Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Go Engineers!

A little nerd pride from RPI! Not only are engineers naturally extremely sexy, but they are also good at crosswords (and Sudoku).

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Scientific cheapness?

I did a few calculations, using the Google Maps Pedometer, on how far I drive to work on surface streets versus taking the highway. The highway comes out to 24.5 miles versus 17.6 miles taking surface streets. That equals a 6.9 mile difference each way, or 13.8 mi/day round trip. Multiply that by five trips a week for 48 weeks (I'm subtracting a month for vacation, holidays, telecommute days, and days where I'm working out of town) and that results in a mileage difference of 3312 miles over the course of a year. Before working the numbers, I had thought that I was getting better gas mileage by taking the highway, since my 2005 Camry gets 24 mpg city and 34 highway, which is a fairly significant difference. However, working the numbers, 24.5 miles at 34 mpg means I use 0.72 gallons of gas one way on the highway. Going surface streets, 17.6 miles at 24 mpg yields a usage of 0.73 gallons one way. That's already a wash, even before you factor in that I do have to take some surface streets to get to and from the highway, so I don't really get 34 mpg for that whole trip, anyway. My other perceived benefit of taking the highway is that it does save me a small amount of time, of course since I can drive faster (further decreasing gas mileage? The optimal mpg estimates are usually based on driving 60 mph) and there are no traffic lights. However, it's a fairly small time savings on a normal day, and given that I still occasionally run into traffic jams that completely stop me, even with me working later hours specifically to avoid rush hour driving, the average time saved overall is likely inconsequential. So, I think my first two considerations are turning out to be non-factors. Gas used is about equal and time spent commuting is about equal. Next we'll look at wear and tear on the car. I estimate that taking all surface streets, I would average around 13,500 miles driven a year, versus 16,812 always taking the highway route. Over five years, that would leave my odometer at roughly 67, 500 having driven surface streets that whole time, and at 84,060 if I always took the highway. A) Even though people play up "highway miles" in their ads, I think a prospective buyer of a five year old car would much rather see the smaller number than the higher number with the highway miles statement added, so resale value is definitely better with me taking the surface streets. B) As we do a lot of routine maintenance based on X miles driven, we're going to be spending more money over the course of time on maintenance with me driving the highway than with me driving surface streets.
Given those last two factors, I think the cheapness favors me taking the surface streets all the time. I currently drive it probably 60% highway and 40% surface, so we'll see if I notice that the odometer isn't turning as fast as I switch to all surface street driving.

Friday, March 10, 2006

One more crack at Carly

A couple of articles on a shareholder lawsuit claiming HP violated one of its own payment rules in the large amount of severance compensation it gave Carly to leave her CEO post.

New York Times article.
Motley Fool article on Yahoo!.

Here are a few of my thoughts on the matter
1) Carly did nothing to deserve ANY money at all upon being fired.
2) HP got a bargain no matter what it paid her to leave. Look at how we're doing since Hurd replaced her.
3) Even though the amount HP paid Carly (the Yahoo! article estimates it at $42 million) is completely obscene, nothing prevents a company from doing something monetarily stupid.
4) The legal basis of the case hinges on what base salary + bonuses Carly was paid before her exit, as the limit of severance compensation in HP pay regulations is 2.99 that value. This rule had to be adopted in response to the ridiculous amount of money HP paid Michael Cappelas when he left to head up MCI after a short stint as President following the Compaq merger.
5) Any publicity on this at all is good publicity, as hopefully the spotlight will cause companies to rethink how they do executive severance. It just boggles the mind that people are repeatedly getting rewarded for failure. When HP had to axe thousands of people thanks to Carly's genius, the engineers got three months pay and benefits (I'm pretty sure that's right). Why should the CEO get anything different? Wasn't she an at-will employee of the company as well?
6) HP is just the tip of the iceberg. This is a rampant problem in the business world. People are already riled up about how much CEO's get paid even for doing a good job, but it is just ridiculous the amount they get paid to leave after they fail.
7) IN NO WAY AM I ASKING FOR GOVERNMENT REGULATION OF THIS AREA. Companies should be free to make stupid decisions. I'm simply asking for companies to rethink their idiocy. The government being involved in this would only be a recipe for disaster.

