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The Physics of Why Cold Fusion Isn't Real

michael_cain Are liquid-nitrogen superconductors relevant? (349 comments)

As I recall, only some of the samples prepared by identical methods displayed superconductivity. Eventually fabrication became reliable, but it took considerable time. Granted, superconductivity is a whole lot easier to measure than excess heat on the scale that some LENR experiments claim to produce.

about a week ago

Fuel Efficiency Numbers Overstate MPG More For Cars With Small Engines

michael_cain Re:Short Trip mileage (403 comments)

Americans, by and large, buy cars geared to handle their most extreme trips -- the once-a-year 500-mile drive to Grandma's, the occasional day when you have to drive through a nasty snowstorm to get home from work, one trip a week for a few weeks to haul six little boys with football gear to practice, etc. This was an affordable luxury when gasoline was cheap. In the future, not so much.

about two weeks ago

Only Two States Have Rules To Prevent Cheating On Computerized Tests

michael_cain What's the GRE experience been? (95 comments)

The Graduate Record Exams have been given on computers for a number of years. That's a serious blessing for the long essay portion of the test, especially for those of us who type faster than we can write longhand (and you can edit!). Do they have a problem with cheating? With students accessing the Internet?

about three weeks ago

Wave Power Fails To Live Up To Promise

michael_cain Re:some renewable techs didn't pan out (198 comments)

Can't speak to wherever in Australia they were planning, but Oregon is a tough market. Lots of hydro, growing wind segment, and not enough transmission capacity to make sure excess can be shuffled off to other markets. 2011 was a wet year, and oversupply was already somewhat of a problem. The economics for intermittent renewable sources -- wind, solar, wave -- get worse in a hurry if you can't sell all the power you could potentially generate.

about a month ago

If Tesla Can Run Its Gigafactory On 100% Renewables, Why Can't Others?

michael_cain Re:Credit System (444 comments)

...but when it is not producing energy from a renewable source it is consuming it from a non-renewable source.

The US doesn't have a single power grid, it has three power grids that are almost completely independent of one another. Asking the renewable vs non-renewable question on a scale larger than the interconnect is inappropriate. And to some extent, asking the question on a scale smaller than the entire interconnect is an accounting fiction. Each of the three interconnects has a very different generating profile. Nevada is part of the Western Interconnect. Generation in the Western Interconnect as a whole runs 40-45% from non-fossil sources over the course of a year. The biggest contributor to that is conventional hydro power, with nuclear second. By 2016 or so, wind will overtake nuclear; sooner than that if any of the six commercial reactors operating in the Western Interconnect have major problems.

There have been a large number of nuts-and-bolts studies for doing low-carbon power in the US. All draw basically the same conclusion. It's straightforward to do in the Western Interconnect because of the available resources and geography. For the rest of the US it's an enormously harder problem.

about a month and a half ago

Unpopular Programming Languages That Are Still Lucrative

michael_cain Re:COBOL and FORTRAN (387 comments)

The reality is, in long-established businesses in highly regulated industries with systems which are literally decades old and not easily replaced...

Too often true in state governments as well. The executive branch struggles with COBOL on a mainframe because the price tag for the replacement system is $50M and the legislature won't pop for that. Often for political reasons -- different parties in control and we'll be damned if we'll cooperate with this Governor. Price tags for government software tend to be quite high because of the large number of obscure add-on requirements that have to be satisfied. For example, the system touches information that is classified by the law as "medical records" at some point -- HIPAA as applied to government agencies rears its ugly head. Incredible amounts of cruft have accumulated over the decades.

Thank goodness I wasn't ever in the position of having to write software under those conditions. But for three years as a legislative staffer I did get to sit in on post-mortem analyses for failed software projects.

about a month and a half ago

Feds Want Nuclear Waste Train, But Don't Know Where It Would Go

michael_cain Re:Where there is a wil.. (258 comments)

When you go back and read the history of how many potential sites were originally proposed by the DoE, and how those sites were eliminated from consideration until only Yucca Mountain was left, it turns out that both sides are anti-nuclear-waste. When the list had been reduced to three by years of deal-making in Congress, it was cut to one in a naked political maneuver involving a Texas conservative and Washington liberal in leadership positions. Following the closed-door committee meeting where the deed was done, reporters asked the chairman what had happened. The quote he gave them was, "We screwed Nevada." The change was attached to a budget reconciliation bill so that it could not be debated in either the House or the Senate.

