Sunday, March 30, 2008

20 Masters Programs

I have managed to narrow down the list of masters programs to 20. That still seems like a really high number, though, doesn't it? It's sort of insane the amount of time and effort that went into getting down to 20, but there are a lot of masters programs in this country and given my lack of familiarity with them (relative to PhD programs), getting through the original list (hell, creating the list) in a systematic fashion was not an easy thing to accomplish. So I feel good about my progress.

The main criteria used so far are:

* Is not an MBA program/does not require a bunch of business school prereqs - I just can't do it.

* School does not have weird ass religious orientation (e.g. Catholic faith-oriented university or Brigham Young type creepiness)

* Specific coursework and thesis requirements - I want a thesis based, predoctoral program that has required classes that seem relevant and interesting (e.g. not a focus on clinical psychology, has a good number of quantitative classes). I also eliminated some psych programs that had minimal psychology prereqs since I do not need a masters program in psych to make up for having been something else as an undergrad.

* Compatibility with professors' research interests - I have not yet done an exhaustive analysis of this, but I have identified specific papers for each potential advisor at each school that I will read with an eye toward relevance to my future interests in a consumer psychology related field. (There were some that were very interesting, but in a completely different direction from where I see my PhD program/career going.) It took me two full days to look up publications for each professor on my list (and this is after I spent many days going through each program website to write down all professors who described research interests that were potentially compatible with mine, but did not give details). This is where a lot of schools got knocked out of the running.

* Location of the school - After doing all the items above, this evening I ran through the list with Robert and eliminated schools in places that seemed too small for him to easily find a job. There are two schools with programs that are sufficiently high quality/uniquely desirable that I have retained them despite their being sort of in the middle of nowhere.

The list contains 1 marketing program, 2 consumer behavior programs, 1 quantitative methods program, and 16 psychology programs. (16? Isn't that a familiar number. I swear I did not do this on purpose, even if 16 is my third favorite number, following 4 and 10.)

Locations include: California (7), North Carolina (2), Virginia (2), Connecticut (1), Florida (1), Arizona (1), Pennsylvania (1), Illinois (1), Ohio (1), Texas (1), Indiana (1), New York (1).

Next steps:

* I need to read those papers and make sure that what sounded like a research compatibility truly is one. I can also rate the closeness of the fit (e.g. great, moderate, or okay fit).

* I am going to look more closely at characteristics of the potential advisors that survive the journal article reading process. For example, a full professor who has an active research lab, appears to regularly take on grad students, and continues to publish is ideal. A new assistant professor without much of a track record or someone who hasn't published anything recently would be less desirable. But there are a lot of factors involved, some of which cannot be easily articulated. It's not clear that I will truly eliminate anyone at this stage, but it is helpful to categorize programs that have a single potential advisor versus many. Obviously it's better to have a back up in case the person you picked turns out to be too hard to work with, jumps ship to another program, etc. Many schools encourage you to talk to faculty prior to applying, so I will have another opportunity to remove bad fits later on in this process.

* I need to get a handle on the financial side of things. So far, I know I have a very wide range of costs in the programs on my list. The Texas one would be really cheap, due to in-state tuition, while the private school in NYC charges over $33,000 on tuition alone and offers no aid through the program (though we are encouraged to find our own sources of aid - thanks, guys).

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Economists Reinvent Wheel, Only It's Not Very Round

Over at the Odd Numbers economics blog comes this post about measuring people's preferences using what the researchers call a "new survey format." The study, which is basically a proof of concept paper for their "new" methodology, can be read here by clicking document download in the upper left corner (at least, it can if one is both willing and able to put up with a little bit of economic jargon).

Here's how this "different lives survey" works:

"To test the feasibility of the different lives format, we conducted a study of 40 students in a university in London and 32 students in a university in Philadelphia....There were two levels of each of the four dimensions of well-being.

