Putting Out the Vibe Random observations from my day-to-day life

October 24, 2009

Is Wisconsin overweight or is my waist size really that unusual?

Filed under: Nerdiness — Tags: , , , — Matthew @ 7:47 pm

I was at Kohl’s a few days ago, “expecting great things,” and picking up a new belt for my upcoming interviews.  Like most male shopping, this was a straight forward purchase and my plan was to be in and out (that’s what she said).  After a quick browse of the belt racks I realized that Kohl’s had a pretty large selection of belts – if in fact you are overweight with a 40 inch waist.  I literally could not find a belt that fit my 30 inch waist (many of them could have almost wrapped around twice).  So I checked out the “boys” department.  Unfortunately, although they had my size, most of these belts either had flames or were studded (which would likely not impress any of my interviewers).  Questions began running through my head:

  • “Is Wisconsin really this morbidly obese?” – No, actually, I’ve looked into it.
  • “Do people with 30 inch waists wear belts?”
  • “Is my 30 inch waist size such an anomaly that Kohl’s has no reason to carry this size?”
  • “Should I stop at Qdoba on my way home from Kohl’s?” (this wasn’t related to my belt problem, but is always a very valid question).

Applying my Human Factors coursework, I set out to answer my questions through anthropometrics.  I remembered Professor Smith teaching me that the US Military has a lot of available data, so I turned to the 1991 Anthropometry of U.S. Military Personnel report (pages 454 & 455).  Their results are all in centimeters, but here’s how my 30 inch waist (≈76.2 centimeters) stacks up to the other men measured by the US government (I didn’t include the women because I am not one).

 

Statistical Values for Waist Circumference (Natural Indentation)
No. Series N Mean SE(M) S.D. SE(SD) V(%) Range
Min. Max. Total
1 US Army Men (1988) 1,774 83.99 0.18 7.40 0.12 8.80 64.7 112.2 47.5
2 USAF Flying Personnel (1950) 4,000 81.23 0.12 7.49 0.08 9.22 62.0 119.3 57.3
3 US Army Men (1946) 24,472 77.73 0.04 7.01 0.03 9.02 59.0 119.0 60.0

 

Percentile Values for Waist Circumference (Natural Indentation)
No. Series Percentiles in Centimeters – Median Range
1st 2nd 5th 10th 25th 50th 75th 90th 98th 99th (1st-99th)
1 US Army Men (1988) 69.9 71.1 73.0 74.9 78.6 83.4 88.8 94.0 100.6 102.9 32.9
2 USAF Flying Personnel (1950) 67.5 68.7 70.5 72.3 75.7 80.4 85.9 91.5 98.8 101.3 33.8
3 US Army Men (1946) 65.0 66.3 68.3 69.8 72.9 76.7 81.3 86.6 95.8 99.3 34.3
Waist Circumference Graph: Me vs. US Military Men

Waist Circumference Graph: Me vs. US Military Men

So what did I learn?  (1) Kohl’s seems uninterested in selling belts to customers with my very prevalent waist size and (2) my future belt purchases will be conducted elsewhere.  And if you were wondering, yes, I did stop at Qdoba on the way home with the hope that enough Qdoba will eventually move me into Kohl’s targeted waist size.

September 30, 2009

Delaware: Statistically the worst place to live

I finish grad school this spring.  Which means I will have to become a real person.  Which also means I’m currently in the midst of a job search.  As if this weren’t stressful enough, I also have the daunting task of figuring out where I want to live for the next few years.  I was thinking about this while sitting through a lecture on Utility Analysis of Healthcare Decisions last Friday and think I came up with a fool proof method. My conclusion: Delaware is the worst place to live in the US (from a completely unbiased, 23 year old, male perspective).  When it comes down to it, my criteria for choosing a place to live boil down to the following:

  1. Price of Beer
  2. Attractiveness of Women
  3. Cost of Living
  4. Weather
  5. Music Entertainment
  6. Sports Entertainment
Average Pint of Beer Price by State
Rank State Price/Pint
1 South Dakota $1.66
2 Arkansas $1.75
3 West Virginia $1.87
4 Mississippi $2.26
5 Iowa $2.32
6 Kentucky $2.34
7 Nebraska $2.41
8 Wisconsin $2.44
9 Illinois $2.45
11 Missouri $2.48
11 Kansas $2.48
12 Ohio $2.52
13 Michigan $2.56
15 Virginia $2.64
15 South Carolina $2.64
16 Pennsylvania $2.66
17 North Dakota $2.73
18 Texas $2.76
19 New Mexico $2.77
20 Maine $2.78
21 Montana $2.81
22 Florida $2.84
23 Utah $2.87
24 Tennessee $2.89
25 Arizona $2.91
26 North Carolina $2.92
27 New York $2.93
28 Louisiana $2.99
29 New Hampshire $3.01
30 Indiana $3.04
31 Minnesota $3.05
32 Alabama $3.08
33 Hawaii $3.10
34 Maryland $3.19
35 Vermont $3.30
36 Washington $3.34
37 Georgia $3.46
38 Oregon $3.57
39 California $3.58
42 Alaska $3.71
42 Oklahoma $3.71
42 Rhode Island $3.71
43 New Jersey $3.75
45 Massachusetts $3.86
45 Colorado $3.86
46 Delaware $4.12
47 Connecticut $4.29
48 Nevada $4.43
49 Idaho no data available
50 Wyoming no data available

