Sharing news and commentary about education, careers, investing, and life.

Sharing news and commentary about education, careers, investing, and life.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Time to start practicing your powerpoints!

- I wonder if this new requirement will cascade down to other graduate business schools or even some undergrad schools.

- I'm in the middle of reading "The Black Swan", re-reading "Raising the Bar", and re-reading "Harry Potter 7". Somehow the stories haven't gotten mixed together yet! I recommend all three books and, as always, book reviews will be forthcoming.

- I'm confirmed to be in Atlanta over Labor Day Weekend and over GaTech's Fall Commencement Weekend - let me know if you want to meet up.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Cost of (Your) Classes

Dear Blog Readers In College,

This might become a trend that will have an impact on you in the future. And it sort of makes sense that some classes (majors) should cost more to students than others. For example, I know (and you can look it up in Ga. public records) that some of the finance/management professors make A LOT more than some liberal arts professors at GT. So if it costs on average 2-3 times more for those business professors, and assuming other things being equal, shouldn't management students pay a bit more for their classes?

Of course, there are other factors at work - and they're mentioned in the article I link to, so check it out and get back here with your opinion!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Linking Back: Harry Potter (figures), Coach Walker, and Obesity

More articles on things I didn't get to cover/are outside the general scope of this blog:

- The typically on-the-money Joanne Jacobs writing this in the City Journal.

- If your friends and family get fat, chances are you will too from The Economist blog.

- Hmm... something to think about regarding GRE scores and teachers.

- Hard luck can get you into college?

- Interesting story about Coach Walker.

- About the Harry Potter figures, from the WSJ's Number's Guy:

Sales numbers for the last volume in J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series came in quickly. U.S. publisher Scholastic Corp. announced on Sunday that 8.3 million copies were sold in the first 24 hours after the book’s release at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, according to “early reports.” And on Monday, U.K. publisher Bloomsbury Publishing PLC said 2,652,656 copies were sold in the first 24 hours, citing Nielsen BookScan U.K. These numbers were widely reported, with the stunningly precise U.K. total often rounded to 2.7 million.

Harry Potter

Though they were presented side by side in this case, book-sales numbers are gathered differently on both sides of the Atlantic. U.K. numbers from outside trackers appear to be more complete, and faster, meaning some U.S. publishers report their internal data instead.

Scholastic compiled its own numbers from distributors’ reports, as Nielsen BookScan in the U.S. didn’t report sales figures until Wednesday and misses at least one-quarter of book sales, because it doesn’t track sales from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and nontraditional book retailers like drug stores. Nielsen in the U.K., however, claims to cover at least 95% of the market.

“There is next to nobody who doesn’t deliver their data to us,” Jeremy Neate, head of research and international development for Nielsen BookScan U.K., told me. The company gets data directly from cash registers for nearly all major retail outlets, while extrapolating its reports from about one-fifth of independent booksellers to those that don’t share numbers. Lucy Holden, Bloomsbury’s head of publicity for children’s books, told me she’s confident in the Nielsen numbers: “They monitor them independently.”

In the U.S., Nielsen BookScan spokeswoman Cara Milo told me just 5.2 million sales of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” were recorded by her company’s tracking service in the first 48-hour period* — or just 63% of the total reported by Scholastic in the book’s first 24 hours on sale. But Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club don’t share their data.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

CEO's on Facebook and Sticking To Your Convictions

Facebook side of today's post: I'm not so sure I agree with point 5 here. Though honestly the article she links to is more interesting than her 10 points.

Sticking To Your Convictions: Today is a great test for any of you investors out there - it's a chance where you see if your thesis sticks up and if, in fact, you have the conviction to double down. If you're a long term investor, a day like today is GREAT - if you're a trader who is long stocks, you're probably in a bad mood with the Dow down 300+ points!

P.S. I'm glad to see Sham posted one of my comments as a whole separate post (I was post #1). Maybe I should do that with the feedback I'm getting from Facebook/emails!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Caveat About Freakonomics (and that type of thinking)

From a WSJ article today:

"Do unhealthy people drink diet soda? Does diet soda make people unhealthy?Those are some of the questions raised by a 'surprising' new study that links consumption of soft drinks -- both the sugared and diet variety -- with a higher risk for a range of obesity-related health problems."