Life expectancy was 65 or 75; health was specified as being ‘able to move around freely’ or ‘hard to move around without assistance’; and happiness was expressed 95% or 80% of the time in a good mood. Income in the UK was £45,000 or £30,000, whilst in the US it was $300,000 or $100,000. The numbers were different because of different expected earnings of the students and the relativities were different to test whether the results were sensitive to this.

This generates 16 different lives. The study design asked individuals to rank two pages of eight scenarios. We excluded the logically best and worst scenarios so that two scenarios could be placed on both pages. This enabled us to infer a ranking for all possible lives.

From these data, we run a rank-ordered logistic regression model..."

There is a lot to be said about this study, and I hope to get around to talking about at least some of my many questions/criticisms, but the most immediate, stunning thing to me is this

What differentiates this "new" methodology from conjoint analysis, which has has been a mainstream marketing research technique for decades, other than the fact that it is more poorly thought out and executed?

Wikipedia summarizes: "The objective of conjoint analysis is to determine what combination of a limited number of attributes is most influential on respondent choice or decision making. A controlled set of potential products or services is shown to respondents and by analyzing how they make preferences between these products, the implicit valuation of the individual elements making up the product or service can be determined. These implicit valuations (utilities or part-worths) can be used to create market models that estimate market share, revenue and even profitability of new designs.

If these researchers are not actually living in an intellectual bubble, from which they have no knowledge of what is going on in their fellow social science fields since 1971, I would have expected them to explain how this model varies from the well-known and popular method of conjoint analysis (aka discrete choice modeling). It appears to me that they actually think they are introducing a brand new idea to the world.

Let's take a moment to think about this study. Just based on the following levels of the four attributes included in the survey, which variables do you expect people would be shown to value more highly? Note that not only are the researchers choosing the levels of the attributes, but they are also operationalizing potentially complex concepts - they are assigning a particular definition to general concepts like "health" and "happiness" that can have a lot of dimensions. Remember that the students are looking at various combinations of these attributes to determine which of the two possible "lives" they would rather have.

- Life expectancy: 65 or 75

- Health: able to move around freely or hard to move

- Happiness: 95 percent or 80 percent of the time in a good mood

- Income: $300,000 or $100,000

I look at this and I think:

OK. The difference between 65 and 75 is pretty big, but that's something that affects a person way down the line, so you would expect people to discount it such that it would have a smaller impact on their immediate decision. (This is standard economic discounting.)

The difference between being able to move around freely and finding it hard to move around (i.e. being crippled in some fashion) is very large and will impact a person's life in a big way. I expect people, especially young people who are likely to be completely mobile right now, will place a lot of importance on "health" defined in this manner because the idea of taking on that life will be scary and bad. (In general, research finds that able-bodied people assume that becoming disabled will diminish their quality of life more than it actually does.)

So happiness means being in a good mood? OK, I will go with that for now. The idea of being in a good mood 95% of the time sounds amazing and really desirable. 80% is also pretty great, but 95% is incredible (more on this later). People will want this.

$100,000 is a lot of money. $300,000 is even more money. Even if these students are in a profession in which $100,000 is a reasonable expected income (law?), the diminishing marginal utility of money means that $300,000 won't seem that much better than $100,000 a year.

My prediction is that they are all important, but as defined by the researchers:

Life expectancy: low importance

Health: high importance

Happiness: moderate to high importance

Income: low importance

The results? (The higher the number, the more important the attribute was.)

"...all the coefficients are significant at the 1% level, which means that the differences in the levels of these dimensions were all seen as being important to respondents."

Income 0.777
Health 3.109
Happiness 1.672
Life Exp 0.684

The researchers acknowledge that "the size of the coefficients on the four dimensions is sensitive to the high-low endpoints for health, happiness, income, and life expectancy used to generate the 16 different lives."

Some issues I have with this study (which, they admit is "exploratory" in nature, but that doesn't give a researcher license to not do a literature review, ignore theory, or be generally sloppy):

1. The researchers conclude: "Our preliminary results suggest that happiness is not the sole determinant of utility." The results do nothing of the sort. The results suggest that good mood is not the sole determinant of utility.