1. Price of Beer
Beer currently constitutes a healthy chunk of my monthly credit card bill and, although I hope this spending will decrease when I become a real person, I’m sure it won’t disappear completely.  On Pintprice.com, users submit beer prices from cities all over the world and I was able to obtain hundreds of pint prices from US cities and calculate a per state average.

Limitations: Reporting of average pint price is voluntary, and therefore the sample size isn’t consistent; no data is available for Idaho and Wyoming (people must not drink there); the website didn’t indicate the recency of any of the prices.  Assumptions: Any submitted beer price <$1 was an outlier and therefore thrown out.

America’s Health Ratings by State
Rank State % Dev. from US Norm
1 Vermont 24.8
2 Hawaii 21.6
3 New Hampshire 19.9
4 Minnesota 18.8
5 Utah 18.2
6 Massachusetts 17.7
7 Connecticut 17.5
8 Idaho 16.1
9 Maine 15.3
10 Washington 14.9
11 Rhode Island 14
12 North Dakota 12.5
13 Nebraska 12
14 Wyoming 11.8
15 Iowa 11.6
16 Oregon 11.3
17 Wisconsin 10.3
18 New Jersey 9.8
19 Colorado 9.7
20 Virginia 9
21 South Dakota 7.5
22 Kansas 6.7
23 Montana 6.5
24 California 5.3
25 New York 3.8
26 Maryland 3.4
27 Michigan 2
28 Pennsylvania 2
29 New Mexico 1.7
30 Alaska 1.3
31 Illinois 0.8
32 Ohio 0.7
33 Arizona 0.4
34 Indiana -0.6
35 Delaware -1.6
36 North Carolina -3.2
37 Kentucky -3.6
38 Missouri -4.9
39 West Virginia -5
40 Alabama -7
41 Georgia -7.8
42 Nevada -7.9
43 Arkansas -8.1
44 Oklahoma -8.1
45 Florida -8.9
46 Texas -9
47 Tennessee -9.7
48 South Carolina -10.7
49 Mississippi -15
50 Louisiana -15.2

2. Attractiveness of Women
Since I’m single, this is an important one since I’m likely to date some ladies in my new home town and attractiveness would be a plus.  Also, my stock is probably only going down at this point.  I figured that a decent predictor of female attractiveness in my hypothetical new state would be America’s Health Ratings.  The data is expressed as a percent deviation from the national norm.

3. Cost of Living
In addition to beer prices being reasonable, since I’ll likely buy things other than beer once in a while, a low overall cost of living would probably be nice. The US Government’s Consumer Price Index (CPI), although not exactly cost of living, is a pretty good indicator of this.

Consumer Price Index (CPI) by State
Rank State Consumer Price Index (CPI)
1 Arizona 117.335
4 Maryland 140.810
4 Virginia 140.810
4 West Virginia 140.810
5 Alaska 190.032
6 Texas 196.175
7 Missouri 198.261
8 Kentucky 198.945
9 Kansas 199.152
10 Ohio 199.752
11 Indiana 200.244
12 Wisconsin 200.999
13 Georgia 203.351
14 Michigan 204.673
15 Florida 204.955
19 Iowa 205.632
19 Nebraska 205.632
19 North Dakota 205.632
19 South Dakota 205.632
20 Minnesota 206.167
21 Colorado 207.444
29 Alabama 209.000
29 Arkansas 209.000
29 Louisiana 209.000
29 Mississippi 209.000
29 North Carolina 209.000
29 Oklahoma 209.000
29 South Carolina 209.000
29 Tennessee 209.000
30 Pennsylvania 210.468
31 Illinois 211.441
32 Oregon 214.102
38 Idaho 219.884
38 Montana 219.884
38 Nevada 219.884
38 New Mexico 219.884
38 Utah 219.884
38 Wyoming 219.884
39 Delaware 226.039
40 Washington 227.138
42 Rhode Island 230.883
42 Vermont 230.883
43 New Jersey 232.161
46 Maine 233.018
46 Massachusetts 233.018
46 New Hampshire 233.018
47 Connecticut 235.650
48 New York 238.282
49 California 421.605
50 Hawaii 627.870

Assumptions: I would live near a large city in each state (since CPI represents urban areas).  Limitations: If no CPI state data was available, I took regional average (shown above in italic).

