mardi 22 mai 2007

It's all over!

That's it, I didn't get the job at my university (see previous topic)!
What is more, my two friends didn't either! No locals were selected.
It is a very disappointing ending for us, above all after seeing that other universities had no qualms about selecting their locals. Well, at our university, it seems that it does not work like this anymore (because it used to!)

Now, I have to think about what I will do in the next few months and in a more distant future. For the moment, the disappointment is sill overwhelming!

dimanche 20 mai 2007

The incredible journey of a PhD student looking for an assistant professor (a.k.a "Maitre de Conférences" in French) job.

Here, I am going to talk about the ongoing process of finding a job as an assistant professor in Economics here in France. This is a very long, gruesome and costly process that started back in December. Let me explain (briefly) for those who are blissfully unaware of our wonderful university system.

One could think that actually completing the PhD is the hardest part. Well, it is, but things do not get easier once you are a doctor. Indeed, after completing my PhD (at the beginning of December), I had to collect an incredible amount of documents before the 14th of December, the dreaded deadline for the famous "qualification". What's the qualification you might ask? Well, basically, if you don't have it, you can't even apply for a job as a lecturer at a university.
Hence, you have to send (by mail...I mean snail mail!) those administrative documents as well as a copy of your PhD thesis (weighting 1.2 Kgs in my case, such that it costed around 9 euros per shipment) and your research papers to two "rapporteurs", whose role is to decide whether you are good enough or not. Around mid-february, you get the desired answer. In my case, I got the qualification, such that I was allowed to continue the process. Then, you have to wait a few more weeks to know to which university you can apply: this information is given in the very french JO, i.e. "Journal Officiel de la République Française (of the French Republic)", as well as the guidelines for submitting your dossier. Basically, you need still more administrative documents as well as some research ones (like a list of your publications, a detailed CV...). Then, for a single application to a given University, every single document must be put in 3 different envelops where you have written your name, your adress and the exact label of the job (as well as the if it wasn't obvious!). And this for every single application!. Oh, and I forget, you have to join an empty envelop (with your name, adress...) so that they can answer you. Hence, in my case, I had to write my name, adress...140 times (4 times the number of applications, that is 35)!!! Moreover, I also had to sign and date 3 documents in each envelop, that is I had to put my signature 315 times (3x3x35)!!!
Then, at last, your dossiers are complete, you only need to mail them which costs you 2.61 euros per dossier, which amounted to 80 euros in my case.

A few months later, that is, around the beginning of May, you start getting some answers and you know where and when you are to be interviewed. Well, actually the "when" part is still a bit random: for instance, I was asked in for an interview in Nantes at 9 a.m, as was one of my friend; it turned out that 5 people had been summoned at 9 a.m! Hence, I finally got interviewed at 10.30 and my friend at 11. The problem was that, thinking we were supposed to be interviewed early, we had a reservation (non cancellable, non reimbursable) for a train at noon. We had to take a taxi to arrive just in time! Moreover, my friend had arrived the day before to be sure to be on time, so she also had to pay for the hotel. Had she known that she was going to be interviewed at 11 a.m., she could have arrived by the first train in the morning, as I did.

In Bordeaux, we were all summoned at 8 a.m.! Yes, all of us: that is, at least 15 persons! Fortunately, we were able to say that we had a train at 11.30 and we were among the first to be interviewed. But I guess that some of our colleagues only got interviewed at noon or even in the afternoon!
I also went to Nice (a nice city in the South of France by the seaside) and everything went fine there. Except for a not-too helpful bus driver; indeed, I had to take a bus from the train station to the University. Beforehand, I had found one stop called "Clair de Lune" which seemed to be close to the University. As I climbed into the bus, I asked the bus driver : "You do stop at Clair de Lune don't you?". His answer, in his typical southern accent, was : " I don't know, I don't recall the names of the bus stops". Well, I almost asked him if he was a real bus driver, but I decided to remain polite, and I asked him whether he was going close to the Faculty of Law and Economics. Once again, he was not so sure. Despite all this, I made it in time for the interview which went rather well.

