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Friday, April 23, 2004

 

Low-rider pants: Ban 'em!

Now this is what I call legislation: a proposed ban on low-slung pants. It's about time someone did something about this epidemic. I am sick and tired of feeling old and unfashionable just because I wear jeans that fit and have a belt (just to be extra sure). Aside from that, the benefits of this ban could be many-fold. If the ban were implemented at a national level, children would respect their parents once again, SAT scores would skyrocket, the unemployment rate would decline sharply, and there would be a positive shock to real income, ushering in a generation of unparalleled growth and prosperity in the global economy. Why is this issue being avoided so wantonly by our presidential candidates?

As one can plainly see, finals are next week and just about anything beats studying for them right now.

posted by Ryan : 8:19 AM | permalink

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

 

spyware

Here's a PC World article about the spyware epidemic. These parasitic programs are found in seemingly useful utilities and not just filesharing programs. I've long felt that spyware is the new virus. It's not just a privacy issue either (despite the misnomer "spy"-ware), because often these hidden programs drain bandwidth, send out spam from your computer, and slow your computer to a grinding halt. The article neglects to recommend any anti-spyware programs but either AdAware or Spybot do the trick.

posted by Ryan : 10:18 AM | permalink

Thursday, April 15, 2004

 

Gmail screenshots, Spymac

A Google employee put up some screen shots of Gmail. Also, while people wait for Gmail to be released, there's a free email service called Spymac touting 1GB email storage, 100MB web storage, etc (not sure I'd trust the service though, I get script errors when trying to access the inbox). Still, I'm sure there will be a number of imitators offering 1GB (or more) of email storage, knowing full well that people won't use 10% of that. Very similar marketing gimmick to cell phone companies offering "3000 weekend minutes per month" or AOL offering "1000 free hours."

posted by Ryan : 5:18 PM | permalink

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

 

Google as an operating system

Here's an interesting perspective that position's Google as an operating system. Interesting, and a good story to play up Google's valuation, but I don't really buy it.

Yes Google has the potential to resemble an operating system very loosely: the user has an account, lots of storage, and useful applications that are semi-customized. But how is this so different from what Yahoo and countless others have offered over the years? (besides offering a gigabyte of storage via Gmail). How many of you use Yahoo! Briefcase? On a daily basis? Not many. How many of you need 100MB of Email storage (much less 1GB)? Not many. The storage Google's offering is a great marketing gimmick, but it's not revolutionary. The idea that Google would threaten the Microsoft OS stems from the age-old argument that Larry Ellison and other Microsoft haters have been trying to make for years: that we all will be using thin clients (or browsers, or dumb terminals, or whatever you want to call them) with all of our software on some centralized server (i.e. Google in this case). I just don't see it. But I'll tell you what, when we all have fiber optic cable in our homes with 10 gigabit connections I will revisit this pipe dream and consider it more seriously. In the meantime, I will go back to twiddling my thumbs while my web pages load (and that's with DSL).

posted by Ryan : 2:41 PM | permalink

Monday, April 12, 2004

 

Wharton and rankings

Last week our Dean announced that Wharton wouldn't give Business Week access to student and alumni email addresses. I covered this issue in my first news story for the Journal. I'm more accustomed to writing Top 10 lists than actual news articles, so this was definitely a learning experience. One interesting part of it was talking to the editor of Business Week's B-schools section. She really called in to question the motive of Wharton's and Harvard's decision, considering the fact that HBS and Wharton both suffered in the 2002 student rankings (more so than their peers). Business Week's official response is here.

Although I have mixed feelings about the decision, I'm not sure how big an impact this will have in the long term (regardless of your feelings about MBA rankings). Business Week will still find a way to survey HBS and Wharton students, rankings will still come out, and people will debate their validity endlessly.

I think a better ranking system would be to assign tiers to schools rather than individual rankings. For example, in my search for schools, I basically looked at "Top 10" schools (of which there are about 15, in reality) and narrowed by location, area of strength, and how it would help my personal career path. I think rankings (namely US News and Business Week) were very important in helping validate Wharton as a good choice, but whether Wharton was #1 or #5 didn't materially affect my decision. That being said, I think the qualitative aspects student satisfaction surveys are an immensely important data point for prospective students.

posted by Ryan : 7:17 AM | permalink

Friday, April 09, 2004

 

Pat’s vs. Geno’s: The Debate Settled

Pat's and Gino's, two of Philly's most famous cheesesteak haunts, are conveniently located across the street from each other on 9th Avenue in South Philly. And they both claim to have the best cheesesteaks in all of Philadelphia. A large group of carniverous First and Second Year Wharton students made our trek there last Saturday night to see what all the fuss was about.