Average Days of Sunshine by State
Rank State Average Days/Year
1 Arizona 90.0
2 Nevada 79.0
3 New Mexico 71.0
4 Colorado 72.7
5 California 74.8
6 Utah 66.0
7 Florida 69.3
8 Kansas 65.8
9 Arkansas 68.3
10 Wyoming 67.3
11 Texas 69.8
12 Oklahoma 61.0
13 Idaho 63.0
14 Louisiana 63.0
15 Nebraska 63.5
16 South Dakota 64.0
17 Georgia 63.3
18 Mississippi 63.0
19 South Carolina 62.0
20 Virginia 62.3
21 North Carolina 62.5
22 Iowa 62.0
23 Hawaii 61.3
24 North Dakota 60.0
25 Montana 58.8
26 Missouri 58.5
27 Tennessee 58.0
28 Alabama 58.3
29 Rhode Island 58.0
30 Indiana 57.3
31 Illinois 57.4
32 Kentucky 58.5
33 Maine 57.0
34 Maryland 57.0
35 Connecticut 56.0
36 New Jersey 56.0
37 Massachusetts 57.0
38 Minnesota 58.0
39 Wisconsin 56.7
40 Pennsylvania 55.5
41 New York 53.8
42 Ohio 52.2
43 Michigan 51.3
44 Vermont 49.0
45 Oregon 48.0
46 Washington 49.8
47 New Hampshire 44.0
48 West Virginia 40.0
49 Alaska 38.3
50 Delaware no data available

4. Weather
Living in Wisconsin can be rough and when Winter seems to span from September until May during some years, it’s hard not to think about places like California and Florida.  Living in a place that has nicer weather that Wisconsin would probably improve my well-being (especially during January and February).  To analyze weather by state, I used the National Climate Data Center’s Average Percent of Possible Sunshine data.

Number of Concerts by State
Rank State Concerts
1 Missouri 2053
2 California 2048
3 New York 1439
4 Illinois 1207
5 Florida 696
6 Ohio 684
7 Pennsylvania 663
8 Massachusetts 646
9 Nevada 612
10 Texas 587
11 Washington 511
12 Michigan 439
13 Minnesota 362
14 New Jersey 313
15 Virginia 303
16 Maryland 274
17 Colorado 265
18 Georgia 250
19 Arizona 223
20 Louisiana 214
21 Tennessee 197
22 Oregon 187
23 North Carolina 185
24 Kentucky 152
25 Indiana 139
26 Wisconsin 133
27 Mississippi 130
28 Iowa 102
29 Connecticut 79
30 South Carolina 67
31 Alabama 64
32 Idaho 58
33 Kansas 57
34 New Mexico 57
35 Nebraska 25
36 West Virginia 25
37 Rhode Island 23
38 North Dakota 19
39 New Hampshire 11
40 Arkansas 10
41 South Dakota 9
42 Oklahoma 8
43 Wyoming 7
44 Hawaii 6
45 Maine 5
46 Alaska 3
48 Delaware 2
48 Vermont 2
50 Montana 1
50 Utah 1

5. Music Entertainment
Entertainment offered is crucial to having a social life outside of work and since I like concerts, plays, and especially Neil Diamond, I felt I needed to include this factor.  If cost of living is low, but there is nothing worthwhile to spend my extra money on anyway, I might as well just move back in with my parents.  To try to represent how many concerts are offered in each state, on 9-27-09, I searched ticketmaster.com for musical events in each state.

6. Sports Entertainment
Another important entertainment factor is how many sporting events I will be able to attend.  Therefore, I included in my analysis the total number of major professional sports teams in each state.

Pro Sports Teams by State
Rank State Pro Sports Teams
1 California 18
3 New York 10
3 Texas 10
4 Florida 9
5 Pennsylvania 8
7 Maryland 7
7 Ohio 7
9 Illinois 6
9 Missouri 6
11 Colorado 5
11 Massachusetts 5
16 Arizona 4
16 Georgia 4
16 Michigan 4
16 Minnesota 4
16 Wisconsin 4
19 North Carolina 3
19 Tennessee 3
19 Washington 3
24 Indiana 2
24 Louisiana 2
24 New Jersey 2
24 Oregon 2
24 Utah 2
25 Oklahoma 1

Assumptions: Since I would rather watch Wisconsin Badger football or basketball over any professional sport, I added an additional professional sport to Wisconsin’s total.  For geographic purposes, I included Washington D.C. as a part of Maryland.  Also, this data assumes that I care about the NBA.  In reality, in the last decade, I have really only attended pro football and baseball games.
Linear Transformation

Results

To compare results across the six criteria, I linearly transformed the data to a 0 to 100 scale.  The equation to obtain this new score is shown at right.  If low values were preferred instead of high values (such as price of beer and CPI), the result was subtracted from one before multiplying by 100.  After applying this transformation to the data, the following scores result.