Is anyone else finding more and more articles/essays/books about two seemingly unrelated topics being *gasp* actually related? Or that there are connections that people seem to have never seen before but *gasp* the author shows us the way?

I know Freakonomics was a hit (and I liked the book) but it seems like economists and now everyday journalists are copying (or maybe just over utilizing) the "Freakonomics style". Maybe I've just been seeing more of this and the WSJ article on diet soda sort of pushed me over the top, but it really does seem like the "Freakonomics style" is becoming (or has become) all the rage. There have been recent books published such as "Freedomnomics" that go against the "Freakonomics style" (though, honestly, I don't like Freedomnomics either) but there are many more books that go with the style such as "More Sex is Safer Sex" and "Discover Your Inner Economist". It might just be me, but I'm starting to get sick of these cutesie copycat books.

My theory behind the proliferation of such books/essays/articles is that Freakonomics was SUCH a hit (and the publishing industry is so hard pressed for these rare successes) that when something like Freakonomics comes along most publishers say, "Ooh! Ooh! A money cow! We need to milk this for all its worth!" and then some authors come along and say, "Ooh! Ooh! The spotlight!" and then you get some mediocre books that don't quite live up to the original but sell more than enough copies to generate handsome profits all around. That's what we're seeing and fortunately we're reaching the point of saturation, which means we shouldn't be seeing these copycats much longer.

My point behind this whole post is that I'm disappointed with a general lack of originality. This applies not only to books, but also to movies, restaurants, and many other business concepts. I'm disappointed that it's better (more profitable?) nowadays to be a copycat than it is to strike out on your own and take a chance.

Freakonomics Student Guide and Other Tidbits

Check out the Freakonomics Student's Guide here - it's definitely worth a look if you liked the book. And if you haven't read Freakonomics (or at least thumbed through it in a Barnes and Noble) then go check the book out first!

And other useful blogs to check out to keep your mind active:

- The few posts on the Small Giants blog.

- The Freakonomics blog.

- The Marginal Revolution blog.

These are just a few of the blogs I read everyday (throughout the day) though the Small Giants blog hasn't been kept up to date. Hope that helps!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I swear we're not spoiled!

And since we're not spoiled, thank you Economist for posting a response on behalf of the millenial generation (you know, the one after generation X). I'm sure one of us would have responded to the egregious attacks in the WSJ but, well, we're "too self-absorbed".

A sampling from the Economist blog post:

Apparently this has translated into young adults who fail to “recognize that status is earned by age and experience”.

As opposed to earning it from, say, talent and accomplishment? After reading the articles, I suspect Zaslow may have confused a declining respect for traditional models of hierarchy with a sense of entitlement, and increasing self-confidence for narcissism. This seems like less of an epidemic than a rise in the general health.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Read this if you're trying to pick a career path

I'm an on again off again fan of Penelope Trunk, but this recent post is fantastic. She really delves into "work" - that is, picking work that you find interesting and that you're great at doing. If you're still in college or high school, or even if you've just recently graduated, then click the link. And then, of course, let me know what you think!

The Regents Exam, Harry Potter, and other things

Ah, the ever spectacular City Journal hits home again with a short article on the Regents exam in New York. Reading this article got me thinking about some of the issues Marc raises, namely why the Regents exams seem to be so easy. My guess (and in this case I agree with the author!) is that "we" (the public) want to see improvements and success in test scores. If the exam becomes easier over time, and this seems to be the case, then student's scores improve or at the minimum most pass the exam. I know that when I was in school that the exam was easy to everyone I knew that took the Regents exam. In many cases students didn't have to take the exam because they were able to exempt via high test scores, etc.

And in other news, I'm sick. I don't know how it happened, but I woke up this morning feeling pretty awful.

In other other news, you may have heard about a certain book that came out this weekend. Yes, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out and sold (apparently) upwards of 8.3 million copies already. I wasn't one of those people who waited in line at midnight - instead, I woke up at 9am, went to the bookstore, and just got the book. I then proceeded to read all day and by about 9, 9:30pm I finished the book. I won't talk about the plot/contents of the book because I know many people are still reading, but overall it was a pretty good book.

