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

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

Monday, December 31, 2007

Everything Investing: 2008's Possible Improbables

Interesting post over at The Big Picture on 2008's Possible Improbables.

The list below:

Kass' 20 Surprises for 2008

1. The Housing Depression of 2007 morphs into the Retail Spending Depression of 2008.

2. Corporate profits drop by 10% in 2008.

3. The S&P 500 Index falls by 5%-10% in 2008.

4. Volatility pushes even higher. Daily moves of 1%-2% become commonplace.

5. The Federal Reserve eases monetary policy in 2008, with nearly every meeting accompanied by a 25 bp cut.

6. Growth in the Western European economies deteriorates.

7. The Chinese juggernaut continues apace. Chinese stock market doubles again in 2008.

8. The Japanese market puts on a surprising resurgence.

9. The housing bust accelerates. High profile bankruptcies in 2008 include Countrywide Financial (CFC), Beazer Homes (BZH), Hovnanian (HOV), Standard Pacific (SPF), WCI Communities (WCI) and Radian Group (RDN).

10. Financial stocks fail to recover.

11. Research in Motion (RIMM), Apple Computer (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) move into bubble status and their shares double in 2008.

12. Yahoo! (YHOO) and eBay merge. So do Amazon (AMZN)and (OSTK).

13. General Electric (GE) will sell NBC Universal to Time Warner (TWX), which will not sell or spin off AOL.

14. U.S. dollar's value falls by over 10% in 2008; Gold rises to over $1,000/oz.

15. The price of crude oil eclipses $135/barrel.

16. Acts of cyberterrorism occur that compromises the security of a major government. Financial markets will be exposed to hackers.

17. The Hedge fund community are disintermediated in 2008. Outflows accelerate.

18. There are several Enron-like accounting scandals in 2008.

19. Democrats Clinton/Kerrey and Republicans McCain/Crist represent their parties in the Presidential/Vice Presidential contest in November. Democrats grab the White House.

20. Sovereign Wealth Funds become targets of American politicians.

Who is Ivar Kreuger?

Better yet, what can you learn from this article? Another interesting read from The Economist.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Knot in your iPod?

If so, this will make you feel better.

And here is the direct link.

And the solution? Bluetooth headphones. The problem? High prices!

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Presenting Tyler Cowen...

... or more like this great post today. You may not agree with him, but he'll definitely get you thinking about the key issues. Speaking of The Key Issues, venture over to that website I created back in college. There are some interesting papers/posts there that have "survived" the test of time.

Book Review: "The Opposable Mind"

I stumbled across The Opposable Mind when I was in a book store looking through business magazines. I had not consistently read HBR but in the latest issue I perused through their "recommended" books... and ran across The Opposable Mind!

Anyways, the book is incredibly underrated and I am somewhat surprised it hasn't "caught on" - it's full of interesting insights into why some successful people are able to attain their success and then even tells the reader how to do so. The basic concept behind the book is that these successful people have the unique ability to hold two very distinct thoughts in their head at the same time and then are able to find a unique solution that most people are not able "to see".

I assure you that the book is a very powerful and interesting read and as further proof I proclaim it one of the best 2 or 3 books I have read in 2007 (out of roughly 80-100 books I read this past year). Indeed, I made my parents order the book so that they would read it as soon as possible.

P.S. As an aside, I mentioned HBR because it is another publication I have stumbled across that I will begin consistently reading - it is full of helpful and interesting business ideas.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

What are New Year's Resolutions?

Here are seven theories on New Year's Resolutions. My take, though this may be the easy way out, is that it's a mix of most of the presented theories. Perhaps resolutions are a dash of signaling with a hint of aspiration but an underlying tone of cheap talk...


Oh and the linked to post comes from Justin Wolfers, the economist who earlier this year published a paper on racial bias in NBA refereeing (among other things).

Reading via Facebook Notes? Click through to the full blog here.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Top Students Clamor at Ivy Gates

“I have been president for seven years,” Dr. Hennessy wrote in the September/October issue of Stanford Magazine, “and it is still one of the most difficult parts of the job to explain to parents with gifted children why a son or daughter was denied admission. And at the same time I must come to terms with the fact that we are denying Stanford the benefit of talent that could contribute to the University.”

The caveats in Dr. Hennessy’s thoughtful essay, though, underscored why selective colleges have never linked enrollments to demographic ups and downs. If elite colleges began wholesale expansions, their leaders suggest, the experience of attending them might start to resemble the jostling clamor of some public universities.

Read more by clicking here.

