Sunday, December 27, 2009

Guess everyone is in Hawaii this year for xmas

I saw this pict and I recognized it immediately. The Obamas are staying a block from my Dad and step mother. Mele Kelemaka Obamas!

I then got on twitter. Apparently Lance is doing the Ironman in Kona this year. Good luck to him!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Stating the obvious

This story about insurgents pulling out unencrypted feeds from the Predator attack drones is interesting. Apparently some russian programmers (there are alot of them, and they seem to have no morals) have developed software to decipher wireless communication from satellite feeds.

This quote from the developer is pretty 'no duh' for me.

"But generally speaking, this points to a large security gap that the American military has missed."

Any time you have stuff going over the airwaves, it can be captured and exploited by anyone. Luckily with todays technology of authetication and encryption its harder to do that. Turning OFF the encryption during MILITARY operations is just...not bright at all.

What is more interesting to me is the commercial standpoint. WiMax is a new technology that allows broadband like speed wirelessly as long as there is a WiMax tower within 5 miles. So its like cell phones but much faster. Now I think this will be revolutionary IFF the price is decent (and it looks like that to me, the usual $30 or $40 a month). If you think about it, you could get this for your home network and be able to travel around town to some degree and use wireless. Not only that but set up is a bit simplier than wired networks, you dont need a router or switch or anything.

But here's the thing. Now there is going to be alot of traffic over the airwaves, at very large diameter of operation (whereas WiFi only goes a few hundred feet, WiMax goes for miles). So the possibility of somebody sniffing out your signal jumps exponentially. I think our current standard of encryption is pretty good, but think about if alot of people started using WiMax and you could some how get access to that data. That's tens of thousands of credit card transactions and so forth. Again, i think the encryption is pretty good right now, but is a sobering what if as we push more and more into the wireless space.

80% APR?

So when the credit card reform got pushed through, there was a cap on fees to 25% of the maximum balance. And to cope, the credit cards decided to raise rates to 80% APR of balance. It seems like alot but keep in mind the max balance on these is only $300. Still, the numbers baffle. The Foxnews story has more.

I guess what I find so unsettling is that these companies exist by preying upon the poor. I think the problem is two fold. One, they probably have alot of people who dont pay their bills. Two, due to this, they need to raise their fees to exculpatory highs to maintain their profit margin. I doubt they are making money any more so than the big guys.

But still, a $75 fee per year and 25% APR is just unconscionable to me. I guess some people just love preying on 'morons and suckers'.

passed CCNA

Long time no post. So I got my CCNA certification yesterday. I essentially quit science 6 months ago when my fellowship ended and the guy I was working with wouldn't fund me to wrap up the work, nor really even try to help me get it published. Yet then insisted on either me working off the clock on it, or quiting so I can continue working on the manuscript, again without any help, so he could get a publication out. So, I decided that science wasn't going to happen for me. After 3 years of trying to get a real job I either 1) don't have enough people skills to get a sales job or 2) don't have the scientific strength or interest to get a research job. When that happens your options are very few; continue doing postdoc to postdoc, jumping around labs, hoping for the big break so you can go teach somewhere, or quitting altogether.

Its a hard choice but I found that I didn't really care about science to the extent I needed to, with 60 hour a week commitments for very little pay for indefinate periods; forever putting my life on hold.

Anyway so I did jump ship and took a semester of classes to finish up my certification training, and I took the exam yesterday. I was very very worried about it being too hard (the practice exams were killer), but I sailed through with a 900 out of 1000.

So now what. Well some internships are in the works but who knows if they will pan out. Now I can go on the job market and start to get job experience. My plan is to get employed, start working, then work on the next certification, CCNP, then finally maybe CCIE. I am probably one of very few in the field who has the intelligence and academic strength it would take to succeed with the CCIE. However, I'm not sure its even relevent.