Also, I am finishing Liar's Poker. Not sure if I want to "Book Review" it because, well, I'm not sure how many people would be interested in it! Let me know if you particularly want to hear about the book.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Linking Back: Front Page Resumes, Looking to the Future, and Bartending

This week's "Linking Back" is one of our most eclectic. Check out these links:

- A well meaning, but perhaps unsuccessful, plan from the Civil Rights Coalition for the 21st Century.

- Front page resumes vs. video resumes vs. regular resumes. Check the resume post from Freakonomics. FWIW I feel Freakonomics has really declined in terms of consistent quality - I remember when they used to only post once (max twice) a day and they really hit the spot with their posts.

- Is bartending a good career move?

- Countries that are looking to the future.

- Apparently people are diluting the "value" of the AP label. Read about it here on the NY Times website.

- Interesting post on blogging under your own name. I blog under CK Tutors but everyone knows who this is, so maybe I fall into either category. Regardless, I'm still waiting for #1 on Penelope's list.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Best Quotes from Mavericks at Work

These are the best quotes from Mavericks at Work (which I promised in an earlier post that I would follow up on, as it is July's Book of the Month). This list of quotes wasn't too hard to get since I usually highlight/mark the books as I read along. Typing wasn't bad because, as you can see, there aren't that many quotes. Anyways, here they are:

The second goal of Mavericks at Work – to restore the promise of business as a force for innovation, satisfaction, and progress, and to get beyond its recent history as a source of revulsion, remorse, and recrimination (xii).

The companies, executives, and entrepreneurs you’ll meet in the pages that follow are investing a more exciting, more compelling, more rewarding future for business. They have devised provocative and instructive answers to four of the timeless challenges that face organizations of every size and leaders in every field: setting strategy, unleashing new ideas, connecting with customers, and helping their best people achieve great results (xiii).

In an economy defined by overcapacity, oversupply, and utter sensory overload – an economy in which everyone already has more than enough of whatever it is you’re selling – the only way to stand out from the crowd is to stand for a truly distinctive set of ideas about where your industry should be going. You can’t do big things as a competitor if you’re content with doing things only a little better than the competition (xiv).

Southwest has become such a mass-market icon that it’s easy to lose sight of the utter distinctiveness of its approach to the airline business. The company’s direct point-to-point route system avoids the high costs and endless delays of the hub-and-spoke system around which the mainstream industry is built…Yet low fares don’t mean sullen service. Quite the opposite: the company’s gate agents, flight attendants, even its pilots, are famous for their flashy smiles, showy personalities, and corny sense of humor… This is a company whose distinctive value system, rather than any breakthrough technology or unprecedented business insight, explains its unrivaled success (10).

Southwest flourished because it reimagined what it means to be an airline. Indeed, Roy Spence insists that Southwest isn’t in the airline business. It is, he argues, in the freedom business. Its purpose is to democratize the skies – to make air travel as available and as flexible for average Americans as it has been for the well-to-do (11).

In other words, companies that compete on a distinctive set of ideas are comfortable rejecting opportunities and strategies that more traditional players would rush to embrace. ING Direct even rejects customers that is considers out of sync with its advocacy message (18).

“There’s another lesson that’s really obvious,” he continues. “You cannot motivate the best people with money. Money is just a way to keep score. The best people in any field are motivated by passion. That becomes more true the higher the skill level gets. People do their best work when they are passionately engaged in what they’re doing” (91).

A problem-solver is someone who gets handed a challenge, goes into the lab, and doesn’t come out until he or she has an answer. A solution-finder looks around the world and is agnostic as to where the answer comes from, so long as it’s the best answer at the lowest cost in the shortest time (107).

Wieden argues that his job is to “walk in stupid every day “ – to keep challenging the organization, and himself, to seek out unexpected ideas, outside influences, and new perspective on old problems. “It’s the hardest thing to do as a leader,” he concedes, “but it’s the most important thing. Whatever day it is, something in the world changed overnight, and you better figure out what it is and what it means. You have to forget what you just did and what you just learned. You have to walk in stupid every day” (111).

It’s a make-or-break insight for an open-source world: the most effective leaders are the ones who are the most insatiable learners, and experienced leaders leaern the most by interacting with people whose interests, backgrounds and experiences are the least like theirs (112-113).