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I voted

I voted yesterday for the first time in Texas. I skipped several local races that I didn't have enough information about to make informed decisions, but I definitely wanted to weigh in on a few races I have followed and some propositions. In particular, since Texas has no state income tax, much of the tax base comes from property taxes. They reappraise properties each year, with the max allowable increase per year being ten percent. While I certainly appreciate not having an income tax, I also wonder if the high real estate taxes are part of what keeps Texas house values so low. Thus, one of the props was to lower that maximum allowable yearly appraisal increase from 10% to 5% and I am heartily in favor. The weirdest thing about the whole experience is that Texas apparently has far looser regulations on how close to polling stations campaigning can take place than either of the two states where I have previously voted. This turned the parking lot of the school where I voted into something of a zoo, with supporters of various candidates there waving signs and whatnot, trying to get a last word in before you vote. I could hardly even get through to a parking space, with all the people milling about. In fact, one of the candidates for local judge was actually there in person. I secretly hoped his opponent would show and they and their supporters would be forced into a West Side Story dance fight. No such luck, though. I then went inside, where I had to wait quite some time to get my ballot (actually a smart card to plug into a machine) from the two Republican tables of helpers, while nobody at all approached the Democrat table and the workers there looked colossally bored. I also noted that there were roughly ten Republican voting stations to one dedicated to Democrats. Why they needed to be segregated that way I don't know; I think we could share. Anyway, we are definitely living in a Republican mecca.

GMAT prep

Before I made my trip to California last month, I dashed into Barnes and Noble to buy a GMAT prep book so that I could study on the plane. I glanced through a few, and liked the format of Barron's How to Prepare for the GMAT. All I can say now is woe to those who skip checking Amazon reviews in their haste. As you can see if you follow the link, this book gets destroyed in said reviews, and rightly so. It is, without question, the most mistaken-riddled book of its kind, ever. This book is trash. It is fit only for burning. Every single editor should be imprisoned and/or shot for foisting this book on the public. I have no idea how a literate person could produce such unbridled crap. If I have more time I may return to this topic with pictures, so that you can fully share in its glorious awfulness, but for now you'll have to make do with my descriptions. I spent an inordinate amount of time on one reading comprehension question that asked you which option was not discussed in the passage. I find two answers that are not discussed (mesothelioma and lead, I think. I don't have the book with me right now. The passage discusses diseases that can come from environmental hazards in the workplace.) I repeatedly scour the passage to try to see where one of the two is discussed, and NEITHER is anywhere in there. I start to get frustrated, because I generally excel at reading comprehension, thanks to that fact that I read virtually continuously from age six to fourteen, and still read a ton. I move on, and eventually check their answer key. THE ANSWER KEY HAS DIFFERENT ANSWERS FOR THE QUESTION! It's changed one of the non-appearing answers to "nuclear power", which was discussed at some length in the passage, thus making the correct choice obvious. WHAT?????? HOW COULD A MISTAKE LIKE THAT GET THROUGH EDITING? Oh, and the horrors continue. In another reading comprehension passage, a question refers to the "final paragraph" in the passage and asks about the idea contained therein. Eventually after more fruitless searching I realize that the final paragraph has not been printed, as the topic appears nowhere in the passage, and certainly not in what I have as the final paragraph. As one Amazon reviewer put it, this book does more harm than good. Given time, I plan on requesting both a refund and an apology from Barron.

After wasting thirty bucks on that piece of trash, I then went to Half Price Books and bought a slightly used copy of Kaplan's GMAT 800 for ten dollars. So far this book has been great, and I would highly recommend it. This will certainly have a little better ROI.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

How fat?

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size:
1 Burrito
Amount Per Serving
Calories 1029 Calories from Fat 391
% DV*
Total Fat 44g
Saturated Fat 12g
Cholesterol 126mg
Sodium 3281mg
Total Carbohydrate 107g
Dietary Fiber 4g
Sugars 7g
Protein 51g
Vitamin A 108%
Vitamin C 120%
Calcium 47%
Iron 28%

My burrito has 44g of fat, and
1029 calories. How about yours?

I guess somehow I had deluded myself into thinking that the way I made my Chipotle burrito (13" flour tortilla, rice and fajita veggies, chicken, tomato salsa, cheese, lettuce) was a little healthier than this. Granted, you could push up toward 2000 calories with other options, but I should switch to the burrito bowl now and save around 300 calories from the tortilla.

**I'll work on the crappy formatting above when I get some time