A computer follow up

    After doing a little digging I’ve come up with these two situations for around $1600.

    A) 1.25 GHz G4 Mac mini with super drive, 512mb
memory,40 GB hard drive, bluetooth, airport extreme, bluetooth keyboard
and mouse (not apple), USB 2.0 and firewire hub, and Dell’s best 20″
LCD monitor.

    B)1.8 GHz G5 17″ iMac with 1 GB RAM, 80GB hard drive, bluetooth keyboard and mouse, and super drive.

    Ok, the iMac is obviously a better computer. Not
only does it have a faster processor, but it has a much better bus
speed and more RAM. There’s no question that it will out perform the G4
chip in the mini, plus there wouldn’t be a hub involved (for now) so my
desktop would be quite a bit neater. That sounds like a minor thing,
but I’m really looking forward to having more desk real estate to work
with… I’m not exactly a power user, I mostly surf, play music, email,
word process, etc usually at the same time… On the other hand, the
monitor with the mini will be a lot nicer. Not only is it bigger, but
it has much better specs and it is separate from the CPU. I’d like to
be able to use this as my TV as well as my computer so the bigger,
nicer screen is a big plus. The other thing is that I could eventually
upgrade the the CPU and use the same monitor. SIGH, I’m going to go
crazy with this, all opinions are welcome, I’m looking for some
guidance…

Isaac

Decisions decisions…

    I am going to try to be good this year, no stupid
purchases. In order to help me with that, I’m going to establish a
direct deposit account for saving money… I am also going to try some
additional, more speculative investments. Nothing too wild, but some
things with some decent upsides… The one thing I am definately going
to buy this year is a new computer. What I want is a dual processor 2.5
Ghz G5 power mac with an Apple 23″ cinema display. That isn’t going to
happen, it’s just too much money. My initial thought is to get one of
the new mini macs loaded up with memory, a bigger hard drive, blue
tooth and airport. Here’s the thing, once I buy a decent monitor (like
one of Dell’s better models, rumored to have the same screen as the
Apple), I’m within shouting distance of the iMac with a built in
monitor…
    The imac has a better processor, larger memory
capacity (with user replaceable parts) and potentially fewer cables.
The nice thing about the mini is that I’d probably get a better
monitor, and of course it’s separate from the CPU, so I could keep it
for a while. It’s a tough decision but I’ve got a while to make up my
mind. I’m not going to buy a new mac until the newest version of OS X
(Tiger) comes out. Hopefully by that time I will be able to compare
performances between the two models. Heck, there may even be upgrades
to the machines by that time…

Isaac

My own little bombshell…

    Well, after nearly three months of activly thinking
about it, I’ve decided that I don’t want to become an economist. I’ve
had nagging doubts ever since I started, and they intensified over the
course of the second half of the semester. I still think that economics
is interesting, but I really can’t imagine myself doing economics for a
living. Can you imagine waking up and knowing that you were supposed to
figure out the effect on the supply curve of a 5 dollar tariff on
running shoes given infinite time horizons? Or how about wrestling with
sampling errors while trying to do a study on tax credits for minority
hiring?
    Pure research might be a bit more interesting, but
I’m not convinced that a degree from George Mason will get me into the
teaching situation I’d need to do real research. There are too many
people waving around degrees from U. of Chicago, Harvard, MIT,
Stanford, etc… Mason is really gearing us up for research, but I see
little evidence of grads getting into decent teaching positions, the
best one I saw was at SUNY Cortland…
    The final straw for me was when I asked myself why I
had picked economics. It’s true that I think it’s interesting, but I
think lots of things are interesting. No, the thing that got me was the
prospect of making a decent amount of money with a PhD in economics.
There’s nothing wrong with making lots of money, but I have a problem
with living in a place I don’t particularly like (the DC area) and
doing something for a living that I find tedious or pedantic just to
have a decent paycheck. In other words, by using standard off the cuff
economics I realized that it wasn’t worth it.
    I’m not all that broken up about it really. It’s
true that I’ve spent the last three years getting ready for this and
have spent a decent amount of my own money but that is the classic
example of a “sunk cost”, it has no bearing on what I think is best for
me now… Besides, I have learned quite a bit in the meantime even if I
haven’t mastered anything. It’s always a good thing to gain more
knowledge and anyway, how else was I supposed to know if I wanted to do
this or not?
    So what now? Grad school is still definately in my
plans, just in something else… As I mentioned earlier, I don’t like
this place much and it is (in my experience) true that you end up
getting a job very close to where you went to school. That means that
I’m going to go somewhere else. My current thinking is that this place
has been a little too easy for me. My job (that I hate) is willing to
give me practically any hours I want and Rick (God bless him) has not
only put up with me but has never charged me any rent. Those are two
pretty strong lures to stay in this area, but I’ve had enough of
northern VA/DC metro area. There are many places I’ve felt comfortable
in, and this isn’t one of them. All of this may make me sound like a
spoiled, selfish brat, but I look at it this way… If there is one
advantage of being 33 (soon to be 34) and being single and having no
morgage or kids, it’s having some freedom. Since the
girlfriend/house/kids thing shows no sign of improving, I’m going to
take advantage of my situation and live somewhere and study something
that I enjoy:-)
    Speaking of studying, what is it that I’m going to
do? I’ll probably end up in something really, really impractical like
religious or cultural studies. Right now I have my eye on an eastern
religions program at Naropa University in Boulder. I get a thrill when
I think about studying texts in Sanskrit or Tibetan. yeah I know, I’m a
big geek…:-) My goal is to be out of here by January of next year,
maybe sooner than that depending on how things go… Boy, I can’t wait
for the next phone call from my mother, it should be lots of fun…

