Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Post-Like Substances

The Sarcastic Weasel is currently writing his thesis and has absolutely zero time or energy for blog posts. I hate seeing a blog go completely inactive, so I have devised some polls to fill space and entertain the masses until such time as I can breath again.

Today's poll is a list of things that The Sarcastic Weasel thinks are horrifically overrated. Vote for the ones you agree with. Complain in the comments section too!

It's interactive!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Stanley at G20

It's really hard for me to praise Penguins fans, but this is really great:

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Peter Schiff Calls Out Cash-for-Clunkers

Peter Schiff has an article full of second-rate sarcasm, but good economic analysis regarding the recently concluded government boondoggle commonly known as the cash-for-clunkers program.


In it, he mentions the major flaws inherent in the program:
  • Capital: many of the cars destroyed under the program still functioned and their destruction represented an unnecessary loss of net capital.
  • Resources: replacement cars did have better fuel economy, but if the idea was a net reduction in resource consumption, it is incredibly difficult to overcome the consumption cost of building a new car (before it is necessary... OK, "necessary") through gains in fuel economy. Building a car requires an enormous investment of resources.
  • Financial: the program encourages Americans to assume more consumer debt. Americans, as a whole, do not need any additional consumer debt.
  • Moral hazard: People who have already made the government approved decision to buy vehicles that consume less fuel are now subsidizing those who previously haven't. If fuel efficiency is indeed a virtue, it is unjust to demand that those who choose to behave virtuously pay to incentivize those who would apparently, left to their own devices, never do so.
While I prefer my sarcasm to be less of the earnest, smarty-pants high school senior variety that he employs at the beginning of the article, I cannot fault his analysis. Build unnecessary stuff and save the environment! More debt for all! Punish the early adopters! This is, according to many analysts that I hear on the news, the result of a massively successful government program. Makes you afraid to analyze the unsuccessful ones.

Effin' Hillarious

The Sarcastic weasel is taking a teaching engineering class this coming semester. It is his final course he is required to take, which is good, because he is (in theory) graduating at the end of the semester too.

The textbook for the course is out of print, but available online.

One excerpt from the homework for final chapter that covers professional concerns (mainly promotion and tenure) that made me laugh:

3 Assume that you have just been appointed department chair. At your university the department chairs set raises within very broad guidelines. However, the total dollar pool for raises is a fixed sum which averages to 5 percent of the total faculty salaries. Determine a scenario for how you will reward faculty. Consider the following faculty members:

a R does research. He is nationally known and has a standing offer for a position from another university. His teaching ratings are absymal.
b T is a wonderful teacher, but he has not done research for ten years. He routinely alternates winning the best teacher award with professor S.
c E is a good teacher, does modest research, and serves the department whenever asked to do so.
d A is the best known professor in your department and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He is getting ready to retire in a year or two and is no longer doing research.
e S is the chairman of the undergraduate curriculum committee, does all the departmental advising of undergraduates, is adviser to the student professional society, and is a good teacher. The students talk to him all the time, and he single-handedly prevented a revolt of the seniors in Prof. R’s class. He is not doing research.
f D has been an associate professor for the last twenty years. He is the outstanding racquetball player on the faculty, but you cannot think of anything else outstanding about him. He is a member of the organizing committee for a proposed faculty union.
g N is a new assistant professor who has been with the department for one year. She seems to be off to a fast start in her career and already has one research grant.

Why, oh, why do I suspect that Professors {R,T,E,A,S,D,N} represent an unvarnished view of a department that one of the authors used to work in. Also, was "D" originally "O" with the first two professors listed in reverse order (until some killjoy editor made the authors change it)?

Wankat, P. C. and Oreovicz, F. S. (1993). Teaching Engineering. McGraw-Hill, New York, NY, USA.