One thing i have learned is that academia is a BUSINESS. This is why they dont kick you out even after straight Fs. They are taking your money, they don't really give a shit if you pass or not. Actually, for fields like biology, they rather hope you didn't do well because that's competition for them. Certifications may be required for employment, but have no illusion, all these degrees and pieces of paper, they may open some doors but its far more important to network and have job experience than any worthless degree.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Self Respect

One last thing about the PhD call girl. From the comments on the UK times:

Brains and beauty perhaps, but certainly no self respect, and not enough brains to find funding for her PhD through means that didn't involve turning her body into a receptacle for the insertion of a succession of male appendages.

Ha, like any sane (non-genius) person can get a bio degree while still having self respect? Getting the degree was in essence selling my soul. Doing exactly what they want, when they want it, no matter if it was right wrong, morally questionable, whatever. Just do what they want, get their signature. That's all that really matters. I laugh at these fools non-scientists who think they have a clue. Which is probably why I can't seem to stand people without PhDs. Nobody knows the suffering you have gone through except your fellow scientists. After 3 years, I'm not really back to normal, and I kinda doubt I will be.

The PhD sex worker

Stumbled onto this site via this article in the UK times. Long story short, a girl who is now a 'real scientist' used to be a sex worker. During grad school. Because she was broke and tired of working her ass off so she could eat the next day. Oh, did i mention she was/is a biomedical scientist?

And I thought, what the fuck is wrong with our profession? Ten years ago, in the early 90s, there was a small revolution in graduate student stipends in the US. First, it's a little known fact that you do actually get a stipend to work in research while doing your dissertation. This isn't really the case in the humanities, typically you have 4 years in which you are funded by being a TA. After that, you are on your own. So i imagine many English lit people never really make it. And that's probably okay, because a English Lit PhD is a dime a dozen and pretty hard to sell.

So anyway, back to grad school stipends. Well back in 97 when i started, we were getting 14500 or 15500 (depending if you were pre or post candidacy) to scrap by in. Thats not alot of dough. But a few years before that, it was 12000. Why? Well i think it goes back to the NIH funding levels and the doubling of the NIH budget during the 90s (which lead to the crash in the 2000s). We're funded by research grants from the NIH primarily, so when the research grant goes up, so does our salary. Now postdocs at the same time had the same exact problem, their salery was only 20,000 or a bit more.

Finally in the early 2000s AFAIK the postdocs revolted and said, enough is enough, pay us real salaries. So the NIH said, if you are going to use our grants, you need to pay postdocs X amount (which is depending on your years as a postdoc and is about 40k now). However, guess what, that wasn't enforced. Better (better funded) institutions did start paying postdocs that, but many didn't, including the NIH itself. So now 2009 we have a situation where grad students make about 20k and postdocs about double that, in good areas. I know the rockafeller grad students (in manhatten, so very expensive) get 30k? as a grad student? Alot more than the most of us, and cheap housing.

Anyway where was I going. So this a double edged sword. On one hand, you aren't being paid alot. On another hand, you are surviving and getting enough to eat now normally. Back 10, 20 years ago that wasn't the case. You took out loans to survive, or turned to other jobs. Now in britian they don't have the good biomedical research situation. The postdocs and grad students are still getting paid shit. SO ITS NO WONDER SHE TURNS TO PROSTITUTION. If that's not the canary in the gold mine, what is?

Looks, this is what needs to happen. Very stringent entrance requirements on foreign applicants. Stop letting 100 foreign students in to american grad schools. You are killing our science, because by and large people who came here just for school probably dont really give a shit about American science as a whole. I'm painting with a large brush, but this is my observations. You could argue I dont give a shit either, fair enough. Also, a bit better wages and some prospect of actual employment. Nearly all my colleagues dont do academic research. There is a reason. Its horrible. The people are horrible, the pay is horrible, the lifestyle is horrible, you are surrounding by aliens (people who are not green card holders or u.s. citizens). Its incredibly demoralizing to go to work and not be able to hold conversations with your colleagues because their culture is so alien to yours. American born Indians for example, no problem to me, because they have our culture.