There companies operate in vastly different industries and project radically different personalities to the outside world. But one way or another, each of them has figured out how to stop interacting with customers purely (or even primarily) on the basis of dollars-and-cents economic value. Instead, they have encouraged customers to buy into their values and forge bonds of loyalty and shared identity that help both sides cut through the clutter of the marketplace (140).

“Our job isn’t to hire people,” explains Giasson. “It is to find and present people we believe in” (211).

That’s an acid test of whether an organization is serious about discovering and attracting the best talent available: Is it searching for talent independent of current openings or immediate plans? Does it scout for talent ahead of the need for talent? (211)

Have you identified untapped sources of talent – sources that the competition tends to ignore? Do you invest the time to stay in touch with these potential stars, to act as an ambassador as well as a scout, so that when they’re ready to consider a move, you’re ready to move them into a high-impact position? Are the best people inside your company committed to recruiting and referring the best people they know outside the company? If not, why do you expect to win more than your fair share of the best talent in your business? (220)

Most creativity happens in spite of the organization, not because of it. That’s why successful innovators don’t ask for the most resources or the strictest oversight; they ask for the most room to maneuver and the fewest bureaucratic hurdles (239).

There’s a difference between preaching about the human factor in business and practicing the people skills that shape the character of competition inside your company. Are you as determined to excel in the talent market as you are in the product market, or do you still treat talent as a business backwater? (254)

Why should great people join your organization? Do you know a great person when you see one? Can you find great people who aren’t looking for you? Are you great at teaching great people how your organization works and wins? Does your organization work as distinctively as it competes? (255-261)

The best leaders understand that the best rank-and-file performers aren’t motivated primarily by money. Great people want to work on exciting projects. Great people want to feel like impact players inside their organizations. Great people want to be surrounded with and challenged by other great people. Put simply, great people want to feel like they’re part of something greater than themselves (255).

What’s your version of Google’s top ten list? Have you set out – clearly, crisply, in language that reflects the spirit of your organization – the most compelling reasons for great people to work on your team, in your division, at your company? If not, it’s a great project to start working on Monday morning (255).

Can you craft an old-fashioned help wanted ad that captures the newfangled ideas around which your workplace is organized? Can you make it fun? Can you make it fresh? Can you make it compelling enough to attract the attention of talented people who aren’t looking to change jobs? (258)

Leaders who are determined to elevate the people factor in business understand that the real work begins once talented people walk through the door. HR maverick John Sullivan says it best: “Stars don’t work for idiots.” As you fill your organization with stars, it’s up to you to keep them aligned – to master the interaction between stars and systems that defines everyday life at the most effective organizations we’ve encountered… If you want great people to do their best work, the logic goes, then you’ve got to create the right working conditions from the moment they walk through the door (261).

You can’t do big things in business if you’re content with doing things a little better than your rivals (Appendix).

And after another delay...

Yesterday I had first hand experience with "excessive" flight delays. I was coming back from Atlanta and I noticed upon check-in that my flight was already delayed (great). Once I get to the gate, I see that not only is the flight delayed an hour, but in fact there are no seats anywhere in the general vicinity (not even one). Me being the old guy I am (2o years young) I decide I need to sit down in one of those generally uncomfortable chairs - so I stalk across the corridor. At that point, I'm peacefully reading my book when I look back towards the gate and notice that the plane is BOARDING! Oops! So I run on over, get in line, and get on the flight.

Once I get to my row, I notice a guy is sitting in my seat. I kindly ask him to move over, since it's my seat, and he complies. At this point, I see that two little kids are being loud just across the aisle and I mutter to the young guy that it looks like we're going to be dealing with "two lil' terrorists" for about 2 hours. The guy chuckles nervously and says, "Yeah, I've been dealing with them for 8 and 6 years, respectively" and we both laugh awkwardly when I realize that, well, my comment was *so* awkward.

Fortunately, this mystery person ended up being a pretty fun flight companion. Even though the flight ended up taking off after 7:30pm (it was originally set to depart at about 5pm) I actually had a lot of fun talking about random topics ranging from acai berries (sp?) to 747's.