This should not be surprising to anyone who is a human being or has ever come into contact with a human being.

It seems clear to me that people do not want only happiness (narrowly defined) out of life. Thought experiment: Given the choice to go into a cage and have your brain wired up to a machine that can deliver doses of pleasure directly to the pleasure center of your brain with a mere push of a button, would you do it? Do you know anyone who you think would?

2. The inclusion of "good mood" in this model is kind of strange because to the degree mood is variable, it itself could be a function of health and income. (I'm not saying that it is, only that it could be.) Although regression is good at handling correlated variables, it still strikes me as odd that the researchers do not discuss whether they are viewing happiness as endogenous or exogenous.

3. As I understand it, other happiness research (and anecdotal evidence) suggests that people have what I will call a happiness "set point" from which they do not wildly vary. This isn't to say that individual people's moods are stable over time, but that some tend to be happier than others overall, and this happiness is not predictable based on the objective qualities of their lives. Some people who are poor, unhealthy, with little social support, etc., feel happier than other people who are wealthy, healthy, and have wonderful and supportive families.

So as a subject in this sort of experiment, how do you make sense of the fact that your level of "good mood" differs from one scenario to another? A related issue is how realistic do subjects find the various scenarios.

It is much easier to see how events in the world could cause my income to increase or decrease, my life expectancy to take differing values, or me to become disabled, with all other factors of my life being the same. (e.g. inherit money or get a plum job; get cancer or another terminal illness; get in an accident that puts me in a wheelchair.) But what would it mean for me to be in a good mood 80% of the time versus 95% of the time that does not itself rely on other things in my life changing? To make sense of the scenarios, do I have to smuggle in other variables they aren't talking about?

For example, what does a person think when presented with a scenario in which they have lower life expectancy, lower income, and are disabled, but are happy 95% of the time? (Especially if their current level of happiness is well below that.) Do they assume "something about me changes so that I am just in a better mood" or "I inherited money so that I am living on a lower but still high income without having to have a job" or "I married the girl/boy of my dreams" or what?

4. If I am in a "good mood" 80% or 95% of the time, what is my mood the rest of the time? Am I in a good mood 80% and okay mood 20%, or good mood 95% and deep black depression 5% of the time? Robert asks, "Is any of the good mood euphoria?"

5. I am really curious where they came up with their levels of the attributes. They explained that they chose "realistic" values for the income levels, so presumably they did reality-check those figures, but wouldn't it have been better to have a lower-than-expected income as one of the options? The options for income versus options for "health" were particularly unmatched in my opinion. Income was "Good" versus "Great" while health was "Good" versus "Terrible."

Apparently it's possible in the experimenters' universe for a young person to suddenly become paralyzed but not to flunk out of law school (or flunk the bar exam) and be forced into a job paying $40,000. And seriously, isn't the actual likelihood of a law student not ultimately becoming a lawyer much higher than becoming disabled at a young age? (Yes, this is an empirical question.)

And I wonder where the 80% and 95% good mood numbers came from. Is this based on other happiness research showing that these are typical numbers? It seems remiss that the paper didn't say anything about this. Anyway, do people even have a good sense of what percentage of the time they are in a good mood now, to provide some basis of comparison? How would somebody's overall estimate of their good mood percentage compare to a percentage derived using the DRM (Day Reconstruction Method) or some other approach.

To the degree that the numbers selected were arbitrary and/or unbalanced, the results are meaningless. I think I could come up with levels for these four attributes to generate any outcome I please.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Jeans in Texas

Lyle Lovett nails this in his song "That's Right (You're not from Texas)" when he sings:
"So won't you let me help you Mister
Just pull your hat down the way I do
And buy your pants just a little longer
And next time somebody laughs at you
You just tell 'em you're not from Texas
That's right you're not from Texas
That's right you're not from Texas
But Texas wants you anyway"

I have noticed since being at Texas State, in a way that I have never noticed before, that Texans do wear their pants really long... on the verge of crazy long, in some cases. A great number of students walk around in jeans so long that they are worn out at the ends from where they step on them. When it rains, a high percentage of the student body have wet jeans halfway up their calves from the fabric wicking the water that they walk through.