Anyway we all know the problem, there are far too many foreign scientists in America, and by and large they dont give a crap about our nation. They choke the industry to the point where we can't compete effectively, because you have your typical American complete with the best 1% of say China. Now you can easily say, no problem, you aren't good enough to compete. And that is true to a large degree. And you can say, well i'd rather have the best 1% working on the problem instead of the 20th percentile person, regardless of nationality. Science knows no boundaries. However, at a national level, when practically none of your actual scientists are U.S. citizens, it's a problem from a national competitivness level. Soon these people will leave and produce useful and innovative products in their own countries, raising their standard of living in relation to the U.S. And I think that's the main problem, we are not helping our standard of living in relation to the rest of the world. I want America to be great, the greatest nation on earth, but our politicians and school deans and those in academia are the problem, not the solution.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Don't become a scientist!

This is a very interesting screed against science written by a tenured professor in physics at WashU. It was written in 1999, and he is essentially saying that there is so little hope of a permenant job in science, you are far better off become a plumber or something similiar.

In this light, it makes alot of sense that I jumped ship and am working on my network engineering certification.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Best Telemarketing scam ever

This is from WOWEconomics, but I had to share.

Apparently this is done by a comedian Tom Mabe, and he has a tape recorder at his phone ready to go whenever a telemarketer calls. Well, one fateful night....

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Exercise and Diet

Some new thinking that exercise isn't a total cure for bad diet. Perhaps that's misleading, but the title of the story is "Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin". Which is sorta true. The idea that you go out to the gym and exercise for 3 hours a week and lose weight, well maybe you'd lose weight, but it wouldn't be due to the exercise per se, its due to the fact that you are supposed to eat less in combinatino with exercise. Its like this. If you consumed 10,000 Cal in a week, and wanted to lose weight, you could cut your intake to 8000 Cal, and not exercise. Or you could burn 1000 Cal and exercise.

The point (and a major point of the article), is that people tend to overcompensate. I know I do. I exercise, and wolf down a burger, or a shake. Unless you are a sports physiologist, you have no idea how many calories you just burned. And you shouldn't feel like you need to replace those calories.

This is one reason why biking is an extremely effect weight lose strategy, but it boosts your metabolsim so much that its quite easy to double your food intake and not really notice. Exercising on a bike burns 250 to 1000 Cal in an hour. When i did my 40-60 mi trips, i would burn at least 2000 Cal, probably close to 3000 Cal. That's a full days worth of food assuming basal metablism. So, the idea was I could eat perfectly normally during the week, go on a long bike ride, eat normally that day (that's the hard part), and burn a pound of fat.

Anyway i'm getting back into shape slowly. I noticed my weight hasn't changed much but I lost a good deal of muscle since i left Houston.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I'm getting to like this guy.

No, not Obama, the other guy.

Its as if McCain was reincarnated as a donkey not an elephant.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Registered for classes

Registered for 3 durham tech classes today, will keep me busy throughout the fall. 6 contact hours, MTW, so 4 days off 3 days on, should be fun. Two are for finishing CCNA cert prep, and one is for linux admin. At the end i'll take the CCNA exam, and i guess look for a net engineering job. meanwhile work on 3 manuscripts and try to find a good science job (although honestly I dont have much hope - my skills just aren't in demand).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tour de boring

Man, i've been following the tour but so far no big changeups except for the TTs (time trials). Today is no exception. Typically its a group of 3-4 riders way back in the standings, making a break, 90% of the time they get caught, this time they don't, the main guys who we care about (Lance for one), just sit in the peleton. Lance, we are all waiting for your move which better be supported by your team (or 90% of the American cyclist enthusiasts will tune out next years TdF).