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The Concert/Major Sport Event Selling Out Issue

If you've ever wondered why the concert or sporting event you've always wanted to go sells out after a few minutes... here's the real reason. Money quote:

What high tech wonder-tools does RMG use to defeat Ticketmaster's captchas, the annoying jumble of characters used to prove your humanity? Is it Optical Character Recognition? Something even more futuristic, maybe web 3.0-ish? Nah. Cipriano Garibay, president of RMG Technologies, boasts: "We pay guys in India $2 an hour to type the answers."

A federal judge granted Ticketmaster an injunction against RMG, but nobody knows how many evil ticket-gulping bots exist. Not that we like Ticketmaster and their 30% markups, but next time a concert or playoff game sells out in less than five minutes, we know where to direct our anger.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Standardized Testing (Part 8,903)

The never ending debate on standardized testing got some attention over on the Freakonomics blog, but this time it was very interesting.

Here's their intro and make sure to click through to read the answers:

So what should be done? We gathered a group of testing afficionados — W. James Popham, Robert Zemsky, Thomas Toch, Monty Neill, and Gaston Caperton — and put to them the following questions:

Should there be less standardized testing in the current school system, or more? Should all schools, including colleges, institute exit exams?

Here are their responses. Many thanks to all of them for their participation. I have to admit, I never saw the parallel between tests and French fries before, but now that I’ve seen it, I won’t soon forget it.

UPDATE: Here's a new analysis from the Freakonomics blog.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Physics Can Be Cool...

...don't believe me? Check out this article from the NY Times for more. But first, here's a telling excerpt:

Professor Lewin delivers his lectures with the panache of Julia Child bringing French cooking to amateurs and the zany theatricality of YouTube’s greatest hits. He is part of a new generation of academic stars who hold forth in cyberspace on their college Web sites and even, without charge, on iTunes U, which went up in May on Apple’s iTunes Store.

In his lectures at, Professor Lewin beats a student with cat fur to demonstrate electrostatics. Wearing shorts, sandals with socks and a pith helmet — nerd safari garb — he fires a cannon loaded with a golf ball at a stuffed monkey wearing a bulletproof vest to demonstrate the trajectories of objects in free fall.

He rides a fire-extinguisher-propelled tricycle across his classroom to show how a rocket lifts off.

The Cultural Elite

Here's something to think about... According to researchers at Oxford University, there is no such thing as the cultural elite. But here's how they divided people into four groups:

Univores like only popular culture — soap operas, say, or action movies. Omnivores are equally well-versed in “La Traviata” and “Gossip Girl.” Paucivores absorb very little culture, and inactives apparently are entirely numb to their cultural surroundings.

So, of course, the question is: which one are you?

All I Want For Christmas...

... for this blog is to be on Google's Blogs of Note. For context, read here.

Any ideas on how to get into the Blogs of Note? By this I mean how to get their attention...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

On Charity and Giving

I subscribed to the Freakonomics blog RSS because, though not consistent, Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt often post interesting ideas. Here's their latest post and a piece from the post that I had not thought about previously:

5. Friends and I often have discussions about the ancient religious command to tithe, or give at least 10 percent of your income. One thing I find interesting about such discussions is a point that never comes up: that when tithing was first instituted, there was nothing remotely like the current tax system, whereby 30 or 40 or even 50 percent of your money was already being “donated.”

Closed For The Holidays?

This blog will be on a short break for the Christmas holiday with an anticipated full return on Thursday, December 27th. Then, of course, there's the anticipated short break on December 31st and January 1st with regular posts resuming on January 2nd.

Interestingly enough, this is all subject to change... but at most there will be 4 or 5 days of non-posting. Just a heads up to those that read on Facebook, RSS, or any other method.

And of course... Happy Holidays to all our clients, family, and friends!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Predictions For The Rich

Here's The Wealth Report's take on the rich in 2008. Two quotes that caught my attention from the related print column in the Wall Street Journal:

"I think there is increased anxiety among the wealthy," says Peter White, a New York-based counselor to rich families. "But I also think there is a greater understanding of the interconnectedness of things, that what they do in their individual lives can have broader implications."

Here's the second quote:

Experience and access are quickly becoming new status symbols for the wealthy. The most prized experiences have an educational or altruistic bent, which help deflect populist criticism. Rather than buying another house or Swiss watch, the rich are trekking with penguins at the South Pole, having lunch with Nelson Mandela in South Africa or visiting a village in Bhutan to help build a school.

The final frontier in conspicuous consumption: space. In the end it's all about quality dinner conversation (my emphasis), and a rare trip aboard the space station will always outshine stories of another yachting trip to Greece.

Online Courses and Learning (No Excuse To Be Bored)

For those of you that may (unfortunately) be bored over the holiday break, check out this link with a list of the top free online courses. You might be thinking that you *just* finished classes or don't want to do any coursework, but really these courses are test free and a great way to expand your range of knowledge so be sure to at least browse through some of the offerings. In particular, we have pointed faithful readers in this direction before, so this should not be new to regular readers.