Isaac

She went back…

    SIGH! I miss her already… My cousin Beth is back
up in Conn. getting ready to go back to school. We had a great time
doing touristy things and eating well, but it was over far too soon. We
gave her quite a workout, she went kyaking and took a yoga class with
Butler and then we did about 5 miles worth of walking the other day.
She’s fully recovered, but I’m still a little sore, guess I should get
back to exercising a little more often. Beth is the youngest of all my
siblings, cousins, and step siblings and I’m the oldest out of that
whole group. We’re quite a pair! Technically speaking I guess we’re of
the same generation, but just barely. She made it quite clear that
since she came down and visited me, I have to go up and visit her…
She won’t have to twist my arm, I’d love to go up to my old stomping
grounds in Ithaca (She’s at Cornell). Anyway, I’m back to my usual
stuff but I’m off till tuesday, yipee!!!

Isaac

At last!

    I have managed to get through work and I now have
the next week off!!! My cousin Beth is coming down tomorrow and we’re
going to go visit her Uncle (my father). I plan on spending the rest of
the time here in DC with her doing tourist stuff. It’ll be fun, I
haven’t done anything like that in years. Can you believe I haven’t
even seen the WWII memorial? I’ll also be doing a little driving
downtown tomorrow, we’ll be leaving for Matthews right from Union
Station. As some of you know, I’m a bit weird about driving downtown,
and I’ve never gone from anywhere in DC to 395, so we’ll see how it
goes…
    Hmm, what else… Oh yeah, I got s set of “slosher
trays” for developing sheet film. They should help me develop my
negatives with a minimun of scratching. I’m really going to try to
shoot with my 5×7 over this vacation. I’ll even try to print some too,
but I can’t promise anything.
    I had a dream the other night that I can’t shake. In
it, I was talking to a friend of mine about religious matters, she
stopped me and asked why I was in economics and not in religious
studies. I couldn’t come up with an answer then and I still can’t. My
religious books outnumber my economics books by at least 3 to 1 and I
tend to read that stuff whenever I can. Economics is very interesting,
and it certainly can be more lucrative, but I worry that I’m studying
it for the wrong reasons, or at least have the wrong direction. The
last semester in econ was informative, I’ll have to see if it keeps
going in the same direction or not…
    Beth and I are going to try to go to an Aikido dojo
at least once while she’s down. I got her interested in it at school
and I’ve been having the itch to go back. Besides, it’s good to be
humbled once in a while, having a 95 pound woman throw me around is
bound to be good for me:-) I’ll post as things occur to me, but I may
be otherwise occupied for most of the next week. Hope everyone has a
good one!

Isaac

Yes, more photo and audio stuff…

    But this was cheap!! I picked up an old (and I do
mean old) Leitz enlarger today for 20 bucks. I already have an omega
D2, but I have no place to put that monster. This new (to me) enlarger
is considerably smaller and will allow me to do my contact prints and
even print from 35mm. I do need to make or find a negative carrier for
it, but I’ll deal with that later, I’ll just do contacts for right now.
    I got my airport express hooked up today. I got it
for Christmas but have just now gotten the cables needed. “Fight the
Power” by P.E. just came on. This is why I love this music technology
so much, what radio station would play P.E. right after Carla Thomas?
There isn’t one and that’s why I have stopped listening to FM. Of
course I have to live with the flat, lifeless sound of compressed
music. Until storage is cheap enough to allow me to store all of my
music uncompressed I’ll just have to deal with the tradeoff of
convience for sound quality. Funny how whenever there is a new playback
technology, that is the usual tradeoff. My turntable still kills my
(rather expensive) cd system, and red book format slays MP3 and AAC
hands down. Still, I can’t hear any difference on the boombox while I’m
exercising, and I’m sure that an iPod will be fine in the car.
    My friend Galen let me listen to some speakers he
made for his parents. While there were some issues, they have a lot of
promise. They are already more detailed than my current speakers, and
they are a little more transparent too. It’s got me thinking about
speakers again, which isn’t a good thing. Maybe I can make him an amp
in exchange for some speakers someday….

