Re: Starvation

1

Why was starving on your list in the first place?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 12:34 PM
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I should really just cross it off

No, just go ahead send me the money already.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 12:37 PM
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"World Domination"

Don't be too hasty, it takes time.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 12:38 PM
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1 - And to think I thought you would be the smartass to explain it.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 12:39 PM
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There are a couple of books I've been planning to translate when I get time, I figure in twenty years. I could digitize and do bits instead of nattering here, I guess.

Listmaking (in the sense of enumerated lists, where there is crossing off, or electronic equivalent) makes my flesh crawl. My wife, coincidentally, loves lists.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 12:46 PM
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I love lists. And spreadsheets.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 12:47 PM
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spreadsheets are the devils work. They suggest order but are in fact nothing more than notebook-y repositories of indifferent typing. They're OK for solo jotting, but data sharing is a nightmare, and no-one realizes this until the problems start showing up, usually during the first deadlined attempt at reconciliation or summing-up. I hate them, hate them, hate them.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 1:08 PM
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I love lists. And spreadsheets

Hey baby, what's your favorite Excel function?

Me, I'm partial to "vlookup". 'Cause it rhymes with "hookup", ya' know?


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 1:09 PM
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Gawd, do I have a ton of things like that. Though some of my list goes back before 2004. Wait, wait...is that self-loathing I feel coming up my throat?

It probably is smart to just throw some things off, but it's like you're abandoning the idea of being the sort of person who would have done that stuff when you first listed it. And half the time, I end up keeping stuff listed because I can't remember if it was important, somehow, and what if it's really important, even though it can't have been that important, and yada yada, it takes more energy to fret about it than to just leave it on the list. And, of course, now the list is more of a useless multi-part pile of triggering objects.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 1:25 PM
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I've had certain movies on my must-see list since 1967. Never give up, Becks! Quitters never win!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 1:26 PM
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COUNTIF


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 1:26 PM
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No reason.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 1:26 PM
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I'm not getting what could be on a list from 2004 that would still be relevant. Is this aspirational life goals like "Learn Swahili", or "Run a marathon", or is it stuff you really need to get done?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 1:27 PM
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I have a co-worker who gets a little twinkle in his eye when he's talking about pivot tables. It's rather adorable, actually.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 1:27 PM
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Amen, 7. Excel is the coward's SQL.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 1:28 PM
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I've recently been trying the David Allen "Getting Things Done" system. The major problem with it seems to be that you still have to do the things yourself.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 1:29 PM
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I believe the recent bankruptcy bill severely restricted the ability of individuals to walk away from accumulated to-do lists.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 1:29 PM
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16: I keep meaning to finish that book.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 1:32 PM
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You know, a few years ago I decided that anything that had been on a to-do list for long enough that I'd forgotten about it until I looked at the list could probably stand to be crossed off.

Started doing it--and it's hard!--and I really haven't noticed any significant fuckups yet....


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 1:36 PM
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I only just started to keep a to-do list. I keep forgetting about it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 1:36 PM
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I keep meaning to start a to-do list, but I have no way of reminding myself, absent the list itself.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 1:39 PM
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Excel is the coward's SQL

The problem with knowing SQL is that you get a reputation for being the guy who knows SQL, and pretty soon they're coming to you for all the jobs that require a guy who knows SQL, and there is a never-ending list of them, and none of them are particularly conducive to career advancement.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 1:40 PM
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There are technical deficiencies in spreadsheets which exacerbate the problem, but the core difficulties are that the exchange of spreadsheets fosters an illusion of close coordination, and that edited spreadsheets hide data provenance.

For me, both occupationally and personally, I remember goals and sometimes the proximal step to those goals. Since the proximal step can uncover new information (oh, nobody knows who's paying for that?), subsequent plans change. Writing lists ossifies plans too soon.

There have been a couple of well-publicized email bankruptcies-- I think the first was Knuth, and Lessig recently declared one.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 1:40 PM
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22: and they're all shitty, and they're all the same, yes. If, on the other hand, you talk about how much you love excel, there's an oustide chance that somebody will eventually give you the chance to embezzle a lot of money.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 1:42 PM
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18 is exactly my situation. Now that I don't have a job, it should be a cinch.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 1:46 PM
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If, on the other hand, you talk about how much you love excel, there's an oustide chance that somebody will eventually give you the chance to embezzle a lot of money.