And for those that aren't aware, be sure to also check out iTunes U via iTunes store. There are many free audio/video classes and podcasts.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Book Review: "The No Asshole Rule"

When I first got this as a gift on Saturday from my pal Elizabeth, I chuckled because of the very out there title. But, of course, I was also immediately intrigued and started reading on my flight back the next day.

The No Asshole Rule is a great book for anyone that has ever dealt with jerks in the workplace or life. This means that it's great for anyone, really, though it does have more of a businessplace bent than a general life perspective.

The book is engaging, of course, and came about from a Harvard Business Review piece that Bob Sutton had done a few years ago. This is simply a more detailed look at how to deal with jerks though it is sometimes confusing whether Bob is advocating no toleration vs. learning how to tolerate them. My take is that we shouldn't tolerate jerks, and thus should do everything to get rid of them (here he offers many suggestions), but that if you HAVE to deal with them (because of monetary, job, etc circumstances) then you should follow the advice he provides in later chapters.

Anyways, the book is an 8 of 10 and is an easy read. It should only take 3, 4 hours to tear through and you won't regret some of the advice you'll encounter.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

How To Think, The Black Swan, and Being Cheap

Great stuff on how to think, via Ben Casnocha.

And while we're throwing links out, here's a chapter by chapter book review of The Black Swan which is a book I've read but never got around to formally book reviewing on our blog.

Lastly, here's a good bit from Chris Yeh on being cheap. Looks like Orion has a bright future! (Slightly kidding!)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Quote of the Day

"The results of thinking in terms of 'and' rather than 'or' have been breathtaking" from The Opposable Mind by Roger Martin. I am in the middle of this book and will have a detailed book review up in the next week or two; so far it is excellent.

Also, I am in the middle of The No Asshole Rule; it is also excellent and (by the way) a great birthday gift from my friend Elizabeth. A book review will also be up shortly!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Congratulations Grads!

One of the co-founders (Orion King) graduated Saturday with Highest Honors in Mechanical Engineering and Physics from Georgia Tech. I'd also like to congratulate Jonathan Sharma (AE) and Austin Cobert (ME), two good friends that also graduated from Georgia Tech. It'll be interesting to see the successes my friends will be having in the coming years!

Due to the travels down to Atlanta, I'm copping out of a full post by sending you to the always entertaining Casnocha blog. Check out this linkfest. I'll likely cover one or two of the topics there in posts this week, so look for that.

Friday, December 14, 2007

India's cooling IT industry

The following is an article from The Economist [get the original story here]. What are your thoughts?


Gravity's pull
Dec 13th 2007 | BANGALORE
From The Economist print edition

Is India's computer-services industry heading for a fall?

MOST foreigners visit Mysore to see its many palaces, testaments to bygone royal splendour. But the city, south of Bangalore, is also a good place to observe monuments to India's modern might. One of its suburbs contains a lush campus with a collection of futuristic buildings: the Global Education Centre, one of the world's largest corporate-training facilities, operated by Infosys, a leading Indian information-technology (IT) services firm.

Visiting the centre, you would think that for India's IT businesses, the sky is the limit. Rarely has an industry grown so rapidly for so long. It has boasted annual growth rates of nearly 30% in the past ten years, with revenues now nearing $50 billion, about 5.4% of India's GDP. But some in India are starting to worry that the industry is heading for a fall. At the very least, analysts say, the industry's leading firms—Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys and Wipro, to name only the three largest—need to do more to adapt their business models as the industry matures.

The “IT” in India's IT industry has always been something of a misnomer. True, most of its more than 1.6m employees sit in front of computers, writing software for Western firms, remotely maintaining their computers and electronically handling some of their operations. But the business is mostly about people and processes. The very essence of India's IT firms is their ability to marshal huge local workforces to supply high-quality services.

One of their biggest innovations has been to borrow ideas from manufacturing and apply them to services, by building a sophisticated human supply-chain, for instance. They have also focused on certification and continuous improvement—a result of having to be, at least initially, better than their Western rivals in order to win business, says Girish Paranjpe, the boss of Wipro's consulting arm. Today more Indian than American firms meet the highest internationally recognised standards for software development.

All this has enabled Indian firms to take advantage of a rare, if not unique, set of market conditions. On the demand side, Western companies needed to cut costs, but their computer systems still required a lot of human labour. On the supply side, there was an army of well trained, English-speaking engineers demanding only a fraction of a Western salary. Fast fibre-optic links brought both sides together and a favourable exchange rate made this global connection even more attractive: customers paid in dollars, and employees were paid in rupees. The result was a “low-risk, high-margin business”, says Kiran Karnik, the outgoing president of Nasscom, the industry's trade group. To increase sales, firms could hire more people without caring too much about productivity, with the result that growth in revenue correlated closely with growth in headcount.