Monday, July 13, 2009

Bye bye

Sent in letter of resignation today. That felt pretty good. I would have liked to stay and get the papers out but it proved impossible (lack of funding is main reason). So i'll be unemployed and working on data analysis and so forth on a volunteer basis.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Free healthcare isn't

You know, i usually don't blog these things, but here is a interesting article about a widow of a vietnam vet who spent his remaining years in a state-run home because he was not ambulatory. Then he dies and they say to her "you owe us $300,000" Well, i'm omitting facts, read the article. Anyway the point is the state is saying because its Medicaid, they are entitled to half of his assets. Her point of view is that 'well he's a vietnam vet, the healthcare should be free'. And their point of view is 'medicaid isn't free, someone has to pay it'.

And i think that's really the problem. People expect *free* healthcare, and it isn't, and won't be, ever. We'll pay for it. If we go with a socialized healthcare plan under obama, I can honestly predict several things.

1) Reimbursements to docs will plummet. Okay, they make too much money you say. Well, they spend 10 years of their life heavily in debt, working their asses off, to get to be able to treat you. That deserves compensation (on the other hand I worked my ass off for ten years in a similiar field, and I'm not going to get anything out of it). So if salary plummets, so will the quality of the pool, because if a doc is just going to be a plumber, the smart people will do other things besides wasting their time in that industry.

2) Medical innovation will dry up. The reason why we spend so much on healthcare, one reason, is that we pay for innovation. ALl the new machines? We pay for them, and they are spread throughout the world. All the new drugs? Ditto. If reimbursables slide, there will not be as much incentive to innovate here. This is not totally true, espcially for big companies like GE or Siemens, with big insturments, or big drug cos. However by and large it takes so much work to get by the FDA, it's hard to get approved everywhere. So you get approved here first, then take your product global if it's profitable. Also, there is a huge industry in small biotech here in the U.S., in the end funded by the expectation of profits from patient care. Well, if medicine is socialized, then what would happen?

Anyway those are my thoughts. I think we do need to do something; costs are getting ridiculous. Maybe the pace of innovation should decrease. Maybe we should stop spending billions to get one drug to market (then have to recoop those billions in a ten year period). By and large, however, the main problem is people expect free healthcare to be free. I just can't see the govt doing something better than a free market. I'd love to be proven wrong though.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Le Tour



I'm following lance's tweets @lancearmstrong

Friday, June 12, 2009

I don't have a parachute

Remember that book 'What color is your parachute'? Yeah, that one. The post title refers to that. What do I mean. Well, I decided I am leaving academia as of July 11th or so. My fellowship is up June 30, I have a meeting and a talk scheduled in early July, and by the 11th they will be done. So it seems a logical point. I'm not interested in continuing in this lab, or in this project, or in academic research altogether. I think for those that enjoy it, great for them. But for most of us, its a long, frustrating, grueling process. Right now I'm just exhausted try to get these manuscripts out. I predict one will be accepted for publication and the other will never see the light of day. So be it.

The issue is that my boss continually wants me 100% on his work, even though 100% of my salary is from a different project (the one I am trying to finish up). Then I realized that in order to submit the project to a journal, it needs biological replicates. However, my boss disagrees, and in fact knows very little about the field he is a supposed expert in. This is all very disappointing to me, but it's irrelevent. What is relevent is that I am not productive in academic science, I have no idea how you could be, running 3 project by yourself side by side, with constant demands on your time and effort elsewhere.

If I were to stay, it would be very difficult to get these current projects out because at that point I would be funded by him with the rightful expectation that my work should be in the areas he cares about. I agree with that aproach, but a) there is no point doing so because these projects will not lead to a publication quickly, it will be at least 6 months, probably 1 or two years before that happens, and b) I am pretty sure nobody cares about manuscripts outside of academia. Yes, they are a useful measure of productivity, but is my best friend, who maybe has one first author paper to his name, a loser? Hardly, he has a good job and is becoming well established in his area. I have 3 right now, and probably another one or maybe two by the time this is over. So what. Nobody cares, end of story. Academic priorities are vastly different from the real world.

What will I do?