Pat's line was nearly twice as long as Geno's, so naturally we chose Pat's. They must be in line for a reason, no? After a mere thirty minutes of class-auction-related banter, we were finally up for order. Ordering correctly at these types of places is crucial. There are rules. You must specify exactly what you want. Do not specify what you don't want. One Second Year in our group said "no onions and no peppers," and at that moment, the jukebox stopped, nearby cars screeched to a halt, and onlookers gazed as one of the chefs went after our friend with a dull meat cleaver. Luckily the cashier restrained him, but not without proclaiming the dreaded phrase: "No steak for you."

The reality is, the cashiers at Pat's can smell fear, even through the thick, wafting fumes emanating from the steaming mounds of beef and onions. So whatever you do, know what you want, have your money in hand (ideally with exact change), and by all means do not multiply words.

The cheesteak purists will tell you that you need to get cheez whiz. I debated about this for days, conflicted by my love for provolone and my detest for substances that resemble nuclear waste. But I overcame these obstacles and ordered the whiz, and I'm glad I did. As gross as it might sound, that melted faux cheese complements those cheap cuts of beef perfectly. Don't knock it till you try it. Overall, I was very happy with my Pat's steak and felt it was well worth the trip and wait in line.

Immediately following the Pat's experience, I cast my gaze towards Geno's. Casting your gaze towards Geno's is not difficult given its excessive neon signage, which was presumably edified with the specific intention to draw customers away from Pat's (they're a stone's throws away from each other). And the thought occurred to me, I had journeyed all of this way, why not do an "A vs. B" comparison? Have Philadelphians not senselessly debated the merits of these two establishments for ages without resolution? And was I so unmanly that I would throw in the towel after one measily cheesteak? I threw my fears of coronary bypass to the side and proceeded across the street. This wasn't about me anymore, it wasn't about hunger. It was about finding the truth.

Just ten minutes later, this time in front of Genos, I uttered the triumphant words "Cheese whiz steak wit onions." What I found at Geno's were longer strips of beef, a slightly smaller bun, and onions that were more raw than grilled. The steak had a decisive, savory roast beef flavor but the texture of the meat was not as soft and sumptuous as that of Pat's. And raw onions don't hold a candle to grilled ones.

Sorry Genos, Pat's really is the King of Steaks.


posted by Ryan : 3:25 PM | permalink

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

 

XML feed

FYI, for those of you who use newsreaders, I activated the XML feed. It's here.

posted by Ryan : 2:31 PM | permalink

Monday, April 05, 2004

 

Despair.com and self-help

I've always felt that Despair Inc.'s collection of "demotivational products" are brilliant, bordering on genius. You need not have a dark sense of humor to appreciate their satire. The March 2004 edition of the Harvard Business Review contains an interview with Despair's founder, Lawrence Kersten, a former professor or organizational communication. A couple of highlights with respect to his views on traditional self-help psychology and positive thinking:
In general, I like the idea of studying the positive aspects of life. I have long been interested in the concept of optimal experience, what psychologist Mihali Csikszentmihalyi calls "flow"... Still, I have reservations.... some applications of positive psychology have degenerated into a simplistic agenda to learn-to think positive thoughts. Then there's the conceptual gap between the hedonistic concepts that drive much of the thinking behind positive psychology and the pursuit of wisdom and maturity, which require self-denial... Finally, the agenda of positive psychology involves a healthy dose of hubris. Proponents believe they can replace religion and philosophy with an articulation of "the good life" rooted in experimental psychology. But their thinking is too ambiguous, the nature of human striving and aspiration is too various, and social scientific methods are inadequate to meaningfully handle concepts like wisdom and meaning. I think the movement should set its sights on less ambitious goals.

I've read a lot of self-help books (for obvious reasons), and I tend to agree with Kersten that self-denial is a much more direct route to happiness than mere positive thinking. I also highly recommend Csikszentmihalyi's book "Flow" which really changed some of my Western (for lack of a better term) perspectives on finding satisfaction in everyday life.

posted by Ryan : 8:09 PM | permalink
 

Predicting the payroll number

Just a few days ago, a positive surprise occurred in the March payroll number, with 308,000 new jobs added. Prior to the news release, as an assignment for Dr. Gomes' Macroeconomics class, several teams developed a regression models to attempt to predict the number. We were the "bold" ones with a guess of 162,000 jobs. The mean prediction in the class was around 100,000, which is in-line with the estimates published in the Wall Street Journal. Although our guess was closer than that of the "experts," our model was not the best (or most predictive, statistically speaking). But without getting into the details of our model, this exercise was a good learning experience on several fronts:


posted by Ryan : 6:45 PM | permalink

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