Mostly they just ask if I can make charts for them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 1:46 PM
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26: charts are so much niftier than anything you'd ever be asked to do if you knew SQL, believe me.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 1:48 PM
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I know "commenters say stupid things" isn't the most novel topic, but I've been reading the NYTimes city room blog lately and my god the commenters say stupid things. See, e.g. this post.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 1:50 PM
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You know, a few years ago I decided that anything that had been on a to-do list for long enough that I'd forgotten about it until I looked at the list could probably stand to be crossed off.

My dad's advice for organizing a desk spilling over paperwork: "Sweep everything into the trash; if the task is really that important, someone will ask you to do it again."

This from a man who, at the time, was an adjunct professor of English while working, full-time, as a practicing psychiatrist.


Posted by: NickFranklin | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 1:53 PM
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For me, to-do lists have ended up being substitutes for doing things. I make a list so I don't forget what I was supposed to have been doing instead of what I actually did. Then when I decide actually to do something, I won't have forgotten anything because it's all written down.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 1:53 PM
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Completely OT: Is there a name for those fancy wooden cabinets that hold statues of Jesus and saints in Catholic churches?

(I went to a Catholic wedding this past weekend. It wasn't nearly as dull as I thought it would be. The sheer beauty of the church more than made up for the long service. If I weren't an atheist, I'd totally convert.)


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 1:56 PM
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charts are so much niftier than anything you'd ever be asked to do if you knew SQL, believe me.

Exactly the opposite, I say. With data, you can request a written description of what the starting data is and what the db should provide. With a chart, they want the labels in a different font. Oh, and here's this other column, sue will send it to you. Ask her for the blue one.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:09 PM
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"Sweep everything into the trash; if the task is really that important, someone will ask you to do it again."

This is much like my breakthrough discovery for managing my workload. At first I was constantly scrambling to keep up with all the various tasks I had to do. After a while I realized that if I just didn't do my work for long enough, eventually someone else would step in and do it for me. (Assuming it's something that genuinely has to get done. Otherwise, who cares?) Now I mostly just focus on doing those things I want to do (basically: commenting here), and let other people pick up the slack.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:12 PM
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Oh man, now I'm starting to feel bad -- I told an undergraduate engineering major that knowing SQL and a scripting language were probably useful skills for her to develop in a Swiss Army knife sort of way. Have I condemned her to a life of SQL-guy-dom? Or worse, w-lfs-nism?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:14 PM
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You'll go far with that attitude, Brock.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:14 PM
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34: No, you just have to warn her that she needs to be firm about refusing to do stuff that isn't her job. I don't actually spend much time doing charts for people, I'm a lawyer. But if something I'm working on needs a chart, we don't have to wait three days of frustrating editing with some nitwit who doesn't understand the case to get it looking right.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:16 PM
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Not to get personal, but what happened with Brock's health scare and lead paint alarm?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:17 PM
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Oh man, now I'm starting to feel bad -- I told an undergraduate engineering major that knowing SQL and a scripting language were probably useful skills for her to develop in a Swiss Army knife sort of way.

Don't fret. This was actually sound advice. The important colatteral advice is that you must never tell anyone that you know SQL or scripting languages. Then you can impress your boss with your incredible productivity without ever being called upon to "do an SQL job".

You may think this is tongue-in-cheek, but the very same advice gets circulated among new joiners in my company in a matter of hours.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:17 PM
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16: Bwaha. That is so true. And very disappointing.


Posted by: cerebrocrat | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:29 PM
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I'm not getting what could be on a list from 2004 that would still be relevant.

"Clean out fridge."


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:32 PM
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You'll go far with that attitude, Brock.

I'm pretty sure you're joking around, LB, but my overall point (and I think Brock's, too) is a serious one. People like Brock and my dad are clearly high-achievers, not leeches who thrive on the blood of the more diligent members of their respective communities. They've just learned--I think, anyway--that small tasks that seem like they might have large consequences often really don't. IME, such small tasks can build up to the point that they keep me from focusing on the really important stuff: it's always easier to complete small tasks like "grade papers" instead of large ones like "finish dissertation"; the problem is that those easy-to-complete small tasks always keep coming.


Posted by: NickFranklin | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:32 PM
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38 is very true. Properly hidden SQL skills make you look very industrious indeed. Improperly hidden SQL skills lead to people giving you large amounts of personal data that you really shouldn't have. Also, the chart-making that Excel skills will allow can, with SQL and a little scripting, be completely automated.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:33 PM
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Oh, completely. I'm more like that than not myself.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:34 PM
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I'm not getting what could be on a list from 2004 that would still be relevant.

"Move the bodies before the re-zoning gets approved"


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:35 PM
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I'm not getting what could be on a list from 2004 that would still be relevant.