State Price of Beer
Score
Attractive Women
Score
CPI
Score
Sunshine
Score
Concerts
Score
Pro Sports
Score
AVERAGE
SCORE
California
30.8
51.3
40.4
73.0
99.8
100.0
 
65.9
Missouri
70.5
25.8
84.1
44.0
100.0
33.3
 
59.6
New York
54.1
47.5
76.3
28.1
70.1
55.6
 
55.3
Arizona
54.8
39.0
100.0
100.0
10.8
22.2
 
54.5
Illinois
71.3
40.0
81.6
41.3
58.8
33.3
 
54.4
Texas
60.2
15.5
84.6
59.0
28.6
55.6
 
50.6
Florida
57.3
15.8
82.8
62.6
33.9
50.0
 
50.4
Pennsylvania
64.0
43.0
81.8
33.5
32.3
44.4
 
49.8
Utah
56.3
83.5
79.9
64.8
0.0
11.1
 
49.3
Minnesota
49.9
85.0
82.6
37.0
17.6
22.2
 
49.1
South Dakota
100.0
56.8
82.7
54.1
0.4
0
 
49.0
Ohio
68.8
39.8
83.9
28.0
33.3
38.9
 
48.8
Virginia
64.5
60.5
95.4
49.1
14.7
0
 
47.4
Wisconsin
71.8
63.8
83.6
34.9
6.4
22.2
 
47.1
Nebraska
73.0
68.0
82.7
54.6
1.2
0
 
46.6
Colorado
20.5
62.3
82.4
73.3
12.9
27.8
 
46.5
Maryland
44.7
46.5
95.4
40.2
13.3
38.9
 
46.5
Iowa
76.3
67.0
82.7
47.7
4.9
0
 
46.4
Massachusetts
20.6
82.3
77.3
37.0
31.4
27.8
 
46.1
Kansas
70.4
54.8
84.0
60.0
2.7
0
 
45.3
New Mexico
59.9
42.3
79.9
79.7
2.7
0
 
44.1
Michigan
67.6
43.0
82.9
24.9
21.3
22.2
 
43.7
Idaho
no data available
78.3
79.9
56.2
2.8
0
 
43.4
North Dakota
61.3
69.3
82.7
45.6
0.9
0
 
43.3
Arkansas
96.7
17.8
82.0
59.8
0.4
0
 
42.8
Maine
59.5
76.3
77.3
41.3
0.2
0
 
42.4
Washington
39.3
75.3
78.5
14.6
24.9
16.7
 
41.5
Wyoming
no data available
67.5
79.9
59.8
0.3
0
 
41.5
Vermont
40.7
100.0
77.8
24.2
0.0
0
 
40.5
North Carolina
54.6
30.0
82.0
48.4
9.0
16.7
 
40.1
Montana
58.6
54.3
79.9
45.0
0.0
0
 
39.6
Kentucky
75.5
29.0
84.0
41.3
7.4
0
 
39.5
Indiana
50.0
36.5
83.8
42.7
6.7
11.1
 
38.5
New Jersey
24.6
62.5
77.5
39.1
15.2
11.1
 
38.3
New Hampshire
51.2
87.8
77.3
12.5
0.5
0
 
38.2
Georgia
35.0
18.5
83.2
53.4
12.1
22.2
 
37.4
Tennessee
55.5
13.8
82.0
44.0
9.6
16.7
 
36.9
Rhode Island
25.9
73.0
77.8
43.4
1.1
0
 
36.9
Oregon
31.1
66.3
81.0
22.1
9.1
11.1
 
36.8
Mississippi
78.3
0.5
82.0
53.0
6.3
0
 
36.7
West Virginia
92.4
25.5
95.4
5.0
1.2
0
 
36.6
South Carolina
64.4
11.3
82.0
52.7
3.2
0
 
35.6
Louisiana
51.8
0.0
82.0
56.2
10.4
11.1
 
35.3
Nevada
0.0
18.3
79.9
82.4
29.8
0
 
35.1
Connecticut
5.0
81.8
76.8
39.1
3.8
0
 
34.4
Alabama
48.7
20.5
82.0
43.4
3.1
0
 
32.9
Oklahoma
25.9
17.8
82.0
58.4
0.3
5.6
 
31.7
Hawaii
48.1
92.0
0.0
46.1
0.2
0
 
31.1
Alaska
25.9
41.3
85.8
0.0
0.1
0
 
25.5
Delaware
11.1
34.0
78.7
no data available
0.0
0
 
24.8

In averaging the six criteria (instead of using a weighted average with importance ratings for each criteria) to calculate my overall state ranking, I’m assuming that they are of equal importance.  In reality, living somewhere with cheap beer is probably much more important than living somewhere with attractive women.  So there you have it.  It looks like I’ll be applying as much as possible in California, while avoiding Delaware like the plague.  Feel free to suggest any additional criteria that you think I should have included in my analysis.