A bill to restart the work at Yucca Mountain, or other western location, for a disposal site for eastern nuclear waste -- the vast majority of the commercial power reactors in the US are east of the Great Plains -- is one of the few things that would get the western states' Congressional delegations to vote unanimously, regardless of party affiliation. The last time it happened was for the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

about 2 months ago

Islamic State "Laptop of Doom" Hints At Plots Including Bubonic Plague

michael_cain Contagious? (369 comments)

Has anyone else said it? Bubonic plague is not particularly contagious, unlike pneumonic plague, and tetracycline stops Y. pestis cold. Plague is endemic in the wild rodent population in the western US. People get it from time to time, but it's pretty big news if a case is fatal.

about 2 months ago

Hemp Fibers Make Better Supercapacitors Than Graphene

michael_cain Legal... sort of (178 comments)

"The hemp we use is perfectly legal to grow."

Yeah, if you're properly affiliated with a university or state department of agriculture, are doing it for research purposes, and have agreed to all of the terms and conditions that the feds and your local state require. If you or I try to do it commercially, it's a federal felony.

about 2 months ago

Brookings Study Calls Solar, Wind Power the Most Expensive Fossil Alternatives

michael_cain Re:Define:expensive (409 comments)

Hydro is out because we're already tapped about 99% of the viable hydro in this country.

The states of the US Western Interconnect have developed about half of their potential traditional hydro. Big dams have their own environmental issues, of course, but there's also quite a bit of run-of-river potential in the Western. For the Texas and Eastern Interconnects, you're about right for traditional hydro. I keep waiting for people to figure out that the US doesn't have a unified grid, it has three almost entirely independent regional grids, and those regions have very different situations. Trying to have a one-size-fits-all national energy policy is going to result in all sorts of problems.

about 3 months ago

Brookings Study Calls Solar, Wind Power the Most Expensive Fossil Alternatives

michael_cain Re:And when you include end-of-life costs? (409 comments)

Could you clarify that "The folks in Nevada who wanted to store that stuff in Yucca Mountain..."? The federal Dept of Energy would like to operate the facility; a small number of locals who believe they would get a big economic boost from having all the facility's staff settle locally like it; polling Nevada-wide runs about 2:1 against operating the facility, and most of the neighboring states are very strongly opposed to transporting the spent fuel through them. Following the late-night closed-door Congressional committee meeting where the list of candidate sites was trimmed to just Yucca Mountain, a reporter asked the committee chairman what had happened at the meeting. "We screwed Nevada," was his answer.

about 3 months ago

Ask Slashdot: "Real" Computer Scientists vs. Modern Curriculum?

michael_cain Re:Why do CS grads become lowly programmers? (637 comments)

This illustrates nicely the underlying theme that so many of the commenters are bickering over: CS is used to mean so many things that it's unlikely anyone getting a four-year degree is going to get even a quick look at everything they might end up needing. Just programming spans the range from million-processor-core super computers to fitting five new features into an embedded 16-bit microcontroller with 8K of memory.

about 3 months ago

Amputee Is German Long Jump Champion

michael_cain What about Lasik? (175 comments)

Athletes regularly have laser surgery to improve their vision to 20/10 or better. Baseball hitters in particular claim that it gives them an advantage in terms of being able to see the spin on the ball sooner. Should that be allowed?

about 3 months ago

Radioactivity Cleanup At Hanford Nuclear Reservation, 25 Years On

michael_cain Re:Usual story, nothing to see here? (123 comments)

Nobody is interested in fixing it, not even the environmental guy.