So why the concern? Indian IT faces a host of threats, says Sudin Apte of Forrester Research, a consultancy, who argues that the industry needs to reinvent itself. The most immediate difficulty is the rapid appreciation of the rupee against the dollar in recent months (see article). Since its low in mid-2006, it has gained 16%. This has made a liability out of what had been a big asset for Indian IT firms—making most of their sales in America. The strong rupee has also thrown other structural problems into relief. These fall into three categories.

What goes up...

First come the familiar problems. One is India's clogged and insufficient infrastructure: workers in Bangalore can spend four hours a day in traffic. Then there are the tax breaks that subsidise the industry, some of which expire in 2009. There is also a growing talent shortage. Indian engineering schools award around 200,000 diplomas each year, and produce around 250,000 graduates, but only half are employable by the IT industry. Employees have learnt to switch jobs for better pay, and salaries are going up by 10-15% a year. For senior staff, they will soon reach Western levels.

Second, competitors are starting to emerge. IT industries in other parts of the world, such as Central Europe, may never match India's in size, but they can still pick off valuable contracts. Meanwhile, foreign IT firms have been beefing up their Indian subsidiaries. In 2002 the six biggest—including Accenture, IBM and HP—had fewer than 10,000 employees in total in the country. Their combined Indian workforce now exceeds 150,000. This enables them to rival the Indian firms in scale and cost, while exploiting their stronger brands and international scope.

The third category concerns future threats. In the short term a slowdown in IT spending looms as America's economy weakens. In the longer term Indian firms must keep abreast of technological changes. Many of the services they now provide will eventually be automated; this is already starting to happen, for example, in software testing. Western firms, meanwhile, increasingly want Indian providers to do more than just keep systems running; they want help in developing new solutions to business problems—something few Indian firms are set up to do.

The question is whether the industry's business model can cope with these threats even as the potential for growth in its established markets declines. According to calculations by CLSA, a French-Asian investment bank, Indian IT firms will soon have a share of nearly 20% of their addressable market's value and almost 40% of its volume. They will also struggle to make their existing business more efficient: most fat has already been cut.

Many think that Indian IT firms need to move into new, higher-margin services and to cut the link between revenues and headcount, for instance by offering more consulting, developing more intellectual property and making acquisitions abroad. To be fair, the leading firms are already doing this. Infosys now generates nearly a quarter of its revenues from consulting, says its new boss, S. Gopalakrishnan; and Wipro recently paid $600m for Infocrossing, an American firm, the largest in a series of acquisitions by Indian firms.

But is the industry moving fast enough? Nasscom's Mr Karnik says no, but he thinks there is still time to change things. Partha Iyengar of Gartner, another consultancy, sees more urgency. He expects slower growth and lower margins if the big firms are not making most of their money in consulting and other high-margin areas within three or four years. This will be hard, he says: today's focus on people, processes and profits may keep many firms from reaching the next level. But, he says, India's IT firms have shown before that they can change if they really need to.

Even if the heavyweights stumble, smaller firms are ready to take up the baton. For example, MindTree Consulting was founded 1999 in anticipation of the very threats that have now materialised. However potent these threats prove, they have already demonstrated that for all the talk of the world being flat, economic gravity still applies.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

On Maturity (via Ben Casnocha)

Here's a smart bit on maturity via Ben Casnocha.

The most intriguing piece and then my thoughts:

Note that someone can be mature but also lighthearted, funny, laid-back, etc. In other words, mature is not synonymous with uptight.

While we've all met exceptions, in general emotional maturity and age are highly correlated. The younger you are, the less emotionally mature. Intellectual maturity seems less correlated with age. While it's hard for me to think of an adult who regresses on the emotional maturity scale, it's easy to think of adults who have become so set in their beliefs that they become less intellectually mature. They are less interested in tracking truth than confirming long-standing beliefs. Their total knowledge might be more than a young person, but how they deploy that knowledge is less sound.

This theory is not road-tested, so I'm interested in your comments and revisions. How do you think about "mature"? Do you think about it in these two categories? Do you, like me, have a gut feeling on someone's emotional maturity soon after meeting him or her?

My thoughts:

I fully agree that mature does not necessarily mean uptight, though I'd add that it often does. I've fallen trap to this myself from time to time and it takes a lot of effort to "loosen up" sometimes.

