Monday, April 30, 2007

myspace experiment

If you go to my myspace page, you will discover that I am a 56-year-old man. E (who is still staying with me) and I are doing an experiment to see how decides what advertisements you get on your page when you log in (well, E is doing the experiment, and I'm just sort of letting him use my profile). Last night we changed me to a 23-year-old male (same as E), and this morning my ads were different. Instead of Victoria's Secret and laser skin treatments, I was getting "Win a free XBox" and ads for a dating website featuring a hot chick. So now I'm posing as a creepy old man to see if I get Cialis ads.

Yes, E and I have spent too much time in this little apartment working on our theses. The revisions are due today, but I'm basically done except for maybe a sentence or two at the end and another quick read-through. And God bless my friend C, who came over yesterday and made me work on the Macro problem set, because we managed to finish it (after spending literally two hours trying to figure out how to solve one problem that essentially involved algebraic manipulation to get one thing to look like something else), and now I don't have to worry about it anymore.

DWE was supposed to be back today, but he apparently has some urgent business in D.C. and then NYC. He was also supposed to come to my thesis defense on Thursday, and he said (during a phone call from Reykjavik) that he still will, but it sounds like it would involve him flying from D.C. to SF for basically one day, and then heading right back out to the east coast, which is ridiculous. I really appreciate his desire to be there like he said he would be, but I don't think I can let him fly around unnecessarily like that.

Okay, I'm supposed to be reading H's thesis for him (it's also due today--same advisor) so I better get back to work.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

shoe shopping

My stepmom and her friends are in SF this weekend, so I met them today for lunch and a little shopping. I'd brought the skirt I'm planning on wearing for my thesis defense with me with the intention of looking for a top to go with it. But we went shoe shopping, so instead I got shoes to go with it. Which is in fact very practical, because I really don't have any dressy light brown shoes, but I have dressy light brown clothing. My stepmom very thoughtfully bought the brown shoes for me (actually, they're more of a bronze), and then at another store I found the black ones. I do have several pairs of black dress shoes, but none quite as cute as these. And both pairs are cute and fun but could also be worn to work, which is I guess something I have to start thinking about.

We had martinis at lunch (I know...shoe shopping and stepmom and her friends know how to have fun), and now I'm all sleepy. So much for getting work done this afternoon.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

ooh, pretty colors

I used some of Blogger's new features to make my blog look a bit more obnoxiously red and purple, which, as you may know, is how I prefer everything in my life to be.

yeah, i'm still talking about my thesis

Sorry I've been AWOL for a bit. I can't help but thinking that what T.S. Elliot was really talking about when he called April the "cruelest month" is the fact that school gets busiest right when the weather gets nice. And it has been quite lovely here.

It's pretty much been the same old same-old since my last post. I spent last week catching up in Macro, and got thesis comments back from my advisor last Friday. He was generally happy, but he did ask us to make one change to the data (a change that we had actually more or less suggested earlier, only to be rebuffed, but that's kind of a long and complicated story). It's just a minor change to how 2 variables are constructed, but it adds 2 years' worth of data that was being dropped from the regression (for mathematical reasons related to how regression coefficients are estimated) back in. Lots of interesting stuff happened in those two years, so it totally changed my results. I have to pretty much rewrite my entire data analysis section because my results are really different and because I now have demand-side endogeneity to correct for. I haven't done much of the rewriting yet, but I've re-run all of the regressions and redone all the charts. I had to give a "practice" defense presentation in Grad Seminar last night, and it went reasonably well. Once I rewrite the paper (revisions are due on Monday) I can revise and strengthen the conclusions/implications section of my presentation (it's pretty weak at the moment because I haven't thought about my new results enough to have much to say about them), and then just practice a bunch before Thursday (which is when I defend).

E has been staying with me since DWE left town on Saturday. It's nice to have the company, but it's made me realize how used to living alone I am (and how much time I spend naked or half-dressed in my apartment, which I obviously can't do with E around). But E is an entertaining and generally neat houseguest, and since he's working on his thesis too (and having many of the same frustrations I'm having), it works out well.

DWE has been at some big, important trade show in Aneheim since Saturday. It was kind of entertaining to have him drunk-dial me most nights at 2 in the morning (they drink free alcohol and dance and shmooze into the wee hours, apparently). I know that he's actually working pretty hard and that shmoozing people all day on very little sleep isn't all that fun for him, but of course my reaction is "how come you never take me out dancing?" He said that he would, which will probably only happen if I pester him repeatedly about it (which I'm perfectly willing to do). I pointed out to him that we had one night of dancing, at the Cherry Poppin' Daddies concert that we went to on our second date. "You know, back when you were still trying to impress me," I said. "Thank God I don't have to do that anymore," he said. Isn't he dreamy?

I did absolutely no work for most of the day today. I didn't even shower and get dressed until 8:30 at night (yeah, I know, what's the point?). I finally did the dishes and completed a few administrative tasks, and I might even work on my thesis or my job hunt a little bit. Or maybe not.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

thesis done! yay!