Oh and the mystery dad, whoever he is, ended up discussing education with me (ah, that was the original point of this post!) We got to talking about CK Tutors, which he got excited about, and he told me that we "are doing a great thing". We then talked about the public education system and he raised an interesting point - if the public education system through high school is so poor, why do we keep funding it? In his words: "why are we throwing money down the drain that could be used to fix so many other problems? why don't we figure out what we pay for public education, figure out what percentage this forms of each person's taxes, and stop taxing that amount?" These are good questions - what do you think?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Goofy Glasses

Quick update, not related to education:

Orion came by to hang out last night, now that I'm in Atlanta through Wednesday, and what a difference his new glasses make. Next time you see him around, give him a compliment or three. I'm so happy for him that he decided to upgrade his glasses (albeit 10 years late).

Also, I realized yesterday how much I miss Chik-Fil-A (though it IS way too hot here).

Friday, July 13, 2007

That was close/I almost died!

I can't decide what's scarier - that I almost just got seriously injured or that I thought (once I settled down a minute later) that "man! this would make a great story on the blog!"

... I guess now that I've written this down, option 2 is scarier!

Anyways, so I'm working from home and waiting for my furniture to arrive from Ikea (note to future furniture buyers: when you order from Ikea, they take A MONTH to deliver furniture even though they had promised it in 2 weeks) and I hear a truck pull up. I think it's mine, of course, but it turns out it's the neighbor getting a furniture delivery as well. Oops. But now that I'm outside, and see the neighbor, I walk on down to say hi.

What's her face greets me with a nice hello and starts talking about her job (commercial real estate?) while the delivery guy is unloading her furniture. I'm facing away from the back of the truck, she's facing me (and towards the truck) and talk, talk, talking. All of a sudden I see her eyes get really wide and she abruptly stops talking - for some reason, without really thinking, I just side step calmly to my left. I see a whirl of orange metal go by the right side of my head (turns out it was a 15 foot long heavy metal support bar) and SMACK! into the lady's hand. In that quick moment, I had managed to sidestep a bar but she just panicked and got hit.

Now I'm not sure if her hand is broken, but we called her EMT friend who had a look at it and thinks she's going to be fine. I take a sigh of relief, head inside, and help my own moving guys. Then I hear a huge crashing noise outside. I think "GREAT" and head outside to see if it's my house or the neighbor's house. Turns out the moving guys for my neighbor had knocked down the power line from the street to the house (HOW does one do that?!) and now there's a fallen wire in the middle of the road.

... now I don't believe in superstitions, but I just realized it's Friday the 13th... odd...

Linking Back: Teaching Happiness, Facebook, and Making Conversation

- I'm not sure how I missed this post about two weeks ago (actually, it's because I didn't know about the New Economist blog until just now) but the post is just great. G-R-E-A-T great. I'm not even going to summarize so that everyone clicks through to the post above.

- This should count as education because you can learn from the post so here are some tips on making conversation, from the candid Penelope Trunk.

- Are you tired of student loans?

- Hm, how can I get this to happen to the CK Tutors blog? :-)

- And it seems, as always, that Facebook is everywhere. But an IPO?

- And from Jay Mathews at the W Post, 10 steps to reduce application stress. I don't really agree, but it's my duty to provide links and so here is the link.

I'll be in Newport this weekend and in Atlanta through Wednesday, so posting will be spotty at best. As always, feel free to send an email, write in a comment here (or on Facebook), send an IM, etc. etc. Even though I'm not always available, I always respond to messages. Have a good weekend!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Warning: Only for people in their 20's (or teens)

If you fall in that 20's age range, you'll want to check this out. It's not exactly path breaking, but at least it confirms that employers (or Deloitte) is thinking about some issues that Gen Y cares about. But I think it's also good for all my friends/acquaintances who are entering the workforce - by seeing what Gen Y prioritizes, you can get a better feel for what other generations (read: older) prioritize and find a good balance. This is certainly important to your success at work and the report is very short!

If you fall in the teens range, you'll want to read this to start getting a better idea of what you yourself prioritize.

In short, anyone 16-30 would be well served reading the report - that is, unless you don't plan on working until you're past your twenties, in which case you can ignore this entire post.

This is amazing!

Why did no one tell me about this? Or is it that no one knows too much about it? Check it out, it's certainly worth exploring for a bit!