Update 10-5-09: The complete data that I used to reach these results can be found here.

September 2, 2009

Joining the wikipedia nerds

By nature, Wikipedia is an unstable source of information.  For this same reason, editing wikipedia can be frustrating and the huge nerds who edit it a lot will get upset if you do it incorrectly.  Although I’ve edited and created numerous wikipedia pages (from the subcontinental divide to the short bus), the correct information that I posted is still being changed by different users.  A friend of mine asked me the other day how to make a new wikipedia article that he wrote more legitimate.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Create an account – this is more credible, anonymous users can’t edit pages which are vandalized a lot and can’t create new pages, and it’s a nice way to monitor articles that you’ve edited.
  • Make sure the article doesn’t already exist.  Sometimes a redirect from an acronym or to a synonymous page is a much better edit than to make a page for no reason.
  • Have as many third party sources as possible and learn how to correctly format and cite them.
  • Learn how to format different styles (headers, sub headers, etc.) and link correctly.
  • Explain all the changes you made in the “Edit Summary” field.
  • Click “Show Preview” before “Save Page” – saving numerous minor edits in a row will irritate the wikipedia geeks.
  • Keep your information neutral – avoid writing about things for which you have a conflict of interest (see just one example below)
  • Correctly categorize your article.
  • People will probably change what you’ve written.  Find more sources and communicate why it’s correct.


I Found Incorrect Information About MY Company or Organization, What do I do?

Someone at a Web & Multichannel Marketing Meeting that I organized for my job asked me how to properly edit your own company’s wikipedia page a few weeks ago.  Generally, it is never recommended to edit your own wikipedia page, whether you’re Microsoft or Michael Jordan.  However, if you must do it, from what I can tell this is how you should proceed:

  1. Post your issue on the article’s discussion page and clearly identify yourself (being logged in under a user name is always more credible) and explain the discrepancy.  Citing third party sources will always make your argument more credible too.  Eventually (hopefully), a reputable wikipedia editor will notice the discussion and make the change for you.
  2. Strategically insert “citation needed” tags after incorrect information.  Here’s how to do it.  Eventually (hopefully), someone will notice the lack of sources and make the change for you.
  3. Contact the author who posted the incorrect information, introduce yourself, present your case (with sources), and request that they correct their post.
  4. If all else fails, sometimes you can get away with making a change yourself.  Correcting simple facts, such as dates or names is considered by some to be ok.  However, for more complex information, there’s a debate between whether it’s better to make the change anonymously or logged in with a user name, but in my opinion it’s best to be as transparent as possible when editing.  If some wikipedia nerds were to find out that a company employee was editing wikipedia anonymously it would not go over as well as if it were edited with a user name (just my opinion). 

July 7, 2009

You know what really grinds my e-mail gears?

Today I received an e-mail that was both flagged with a high importance red exclamation point and requested that I send a read receipt.  However, it turns out that the e-mail was neither “highly important” nor required urgent reading.  There are definitely a lot of e-mail manners that are violated on the interweb everyday.  Here are just a few that bother me (in what I believe to be order of severity).

Violation 8:  Assuming the person goes by a shortened name
Maybe I’m partial to this because everyone assumes that my name is “Matt” no matter how much I try to use Matthew – especially in a professional setting.  However, I try to stick to what’s listed in a digital signature unless someone offers a less formal name at the end of their message.

Violation 7: Using “Hey” in the salutation line
This one is largely personal preference, and was something that I had never thought about until I did a co-op with GE Healthcare.  The reality of starting an e-mail with “Hey ____,” is that it’s very informal.  When I e-mail my brother or someone who I go to the Karaoke Kidd at one in the morning with, it’s probably ok.  For anyone else in a professional setting, especially a superior, it’s probably inappropriate.

Violation 6:  E-mailing a co-worker sitting next door
My dad always told me growing up to never do something over the phone which can be done just as easily (and probably more effectively) in person.  I believe this is also true about my own “e-mail generation.”  I don’t want to work in an office where face-to-face conversations are a thing of the past and when I have entire work days of only staring at my computer monitor, I’m much more fatigued than after a day of meetings with human interaction.  Receiving an e-mail from someone who sits 10 feet away asking me a yes or no question is just ridiculous.