Defragment hard drive


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:35 PM
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41: While I agree with your basic thrust, I must say that I have never graded papers when there was another even remotely more important task that I could be doing. In fact, I know of no academic who uses "grade papers" as a way of procrastinating on some other task.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:36 PM
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Is there a name for those fancy wooden cabinets that hold statues of Jesus and saints in Catholic churches?

I'm actually designing one new Catholic church and totally overhauling another*, and I still don't know. Grrr. It's not reliquary, for obvious reasons. If it came up, I swear we'd just call it a statue niche, but that's ultra-lame.

The sheer beauty of the church more than made up for the long service. If I weren't an atheist, I'd totally convert.

My dad is temperamentally a Unitarian (if anything), but always attended Catholic Mass for the pageantry. Until he stopped going entirely, that is. My sister still has a soft spot for it, while I'm pretty well over it. But of course I always like looking at the architecture.

* Doing this as a consultant to a former employer, that is; I'm not that successful, nor that willing to suck up to priests.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:36 PM
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Now I feel really bad, because the one thing I really really really need at the moment is someone with SQL experience. I'm developing a new database that was all my idea and well-recieved by upper management, but all I got was a programmer intern to work on it. Then she left for school with only two-thirds of the database done. Guh.

Now I'm kind of in a twilight zone of not really having any main tasks, but still needing to look sorta busy during the day while having something to show for my work at the end of the year. Our company is short of programmers, and even though my direct boss really likes this database idea, as does his extremely-high-up boss, the person in charge of distributing programmers doesn't feel like helping me out and can't be leaned on due to her connections with the COO.

Boo. So much for the efficiency of private industry.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:39 PM
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Since I already blathered all over another thread with my work blather, why not do it again here? Do any of you happen to have a copy of Saul Kripke's unpublished paper, "Presupposition and Anaphora: Remarks on the Formulation of the Projection Problem"?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:39 PM
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small tasks that seem like they might have large consequences often really don't

...but do pay a lot of lawyers' salaries. A whole lot of lawyering is a matter of making sure that everyone looks properly diligent.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:39 PM
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Ok, that ended up being more of a rant than I intended it to. Long story short, I wish more people knew SQL or were worse at hiding that ability.

Also, if any of you are in Chicago and want a side job programming this database for 10-20 hours a week, earning whatever 15k-20k a year breaks down to on a twice-monthly basis, lemme know. I think my boss more-or-less gave me hiring power for an intern.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:44 PM
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I must say that I have never graded papers when there was another even remotely more important task that I could be doing.

I've never graded papers in this situation, but many times, I've neither graded papers nor done something higher on my priority list. Anxiety about a grading deadline has kept me from focusing on more important work, but intense dislike of grading has also kept me from grading. When I remind myself that grading deadlines often just don't matter, I free up energy to be productive in other areas and the grading itself gets done, usually with much less groaning and rolling of the eyes.


Posted by: NickFranklin | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:47 PM
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I suspect that NickF's dad has a secretary whose job is to remind him of things.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:50 PM
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Grading deadlines do matter. When students get timely feedback, they can perform better in the course. Often failing to get timely feedback can turn a borderline student away from the course. The kids take on a lot of debt to be here, and we owe it to them to give them their money's worth.

Two things to note

1: I wound up with a teaching-only position.
2: I am avoiding grading right now.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:51 PM
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54: I've got a professor friend who swears by dictation software for paper comments. He talks into his microphone for a couple of minutes as he reads each paper, and bingo, a page of comments.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:52 PM
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Is there a name for those fancy wooden cabinets that hold statues of Jesus and saints in Catholic churches?

Hutch?

Also, if any of you are in Chicago and want a side job programming this database for 10-20 hours a week

Can you outsource it?


Posted by: neil | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:53 PM
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Hey baby, what's your favorite Excel function

Vlookup rocks, as do various of the Paste Special functions. And then there's pivot tables. Oh, and Autofilter -- so handy for data integrity. Text to Columns: lifesaver!

lw, spreadsheets certainly don't work for everything, and they don't take the place of a real relational database, but for many, many things, they'll kick a database's ass. (Especially, god forbid, if one doesn't know SQL and is forced to use the evil piece of crap that is Access.) And they have many non-database uses, too.

You want to see my house buying calculator? My comparison of car features? My timelines? The dozens of pieces of data analysis I do regularly?

I see that I'm coming off rather stridently here, which I don't mean to do. But quit hating on my beloved Excel! It's the only damn thing Microsoft ever did right.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:54 PM
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My dad is temperamentally a Unitarian (if anything), but always attended Catholic Mass for the pageantry.