And while this is the most noticeable when they are wearing extremely thin-soled flip flops, long pant lengths are the norm no matter what shoes are being worn. It's not just the women, either, or I might put it down in part to them buying jeans to wear with heels - and anyway, you would expect to see the pant legs folded up in that case and not worn really scraggly and long unless that were actually a desirable fashion statement in itself. (Note: I don't think folded up jeans are particularly fashionable either, but my understanding is that the correct option there is to buy different pairs of jeans so that they are the right length for heels and flats.)

In an extreme case, a while back, one of our neighbors who is the right age to be a fellow Bobcat, was coming down our apartment stairs with bare feet and jeans so long that I was left speechless but Robert rightly observed "That guy is wearing his jeans as shoes" because of how the bottom of the jeans protected almost his entire foot from the ground.

Robert reports that long jeans were the norm for him growing up in Fort Worth, and that his mother would sometimes borrow his jeans when he was a teenager, despite them being a 36" length and her being sort of short.

Now, I recognize that I have a tendency to wear my pants too short and I have to really fight against it. But surely it is not de rigueur to wear jeans so long that you can step on them, right?

So, here is the length of my jeans, that to me are long enough. What do you think?

I love my squash shoes

The jeans look nicely slouchy to me

I wonder if part of my too-short-pants problem stems from liking to wear mary jane style shoes and colorful socks, which is a combination that does not look as good when wearing pants of the proper length. With jeans, I do generally wear sneakers instead, which is more compatible with the longer length.

More School Grades

Latest scores:

Consumer behavior 100

Stat 97 - misread the words "at least 2" as "2" - I could not figure out how I got the problem wrong until Robert pointed this out to me

Linear algebra 108 (of 110, due to his adding an extra 10 point proof to the exam) - I missed two points for leaving out a bit in one proof


CB - email from the professor saying good job

Stat - one smiley face

Linear - two smiley faces, an "Outstanding!," and one "superb!" for the extra proof

And have I mentioned recently how much fun the stat class is now that we're doing calculus all the time? I have been in serious calculus withdrawal this semester, which is why I am strongly considering the potential madness of taking both calc 3 (ie vector) and differential equations next fall. I took calc 3 about 12 years ago, and got an A in it, but I would like to feel up to speed on the base calculus sequence (and I just like it lots).

Diff e I might have chosen to skip altogether because it's not a prereq for what I want to do specifically but (1) I have always had this feeling of wanting to take it, (2) my favorite professor is teaching it, (3) more math is always good for getting into grad programs that like quants, and (4) I recently found out that diff e was the only class my dad failed in college - his performance suffered greatly from starting to date a cute blond girl.

I am not sure why my father, who was a German major after all, was taking diff e to begin with, but at least it didn't screw up his degree plan. On behalf of my sister and myself, I want to thank my dad for paying too much attention to my mom and not enough to the math.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold

The ultra-soft and fluffy brown patch of fur on the nape of Leo's neck.

Against the backdrop of a perfectly clear blue sky, a male cardinal with the morning sun setting his red breast aglow.

Freshly baked bread or cookies.

Groucho making an entrance.

Any reference to a brass lantern or an elvish sword of great antiquity.

UPDATE: The title refers to the first line of Wordsworth's classic poem on the miracle of everyday things (with the typical focus on the natural world). I was surprised Robert didn't recognize it, given that he had an English literature teacher who was inordinately fond of the Romantic poets.

I mentioned that the theme was not unusual, but I was always pleased to see that he made the point in such a short poem. Robert said that Walt Whitman would have made this point into an entire book. "But Whitman would not have limited himself to just talking about a rainbow" I said, thinking of a critic I read once who said that Whitman at his worst sounds like a grocery list. "Well, maybe rainbows in its more modern sense" he said.

