Wednesday, November 30, 2005

side effects

I saw an ad for Wellbutrin XL, an antidepressant. When I suffered from depression, I took it for only about a month, as the side effects were troubling — it made me feel worse. Not long after that, the media was full of stories about extremely bad side effects in children and adolescents.

So, I saw this ad. Happy people frolicked in bright meadows and other such bullshit, as per normal. What struck me was the list of side effects. In it, the announcer plainly said that Wellbutrin XL sometimes increases suicidal thinking and behavior in children and adolescents. I checked their Web site, and the following is now at the beginning of the prescribing information:

Suicidality in Children and Adolescents

Antidepressants increased the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality) in short-term studies in children and adolescents with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and other psychiatric disorders. Anyone considering the use of WELLBUTRIN XL or any other antidepressant in a child or adolescent must balance this risk with the clinical need. Patients who are started on therapy should be observed closely for clinical worsening, suicidality, or unusual changes in behavior. Families and caregivers should be advised of the need for close observation and communication with the prescriber. WELLBUTRIN XL is not approved for use in pediatric patients. (See WARNINGS and PRECAUTIONS: Pediatric Use.)

Pooled analyses of short-term (4 to 16 weeks) placebo-controlled trials of 9 antidepressant drugs (SSRIs and others) in children and adolescents with major depressive disorder (MDD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or other psychiatric disorders (a total of 24 trials involving over 4,400 patients) have revealed a greater risk of adverse events representing suicidal thinking or behavior (suicidality) during the first few months of treatment in those receiving antidepressants. The average risk of such events in patients receiving antidepressants was 4%, twice the placebo risk of 2%. No suicides occurred in these trials.

I'm glad that other people will know about it now. It's pretty shitty for your medicine to make you sicker.

Monday, November 28, 2005

we're a misunderstood bunch

"Researchers using brain scans have found introverts have more brain activity in general, and specifically in the frontal lobes. When these areas are activated, introverts are energized by retrieving long-term memories, problem solving, introspection, complex thinking and planning." — Experts: Introverted youth have deep roots for behavior

"How many people are introverts? … 'a minority in the regular population but a majority in the gifted population.'" — Caring for Your Introvert: The habits and needs of a little-understood group

And finally, a joke: How you can tell an extrovert from an introvert at the NSA? In the elevators, the extroverts look at the other guy's shoes.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

the look on his face

This year, one boy will receive under his tree the ARC-170 Starfighter from Episode III. There's a dial on the back of the ship that opens the wings into attack position, and it comes with three stormtroopers and an R2 droid.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, November 18, 2005

much ado about a do

The last time I had my hair cut was almost a year ago for my co-op interviews. I've been mulling what to do with my hair now. I will have interviews for my next co-op job — I hope — in December and January. So, on the one hand, I want it to be clear to potential employers that I am brilliant and responsible and all things good and wonderful.

On the other hand, I've got a girlfriend who loves my hair. As a matter of fact, she said she can't even remember me without long hair. Everytime I mention the possibility of a haircut, she begs me not to do so.

This brings us to today. With a rubber band and patience, I managed to put my hair up into a very small ponytail. Actually, because it's so small and curly, I think it more closely resembles the topknot of a samurai.

I'd like to know what you all think. I wish I could show you a picture of my hair right now, but I don't have a digital camera, which would be a great Christmas idea. Just try to imagine really hard.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

mortal kombat!

This Saturday was the ACM Regional Programming Compeition. Drexel sent two teams to compete against over 150 others. My team placed 28th in the region, which is very competitive. The other team from Drexel placed 6th overall, making Drexel 4th in the region. As in years past, Drexel was the top team from Philadelphia, beating Temple, Penn and St. Joseph's.

My team this year was the Komodo Dragons. From left in our uniforms is David Wilkie, Bill Morgan and me, Joshua Karstendick. (Click for the full-size image.)