Try Episcopalianism: all the ceremony, none of the guilt.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:56 PM
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It's the only damn thing Microsoft ever did right.

Truer words have never been used in an Unfogged comment.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:57 PM
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Lizard: That may be the best piece of advice I've gotten all week. Right now I do all my commenting using the MS Word commenting function.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 2:59 PM
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a side job programming this database for 10-20 hours a week, earning whatever 15k-20k

I hope that this does not sound harsh, but professionals earn more than this, and interns will write something that will be unfixable when it breaks in 2 or 6 months, depending on complexity of tasks and data, and likely impossible to usefully modify. This may work if the goal is a snapshot, or a way to answer a set of questions for a single deadline, but if the goal is a db that will work into the foreseeable future, you may wish to reconsider goal/resource ratio. If resources are fixed, then expectation management.

I think I said that spreadsheets are OK as personal notebooks-- not my taste, but OK. The apparently innocuous sharing of these notebooks to organize somthing is where the trouble comes in. Since they work solo for nonprogrammers, it means a change in work style, which people hate.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 3:03 PM
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it's always easier to complete small tasks like "grade papers" and vacuum living room and do laundry and organize my filing cabinet and repot my plants instead of large ones like "finish dissertation"


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 3:04 PM
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professionals earn more than this, and interns will write something that will be unfixable when it breaks in 2 or 6 months

... but us overseas contractors will do great work for a pittance!


Posted by: neil | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 3:08 PM
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Right now, I swear, I'm procrastinating by building an AppleWorks database of all the books in my home library. Pile on, if you must; I just couldn't possibly leave this thread without saying so.


Posted by: NickFranklin | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 3:09 PM
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60: I hope it's helpful.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 3:09 PM
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If anybody likes to play along with Jeopardy at home, I have an Excel sheet that fills in the dollar values. Email me if you want it.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 3:10 PM
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will do great work for a pittance!

Absolutely, as long as the work to be done can be clearly and completely described up front in email.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 3:10 PM
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64: you should try librarything


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 3:14 PM
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Try Episcopalianism: all the ceremony, none of the guilt.

My sister-in-law was raised Italian Catholic and used to say, "Episcopalians are just like us, except they're sinners." (She was kidding. Now she's Jewish anyway: sinner Christ killer.)


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 3:15 PM
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I hope that this does not sound harsh, but professionals earn more than this, and interns will write something that will be unfixable when it breaks in 2 or 6 months, depending on complexity of tasks and data, and likely impossible to usefully modify.

It's not harsh at all, it's completely true, but I have no power over the position's pay. That's why I'd only require 10-12 hours a week instead of the supposed 20 hour a week requirement, because at least I would have some power over the hours required and I know no decent programmer could be hired for these wages.

Hell, that's the main problem with a good deal of the company, they just won't pay for the workers they claim to want, even though our profits keep growing and this business provides free cash flow up the wazoo...

Bleh. It's just so annoying that a potential multi-million dollar a year project is being held up by a single damn $60k a year programmer.

Can you outsource it?

I wish, but it needs to be someone in-house. Otherwise I've got quite a few friends from Nerd High who could help out.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 3:16 PM
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68: Great idea! But alas, only published works seem to be on hand. I was fantasizing that someone here might have had a samizdat copy in a course packet or something.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 3:19 PM
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GOOD LORD, I'M DIM.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 3:19 PM
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I'm procrastinating by building an AppleWorks database of all the books in my home library

I helped an ex make a library database in Excel. He was so excited that he could see at a glance how many books he had in 20th Century European History. (A lot for a non-academic. I shelved them all when he was laid up after knee surgery.)


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 3:20 PM
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rfts: Until you posted 72, I thought 71 was a clever joke.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 3:26 PM
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Shucks. If only!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 3:29 PM
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I'm telling you, though, Library Thing is great for cataloging your home books. You can look up each book by ISBN, tag it, write notes or reviews. Great fun. Never finished my own catalog though.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 3:48 PM
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It's always interesting to see how dramatically different our understandings of "fun" can be.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 4:10 PM
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To make up for my dopery, I would like to report that the NYRB edition of T. H. White's excellent The Goshawk is now in print! I got my copy today. Highly recommended.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 6:42 PM
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To make up for my popery, I would like to report that the Romish whore is tottering on her pedestal.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 6:43 PM
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To make up for my mopery, I would like to note that The Lids album from 2004 is totally good and not emo at all.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 7:43 PM
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You know, all this talk of grading has me thinking maybe I *don't* miss teaching that much.

I used to use "I need to grade!" as a reason to procrastinate/excuse myself from things like childcare and cooking. Notice that's *need* to grade--not actual grading.

