Politics as usual.

February 15, 2009

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Senator Roland Burris blatantly lied to the people of Illinois in the interest of getting himself a senate seat.

In January, the Illinois House Impeachment Committee asked Sen. Burris specifically if he had spoken with Rod Blagojevich or any of his aides or contacts about the empty senate seat. Burris denied such contact, and he was given the senate seat.

On February 4th, Burris gave a sworn affadavit that he had spoken with the former Governor’s brother, Robert Blagojevich, about the empty seat.

Burris now says that he never had the chance to disclose this contact to the House Impeachment Committee.

As usual, a politician has lied to the American public and will face no real consequences for his actions.

Stimulate this…

February 2, 2009

I haven’t updated this site for a long, long time, but this topic has inspired me (that and I now have more time).

Here are a few outrageous things that are in Obama-lama-ding-dong’s “stimulus package”:

1. $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts – I was a music major, and I assure you that this will NOT stimulate our economy.

2. $400 million for Global Warming Research – Even the scientific community has decided this is a bunch of crap. The globe has COOLED for the past 11 years.

3. $1 BILLION for Amtrak – Amtrak is federally operated and has not turned a profit in nearly 40 years. Money well spent.

4. FULL TIME EMPLOYED AMERICANS – PLEASE READ THIS CAREFULLY – $252 billion for food stamps, medicare, unemployment payments, and tax rebates FOR PEOPLE WHO DO NOT PAY TAXES… WTF!?!?! Will this stimulate economic growth?!?!?!

We are afraid of Heart Disease, but what about the “Unknown Killer”?

May 1, 2008

*Note: This post is at least partially intended to infuriate doctors and those studying medicine… hehehehe : ).

Recently, my uncle was hospitalized after having a shortness of breath… they soon found that he was very, very sick. Upon seeing what goes on at hospitals, it got me to thinking. This post is the result of my (very brief and not at all scientific) studies…

We are all very aware that heart disease is published as the leading cause of death in the U.S. (652,486 deaths in 2004 according to the CDC). Cancer comes in at a close second at 553,888 deaths. Strokes are third at 150,074. This is all very eye-opening, maybe even scary (those numbers are pretty intimidating), but what kills even more people (as best anyone can tell) than heart disease? The answer is a little-known condition called Iatrogenesis… what is Iatrogenesis, you ask? It is officially defined as “a state of ill health as a result of medical treatment”. Almost unbelievably, doctors are one of the leading causes of death in the modern U.S.!!!

Estimates range from 220,000 a year to 750,000 deaths a year, depending on your source. This fact (that various sources do not agree on the exact number) is disturbing in itself. Is it really possible that 500,000 people are dieing per year as a result of seeing a medical professional?

A quick search on the internet will yield a plethora of well documented cases regarding Iatrogenesis.
I can almost hear doctors rushing to there own defense now… “Medicine is a field in which an inherent amount of danger is present as a result of the limited amount of knowledge that we have of the human body/immune system!”.

At first, I could sympathize… after all, they are doing their best, right?

This is where the story gets interesting… again, estimates vary, but a common number among a variety of sources seems to indicate that almost 100,000 people a year are hospitalized unnecessarily. On top of that, 12,000 people a year die as a result of unnecessary surgery. UNNECESSARY SURGERY?! What the heck is that? Is it possible that doctors recommend surgery as a result of economic motivations?

I used to support the concept of tort reform… I used to think that doctors had it rough due to their own insurance costs… but 500,000 people die a year after seeking their services?

This may sound harsh, but I cannot fathom any other profession in which 500,000 “errors” that result in deaths a year would be acceptable…

Before we scream for tort reform in the area of medical practice liability, maybe it is time for the doctors of the U.S. to get it together!

Speaking of research…

May 1, 2008

Speaking of research (see the last post), I have noticed lately that although I should not feel too busy or overburdened, I am finding that I have little time to do the things I feel that I need to do, so…

I am going to start tracking (writing down) everything that I do during the day and how much time it takes. Then I am going to take a look at what I am spending my time doing, prioritize, and adjust accordingly. There are already a few things that are obvious:

Work takes up the most time of each 24 hour period, with sleep coming in a close second. Beyond that, I have no idea where most of my time goes, but there are a few changes that I am going to make right now… For example, I am sure that I spend quite a bit of time camping in front of the TV, and I know that this is fairly low on my list of how I would like to spend my time… so for the next month, I am going to TRY not to watch TV… at all. I am not the kind of person that goes after these things in a “sort-of-kind-of” way (anyone who has witnessed my successful effort to give up soft drinks can attest), so I assume that I will: Not change my TV habits at all, OR: I am done with it completely. We’ll see how this goes.

What did you say you are researching?

May 1, 2008

***EDIT: After posting about silly research this morning, Mr. Dan Meyer, one of the authors of the “Sword Swallowing” study was kind enough to comment on the post (see “comments”). After reading over his response, I have to agree that any research that helps save lives is well worthwhile, and for that I sincerely commend him (although I must admit, any study titled “Sword Swallowing and its Side Effects” is good for a laugh). No offense intended, Mr. Meyer, and keep up the good work! … BTW, isn’t a sure-fire way to prevent sword swallowing related injuries simply to not swallow swords?