So perhaps Whitman could have done something with:
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow decal on your car.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Being a Flunky

Today was a major crisis regarding the research project I am working on for a group of marketing professors at school. The three professors were freaking out to varying degrees (one broke out the Pepperidge Farm chocolate chunk cookies around 4:00 and I ate two in companionship) and I got to just be calm, waiting to find out what was going to ultimately be required of me. Turns out that disaster was diverted in the 11th hour and I made it to the experiment location, did my job, turned the materials over to one of the grad student workers (who showed up after the experiment in a baaad mood), and came home. I didn't get to eat dinner until after 7:30, but otherwise, it didn't really affect me. There is something to said for just being a flunky. I also got to hear a prof gripe about another prof, a prof gripe about a couple of other students, and a grad student gripe about a prof. Honestly, they all had good gripes in my opinion. I feel good that I did not (to my knowledge) inspire any griping, if for no other reason than that I do not have sufficient responsibility to do anything gripeworthy. (Of course, I now have this slight fear that I did something wrong in the experiment, like accidentally doing the wrong conditions for the age groups I dealt with, but that is just paranoia.)

In other marketing research news, we got back our papers in class today and our organic food project got a 97. (We lost 3 points on typos.) This is a good thing in itself, but the cool part is that the professor is encouraging us to submit the paper (or technically a revised version with a lit review, etc.) to a conference. The others in my group looked uncertain about this (perhaps because it sounds like a lot of work and they aren't familiar with the process) but I am all for it. I have been teasing Tam a bit over how envious I was that she was able to have her comp sci paper published in the proceedings to an undergraduate conference; maybe it will be my turn now. If at all possible, I want to take advantage of the opportunity to play in the minor leagues of undergraduate journals before I am forced to compete against "real" academics in the professional journals. My prof said that there is even funding available for attending the conference and giving the paper. That would be a great thing.

During our running around campus today, my prof asked me if I like doing research. Heh. I said yes and that I am planning to go to grad school and would like to set up some time soon to talk to her about it. I need to do that.

In other school news, I don't know whether I reported that I got a 100 on my first marketing test. We have the second test next Tuesday.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Few Disjointed Thoughts on Paternal Libertarianism

Since I have been living in the Land of One Goddamned Health Problem After Another recently, and am having to greatly restrict my time on the computer due to nearly chronic headaches, I haven't been blogging much recently. But Tam emailed me a question that I thought I could post here with the answer I sent her. This does not represent my finest thinking on this issue, but does get across my general view of the matter. I might elaborate on this more at a later time, when I am feeling less like someone has taken a tire iron to the back of my head.

I'm asking because I'm not sure about your position. How do you feel about "nannying" (corporate or governmental) in ways that don't actually take away choices, but arrange things such that the default is right for most people? For instance, do you object if a company makes their 401K plan opt-out rather than opt-in? What if the government did the same thing in some similar type of situation?

First of all, I think the term "paternal libertarianism" (which is what I have heard this described as) is a terrible one, since it combines two ideas that are contradictory together and individually offensive (or at least carry a lot of negative baggage) to a lot of people.

The fundamental idea though is not a bad one, given the premise that people are experiencing information overload in a sort of hyperchoice environment. Although I think that argument is often oversold, the people who actually think this is a non-issue are not experiencing the same world that I am. There is also fairly abundant evidence that framing and selections of default matter, sometimes a lot.

(Robert and I have talked about the gains to consumers that would have accrued if deregulation of the TX electricity market had included people not only having the choice to pick a new (almost always cheaper) supplier, but if after a certain point, the people who had not made an affirmative choice were randomly allocated to the suppliers in the market in some fashion.)

Part of the issue, of course, rests on how we determine whether something is "right" for other people. This is not something that the government necessarily has a good track record on. And of course, it is not entirely unreasonable for people to place a value on people improving their self-regulation abilities, and it is possible that widespread paternalism (beyond simple matters of, e.g., the default 401K option) could undermine that to some extent. There are a lot of questions that relate to why exactly people do not come to the "right" choice themselves in various situations, and some of these may be more appropriately remedied by paternalism than others.

