Tatyana Deryugina (Twitter: @TDeryugina)

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Posted 07 Jul 10 by Tatyana in Musings on Economics

  1. Working is not always the most productive activity in the long run.
  2. Naps are almost always a good idea (see #1).
  3. Surfing the internet is almost never a good idea.
  4. No one will remember your grades after year 2, including you.
  5. Most of the work gets done last minute. Even after you’ve been repeatedly told that most of the work gets done last minute and have desperately tried to avoid this fate.
  6. You will learn a lot, whether you like it or not. And you will not really realize how much you’ve learned until you talk to people who aren’t yet in grad school.



Posted 04 Jun 10 by Tatyana in Simply Amusing

I was listening to "Believe” by Skillet, which I thought was a pretty awesome song until I started paying attention to the lyrics. Turns out the content is quite amusing.

It starts out like this:

"I’m still trying to figure out how
  to tell you I was wrong
  I can’t fill the emptiness inside
  since you’ve been gone”

Pretty good beginning. The singer made a mistake. Now he feels empty inside and wants to tell her he was wrong.

Next few lines:
  "So is it you or is it me?
  I know I said things that I didn’t mean
  But you should’ve known me by now
  You should’ve known me”

Translation: "is there any way I can blame it on you though? Maybe I don’t have to apologize after all. Maybe it’s all your fault.”

Chorus:

"If you believed
  When I said
  I’d be better off without you
  Then you never really knew me at all
  If you believed
  When I said
  That I wouldn’t be thinking about you
  You thought you knew the
  truth but you’re wrong”

Translation: it’s all your fault.



Posted 15 May 10 by Tatyana in Books

My most recent read is "What Do You Care What Other People Think?”, another collection of anecdotes by Richard Feynman (the the sequel to "Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”). I expected the first book to be a standard dry-ish biography, and it was anything but. The second book is just as good.

It’s not clear whether Feynman actually wrote all the stories; the first page of the book has the subtitle "as told to Ralph Leighton”. The book was first published soon after Feynman’s death.

After reading the first book, my impression was that Feynman was a brilliant scientist, but also arrogant and slightly out of touch with the world. This second collection paints him as much more humble (though still somewhat arrogant and definitely brilliant), intuitive, and caring.

The first half of the book is much more personal. It tells the story of Feynman’s first marriage and has a chapter filled with letters written by or about Feynman. The second half is all about the investigation of the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster. Feynman was on the commission that investigated the causes of the disaster. The writing paints a rich picture of how space shuttles work, NASA, Washington, and 1980′s technology. There are even diagrams of the shuttle parts. This is all interacted with Feynman’s  cleverness, mischievousness, and intolerance of BS, bureaucracy, and authority.

My absolutely favorite part is the epilogue, a speech called "The Value of Science”, given by Feynman in 1955 to the National Academy of Sciences. You can (and should) read it here.



Posted 06 May 10 by Tatyana in Books

I just finished "Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath. When this book was first recommended to me as something that could help me with presentations, I thought it would consist of fluff useful for salesmen and inspirational speakers. Fluff doesn’t work on academics. But just as sick people will go to homeopaths and witch doctors when they’re really desperate, sometimes circumstances call for extreme measures.

As you can (hopefully) guess, I wouldn’t be so open about my reservations if I didn’t like the book. It’s an excellent discussion of the basic principles that make people remember your ideas. After the first few chapters, I was convinced that their recommendations are applicable in many situations, including academic papers and seminars.

Along the way, you also learn that Sherlock Holmes never used the phrase, "Elementary, my Dear Watson”, that the phrase "Nice guys finish last” originated by someone being quoted out of context, that you can get Macy’s purchases gift wrapped at Nordstrom, and that there used to be as much fat in a bag of popcorn as in a table laden with junk food.

"Made to Stick” isn’t "entertainment” reading, but if you’re in a profession where you need to communicate ideas to other people in a way that makes them remember it, I would recommend it.