And I'd never thought about mature in intellectual and emotional terms, because I feel you can't break it down into two pieces. Rather, I feel it's this all encompassing term that attempts to define a personality trait/characteristic that isn't actually definable. So I think it's a great attempt to try and define maturity, but you just can't do it. In fact, I see maturity as one of those "it" traits/characteristics; you know if someone has got it, but it's tough to define what "it" is... so to Ben's last question, yes, I have a gut feeling on someone's overall maturity.

Augusta Views: Tools of the Trade

I got my "doctor instruments" today! I now have a purple stethoscope, that fancy light thing to look in ears & eyes, and various blood pressure cuffs! It's official. I'm a doctor.

This raises an interesting question, though. What defines a profession? I hardly think that it's the uniform & instruments that make one a doctor, but what is it? My Essentials of Clinical Medicine course taught me that a profession is characterized by an "imperative to serve others," which I take to mean an obligation to serve others.

Is this true for all professions? For medicine, I believe that it's a nice generalization, but I'm hesitant to characterize all walks of life in this way. Yet as I'm sitting here thinking about it, I can't come up with a job that doesn't serve others in some way!

What are your thoughts? In your profession, or the one you hope for in the future, what defines the role you play? I'm really interested in following up with a post on professionalism sometime soon & your comments will help me round out the discussion. So thanks in advance!

With that, I'll leave you for a couple of weeks. I'm going home for the holidays & I make a point to "disappear" whilst I'm there! Not being joined at the hip to my cell phone and laptop allows me to spend quality time with my friends & family and just relax. I highly recommend it!

Look for my next post in the new year! Happy Holidays!

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Ever wondered about corks on wine bottles? Specifically, why are wine bottles closed with corks and are they the "best" means to seal off a good bottle of wine? Well, if you've ever thought about corks (or if you're not curious) then click through here to read an informative interview conducted by the folks at Knowledge at Wharton.

Another recent and random piece from the same source covers the topic of wisdom of crowds. Here is the link to the excerpt covering the very topic of wisdom of crowds/community.

Like our post? Then check out the rest of the blog by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Book Review: "Rigged"

Fantastic! I enjoyed this book from the start and it was thoroughly entertaining. The book Rigged is from the same author who wrote Bringing Down the House, that excellent blackjack thriller about some MIT students that struck it rich.

Well, the basis of this story revolves around oil and two main characters whose plot lines start out separately, slowly intertwine, and then culminates in an interesting ending. The first character is David, a recent Harvard Business School graduate who started in banking but then got a job offer from his hero to work at the NYMEX. The second character is Khaled, a highly educated young man with great connections in the Middle East.

The really interesting part to me was that this book is based on a true story. The author's introduction, and then the main character's note at the end, really drive home the point that the insanity and intensity of this story really did occur... which makes me thankful for the relative peace and quiet I've been enjoying since college graduation!

Well, if I had to rate this book, I'd give it an 8.5 out of 10. It's that good and the blend of wits, adventure, and business give it a nice edge.

Oh, and I promised my next book review would be on the Rolling Stones Interviews, but that book has been one I've been purposely reading slowly so that I can take its wisdom in at the right pace.

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Geography Game (Travelpod)

Think you know your geography? Then check out this quick, fun game... it's a great way to kill a few minutes, if you've got some time to spare.

I got to level 10 the only time I tried out the game, so I'm kind of disappointed I didn't make it all the way to 12!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tyler Cowen Interview

Great stuff from Tyler Cowen right here. Money quote that I think applies to any job:

It's true that scientists get paid, but typically they don't get paid more, or much more, for discovering something that will make them famous. They do it because they love science, or because they want the recognition or because they just stumble upon it. Einstein was never a wealthy man but he worked very hard. So blogging is a new form of an old idea: that people do great things for free. Adam Smith didn't get paid much for writing Wealth of Nations, even though it's a long book that required a lot of work. He had an inner drive to get his ideas out there.

FWIW, I've been focusing my reading time more on interviews. I picked up this book that I'll be book reviewing later this week. Early reaction: so far, so good!

Like what you're reading? Click through here to the full blog.

Thinking Of Getting A Giftcard?

Before you go and buy someone a giftcard, read this piece. It covers gift card reselling markets, deadweight losses of giftcards, and much more.

And for those of you beginning finals week in college/high school/wherever, good luck!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Perspective on Gasoline

Thanks to Greg Mankiw, check this out. The original post is here.

And as a hint, this post is a pseudo prologue to the book review that will be showing up later this week! I finished the book on Saturday and it is, to say the least, quite a read.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Leaving India in 2 weeks!!

