Archive for August, 2011

The Best Part of Teaching

August 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Today, I realized why I enjoy teaching so much. Not because it’s the one time I get to feel generous when I’m generally dirt cheap (who can say no to free food and AC). No. It’s because of the laughs I get from grading papers. Some of their answers are so ridiculously funny it’s like watching The Hangover for the first time. Their lab drawings are as awesome as Mike Tyson leveling Zach Galifianakis over a tiger (Tiger Song).

It’s also pretty humorous (and maybe a bit rewarding) to see their stunned faces when you expose them to life-altering facts about science. I could see they were so blown away by the fact that plants have DNA, which many of them still probably think is false, that I even had them individually repeat it to me. I find the look on their faces roughly comparable to face of the zOMG cat.

Now if only I could get a few things like this: Funny Exam Answers. Examples below.


Review This.

August 30, 2011 Leave a comment

My father and I enjoy reading suspenseful thrillers; books with Jack Ryan, James Bond, Robert Langdon. There has been a plethora of this genre since Dan Brown dominated every book store with The Da Vinci Code. Reading through several terribly written best-sellers on the NYT list and the kindle list, I find myself constantly thinking, “How the eff did this make the bestseller list?” I’ve come to a simple conclusion. There is something wrong with today’s media.

We have a genre titled “Trashy TV.” Isn’t that just wonderful. It pretty much encompasses every reality show you can think of and then some. The most interesting thing to note is that all these shows don’t get terrible reviews. Here is why.

Today, reviews have become a focal point to everything we do. Before we eat, we check yelp; before we read, we view amazon reviews; before we watch a movie, we do a rotten tomato check. However, there is no such thing as objectivity. Everything we do is based on feeling, and no 2 feelings are alike. The yellow I see may not be the same yellow you see, etc. Reviews are relative.

I find that there are two reasons to write a review: praise and hate. People writing reviews are usually either touting the brilliance of a product or blasting “DO NOT BUY.” Everywhere there are different systems for rating, but really 5 stars or 100% fresh mean nothing. What matters is what you have to say (either praise or hate). On several sites (Amazon, Apple), reviewers give an opinion about a product, and then give it X number of stars. What may seem like 3 stars to you may be 1 star to me (I’m asian so a C is actually an F). Similarly, mediocre from Apple may be fantastic from Compaq.

Back to “Trashy TV.” We review things because we have something to say. Rarely do we want to say “oh that show was decent.” We either write about how entertaining it was or how utterly boring it was. But the scale of the level of entertainment is subjective and relative.

My friends and I began watching Band of Brothers. If you don’t know, Band of Brothers is a show with a 9.6/10 on IMDB, making it the king of TV shows. After watching the first episode, I couldn’t get Saving Private Ryan out of my head. I knew it was essentially an extended remake (with historical additions), but continued watching anyways. For many reasons, we got bored and stopped watching before we could finish the fourth episode. Is this show really worthy of a 9.6? Not to me, but maybe to you.

There is no way to standardize reviews. We try to assign numbers to the things we review, but it’s all relative. I personally enjoy a Togo’s Hot Pastrami, while others may rave about the Turkey Cranberry. I did eventually try the turkey, but I’m definitely sticking with pastrami. I also loved Independence Day, but it only got a 60%. Take home message: trust your own instinct, and try new things. You never know what you may find enjoyable if you don’t try it.

Nueve / Nuevo

August 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Number 9: Take a picture of something new every day.

As we age, we forget. I’m beginning to regret not taking more photos earlier in my life. If only I had something to remember each day by, something to help me remember something I learned, someone I met, or an experience I had. Being only 23 certainly has its perks; I have an immeasurable number of experiences ahead of me, of only a scarce few I’ll remember in thirty years. Your memory will eventually fade, so why not keep a hard copy?

My favorite xkcd: xkcd: Dreams.

Aside: Tome un foto nuevo diario.

Categories: The List Tags: , ,

What Happened to Music?

August 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Nine years ago I picked up the guitar because of something I heard.

I constantly wonder if anyone else notices, but music has very quickly deteriorated since then. Sure there’s clever lyrics every once in a while, but really the sound (I don’t consider all of it to be music) trending on the radio is creating a huge culture gap. In 10 years, kids won’t even know what a guitar is. They’ll likely be fiddling with autotune from day 1 of music class. Heavy synth and a quick beat are replacing everything that make music so great.

Let’s take, for example, Mariah Carey. Compare her days of Dreamlover to what she’s blasting about now. When you search Mariah Carey on YouTube, there is nothing from her most recent album. Reason? People appreciate her unbelievable voice and emotional lyrics. What we don’t want is another heavy-handed beat that gets paired to anything autotuned (Lady Gaga). I simply can’t call that music.

I’d like to remind everyone about the importance of lyrics. I know Lupe agrees: Hip-Hop Saved My Life .

At times, I do enjoy a good beat but lyrics are far too important to ignore.

In case you enjoyed the first acoustic:

If you’ve never heard the original Fast Car, you’re missing out.

Finally, for fun!:

Why We Love Caffeine

August 26, 2011 2 comments

Two hours ago, I had my first cup of coffee in 18 months. My body got up at 7, but my brain said hell no. I decided to deliver some drugs into my system for a quick fix. Now, I’m regretting it. My body still feels exhausted (mostly my eyes) and my brain is working faster than I can move. Moreover, I fear the exhaustion that will surely be here in about 5 hours.

I was once a morning person, and after having a few months between working and beginning starting classes again, I reverted to college habits (minus the pizza rolls). I would often sleep very early in the morning and wake up to the blazing heat of the midday sun burning through my window.