One downside is the apparent lack of depth on certain subjects that interest me (read: arcane business topics) but as a free resource it's amazing.

This is unrelated, but is there any topic that someone would like me to focus on for future posts? I generally read the WSJ, parts of the NYT, and skim through the FT every morning, move on to various key blogs, and then scan my Google alerts [faithful readers, you can definitely tell this is not Orion ;-)]. So everyday I have a pretty good idea of new developments/current topics but I've been limiting the scope of the blog so that it stays focused. But as I got a request to start doing book reviews, I figured I might as well offer to expand the subject matter of these posts as well. Chime in with an email/message/comment!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What language(s) do you speak?

This is an interesting bit of info, that I found out about via Marginal Revolution, on the languages that the 2008 presidential candidates speak (in short, very few). After perusing the list, it got me thinking - if these "top dogs" in the United States can be so (relatively) successful by basically speaking only 1 language... what does this mean for younger generations?

Namely, I started thinking about my own language capabilities. I am fluent in English (or so I would like to think) and Spanish; I speak very limited French; I'm learning Mandarin (so far I can only count, so progress is slow). I grew up in a family where learning (and learning languages and cultures) was considered very important - what about you? And do you think it's important now? Personally I think learning at least Spanish is important if you're going to live in the United States for most of your life; if you're planning on doing business around the world, it doesn't hurt that over 20% of the world's population speaks Mandarin.

Another thought - maybe so few people in the US learn a second language because English is such a global language. But what if English loses its prominence (hard to fathom, but nothing is unlikely)?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Are you... special?

I read a great article in the WSJ about entitlement/being special, here's the link (for people with access to Factiva this is available on that database) and here's a blurb:
Signs of narcissism among college students have been rising for 25 years, according to a recent study led by a San Diego State University psychologist. Obviously, Mr. Rogers alone can't be blamed for this. But as Prof. Chance sees it, "he's representative of a culture of excessive doting."

Prof. Chance teaches many Asian-born students, and says they accept whatever grade they're given; they see B's and C's as an indication that they must work harder, and that their elders assessed them accurately. They didn't grow up with Mr. Rogers or anyone else telling them they were born special.

By contrast, American students often view lower grades as a reason to "hit you up for an A because they came to class and feel they worked hard," says Prof. Chance. He wishes more parents would offer kids this perspective: "The world owes you nothing. You have to work and compete. If you want to be special, you'll have to prove it."

"They're just children." When kids are rude, self-absorbed or disrespectful, some parents allow or endure it by saying, "Well, they're just children." The phrase is a worthy one when it's applied to a teachable moment, such as telling kids not to stick their fingers in electrical sockets. But as an excuse or as justification for unacceptable behavior, "They're just children" is just misguided.

Amazing, huh? What do you think? Are American kids like this or do you think the article grossly overgeneralizes students today?

And in other news, Ben has got a good point about blurbs. I'd like to add that besides being over the top, they're often just lies. For example, on "Stumbling to Happiness" Malcolm Gladwell gives a blurb that makes this sound like a wonderful book - on that advice I (somewhat foolishly) decided to buy and read the book. Let me assure you that the book is nowhere near as good as Malcolm Gladwell's recommendation and that because of the slight I'm going to be much more cautious when I see Gladwell give his thumbs up to a book. Anyone else have a poor experience with blurbs?

Monday, July 9, 2007

Ideas are great but...

... you've got to provide some supporting evidence. I generally like reading about the ideas proposed in the City Journal and, for the most part, they're usually well thought out. But this article goes into a whole separate ball game when the author (Thomas Carroll) criticizes the NY education system and then only offers a series of weak solutions.

Here's a big, rambling example with my comments in brackets:

Additionally, New York needs to expand parent-choice options much more dramatically than Spitzer was able to in the recent legislative session. Doubling the number of charter schools sounds nice, but it means just 100 more of them—which is trivial in a state the size of New York [trivial? and how much will this cost?]. Hundreds of thousands of New York children are currently attending schools officially designated as failing. Mayors in Gotham and other large cities in New York should have the authority to issue an unlimited number of charters, so that these kids have alternatives [again, how much will this half-thought out idea cost?]. Statewide, parents should receive an education tax credit that lets them send their children to the private or public schools of their choice [once more, how much will this cost?].