In general, I'd say it's a good approach to consider, and is an example of economics finally catching up with what has been known in the behavioral sciences for a very, very long time. But it's not a panacea and I do not support widespread application on the grounds that people "can't" do these things for themselves. It is easy to see how the idea can be extended to mimic old-fashioned paternalism by actually limiting choice.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Block o' What?

I have been meaning to report on the progress I made this week on the grad school search, but I am thoroughly tired of the whole thing right now after spending 6-8 hours a day on it. So that will have to wait until I can bring myself to think about it again, let alone have any enthusiasm to write about it. I will leave you instead with this minutiae.

Two nights ago, I went to bed at midnight and early in the morning dreamed that I was in grad school. Things were going really well, but then in the dream I had this realization that it wasn't true and I woke up, saw that it was about 5:15 a.m., and could not go back to sleep. Kind of depressing. I was fatigued all day, though I did manage to do an incredibly long treadmill session and limit myself to one "medium" (read: pretty damn big) cup of iced tea and about half a dozen of Robert's tortilla chips when I accompanied him on an evening Taco Cabana run. (Given that fatigue plus low mood plus access to Mexican food generally equals 1000 calories of food consumption, this was something of an achievement.)

Last night, I woke up after about two hours with excruciating pain in my left knee and pain in the other joints of that leg. It kept me up a while, but I was able to fall asleep after what felt like forever but was really not too much time. Later, I dreamed that Jefe and I were playing some kind of board game with an ex-coworker of mine E (a great guy) and I got a card/roll/whatever that allowed me to draw from this big plastic Jack o'Lantern filled with goodies. (Jefe had already drawn out about 37 cents in random coins.) I pulled out a rectangular piece of candy that was about 1.5" tall and about 4" long called "M&M Block o' Choc." E said, "I know that you don't really like chocolate, right?" and I had to admit that I don't really like chocolate. And he said, "I do, and I know your sister does, so give it here." I did. He pulled out a knife and started cutting the bar into thin slices, revealing that the Block o' Choc was, indeed, a big block of chocolate with tiny M&Ms embedded throughout. It appeared to be dark chocolate and was surprisingly appealing. E started to offer Jefe some but then said, "Oh wait, since this chocolate isn't fair trade I guess I shouldn't tempt you to exploitation."

Note: I have no reason to think she wouldn't eat fair trade chocolate, but it would be like E to pretend that hogging chocolate is actually helping you live up to your obviously superior value system. And it's clear that this approach would not work with me, even in jest. I mean, exploitation is my middle name. In fact, for a while I considered going by S. Exploitation Porter but decided that it would be too easy for someone to confuse this with Expoitation S. Porter, which yields the initials ESP, truly an unacceptable result.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Not As Far As I Know

Although I support Hillary as the Democratic candidate over Obama (not because I think she will lose, but because I prefer her), I was annoyed when I heard that she responded to a journalist's question about whether Obama is a Muslim by saying "not as far as I know." Of course, more recent reports (and the video you can see for yourself) show that this was a complete mischaracterization of what she said.

I sort of thought that a better response than the (untrue) "not as far as I know" answer would have been:

"I do not believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim.

Just because Muslims do not keep pet dogs, and Obama does not have a pet dog, does not mean that he is necessarily a Muslim. He could just be a complete animal hater, who despises all things cute and fluffy, as many other people suggest.

I also believe that the eyewitness accounts that he did, in fact, in 2003, run over a 10 year old boy's springer spaniel with his car, in front of the horrified boy and his younger sister, are exaggerations, or could be explained by some simple fact, such as that Obama was three sheets to the wind drunk at the time he mowed down that helpless, adorable puppy.

It was a terrible thing when Bill and my dog Buddy was killed in a tragic automobile accident, and we have been happy to still have the cuddly goodness of our cat Socks, who was a stray cat we rescued from the streets of Arkansas in 1991."