However, there are millions of people downstream of Hanford who are seriously interested in having the site cleaned up, and politicians who are terrified that at some point the feds will punt and it will all fall to Washington and Oregon to deal with. The lack of trust is understandable; the DOE asserts that it has cleaned up the much smaller Rocky Flats site upwind from Denver, but refuses to allow Colorado to have any independent testing done.

about 5 months ago

Radioactivity Cleanup At Hanford Nuclear Reservation, 25 Years On

michael_cain Re:4th gen reactors consume old waste as fuel ... (123 comments)

...point out that 4th gen nuclear reactors will consume the waste of previous gen reactors as fuel...

Unfortunately, much of the waste at Hanford is not in a form that can be easily converted to usable fuel for anything. Think millions of gallons of seriously nasty chemical toxins, that just happen to also have a batch radioactive isotopes dissolved in it. The clean-up plan calls for a one-of-a-kind chemical plant to handle separation and break-down of the stuff. Much of the delay can be attributed to problems with the design of said plant; a lot of experts assert that it simply won't work.

about 5 months ago

Wyoming Is First State To Reject Science Standards Over Climate Change

michael_cain Re:*grabs popcorn* (661 comments)

Roughly two-thirds of the coal-fired electricity generated in Wyoming is consumed in other states. It's hard to blame just Wyoming when Oregon finds it cheaper to burn coal in Wyoming and transmit electricity than to ship Wyoming coal and burn it in Oregon.

about 5 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Professional Journaling/Notes Software?

michael_cain Re:paper...pencil (170 comments)

One of the other functions notebooks occasionally fill is as evidence in patent hearings. If that's a consideration, pencils are a no-no because things can be changed. Yeah, I'm at the "get off my lawn" age these days, but best practice for patent cases is still bound notebooks, numbered pages, ink. If you screwed something up three days ago, you don't erase and fix, you redraw on a new page with the current date and refer back as "corrects version of this on pg 23." For personal use, that's overkill.

I ended up with a piece of home-grown Perl/Tk code that lets me do notes from the keyboard, simple drawings with the mouse, paste in pictures and files, etc. Uses what appears to be the old xterm "fixed" font because at one point I planned to have a version that multiple people could view across the network and I wanted pixel-level sameness across locations. Multiple colors because as you say, sometimes that helps with clarity (and if I go back to add another observation on an existing page, I use a contrasting color for the text). Every line of text or drawn element gets timestamped and recorded -- that's for my own use, and is certainly not good enough to stand up in court. No limit to how far a page can grow down or to the right, which creates its own set of problems. I'm probably the only person in the world that would find it useful, but it does get some of the job done.

about 6 months ago

Ask Slashdot: How To Start With Linux In the Workplace?

michael_cain Re:Don't do it. Linux sucks as an XP workgroup (452 comments)

Yeah, the OP seems to imply that there are other people who have newer hardware running something other than XP -- he's talking about stragglers. One of the starting points is to go see whoever is responsible for budget planning. In my experience, they're more likely than anyone to be locked into the full-blown Windows version of Excel (full-blown meaning VBA, Solver, particular statistics packages, etc). Ask them how much of the budget data flow is broken if people don't have Excel compatibility at that level. And whether they're willing to rebuild the data flow around a different spreadsheet program (again, my experience is that the answer to that is not only "no," but "Hell, no!").

about 6 months ago

Why Darmok Is a Good Star Trek: TNG Episode

michael_cain Re:Bullshit Made Up Language (512 comments)

Or enough math to do the physics for warp drive. Ask anyone who's taken math-heavy graduate classes: notation, the language, matters a lot. The British fell behind Continental Europe in terms of advancing analysis, and stayed behind, until they finally tossed Newton's notation in favor of Leibniz.

about 7 months ago



Minimum Population to Support Today's Tech Level?

michael_cain michael_cain writes  |  more than 2 years ago

michael_cain writes "One of the plot elements implicit in much speculative fiction is the size of the population required to support a given level of tech. Generation ships, colonies on new planets, Earth after some sort of semi-collapse. In many cases, small groups maintain a level of tech beyond what we have today: assume self-repairing self-programming super-computer AIs and it doesn't take a whole lot of humans. For today's tech, it couldn't just be eggheads; there would need to be doctors and farmers and police officers and bricklayers and... you get the idea. How big/small a "closed" society would it take to support — and be supported by — today's tech?"

