Sep 25, 2013


The one thing I have learned so far in Grad School (other than integration and Hessian matrices - which, to be honest, I haven't quite mastered yet) is humility. Humility, from the Latin humilitatem. Meaning "the property pertaining to pond scum." You know what other word comes from humilitatem? Humiliation.

I scoured for a suitable illustration of this principle but nothing quite captured the true pond-scumminess of the experience: hours of blood, sweat, tears and prayers suitable for multiple denominations, and all you can come up with is: "I don't know. Alpha squared?"

I won't lie to you, despite all my lecturing about how being a "mature" GradStudent provides a safeguard against meaningless stress, (cause baby, I've seen it all before) well... I had a bit of a fullblown meltdown the other day. A "2-year old in the supermarket" kind of meltdown. But alphas and betas and gammas and whatnots be damned, today I am David effing Guetta. As in, walking down the street towards the n-th mathematical modeling class, hands in the air flashing Nixonian victory symbols, and proclaiming to the world that "I am titaaaaaa-neeeeeee-ummmmmm." That's right. Res has become indestructible. Res has achieved nirvana. Res is immune to bullets, fire, disease and whichever Greek letter you see fit to throw at her.

Naturally, the locals see me with my hands waving and my top-of-the-lungs singing and probably think I'm the latest addition to this town's cast of crazies. And who can blame them. I'm the person who actually chose to go back to school. Again. Heck, even I think I'm crazy.

Crazy, yes. But no longer pond scum.

Sep 5, 2013

Older, dummer, hungrier

I’ve been thinking about “age” recently. Age, they tell us, is a relative concept. Well, they’re wrong. As far as I can tell, age is only relative until you hit 35 and join a PhD program full of 20-somethings. Then you go from being relatively old to just plain old. Your fellow students call you “mamma bear,” find it miraculous that you can identify any music pre-1998 and exclaim at the fact that you’re a whole 12 years older than them, wondering if that’s weird for you. Yes, dear, that is weird for me, now be a darling and grab me my knitting while I go find my slippers.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph and other irrelevant biblical characters. What am I doing here?

Mostly, what I’m doing is dutifully copying down incomprehensible mathematical formulas that look something like this:

This is part of the definition for Pareto preference, the easiest thing we’ve done so far. A week ago I didn’t even know how to spell Pareto. Now… Well, now I know how to spell Pareto. The rest, I’m still figuring out. Why my life will be better when I do remains a mystery.

I have learned a few useful tidbits, however. For example, I can tell you that to increase your chances of selecting the best candidate for a job under the totally absurd condition that, after each interview, you can either hire them or reject them forever, you should screen and reject 37% of the candidates and hire whoever is best after that. In this case your chances of actually finding the best candidate are 37%. Yeah, not really useful, actually. I don't think that would have helped me much with my hiring problems at CoolCo Sub.


There is a point to my being here, I know there is. Not to feel as decrepit as Mathusalem or to practice writing squiggly lines and upside-down As, but to do some in-depth research about things that interest me and then (one hopes) to impart my knowledge to adulating crowds.

But that comes later. When? Dunno. Later. After the Pareto stuff and constrained optimization problems and probability solutions to other bizarre hiring practices.

Which is why one just has to put a big smile on one's face and think of cookies.