[Beowulf] a postdoc in Canada

Jim Lux james.p.lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Fri Mar 28 07:24:46 PDT 2008

Quoting "Robert G. Brown" <rgb at phy.duke.edu>, on Fri 28 Mar 2008  
05:45:41 AM PDT:

Some tongue in cheek comments below

> It is off topic so I manfully resisted, but I'm glad Jim or whoever
> asked this question as I don't think one could live in the US on a
> salary of $1500/month unless it were completely tax free.  Post tax this
> is likely no more than $1100.  Driving a car is likely to cost $200-300
> a month, assuming that you already own one and don't have to make either
> payments or pay excessive taxes on it.

Off campus apartment in the student ghetto within walking/public  
transit distance?

  An apartment is perhaps
> $600-1000/month unless you share it (far more in certain locales), and
> postdocs shouldn't "have" to share to survive.

Why not?  The carwasheros working for tips and migrant farmworkers  
following the crops do it.  Research work and grants are just another  
crop, and your fingernails don't get as dirty, but you don't get to  
spend time in the healthy outdoors.  Adversity inspires creativity, or  
something like that.

   And then food, even for
> a single person, is almost certainly going to cost $10/day or more.

Here, the migrant farmworker DOES have an advantage since they're  
standing in the midst of the food.  A 70 pound sack of oats runs about  
$15-20 at the feed store (2x-3x times that at the health food store),  
and I can speak from personal experience that one can eat oatmeal for  
many, many days from that sack. And what about Ramen noodles?

> it up and you're already spending your salary on room and board and
> transportation, leaving one nothing for clothes,

One really needs to buy your bulk oats in cloth bags, so you can wear  
them to the lab.  The modern trend towards those sort of poly fabric  
materials is really putting a crimp in "dustbowl farm chic" clothing.  
No more soft muslin flour sacks or burlap sacks.

  fees and taxes,
> incidental expenses, car payments or repairs,

What car?

  entertainment (yes, even
> postdocs need vacations and entertainment).

The sheer joy of research and creation aren't enough?  Back to the  
salt mines, you slacker.  At least you're not digging Emeralds in  

> Honestly, I think it more likely that this posted salary is a typo of
> some sort.

I thought the same.  that's why I asked.

> I'm not sure this is truly irrelevant.  Non-technical, sure, but the
> economics of clusters is a wholistic endeavor; one of the most often
> omitted factors in the discussion of cluster cost-benefit is the human
> cost of running it.  At $18K canadian (which is currently within a
> percent or so exchange value with the USD) this is a low-water mark for
> the estimated cost of a human to run a cluster, actually CHEAPER than a
> graduate student who would have to make this plus (somewhere, even as a
> bookkeeping entry ) the cost of tuition

   This is order of magnitude of
> $100/node/year for cluster sizes of 50-200 nodes for management, down
> there with the cost of power and a maintenance contract, an even better
> deal of the postdoc ever did any real "research" on the side. I'd be
> very interested in whether or not they fill the position at this price.

And this is why a standard sort of "per desktop computer" fee of a  
couple hundred bucks a month in most companies isn't all that  

>> Joe (a free-market capitalist)
>   rgb (ditto, but remember Adam Smith's invisible hand WILL just "work")

But not necessarily in a way that will be pleasant or desirable for  
YOU. And I don't know that Smith contemplated the concept of multiple  
hands with mutual interactions.


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