Good inexpensive LCD panel for embedded projects?

michael_cain michael_cain writes  |  more than 2 years ago

michael_cain writes "I've been asked (by family, friends) to consider several small embedded controller projects. A good starting point for all of them would be a backlit LCD graphics module with touch screen pre-mounted in a plastic enclosure with enough room behind the display for a custom circuit board. 320-by-240 pixels, 3.5 to 4.5 inch diagonal measure, monochrome is sufficient (but color is always cool), easily driven by an AVR or PIC type microcontroller. And priced at a reasonable point for a hobbyist! Anyone seen anything like this? Anyone else interested in such a widget?"

Tablet that can replace my paper notebook?

michael_cain michael_cain writes  |  more than 2 years ago

michael_cain (66650) writes "For the last 30 years, I've organized my life in a little black three-ring binder stuffed full of 8.5 x 5.5" paper: calendars, phone numbers, lists of this and that, things I'm supposed to do, etc. I'm thinking that I'd like to replace it with a tablet computer. Most of the stuff in there can no doubt be handled by one app or another. The thing I really don't want to give up is the ability to take fairly voluminous notes at various sorts of meetings, in my crabbed little handwriting and including some complicated math, graphs, sketches, and line-and-box system drawings. Is there anything out there that can handle it all? Anything on the horizon?"

Ten Science/Engineering Things to Know?

michael_cain michael_cain writes  |  about 4 years ago

michael_cain (66650) writes "A friend in her mid-50s, a public policy specialist, recently told me that she felt her education had been short-changed, and asked me to make a list of the ten science and/or engineering things that "every educated person" should understand. After a little more conversation, it was clear that "Where does electricity come from?" should probably be on her list, but "What is the math behind general relativity?" shouldn't. What would Slashdot readers put on such a list, and why? There was a sort of implied "and then write the book explaining them for me" in her request; any suggestions for a book that does the job already?"

Whole-House Fan Controller Project?

michael_cain michael_cain writes  |  more than 4 years ago

michael_cain (66650) writes "We have a whole-house fan that is our principle source of summertime cooling (high dry climate, cools off quickly when the sun goes down). On-off and fan speed are controlled by connecting the "hot" lead to one of two terminals on the electric motor. The current manual controls are a simple spring-driven timer in series with a SPDT switch that controls high and low speeds — only the "hot" lead goes to the switches. My wife would like an electronic control that can be given a sequence of times and speeds — high for two hours, low for three hours, high for one hour, etc. Any suggestions for commercial or DIY approaches to the problem? And safety issues to look out for in the case of DIY? I'm experienced with microcontroller programming and can fabricate simple circuit boards, but have never done anything that was hooked directly into 120 VAC."

Perl/Tk on Netbook?

michael_cain michael_cain writes  |  more than 5 years ago

michael_cain writes "I'm starting a couple of projects that will involve taking quite a lot of notes "in the field." That puts me in the market for a netbook that can run my note-taking software: a personal app written in Perl/Tk. The app currently runs — except for OS-specific things like images on the clipboard — on ActivePerl for Windows, on the standard Perl on OS X (once Tk was added), and on every flavor of Linux I've tried. I'm looking for small, light, inexpensive, passable keyboard, and long battery life. I'm OS agnostic. I don't need a lot of storage, so would prefer to go without a hard disk. Can anyone make recommendations for a netbook known to provide a good Perl/Tk platform?"



Riding the Bus

michael_cain michael_cain writes  |  more than 11 years ago

Like most colleges, the University of Colorado at Boulder is not automobile-friendly. That creates a parking problem for students like myself who don't live in Boulder and must commute. The answer in this case appears to be to take advantage of the fees I pay that entitle me to ride the buses almost anywhere they go in the Denver metro area. Parts of Boulder have excellent bus service. For most of the past two weeks, while math camp has been in session, I drove up to the south side of town, parked in a small Park-and-Ride lot, and took the circulator up to campus. There's a bus stop almost directly in front of the Economics building. Riding the bus is... different.