While browsing the news headlines today I came across a pretty funny one…

The headline read: “Alcohol linked to aggression”.

Really? What a surprise…

After reading the article (found here: http://health.msn.com/health-topics/addiction/articlepage.aspx?cp-documentid=100202148&GT1=31033) I discovered that someone ( a group of people, actually) took a sample of 12 people, got them hammered, and scanned their brains to find the effects of alcohol. The research was time consuming and relatively expensive. What was the result, you ask?

The result showed exactly what anyone who has ever been drunk could tell you from experience… alcohol makes you think about sex and violence.

Why do I care, you ask?

As a grad student, I am always interested by the research that ends up getting published… It seems that some “academicians” like to research things just for the sake of researching things.

As a matter of fact, there is now an award dedicated to stupid research. Known as the Ig Nobel Prize, the award is given to academicians engaged in the most idiotic research in their area for the year. I recommend you visit http://www.improbable.com and take a look at some of the winners.

Last year, the winners included such time wasting research efforts as “Sword Swallowing and its Side Effects” in the area of Medicine, “Wrinkling of an Elastic Sheet Under Tension” in Physics (this was a study on why sheets wrinkle), and my personal favorite, “Effects of Backward Speech and Speaker Variability in Language Discrimination by Rats” in the area of Linguistics, which showed that rats cannot tell the difference between someone speaking Japanese backwards and Dutch backwards.

So the next time you start to think that a friend in grad school or the PhD down the street might be really intelligent, ask them what they are researching… the results may surprise you.

Who wubba huh wubba woah…

April 17, 2008

We are all continuously bombarded by so much bad news that it is almost enough to make you decide to call it quits for a few weeks and just lock yourself in a dark room and not come out until you develop a few new personalities to hang out with… so today we take a look at some of the good (or at least funny) news circulating in the press.

First up:

Jonathan Lee Riches (a pretty sweet name, if I may say so) is an inmate locked up until 2012 in a federal prison. What does one do with all of that time? The answer seems almost obvious… sue Michael Vick. What is Mr. Riches beef with Michael Vick, you ask? He claims that Vick stole two pit bulls from his home in Florida, used them in dog fighting, then put them for sale on e-bay. After selling them, what was Vick going to do with his earnings? Riches claims he was going to use the proceeds to buy missiles from the Iranian government (it seems that there is a lot that we don’t know about Michael Vick). In the complaint, Riches says “Michael Vick has to stop physically hurting my feelings and dashing my hopes.” He is suing for $63 billion, “backed by silver and gold”. Right on, Jonathan Lee.

Next up:

Let me start off by saying that they don’t build ’em quite like they used to. Daniel Kuch really must have hated his job. Instead of quiting, calling in sick, or doing the good old no-call-no-show, Daniel had his buddy shoot him in the shoulder so that he could get a few days off. Apparently he was trying to avoid a drug test. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather go to work than get shot any day.

These may sound strange, but the web is full of stories of mis-guided people doing awesome stuff. You know you’ve finally made it when you turn up in Yahoo!’s odd news section.

Lost in Translation

April 9, 2008

I try not to post about school too much… but I can’t help myself today.

Yesterday I had an exam in Multi-National Corporate Finance… yep, a whole class dedicated to making money by doing silly, ethically debatable little tricks internationally with money (in Finance, we call this “arbitrage”).

In any case, it was probably the most difficult exam I have taken in my whole life. It was mostly concerned with hedging against transaction, translation, and economic risk using forward contracts, options, money market hedges, interest rate swaps, and currency swaps. A brief example:

You are a U.S. based company who sold a piece of equipment to a company based in the U.K. for 100,000 pounds. The company in the U.K. has to pay in 365 days… you face the risk of the British currency (the pound) depreciating before they pay (if the exchange rate is $2/pound, they currently owe you $200,000… if the pound depreciates to $1.75/pound, then they are only paying you $175,000, a loss of $25,000). Since this is a possibility, you can mitigate the risk by entering a forward contract that locks you in to a price of $2/pound, or you can use the money market to hedge the risk. For example, if the interest rate in the U.S. is 8%, and the interest rate in the UK is 5%, you could borrow 95,238 British pounds from a U.K. bank (with interest, in one year you will owe the UK bank 100,000 pounds), exchange it into dollars at $2/pound to get $190,476, and then invest the $190,476 in the US at the US interest rate of 8% to get $205,714. When the UK company pays you, you would use the 100,000 pounds to repay the British bank. As you can see, this is not difficult, but can be confusing.

As with the first exam of the semester, I feel that I did very well on the quantitative problems, but I have no idea how I did on the multiple choice stuff.

Anyway, to get back to the point of the post, as I was sitting there trying to keep everything straight and figure out some difficult quantitative problems, the fire alarm went off… we went outside and waited until they gave the “all clear”. After about 5 more minutes, the alarm went off again… we went back outside for about 5 minutes, then they gave the all clear. Upon getting started again, the alarm went off… again. This time we relocated to another building and took the exam in the noisy college cafeteria (it was dinner time).

So there you have it… I took the most difficult exam of my life in a college cafeteria… proof that when it rains, it pours.