However, as well as the interviews might go, one must always be aware of the dreaded "local guy (or girl)"! What's a local guy you might ask? Well, it is simply the PhD student who has done his thesis in the university you are being interviewed. The problem is, at most small universities in provincial France there is only one job (at most) each year. Since there is also almost always a local guy, and since the local guy tends to be chosen for the job, it is not untypical to end in 2nd place in many universities! It didn't happen to me, but it happened to some persons I know. At least, when you are third or fourth, the pill is easier to swallow! Indeed, paying between 80 and 150 euros per interview (for the train and the hotel) and being beaten each time by the local guy must be really disappointing.

Well, as for me, I am interviewed tomorrow in my university and it is my last chance to get the job. You might think that, as I am the local guy, I must not worry. Above all since there are 3 assistant professor jobs! However, since my university is rather big, there are also 3 local girls; moreover, it seems that they won't select 3 locals (basically because it sends a bad signal to the market). Hence, I guess my future will be determined by a coin flip (I will certainly be up against my friend, and she deserves the job as much as I do!) like when you hold Ace-King in Texas Hold'em and you are up against an underpair.
Lately, I have not won many of these coin flips. I hope tomorrow it will change!

See you tomorrow then for the results.

samedi 19 mai 2007

Does the NBA reward losers?

Here it is: Dirk Nowitzky has been rewarded with the Most Valuable Player Award (or so-called "Maurice Podoloff Trophy") after the Mavericks' awesome season.
Well, awesome regular season (67-15), since the postseason ended in a flop. last year's postseason! I don't know which one was worst: losing the final against an Eastern team after winning the first two games, or losing 4-2 against the eighth seed. In both cases, Dirk "MVP" Nowitzki was pretty much non-existent. Well, he did show some moments of greatness, like this year in game 3 or 4 where he scored pretty much every point of his team in a final rush; but except from that game, he didn't play as an MVP would.

This leads to my point: Dirk is a loser, and a big one at that! He might be good in the regular season, but when the playoffs arrive, he is not there. When the difficult times come, he is not there. Who was the great defender that shut out Nowitzki in last year's final? Udonis Haslem? James Posey? Antoine Walker? Let me laugh! Ok, Dirk is a big guy that shoots well. That's great! But maybe he developped his shot because he was not physical enough to use is size; because, he is still not physical enough for a guy this size.

Now that I have ranted against Nowitzki, I am going to wonder why Kobe didn't get the trophy. The standard argument goes like this: "MVP means most valuable to your team. The Lakers sucked this year. So Kobe does not deserve the title." Well, excuse-me, but the argument sucks!
Why? First, the MVP is not supposed to reward a team, but a player. Isn't the championship supposed to reward the best team? And then, how can you compare the Lakers to the Mavs? I mean, come on, the Lakers' point guard is Smush Parker whereas the Mavs' is Jason Terry. Do I have to go through all the other match-ups? No, I don't need to. My point is that you cannot compare records. So you have to try to assess the impact of a player and compare it the the impact of another
player. I am not really sure that the NBA does that. Otherwise, they would never have voted for Dick. I am pretty certain that if the MAvs had built around Kobe instead of Dirk, by now they would be multiple NBA champions. Why? Because Kobe is a perennial winner! He just hates losing and he is a leader. Moreover, Kobe is versatile: he is not just the best scorer year after year (even though what he dis this year was
just awesome!), he is also a great defender. I don't know if we can say the same for Dirk.
A last consideration: at the beginning of his career, noone would have imagined that Dirk would be as good as he is today. However, as cunning as choosing Dirk was back then, I am not sure that building a franchise around him was such a great idea. Only time will tell whether I am wrong. I stick to my point for now: Dirk is a good player, but not a great one and he will never be!

Back to the MVP selection: I am starting to question the way the NBA chooses its MVP. Do they only look at the records? Well, in that case, the MVP contest is pretty much limited to 2 or 3 players but it is quite unfair. For instance, put the Lakers in the East, and they have at least the same record as the Cavaliers. If you only look at the records, Lebron James is not going to have one anytime soon whereas he has been quite valuable to his team the past few years!
If the MVP award goes to a good player and a good team, at least, we should find the said team either winning the championship or going into the finals. Well, if you look at the past years, the last time the team of the MVP went on to win the championship was the 2002-2003 San Antonio Spurs when Tim Duncan was MVP. Then, in 2000-2001, Allen Iverson was MVP and his Sixers lost to the Lakers in the NBA final. The year before, O'Neal was the MVP as the Lakers were winning their first championship of the 3-peat.
It turns out that, indeed, the MVP sometimes goes to a future NBA champion. But not for the past 4 years where the winner's team never even made it to the NBA finals (Kevin Garnett, Nash twice, and Nowitzki).
So maybe it's time for the NBA to start reconsidering the way it gives the MVP since it neither always reward the best team nor the best player.