So I got fantastic news just 2 days ago - instead of leaving India sometime in mid-January, I am being released in just 2 weeks. Which means I can actually spend Christmas and New Year's with family in the UK. Which means I can be back in the US sooner, which is INCREDIBLE. I am so excited about this recent turn of events, and - as I’m sure you have gathered from my previous posts - I am more than ready to get out of India as soon as humanly possible.

Furthermore, details have been finalized, and I am definitely going to Boston and nowhere else [there have been a LOT of people moved around suddenly at the last minute with no advance notice]. I am one of the few lucky ones who are going to their first choice of US location, and I’m very ready to begin my new life in New England.

See you soon! =)

What's In A Name?

I've been amazed at how accessible Carl Bialik is (I've emailed him and had a response in less than an hour) but I'm more impressed by his articles in the Wall Street Journal. Here's a great one looking at names and birth order. It's short, so check it out for some interesting perspectives.

Admissions, Applications (Sales Pitch and Early Action)

No surprise that the NY Times Education section focuses so much on the undergraduate college applications process, but they're really been hammering the point home recently. If you care to read about how prospective undergrads are "creating and managing their brands" then click here; if you're interested in the death of early admissions/action, then follow this link. Both articles are short and interesting, if not a bit repetitive compared to what the NY Times Education section has been publishing recently.

Oh and good news seems to be rolling in fast - lots of friends are getting into graduate schools, so congratulations to all of them! Until Monday...

Friday, December 7, 2007

Economics, College Football, and CK Tutors

This was a great piece on the young hotshots in economics. I particularly recommend the short piece on Roland Fryer - what an article!

And to point you around to other interesting reads, check out this piece on fixing the college BCS system (or mess, as some might call it). Some interesting concepts are thrown around.

Finally, swing by our website soon because we're doing a mini-overhaul in the next few days.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Augusta Views: Reflections on Anatomy

This past Monday, my lab group did our last dissection together in Gross Anatomy, and I found myself less ecstatic than I expected to be at that moment.

A little background: I've spent the semester declaring my undying hatred for the entire subject of Gross Anatomy. This is the first (maybe second) time in my life that I have truly despised an academic course. Thus, you can see how I'm a bit perplexed. The other course that I detested with all my might was Comparative Vertebrate Morphology in undergrad. Thinking back, I actually enjoyed the subject matter, but could not resolve my immense frustration with the way it was delivered & tested. To some extent, I believe that my issues with Anatomy were the same. It's not that I didn't like learning about the human body and how all the parts fit together. (After all, I am in medical school, so I should have some interest in the matter or else I've got a problem!) No, instead I think that I was again frustrated with the manner in which the material was taught.

So why wasn't I jumping for joy on Monday morning? Why did I linger a little wondering if there was any more to be done?

The answer, I feel, is a good learning opportunity for all those who have found themselves positively miserable with a class.

I had learned to appreciate the subject and that the way it's taught is the only way to teach it properly. I came to understand the excitement of searching for a particular structure and then finding it (hopefully) intact! I realized that actually seeing the muscles and tugging them to see their action helped me to remember their origins and insertions. Knowing the physical location of a nerve aided my understanding of the clinical significance of its injury. It's really elegant, the human body. Everything comes together so neatly and without excess or unnecessary bits. (Yeah, okay, the coccygeus muscle doesn't actually wag our nonexistent tail like it "should," but it's still pretty helpful as part of the pelvic wall.)

On to the lesson! Just because a course starts out as painful and seemingly without redeeming characteristics, doesn't mean that it should be written off and/or ignored. Too often, such classes turn out to be interesting & enlightening, not to mention important for one's education! I made the mistake of skipping Comparative Vertebrate Morphology 98% percent of the time, and my grade suffered severely for it. Not only that, I missed out on potentially exciting new knowledge, which is the true tragedy. Contrastingly, I stuck with Anatomy (not always by choice, but still), learned quite a bit, and even managed a couple of A's!

Don't wait to be pleasantly surprised that you've come to like a class you hated. Start looking for the good things in every learning opportunity life offers. That's all class is, by the way, an opportunity to increase your knowledge (and subsequently wisdom), so take it! And believe me, if I can come through Gross Anatomy with a positive attitude, Algebra can be tackled. It has no olfactory involvement!

Now that I feel sufficiently like a motivational poster, I'll be done! Not that there's anything wrong with motivational posters or anything...


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

People Skills and Business Conversation

Last night I got home late from a business related dinner that lasted 3 hours... and didn't feel like it took even half an hour. It was a success and I had conversations going the whole time. The reason I bring this experience up is because of three things I noticed/realized while at the dinner:

- A decent chunk of corporate spend is on "you pat my back, I'll pat your back" type of expenses. In this case, what I noticed was one company buying awards and dinner for another in return for business and acknowledgement. This isn't just a "returning the favor, we're so grateful" practice nor is it unique to the situation I witnessed.