So while the ideas are "nice" there's no supporting evidence of whether they'll "work" and (perhaps more importantly) of the general economic consequences of the ideas. It's not like this article will stop me from reading the normally excellent City Journal - and I encourage you to take a look through their website because most of their other articles are very good and thought provoking.

Book Review: "Common Sense Investing"; "Into The Wild"; "Barbarians at the Gate"

After dislocating my shoulder early in the weekend, and thus being out of commission for any fun in New York City, I decided I'd be productive and read a lot. Thus began my 3 book (and too much coffee) odyssey.

The first book I started reading was Barbarians at the Gate but oddly enough it ended up being the book I finished last. It really does read like a novel except you feel better reading it when you realize it covers very significant historical business events. You can read about the plot in the link I provide above, just like I'll do for any other book I review, but the important thing is that if you have any interest in business then Barbarians is for you.

The second book I started reading was on Saturday night and it is called The Little Book of Common Sense Investing. I really have been liking Wiley's "Little Book of..." series and this one continues the trend - this applies to anyone who will ever invest and since that includes just about everyone then you should certainly take a look at this book. Believe me, it's a quick read and it makes a lot of sense. If you like this book (and you probably will) then you should also take a look at The Little Book of Value Investing which to me is even better.

The third book I read was when I woke up way too early on Sunday and couldn't get back to sleep. I decided to head over to Barnes & Noble, grab a coffee, and read something from their "Summer Reading" pile. I remember reading an excerpt of Into the Wild in Mr. Corbett's english class back in 8th grade, so I decided to grab the book and read the whole thing. Boy, if you decide to take a look at this book then make sure you're prepared for a sobering story. While it was an interesting story, it was too depressing for my tastes. If you're looking for something uplifting, don't read this book. If you're looking for something that'll make you question how you live your life, I don't even think this book will do that. I got the impression that Chris (whom the story is about) was sort of a nut job so the story wasn't too moving for me.

People often ask how I read 2-3 books a week - well, when you get injured as much as I do you end up having a lot of time on weekends and at nights! So there's my tale of 3 books in one weekend - next up will probably be Liar's Poker (to give me closure on my recent LTCM/Salomon/corruption/I-banking reading binge) or The Black Swan (to read Taleb's follow up to the brilliant Fooled by Randomness).

By the way, to clarify for some of our readers - every post has been by me (Rafael Corrales) but I anticipate Mr. Orion King posting in the future.

All the best,

Rafael Corrales
CK Tutors

Friday, July 6, 2007

Book Review: "When Genius Failed"

I finished When Genius Failed yesterday but I wanted to think about a few topics before I posted a quick review/summary.

Well, for the summary party, I'm going to rely on my old standby - a Wikipedia entry on Long Term Capital Management. This, at least, is worth checking out because many people don't even know about the LTCM debacle.

As for review, well, readers of this blog likely won't want to read this book for two reasons - they'll have little interest in LTCM and they'll have even less interest in complicated financial strategies. Did I think it was worth my time? Yes, but because I also have an interest in most things financial. It's great for even a casual investor to take the time to read about stories such as LTCM's because it's a wonderful opportunity to capitalize on other people's experiences. Of course, this can be said about most books that cover an event, so based solely on that point I can't (and don't) recommend the book to all the faithful CK Tutors Blog readers.

I'm in the middle of another book, though, that reads like a thriller - the old classic Barbarians at the Gate. This book would appeal to even the most casual readers and makes a sometimes dull topic (LBOs/boardroom drama) seem interesting. I'll have a longer book review on Barbarians but in the meantime take a look at it!

Oh and I'll have a follow up post on CK's July Book of the Month: Mavericks at Work sometime next week. Have a good weekend everyone!

Linking Back: Class sizes, Hurdles, and Happiness

Boy, what a quick week - and not much newsworthy items when it comes to education, tutoring, and the like. But here's what I rounded up:

- More on the debate of long trips to get to school, from CNN.

- Debatable results from this study on stay-at-home children vs. foster children.

- Happiness and taxes - this link is not perfectly related to the typical CK blog post, but is interesting nonetheless.

- More hurdles to becoming a teacher, from the NY Times.