Next year, if Kobe crosses the 100 points mark, he will get the award.
Maybe. If the Lakers have an higher than average winning percentage.
We will see.

Until next time, have fun with the soon-to-be Pistons-Spurs NBA final.

mercredi 16 mai 2007

Photo Review of the Asus U1F

We are here to talk about the new ultraportable from ASUS, the U1F. Basically, it's a 1.06 Ghz Core Duo, 1g RAM and 80 Gb HDD laptop, weighting around 1 kg! Oh, and did I say it comes with Vista professional installed?

As to the U1F looks , it is very stylish with a sleek black coating (so called "piano-lid) in the spirit of the LG chocolate phone, and black leather under the keyboard (where you rest your palms).
Admittedly, the black coating is a kind of "fingerprints-magnet", but there is a special tissue given by ASUS which can be used as a cleaner. There is also a LCD cleaning cloth. More generally, the ASUS bundle is, as usual, very generous, since you get two batteries (3-cells and 6-cells), a bluetooth mouse (black), a case for the U1F and the external DVD burner (which is a bit big, but at least draws power from the U1, so that you don't need any external power source).
Even the box where the U1F originally is very "classy". It is without doubts the most beautiful laptop I have ever own.

As to the performances, well, of course, because of the slow hard drive (4200rpm) and the not-too-powerful processor, this is not a beast. You won't get to play your latest 3D games either. The boot time is a bit slow to my liking, since it averages 2'30", but going out of hibernate only takes 40 seconds which is ok.
Actually, I expected it to be more slow than it is. I use it to compile LaTeX files with Emacs, or to run Mathematica files, draw graphs with Illustrator and it gets the job done, albeit a bit more slowly than my iMac. Opening Illustrator takes a bit of time, but hey, this is Adobe!

As to battery life, I haven't made any scientific test, but it seems than one can expect at most 2 hours with the 3-cell battery, and 4 hours with the bigger one with wifi on, and between 25 and 50% of brightness. I have installed RMclock to downclock it a bit, but I am not yet sure that it really helps.

As to the keyboard, I have to say that I am quite pleased with it. Back in the days when I had a 10"6 TR1MP, I found the keyboard quite small and not very practical. I don't know if the keyboard is bigger in the U1F, but although it is definitely not fully-sized, it is very convenient. I don't make that many typing mistakes, and I would even go as far as saying that I type faster on my U1F than on the regular keyboard of my iMac. Anyhow, I am not afraid of doing long typing sessions with the U1. I think it comes from that fact that the keys are conveniently spaced which reduces mistakes.

Finally, one note about the screen size and the resolution: I was fearing that it would be too small for me, but I like it in fact since the high resolution allows for a lot of screen estate. However, I have yet to use it for a day's work, and I guess that after such a long time it might get a bit tiring. But I got used to this resolution very quickly.

There is also a fingerprint reader and a webcam, but I have disabled the fingerprint since I don't use it, and I haven't really tried the camera. It looks like it might take decent pictures, but as to videos, I don't know. There are a lot of options and settings that I haven't had time to explore yet.

I will post more comments as I get to discover it a bit more and I have more time! Next week, I will certainly try to install Linux on it, either Ubuntu or Sabayon.

Overall, I can say that I am quite pleased with Uranie. Oh yeah, I have named her Uranie because the U1 really is girl-like in my opinion, since she is so small and so pretty. My girlfriend does not really agree, but hey, this is my call.

EDIT: new pics and a link towards a french forum about the U1F:

Also, I forgot to say that there is a memory card reader which reads SD card, and MS pro.

lundi 14 mai 2007

A bit of humor to start this blog!

Since I am in a gloomy mood (more on that later!), I thought that I might look for some humor on the net. Here are a few funny things:

And a link:

It contains some pretty hilarious jokes, even though I can't find one of my favorite which is something like : " Chuck Norris once visited the Virgin Islands. They are now called the Islands."