngsters living in the dorms, sounds like a tuberculosis ward. Sniffing, sneezing, and, worst of all, the variety of coughs that continue without cease for the entire 50 minutes of class; I have been aware of the ‘epidemic’ for the last week or so.


It’s just another pattern that is slowly becoming more recognizable. Students go home, see other students, stay up too late, don’t take care of themselves, and expose each other to God knows how many different strains of the crud, garden variety colds, et cetera. They then return to the campus, mingle, and voila’, 2 -3 weeks into the term we have another outbreak.

I expect some version will work its way into my system shortly. I just hope that whatever hits me occurs before or after next week, when I have three major tests in two days.

I’m not betting in my favor………

“Life’s hard, son. It’s harder when you’re stupid.” — The Duke.

Education is a companion which no misfortune can depress, no crime can destroy, no enemy can alienate,no despotism can enslave. At home, a friend, abroad, an introduction, in solitude a solace and in society an ornament.It chastens vice, it guides virtue, it gives at once grace and government to genius. Without it, what is man? A splendid slave, a reasoning savage. - Joseph Addison
The term informavore (also spelled informivore) characterizes an organism that consumes information. It is meant to be a description of human behavior in modern information society, in comparison to omnivore, as a description of humans consuming food. George A. Miller [1] coined the term in 1983 as an analogy to how organisms survive by consuming negative entropy (as suggested by Erwin Schrödinger [2]). Miller states, "Just as the body survives by ingesting negative entropy, so the mind survives by ingesting information. In a very general sense, all higher organisms are informavores." - Wikipedia

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