Teams were given a color-coded balloon for each problem solved. At far right are my team's two balloons representing the two problems we successfully solved. Also at far right are my beatiful curly black locks.

Photos by our advisor, Prof. Jeffrey Popyack. The following is a write-up by him:

Drexel's teams, Flaming Yawns consisted of senior computer science major Craig Schroeder, senior Physics major Hal Finkel, and junior computer science major Joshua Shaffer. The Komodo Dragons were junior computer science majors David Wilkie and Bill Morgan and pre-junior dual mathematics/computer science major Joshua Karstendick.

Teams were competing for the chance to advance to the World Finals, to be held in San Antonio, TX on April 12, 2006.

There were 154 teams representing 76 schools at 9 remote sites: Christopher Newport University, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, Marymount University, Radford University, Shippensburg University, University of Virginia, Washington College, and Wilkes University.

There were 8 problems.

The contest started on time, unaffected by operational difficulties that have often plagued the multi-site setup.

The first problem was simple, with most teams realizing it and attacking it quickly. By the time Drexel's Flaming Yawns submitted a solution at the 18 minute mark, they were in a three-way tie for fourth place, with Duke and Lafayette. Delaware and two Virginia Tech teams held the first three spots, with solutions in 12-13 minutes each. Drexel's Komodo Dragons posted a solution at the 24-minute mark, grabbing a share of 16th place.

Duke took the lead with a second problem solved at the 32 minute mark, giving it 50 penalty minutes. Virginia Tech claimed the lead with a second solution at 35 minutes, giving it 47 minutes. Both teams solved Problem C. A second submission by the other Virginia Tech team, made at the 23 minute mark, was eventually judged correct, giving them the lead with 36 minutes. North Carolina solved its second problem at the 45 minute mark, giving it 65 penalty minutes. Penn State solved a second problem (65 min) followed by UNC Charlotte (74 min). Maryland solved its second (107 min) and a third Va Tech team solved its second after 4 attempts, giving it 163 penalty minutes.

By the 80 minute mark, Virginia Tech, UNC Charlotte, and Maryland had solved their third problems.

Maryland solved a fourth problem at the 106 minute mark, claiming first place.

The Flaming Yawns submitted an attempt of problem E at the 1:45 mark, which was judged unsuccessful. They were the only team to have attempted Problem E at that point. They solved problem C at th 1:54 mark, to climb back into the competition at 11th place. Virginia Tech reclaimed the lead at the 2:09 mark with its fourth solution and increase their lead by posting a fifth solution at the 2:30 mark.

The Flaming Yawns moved up to 9th place with its third solution at the 2:27 mark. There were 6 other teams with 3 problems solved at that point. A second Duke team got their third solution 9 minutes later and moved into 10th place. Virginia Tech 3 got their fourth solution at the 2:35 mark and moved to third. They were the first team to solve Problem E. Penn State claimed third place with their fourth solution at the 2:47 mark.

The Komodo Dragons solved their second problem at the 2:58 mark to retain their standing in the top 25.

Maryland solved their fifth problem at the 3:08 mark.

The Flaming Yawns crept into 7th place by solving Problem E on their third attempt at the 3:23 mark. They were the second team to solve it. At this point, they had 4 solutions and the 6 teams ahead of them included 3 from Virginia Tech. This meant they were the 5th university overall, in definite contention for a trip to the World Finals. To do this, they would need to solve a 5th and most likely a 6th problem. A fifth solution seemed very likely, as the scoreboard showed 25 teams with solutions to Problem D, which they had not yet attempted. Problems G and H had been solved by only 3 and 6 teams, respectively, and no team had attempted Problem B.

Maryland solved their 6th problem at the 3:32 mark.

As is the usual custom, the scoreboard was turned off at the 4 hour
mark, so that the final standings would not be known until announced at the post-contest dinner.

