Archive for September, 2011

Bears. Beets. Office Hours.

September 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Monday marked the first time a student has ever come to my office hours. It was not at all what I had expected. This sophomore not only came to my office hours, he managed to stay for over 60 minutes. Being that I TA Biology 101, (which is exactly as it sounds) a very elementary biology course, I don’t expect my students to come to my office hours at all.

my student stunned me, but not in a good way.

What’s worse is he didn’t even ask questions about class material. He simply wanted to hear my thoughts on how he should start a biofuel company. Barely legal (he is probably 18 years old) and a self-claimed “entrepreneur,” I told him he has a lot to learn. His naivete didn’t go unnoticed as I explained to him the difficulty behind not only biofuel production, but also commercialization, government, and many many issues he is completely oblivious to (I guess that’s why he’s in my Biology 101 class). His world is so small. I tried my best to help, but it just turned into frustration.

I couldn’t get him to leave. I read papers my PI sent as he continued to blab about his ideas and thoughts (so many misconceptions…). I tried to ignore him in an attempt to hint that he should leave, but I had to correct him on many things as he seemed to think 2+2 = 5. I learned a lesson here.

Don’t argue with an idiot. If they don’t know what they’re talking about, let them yap. I realized that my frustration stemmed from my knowledge and his lack of understanding. Trying to correct someone’s stubborn misconceptions is only going to stress you out. But I tried…

I grew impatient trying to explain finance, competition, and science to this student. What may be easy for me to understand was extremely difficult for OfficeHourStudent to grasp. This is the basis of frustration. It’s hard for me to believe that such simple concepts could be so difficult to others.

Number fourteen: Be Patient.

Take your time, you have to be patient with others and with yourself. Though we live in such a fast paced environment, you may catch things you may not have otherwise noticed if you just slow down (powerthirst).

I thought students only come to office hours to either complain about grades or discuss what they need to study to do well on the next test. This is FALSE, black bear.

^Favorite Office Episode – Product Recall

Netflix, Google, Apple, and the Amazon Kindle 4

September 27, 2011 1 comment

Netflix lost Showtime and Starz, and its stock price has plummeted along with their reputation. Even after Reed Hastings sent out his apologetic e-mail, customers have been steadily leaving and now more than ever have reason to change service.

Amazon is expanding its content. Hopefully their new Android Kindle isn’t as terrible as it’s expected to be. If they are at least able to incorporate streaming (from Amazon Prime) to their device, I think Amazon’s got a winner.

Amazon doesn’t currently charge for 3g service, claiming its fees are incorporated into the products you buy (e-books). However, with the coming Android Kindle, I imagine that there will be a service charge for the 3G, otherwise this is ridiculously abusable (unlimited streaming, no data cap?). Amazon currently piggybacks off of Sprint Nextel 3G.

Reports are touting the possibility of the new Kindle to “beat the iPad.” However, the real fight here is over content (books, media, the “cloud”) and not hardware. Regardless of how many units they can put out relative to the iPad, customers will flock to subscribe to Amazon Prime as many of them already have. In the end it’s still about free advertising, it runs the internet.

With AAPL, GOOG, NFLX, and AMZN at play here, we’re just going to have to wait to see what happens.

Finance: There is so much interplay going on, but I’d dump NFLX.

Categories: Tech Tags: , , , , , ,

“I Was Trying to be Affable!”

September 25, 2011 Leave a comment

The Campus Republicans at UC Berkeley organized a bake sale where prices are determined by race.

Of course, now there’s a huge controversy about this so called “joke.” As a huge sarcasm advocate, I understand where these Campus Republicans are coming from. However, this is too sensitive an issue to play with. If you watch Curb your Enthusiasm, you’ll understand:

Quoting the president of Campus Republican Shawn Lewis, “The pricing structure is there to bring attention, to cause people to get a little upset. But it’s really there to cause people to think more critically about what this kind of policy would do in university admissions.”

Using Harvard as an example, they currently enroll:

The 2010 Census provided us with this data:

The only real discrepancy here is in Hispanic and Asian admission. Sure, there are less Whites admitted than are in the population, but I don’t see how you can complain about affirmative action in college admissions when over 50% of the school is still White. I also doubt the disparity is due to affirmative action rather than Hispanics and Asians just being more qualified for admission. We constantly hear about the enormous amount of pressure Asian parents put on their children to succeed (an A- is failing).

What’s interesting to note is that on the Harvard admissions/statistics site, there is no section for age or male/female ratio. Perhaps they don’t want us to know?

I can’t wait to find out what the Campus Republicans will do to protest the Buffet Rule.

More Condoms, More Apples

September 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Recently I’ve been trying to think of ways to take advantage of the recession. Though times have changed, there are some necessities that people will never stop paying for and there are things that we classify as luxuries. There is no foolproof way to make money during a recession, but to do so you really need to think outside the box.

For example, in a recession people are more likely to stay home than leave the house to shop or eat. In turn, couples snuggle more, leading to fun times. However, in a recession, couples are looking to save! What better way to save than avoid having children? At the start of 2009, Nielsen recorded a jump of 10% in contraceptive sales (yay for condoms) while dessert novelty sales dropped 10% (Time link at bottom).

Now, for the finance savvy, I have two suggestions. One is Apple. Not only does an apple a day keep the doctor away, Apple is still an incredibly good investment. Last week JP Morgan gave AAPL a target price of $555. From recent reports, Apple has an estimated 89% retention rate among smartphone users as well as 31% of Android users likely to move to iOS (article at bottom). In short, they still have room to grow.