- At a typical business dinner, forget trying to discuss literature, politics, world events, etc. The best conversations where when I joked about how being James Bond is a bigger honor than stepping on the moon. My point was there have been only a handful of actors who have played James Bond versus the 20+ astronauts who have stepped on the moon. Surprisingly, this comment that I made in jest ended up turning into an interesting and lively 20 minute discussion on everything James Bond.

- Football is a male's best friend. Golf comes in close second. And when I mentioned that my cousin recently made the European PGA Tour, everyone went bonkers. I was a smash hit (well, just at that moment). But the best part is now everyone will at least remember me for that; making these types of connections (and even having people remember who you are) is an important part of business/networking.

So if you're ever at business dinners, make sure you talk about golf, football, and movies; don't forget to bring the awards/gifts!

P.S. I am grossly oversimplifying how the business world works, but it was funny and somewhat surreal to be a part of what people view as "typical business".

If You Had To Pick One Person...

About 6 weeks ago we blogged about who you would invest in and there was only one comment. Now, looking through the Google Analytics service we utilize, I can see that we have over 10 unique visitors per day. If you're new to the blog (or even reading through Facebook notes) I'd really be interested to see your reactions to the aforementioned post. Please let us know what you think!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Book Review: "The Golden Compass"

Continuing with the "my brother recommended" books, I was recently given The Golden Compass and the rest of the series as a "you gotta read this" from my brother. I was also skeptical about the books but after I started The Golden Compass I was quickly impressed by the depth and quality of the story.

The Golden Compass is interesting because the book throws you right into "the action" and you, as the reader, have to start figuring out what's going on. Of course, Philip Pullman is a great author and the book isn't slowed down like another series starter I know of (cough cough Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone). This book (and the series) have been recommended by many and said to become the next great classic after Lord of the Rings - with all the publicity and the upcoming movie, I can see why there's so much appeal here. Anyways, for the amount of plot background that would interest you but not ruin the book, check out the website I link to below.

By the way, aside from strongly recommending the book (I've only read the first so far but I'm sure the next two will be just as good) I also recommend you check out the movie website here. FWIW, the movie comes out very soon on December 7th!

Monday, December 3, 2007

It All Blends Together

I recently watched Ratatouille once more and it was an excellent movie (with movie review to follow later this week). But the reason I mention it here is because I quoted a line from the movie... without knowing it was from the movie... to my best friend. Orion and I were speaking on the phone, doing our usual strategy/brainstorming talk, and I quoted him this line during our conversation:

"I hate false modesty. It's just another form of lying."

Of course, Orion being Orion meant that he didn't quite accept what I said as immediate fact. Indeed, he challenged the line itself, saying it was only true to a certain extent... but my point in bringing all of this up is how movies and books and other material starts to blend in to your thinking (influencing your perspective).

See, I've been thinking about this a lot ever since an acquiantance of mine asked me about how many books I read per week. The answer is about two per week, with a lot of daily news and blog reading, and he challenged me by saying, "Isn't that sort of inefficient? How do you remember everything you read?" and at the time I was somewhat stumped. But I have the answer now... and it is that I don't remember everything I read. In fact, it's far from it since I probably remember maybe 15-25% of what I read... but that's exactly the point!

I subject myself to so many random thoughts and perspectives from books, blogs, news, and movies so that I can store the key bits of information away for later use. The most recent example of this that I can remember is quoting a line from Ratatouille without even remembering where it was from... and yet, in quoting the line during the conversation, I added a timely perspective that set off a whole other conversation and in doing so subtly reminded the person I was having a conversation with that I have many perspectives from which to draw from; this helps when the person you're talking with also happens to be the co-founder of the company that you try to use to influence education in a positive manner! To that point, subjecting yourself to so many different opinions and perspectives helps throughout your entire life by allowing you to capitalize on other people's experiences and knowledge.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Wikipedia Article, College Knowledge, Chris Yeh

I'm calling out this blog post to Adam Jaffe because he's the Wikipedia master (or, well, I know he's one of my friends that reads on Wikipedia a lot). How do you get an article you write to "stick" on Wikipedia? I tried writing an article about College Knowledge as a test for writing a bio on Chris Yeh... and it got rejected as spam! I just took what we wrote on our About page and then linked to it so that it would have a source. Thoughts/advice anyone?

Preparing for reverse culture shock

Rizzo here from India. This week we're discussing culture shock, and how sometimes it's harder to adjust to one's home country upon returning, than it is when landing in a new country and experiencing a different culture for the first time.