I just emailed the "final" draft of my thesis to my advisor. It's not really a final draft, because he will probably recommend a few changes, as will people in Grad Seminar, but it's a complete and polished draft anyway. Well, okay, it's not even all that polished, it just looks that way because I write well. I guess the parts of it that I wrote a while ago, like the lit review and the data description, are pretty well polished.

The point is, it's done and turned in. I don't have to think about it for the next week while my advisor looks at it. Yay, yay, yay. I'm so happy.

On the other hand, I have a Macro problem set due on Tuesday that I haven't even started, a half-finished journal article presentation for Macro that I've been putting off for two weeks, Intro exams to finish grading (I could get away with pawning the rest of that off onto Dr. J, but I don't really want to do that), CA state taxes to file, and a job to look for. If I were a superstar I'd start the Macro problem set tonight, but I'm not a superstar, so I think it's going to get done in a marathon session tomorrow instead. But grading can be done while drinking, and drinking is what I feel like doing.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

r.i.p. kurt vonnegut

As you probably heard, Kurt Vonnegut died last night at the age of 84. He was among my favorite authors. I think he was among many people's favorite authors. Anyway, I didn't know him, and I wasn't very interested in his recent work, so it's not exactly sad, except maybe in some meta-death kind of way, but there it is. Maybe I'll give Breakfast of Champions a reread in his honor.

But then again, things with my thesis are getting messy again. I discovered something that is probably significantly biasing my results, and according to my advisor I'm not supposed to fix it, even though I think I should (in fairness, I did not speak to my advisor directly about this, so he is not aware of my particular dilemma). The circumstances under which my thesis is being written are becoming continually more frustrating, but at this point I've basically decided to do what I think makes sense, and if my advisor doesn't like it he'll certainly tell me.


In the midst of being mildly panicked about my thesis, it occurred to me with a certain degree of shame that I've been reading the same book (Dance Dance Dance) since January*. I started it in Belize, then neglected it for a month after school started. When I picked it back up, I decided to start from the beginning again (I was only 50 or so pages in). I'd been reading in little spurts maybe once a week or less throughout March and the beginning of April, and then on Monday night I decided to stay up after E (who was crashing at my place that night) went to bed and finish up the last 100ish pages. It was an odd but enjoyable book. It was written in the 80s (or at least set in them), and there was a fairly strong anticapitalist theme, particularly apropos to the period. It was a rather lazy, nihilistic anticapitalism, which is my favorite kind. The book also had creepy supernatural elements which were very well written and freaked the shit out of me. I expected a particular ending, and I was dreading that ending, and then it didn't happen, and I was relieved but also kind of disappointed. Anyway, I enjoyed it very much, and it was great to read something by a non-English-writing author (the book was translated of course; I didn't become fluent in written Japanese while you weren't paying attention).

So now, in honor of tax season (or the rapidly approaching end of it), I decided to move on to Perfectly Legal, the thesis of which is that the American tax system is highly regressive, with the somewhat poor, the middle class, and even the genuinely wealthy subsidizing the tax shirking of the super-rich (who are even richer than we are aware because they know how to avoid reporting gobs of their income). Since I'm getting a fat refund this year, I figure now is a good time to read a book that seems to pride itself on making its readers livid regarding the unfairness of the tax system. It also fits the bill more generally for my next book: it's nonfiction, to follow fiction, but it's reasonably engaging layperson nonfiction, so it will still feel like a break from school.

Speaking of school, I'm feeling in good shape for having my thesis done on Sunday. It won't be a perfect draft, but it will be beyond a rough draft. We hit a few more snags in our regression specifications tonight (snags that I'm not sure my advisor has considered), but it will get worked out easily enough. After Sunday I need to refocus on Macro, my poor neglected other class.

And now it's time to focus on sleep. Yay, sleep!

*DWE pointed out to me that in this time I also read his sister's book, as well as The Bachelor Home Companion by P.J. O'Rourke, who is pretty funny despite being, as far as I can tell, a semi-pathetic, semi-despicable human being. But these books were short and easy reads about which I have little to say, so they don't count. (Although I will impart upon you my two favorite bits of advice from Bachelor Home Companion: 1. keep your sheets clean by getting drunk and falling asleep with your clothes on. 2. if your house is really messy, just tell guests: "Please excuse how the place looks. I'm psychotic.")

Sunday, April 08, 2007

word-a-day colonialism

I usually don't get too hysterical about these things (you know, now that I'm an evil capitalist instead of a righteously-indignant socialist), but this one surprised me a little. Yesterday's "word of the day" on my "Word-a-Day" calendar is "Equatorial Guinea". First of all, yeah, I know, what kind of a "word" is that? I have many beefs with this calendar, one of which is that the Saturday words, which are all accompanied by a picture or diagram, are always pretty silly. Usually some kind of obscure animal or architectural term or something I'd never be able to use in conversation and therefore probably never retain unless I worked really hard at it. Or it's something like "Equatorial Guinea", which does not need "defining" per se, but at least I learn a few interesting facts about it. Anyway, I will now quote from the "definition" of Equatorial Guinea: Originally inhabited by Pygmy peoples, it was discovered by the Porgtuguese in 1472.