Violation 5: Replying without my original message thread
I send and receive a lot of e-mails every day (sometimes during the school year as many as 150) and I have four different e-mail accounts IMAPed to my MS Outlook program.  Therefore, when I receive an e-mail response without my original message or an action item that I need to take care of with no thread history to provide background, it’s confusing and can be very time consuming for me to figure out what the person is talking about.

Violation 4: Accidental “Reply to all”
Check out the following thread, compliments of my classmate Scott:

—–Original Message—–
From: “Scott”
Sent: Wednesday, March 04, 2009 7:48 PM
To: “Matthew”
Subject: Re: RE: ISyE undergrad funding and valuable practical/project experience opportunity

I apparently sent this to the whole IE undergrad

—– Original Message —–
From: “Matthew”
Date: Wednesday, March 4, 2009 2:09 pm
Subject: RE: ISyE undergrad funding and valuable practical/project experience opportunity
To: “Scott”

Scott,
Did you intend to send this to me?
-Matthew

—–Original Message—–
From: “Scott”
Sent: Wednesday, March 04, 2009 12:08 PM
To: “Raj”
Cc: ieundergrad@engr.wisc.edu; “Roger”
Subject: Re: ISyE undergrad funding and valuable practical/project experience opportunity

I have a play I need to go to for acting at 730 and can work whenever that ends.

—– Original Message —–
From: “Raj”
Date: Tuesday, March 3, 2009 7:46 pm
Subject: ISyE undergrad funding and valuable practical/project experience opportunity
To: ieundergrad@engr.wisc.edu
Cc: “Raj”, “Roger”

ISyE Undergrad Student Assistants

Starting Summer 2009 and subsequent semesters (15 – 20 hours per week)

[etc…]

Oops…  Although, I appreciated that my friend Scott wanted to let me know that he was going to a play that night, I’m sure the rest of my department’s undergraduate mailing list wasn’t as interested.  The professor, “Raj” (who happens to be my boss) he was e-mailing about the job offer and “Roger” (who happens to be my supervisor) were probably just as disinterested.

Violation 3: Angry e-mails
Tone is never portrayed well in an e-mail and in my experience sending someone an e-mail while in a heated mood almost always does more damage than good (especially in destroying future communication barriers and trust).  Using an e-mail in which caps lock is used to “yell” at someone is also insulting.  My biggest problem with this, however, is that a co-worker wouldn’t have the decency to talk to me face-to-face about a conflict, but rather finds it necessary to e-mail you and rub it in by copying a few of your co-workers or supervisors.  This is also known as “copying up” and one of the most ridiculous experiences I had with it came after I missed a church music rehearsal and the director decided to reprimand me with an e-mail in which our parish priest was copied.

Violation 2: Unnecessary flagging with “high importance”
An e-mail which is flagged as “highly important” (the red exclamation point) gets subconsciously sifted to my “highly unimportant” e-mail folder.  E-mail importance is in the eye of the beholder and I’ll decide which messages in my inbox make the list.

Violation 1: Read receipts
To me the single most insulting e-mail habit is sending a read receipt with a message and it causes me to instantly lose interest (or maybe respect for the sender) for whatever the e-mail was about.  To me, this informs the recipient, “I don’t think you’re responsible enough to respond to my e-mail in a timely manner so I’m going to make you feel guilty and let me know how soon you’ll take care of the issue.”  This is especially annoying when you are a part time research assistant and you check e-mail at all hours of the day.  This option can also be turned off (at the risk of your untrustworthy coworkers thinking you never read their e-mails).  The only thing worse than an e-mail with a read receipt is one that contains both a read receipt and a “high importance” flag.

…and please don’t send facebook messages which contain any importance whatsoever, unless it has to do with going to the Karaoke Kidd…

April 15, 2009

UW-Madison Socio-Academic Campus Zones

After ballroom dance class today, I was on my way back to the Engineering campus and ran into my roommate, Lee, who asked, “what are you doing over here?” – a very valid question actually, since I haven’t been required to go to the east side of campus for a legitimate, academic reason since sophomore year. He, although an engineer himself, was actually on his way back from Art History. The truth is, the non-engineering areas of campus do have a completely different disposition and when I venture to the east for either choir or ballroom dance, it’s like visiting an unexplored, foreign world. Without further adieu, I am proud to present my most recent result of procrastinating both work and school – The UW-Madison Socio-Academic Map: My take on how our campus actually breaks down.