Well that is the question. I'd like to go into analytic chemistry/mass spectrometry, since I have some small expertese in that area. Failing that, I will probably get out of science altogether. If that means sales, marketing, IT, or something I'm not sure. I thought about it alot. Through my life I've had many different jobs, most of them meaningless and menial. Yet I was vastly happier than I am now. My health is failing, my mental facilities are just about shot, and I am so depressed and anxious I don't know who I am any longer.

I am pretty confident I will get a job. The unemployment rate among PhDs is much less than the population average (1-2% according to statistics). The misemployment is 10%, which is a measure of the people who are in field that are not directly related to their schooling. The amount of PhDs in academic science, by the way, is about 40% of work force, meaning the majority are not in academia. So don't feel like a loser if you 'can't make it' in academia. I know what the work world is like. Its easier and harder at the same time, but at the end of the day, it's just a job and your life/career is not hanging by a thread every single moment (which is a nice change from the current state here). So, anyway, I have statistics to back me up, and I know the economy will get better, and in some cases some industries are doing just fine and hiring. You just have to know where to look and who to talk to.

Monday, May 25, 2009

That's lucky.

Woman goes 154 rolls without craps while playing. That's great for the table and the shooter. For the casino? Not so much. But they shouldn't fret. The probability of that happening is 6*10^-13, or 0.000 000 000 006 %. That's small! That's like a shooter rolling dice a trillion times, to get a similar streak.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

10 techs about to go 'extinct'

I see these articles all the time.

Anyway the latest is on Foxnews.

Here's the list.

1. Landline phones.

I want what the writer is smoking. The baby bells will never let this technology die, and marrying DSL (broadband internet) to landllines is a great way to do that. Its like how the cable companies package standard-def and HDTV. Is there any reason to watch a SDTV channel if a HD one is available? No. But they get more money.

2. Floppy disks.

Floppys are dead. We have one instrument in lab which only takes floppy disks. We have a few computers with a FD drive inside, just so we can read that one instrument. Otherwise, yeah stick a fork in it. My ferret Luci ran off with all my FDs at home, none of our 3 PCs have a FD drive. It's done.

3. Wristwatches

Haha, right. My watch is just an essential part of me, i'm severely affected at work if I dont have it. the timer feature is invaluable.

4. VHS and VCRs

Yup, also dead. We have a stack of VHS tapes, at one point I thought i'd convert them to digital. Alas it was such a PITA to do so, i gave up (the A/V syncing was quite difficult). Thank god i convinced my wife to ditch her 9 seasons of X-Files, the earlier ones which were about dead due to tape degradation.

5. Beepers

Nope, gonna be around a while. The reason is cost, pure and simple. It costs $10 or $15 a month to get a pager, vs $100 a month for a blackberry. Heavily used in hospitals.

6. Film cameras

Nah, will never die. Purists like film, they always will. Film may be a hobby at some point, but it won't die.

7. Typewriters

Nah, need em for forms. Maybe in 50 years they will be dead; but they are still useful.

8. Portable CD players aka Walkmans

Probably dead. Haven't used one in 10 years. MP3 players are the new thing, and convergence devices like the iphone are the next gen, but again most people can't afford the $100 a month.

9. Dial-up internet

Hopefuly dead. I can't image why people would pay for this when for basically the same price you can get DSL. In our area the bare minimum DSL is $25 a month. Pretty good deal.

10. DVDs.

Got a long way to go. Yes, they don't look that great on 1080 HD screens, but you can upconvert. And many of us are loath to pay Sony a zillion dollars to upgrade their DVD collections.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


I'm hyper-stressed nowadays, mostly about my career/job stuff. Friday we have off, labmates wanted me to come in, i resisted. Gotta come in Sat. anyway. Got a deadline on April 15th (next Wed.). Got two papers to finish up, write up, send out. Got a trip in June. Got a trip in July. My fellowship is up end of June. Not sure what will happen then. I really want to switch out of academia, but the job market is abysmal.