Come on, really? Are we really still referring to non-Western countries as having been "discovered"? I'm not saying that it should say "it was raped and plundered by the Portuguese in 1472", but dude, discovered?

happy easter

As you might imagine, things have perked up a little regarding my thesis. The data from IMED was not what we had asked for, but it ended up being okay. Actually, it ended up meaning that I had to go back and change a bunch of dates in our data that were apparently wrong, and then recreate all the variables we need in Stata, which was a pain. But not nearly as much of a pain as I thought it would be, and now our data is correct and will probably yield more interesting results, which is a good thing. On the other hand, I ran a few of the preliminary tests to identify supply-side endogeneity, and I seem to be finding that there is some, which is bad but not the end of the world.

So I don't know if things regarding my thesis are really any better, or if I've just decided to accept them how they are because the thing is due in a week and I still have to figure out how to test for demand-side endogeneity and finalize my results and write between ten and twenty more pages and create a couple more charts, etc. Regardless of why, I'm feeling better, and even sort of looking forward to working on it.

Yesterday I didn't get any work done on my thesis, mostly because I spent most of the day either preparing for or attending a barbecue that one of my classmates and her husband had. I had a really good time, and I had enough to drink that when I got home, I couldn't exactly do anything productive besides maybe some grading, and I didn't even feel like doing that. I've been trying to go to bed earlyish lately, but I haven't been sleeping well, so either I wake up in the middle of the night for a couple hours, or I take something sleep-encouraging like an allergy pill, and it puts me out for ten hours. Yesterday I could have gotten up at 9 a.m. (early in my world) when my mother called me and spoke to me in a loud, animated voice (she claims she wasn't yelling) about the very expensive call to Paris on my (i.e. her) cell phone bill. But I went back to sleep afterwards.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


I have to present a journal article in Macro tonight, and I haven't even finished reading it yet. So I thought a quick blog entry would be, you know, productive somehow.

We finally got the extra data that we needed from IMED, but I'm semi-certain that it's not really the information we asked for. I'm also becoming increasingly convinced that there is yet another way in which our data are fundamentally at odds with our methodology (or, as I have been pointedly calling it, our advisor's methodology). Everytime I think about my thesis I literally want to cry.

All news is not bad: E returns from D.C. tomorrow. His presence is always welcome, and now there will be three of us to suffer in our thesis hell together (yes, it's possible that I'm being melodramatic, but I really don't care).

Sunday, April 01, 2007

african miniaturized hedgehog

DWE and I took a little roadtrip this weekend. We had no plan or intended destination, so we just sort of drove and stopped in places that seemed interesting. We spent the first night in Marysville and the second night in Chico (yes, we drove through Stevie's hometown, Paradise). It was a wonderfully aimless and relaxing trip. DWE is a big fan of back roads, so it took us over six hours to get back to the city today (and we drove on a dirt road for almost thirty miles), but the scenery was incredible. Lots of really beautiful valleys, a couple lakes (one of which we stopped at and I learned how to skip a rock over water), old farms, fields of wildflowers, tree-lined roads, wine country, etc. I made DWE play the guessing game with me (one person thinks of something, the other person asks yes or no questions until he or she guesses it). DWE is terrible at the game because it's almost impossible to get him to think of anything other than Scott Bakula (I'd explain why, but it's a long, nonsensical story). We had the following conversation no less than five times:

"Okay, I thought of something."
"Is it an animal?"
"Is it a human?"
"Is it Scott Bakula?"
"Yes. You're so good at this game."
"Stop picking Scott Bakula!"

When it was his turn to guess, he'd always ask me if something was smaller than an African Miniaturized Hedgehog, which is apparently about the size of a fist.

Up in the mountains past Paradise, we ended up on a dirt road that didn't really go anywhere, and encountered some people from the tiny town several miles downhill that had a flat tire. We drove the mom and the daughter back into town to get their other truck, and she was telling us about how they let thier ten-year-old and eight-year-old sons drive sometimes up on the little dirt roads, and it's so funny because the eight-year-old doesn't really get the concept of letting go of the clutch after he changes gears so they just keep stalling, and I'm thinking, you let your eight-year-old drive?! In Chico I had a fun drunken bathroom bonding moment with a girl in the next stall who needed some TP, and then asked my opinion about her hairstyle. It was very cute. I also had a salad with a really, really good vinagrette dressing (good enough that I feel the need to tell you about it).

So now I'm back in SF and I'm tired and I have a ton of work to do. I did get my federal taxes done on Friday before we left, which is nice, especially since I got to file for free online and since I'm getting an $817 refund (student loans don't count as income, and I only made $5000 as a TA last year, so I get all the taxes I paid refunded, plus I qualify for the EITC). But the much more important April 15th deadline is my thesis being due, and although I've made decent progress with running all my regressions, I really need to get a lot done this week.

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