To be completely honest, I'm quite terrified of returning to the States, and rightly so I feel. I remember having to adjust to the Indian way of life when I got here over four months ago. The two main obstacles we had to overcome were:
  • the concept of cyclical time [polychronism] and
  • the idea that attention can be focused on multiple people and multiple tasks at the same time with no loss in productivity or efficiency. It's not quite multitasking - it's actually more like multitasking on crack [polychronicity].
Both of these are very closely related and go hand-in-hand.

An example for each one. People here are always late to meetings, although it's better than what I expected it to be. If you're Indian and reading this, you've most likely heard of Desi Standard Time [DST] or Indian Standard Time [IST]. Neither of these are actual time zones, but they do summarize quite nicely the subcontinental approach to managing time, which is polychronistic in nature. A deadline is not a hard, set-in-stone point in time by which something must be accomplished [as is the case in the US], but a general time frame. The task or objective can be completed before, at, or shortly after that deadline. This took some getting used to at first.

As for polychronicity, let me tell you something about India that you should know if you ever come to the subcontinent. And if you've been to India and tried to stand in a line, you already understand what I'm about to say. Aside from the more progressive and metropolitan areas of the country [Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore], the idea of a "queue" simply does not exist. When we first got here, all we saw at the little food shops was total chaos. One guy behind the counter pulling out pastries, warming up dishes in the microwave, grabbing drinks out of the cooler, taking money, doling out change, serving prepared orders - all while dozens of people are barking orders at him and thrusting hundred-rupee bills in his face. And trying to be "civilized" about it [from our then-naïve American perspective] got us nowhere, as we would constantly be pushed, shoved and ignored out of the way. Slowly, though, we saw order in the chaos, and we could see that the one guy behind the counter could do what no pimply-faced, gangly teenager working the register at McDonald's could ever do - process multiple requests at the same time with a very high, if not nearly perfect, accuracy rate.

These are the two big things - polychronism and polychronicity. By contrast, US culture is monochronistic and monochronic. But there are a lot of smaller nuances in culture that will be hard to get used to. Another example: when we go out to dinner, we usually go to decent, sit-down-and-order-then-eat-then-pay-the-bill types of places. In other words, not street vendors [even after more than four months here, we're not touching that stuff. No way we want to get sicker than some of us already are]. And even when it's a group of 3 people, the waiters have no idea who ordered what. With maybe one or two exceptions, I haven't had a meal with friends where everyone got everything they ordered without the waiters asking, "Who had the butter chicken?" What's even better is when they'll put a dish down in front of who they think ordered it, and 19 times out of 20 they're wrong. Anyways, with these kinds of situations, although we've gotten a lot better about it, we tend to get quite upset and raise our voices. I know that speaking for myself, I've done exactly that a number of times. After all, when you pay good money for good food and solid service, you expect that.

Which brings me to my qualms about returning to the States. First off, fortunately, I don't think I have to worry about polychronism, because I've worked enough in business and gotten upset enough here about time management that I'm fairly sure I'll make the transition back to monochronism with no problems.

HOWEVER, when it comes to incompetent waiters at restaurants, I am concerned that I'll be at some place like Chili's [not necessarily high-end and classy, but at the same time a decent establishment] with my family and the waiter or waitress will mess up our orders, and instead of being civil about it I'll start yelling at him/her and make a scene - all without realizing it.

And as for polychronicity, I am quite sure that when I go to a fast-food restaurant and there's a long line, instead of waiting in line like one should in the States, I will pull out a 10 dollar bill, walk to the front of the line, wave the bill in that same pimply-faced, gangly teenager's face and bark my order at him - all while completely ignoring [and thus insulting] the fine fellow who was about to place his order right before I showed up out of nowhere and opened my big yap. That's bound to cause a fuss.

And all of the concerns I've just mentioned don't even take into account the fact that driving in India is akin to playing Chicken on I-75 in Atlanta going against rush hour traffic [in other words, driving straight at cars that are coming at you around 80 miles per hour]. It's not the fact that India's roads are like Britain's [read: BACKWARDS] and that sitting in the passenger seat here is like sitting behind the wheel back home. No. That's not what scares me. It's the WAY in which people drive that has me frightened about my own driving abilities. I've posted a video on YouTube to give you an idea of how crazy it is to be in the passenger seat on the road here, much less be behind the wheel, and my concern is that when I get back to the States I will have an equal disregard for lane markers and dividers, and that overtaking a large bus around a hairpin turn at 30 miles per hour won't sound as ridiculous as it did to me six months ago. Which means I basically have to ban myself from driving for at least a month or so until I get the hang of it again.

So as you can see, I have a lot of concerns about coming back to the States that I need to start preparing for and dealing with now.

Although, admittedly, they most certainly don't overshadow my excitement about returning home in 6 weeks.