The best way I ever found to make myself get the grading done was to pour a glass of wine and either do it alone at the kitchen table in a clean room, or else take it into the bathroom on a tray. Bubble bath + wine makes grading seem relatively relaxing--at least it gives you an excuse to lounge in the tub.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 7:57 PM
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78: I saw a goshawk on a fencepost the other week. They're an impressive bird. They stare straight at you and dare you to come at them.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 8:06 PM
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81: One of my favorite essays-coming-back during undergrad was a wine-splattered ten-pager, full of interesting comments and responses and an "A".

I did sort of wonder if the grade was necessitated by the wine-splattering. ("Shit. Well now I have to give him a good grade.")


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 8:28 PM
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83: No, but maybe by the wine. At least, when I spill things on papers, I just write a note saying "sorry, I spilled coffee" (or whatever it is). But the grades always stay the same C- as before.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 8:47 PM
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Which explains why she's called that.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 9:21 PM
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48 70

If you have nothing else to do why not do the work yourself? How hard is it to learn SQL?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 9:22 PM
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Not that hard.

SQL is useful, yes, okay. JUST DON'T LET ON THAT YOU KNOW IT!

Excel is a blast. Blah blah, there's 8 million other ways to do everything it does, but it's quick and easy and implemented perfectly reasonably, and generally does for you the things that you might expect it to do for you. That is no small thing for a piece of software.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-07 9:35 PM
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64: Forget Library Thing -- Delicious Library does the same thing, creates an actual database on your local machine, and if you have an iSight, it will scan the barcodes for you, saving you all kinds of annoying typing. I use it mainly to export lists of books I'm getting rid of on BookMooch, because right now I have too many books that are too disorganized. (Fixing that has been on my list since 2003.)


Posted by: Magpie | Link to this comment | 10- 3-07 8:46 AM
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If you have nothing else to do why not do the work yourself? How hard is it to learn SQL?

Well, I am working on some new proprietary statistics... But honestly, the more important limitation is that I work for a fairly large company, with all the attendent bureaucracy that comes with it. Even if I learned SQL, I would not be classified as a programmer, so I could not get the necessary development software, nor would I be given the necessary access to the central data servers.

This is actually a fight that I've had before, since I wrote scripts that would parse data from the central databases and run some basic quality assurance measures on it, but was repeatedly refused permission to actually pull the data (even just read-only access, for cryin out loud!) since the programmer head doesn't want to set a precedent.

And the funny thing is, they always say they want to foster an "entrepeneurial spirit" in the employees.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-07 9:54 AM
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they always say they want to foster an "entrepeneurial spirit" in the employees

And you believed them?


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10- 3-07 10:05 AM
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but was repeatedly refused permission to actually pull the data

OK, demand a daily tab-delimited report which is a bcp of the relevant table or view, and run your script against that. Takes 5 minutes to set up. If you lack clout, maybe ask your boss to ask. Explain what broke for justification, that is, use the previous problem as a point of entry.

Learning a little SQL is easy, but many servers (the cheaper ones, of course) are very limited; the tricky parts are learning to think about data provenance, and how to code around server ineptitude, so that your sql really corresponds to what you want, both now and next year. Also, some logically simple operations on large datasets take planning to implement efficiently.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10- 3-07 10:21 AM
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88: You can get a barcode scanner to go with Librarything, I think.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 10- 3-07 11:48 AM
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Related: what's a good bit of computerese to teach yourself if you want to have access to well-paying short-term gigs?

I have rudimentary HTML and overweening confidence. In an office situation, I'm The Guy Who Know How To Work The Computer, but nowhere near the tech guy.

Using BASIC, I made pretty fancy credits to go with a movie my band made in high school. The name of the band slowly disappeared, leaving only the letters T, H, E, E, N and D. They then arranged themselves to spell "THE NED."

I realize that doesn't go on the resume, though.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 10- 3-07 11:58 AM
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92: True, but if he's on a Mac, then he may already have a barcode scanner built in. $40 for Delicious Library is cheaper than pretty much every barcode scanner on the market.


Posted by: Magpie | Link to this comment | 10- 3-07 1:24 PM
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I like Delicious Library, but the barcode software for the camera is terrible. I found that it took me a whole lot longer to get the lighting, angle, and whatnot correct for the barcode than it did to just key in the 10 or 13 digit ISBN. And the ISBN method had the virtue of being predictable, instead of getting three good scans and then spending five minutes futzing with the next one because the dust jacket is some funny color.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 10- 3-07 8:35 PM
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