[Hillary hands journalist an autographed copy of her book Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids' Letters to the First Pets, the proceeds of which benefit the National Park Foundation.]

Surely this would be enough to make Obama retort in a not-completely-safe place that Adolf Hitler was an animal-loving vegetarian. This would be a perfect Reductio ad Hitlerum that I believe, according to Democratic Party rules, would immediately disqualify Obama from the presidency. The Reductio ad Hitlerum can only be used against Republicans and, in times of dire desperation, independent candidates running to the left of the Democrats.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

No One Actually Died in the Writing of This Report

OK, there was a 30-minute period last night, around 10:00, when I got super pissed off and was glad that stupid little girl was not around for me to verbally lacerate and possibly physically maim/destroy, but fortunately (1) she was safely 20 miles away and (2) I have been so angry, so many times in work situations that I have reliable control over any urges to send emails that boil down to "fuck you, you fucking idiot." But the fact that the situation reminded me at all of taking research direction from the morons in the Texas Legislature was not a good thing (and was an over-reaction).

Good news: the organic food research report was turned in today and is not terrible - indeed, it would take some kind of miracle for us not to have done an unexpectedly good job. (I was not very satisfied with it, but there was only so much I could do short of violating the parameters of the project and personally doing every single thing.) Thank you to my readers who participated in the study.

Bad news: we still have to do a Power Point presentation to the class, which should be very easy to put together but will yet have its torturous elements.

Really, it's not totally this girl's fault (or of anyone else in my group, the rest of whom have been mostly easy to work with, though somewhat unreliable). In a group comprised of normal undergraduates, her efforts would not be quite so "Mommy, I helped!" (followed by Mommy wanting to slap child for messing with things). I even forgive them if they found my strong opinions annoying at times - though (1) I made every effort to not pull rank and (2) I was right, damn it.

But one huge take-away from this experience, and the course in general, is that I am so through with undergraduate classes. I have decided (provisionally) that this semester is going to be the last one (it will definitely be the last one for any non-quantitative classes, though I might find more upper-level undergrad math classes useful). The image that keeps coming to mind is a grown man in a kiddy pool. I need to get into a normal sized swimming pool soon.

Next week is spring break (yay, right?). The week after that, I need to meet with my professor to get some grad school advice, a key question being, "If I were to do a masters program preparatory to applying to PhD programs in consumer behavior, what would be good types of programs to look at (that are not MBAs!)?"

Despite my saying disparaging things about masters programs in the past (which is a prejudice that I blame on my professors at Rice, perhaps misinterpreted statements from some people I know who I will not out publically Robert, and my own elitism), it is looking increasingly likely that my opportunities for success will be significantly improved by finishing a masters program prior to doing a marketing PhD. I do not know this for a fact, and I do not believe that there is any concrete evidence available to me to be sure of it, but based on everything I have been able to discover, the business PhD programs prefer people who have already done graduate work.

This is not to say that it is an actual requirement - indeed, you can find information that tells you that the idea that a masters degree is required is a "myth." But none of the "alternative" paths to the business PhD I have found look like me, which is to say: bachelors degree, work, PhD program. And all of the current graduate students (by which I do mean 100%) I have seen on the dozens of program web sites I have looked like either have a masters or went straight from a bachelors program (usually with an honors thesis and all the bells & whistles) to the PhD program, and the BA-PhD students are very rare.

So I have been trying to accept the idea that doing a masters degree first is not a kind of failure of either nerve or talent but is instead the path that the vast majority of business PhD students take. It also has some substantive advantages (and disadvantages). (More on this later.)

I do not actually believe that my path is going to lead to a terminal masters from Doubly-Directional Barely-Populated-State University, but a pre-doctoral thesis-based masters in experimental psychology at the University of State - Major City has become more likely.

I apologize in advance if anyone trying to find real information to clarify the mysteries surrounding applying to marketing PhD programs with or without a masters degree happens to blunder across this post in a web search. I have reached a ridiculous point of circularity myself, in which my own blog is among the top 50 searches for all kinds of terms related to these issues.