- And finally, an excerpt from this post:

Anxiety is a cousin of the avalanche about to roll, but it is more about uncertainty than an emerging, disruptive trend. Examples of anxiety themes abound: (1) Financial services companies urging baby boomers to hurry up and invest more for retirement: “You’re 55. Will you have your needed $3.2 million to retire comfortably?” (2) Tutoring companies planting seeds of doubt about whether our kids will score well enough on the SATs to get into a good college. Although anxiety themes grab attention, go easy. People are becoming skeptical, and rightly so. Too many politicians, companies have bombarded us with FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) with no facts to back up their point.

I'd like to point out that #2 isn't what all tutoring companies do :-)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Great Debate: What do you want to do with YOUR life?

I had the infamous "doing what your heart desires" debate with my friend from Princeton and the premise of our discussion is worth mentioning here. We debated the typical "would your parents let you do what you wanted" and the importance of education and I've come to a distinct (but perhaps not unique) conclusion: many parents may SAY they support their kid in whatever they want to pursue, but that's not often the case. Let me explain...

I know many people, including this person with whom I debated, who feel passionate about something "else" - that is, something they're not currently pursuing but would, in all likelihood, make them happier. In this case, the person is studying business/economics but has a stronger interest in fashion. In the case of a different friend, he is studying aerospace but has mentioned to me before that he would have liked to study architecture (and probably would have been a great architect!)

So now why do these people - and believe me, there are many more examples - all follow a more "conventional" route? It can't just be a parent's pressure - there's also pressure from society and, well, the pressure each person puts on themselves.

So should everyone just follow their passions? No, not necessarily. I think people should follow their passions to the extent that their passions align with their abilities. It's certainly the case that this world isn't structured so that everyone can do whatever they want. And, of course, I'm certainly not advocating doing whatever you want because you may be very, very bad at it.

Hypothetically, say I greatly enjoy math - deriving formulas is MY inspiration (ha, that'll be the day!). But assume that I'm very bad at math and very good at... litigation. Well, I would (likely) feel strong pressure from my parents, friends, and other acquaintances to become a lawyer, or at least something related to my strength, rather than a mathematician.

But my take is that shouldn't be the case - I should pursue whatever makes me happy, with a slight nod to practicality. And I don't think enough people do that. So, who knows, maybe this post will inspire at least one person to think again about what their passions are and to think about whether they are pursuing what makes them happy. It's definitely not too late to go after that thing that inspires you. And if you don't know what makes you happy, maybe this will get you thinking about it a little more!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Book Review: "Legacy"

When I was up in Newport a few weekends ago, I was recommended (and given) a book called "Legacy: A Biography of Moses and Walter Annenberg". I promised I'd read it, mostly because the person who gave it me said the book was absolutely wonderful. So I got back to CT, started reading it, and was hooked.

I never thought a biography of two (until now) random people would actually teach me something. The book really got me thinking about struggles and successes in the US and all the other cheesy stuff about opportunity and what have you, so it only seems fitting that I finish the book on Independence Day.

The Annenbergs are a family that really went from nothing to something and to give away much of the book would rob it of its allure. To give you all a bit of background, the book delves into the struggles of Moses and then transitions to the life of Walter, in a sort of passing of the torch moment. I'd say the book starts out fast, slows down some in the middle (at that passing of the torch moment), and then gets better and better until the end.

So would I recommend it? Certainly! The book is worth a read - but be warned, it took me much longer than usual to read through the 500+ pages, so make sure you budget a lot of time. Happy readings!

Monday, July 2, 2007

27 Skills...

Here are 27 skills a student needs to know, according to zen habits. Any feedback on this?

The interesting thing is we agree with a lot of the list and that is why we started our company. For example, we've always felt financial skills (investing, budgeting, frugality, etc.) are incredibly important and that we've both gotten a leg up because our parents taught us these skills. It's still unfortunate that these skills aren't taught and developed in school, though with (mostly) declining school budgets I can see why administrators aren't rushing to add these classes. I actually volunteered to teach a leadership/teamwork skills class at Galloway and was shut down about a year ago - I was shocked at how the idea was quickly shot down! Oh well... happy readings from vacation (I'll be in and out through July 4th).