The Flaming Yawns solved a fifth problem during the final hour, and Maryland, which was also at the Johns Hopkins site, solved a seventh
problem. As the dinner ended, the judges still did not have final standings available.

The final standings show that by solving their fifth problem, the Flaming Yawns passed Penn State to finish 6th overall, behind Maryland, 3 Virginia Tech teams and Duke. Thus, Drexel is the fourth school overall, and it depends on how many teams will go from this region, but there is a good chance you have advanced to the Finals. Let's keep our fingers crossed!!! Penn State solved 4 problems.

Other participating schools of note were: American, Bucknell, Dickinson, Drexel, Duke, George Mason, James Madison, Johns Hopkins, Lafayette, North Carolina State, Penn State, Rowan, Saint Joseph's, Scranton, Shippensburg, Swarthmore, Temple, Delaware, UMBC, Maryland, North Carolina, Richmond, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, West Virginia, William & Mary.

Friday, while waiting to leave for Baltimore to compete at Johns Hopkins, I noticed that a picture of me is on the Computer Science Department's promotional posters and fliers, demonstrating Drexel's competitive programming team.

For complete rankings for our region, listing all the teams Drexel beat this year, visit the ICPC Scoreboard.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

'does anyone know where the love of God goes'

Thirty years ago, the Edmund Fitzgerald inexplicably sank into Lake Superior.

"This year the service will be Sunday at 11 a.m. It will mark the 30th time the Rev. Richard W. Ingalls brings together the wives and the sons and the daughters of the victims, to ring the church bell 29 times, once for each crew member, and once more for all the others who've lost their lives on these beautiful but often treacherous lakes." — The mystery of the Big Fitz.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

you have 14 jobs in your shopping cart

During my first pass through the available co-op jobs, I picked out anything that looked vaguely interesting. That narrowed it down to 42 jobs. Then, I removed the jobs that required a car. Next, I weeded out what appeared to be sysadmin jobs (I am not pursuing a bachelor's degree at a university to be a sysadmin or fix your computer!). What is left is — I hope — 14 interesting programming jobs with ample access to public transportation. I think I'll apply to all of them.

Applications Developer for the Public Buildings Service of the U.S. General Services Administration.
Apache web server, Macromedia Cold Fusion MX, Dreamweaver, Flash, Lotus Notes, Oracle and Microsoft Access. HTML, RDBMS, Javascript and SQL.
Center City, Philadelphia

Co-op Programmer for Estenda Solutions, Inc.
Java, Oracle, XML, Struts (MVC Framework), Eclipse (IDE), MVNForum (bulletin board), and JFreeChart (Charting).
Conshohocken, PA

Software Engineer Co-op for Guideworks (a Comcast Company)
J2EE, XML, XSLT, CORBA, EAI, TCP/IP, UDP/IP and real-time embedded development.
Radnor, PA

Assistant Computer Engineer for Philips Medical Systems
C, C++, C# and Java.
University City, Philadelphia

Software Developer Intern for Health Market Science
J2EE, Oracle and Perl on Linux.
King of Prussia, PA

Systems Developer Intern for Tasty Baking Company of Tastykake fame
No specific technical skills listed.

Systems Analyst Co-op for GlaxoSmithKline
ASP, HTML, VB.NET, C# and OOP design.
King of Prussia, PA

Developer Intern for Gestalt, LLC
HTML, Java, ASP, JSP, Visual Basic, RDBMS, XML and SOAP.
King of Prussia, PA and Camden, NJ

Computer Programmer for Transportation Resource Associates, Inc.
DHTML, XML, XSLT, ASP, Oracle, SQL, Crystal Reports, Java, JavaScript, VBScript, COM+, C++, Visual Basic and .NET framework.
Center City, Philadelphia

Entry Level Software Developer for Fxpress Corporation
ASP.NET, HTML, JavaScript, C#, SQL and Crystal Reports.
Bala Cynwyd, PA

