Vicki goes to the World Bank

This week, I had lunch at the World Bank. It was AWESOME.

Since I love international politics, international economics, and pretty much international anything (international Nutella), me going to lunch at the World Bank is like a hypochondriac being invited to tour the Centers for Disease Control.

From the moment I set foot in the door, I instantly forgot about the concern and criticism surrounding the effectiveness of the Bank’s programs (found here, here, and here.)  I was in awe.  There was artwork from around the world.  You could go to different lectures, about Iraq or water security, or any other international development topic you could think of.  People walked around in both suits and kimonos.  (Well, ok, not kimonos, but they were dressed pretty awesome-ly.)

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Near the courtyard in the middle is a fountain (but no Oompa Loompas)

Not only was the building gorgeous, but the thrill of being surrounded by so many people doing so many different things in the realm of international economics was very exciting, not only on a personal, but also on a professional level.  Even though D.C. is the best place to build your career if you are trying to be an international economic expert, I should admit I haven’t tried my hardest to network and join the community, the biggest reason being that it might be possible for me to move to Philadelphia in the (near?) future, reducing that opportunity and severing ties significantly.  A dilemma I always have is whether I should work on building my network here and now given that I might not be here to leverage it in the future.

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Beautiful hallway with paintings along it

Although I couldn’t help thinking that the building and all of the artwork was paid for partly with American tax dollars, it was a real  treat. The sushi was delicious, too.

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Blurry pictures don't do it justice

I’m going to have to come back to further investigate.  The sushi situation.

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This sushi massacre clearly deserves the implementation of economic sanctions.

One of these Nutellas is not like the other

Nutella is my crack.  I like to run laps just so I can eat Nutella.  I’m a slave to the hazelnut.  So, when I was eating Nutella out of the jar with a butter knife, shamelessly  the other day, I noticed something.  Take a look.  Do you see it?

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No, it’s not the fact that I hoard Nutella jars like a crackhead.

One of the jars, I bought in an American grocery store, made for the American market and one of the jars I bought in a Russian grocery store, made for the Polish market but for some reason being sold in Northeast Philadelphia.  Do you see the difference? Can you guess which is which?

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Yup, the European one is much smaller.   Figures.  But why?  Everyone knows French women don’t get fat. Why can’t we have the same serving sizes in the United States?  Is it a combination of culture plus some sort of economic benefits of economies of scale of producing larger jars of Nutella?   Is it because Europe itself is smaller, lending to smaller houses and smaller portion sizes?

Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Learning SAS by Example: First Impressions

As you may recall, I was super-hyped to receive my SAS book to review from SAS Press.

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The book is Learning SAS by Example: A Programmer’s Guide by Ron Cody, and you can pick it up here or here.

A little bit of background about how I came to SAS (aka, life history):

One of the reasons I was really excited to receive it is that, I was going to purchase it anyway.  As someone starting in SAS (my company has a lot of data housed in this language and plans to build additional models related to SAS), I started out from scratch. Although I’ve had previous program-oriented experience before (both with very light dabbling in C++ and HTML and with other software packages like STATA in college), I didn’t have much experience actually manipulating large amounts of data with anything other than Excel or Access.

Intuitively (and with a little cajoling from my programmer husband) , I realized that learning SAS would be important to my professional development, both as a consultant and an economic modeler, and a number of other roles besides.  While we do use statistical software packages such as eViews at our company, I’ve noticed that SAS is more broadly applicable outside the relatively narrow scope of economic modeling in industries such as pharmaceutical, transportation, and academia.  So, I decided to make it one of my priorities in my professional development to learn it.

Getting Started with SAS: Literature

While my job gave me some guidance through mentoring and sending me to SAS I:Programming Basics class, when I was given problems to solve, it was the case that I was sometimes on my own and didn’t understand SAS on the level that I needed to.  I did have The Little SAS Book (also known as the Little Blue Book) to start out with.

However, it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.  While it did introduce me to SAS (and I recommend it as an addition to anyone’s library) it does so in a cursory way and is not as readily accessible to reference as Learning by Example is, so far.

Positives

Some of the things I like about Learning by Example from the standpoint of a beginner are:

  • An attached CD with all the programs that are in the book (something Little Blue does not have) so you know you are doing the sample problems right (a feature of my SAS intro class that I also really appreciated)
  • Right off the bat, a clear explanation of what SAS is (helps beginners who’ve never worked with statistical software packages a lot) that is more of a clear-cut overview than what Little Blue has
  • A sample SAS program in the first couple of pages that I’ve already bookmarked and keep going back to every time I need to start a program from scratch that has the data, infile, and input commands (vital to me because I work with a lot of txt and xls files).
  • An aside about Enterprise Guide, the version I use at work.  Using Enterprise Guide and this book together is slightly frustrating because, to me, EG is clumsier than regular, old base SAS and perhaps I should look into a special book on it, but everything is easier to do in base SAS.
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    Yup, already all marked up.

Negatives

Two negatives I’ve thus far encountered:

  • No bolding of terms or key definitions (maybe I’m just used to this from textbooks in college)
  • No libname or proc print statements in the first program, which would also be useful as  a template when I’m starting from scratch
  • From skimming, it looks like there’s a big focus on creating reports and data graphs, something all SAS books have focus on, and, as someone working with raw data, this isn’t very relevant to my needs, so there are whole chapters I might skip.

Thus far, though, the book has been great and clear, and I look forward to working my way through it.

Memorial Day

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I think Memorial Day’s a great idea in principle.  But the problem with Memorial Day is that it doesn’t mean anything in the United States, where only 1% or less of the population is military veterans. If you are a military family, it means a lot to you.  You are proud of the service and you have your relatives that have served in uniform.  But it’s really sad that the rest of the population is out shopping and everyone from the radio to the television offer trite platitudes.  It also doesn’t help that a lot of American forays that have killed a lot of troops (Afghanistan, Iraq, Nicaragua, Somalia, Vietnam…..) have been due to money interests, not necessarily national defense and what’s best for America.

As I’ve heard before, “The Marines are at war.  America is at the mall.”

Maybe I’m just bitter.   Anyway, if you or someone you know have served, my allegorical hat goes off to you.