Isaac

I know I’m a geek, but this is ridiculous…

    I’m actually reading a dictionary… I’m sure you
couldn’t tell by my atrocious spelling but it’s true. My recently
aquired compact Oxford Dictionary is pretty amazing. It has done away
with the regular pronuciation guide and gone with a much more useful
phonetic spelling instead. It is also sprinkled with tips on proper
usage of commonly misused words like affect and effect. The real
question is do I hate linear algebra so much that a dictionary is
proving to be a compelling distraction? I fear the answer is yes, but
my verbal skills are quite a bit more advanced than my matrix
operations skills at this point, so I should really get back to the
math, SIGH…

Isaac

Ghost in the Shell

    Ok, I’ve watched this film twice now, that’s pretty
good for me. I rarely get through an entire film these days, and I
rarely consider any film worth watching again. I guess I’d call it
refreshing, I enjoyed watching it and it made me think a little too. It
wasn’t a “Persona”, “Weekend”, or even “La Grande Illusion”, but it was
quite a bit above the typical dreck that films usually are. I have to
say that there is quite a bit of difference between the dubbed and
subtitled versions on the DVD. The subtitled version has much better
vocal acting and the actual dialog is much much better. Both the acting
and the words chosen for the dubbed version is quite a bit flatter. If
you’re watching it for the first time, I’d go ahead and watch the
dubbed version. I gotta believe that you’d miss a lot the first time
around if you tried to read the subtitles and watch what’s going on at
the same time…  The story gets a little obvious at times and
there’s a bit of gratuitious female nudity (does she really have to
get naked in order to have camouflage? The other characters just put
something on. I’m not really complaining that much, but still…) but
the animation is really nice and there is always something compelling
about a dark, animated film.
    The Aqua Teen DVD was, as expected, incredibly
silly. I am glad I got it though, I’ll probably get the rest of them
sooner or later… Gotta love the Mooninites, the Plutonians, and
Master Shake, what would life be like without them?

Isaac

Ouch!!

    Wow, I just signed up for health insurence for the
spring semester. $800 just for one semester…. I’ve gotten spoiled at
Penn, I’ve only been working 15-19 hours a week for this past semester
but was still covered under thier program due to how they classified
full timers. Oh well, something I had to do I suppose, no more spending
money foolishly!!
    In better news, my retirement account earned almost
14% this year! I decided to get a little more aggressive and invested
in a diversified international fund and a small cap account. I still
have about 25% of my holdings in a blended, amnaged account. It’s
growing slowly,  but should be a little less volitile than the
others. It’s very cool to have money grow on its own… So as silly as
I am with money, I’m glad I’m being good with at least part of my
financial life.

Isaac

More goodies…

    I went on a little bit of a buying binge. Amazon is
the best and worst thing ever… It started out innocently enough, I
needed a new cable for my Airport Express. I hadn’t even heard of a
Toslink mini connection before, but that’s what I needed to hook it up
to my CD player that has digital inputs. Well, I started browsing and
looking at my wish list and things got a little out of hand. Another
pair of shoes (I’m addicted to how Eccos feel, the last couple of pairs
aren’t all that great looking, but Lord are they comfortable), several
books, two Cds, two DVDs, and the continuation of my shoe rack is what
I ended up ordering.
    So why order more books when I’ve got stacks of them
here that I haven’t gotten to? It’s a fair question, and it’s one that
I’m going to ignore for right now:-) Let’s see, a couple of books
attempting to reconcile Zen and Christianity, one about finding
enlightenment through Aikido, and a technical photo book about toning.
I’m very proud of myself for resisting (for now) the Long, Short, and
Connected discourses of the Buddah. That’s about 2500 pages of the
primary Thereveda canon, all in English. I’ve read the Flower Ornament
Sutra (about 1500 pages) which is supposed to be one of the main texts
of Mahayana Buddisim, and I’ve gone through the Blue Cliff Record which
is as close to a primary text for Zen as you’ll find. All I need are
those other three books and I’ll have a pretty complete library (for a
white guy). One day…
    My friend Galen turned me onto Tori Amos’ latest
album Scarlet’s Walk. He had been a complete Tori freak but gradually
lost interest in her as her product got worse and worse. He claims that
this new album is his favorite one of all time, Tori or not. I’m
listening to it now and it seems to be a little more complex and
accomplished than her earlier stuff (which is all that I’m familiar
with). It’s definately something worth checking out, my initial
impression is pretty favorable. I also got “Listen Without Prejudice”
by George Michael (used, thank you very much). I know, it’s schlock
pop, but it isn’t bad schlock pop. I’ve always liiked Freedom and I
wanted to hear what the rest of it sounded like. It’s really not bad
for what it is, and it’s more than worth the $3.50 I spent on it
including shipping. Gawd, the recording quality is terrible, all the
life is compressed out of it and everything has that kind of electronic
sound. Made for FM…SIGH.
    My silly purchases were the DVDs. These are my first
two ones of my own that I’ve bought. I can defend Ghost in the Shell,
I’ve heard nothing but good things about it and I’m really intrigued
with the Stand Alone Complex series. I can’t really come up with a good
reason why I bought the third season of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. 
It does have some hilarious episodes, but I’m going to blame this on
Patrick (my step brother in law) for introducing this stuff to me. Oh
well, should be fun… I hope that this appeases me for the next I
don’t know how long since I have much more important things to spend my
money on, like tuition and insurence…

Isaac