Figure 1 - UW-Madison Socio Academic Map

Figure 1 - UW-Madison Socio-Academic Map

Nerd-Land:  Home of the College of Engineering, Computer Sciences, and Wendt Library, Nerd-Land is the dwelling place of some of the most socially inept students on campus.  In traversing the halls of Engineering, one might witness 10 people surrounding a single game of chess, an intense conversation comparing notes on respective W.O.W. (World of Warcraft) characters, or even over hear numerous jokes about μ (“mu” – the coefficient of both static and kinetic friction), all in only a few minutes.  Spend too much time in Nerd-Land and your standards for the opposite sex will drop dramatically (until an eye opening journey to the east brings you back to your senses)

Nerd-Limbo:  I believe students who spend much of their day in the orange zone to be in Nerd-Limbo – still interested in a practical, technical education but capable of holding a conversation about something other than what they got on yesterday’s Thermo Exam.  The hard sciences (not meaning difficult, but the opposite of soft), such as Physics, Chemistry, Biochem, Genetics, and also Math and Stats* find their home in Nerd-Limbo.  People who are regulars in this area of campus may even have interests that lie outside of academics.
*Grainger Hall (School of Business) appears in purple above because it is considered an overlap of the orange and blue zones.

Liberal Arts-Ville:  Venture too far to the east and your existing schemas of what is a normal classroom environment will be greatly challenged.  Students studying Social Sciences, Music, Dance, Languages, and also all of the students on College Life who represent the entire demographic of our student body so well, attend class here (as needed).  College Library also falls within this zone.  Expected attire in Liberal Arts-Ville requires that all students “try” before class (sweat pants strongly discouraged).  As a result, this is where many of the campus’ best looking people, who seem to only emerge nocturnally at the bars on Friday and Saturday, spend their weekdays.
The location of the Psychology building seems to be an anomaly, surrounded by both Nerd-Limbo and Nerd-Land.

Places I only go to drink beer:  A couple times a week I migrate from my familiar world to another familiar world (think Oregon Trail, except no one has ever died of dysentery out at the bars).  Unfortunately, since I live on Lathrop St. (lower left corner of the above map), traveling from my classes and/or house requires navigating through unfamiliar territory, which is commonly avoided via taking cabs.

Coastie-Island:  Also known as “frat row,” Langdon Street is as unfamiliar to me as the internet is to my Grandma.  Hundreds of girls wearing gaucho pants, ugg boots, north faces, and huge sunglasses (regardless of the weather or current sun intensity) and guys with fohawks, popped collars, and probably tribal armband tattoos dwell in this region.§♦
§Coastie Island slightly overlaps with the Places I only go to drink beer only because of the less than ideal location of the State Sider Apartments.
The recently constructed Lucky Apartments, located in between Liberal Arts-Ville and Places I only go to drink beer is an unfortunate contradiction of my Socio-Academic Theory.

Disclaimer:  This post is merely satire.  There are clearly exceptions to the immense stereotypes that I cast here. I realize that very hard working and motivated people exist in all academic areas of campus.


 

 

 

 

March 16, 2009

Avoiding alarms

Filed under: Nerdiness,Products — Tags: , , — Matthew @ 4:19 pm
SleepTracker Pro

SleepTracker Pro

There only only two things in life that I enjoy waking up early for:

  1. Waking up at 5:00 AM on a badger gameday to either drink bloody marys, or as of last year to go to UW Marching Band rehearsal.
  2. Going fishing

Other than that, I’m convinced that the moment my alarm goes off each morning is pretty much the worst moment of my day.  I don’t hate what I do during the day, I just value sleep, and I’ve been sleeping unusually poorly lately.  Therefore, when my friend Mattsen showed me his new toy, a watch that monitors your sleep patterns and wakes you up at the least intrusive moment of your sleep cycles, I was very intrigued.  I remember from some psychology classes that this probably means waking up up right after Rapid Eye Movement (REM)/dreaming sleep and you can set up to a 90 minute wake-up window which will wake you up as close the end of REM cycle as possible.  The watch is called  the SleepTracker Pro Sleep Monitoring Watch (~$163) and in addition to tracking your sleep patterns and waking you up at an ideal time so that you feel more refreshed, it also connects to your computer so that you can track your sleep patterns over time and look for lifestyle influences which improve your sleep (something which I’m sure Wando’s Bacon Night doesn’t coincide with).  There is also a cheaper, ~$91, model that may be slightly more in my budget.  I’m not sure I’d really use the software, but maybe if I get some cash together, I won’t be hitting the 5 minute snooze on my cell phone for 20 minutes each morning.

March 6, 2009

Jokes on you, America!

Filed under: Nerdiness,Random Observations — Tags: , , — Matthew @ 9:37 pm
Could have really used some color photography back then...

Could have really used some color photography back then...

When we received Lady Liberty from the French in 1886 to represent our “friendship established during the American Revolution,” it was a great international gesture… sort of.  It dawned on me recently, however, that from about 1886-1906 it was a beautiful bronze color until it turned to its (arguably) unattractive shade of green.  So, was France really thinking we’ll give this ticking atrocity to the US and in about 20 years they’ll really feel stupid?  Maybe we should have seen our current poor relations with the french coming.  I’m going to go eat some freedom fries…

February 11, 2009

Take that iTunes!