You have to realize that (1) I grew up in a small town and then the suburbs where there was no bus service, (2) when I went to college, I always lived within bicycling or walking distance of campus and downtown, and (3) I worked for 25 years in suburban New Jersey and Denver, at locations where the buses didn't go. Or at least, they didn't go there in a sane fashion. It was possible to get from my house to my first Denver work location by bus -- but it took three transfers and two-and-a-half hours if everything ran on time. And if you missed one of the buses in particular, you were stuck because it only ran once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

The answer to the question of how to get from point A to point B in Boulder by bus is not always obvious. Last week I had an appointment to donate blood (if you live in the Denver metro area, please call Bonfils and make an appointment; they seem to be rather short on supplies these days). I didn't have my full map, but knew which routes went in the general direction I wanted. Unfortunately, the quick and efficient way to make the trip is to start out in the opposite direction from campus. By the time I finish the Ph.D. program, I ought to have this down cold.

The other thing is the people that ride on the bus. Last week, I had brief conversations with a 60-year-old woman who has lived in Boulder all her life who lives in a converted garage and makes her living cleaning houses and babysitting, a mentally handicapped man who will be going to New Hampshire on his own next month and is incredibly excited by the prospect, and an out-of-work cowboy just in from El Paso looking for an old girlfriend and their two kids that he thinks live in Boulder. Automobiles, the suburbs, and working as a professional doing applied research for large corporations insulates you from a large part of the population.


Math Camp

michael_cain michael_cain writes  |  more than 11 years ago

The Economics Department at the University of Colorado requires all incoming graduate students to pass a two-week "math camp" before starting their first semester classes. As my friend who is a former faculty member explains it, graduate level economics is heavy on math and their biggest concern about people they admit is that they don't have the math ability required. Another of the professors that I talked to described the first year of graduate economics as the worst year of his life, because of the difficulty that he had with the math (apparently he found an area of specialization that did not require math on an ongoing basis). The department made copies of last year's math camp final available to incoming students. While I'm certainly rusty, and didn't have the economics context for a couple of the problems, none of it involved math that I hadn't seen before.

This year's math camp played to my strengths. By negotiation between the professors teaching the first semester classes, and the graduate student teaching the camp, the emphasis was on real analysis and reading and writing proofs. I loved real analysis when I took it as an undergraduate many years ago. And I loved optimization, which depends heavily on analysis, when I took that in graduate school. And I enjoy sitting down for an afternoon of developing a proof for a useful theorem. Given a continuous function defined on a compact domain, prove...

I'm afraid the instructor may have set me up for a certain amount of grief in the coming year. During the review session, he had put something up on the blackboard, then turned to the class, looked at me, and asked, "Mike, is that right?" I told him that I thought it was, and he added, "I like having Mike in the class, he keeps me honest. You should all get to know Mike." I'm already an odd person out since I'm twice as old as most of the new graduate students. I'm not sure that I want to be a resource that the people having trouble with math turn to automatically.

Anyway, I passed the math camp final exam, so that's one more hurdle out of the way. This is an off week for me. The new TAs have a certain amount of training that they have to complete this week, but I'm not teaching this term. The graduate student organization (union?) is running a variety of orientation sessions for new people, but those seem to be concerned with how to find a place to live in Boulder and what to do on Friday nights. My big chores this week are to straighten out health insurance premiums (Comcast neglected to pass their service agent all the information about the benefits and payment schemes those of us who retired under an AT&T plan are entitled to) and getting my son installed in a dormitory in Greeley for his sophomore year at the University of Northern Colorado.



michael_cain michael_cain writes  |  more than 11 years ago

I have committed myself to the graduate school path. I have sent CU a deposit check. I have received the catalog and registration schedules for the fall term. I have started brushing up on calculus, linear algebra, and statistics, and catching up on intermediate micro- and macroeconomics. Most importantly, perhaps, I am no longer looking for a regular job. If Murphy is on the ball, that probably means that a job will come looking for me before too long.