Posted 04 May 10 by Tatyana in News

I sold my BP stock yesterday. In case you’re not aware, BP was the company that was leasing the drilling site that exploded almost two weeks ago, killing 11 people, spilling 5,000 of barrels of oil a day (at least) and threatening the Gulf Coast ecosystems and fishing industry. Recently, BP has promised to pay for the cleanup (not like they really had a choice). Deciding whether or not to sell the stock was a tough call. If the investors already incorporated all the information into the price, it would be too late to avoid losses.

But for some reason I think the market is underestimating the effect this has on BP. The cleanup of the oil itself could cost more than a billion, especially if BP ends up paying for the National Guard that was dispatched (which it probably will). The commercial losses to the fishing industry will be big. If it has to pay for ecosystem damage as well, who knows how much that will cost. There will be pressure on Obama to make an example of BP. Its international reputation might suffer as well. Although according to this analysis, the drop in price was an overreaction. I kind of hope it wasn’t. Sorry, BP!



Posted 03 May 10 by Tatyana in Simply Amusing

The tap water in Boston is now safe to drink again. The biggest disappointment through this whole thing has been MIT’s reaction to the state of emergency. Cambridge has its own water supply, so those living there were not affected. However, plenty of students live in Somerville or Boston, including some sorority and fraternity members.

Boston University sent its students tons of emails and made automated phone calls. MIT tested its emergency alert system the week before (and it seemed to be working well). It sent no emails about the water until Monday (the whole thing started Saturday). Monday’s email started with "If you were affected by the boiled water order…” Thanks for letting us know, MIT!



Posted 30 Apr 10 by Tatyana in Simply Amusing

I’ve never been in a situation where supplies might become scarce…until today. The governor has declared a state of emergency because of a broken pipe that has caused much of the water in and around Boston to be undrinkable.

We went to CVS to stock up on drinking water, wondering how many other people would have the same idea (a lot). Now the fun math problem is, how much do you buy? The water is leaking at a rate of 8 million gallons per hour, affecting drinking water in 700,000 households. That’s about the only number available. How long will this last? Are the shipments of bottled water enough to keep up with demand?

I definitely experienced what I always thought was crazy – wanting to buy as much was as I could carry. I resisted it, but still bought more water than I would have thought rational.



Posted 29 Apr 10 by Tatyana in General

Apparently, Larry Summers has a protege, a 3L who wrote an email asserting the possibility that intellectual performance differences between races might be partly genetic. As much as the writer tried to be politically correct (if there is a politically correct way to say something like this), the email got passed around (you can read about it here).

What is it about nature arguments that makes them so appealing? (By the way, when I say "nature”, I mean the unexplained gap AFTER you’ve accounted for observable characteristics of individuals).



Posted 28 Apr 10 by Tatyana in News

Yesterday, it was announced that Peter Diamond, a professor of economics at MIT, will be one of the nominees for the Fed. I’m proud to say that I’ve taken his public finance and microeconomics classes (but I don’t think that means I’ll be getting nominated anytime soon).

A lesser known fact is that Peter Diamond also got to throw the first pitch at the Red Sox game on April 20th AND had a concert given in his honor later that week (read about that here).

Congrats, Peter!



Posted 27 Apr 10 by Tatyana in Simply Amusing

A few years ago, I heard someone say that weather forecasters always overstate the chances of rain. The reasoning is that people are REALLY unhappy if it rains when the forecast calls for sun and only slightly unhappy when it doesn’t rain although the forecast says otherwise.

I generally agree with that reasoning, but there is a limit. This week, the Boston forecasters overstepped it. They’ve forecasted rain starting on Sunday morning. There was no rain on Sunday or Monday. In fact, it was quite sunny. I brought my bike inside both nights, silently swearing as I maneuvered it up the stairs while trying to open the three sets of doors between the outdoors and my apartment. To be fair, it did rain Monday night, but by Tuesday morning it was clear again. Yet weather.com relentlessly kept forecasting rain.

Of course, by Tuesday afternoon, I didn’t really care what weather.com said. I decided that my method of looking at the sky in the distance was far more reliable. I jumped on my bike and went to play tennis (indoors, because we thought it was going to rain). As you can guess, when I came outside, the ground was wet and rain was coming down.

I hope these are not the same guys who are in charge of deciding whether or not there’s global warming.



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