Monday, May 19, 2014

Book Reviews

Midway: The Battle That Made the Modern World

This is a decent summary of the Battle of Midway. There's not a whole lot of new information here for someone who has read up on World War II before. The book also comes off as being a dry read. Midway is a very suspenseful battle, but here we just get a simple recitation of the events. On the good side, it does end with a brief analysis of how the American victory possibly affected the shape of the post-war world.

Enduring What Cannot be Endured

This is one of those books that after you read you will feel you have no right to complain about your life ever again. What this woman went through is unbelievable, and it says a lot about her that she persevered the way she did.

I have read a lot of books on WW2, and this gives a perspective of the war I have not seen elsewhere. Most of what I have read gives just snippets of civilian life during the war, with most of them describing how life carried on despite the occupation. This is one of the few that describes how civilians found themselves on the run during the Axis occupation.

If there is one criticism to the book, it is that I wish it had been longer. The book rushes through and just gives us the highlights, when it would have been nice to know some more of the fine details.

Pearl Harbor: Hinge of War

 This book is a good overview of the attack on Pearl Harbor. I’ve read a lot of books on WW2, and this book had a good amount of information I hadn’t come across before.

One weakness to this book is it reads more like an outline than a book. The attack itself is covered by listing out each ship and explaining what happened on each one. This gives a lot of individual details on the attack which might be hard to find elsewhere, but it ends up being a dry read.

There are a few odd errors in it. As another reviewer noticed, the author states the Japanese lost three carriers at Midway when they really lost four. In another section of the book, he implies the attacks against Malaysia and the Philippines only occurred after Pearl Harbor succeeded. Both invasions had launched days before the attack and the Japanese even landed in Malaysia before the first bombs were dropped.

Grade Inflation

The sentiments expressed in this article on grad inflation is something I've seen during my time in academia.  Students will complain to anyone about their grades, and professors can often be forced to up their students' grades by administrators.  Also, student evaluations are a key part of a professor's performance reviews, and students will only give good reviews to professors that give high grades.

Despite all the pressure professors are under to inflate grades, it is still frustrating to here them complain about grade inflation as if they had absolutely nothing to do with it.  They all play along in order to keep their jobs, and then complain about the "everyone gets a trophy" mentality.  This wouldn't be as big a deal if so many of them weren't always patting themselves on the back for all the brave "stands" they're willing to take. Their unwillingness to stop grade inflation shows that when it comes to taking a stand that will truly jeopardize their jobs, they fold like a cheap tent.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

What do they know that we don't? Obamacare edition

Before Obamacare was passed, Nancy Pelosi famously said we had to pass the law to find out what was in it.  It appears my radiologist sister might be finding out what is in it at the moment.  Around October last year her practice's billing company stopped putting through a significant amount of their claims.  They didn't really notice this until February, when their accounts ran out of money and their paychecks bounced.  They fought with their billing company, but they still won't pay up, so they tried to go with a new company.  They had one picked out and sent over a contract, only to see that company decline them for no reason.  They are now in the process of going with their second choice, who hasn't turned them down yet.

When I first heard about this, I wondered if there might be regulations in Obamacare that were to blame, but couldn't rule out the possibility this was just one dipshit company.  Since I've found out a second company is unwilling to do business with them, it's clear something is scaring away both companies.  Radiologists make a good amount of money, and might just find themselves at the epicenter of the government cost cutters. These companies might feel there isn't much money to be made by having radiologists as clients if reimbursements rates are going to be cut.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Pathetic Job Market and Millenials

For several years now Millennials have been taking heat for being lazy and entitled.  I have always felt sorry for the younger generation facing this criticism, not because the criticisms have no merit, but because the older generations giving it don't have much of a leg to stand on themselves.  They were just like the Millennials when they were young, but they were fortunate enough to come of age in a better economy and establish themselves in a career before things really tanked.

If their is one attribute to the Millennials they deserve scorn for, it is their cluelessness about their current situation and their future.  The economy and job market have been bad for years, and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.  Yet, many of the Millenials think everything will completely turn around any day now.  I find myself frustrated by the graduate students around me.  Many of them entered graduate school 4 or 5 years ago to wait out the bad job market.  Now they are getting ready to graduate, looking for jobs, and finding their is still nothing out there. Yet, they still think just one more year, and they will have their pick of jobs to choose from.

Monday, May 5, 2014

University Email Spam

When I graduated with my B.S. years ago, I signed up for my university to forward my email from the account I had with them to a different account.  Now that account is filling up with spam that's coming through my old university email.  I remember a few years back receiving a letter that the email system was hacked, so that could be how the spammers got the address.  However, I'm wondering if the university is so cash strapped they sold addresses to spammers.

Cleveland Kidnapping Victim Speaks

Watched the Michelle Knight interview on Dateline last night.  Found it unbelievably annoying how Savannah Guthrie talked to her like she was a four year old.  I know Dr. Phil took a good amount of grief for his interview, but it was a real interview with raw answers from Michelle.  Watching the Dateline interview, I got the impression that her story has been greatly sanitized and Oprah-fied to make it more marketable for mass consumption.

A year ago, when the girls escaped, half of the story was the decrepit neighborhood where they were found and the kind of people who lived in said neighborhood.  It was a  reminder for others that places like that neighborhood exist.  However, now that a year has passed, we have safely forgotten all those unpleasantries. and Michelle's story has been turned into an uplifting tale of overcoming a generic tragedy.

Now we can get back to real tales of hardship, like the pain our elites suffer for not being worshipped enough by subjects they rule over.

Update: The Cleveland television stations just had a story on the girls' rescue.  None of the footage from the neighborhood recorded that night was played.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Scientific Regulation and the death of Sherri Shangji

Robert Conquest's first law of politics states everyone is conservative about what they know.  While there are several areas where this is BS, one area where it appears to often be true is in the area of regulation.  People who favor regulation of other industries might disfavor regulation of their industry since they understand the cost:benefit trade-off in their area of expertise.  This was one of the main thoughts I had reading this story on how regulation is stifling science.  Left-wing scientists who will favor regulation of other industries suddenly have problems when a governing or administrative agency wants to apply oversight to them.  This is something I have seen before.  I remember being enormously frustrated at a talk by a Nobel laureate, in which he stated the best way for science to get done was for university administrators to just stay out of the way of its scientists.  It's a sentiment I generally agree with, but it would be nice if people extended this courtesy to other industries.

The issue of science and regulation in relation to laboratory safety is something that came to the forefront with the death of Sherri Shangji, outlined here.  To sum it up, Sherri Shangji was a laboratory technician who burned to death from mistakes made while conducting an experiment.  Her principal investigator, Patrick Harran, is currently facing criminal charges for safety violations.  Some good has come from this tragedy.  Laboratory safety regulations in academia were laughably non-existent before.  Now, most academic institutions have realized that something has to be in place, and are making the proper changes.

As for the criminal charges Patrick Harran is facing, I can't help but think many people who would have cheered a CEO or small business owner being held responsible in a similar manner are suddenly upset when someone they can identify with is the one facing charges.