Recently, I’ve been taking naps when I feel the need, which does not happen everyday. When I was once a coffee drinker I was taking naps because I had to. Nearly everyday I would sleep more often than was necessary. I remember coming up with a polyphasic sleep pattern that could meet my needs, but I was far too lazy to implement it strictly.

With caffeine having a half-life of roughly 5 hours in adults, I realize that not only are highway accidents nap thieves, but also caffeine. If I drink my coffee too late, I’ll be unable to take a nap when I have the time. If I drink my coffee too early, I might lose focus in the middle of a crucial experiment or meeting, making me drink more coffee. My schedule will no longer revolve around me, but rather around the needs of the caffeine.

Articles everywhere are professing the benefits of drinking coffee. Not just a little coffee, a lot of coffee. Drinking coffee throughout the day has become the norm. I see frequent check-ins to Starbucks, Peet’s, everywhere they sell doses of caffeine by the gallon.

5 reasons (not) to drink coffee.

Caffeine Nation – CBS News.

“Half of the adult population in this country are regular coffee drinkers … drinking an average of three to four cups of coffee a day.” This statistic is insane! Being on a college campus really makes you fully aware of this as everybody has a phone in one hand and a coffee in the other. I think I’m coming to terms with the fact that I will have to drink coffee. Let’s hope I don’t forget to sleep.

Two Fanatic World of Warcraft Gamers Have Died Because Of WoW

Categories: Grad School Tags: , , ,

There’s Always Money in the Banana Stand

August 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Can anyone say pump and dump faster than he made $1.5 billion? I find it interesting that we idolize Warren Buffet because of how successful he has been. Of course we love him. He has billions of dollars in assets and is as stingy as Tiger and Lebron (LeBron James: America Will Now Hate James for Not Tipping). What’s not to love?

I’m going to write something that I’ll probably get torn apart for. Warren Buffet got lucky. There is no such thing as timing the market. There is no get rich quick scheme. There may be some technical analysis to market trends, but there is also such thing as luck. According to William O’Neill (google him if you dont know who he is), no investor ever has been able to produce a consistent long term strategy to beat the market. Over the course of your lifetime as an investor it is impossible to beat the market quarter after quarter for the rest of your life.

around 1:50, “never tell me the odds.”

Let me reiterate. The odds: impossible. You will lose money. You will make money. What determines your success is not how much you make. It’s about how much you lose. The ability to minimize one’s losses is a trait not carried by many. I have always learned the first rule of investing is cut your losses early, and ride your winners. However, there is a giant gap between the things we learn and the things we execute.

The market moves on trends based around sentiment. How people feel is reflected onto the market. Much of day trading, finance, and investment banking is psychology. It seems like numbers run the market, but really it’s feelings. I’ll give you an example with Apple (AAPL). A market truly based on fundamentals would send AAPL sky high. On July 19th, 2011, Apple Reported Third Quarter Results. During market after-hours, the stock rose accordingly and on July 20th opened at 396. Poor economic news and outlook continued to pound our market, and the price dropped although the projected earnings for Apple continued to soar. Today, AAPL is hovering around 370.

I like to call this a delay, when in reality it might as well be called market failure. Terrorism, unemployment, and negative news in general can be a great hindrance to the market. In this way, the short term market becomes extremely unpredictable. As Apple may continue to grow at a ridiculous rate, the stock price may not compensate for this growth simply due to bad news.

Of course bad news may affect the consumer, then affecting sales and earnings. But even with a company as proven as Apple, that has survived and proven success in a time of recession, bad news still carries a great weight.

Another example of this is the week after 9/11/2001. Despite the economy remaining more or less the same, the market fell over 7% after reopening, and fell a total of 14% through the week, losing investors roughly 1.5 trillion dollars.

But don’t despair!! Long term investment strategies may not beat the market every year, but they have proven themselves to earn you enough to retire sooner rather than later! Fundamentals such as earnings, projected growth, and new products still drive market prices in the appropriate direction. Companies that consistently lose money will eventually fall, and companies that have great fundamentals will eventually grow.

And finally, I’ll leave you with a much brighter note:

Arrested Development is one of the best shows ever written. Period.

2.7 and 1420. What are your numbers?

August 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Success is not a measure of grades, it’s a measure of how much you learned. I heard this today, but could not help to think of the hypocrisy in the system.

Sure, we can say that if someone got an A, they may have learned all there was to learn in the course. The opposite may be true for someone who failed. However, there are many cases where it’s possible that grades are absolutely no indication of intellectual ability or if someone learned from a particular class.

When you apply to college, and definitely any graduate or professional school, you are essentially numbers. Of course there are few exceptions where those with perfect grades and GRE/MCAT/LSAT/etc scores don’t get in and those with blemishes on their record get admitted. On average, numbers determine your eligibility for a particular program. Beginning to see the hypocrisy?

In order to save time, schools that receive thousands of applications every year pre-screen your application using just your numbers. They will then proceed to read the personal statements and profiles of those who passed the pre-screen. I don’t mean to criticize the current system of admissions, because I believe what they do generally works. But this system makes students (particularly those striving to go to graduate school) seek grades rather than learn, which can be detrimental to their learning in many ways.

Many students choose to memorize facts rather than learn concepts. Many classes may unknowingly promote cramming for tests rather than learn relevant material throughout the semester. The creation of the scantron test also allows for students to share the previous year’s test as most questions will be an exact replica. Multiple choice tests have become the norm as teachers seek to save time. This has also created what I call the educated guessing game. In SAT courses, they teach you to make educated guesses rather than actually teach reading comprehension and real world math. Being a better test taker does not mean you learned more.

Even if I spend months on my personal statement, it may never be seen by an admissions committee. I strongly believe that the things people learn through experience trump the things you can learn through memorization. Students need to apply their knowledge in real world applications to understand concepts they learn in class.

If only there was a way to implement a “learning scale” to replace the current grading scale.