the continuing demise of customer service

The pharmacy giant (and purveyor of fine energy drinks including Blue Monster), CVS, has one of those oh-so-convenient member card programs in which you can get some miniscule (but significant) amount of money back. Having been in possession of one of these cards for a couple of years, I have yet to use it because I constantly forget to bring it into the store with me. In fact, I often wonder how many billions of work-hours have been wasted with the following exchange (and equivalents):

Clerk: Do you have a CVS extra-care card? Continue reading “the continuing demise of customer service” is scared of us


I recently attended a research talk by one of our good friends from I was introducing the speaker and therefore got close enough to the powerpoint to read the fine print on the opening slide. (Apologies for the two-piece picture, but the cell phone camera has its limitations). In case you can’t make it out, it says “Warning: You may only blog about this talk if you are going to say nice things about it.”* Since I wasn’t aware of any bloggers in the audience other than me and one other scatterbrain, I had to conclude that the speaker was referring to us and was afraid of what we might say about his talk on scatterplot!


* To fulfill the implicitly agreed-upon contract implied by this warning, I will say that the talk was excellent, even outstanding, as we have come to expect from those org heads.

electoral survivor

I have a theory. That theory is that reality television has benefited the democratic process. I’m sure that seems like a stretch to you, but I have been curiously watching the really unprecedented hoopla surrounding the primaries this (and last) year and it strikes me that the press is treating the races very much like a Survivor-style elimination contest Continue reading “electoral survivor”

race, narcotics, and kidney stones

As someone who suffers from kidney stones, I’m always on the lookout for news about them and how I might better avoid another round of the excruciating pain that come with them. I recently noted several reports recounting a recent study in JAMA on how kidney stone pain is treated in emergency rooms by RACE.

You probably won’t be entirely surprised to find out that Continue reading “race, narcotics, and kidney stones”

and while we’re at it, i can do without mr. webster too

Another of my pet peeves is starting an academic paper by referring to the dictionary definition of something. “According to Webster’s Dictionary, X is defined as…” How many times have you read that sentence in your life? I suppose it is a lousy, boring, but minimally acceptable way for an undergraduate to start a First Year Composition paper (even then, could you possible get any less original?), but I think by the time grad school rolls around, it’s time to give old Noah the “it’s not you, it’s me” speech. Continue reading “and while we’re at it, i can do without mr. webster too”

love letters from the editor

I’m sitting here celebrating St. Valentine’s Day by writing decision letters (mainly rejection) for my journal.  I have an editor’s tip to share with all those willing to hear it:

Do not cite Wikipedia in your literature review or to provide historical background.  Even once.  And certainly not multiple times.  It provides a heuristic device that virtually screams “REJECT ME.”  For some reason, reviewers really seem to key in on these kinds of things….

goodbye sociology

I had a very interesting experience yesterday. Very interesting. Perhaps life-changing. You see a couple of weeks ago, I received a call from someone in the computer science department informing me they had a visitor coming to campus from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory who wanted to meet with me. “Ah,” thought I, “finally my 250 line C++ Kaplan-Meier Product-Limit Estimator program is going to get the recognition it deserves.”* Actually, I had no idea what this guy could want, but I said yes to the appointment, out of both courtesy and curiosity. Continue reading “goodbye sociology”

fun times: mission statements

I’ve blogged before about the pointless activity of writing mission statements. Today I received a link to this dandy little article which reveals some of the incredibly profound discussions surrounding the writing and adoption of mission statements.

“How can you possibly say our mission is ‘research and teaching?’ It’s so obvious that it’s ‘teaching and research!'”

“The heck you say! It’s not ‘research’ anyhow! That leaves out performance and visual arts!”

And it continues. Worth a read.

pointless activity #725: nsf 2-page cvs

Three colleagues and I are putting the final touches on an NSF grant, due Tuesday, and one of today’s tasks is to produce the 2-page version of our CVs.  The format of the two pager is laid out in the Grant Proposal Guide, and is longer in words than most of these “biographical sketches” will be.   It starts with a long list of things to NOT list and then goes on to enumerate what MUST be included.  The NOT list are things that are “irrelevant to the merits of the proposal.”  Of course, if you ask me, the very first thing on the MUST list is irrelevant as well: Continue reading “pointless activity #725: nsf 2-page cvs”

a reason to not not like hillary

I’ve been in a snit all day about Hillary and gender, and so I decided to let some of it out.  I’m really getting fed up with how the press is talking about Hillary using gender stereotypes and out-and-out sexism against her. 

I’ve asked a lot of people who oppose Hillary the reasons why, and the vast majority of the time I haven’t received anything resembling a straight answer.  Prying a little bit beneath the surface usually produced some kind of thinly-veiled version of she’s a “ball-busting bitch.”  Continue reading “a reason to not not like hillary”

obama reality check

There’s a lot of excitement in the air about Obama’s win in the Iowa Caucuses. When the fever pitch comes, so does hyperbole. One thing I’ve been hearing a lot is something to the effect that “the results show that a state that is 94% white can vote for Obama.” I beg to differ.

Let’s begin by recalling that the “state” of Iowa does not vote in these primaries. Continue reading “obama reality check”

nutter about nuther

I can’t stand how the phrase “a whole nother” has slipped into our language (447,000 hits on Google, the variant in the title produces a mere 25,500 hits).  I’m hearing it everywhere these days–even news anchors are saying it now!  The worst part, it’s so ubiquitous it is coming out of MY mouth.  This madness must stop.

It reminds me of a whole nother error, “irregardless,” which, of course, is not a word, and even if it were, it would mean the opposite of what its typical user means to say.  For years, I made fun of people who used this word.  As a result, I was actually saying the “word” quite a bit, in a mocking tone.  And, it started sticking in my brain as a result.  One day in graduate school while chatting with one of my professors, it actually slipped out of my mouth.  Before I could get to the convoluted explanation of how this could possibly have happened, said professor corrected me “I think you mean either irrespective or regardless.”  I was mortified.

Similarly, I once had the word “epiphone” on my mind, which is a brand of guitar (the cheaper line of the Gibson company).  I always thought that was a dumb name for a guitar brand, and had been facetiously pronouncing it “epiphany” since high school.  Then one day I was writing an email to my advisor in grad school, announcing I had been working on some kind of difficult problem and had had an “epiphone!”*

I’m not sure if there is a lesson in this, other than to avoid repeating other peoples’ mistakes, even in gest, because its going to take up residents in you’re mind and come back to bite you in the but.


*I’m extremely curious if this person remembers the exchange.  The answer is probably no, which will verify my expectation that the things that seem so big in our own minds are routinely ignored by others.