An interesting episode occurred this week while I was reading macroeconomics (well, I think it was interesting). The author talks briefly about the velocity of money, then states that velocity will be assumed to be constant. The way that he made that statement somehow set off all of the mental alarms for dealing with vendors that I have built up over the years. When a telecommunications vendor tells you in a certain way that something isn't important, it means that it is important and you had better probe more deeply. A little digging on the Internet came up with a variety of interesting discussions about the possible role of money velocity when you consider the economy as a system with feedback loops. Perhaps the author just wanted to simplify things, and assuming constant velocity does. Perhaps the author doesn't agree with the economists who think velocity is important. Maybe I'm just paranoid. I wonder if I'll find myself sitting in class and wondering why the professor doesn't want me to think about certain questions?

One of my friends, an anthropologist by training, has taught me that looking at the kinds of jokes told by or about a particular profession can sometimes provide some insight into things. What am I getting myself into? What kinds of jokes are there about economics and economists? Some of the jokes are actually based on economics:

How many economists does it take to change a lightbulb?

None. If it really needed changing, market forces would have already seen to it.

Some of them reflect the inexact nature of the "science" of economics:

Economics is the only subject where two people can win the Nobel Prize for giving contradictory answers to the same question.

There appear to be an unfortunate number of recycled lawyer jokes:

What do you call 100 dead economists?

A good start.

And there are jokes that feed my personal fears about what to do with the degree after I get it:

Did your advanced economics degree help you get a job?

No, but now I understand why I'm unemployed.

OTOH, when I was getting a master's degree in operations research, I didn't know what I was going to do with it, but that turned into a 25-year career. Things will work out.



michael_cain michael_cain writes  |  more than 11 years ago

This week I heard from the University of Colorado, and I've been accepted as a Ph.D. student by the Economics Dept. Technically, the registrar's office could still bounce me, but that seems unlikely at this point. Such an action would appear to be, among other things, an opportunity for an age discrimination lawsuit. More about age discrimination in a moment. The main point for this entry is that now I'll have to make a real decision about the graduate school thing.

I've spent a fair amount of time wondering about why the whole prospect makes me nervous. One of the big concerns is finances, of course. It's one thing to undertake four years of college when you're young and single; it's another to do it when you're older, married, with two children (one already in college, one with one year left in high school), a house, three cars, etc. My wife Mary is encouraging me, and has taken a part-time job to generate some cash flow in addition to the seperation money and savings, but this adventure is not fully funded.

Another fear is that this is an admission that I'm unemployable in my former field. I built a career by being a generalist; current job openings in cable and telecom in the Denver area appear to be for specialists to fit a particular need. I worked myself into a position of providing analysis to senior managers to support their decisions; it's not the type of position that you can step into from the outside, you spend years working your way into it from inside the company. Add to that the fear that I'll also be unemployable in my new field in a few years due to age.

Which brings me to the topic of age discrimination. It feels odd, to say the least, to find that you have become a member of a group which is discriminated against to an extent that makes "protection" necessary. I'm an old guy now -- over 45 is the usual dividing line. When an employer lays off a group of people, they have to worry about de facto age discrimination. When Comcast showed me the door, they were required to provide me with a complete listing of the age and title of all the other people getting laid off, in case I wanted to investigate age discrimination. In theory, if CU had turned me down, they ran some risk of me challenging that decision on the same basis. I'm not very comfortable with the thought that I could take that route to get what I want.

OTOH, I think that the country is in trouble in the not too distant future if age discrimination is a real thing. Within a few years it appears that the baby boom generation (I'm at the tail end of it) will begin to break the bank on Social Security. The politicians have promised it to us for years, but there's no way they're going to be able to actually deliver. The answer, various experts keep saying, is to keep the boomers in the work force and off of SS. I think that there will need to be very substantial changes in the way that careers can be structured in order to make that happen.

Looking ahead, I'll find myself in my mid-50s with a new degree. I will not be interested in moving across the country, or working 80-hour weeks, or moving up the management ladder. I won't need to command a massive salary, though, as I've already accumulated much of the wealth needed for old age -- a house and an adequate (I think) retirement account. Depending on whether Comcast honors the promises that were made by the company they bought, I may need health insurance benefits. IMO, the way that business in this country structures its career paths, it may be a rather difficult fit.