Software Engineer for mCom Financial Solutions
RDBMS, Visual Basic, VBScript, C, C++, UML, HTML, ASP, JavaScript, PHP, SQL, XML, SOAP, C# and .NET platform.
Center City, Philadelphia

Computer Science Co-op for Mod Worldwide, LLC
DHTML, XHTML, CSS, XML, XSLT, Javascript, PHP, Apache, MySQL, Flash ActionScript, ActiveX Controls, Macromedia Dreamweaver MX, Macromedia Flash, Macromedia Fireworks MX, Adobe Photoshop CS, Swift 3D, WS_FTP.
Center City, Philadelphia

Computer Engineering and Computer Science Co-op for Drexel University Applied Communications and Information Networking project
modulation and coding, cryptography, optimization, statistics and probability, mathematical programming, simulation, numerical techniques, communications, computer programming, computer architectures, electromagnetics, and wireless communications.
Camden, NJ

Research Coordinator for Moberg Research, Inc.
Matlab, C++
Ambler, PA

Those last two look nice.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

call to arms


If you're unsure about the people on the ballot, check out the League of Women Voters voting guide, which you may bring with you into the voting booth. If that doesn't decide it for you, vote straight ticket for the major party of your choice. Heck, vote straight Green or Libertarian just to stick it to the man. And if you're really in a pinch, just write in the names of friends and family who could surely do no worse than the jokers currently in office.

But whatever you do today — vote!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

good weekend

Today I finished up a great weekend with Kayla. She came in Friday night, and we went to Drexel's Sixth Annual Fall Comedy Show. Surprisingly, it blew like gale-force winds (If you ever hear the name Jamie Kennedy &mdash run!), but that didn't hamper our mood.

Saturday afternoon, we walked down to Penn's campus to see a movie. First, we had lunch at Qdoba, or as I like to call it, the Mexican Subway. The steak burrito was filling, and the three-cheese nachos were fun, even without guacamole.

Next, we saw Jarhead. We both liked it. The best film critic of The Triangle, however, did not. Ian Pugh, whose opinion I respect, found the film lacking direction and took issue with the lack of narrative ('Jarhead' marginalizes source material, has little direction). His points are mainly valid, but I still enjoyed the film. I thought that its structure of a series of vignettes added to the telling of the young man's story; indeed, I can't imagine it being told any other way. Ian gave it two out of five triangles; I give it four. I recommend it, and if Kayla liked it, too, it can't be all bad.

After the movie, we went to Ben & Jerry's. She ordered Chocolate Therapy, which was so chocolatey, even she couldn't finish it. I had a cone of It's Crunch Time, a delicious flavor I hadn't had before.

We then trekked back to my place for some Halo. We completed the second level together, because it heavily uses the Warthog. Kayla likes the teamwork that it engenders, and I like Kayla.

This afternoon, while waiting for her train at 30th St. Station, we played a little game. We used her laptop to write a story, alternating writing a sentence at a time. The result can be viewed at, and we hope to continue it. In case you can't tell, I started with the first sentence.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

renaissance guy

For The Triangle, I've written news articles, entertainment reviews and opinion columns. This week, I wrote a sports commentary: Eagles passing game much funner.

That leaves only one section of the paper for which I haven't written — Science & Technology.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

they're hurting our country

Every year, Popular Science compiles a list of "The Worst Jobs in Science." It's always good for a laugh, but it's often predictable. Jobs primarily concerned with urine, semen or feces aren't the best. And in case you didn't know, being a vulcanologist or lab rat can be very dangerous.

This year, however, one of these is not like the other: The Number Three Worst Job in Science, Kansas biology teacher.

But there's something far worse than giving our children a bad science education for misguided religious reasons. Some extremist "Christian" groups are seeking to limit the deployment of a life-saving vaccine. Debate rages on use of cervical cancer vaccine — funny how there's only a debate for people who care more about imposing their religious beliefs on others than saving lives.