I’m not an Apple fan.  I’ve never liked their GUI (possibly because I’ve heard it’s more addicting than Marshall Applewhite was to the Heaven’s Gate Cult) and would much rather stumble along with Microsoft Vista.  There really is no way around using iTunes, however.  Not only do I own an ipod, but it’s just cleaner and has higher usability than any other music software (I haven’t used winamp since middle school, even though it does whip the llama’s ass).  However, until recently, I have had two major gripes with iTunes (in addition to my hatred of their company).itunes-exclamation-point

  1. There is no easy, free, way to copy your music back from your iPod to your computer.  They did away with this functionality years ago.
  2. Those damn exclamation points!  Short of going through your entire library and deleting songs one by one, iTunes has no way to delete files after their location can’t be found.  You can’t even sort files by the exclamation point icon.

However, tonight after searching for a long time (and accidentally downloading quite a bit of spyware), I found two great solutions to these problems.

Solution 1:  It is possible to copy files from your iPod by browsing through the hidden files, however, Apple’s music organization system makes this really hard to navigate.  The best free software I found to organize these files was iDump (don’t be fooled by the Google ad at the top of the page, just click on “External Mirror 1” or “External Mirror 2”).

Solution 2:  Check out iTunes Library Updater.  The “ITLU (GUI)” program is very easy to use.  I use it to delete all of my files with locations that can’t be found (those damn exclamation points) by clicking this option on the right.  You can also use it to sync and manage your entire library with the location of your music if you want.  As a tip, the program didn’t work if iTunes was already open, so close it first.

This post is much nerdier than usual, but I was glad to find these two programs.


Update 1/26/10:
I just migrated to Windows 7 and had yet another iTunes problem.  Since I organize my iTunes folder myself and don’t let iTunes do it automatically, pointing my iTunes library to the new location of my music in my Windows 7 Situation was a bit of a head scratcher.  I didn’t want to lose my playlists (especially classics like “Mellow Shit” and the newly created “NDE 2010”).  Ultimately, this website had a solution, which included editing the iTunes .tls file and .xml library.  It worked pretty well.

January 14, 2009

No answer?

Filed under: Hilarity,Nerdiness — Tags: , — Matthew @ 12:54 pm

pic-pythagorast1

Our offense is like the pythagorean theorem: There is no answer!
-Shaq

I guess Pythagoras got it wrong back in the 500s (BC that is).

July 8, 2008

Can I still wear Euro Trunks (without frightening small children)?

Filed under: Nerdiness — Tags: , , — Matthew @ 9:44 pm

During one of my lectures in an elective I took last semester, Engineering Drawing (a terrible idea because it turned out to be a Mechanical Engineering weed out course – would have been nice to know), the instructor, I think in an effort to seem “hip,” showed us the book Geek Logic.  To be honest, I’m typically not too in to my major and definitely don’t think I fall in to the stereotypical engineer category.  This may be partially because I’m capable of holding a conversation with someone that doesn’t circle back to “what did you get on the exam?” or possibly because I’m more interested in girls than I am in whether or not my data correctly fits a statistical distribution.  I digress…  Nevertheless, this book peaked my interest, so I checked it out.  Here is my favorite equation in the book and how I scored:

Can you still wear a speedo (or in my case Euro Trunks) (without frightening small children)?Speedo Equation:  Can I still wear Euro Trunks without frightening small children
Waist size now = Your waist size now = 30″
Waist size at 18 = Your waist size at age 18 = 29″
Number of kids = Number of kids you have = 0
Calories per day = Calories consumed per day = hmm… since I have no idea, I’d say maybe 3000 during the week and at least 4000 on a drinking weekend.  So we’ll go with 3500
Days/week you work out = Days per week that you go to the gym or otherwise get more than 30 minutes of exercise = 2.5
Need to attract opposite sex = Your need to attract members of the opposite sex (1-10 with 10 being “nothin’ but a gigolo”) = 2

Unfortunately, according to the book, my score of .744 falls under the category of “the potential for bursting free of its constraints (and the resulting lawsuits) make the Speedo hard to justify.”  For some reason, I don’t foresee this changing my Euro Trunk wearing habits, however. Just for the record though, if I get another workout in each week and bump my average up to 3.5, my score becomes 5.6, for which the book claims “you can still wear a Speedo but you should go easy on the pasta carbonara the night before.”

Some of my other favorites were “Should you let your girlfriend meet your embarrassing family?” (pretty relevant in my family) “Are you whipped?” (I considered filling this one out for most of my friends) “Should you call in sick?” “Should you become a golf pro?” (maybe relevant to my dad) “Should you become intimate with a coworker?” and “How many beers should you have at the company picnic?”

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