The second is don’t google “how to make money in a recession.” Isn’t it obvious? Someone beat you to the punch. Unless you can take their ideas and somehow make them more successful, you likely won’t succeed. Find your own ways to take advantage of the changed economy. Just because SteveSchmuck says “I made tons of moneys selling stuffs on teh intarwebs!” doesn’t mean you should.

What Sells in a Recession: Canned Goods and Condoms – TIME.
UBS Finds 31% of Android Users Likely to Switch to iPhone

Thirteen’s Unlucky, oh and Practice?

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Jamaal Charles gone. NBA season soon lost. Greece, Italy, Spain broke. Libya a disaster. An earthquake in DC. The Rapture is here!!

Sarcasm. I very much disapprove of religious nuts.

Apple stock (AAPL) rose 2.78% in a day where the S&P fell over 2% in the first hour of trading.

Greece owes roughly $350 billion. Apple’s market cap is $380 billion and as of July 29th, 2011, carried $76.4 billion in cash reserve. Something about these numbers is funny. I’m beginning to think that Steve Jobs could run a small country fairly successfully (relative to today’s incredibly low standard).

On paper, so many things make sense; the NBA, deficit reduction, religion, communism, etc. But in practice (see video below), nothing happens as planned. Nothing. Murphy’s Law holds a tight grip on everything.

The reason? We don’t think far enough ahead about the consequences of our actions. For example, do you really know what will happen if Greece defaults? How will things change if the USPS gets shut down? There are too many things in play to even imagine the widespread effect in either of these scenarios. In short, it’s the butterfly effect.

With that in mind…

Number thirteen: Play Chess.

The game is very simple with only 6 different types of pieces on an 8×8 board, but also unbelievably complex. “The number of legal chess positions is 10^40, the number of different possible games, 10^120” ( In some ways chess mirrors life in that every action has a reaction; it teaches us cause and effect. In life, your possibilities are endless whereas chess is relatively finite. And like all things, chess requires practice.

Class Warfare

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

NBA Lockout Battle Mirrors Deficit Debate in Washington

Sparknotes: both seek “sensible compromises.”

First, we must realize that Obama has two agendas; one is to cut the deficit and the other is to get re-elected. However, to do both at the same time is proving extremely difficult. He’s trying to appeal to the multitude of voters while also making compromises with congress, and with his approval rating now at 43% we can all see how that’s going.

Second, I must address class warfare because this term is getting tossed around and used like the village bike. If we define class warfare to be a discrepancy in the law that creates an unfairness between different socioeconomic classes, then it can be used both ways. Example, Warren Buffet claims his secretary pays a higher tax rate than he does due to capital gains being taxed a lesser %. The way the law is written now is also class warfare. It goes both ways.

I have to fully agree with Mr. President, the Buffet Rule just makes sense:

“I reject the idea that asking a hedge fund manager to pay the same tax rate as a plumber or a teacher is class warfare,” Obama said. “I think it’s just the right thing to do.”

Third, I find it very interesting that we (congressmen, reporters, everyone) focus on this minute detail that will barely affect 1% of americans. The deficit is much more involved and requires more attention in other areas such as military, USPS, and Medicare. We have to remember that we’re only talking about $3 trillion of the $14.3. Of the $3 trillion, $1.1 trillion or 36% will come from pulling troops from the Middle East. That really puts into perspective how much the US spends out there.

Did I Hear No Capital Gains Tax? (@GOP)

September 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Wow @GOP Debate. I think I just heard “remove all interest, dividends, and capital gains tax.”

A while ago I did the numbers on how to become a millionaire in 15 years.

Of course, to make 20% annually would mean beating the market consistently (by a longshot), which I am fairly certain is next to impossible. But maybe for Han Solo, “never tell me the odds.”

Cypress Sharpridge Investments (NYSE:CYS) “is a specialty finance company created with the objective of achieving consistent risk-adjusted investment income.” Here’s the sparknotes: since June 2009 the stock price has wildly fluctuated between just under 12 to mid 14s. Here’s the kicker, CYS pays an 18.22% annual dividend (currently .60c/share). With a dividend like that, I could care less what this company hedges its investments with.

Rick Perry was getting pummeled over his decision to mandate the HPV vaccine for 12 year old girls. Absolutely slaughtered, even after apologizing claiming he would take it back if he could. What really surprised me was when he said something like “we were trying to get rid of this cancer.” Misinformed much? Cervical cancer is linked to HPV. They’re not the same thing and frankly I’m not even sure he understands what a vaccine is.

Bachmann, also not so science savvy, began making the argument that Perry was subjecting these girls to potentially harmful vaccines. Vaccines all carry an inherent risk, but the idea is to protect as many people as possible given the possibility that 0.1% of the population may have a negative reaction to the drug. Every drug has side effects that may or may not affect most individuals. The real issue is herd immunity (Community Immunity (“Herd” Immunity)).

Science > Politics, Religion, Business, All. Hearing politicians discuss science is leading me to believe that we need a PhD for a president (one who understands leadership, economics, psychology and obviously many areas of science). In my opinion, politics has always been a fight over who can dig more dirt rather than who has more knowledge or can really provide us with what we need.

Please feel free to remove the capital gains tax, I’d gladly take that over social security any day.