Taking the GRE

michael_cain michael_cain writes  |  more than 11 years ago

In order to be considered for the graduate program in economics at CU, it is necessary to have current GRE scores. This seems at least inconsistent; the department insists on having transcripts with my undergraduate grades from 27 years ago, but won't take my GRE scores from that same time. Well, the scores may not actually be available. I believe that ETS only keeps scores for 20 years. University grades are apparently kept forever.

Once I decided that I was going through with this and scheduled the exams, I bought a study guide (Cliffs TestPrep). That turned out to be a good thing because there have been some changes in the GRE in 27 years. Two were particularly important:

  • The tests are administered on a computer rather than paper (unless you really insist on the paper, or are outside North America). You have to answer questions in the order presented, you have to answer the current question before you can go on to the next one, and you can't go back and look at a question after you've gone on. I'm very glad I knew this in advance, since it shoots down my usual time-management techniques for allocating more time to the harder questions.
  • There's a writing section! That's new since I took the exams many years ago, and it was good to have a chance to think about how to approach the two different essays you need to write.

Cheating must have increased in the past quarter-century, since they seem to be much more paranoid about it now. They took my pen away from me and made me use their pencils for scratch work. They provided the scratch paper, which was collected and shredded at the end of the period. Each test station was monitored by video camera. Open windows are not allowed in the test room. That led to one of several fairly irritating items.

The air conditioner necessary for cooling the small test room was quite noisy. They provided earplugs (uncomfortable badly-fitting ones) to control the noise from the keyboards and the air conditioner. The computer monitors were such that there was a serious glare problem from the overhead lights. Overall, it was a considerably less pleasant process than what I remember.

The good news about testing on the computer is that you get some scores immediately. I scored 800 on the quantitative, which indicates that I was careful and paid attention -- there's nothing in there that's hard. I did find myself admiring the way they structured some of the questions, giving you lots of opportunities to answer the wrong question (eg, setting up a problem that requires division and asking for the remainder, but listing the correct quotient among the answers).

I scored 630 on the verbal sections. I seem to recall doing somewhat better than that the first time around. I suspect that raising two children and 25 years in industry where "write it simpler so the executives understand" is standard has done some damage to my working vocabulary and handling of subtle analogies.

The essays have to be scored by hand and I won't know how I did on those for a while. I think I did fine.


First entry

michael_cain michael_cain writes  |  more than 11 years ago

There's a quotation about large companies and the side effects of the various deals they make with one another to the effect of "when the elephants are dancing, the smart mice go down their holes and stay there." This past November, I was finally squashed in the elephant dance of the ongoing telecom-and-cable merger-and-acquisition frenzy, despite doing my best to keep my head down. Comcast bought AT&T Broadband and eliminated all of the Denver headquarters positions related to technology. I found myself unemployed at age 49 after 24+ years in the industry, in a terrible job market -- seriously depressing stuff.

As a side effect of some of the deals that had been done, though, I was qualified to retire, and the retirement benefits had been beefed up. I had some assurance that I would have medical and dental insurance for the next few years. The lump sum settlement from the pension fund(s), combined with 401(k) and IRA money, looked like it would be enough for a real retirement in a few more years. There was a substantial seperation cash payment. My wife and I had paid off the mortgage a few years ago. Certainly, things were not as bad as they are for many people who get laid off. After a few months of actively seeking a new job without success, I decided that perhaps this was not a disaster, but a disguised opportunity to do something different.

I am in the process of getting ready to go back to graduate school and pursue a Ph.D. in economics. There are only two places to do that in Colorado, CU and CSU. CSU is too far to commute, so I have applied to CU and am going through all of the paperwork things that have to be done: transcripts, letters of recommendation, GREs. Part of me finds the whole process terrifying. Will CU accept me? Will the money last? Will I get started and discover that I'm not nearly the caliber of student I once was? But part of me is really excited about the opportunity to be a student again, learning new things!

I've been a Slashdot reader for quite a long time (user #66650), and for the most part, have found the site to be an interesting and useful source of information and opinion. I've never used the journal portion of the system, but I've decided to put entries here from time to time just to see what happens. I expect them all to be related to the "adventure" of being a non-traditional graduate student. You know the definition of "adventure": someone else having a really tough time of things, well seperated from you in time or space. We'll see.

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