My friend, a new assist prof, took 7 years to get from PhD to prof. Most prof. openings have 100-200 applicants. It requires a grant in hand (or K award), at this point. Can't teach, no experience. Not that great at research.

So, what do you have after 10 years? Not much. A few papers. A few awards. Not much at all. Starting over in another field is starting from ground level, high school level. That after 10 years of education is humbling. I probably wont get another fellowship; was lucky to get the first. The competition is too much. It's always the top 1% or 5%. This means 95% of the field isn't getting these awards. What do you do? The field is collapsing, Pharma, the dream for us, is just not hiring at all, actually almost all of them are laying off research staff. Outside of pharma and academia, there is the Fed; gonna apply to them next week.

I wonder what will happen after the depression is over. I think for our industry the fundamentals are still there; not much profits, few new drugs; this isn't a wise career move I think. I think the whole giant is going to collapse; it may take 20-30 years, but they can't afford many more cycles of producing one or two good drugs every 5 years.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

PhD comics

This strip is very funny (the one published 4/6/09, sorry, idk how to link it properly), in the light that we watch NCIS alot.

"If TV was more likely real science"

*Serial killers would have plenty of time to get away*

"Quick, run this PCR sample!"

"Yeah, that's an overnighter"

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Bike rides!

Apparently I missed the spring kick off ride today! Oh well. But there are some more coming out. The weather is awesome and I really want to be outside (i'm at work all day today).

Anyway here is the list of Raleigh/Durham training bike rides for the MS150 in the fall.

Also here is a list of rides from NCDOT, most are not in the raleigh/durham area.

Here is a list of rides from the Carolina Tarwheels (local bike group).

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Baby tiger video

Aww, cute!

Great story, hopefully in a few years she'll still remember the guy, but more likely she'll try to kill him.

Google auto-pilot

And the Google April fools is....Autopilot.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Barack is my kind of guy

He likes plate lunch (along with 99% of the hawaiian population).

Recently i found a place a mile from our house that serves hibachi or teriaki meats (salmon, chicken, steak, etc), and rice. It's a far cry from a plate lunch, but its something, and the sauces are grinds.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Ten Things You Will Never Regret

Ten Things You Will Never Regret

By Bill Shuler
Pastor, Capital Life Church, Arlington, Virginia

Beyond having pulled your stocks out of the market before the crash, there are many things that you will never regret:

1. Giving more than you take.

2. Laughing with a child.

3. Taking a principled stand.

4. Rejecting rejection.

5. Investing in the next generation.

6. Honoring the last generation.

7. Reading the best-selling book of all time. (No it’s not Harry Potter)

8. Responding to hate in an opposite spirit.

9. Thanking teachers.

10. Building up treasure where moth and rust cannot destroy.

Some end life having made a living, others come to the end having fully lived. Dare to find out what really matters in life and to worry less about things that don’t. In the words of Scripture, “I have placed before you life and death, therefore choose life.”

Monday, February 23, 2009

Has it been that long?

Can't believe I haven't posted in two months. Well, things have changed somewhat, my poor 1997 car went the way of the dodo when i got into a very minor wreck. Was a great chance for an upgrade and I got a new Honda Civic. I love that car, its sporty, great mileage, fun to drive.

Career wise, things are changing. I"m pretty sure I don't want to be where I'm at right now. The market is simply horrible and overcrowded. Not only do we have to compete with all American PhDs but also foreigners. I've read alot of stats, i'll just paraphrase, but it's something insanely like 1/3 of all PhDs are biology, but only 2% of faculty are biologists. It's a very very competitive market, and it's just going to get worse, bail out or no.

So...i'm pursuing options. One is to teach somewhere. ANother is vet school. Another is IT.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Guess the dominant animal

In this youtube. (THis is a great video of a cat and two rats).

What is the rat doing at the end to the cat? He/she is grooming the cat, by which I mean attempting to remove the cat's whiskers. In rodents, the dominant rodent will remove the whiskers of all subservients. I wonder if the cat will realize it could just eat the rat!